Germany Presents: 'Jew in the Box'

An appalling display at Berlin's Jewish Museum.

You've heard of the Cat in the Hat? Welcome to “Jew in the Box.”

It sounds like some kind of sick joke, but it's not.

There are 200,000 or so Jews living in Germany these days. At the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the powers that be actually decided it was a good idea to get a few of them to sit in a glass display case, one at a time, and answer questions.

It's part of an exhibit called “The Whole Truth: Everything You Wanted to Know about Jews.” But everybody calls it “The Jew in the Box.” A different Jew is put on display every day, from four to six P.M.

The supposed point? To “help educate postwar generations.”  You see,“few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them.” Museum official Tina Luedecke: “A lot of our visitors don't know any Jews and have questions they want to ask....With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”

Of course. How else, after all, could they possibly find out about the subject?

Süddeutsche Zeitung provided an example of the kind of “education” provided by one of the Jews who volunteered to sit in the box. “There are Jews,” he told museumgoers, “who live on welfare. There are Jews who do not go to the synagogue to pray, but who do tai chi and yoga.”


The reviewer for Die Welt, while admitting that he is not a fan of “Jew in the Box,” explained that's it an effort to address the “tension” that German gentiles feel in regard to Jews.

Yeah – so was the Warsaw Ghetto.

Fox News says “Jew in the Box” is “a big hit” with the Germans. No kidding. Let's just hope this doesn't give them any ideas. If I were a Jew in Germany right now, I'd be keeping an eye out for people coming after me with large sheets of plexiglass and a tube of glue.

(Then again, come to think of it, whoever happens to be sitting in that box at any given moment may well be the safest Jew in the country. Given the way things are going in Europe these days, homemade plexiglass-box kits may well turn out to be this year's hot Hanukkah gift.)

Aside from “Jew in the Box,” what else is included in “The Whole Truth”? According to Der Spiegel, “documents, photos, wall texts, installations, including movies, TV shows, comics,” and more. One highlight: a game called “Jew or Not?” that's right out of the Howard Stern Show. Museumgoers are presented with photos of Charlie Chaplin, Justin Bieber, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, and other celebrities, and invited to guess whether they're Jewish or gentile.

Is this how they trained the Gestapo?

At You Tube, you can watch an unbearably cutesy promotional trailer for “The Whole Truth.” Clearly, the goal here is to “educate” through whimsy. As the museum's website puts it, the exhibit's approach is “evenhanded and witty.” Program Director Cilly Kugelmann told one reporter: “An exhibition can sometimes be light and playful.” Yep, that's German museums for you – always going for the light touch.

I was curious to hear what Tuvia Tenenbom, author of I Sleep in Hitler's Room: An American Jew Visits Germany (currently a top German bestseller) would have to say about “Jew in the Box,” so I sent him a link to the Fox News story. His response was unambiguous: it's “degrading, childish, stupid, sick,” the work of “people of no spine, no self-respect and no honor,” an “example of 'apologetic' Jews” who, “instead of attacking anti-Semitism head on...try to 'understand' it, by going the extra mile of 'Let me show you a Jew.'”


If I Sleep in Hitler's Room has been so successful in Germany, Tuvia suggested, it's because it “takes an exact opposite direction; it tells the non-Jewish German straight in his/her face: You are an anti-Semite and there's no way on earth you could justify it. And the German respects this direct talk.” Tuvia further pointed out that the Nazis “had this idea of putting Jews in a museum as exhibits; strange that these Jews make it a reality.”

Strange indeed. The folks at the Jewish Museum have provided yet another affirmation – as if we needed any – that, whatever the sickness is that's afflicted so many Europeans for so many centuries when it comes to Jews, it's still there.

In spades.

And it's even infected some European Jews – at least those who gave the go-ahead to “Jew in the Box.”

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