In 1993 an international jury unanimously chose Amnon Barzel
as director of the Jewish Museum
Barzel, an internationally renowned art critic and curator, had been associated with the modern art museum in Prato, Italy, and with similar institutions in Venice and Tel Aviv.
He thus began his directorship in Berlin in 1994 with a cosmopolitan perspective and a greater focus on contemporary Jewish art than had been envisaged when the idea of the museum was first mooted in the 1970s.
It is under these circumstances that Barzel began his office as director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and found himself increasingly frustrated as his efforts to promote a wider vision for the museum were consistently blocked by the city administration.
, sensing that he
now had support from within the Jewish community, became more strident in his
pressed not only for the Jewish museum
to occupy the whole of the Liebeskind building complex and for the museum to have full administrative and financial autonomy, but also publicly berated the Berlin authorities.
The result was a showdown between the Berlin authorities and the Jewish community.
was unceremoniously dismissed in June 1997 without consultation with the Jewish community.
Obviously the initial coalition between the city administration and the Jewish community, which had led to the joint formulation of a planned Jewish museum, the choice of the winning architectural design and the appointment of the first director of the museum, had now broken down.
Coincidentally and symbolically, it broke down at that precise moment when a new leadership was taking over the running of the Jewish community in Berlin
Andreas Nachama, a forty-five-year-old historian specializing in the Holocaust, took over as chairman of the Berlin Jewish community on the same day that Barzel was dismissed.
dismissal of Barzel
in June 1997
compromise solution in October 1997
new director and further concessions in March 1998
official opening in January 1999