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The publicly funded Multicultural Center's (Werkstatt der Kulturen) decision to remove educational panels of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, who was an ally of Adolf Hitler, from a planned exhibit, sparked outrage on Thursday among a district mayor, the curator of the exhibit, and the Berlin Jewish community.
The curator, Karl RÃ¶ssler, told The Jerusalem Post that it is a "scandal" that the director of the Werkstatt, Philippa EbÃ©nÃ©, sought to censor the exhibit.
"One must, of course, name that al-Husseini, a SS functionary, participated in the Holocaust," said RÃ¶ssler.
The exhibit covers the "The Third World during the Second World War" and three exhibit panels of 96 are devoted to the mufti's collaboration with the Nazis.
The grand mufti delivered a talk to the imams of the Bosnian SS division in 1944, and was a key Islamic supporter of Nazi Germany's destruction of European Jewry.
EbÃ©nÃ© denied that there was an "agreement " reached with the local German-Muslim community to shut down the exhibit. She termed media queries regarding an agreement as "Eurocentric."
She told the Post that the exhibit was intended as a "homage to soldiers from African" countries who fought against the Nazis.
When asked about her opposition to the inclusion of the mufti panels, she asked, "was there ever a commemoration event in Israel to honor the [African] soldiers?"
RÃ¶ssler was notified last Friday that EbÃ©nÃ© wanted to take out the panels dealing with the grand mufti, but he rejected her demand to remove them.
Meanwhile, the exhibit in its uncensored version has been relocated to the UferHallen gallery.
Maya Zehden, a spokeswoman for the 12,000-strong Berlin Jewish community, told the Post that EbÃ©nÃ©'s rejection of the exhibit showed "intolerance," and a director who is "incapable of acting in a democratic" manner.
Zehden urged that the Berlin government consider replacing EbÃ©nÃ© as director. Zehden also sharply criticized GÃ¼nter Piening, Berlin's commissioner for integration and migration, for defending EbÃ©nÃ©'s decision to censor the exhibit.
Piening told the large daily Tagesspiegel that, "We need, in a community like NeukÃ¶lln, a differentiated presentation of the involvement of the Arabic world in the Second World War."
Zehden termed his statement "an appeasement attempt" to ignore the fact that "there was no official resistance from the Arabic world against the persecution of Jews" during the Shoah.
She accused Piening of showing a false tolerance to German-Arabs in the neighborhood by not wanting to deal with disturbances from the local community.
Piening issued conflicting statements to the Post. While denying his statement to the Tagesspiegel, he said, however, that his comment was stripped out of a context of quotes.
He said the "reason" for the removal of the grand mufti panels dealt with a "misunderstanding of the background of the exhibit."
In an e-mail to the Post, Heinz Buschkowsky, the district mayor in NeukÃ¶lln, where the exhibit was originally planned, wrote, it is a sign of "anticipatory obedience to avoid probable protests. I do not consider this position to be good."
He added that Piening's statement is a "repression of the facts dealing with anti-Semitism."
The district mayor wrote that the center by its own "claim to stand for freedom, tolerance, and culture should be careful not to set off suspicion that it is imposing censorship."