At its Kristallnacht commemoration on Friday evening, Nov. 8, the Jewish Museum Berlin – which many consider to be Europe’s leading Jewish museum – will feature as its keynote speaker Brian Klug, a notorious anti-Israel British Jewish activist. Klug, who denies there is a new anti-Semitism, will speak on the topic “What do we mean when we say ‘antisemitism’?”
In response, Shimon Samuels wrote the following open letter to German’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Samuels is director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has served as deputy director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Israel Director of the American Jewish Committee. He was born in the UK and studied in UK, Israel, U.S. and Japan.
Madam Federal Chancellor, we are about to mark the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht Reichspogrom – the Night of Broken Glass State Pogrom – which is considered the prelude to the Nazi Holocaust.
The one place in the world where the Jewish people expected a somber, respectful commemoration was Berlin, the city where Kristallnacht began. Yet the unthinkable is about to happen.
In 1938, Hitler closed down the original Berlin Jewish Museum. Its re-establishment in 2001 was feted as a vindication of Jewish survival. Yet today, Hitler would be celebrating the enormity of this institution’s policy of defaming the Jewish State.
To mark Kristallnacht, the “Jewish” Museum has organized an international conference on “Antisemitism in Europe Today: The Phenomena, the Conflicts.”
Its keynote speaker, Brian Klug, is a British Jewish anti-Israel activist who, by commission or omission, gives cover to antisemites among the extreme left and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaigners. As a founder of Independent Jewish Voices – established to delegitimize the Jewish state – its members are arguably antisemitic, according to the European Union 2004 Fundamental Rights Agency’s Working Definition of Antisemitism.
The late Simon Wiesenthal was once asked “What was a Jewish Kapo?” “A Kapo,” he responded. Sadly, the same applies to a Jewish antisemite.
Last year, in the city where the Nazi “Kaufen nicht bei Juden” (“Do not buy from Jews”) boycott campaign was launched, the Jewish Museum hosted Judith Butler, an American Boycott of Israel campaigner and an apologist for anti-Jewish terrorists, who reportedly stated: “Understanding Hamas/Hizbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.”
Madam Chancellor, the Berlin Jewish Museum has been architecturally described as “a warped Star of David” due to its zigzag structure. The museum’s management is indeed warping the Jewish Star. One of its display halls is called “The Void,” which holds the Israeli artist Kadishman’s stamped metallic faces, dramatically redolent of the gas chambers. That vacuum is becoming pervaded by the noxious fumes of a new Jew-hatred.
Kristallnacht must not be abused as an icon for those who wish to decouple the Jewish victims of Nazism from their heirs, the Jewish victims of today – whether in Israel or Diaspora. It is, indeed, so much easier to mourn for the Jewish dead of 75 years ago than for those of today.
Was the Berlin Jewish Museum created, at the cost of Germany’s taxpayers and international donations, to demonize Israel, serve as a fig leaf for antisemitism and to commit memoricide – the murder of the memory of those murdered?
Madam Chancellor, we are deeply aware that the Museum’s actions contravene your personal position and over sixty years of your own and your predecessors’ efforts for German reconciliation with the Jewish people and a commitment to the security of the State of Israel.
Our Centre thus urges your Chancellery to condemn the Museum’s distortion of its role, launch an enquiry into its behavior and suspend public funding until a new management is appointed.
We also call on the international Friends of the Berlin Jewish Museum to reconsider whether their continued support is appropriate to their expectations.
Dr. Shimon Samuels
Shimon Samuels is director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has served as deputy director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European Director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Israel Director of the American Jewish Committee. He was born in the United Kingdom and studied in the UK, Israel, U.S. and Japan.