Absence and Presence: Interpreting Moral Exclusion in the Jewish Museum Berlin

  • Susan OpotowEmail author


This chapter describes research conducted in a museum that interprets injustice that occurred more than seven decades ago. From the vantage of the present, it looks back on the Third Reich, a period when the National Socialist Party (“Nazis”) gained adherents, power, and sought to exterminate Jews and other groups they denigrated as “life unworthy of life” (lebensunwertes Leben). Combining psychological theory with historical background, this chapter examines how museum professionals present this period that legitimated and then carried out a genocide of enormous proportions, The Holocaust. By examining how the Jewish Museum Berlin describes the Third Reich to the public, this chapter offers insight into representations of moral exclusion to engage museum visitors in reflecting on past injustice within their society. The museum’s approach offers scholars of injustice an understanding of the representation of moral exclusion designed to reach people in the present so that they can better understand the past, the dynamics of moral exclusion, and its import for present social relations.


Jewish Population Collective Memory Jewish Life Jewish Culture Past Injustice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank the Jewish Museum Berlin and Ms. Maren Krüger, Academic Leader of the Permanent Exhibition Mrs. Tanja Petersen, Head of the Educational Department, and Mr. Helmuth F. Braun, Head of the Temporary Exhibitions Department, for their kind and valuable assistance with this research. I thank Elisabeth Kals, Jürgen Maes, and Michelle Fine, wonderful justice researchers and colleagues, for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Any errors of fact or interpretation in this text are my own. Support for this project was provided by a PSC-CUNY Award, jointly funded by The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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