Survivors threaten to boycott museum over Holocaust art

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

NEW YORK -- Some Holocaust survivors have threatened to boycott an upcoming exhibit of Holocaust-related art that features a depiction of a concentration camp built from Lego blocks.

The exhibit, "Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art," is scheduled to open at the Jewish Museum in New York on March 17. Its catalogue has already been released, generating plenty of debate and outrage.

Besides the Lego artwork, the show includes a piece in which an artist has inserted a picture of himself -- holding a can of Diet Coke -- into a photo of concentration camp survivors.

"It is a disgrace to the memories of the victims of the Holocaust and insulting to the survivors," said Sam Bloch, senior vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

The group's leadership conference, made of about 70 representatives from Holocaust survivor groups around the country, unanimously passed a resolution Sunday calling for the museum to cancel the exhibit, Bloch said.

If the exhibit is not canceled, the resolution calls for synagogues, churches, schools, Jewish and civic organizations and individuals to boycott the museum while the exhibit is on display, Bloch said.

The Manhattan museum's administrative offices were closed Sunday and Monday, and a telephone message seeking reaction to the boycott was not immediately returned.

In interviews with The Associated Press last month, the museum's curator and director said that the exhibit is complex and challenging and that the show's 13 artists raise new issues about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.

"They 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," said the museum's director, Joan Rosenbaum.

Menachem Rosensaft, the chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, backed the boycott. He said he fears the exhibit will legitimize future works that ridicule or trivialize the Holocaust and will upset survivors.

"The intellectual argument and explanation," he said, "will be lost in the wake of the pain that this creates."

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