Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Leipzig Holocaust Museum

The #1 topic of discussion in Leipzig art circles this week has been the announcement by city officials of approval for a new Holocaust museum, to be built in the former Soviet pavilion on the grounds of the old Leipzig trade fair. Developers had previously hoped to build a multiplex cinema in the pavilion, with its church-like steeple topped by a massive red star.

Renowned German architect Meinhard von Gerkan has been selected to design the project. Von Gerkan was responsible for Berlin’s new central rail station and is currently involved in planning a new Chinese city outside Shanghai, as well as designing several soccer stadiums in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

Planners feel housing the museum in the former Soviet pavilion will allow the institution to expand discussion beyond the Holocaust, to anti-Semitic oppression during the Soviet era, a period in which many surviving Jewish leaders were sent to labour camps or into exile. In an interview in Die Zeit, historian Frank Nesemann of Leipzig’s Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture said he believed broadening the dialogue to include the state-sanctioned anti-Semitism of the GDR and Soviet Union will contribute to our understanding of the rise of genocidal regimes.

There’s an English-language story in Deutsche Welle, but it focuses primarily on the architect. Here’s a link to a more comprehensive story in the European Jewish Press.

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