The Whole Truth: a Continuing Discussion

Marc Wrasse

There are people who visit the special exhibition The Whole Truth not once or twice but a few dozen times: museum guides, those of us who accompany visitors through the exhibition. This time, though, our job isn’t to introduce the exhibits and their deeper meaning but instead to elicit commentary from this very real and tangible general public – and to moderate any discussion that follows. After all, the questions on which the exhibition is based also came from visitors. The museum reflects them in a great number of objects that the curators sought out.

The exhibits are very various and consistently surprising; they strike a wide range of cadences as well. Most visitors are astounded and speechless at the chutzpah of some curatorial arrangements. But as soon as a group begins to move through the exhibition and to engage with its guide, the speechlessness transforms into eloquence. Contradicting opinions are expressed, as they often are, in front of an exhibit. Here, though, you notice that it’s not about one opinion being more true than another, or about the object and its historical significance, but rather about talking about it. Simply about having a reaction and an opinion.

And so many clichés and prejudices about Judaism also circulate in the exhibition: but not in a way that they’re showcased and debunked. In five boxes you yourself can vote on prejudices, and it would probably be a prejudice to read this only as a malevolent mirror. Rather, the visitors’ very different and sometimes contradicting reactions show that there isn’t a right or wrong attitude towards these clichés. In fact, it’s first and foremost about bringing them into the open. And occasionally laughing at them.

At the end of a tour, even the silent visitors see what a wide range of relevant and yet varied reactions to the exhibition is possible. A formidable installation on an entire wall has emerged from the single notes and post-its that replaced the usual visitors’ book: Berlin’s general public has augmented the exhibition with it’s own contribution. There, you can read not only witty commentaries but you can also see how remarkably freely and imaginatively people have endorsed, caricatured, or expanded on the opinions of others’ with their own thoughts. And for a happy moment the viewer may realize that “the whole truth” is more than an ironic catchphrase: it could actually exist, as a continuous, inviting, and unending discussion that people and things enter into for the time that they’re gathered here together. On that note, come to the exhibition!

Marc Wrasse, Guide

Five pillars with the inscriptions: "business savy?", "fond of animals?", "influential?", "intelligent?", "beautiful?"

Barometer for the question “Are Jews particularly …?” in the exhibition The Whole Truth; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Linus Lintner

Citation recommendation: 
Marc Wrasse (2013), The Whole Truth: a Continuing Discussion.
Behind the Scenes (7) Entries on the Exhibition "The Whole Truth" Show all

Entries on the Exhibition "The Whole Truth"

What obstacles had to be overcome to open the exhibition The Whole Truth (2013), how it felt as a Jew to sit in a glass case in the exhibition, how visitors reacted, what further things developed out of the exhibition...

Trials of a Truth Seeker

Michal Friedlander on the countdown before the opening of the exhibition The Whole Truth

Ask the Rabbi

Martina Lüdicke about the shooting of the film installation in the exhibition The Whole Truth

In the Showcase

Olga Mannheimer about her experiences in the exhibition The Whole Truth

From Wagner to the Weather

Signe Rossbach about her two hours as a living exhibition object in the show The Whole Truth

Conversion and Controversy

Naomi Lubrich on the new interest in this topic and on religious loyalty

The Whole Truth: a Continuing Discussion

Guide Marc Wrasse about group discussions in the exhibition

After the Exhibition is Before the Exhibition

Martina Lüdicke on the decision to dedicate a separate exhibition to questions of circumcision

Firsthand Stories (5) A Tour of Tour Experiences Show all

A Tour of Tour Experiences

Some of our guides, as well as a few visitors, have written here about experiences they had on various tours at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

Jerusalem for All the Senses

A tour for the blind and vision impaired through the exhibition Welcome to Jerusalem at the Jewish Museum Berlin. A piece by Gerald Pirner.

Intense Encounters in “Jerusalem”

How school children react to the tour through the exhibition Welcome to Jerusalem. A conversation with Marc Wrasse

On the Hamster Wheel of Argumentation

Andy Simanowitz, guide in the exhibition Snip it!, reports on stubborn questions and spirals of argumentation.

How about more tolerance for ambiguity?

Mohamed Ibrahim and Shemi Shabat talk about their tandem guided tour Jerusalem in Dialogue

The Whole Truth: a Continuing Discussion

Guide Marc Wrasse about group discussions in the exhibition


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