Beliefnet

NEW YORK, Jan. 11, 2002 (AP) - A Jewish museum's planned exhibit that includes a Lego concentration camp and "designer" canisters of poison gas was criticized as trivializing the atrocities committed during World War II.

Menachem Rosensaft, a lawyer and member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, said he found the exhibit offensive.

"This is not a First Amendment issue. It's a matter of moral judgment and discretion," said Rosensaft, the son of Holocaust survivors. "A Lego concentration camp? To me, that relegates Auschwitz to a game."

"Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art," at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan opens March 17 and runs through June 30.

The exhibit contains such displays as the Lego concentration camp; realistic sculptures of Dr. Josef Mengele, notorious for his medical experiments on prisoners; and collages with bar codes that form the likeness of Holocaust victims.

Curator Norman Kleeblatt cautioned that the images should not be viewed outside the context of the show.

The Lego concentration camp shows how "innocent things can be perverted and turned into implements of destruction," he said.

And "Giftgas Giftset," which depicts a series of poison-gas canisters with designer labels, "shows how you can make something glamorous out of something that is poisonous," Kleeblatt said.

Museum director Joan Rosenbaum said, "These artworks draw us into the past, leading us to question how we understand the appalling forces that produced the Holocaust."

Four of the 13 European and American artists with works in the show are Jewish. The exhibit is the latest in a string of museum shows to stir controversy in New York.

Last year, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani became incensed by a photograph at the city-funded Brooklyn Museum of Art. The 5-foot-tall photo, called "Yo Mama's Last Supper," shows a nude, black woman surrounded by disciples.

Giuliani and the museum got into a similar flap in 1999 over "The Holy Virgin Mary," a portrait of the religious figure decorated with a daub of elephant dung.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who resigned as the vice chairman of the Jewish Museum's board of directors after his election, doesn't plan to step into the current controversy.

"The mayor finds the Holocaust and anything associated with it offensive," said spokesman Ed Skyler. "But he's not going to be in the business of telling museums what they can and can't exhibit."

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