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Former U.S. Treasury Official to Head Berlin Jewish Museum

A former official in the Carter administration has been named to head Berlin’s new Jewish museum.

W. Michael Blumenthal, a German-born Jew, was U.S. treasury secretary from 1977 to 1979.

He has no experience in the museum world. But German officials hope the 72- year-old international finance expert can use his worldwide contacts to attract donations to the museum, which is expected to open by the year 2000.

His negotiating skills will also be needed to heal the rifts between Berlin and the city’s Jewish community over control of the museum.

The museum’s last director, Amnon Barzel, had demanded autonomy for the museum and its rotating exhibitions. Berlin government officials, however, tried to dictate the contents of the new museum, insisting it was only a division of the Berlin City Museum.

Barzel, a well-known Israeli museum expert, refused to give in. The city’s Jewish community backed up Barzel, protesting loudly when he was fired earlier this fall.

Although the city refused to reinstate Barzel, it finally conceded to the Jewish community a new administrative structure giving museum personnel decision-making power over the use and display of the permanent collection as well as over rotating exhibitions.

Decisions on exhibitions will be made by a special committee that includes the architect of the new Jewish museum, Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-born Jew who has lived in Israel, the United States and Germany.

Construction of the museum, which is in the form of a lightning bolt, is largely completed.

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