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Grisly History Course

October 20, 1985

The exhibit rooms of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple display a grim and important story these days, the story of "Jews in Germany under Prussian Rule," a story that needs to be retold throughout history, a story of the consequences of "centuries of intolerance, injustice, and hatred."

We had supposed that visitors would feel no suspense because everyone knows the terrible ending in Auschwitz. And yet there is suspense, suspense and dread, walking through room after room, seeing the extraordinary display of photographs, drawings, documents, and maps. They trace the Diaspora from the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70, the spread of Jews around the Mediterranean and into Europe, the flowering in Central Europe of the contribution of Jews--traders and peddlers, industrialists and merchants, philosophers, scientists, artists, architects, actors, musicians, soldiers and politicians. And they trace the continuum of anti-Semitism, the denial of rights, the unspeakable abuses, tortures and violence that dominated the centuries, that obscured the rare occasions when equality was sanctioned, that climaxed in the ultimate obscenity of the Holocaust. One of the most chilling pictures in the grim display was taken Aug. 20, 1933, at the closing ceremony of a meeting of Catholic Youth in Berlin. Christian prelates and priests stand on the flowered stage, each extending his right arm in the salute taught them by Adolf Hitler.

"All are answerable for the deeds committed in our names," according to Roland Klemig, director of the Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin, who conceived the exhibition. "'Love thy neighbor as thyself' refers not only to your next of kin or friend but also to the stranger who enters your house and to those whose beliefs and ideas you might not share or might not even know,"he added.

The exhibit was prepared by the Bildarchiv in cooperation with the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, has the sponsorship of the German government and Lufthansa Airlines, and was shown in Berlin and West Germany before being brought to Los Angeles.

It cannot have too wide circulation, for every land and every people need this reminder of how readily stereotypes, prejudice, hatred and suspicion can be translated into barbarity.

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