Badische Zeitung, Tuesday, 6the July 2004

Professional House of Learning
Manuela Wyler presents her concept for the future of the Blue House

By Friedel Scheer-Nahor [Translated by Samuel Harding]

Manuela Wyler
Photo: Friedel Scheer
Breisach. The Association for the Promotion of the Former Jewish Community House organised a conference on the Founding families of the Jewish Community in Breisach: The Geismars in Baden and Alsace. Not only genealogical questions were dealt with. A discussion on the future of the Blue House, in which the numerous international guests took part, also appeared in the programme.

A discussion on this theme among members of the Association had already taken place before the conference began. The Association entrusted Manuela Wyler from Lyon with the development and presentation of a concept. She has experience in financial and thematic consultation for cultural projects having worked in a similar project in France.

For Manuela Wyler it is very clear that the Blue House should not become a conventional museum, where the rooms are cluttered with historical items and visitors are guided through, so that they can leave again as soon as possible.

She argues for a house of learning where professional staff are employed. The programme should predominantly be aimed at children and young people and their teachers, who should visit Breisach with their classes for around three days, in order to learn about the traces of Jewish life before the Shoah in Alsace and Baden. Manuela Wyler stressed that it is important to remember that the Blue House was not a place, where Jews were murdered, “but one where Jews lived. The individual fates, which befell each person, should be documented”. This approach makes it easier for visitors to deal with the monstrosity of the Nazi era and in this way learn something, which can be applied to their own dealings with minority groups today.

A central question to be posed is: how is it possible that human beings were capable of committing such crimes? How did the bystanders behave? Which forms of resistance existed? The attempt to answer these questions, which should be handled in Workshops, forms the link to the present and should lead visitors to ask questions about their own dealings with cultural differences in society.

Manuela Wyler does not only want visitors from Germany but from Switzerland and France too. For this reason she is also confident of finding funding in these countries as well as from the European Union. She admits however that “the search for funding will be the difficult part”. On top of staffing costs, money will be needed to turn the side gate into a visitor’s entrance and to install the exhibitions. She aims to have finished her consultation-study by the end of September.

In the following discussion most of the participants expressed positive impressions of Wyler’s proposals. Some did however hold doubts about the full implementation of her plans. All present were agreed that it would be necessary to record the visitors’ feed-back in some way. The importance of winning the academic support of the University in Freiburg was also expressed. There was a broad consensus for the idea that the house should become “a laboratory for altering attitudes and contributing to openness in society.”


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