From the wrong path to the present
As of: 6:24 p.m. | Reading time: 3 minutes
The House of the Wannsee Conference memorial opens its third permanent exhibition on Sunday. An installation caused a lot of criticism in advance. The director of the memorial then made the right decision.
LAbility is an often underestimated quality. Sometimes you get lost and then it is important to recognize and correct mistakes. The House of the Wannsee Conference (GHWK) memorial now shows how this can be done. Here, on January 20, 1942, the second SS man, Reinhard Heydrich, coordinated with representatives of the most important ministries the “final solution to the Jewish question”, the millionfold murder of Europe’s Jews. Nothing was decided.
The third permanent exhibition will be handed over to the public on Sunday, 78 years after this meeting in the manorial villa at Großer Wannsee 56–58 in south-west Berlin. The first, inaugurated in 1992, was based on the level of knowledge of the 1950s and the book “The Yellow Star” by Gerhard Schoenberner, the founding director of the GHWK.
Historians, who had previously been responsible for the second, serious Wehrmacht exhibition, had drawn up the second one, which Schoenberner’s successor, Norbert Campe, was responsible for in 2006. But after almost a decade and a half she no longer met the changing needs of the public.
That is why the new documentation was created under the direction of the third GHWK director, Hans-Christian Jasch. It should be lower-threshold, take into account the decreased basic knowledge of today’s students and still offer at least the same salary via digitally importable specialization boards.
So far so good. One can argue whether the expansive exhibition furniture is more appropriate to the historical location than the previous solution with blackboards. It is a pity that in the central room, where the notorious conference probably took place, the table installation was dispensed with. That should not have been a wise decision, because the nature of a discussion about an enormous crime is now even more difficult to grasp.
However, a “participation station” was planned for the third to last room of the exhibition tour, which would have foreseeably questioned the value of the new permanent position. There, on a touchscreen and visualized with drawings, a parallel was drawn between signs such as “Jews undesirable” at the Berlin bathing beach at Wannsee and the violently controversial bathing ban for young refugees issued in 2016 in some cities.
At a press conference on Thursday morning, this “participation station” was sharply criticized. Because of course you can compare the two situations, but you only find that there are no similarities. On the one hand, a government-sponsored, soon officially secured discrimination that was one of many steps towards mass murder – on the other hand, a temporary measure taken because of actual attacks, which became a hotly debated topic by the critical public and soon disappeared again. For visitors, young people in particular, the representation would nonetheless have arrived as an equation – and thus as a relativization of the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazi state.
It is therefore good that Hans-Christian Jasch immediately pulled the emergency brake and said: “Since you are not just journalists for us, but also our first visitors, we have decided not to put the station into operation. ”
It will be replaced by an element that deals with video interviews of Holocaust survivors. The very interesting, if somewhat politically incorrect, approaches of the new documentation (such as the “murder of Jews of Europe” instead of simply and grammatically aptly speaking of “murder of Europe’s Jews”) would have been overlaid by the erroneous reference to the present. It is good that the memorial has demonstrated learning ability.