Jewish Museum Plan for Nazi Art Draws Ire

Article excerpt


NEW YORK - An upcoming Nazi art exhibit here has sparked anger, but few New Yorkers are expecting a repeat of the furor over cultural decency stirred up by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The city's new mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, is not only opposed to "censorship of any kind," but one of his first public acts was to dissolve the "decency commission" set up by Mr. Giuliani during a withering nationwide fight with the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

This time the offending institution is the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which occupies a respected position in the city's cultural spectrum. Its exhibit, "Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art," is scheduled to run from March 17 through June 30.

The exhibit includes 13 artists from eight countries who, according to the museum, "make new and daring use of imagery taken from the Nazi era."

It's the daring part that has set off the brouhaha: "designer" poison-gas canisters, a Lego concentration camp set, toylike Hitler cats, attractive busts of Nazi camp doctor Josef Mengele and a digitally altered photo of an artist holding a Diet Coke amidst Buchenwald inmates.

"If you don't like what they're exhibiting, don't go and see it, and that's what is going to be my strategy," said Mr. Bloomberg, adding that he had no plans to view the Nazi art.

Over the weekend, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors passed a resolution calling for the museum to cancel the exhibit. If the museum refuses, the group promises a boycott by Holocaust survivor groups.

This action echoed a similar threat delivered a few days earlier by Menachem Rosenhaft, an official of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, who asked that schools, synagogues and civic groups stay away. He described the coming show as "morally repugnant."

Jewish Museum Director Joan Rosenbaum defends the show, saying the artists ask,"How do we guard against the notion that the Holocaust is something that happened just back then and doesn't have relevance to our lives today. …