The start of the exhibition is introduced by a gigantic photo dating from 2012. You will see emotional, enchanted, almost ecstatic young people attending the music festival Tomorrowland. The leitmotif on this floor is ‘masses’. What happens if the government starts to misuse the tremendous force of the masses and converts this into an instrument of violence? Opposite of the photo of Tomorrowland, you can see the 1935 movie Triumph des Willens (English: Triumph of the Willpower) by Leni Riefenstahl in which an exuberant public cheers Adolf Hitler. While in the modern photo, the celebrating youth grows up in an atmosphere of pluralism and diversity, the frenzied crowd of 1936 is a dangerous force. Those who do not fit into the Nazi project are hunted, persecuted, thrown out and ultimately eliminated.
The gruesome photos in the Germany of the 1920s/1930s show how distress has polarised and agitated the masses and created increasingly more violence: political violence, racial hate, etc. Even women and children are laughing while watching how ‘enemies’ are chased, Jewish shops are boycotted, and synagogues are set on fire. Contrasting this is a completely different Belgium. Photos, files and interviews show the life of Jews and gypsies in the 1920s and 1930s in Belgium. Ninety percent of these people are strangers/foreigners, mainly poor people. They find a relatively safe haven in Belgium. The museum shows the similarities between the social-economic profile of these people and the social-economic profile of today’s immigrants. They immigrated due to poverty, but there are also political refugees. They search for each other, live in large diversity, and try to rely on networks.
After the German invasion of 10 May 1940, the Belgian state of law collapsed and – among other decrees – the registration of Jews was ordered in the fall of 1940. From that point on, the occupying forces, in close cooperation with the Belgian authorities, started to discriminate against the Jews. Everywhere in the country, Belgian jurists and administrators were prepared to follow the new legal order. Multimedia presentations blow these seemingly ‘ordinary’ administrative issues into perspective.