The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Who’s Talking? New Perspectives in German–Jewish Museums

In Germany and Austria, Jewish museums and heritage sites have sprung up since the late 1980s, many triggered by the 50th commemoration of Kristallnacht and the related opening up of a public discourse on the Holocaust. Unlike the first Jewish museums in the early 20th century, they were often set up by non-Jewish community groups and have been run by local or regional councils. Over the last couple of decades, however, the number of Jewish staff in these organisations has increased and the collaboration with, and involvement of, Jewish artists and community groups, in the museum’s operation have become more common.

Increasingly, Jewish museums in Germany therefore present Jewish history and culture from a Jewish perspective for predominantly non-Jewish audiences. Moreover, they focus more and more on contemporary life and inner Jewish diversity. This presentation will analyse the new interpretive approaches the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Jewish Museum Frankfurt have adopted after major refurbishments in 2020 and 2021 respectively, and reflect on how a small provincial museum like the Jewish Museum of Westphalia can include more “inside voices”.