Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Jewish Museum in Germany

Jewish Museum and community complex, Munich. July 2008. (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

According to the Swiss newspaper Thurgauer Zeitung, a new Jewish museum has been opened in the German town of Gailingen, on the border with Switzerland. The opening ceremony, which drew 250 people, took part amid commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany. Before the Holocaust Gailingen was an important regional Jewish center, and it has a well preserved Jewish cemetery. Jews settled there in the 17th century and a Jewish mayor was elected in 1870.

There must be more than two dozen Jewish museums of various sorts in Germany -- there are several major institutions, such as in Berlin, Frankfurt, Fuerth and Munich, but most of them are much less elaborate local affairs, many of them sited in restored synagogues. Most were founded in the wake of the 1988 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht. (I have written about this in Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.)

Sabine Offe, a Bremen University scholar who has written a comprehensive book on Jewish museums in Germany, spoke on the subject at the recent Jewish history and heritage conference in L'viv, but others have also written in depth on the issue. These include Bernhard Purin, currently the director of the Jewish Museum in Munich, which opened last year.

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