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  • Tommaso Speccher

The Jewish Museum

Since its opening in September 2001, the Jewish Museum, designed by the American architect (born in Poland and with a German passport) Daniel Libeskind, has become one of the city's best-known attractions. The challenge thrown down by Libeskind's design is twofold: on the one hand, the deconstructivism architecture, made up in this case of crooked walls and cramped spaces, puts every single visitor in a condition of total loss of spatial reference; on the other hand, the historical exhibition inside the building tries to challenge common sense by telling Jewish history not so much from the Holocaust but from the point of view of two thousand years of Jewish life and culture in Germany. 

Many visitors are unfortunately crushed by the underground architectural space without being able to reach the exhibition on the second floor, which instead tells the story of one of Europe's most important Jewish cultures, namely that of German Ashkenazi Judaism, in a lively and highly interactive manner.

The significant aspects of this Museum, born out of a deep historical and personal confrontation that Libeskind had with the history of Jews in Germany, are many. One above all, however, is that recalled by the very name of the Museum, Between the Lines. When Daniel Libeskind reflected on the possibilities of engineering and architecture, he initially decided to look for all the points scattered around the city where German Jews had lived before 1933, i.e. before the Nazis came to power: the lines from which the museum is formed are therefore not the result of an arbitrary choice but the topographical result of all the human, social, cultural and life relations present in Berlin Jewry at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Libeskind's great intuition lies precisely in this: in having somehow brought back to life, albeit through concrete and steel, the richness of Berlin's large Jewish community. Observing the museum in its entirety means accessing for a moment the vital and cultural wealth of German Jewry that was lost through the Holocaust.

And it is precisely this "absent trace", this emptiness, that explains why the entire museum is criss-crossed by dark, cramped spaces: it is precisely the "Line of Emptiness" that recalls through its architectural forms the sense of lack and bewilderment present in today's German culture, so lost in the face of the weight and destructive radicality of the Holocaust.


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