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September 5, 2010

Hitler’s proposed “Museum of an Extinct Race”

Hitler’s proposed “Museum of an Extinct Race” was mentioned in an article here about British school teachers visiting Auschwitz to learn how to teach the Holocaust.

This quote from the article caught my attention:

This was extermination on an industrial scale and it involved huge numbers of people. Neighbours and employers reported Jews to the Gestapo. Bureaucrats processed notices of deportation. Postmen served them. Railway staff marshalled their departure. Others drove the trains and manned the signals. It was all logically and legally planned in an inversion of all the values on which human civilisation had been built.

So perverse was it that Hitler ordered the collection of 200,000 Jewish artefacts (sic), which were photographed and catalogued  to be displayed at the end of the war as a trophy case of archaeological remains. It was to be called The Museum of an Extinct Race.  

Ten years ago, I visited Prague in the Czech Republic and learned that there is, in fact, a collection of Jewish artifacts on display, although the museum is not called “The Museum of an Extinct Race.”  I don’t know if Hitler actually wanted to call the museum by that name or not, but I learned from a tour guide in Prague that it was not Hitler who proposed the Museum.  Here’s the real story on the “Jewish Museum,” which I learned on my visit:

The original Jewish Museum was founded in 1906 in order to preserve artifacts that were saved when all the buildings in the old Jewish quarter of Prague were demolished at the turn of the century, including some of the synagogues. Dr. Hugo Lieben and Dr. Augustin Stein were the leaders in the founding of the museum. Only six synagogues, the Ceremonial Hall, the Old Town Hall, and the Old Jewish Cemetery were left standing when the old Jewish quarter was torn down because it had become a rat-infested slum that was a major health hazard.  Tearing down the Jewish quarter was an effort to get the Jews to assimilate, instead of having their own section of Prague.

Soon after Germany occupied Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939, the Jewish Museum was closed down.   Bohemia and Moravia were formerly in Czechoslovakia and these two states became a German protectorate in 1939, while other parts of Czechoslovakia were taken over by Poland and Hungary. Prague is located in Bohemia, which is one of the two states, that now make up the Czech Republic.

After Germany started liquidating the Jewish communities, in what is now the Czech Republic, Dr. Augustin Stein suggested to the Germans that they set up a Jewish Museum to hold all the objects that the Germans were confiscating from the synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia.

Following long negotiations between Germany and the Jewish leaders, Hitler approved the project and in 1942, the Central Jewish Museum was created. As a result, precious objects from the synagogues in the Czech Republic were saved and they are now on display at four of the old synagogues in Prague: the Pinkus Synagogue, the Klausen Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue.

This is the museum which Hitler allegedly wanted to call “the Museum of an Extinct Race.”  Hitler was originally from Austria, and the Austrians are famous for having good manners.  Can’t you just see Dr. Stein sitting down with Hitler to discuss the Jewish Museum, which was Dr. Stein’s idea, and Hitler saying, “Great idea, Dr. Stein!  Let’s call the Jewish Museum the Museum of an Extinct Race because I have plans to make the Jews extinct.”

The Jewish Museum in Prague consists of exhibits in four of the old Synagogues and the Ceremonial Hall, along with the Old Jewish Cemetery which extends from the courtyard of the Pinkas Synagogue to the rear of the Ceremonial Hall and the Klausen Synagogue.

Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

Tourists lined up to enter the Pinkas Synagogue and the Old Cemetery

The Ceremonial Hall is part of the Jewish Museum in Prague

The Ceremonial Hall and Mortuary was designed by architect J. Gerstl, and built in 1911 – 1912 for use by the Jewish Burial Society Hevrah Kaddishah, which was originally founded in 1564. It is part of The Jewish Museum and contains the second half of the exhibit called “Jewish Customs and Traditions,” which is a continuation of the exhibit in the Klausen Synagogue next door. In this building, the exhibits are about Jewish cemeteries in Bohemia and Moravia and the activities of the Jewish Burial Society.

The Jewish Museum in Prague has one of the most extensive collections of Jewish art, textiles and silver in the world; there are 40,000 exhibits and 100,000 books. The collection is unique because everything in the museum was gathered from Bohemia and Moravia and it represents Jewish history and heritage in the present Czech Republic.

Although Hitler  was not the one who came up with the idea of a Jewish Museum, I was told by a tour guide in Prague that he was enthusiastic about the project and supported it.  The story, about the alleged name that Hitler proposed for the Museum, may have come from the fact that Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat in World War I, and on January 30, 1939, he had predicted in a public speech that, in the event of another world war, European Jewry would be annihilated.  In fact, he predicted this a couple of times, but as it turned out, he was wrong.

During World War II, Jewish artifacts from all over Europe were brought to Prague and stored in preparation for the Jewish Museum. As it turned out, the artifacts that were saved, with the help of the Nazis, ended up in Prague, but not in a museum of an extinct race.

