The Whole Truth or…A Day in The Jewish Museum in Berlin

Disclaimer: This post is a very deep post. It contains my personal emotional and thought provoking experiences of visiting The Jewish Museum in Berlin. I write about this because this visit has impacted me a lot and I would love to share this because this blog is about my art work and my life as an artist. My art is often very emotional and a lot of my art work is influenced by experiences like this one. I would like to ask to keep any comments respectful – this is a very sensitive topic and I must say I am a bit scared to write about it.

I will not tolerate any hate-related comments. If you feel the need to do so- you are welcome to go to a far remote place in blog land and never ever return back to this website – because then this blog is clearly not written with you in mind!



A couple months ago when Julie and I had already scheduled her visit to me, I heard about the Exhibition “The Whole Truth…Everything you always wanted to know about Jews” in The Jewish Museum Berlin. Many controversial newspaper articles can be found about this exhibition especially the part of the exhibition which became known as the “Jew in a Box”. In the exhibition a Jewish Person sits in a kind of a clear box and can be asked questions about Jews and Judaism. When Julie and I heard about it and read the articles we started discussing this a bit. It started as a discussion between an American and a German, a Jew and a non-Jew, two friends striving to understand cultural, historical and religious differences. We decided we would have to go ourselves to Berlin in order to have an opinion about this exhibition. And so we went.


The building itself is very impressive – there is an old part of the building as well as a new one built by architect Daniel Libeskind. I cannot remember when an architectural building had such a strong emotional impact on me.

Throughout the building Libeskind has created so called voids, empty spaces which represent the absence of Jews from German society.



One void is called “Holocaust Tower” . It is very oppressive and moving. It’s a 24 meter/78.7 foot high shaft of concrete illuminated by a single source of light.

The other void which left an unbelievable emotional and physical impact on me was a Memory Void containing an installation titled Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman. “Over 10,000 open-mouthed faces coarsely cut from heavy, circular iron plates cover the floor”.



Upon nearing this void Julie and I heard this incredible loud noise which from a far away distance sounded first as a remote noise in a very busy cafe where dishes were clanking together but once we came closer and closer the sound was getting painful and shrill. Visitors are encouraged to walk into the void which turns darker and darker in the end.



I started stepping on the first faces and I stopped right away, I felt sick to the stomach and could not walk a single step further. I think I have never had this kind of reaction to any art I have ever seen and experienced before.



The first time we went through the Special Exhibition the clear box was unattended. So we decided to come back later again. At the end of the exhibition we found this huge wall full with post-its where visitors were asked to leave their comments and questions about the exhibition. It was another deep emotional moment to read some of them – in all languages, by all kinds of different people , age groups, countries and faiths. Some post-its were rude and  made me swallow – like one in German that said: “None of my answers were answered by this exhibition and I will continue to have my prejudices” ,- many were written in a very narrow minded religious way – but there were also some like these:





Later we came back and talked to the woman sitting in the clear box. Julie and I started talking to her and my first question was “How do you feel sitting in this box” and “What was your motivation of volunteering for this” . The answers and stories about her experiences were very touching. From outraged Germans that have ties to Nazi-perpetrators to outraged Jewish people being hurt that she would sit in a box like in a zoo, from Jewish women from the U.S. starting to cry because they could not grasp that a jewish woman would live in Germany to young people asking basic questions about the religion. She told us she had wanted to do this to get to know how people in Germany feel about it because she always felt being asked many a questions anyway when she told her friends she was jewish. What she didn’t expect was how emotionally draining this whole experience would be.



During our conversation many other people joined our group from all countries, jews and non-jews and we had a very lively and very interesting discussion. It was a wonderful experience the way how we all stood there and talked with each other. And then somehow the amazing woman was not alone in the glass box anymore. She was accompanied by a friend from South America and a man from Germany who said he never makes public to be jewish out of fear for the reaction. I know it is hard to grasp if you haven’t been there or if you are full of prejudices about this exhibition anyway- but this picture and this moment was a moment of peace and made me feel that there is hope for this world.

During and after the visit Julie and I spent many hours talking about our experiences in the museum, thoughts and feelings. It was very deep and open and honest. It also reminded me that art is something that provokes thoughts and feelings. As mentioned several times, this visit in the Jewish Museum has provoked many thoughts and feelings in very different ways in me, and sharing this with a friend is an experience I will always cherish.






Comments (44)

  • Diana


    i simply can not ….. i have not a single sentence that will make sense…. thank you both for sharing your experience with each other and with all of us. Nat you are a very brave wonderful kind brave soul for sharing this with us! thank you xoxo


  • Bonnie Rabon


    There is hope. There is!


  • Willow


    Thanks so much for sharing your emotional experience visiting the Jewish Museum with Julie. I am not sure I could get beyond those cement columns out front and if I did get myself inside, I could never walk across those faces, faces of my family, my people who perished. And as others mentioned, people are still being brutally murdered. When will we ever be able to respect each other no matter our differences…


  • Laura Strack


    Dearest Nathalie,
    I too have friends that are Jewish and I love them and their families, deeply. I thank God everyday for my friendship with them. We may never fully understand how someone could have so much hatred in their heart and could support such evil doings. Thank you to you and Julie for sharing your beautiful friendship and experiences with all the world to see. It is a true testament of how God wants us to live; love one another as I have loved you.
    In love and peace, always,


  • Cuchy


    You told me about it in june but I thought it was only the cube q&a exhibit. This has had to be impressive and so emotional. Too much “fallen leaves”
    Thank you for sharing. loves


  • SusanJane


    I cried when I was in the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem so many years ago and I’m not Jewish. It strikes me again that any group no matter what religion or race or nationality has to found museums and memorials to honor so many dead. There’s so much identity and so many memories tied up in what happened. I cry not just for the Jews who suffered and died but for our species that can’t seem to live with each other and our differences.

    Art has the capacity to say things that cannot be otherwise said. Your photos are testament to the incredible power of art and the creative spirit.


  • Cindi


    Nat, thank you so much for this post, as hard as it must have been to write. What a moving experience to share with a friend, and now we blog readers can learn through you. Most of us won’t see this exhibit in person, so thank you for sharing.


  • Helen


    Bravo Natalie for posting about the experience you shared with your friend. I admire the artists who created this stark reminder of the brutality of racism and genocide. Your words made me ask myself what I can do, here and now, to welcome immigrants and refugees into my country. Thank you for your raw and visceral post.


  • Mary Werner


    Fallen Leaves is the most perfect example of ART that I have seen. Walking down that hall would have been next to impossible but probably something I would have done to deeply instill the memory of that sacrifice of God’s people. Why Jews? They were killed only because of their belief in God! It ended with the return of a portion of Israel given back to the Jews (a land born in a day – Issaiah 66.8) and we are all blessed because of them. Thank you Natalie for posting this as I would never have experienced it without your blog.


  • Nancy Sapp


    I already knew that you & Julie were great artists & teachers (I follow your blogs & posts every day) but now I know that you’re both brave. I also wondered what the noise was at the end of the tunnel.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings throughout the post.
    Grandma Nancy


    • Nathalie Kalbach


      Nancy , the noise was generated by the visitors walking on the faces…the “grinding” of the iron plates when walking on them – made them literally scream. That was the sound we heard in upon nearing the void. Nat


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