Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin

Sunday, 27 January 2019 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Berlin, General, Museums, Exhibitions
Reading Time:  10 minutes

© Orator/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Orator/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (German: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), also known as the Holocaust Memorial (German: Holocaust-Mahnmal), is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000-square-metre (200,000 sq ft) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae“, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38 metres (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 metres (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.7 metres (7.9 in to 15 ft 5.0 in). They are organized in rows, 54 of them going north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew. An attached underground “Place of Information” (German: Ort der Information) holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem. Building began on April 1, 2003, and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, and opened to the public two days later. It is located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, in the Mitte neighborhood. The cost of construction was approximately 25 million.

The memorial is located on Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 in Berlin, a city with one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe before the Second World War. Adjacent to the Tiergarten, it is centrally located in Berlin’s Friedrichstadt district, close to the Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate. The monument is situated on the former location of the Berlin Wall, where the “death strip” once divided the city. During the war, the area acted as the administrative center of Hitler’s killing machine, with the Chancellery building and his bunker both nearby. The memorial is located near many of Berlin’s foreign embassies. The monument is composed of 2711 rectangular concrete blocks, laid out in a grid formation, the monument is organized into a rectangle-like array covering 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres). This allows for long, straight, and narrow alleys between them, along which the ground undulates.

© Mazbln/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Alphamouse/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Orator/cc-by-sa-4.0 at night © Drrcs15/cc-by-sa-4.0 In the 'Garden of Exile' of the Jewish Museum Berlin stands a small column field, which also conveys the feeling of a fluctuating floor © Andi oisn/cc-by-sa-3.0 Holocaust Memorial, Tiergarten and Reichstag © Anteeru/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Pim Zeekoers/cc-by-sa-3.0 by night © Mattias e johansson/cc-by-sa-3.0
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In the 'Garden of Exile' of the Jewish Museum Berlin stands a small column field, which also conveys the feeling of a fluctuating floor © Andi oisn/cc-by-sa-3.0
The information center, which is located at the site’s eastern edge, begins with a timeline that lays out the history of the Final Solution, from when the National Socialists took power in 1933 through the murder of 500,000 Soviet Jews in 1941. The rest of the exhibition is divided into four rooms dedicated to personal aspects of the tragedy, e.g. the individual families or the letters thrown from the trains that transported them to the death camps. The Room of Families focuses on the fates of 15 specific Jewish families. In the Room of Names, names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims obtained from the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel are read out loud. Each chamber contains visual reminders of the stelae above: rectangular benches, horizontal floor markers and vertical illuminations. Critics have questioned the placement of the center. It is discreetly placed on the eastern edge of the monument. Architecturally, the information center’s most prominent feature lies in its coffered concrete ceilings. The undulating surfaces mirror the pattern of the pillars and pathways overhead, causing the visitor to feel like they have entered a collection of graves. “Aesthetically, the Information Center runs against every intention of the open memorial. The aboveground pavilion of the subterranean documentation area mars the steady measure of the order of rectangles. Admittedly, all objections against this pedagogical extra fall silent when one has descended the stairs to the Information Center and entered the first four rooms”. The visitors center contains and displays some of the most important moments and memories of the Holocaust, through carefully chosen examples in a concise and provocative display. The entrances cut through the network of paths defined by the stelae, and the exhibit area gives the memorial that which by its very conception it should not have: a defined attraction. “The exhibitions are literal, a sharp contrast to the amorphous stelae that the memorial is composed of. “It is as if they (exhibits) were directed at people who cannot find the capacity to believe that the Holocaust occurred”.

On December 15, 2004, the memorial was finished. It was dedicated on May 10, 2005, as part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of V-E Day and opened to the public two days later. It was originally to be finished by January 27, 2004, – the 59th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The inauguration ceremony, attended by all the senior members of Germany’s government, including Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, took place in a large white tent set up on the edge of the memorial field itself, only yards from the place where Hitler’s underground bunker was. Holocaust survivor Sabina Wolanski was chosen to speak on behalf of the six million dead. In her speech, she noted that although the Holocaust had taken everything she valued, it had also taught her that hatred and discrimination are doomed to fail. She also emphasized that the children of the perpetrators of the Holocaust are not responsible for the actions of their parents. The medley of Hebrew and Yiddish songs that followed the speeches was sung by Joseph Malovany, cantor of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York, accompanied by the choir of the White Stork Synagogue in Wrocław, Poland, and by the Lower Silesian German-Polish Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. In the first year after it opened in May 2005, the monument attracted over 3.5 million visitors. It is estimated that some 5 million visitors have visited the Information Centre between its opening in May 2005 and December 2015. Over the past 10 years (2006–2015), an average of 460,000 people have visited, or over 1,000 per day. The foundation operating the memorial considered this a success; its head, Uwe Neumärker, called the memorial a “tourist magnet”.

Read more on Stiftung-Denkmal.de – Holocaust Memorial, stiftung-denkmal.de – Information Centre under the Field of Stelae, Berlin.de – Holocaust Memorial, VisitBerlin.de – Holocaust Memorial, Times of Israel, 24 January 2019: Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel home to some 200,000 survivors, The Guardian, 27 January 2019: One in 20 Britons does not believe Holocaust took place, poll finds, Jerusalem Post, 27 January 2019: Greek Church charged by Israel with inflaming Antisemitism, Haaretz, 27 January 2019: Polish Nationalists March on Auschwitz to Protest ‘Non-inclusive’ International Holocaust Day, The New York Times, 27 January 2019: On the Way to Auschwitz, I Found ‘Heil Hitler’ Signs For Sale, The Washington Post, 27 January 2019: Remembering the Holocaust in an era of rising anti-Semitism, Times of Israel, 27 January 2019: Netanyahu downplays right-wing anti-Semitism, contradicting Israeli study, The Guardian, 21 October 2015: Anger at Netanyahu claim Palestinian grand mufti inspired Holocaust, Jerusalem Post, 27 January 2019: Far-right Antisemitism biggest threat to Jews worldwide: Report, Haaretz, 27 January 2019: Germany ‘Must Tell Stories’ of Holocaust Victims to Combat anti-Semitism, Merkel Says, France24, 27 January 2019: Anti-Semitic killings in 2018 ‘highest’ in decades: Israel, Jerusalem Post, 27 January 2019: European Parliament marks International Holocaust Day, Times of Israel, 27 January 2019: Germany earmarks funds for Russian siege survivors; Moscow says it’s not enough, Jerusalem Post, 27 January 2019: Far-right protest during Auschwitz camp liberation commemoration, Times of Israel, 29 January 2019: Remembering the Holocaust, Poland blots out any mention of its complicity, Times of Israel, 30 January 2019: As Israel warms ties in Eastern Europe, is Holocaust memory now disposable?, March of the Living, Times of Israel, 2 May 2019: Famed Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld: It feels like the 1930s, Times of Israel, 2 May 2019: After Auschwitz, memory is barbaric: 8 things to know for May 2, Times of Israel, 2 May 2019: 10,000 join March of the Living in commemoration of Holocaust victims, Wikipedia History of the Jews in Germany, Wikipedia Jewish history, Wikipedia Jewish culture, Wikipedia Jewish question, Wikipedia Concentration camps, Wikipedia List of concentration camps, Wikipedia Extermination camps, Wikipedia Ghettos, Wikipedia International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and Wikipedia Holocaust Memorial (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Johns Hopkins University & Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center - Global Passport Power Rank - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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