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September 2, 2022 1:24 pm

Top German Antisemitism Official Calls for Tighter Control of Documenta Artshow in Wake of Anti-Jewish Exhibits

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Felix Klein, the German Government Commissioner on Antisemitism. Photo: Reuters/Wolfgang Kumm

The head of the German federal government’s office for combating antisemitism has vociferously condemned the Documenta festival of contemporary art in the city of Kassel over a series of scandals involving antisemitic works of art.

“The Documenta shows how completely unchecked Israel-related antisemitism came to Germany from another country,” Felix Klein — the federal government’s antisemitism commissioner — observed in a newspaper interview on Friday.

Beset by widespread criticism of the antisemitic artworks that were either removed or haphazardly covered over at this year’s festival — curated by ruangrupa, an Indonesian artists collective — Documenta’s management team has faced severe criticism of its approach to antisemitism since January, when revelations of ruangrupa’s support for the so-called “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) campaign targeting Israel first emerged.

Subsequently, the Documenta festival featured a mural containing classic antisemitic caricatures, a triptych featuring a man wearing a kipah proffering large bags of money, a brochure featuring antisemitic drawings of Israeli soldiers and a row over the statements of Hamja Ahsan, a British artist exhibiting at the festival, who praised the BDS movement and slammed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who canceled a visit to the festival in protest at the presence of antisemitic works, as a “fascist pig.”

According to Klein, some of the artworks “could also have been in the Nazi hate newspaper Der Stürmer.” He urged due consideration of “criminal consequences” for the exhibition organizers. Antisemitic incitement and mocking or denying the Holocaust is illegal in Germany. In future, the federal government, which funds the festival, should have a greater role in organizing it, by appointing a supervisory board to review works proposed for exhibition, Klein said.

Klein also urged the full implementation of the May 2019 resolution of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, that classified the BDS campaign as antisemitic.

“We must take action against the BDS movement with all political and social means,” he declared.

Klein further warned that antisemitic feeling could surge in Germany later this year, amid a growing economic crisis and shortages of heating fuel during the winter as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, blaming Jews for crises is a pattern in Germany,” Klein stated. “You can feel that something is brewing,”


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