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Shalechet (Shalekhet), by Menashe Kadishman : Jewish Museum Berlin

Shalechet (Fallen Leaves), Jewish Museum Berlin

The Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum) in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district is one of the most visited museums in the German capital. Over seven million people from around the world have visited the museum since its opening in late-2001. One sculpture or installation takes up two floors.

With the unique architectural vision and building design by Daniel Libeskind, the museum does not set aside the history of the Jewish community within Germany as being separate from the history of the country as a whole. Instead, there is conscious effort by Libeskind and the Museum to have visitors consider how the historical, cultural, art, literature, music, intellectual, scientific, and economic contributions from the Jewish community are tied inextricably with the history of Germany over the span of two millennia. These very issues and questions are now also driving discussions about the present state and evolution of the Turkish and other expatriate communities within Germany.

Within one of the vertical empty spaces of the museum resides a sculpture installation called “Shalechet” (Shalekhet) by Menashe Kadishman. The accompanying caption in English reads:

Leerstelle des Gedenkens (Memory Void):

Shalechet or Shalekhet (“Fallen Leaves”), by Menashe Kadishman (born 1932 in Tel Aviv): 1997-2001, sheet steel. Gift of Dieter and Si Rosenkranz.

The architect Daniel Libeskind created empty spaces in several parts of the building. These so-called voids extend vertically through the entire museum and represent the absence of Jews from German society. The Memory Void contains a work by the Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman, who calls his installation “Shalekhet,” or “Fallen Leaves.” He has dedicated the over ten-thousand faces covering the floor to all innocent victims of war and violence.

Shalechet (Shalekhet), Menashe Kadishman, Jewish Museum Berlin

Shalechet (Shalekhet), Menashe Kadishman, Jewish Museum Berlin

Shalechet (Shalekhet), Menashe Kadishman, Jewish Museum Berlin

Visitors are encouraged to interact by walking on the exhibit itself: to see the open-mouths in terror, the faces of soundless screams; and to listen to the jarring clanging sounds when thick metal pieces jostle against other pieces.

It’s an eerie atmosphere with the installation all to myself. I also feel what is unmistakably guilt as I tread on the “screaming” faces. Am I walking over representations of living breathing people? I think these feelings are in fact necessary, that I need to have these feelings of loss. Something important has been taken away. It’s as if the sculpture asks: “Germany is presently incomplete – will the country ever heal and be complete again?”

My following two-and-a-half minute video provides a visual and aural sample.

The Jüdisches Museum can be reached with the S-Bahn to Anhalter Bahnhof (S1, S2, S25) or with the U-Bahn to Kochstrasse (U6) or Hallesches Tor (U1, U6). This important museum is the “M” in my list of urban G-E-M-S for Berlin.

On 19 November 2012, I made the photos above with a Canon EOS450D camera and the video above with a 4th-generation iPod Touch. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

4 Responses to “Shalechet (Fallen Leaves), Jewish Museum Berlin”

    • fotoeins

      Hi, Tim & Nat. I agree. I also admit I try to balance my emotional and rational responses. The guilt didn’t simply go away, but I asked myself this question: when there’s injustice, what can I do that’s better? I may not always come out smelling like roses, but I have to believe there’s an important beginning with asking that one question. Thanks for reading and for your comment!


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