The Muse­um of an Extinct Race

September 1, 2020

Pri­or to his death in 1945 and assum­ing his ulti­mate vic­to­ry in the war, Adolf Hitler out­lined his plans for the cre­ation of a muse­um, memo­ri­al­iz­ing the elim­i­na­tion of the Jew­ish scourge from the plan­et. The Muse­um of An Extinct Race imag­ines a world where just such an even­tu­al­i­ty has tran­spired, in now Nazi-dom­i­nat­ed 2017. Its two pro­tag­o­nists‚ Dano Adamik, a Czech native coerced into curat­ing the muse­um and Eva Novak, a muse­um docent with Jew­ish her­itage‚ inhab­it a beat­en, sub­ju­gat­ed soci­ety, dom­i­nat­ed by a self-pro­claimed, super race. The nov­el con­jures a coterie of rebels strug­gling to res­ur­rect human morality.

Through scenes por­tray­ing a stark, anti-civ­i­liza­tion, the nov­el plunges into a world absent of Jews, yes, but more­so a plan­et bereft of the eth­i­cal guid­ance of Judaism.

The nov­el is nei­ther anoth­er holo­caust sto­ry nor an alter­na­tive his­to­ry trea­tise, but rather an explo­ration of a for­ev­er endan­gered cul­ture through the eyes of con­flict­ed souls sub­merged in a frag­ile love sto­ry. More­over, it serves as a call to pas­sive, pre­oc­cu­pied Jews to reclaim their her­itage and as a stim­u­lus to non-Jews to dis­cov­er what all the fuss has been about.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Jonathan Hale Rosen

  • How close were the Nazis to obtain­ing nuclear weapons pri­or to the US and there­fore how real­is­tic is the book’s scenario?

  • Does Eva too quick­ly for­give Dano for his past sins?

  • There’s a gen­er­al theme of pro­tag­o­nists (Dano, Father Slave­cik, Cor­nelius Gurlitt) ratio­nal­iz­ing their actions by pro­claim­ing that they were pre­serv­ing a lega­cy that oth­er­wise would be destroyed. Is that justifiable?

  • Is Eva’s deci­sion to have an abor­tion moral­ly accept­able? Under Jew­ish law?

  • The nov­el presents the issue of Jew­ish per­se­cu­tion through­out the cen­turies as unjus­ti­fi­able. What are the under­pin­nings of anti-semi­tism that has allowed it to per­sist through the centuries?

  • What is your sense of the quo­ta­tion at the begin­ning of the book: If God is God, He is not good; If God is good, he is not God.”?

  • As Eva states, human­ists — those with a moral­i­ty inde­pen­dent of reli­gion — are des­tined to go to their graves a soli­tary voice, due to the absence of for­mal reli­gion and God’s author­i­ty. Is it true that moral peo­ple have no abil­i­ty to trans­mit their moral­i­ty to future generations?

  • Has reli­gion, as Dano states, been respon­si­ble for more hav­oc and destruc­tion through­out his­to­ry, out­weigh­ing the pos­i­tives it has pro­mul­gat­ed for humanity?

  • What makes Judaism rel­e­vant today? Why do so many Jews grav­i­tate to dif­fer­ent religions?

  • Why are there so many disaffected/​alienated/​indifferent Jews now?

  • Eva states that she is not sure where Judaism stands on the issue of heav­en and hell.
  • Does Judaism pos­tu­late a heav­en and hell? If not, what does that signify?

  • What is the Jew­ish iden­ti­ty inde­pen­dent of the litany of its his­tor­i­cal per­se­cu­tion and the Holocaust?