Portrait Dr. Remko Leemhuis
/ Comment

The problem goes far beyone Sabine Schormann

This article first appeared in the Jüdischen Allgemeinen.

Even after countless antisemitic lapses, there were those who still believed that the problem at documenta was solely due to an overwhelmed managing director and her catastrophic crisis management. The statement issued by the supervisory board on Saturday proved those people wrong.

The board presumably expects its statement to clear the field, but it does just the opposite. After weeks of quarreling and embarrassing public arguments among representatives of city, state and federal level, particularly in the past days, the statement clearly shows that the problem extends far beyond Schormann and her staff. The persistent trivialization in the statement, which refers to "antisemitism accusations," demonstrates a continued lack of understanding about the fundamental point at hand.

It is, however, consistent overall, since the text offers no indication of regret and no apology to the Central Council of Jews and the Jewish community in this country for the damage this scandal has caused. Instead, the members of the supervisory board are only concerned about the reputation of documenta, and they lament the damage that the art exhibition has suffered. The statement is simply a disgrace.

In view of this failure on the part of the supervisory board and its members, it is all the more worrisome that this very same board now wants to participate in the investigation of the events concerned. One can only hope that the investigation will be in the hands of independent experts who are neither from Kassel nor from Hesse.

Putting aside further developments concerning documenta and what may result from this scandal, the devastating realization remains: In Germany, in 2022, it took weeks of immense public pressure - once again almost exclusively from Jewish organizations - before the public display of Stürmer caricatures met with (personnel-related) consequences.

It is, therefore, to be feared that similar cases in the future will remain without consequences. Especially when anti-Jewish hatred comes from the "open-minded" art and culture scene.

The author is director of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin.