Walking in the Footprints of the Past: Embodied Experience at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Haverford College. Department of Religion
Place of Publication
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In October 2021, I visited the Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) while on a research trip. My experience in the museum's belowground section, in a set of hallways known as "axes," made me feel as if I was adopting the identity and emotional state of a Holocaust victim through a bodily interaction with spatial and sensorial stimuli. In particular, I felt connected to my German Jewish ancestors who were forced into exile and killed by the Nazi regime. I use the term "embodiment" for this visceral and poignant phenomenon. Adopting an autoethnographic approach, I highlight my own family history during the Holocaust. This contributes to my narrative of my embodied experience while moving through the various parts of the museum axes. In particular, I discuss the way that various architectural and curatorial choices led to sensory and physical engagement that heightened my sense of embodiment. Through examining various pilgrimages which feature similar embodied elements, I raise questions about the role of physical location in cultivating the experience. Similarly, an analysis of embodiment in the Passover Seder leads to discussion of who can participate in such an encounter at the JMB. I conclude by giving voice to others who discuss the morality of personal engagement with the Holocaust, and the implications of their ideas with regard to my embodied experience.