Bleak memories

Memories past and present

By Anna Behrmann

Belgium’s Jewish Museum reopened on Sunday, four months after a gunman murdered four people at the building’s entrance.

An emotional ceremony was attended by more than 1,300 people including the country’s Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo.

Museum curator, Zahava Seelwald, described a new mood of optimism.

She said: “We’re very happy that the museum is back open for the public.”

She also vividly recalled the devastating attack of 24 May. “It was a very difficult moment for all the staff, and also for our public and the Jewish community.

It was also a shock for the entire cultural world, the museum world in Belgium and abroad, as well as for the other Jewish museums abroad.”

While exhibitions have resumed, there are notable changes. At the opening, there was a palpable police presence. Now there are metal detectors at the entrance. 

There is also a new bronze plaque. It commemorates the: “Victims of a cowardly murder by a terrorist in this place.”

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The Museum’s reopening

All visitors passing through the entrance hall can read its defiant words in English, French and Flemish.

The museum in Brussels is currently working on curating a new exhibition displaying the work of the comic artist, Marcel Gotlib. 

Abigail Morris, Chief Executive of the Jewish Museum London commented:

“It is both wonderful that the Jewish Museum of Belgium is reopening and awful that such tragic events forced it to close.

Our thoughts are with them.

“There has never been a more important time for our work.

We challenge prejudice, exploring Jewish culture, heritage and identity.”

Morris also commented that the London museum reviews its security arrangements regularly, with the Community Security Trust and the police.

Mehdi Nemmouche

Mehdi Nemmouche

Mehdi Nemmouche, a French-born Islamist is accused of carrying out the deadly attack on the Belgium Jewish museum.

He was arrested in Marseille and has since been extradited to Belgium.

The Belgium investigating judge has asked the museum not to change anything at the scene of the shooting, in case the court may wish to perform a re-enactment.