I still have mixed feelings about the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. A memorial shouldn’t be pretty or beautiful, but I’m not sure what the 2,711 stelae try to tell me.
I tried to find a good interpretation online. The official website gives the best explanation. Peter Eisenman, the architect of the memorial, said in 1998:
“The enormity and scale of the horror of the Holocaust is such that any attempt to represent it by traditional means is inevitably inadequate … Our memorial attempts to present a new idea of memory as distinct from nostalgia … We can only know the past today through a manifestation in the present.”
This made a lot of sense. The memorial is multiple things. Overwhelming, ugly, sad, and gray. And all the other interpretations are right, too. There are lots of thoughts and questions coming up while walking through the stelae field.
The project started in 1989 when citizens demanded a memorial for the six million murdered Jews. Between 1994 and 1997, two competitions were announced. The chancellor more or less rejected the first winning submission. After a second contest, Peter Eisenmann’s design won. Construction began in 2000, and it was complete by 2004. 2,711 stelae on 19,000 sqm. They are 2.38 m wide and 0.95 m deep.
There was one thing that made me mad. People running around taking funny selfied, jumping around on the concrete slabs, and their parents or teachers not caring about their misbehavior. Shahak Shapira, an Israeli satirist living in Berlin published a website called “YOLOCAUST“. Shapira edited a few photos so it looked like they were taken at a concentration camp. He offered people to take them off the site when they contact him and this apparently happened. You can still find the photos online, just not on his page.
I strongly suggest visiting this place when coming to Berlin. It’s close to the Brandenburg Gate, so there is no excuse for not stopping by.
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