After the defeat of the Fascists in World War II, Czechoslovakia became a Communist country in 1948. Under Communism, all property is owned by the state, so in 1950 the Jews were forced to transfer ownership of the Jewish Museum to the state, and a number of restrictions were imposed. After the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989, the Museum buildings and their exhibits were returned to the Jews on October 1, 1994. At this time, The Jewish Museum in Prague was founded as a non-state organization.

In 1996, the Educational and Cultural Center was established as part of the Museum complex. It is located on the corner of Maiselova Street and Siroka Street in the heart of Josefov, which is the name of the old Jewish quarter.

The purpose of the center is to give visitors a detailed account of the history of the Jews, particularly the history of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia. The Center is a teacher-training institution, recognized by the Czech Ministry of Education. The program at the Center includes lectures, seminars, tours of Josefov, movies, concerts, debates and literary evenings.

Old-New Synagogue in Prague

The Old-New Synagogue, shown in the photograph above, dates back to the 13th century; it was open to the public as part of the Jewish Museum, except on Saturdays and Jewish Holidays.

When I visited Prague in 2000, there were two other Synagogues in the old Jewish quarter that were still being used as places of worship, so they had no exhibits. The other synagogue, that was in use, was the High Synagogue, which was  in the same building as the Old Town Hall. Neither the town hall, nor the High Synagogue, were on the museum tour in October, 2000. Some tourist guidebooks for Prague mention the textile exhibits in the High Synagogue, which were not open when I visited.

Spanish Synagogue is part of the Jewish Museum in Prague

13 Comments

  1. […] I previously blogged about Hitler’s proposed Museum of an Extinct Race here. […]

    Pingback by The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC is a “place of worship” | Scrapbookpages Blog — April 15, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  2. It’s obviously not true that in 1942, “the Nazis regime established the Central Jewish Museum, with the goal of commemorationg the heritage of an exterminated people by collecting notable objects of Jewish ceremonial art.” This is the usual Jewish twist-speak.

    The benevolent administration of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia probably gave permission for the Jews to collect their precious religious objects in a particular bldg./museum, and later had to twist the story to better suit their purposes.

    Comment by Sceptic — September 12, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

    • “the Nazis regime established the Central Jewish Museum, with the goal of commemorating the heritage of an exterminated people by collecting notable objects of Jewish ceremonial art.” is a quote from the pamphlet that is available at the Museum in Prague. This is the official story of the Jewish Museum in Prague.

      Comment by furtherglory — September 12, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  3. I don’t know what happened to Dr. Stein, but I’m guessing that he was sent to Theresienstadt and that he survived the Holocaust. Important Jews, like Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck of Berlin, whom the Nazis called “the Pope of the Jews,” were given a private apartment in Theresienstadt. Dr. Baeck survived and came to America after the war.

    Comment by furtherglory — September 6, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

    • I can’t seem to find anything else regarding Dr. Augustin Stein on the internet although it should be interesting in regards to this museum.

      Dr. Baeck seems to have been heavily criticized for collaborating with the Nazis and as you mention not only survived, but was furnished with a private apartment by the Nazis.

      Were these people self-hating Jews or Nazi sympathizers or something? Perhaps they were being threatened and ordered around by the Nazis and not that they were negotiating with the Nazis over tea and biscuits?

      I am also a baffled how this scenario fits in with this notion of a “museum of an extinct race”. Jews not only survived, but some were chatting it up with Nazis. Such a notion of a museum should have come by the Nazis themselves. Not seeing an opportunity when some museum was proposed by a Jew.

      Nazis were also apparently trying to hide their crimes so establishing such a museum would would seem antithetical to that idea since presumably it would also showcase their crime.

      This makes no sense to me if anyone can explain this “museum of an extinct race”.

      Comment by Kageki — September 7, 2010 @ 9:17 am

      • I can’t find anything on Dr. Augustin Stein either. If he was in a position to set up a Museum in 1906, he must have been very old at the time of the Holocaust, and he would have been sent to Theresienstadt where there were barracks for old people.

        I have some essays on my web site, written by the son of one of the Jewish leaders at Theresienstadt. At the bottom of this web page there are links to more essays about the Jews who allegedly collaborated with the Nazis.

        http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Contributions/Murmelstein/JudenratQuestion.html

        Comment by furtherglory — September 7, 2010 @ 10:33 am

  4. I suppose to some people, it makes perfect sense in the twisted Nazi way to establish such a museum, but on the other hand it’s strange they would even bother to do that.

    Weren’t the Nazis looking to exterminate Jews? Why were they listening to a proposal from some Jew in the first place? What happened to Dr. Stein anyways? Is it safe to assume he was killed by the Nazis later? I mean it’s hard to imagine a Jew negotiated with Nazis and left untouched.

