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Jewish Museum Berlin: trouble at the famous institution

The Jewish Museum is the largest of its kind in Europe – and is unsettled by a staff upheaval.
(Photo: Jens Ziehe, courtesy of Jewish Museum Berlin)

A well-known historian who’s made his mark on Berlin’s museum landscape will fill in at the Jewish Museum Berlin after its recent troubles.

Christoph Stölzl, 75 years young, is back. The esteemed historian is now representative for the board of trustees at the Jewish Museum, as Monika Grütters, Berlin’s secretary for culture, announced in late June. Stölzl had previously been director of the German Historical Museum in Berlin. Most recently he served as president of Weimar’s University of Music Franz Liszt.

Stölzl is filling in for Peter Schäfer, 76. The Jewish Studies scholar had resigned from his post as director of the museum following harsh critique from, among others, the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Schäfer had received an Iranian diplomat at the museum. But he’s also been blamed for the liberal exhibition programme at the institution.

A mistake at the press office tipped the scales: they had forwarded an appeal to members of the German parliament to not classify the pro-Palestinian boycott-campaign BDS as anti-semitic. While the movement is supported by some Jewish organisation outside of Israel, too, it’s heavily criticised in Germany. Recently, a largely symbolic resolution at the German Bundestag deemed it officially anti-semitic. In an article for Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, the Israeli historian Moshe Zimmermann advocated for the museum to position itself independently from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Particularly after the Israeli government jumped into the discussion as well. To find this independent stance again is the task that awaits Stölzl.

Translated by Aida Baghernejad


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