Assume or cede responsibility, that is what Meron Mendel demanded of Documenta Director General Sabine Schormann in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. The Israeli-born head of the Frankfurt educational institution Anne Frank had thrown the Documenta on Friday as an anti-Semitism advisor.
The CDU/CSU MP Gitta Connemann also called for Schormann’s resignation on Deutschlandfunk, as she did in the Bundestag Culture Committee.
According to Mendel, the documenta is used for a general settlement “with all supposed enemies”. Daniel Botman, Managing Director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, criticized the Berlin House of World Cultures (HKW), the Einstein Forum and the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the TU as anti-Semitic and BDS-related in the culture committee last week.
The three institutions had organized the HKW conference “Hijacking Memory” shortly before the opening of the Documenta, with around 40 contributions from international scientists, which dealt with the instrumentalization of Holocaust commemoration through a new right, with examples from Poland, France, Israel, Russia.
In this context, the Palestinian author Tareq Baconi from the NGO “Palestinian Policy Network” described Israel as a colonial occupying state and gave, among other things, figures for adults and children killed by Israel in Gaza. Some saw it as a reproduction of the stereotype of child-murdering Jews. In Botmann’s view, the Holocaust was put into perspective at the conference. There is reason to take a closer look at HKW, among other things.
24 academics who took part in the conference protested against Botmann’s criticism, including Jewish and Israeli intellectuals and Holocaust researchers. Their open letter, in which they thanked for the “productive exchange” at the conference, was published in the “Berliner Zeitung”.
They were “horrified by the torrent of slanderous allegations from different quarters” against the organizing institutions. “The instrumentalization of the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism by right-wing actors is a worrying and pressing problem in our eyes,” they write. Putin’s claim that he wants to ‘denazify’ Ukraine is just the latest example.
The Polish Jewish scholars Jan Grabowski and the journalist Konstanty Gebert, who had sharply condemned Baconi’s statements, do not share Botmann’s assessment either. To regard a single “misguided presentation” as representative of “an otherwise successful conference would be as outrageous as the presentation itself,” she said.