    Oh and I imagine Hitler wouldn’t have revealed his motives to Dr. Stein at the meeting because that would be absurd, but it seems everyone else figured it out anyways.

    Comment by Kageki — September 6, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “Museum of the Extinct Race” has it’s roots in allied Psychological Warfare. It doesn’t even make sense. There were millions of Jews in the USA. It’s like that statement that “Hitler Tried To Take Over The World.” The proof being that he was in Norway, France, and Africa. Nevermind that he was there to counter the British Army.

    Comment by Budham — September 6, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    • Hitler made a couple of speeches in which he predicted that, if there were a second World War, the Jews would be gone from EUROPE. He didn’t predict that all the Jews in the world would be gone. There were 4 million Jews in America at that time, but Hitler did not predict that the American Jews would be ausgerottet, which in 1939 meant “gotten rid of.” Hitler was right — there are not many Jews in Europe today, but there are now around 6 million Jews in America and another 6 million in Israel.

      Comment by furtherglory — September 6, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  6. I believe that would be the only precedent in the human history, when the “exterminators” decided to make a museum of the “extinct race” yet to be “exterminated”. Regarding “Wansee Conference”: Oberleutnant zur See Johannes P. Ney made in depth analysis of the German text of the minutes from that conference, ostensibly made by Adolf Eichman. The minutes appeared to be written by a person who’s native language is not German. It is hard to believe that Eichman would make such stupid linguistic mistakes in his native language and also would have lack of knowledge of European geography and demographics. There are too many discrepancies to list. It took me less than one hour of the Internet search to find the name of potential forger: Sefton Delmer, one of the Ian Fleming’s black propaganda thugs. Everyone who read about Sefton Delmer, his background and his activities during the war would have no doubts that the Wansee Conference minutes are his writings and another piece of black propaganda.

    Comment by Gasan — September 6, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    • Thanks for telling us this. You seem to be very well informed. Years ago, I went to see the old mansion where the Wannsee conference was held; this is a beautiful place which has been turned into a Jewish museum and Holocaust education center. I learned a little about the conference at the museum. A copy of the minutes of the conference was found in 1947, but it was undated and unsigned; it had no stamp of any Bureau. The copy appeared to be a draft copy of the meeting, not a final copy. No final copy, allegedly written by Adolf Eichmann, was ever found, as far as I know. The full title of the Conference on Jan. 20, 1942, was “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe.” But I learned that the original phrase was “a final territorial solution of the Jewish question.”

      On the witness stand at the Nuremberg IMT, Hermann Goering said that the conference was about “the total solution to the Jewish Question” and that it meant the evacuation of the Jews, not extermination.

      One interesting thing that I learned at the Wannsee Museum, that I didn’t know before, was that Hitler set up workshops where young Jews could learn a manual skill, so that they would qualify for emigration to Palestine, under the British rules for Palestine at that time. The British were trying to keep the Jews out of Palestine and Hitler was trying to get them in.

      Lt. Col. Adolf Eichmann had been concerned with the Jewish Question for a long time; he had spent time living in Palestine in order to learn more about Zionism and the proposed Jewish State. He had studied the traditions and customs of the Orthodox Jews and had even learned to speak and write in Hebrew. At the time of the conference, Eichmann was Director of the Jewish Department of the Reich Security Main Office in Berlin (RSHA), the second man to hold this office. At his trial, Eichmann said that he wrote the minutes of the meeting, but didn’t write what was actually said by the participants.

      Comment by furtherglory — September 6, 2010 @ 11:51 am

  7. Wikipedia says that the Nazis had “the goal of commemorating the heritage of an EXTERMINATED people” in 1942. So this means that in 1942, the Nazis had the goal of exterminating the Jews. The Wannsee Conference was held in January 1942 and this is usually given as the source of the plan for the “extermination” of the Jews.

    Comment by furtherglory — September 6, 2010 @ 7:18 am

  8. The whole article “caught my attention” frankly, but this is an interesting tidbit.

    Wiki and the museum’s site have different wording in regards to the museum’s name.

    “In 1942 the Nazis regime established the Central Jewish Museum, with the goal of commemorationg the heritage of an exterminated people by collecting notable objects of Jewish ceremonial art.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Museum_in_Prague

    “Its founding was proposed by Dr. Stein who, in co-operation with other specialist members of staff, sought to save the Jewish objects that were being conficated by the Nazis. Following long negotiations, the Nazis approved the project to set up a central museum, albeit guided by different motives than the Museum´s founders.”
    http://www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/amuseum.htm

    I don’t see any sources for the Nazi’s motives for the museum. Otherwise I would also guess that it is another assumption based on the general idea about the “extermination of Jews”.

    I would be very interested to see the exact source and determination of Nazi’s motive for the museum as claimed.

    Comment by Kageki — September 5, 2010 @ 8:06 pm


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