Ten years ago the museum created a platform for two millennia of German-Jewish history and offered the opportunity for the voices silenced by the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, to be heard again.
Seven million visitors later, the museum is celebrating its tenth anniversary with exhibits and events to re-examine racial issues in the modern era.
“Heimatkunde; How German Is It? 30 Artists’ Notion of Home,“ the museum’s special exhibit, opens on Friday and promises to expand the questions of identity and belonging – often associated with the Jewish community – into a nation-wide exploration: What does it mean to be German?
“For me, this question has a lot to do with Jewish history,” said Cilly Kugelmann, programme director and deputy director of the Berlin Jewish Museum, at the launch.
Minorities are extremely sensitive for psychological and nationality-related subjects, which the exhibit aims to examine, she said.
Margret Kampmeyer-Käding, project manager of the special exhibit, said that while collecting works for the exhibit over the past ten years, the museum carefully selected artists with a Jewish background.
Nonetheless, the thirty artists with roots in 42 different countries were given free rein to approach the task as they saw fit.
“It’s our topic from different perspectives,” Kampmeyer-Käding said.
The resulting exhibition is a multi-sensory experience, where visitors can experience Heimat or homeland in sight, smell, touch and sound.
From live plants taken from various plots around Berlin to three-dimensional portrayals of living rooms to a dirndl that transforms into a prayer rug, the exhibit immerses visitors in its unconventional and seemingly chaotic collection of materials connected to the concept.
Despite its diversity, the exhibit was, however, painstakingly planned, the directors said.
Kampmeyer-Käding said the architects responsible for the exhibit’s space took inspiration from architect Daniel Libeskind’s zig-zag museum design.
Changing floor angles and slanted walls should force visitors to constantly re-evaluate the art from a different perspective, she said.
The thirty-artist exhibit, which runs until January 29, 2012, is only one highlight of the museum’s ten year anniversary offerings.
A festival week will kick off on October 24 with a gala concert by the Berlin Staatskapelle orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
Other planned events include a literary excursion through Berlin with an introduction by Libeskind, a symposium exploring the relationship between Jews, Turks and other Germans and an afternoon birthday party for the museum open to the public.