Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

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Visitors walking among the stelae

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe[1] (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 m2 (4.7-acre) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38 m (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 m (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.8 m (7.9 in to 15 ft 9.0 in). According to Eisenman's project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. A 2005 copy of the Foundation for the Memorial's official English tourist pamphlet, however, states that the design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial, partly because Eisenman did not use any symbolism. However, observers have noted the memorial's resemblance to a cemetery.[2][3][4] An attached underground "Place of Information" (German: Ort der Information) holds the names of all known 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 Friedrichstadt neighborhood. The cost of construction was approximately 25 million.

The memorial is controversial, and was described by Ignatz Bubis, the then leader of the German Jewish community, as unnecessary.[citation needed]

History[edit]

German journalist Lea Rosh was the driving force behind the memorial. In 1989, she founded a group to support its construction and to collect donations. With growing support, the Bundestag passed a resolution in favour of the project.

First competition[edit]

The Memorial

In April 1994 a competition for its design was announced in Germany's major newspapers. Twelve artists were specifically invited to submit a design and given 50,000 DM (€ 25,000) to do so. The winning proposal was to be selected by a jury consisting of representatives from the fields of art, architecture, urban design, history, politics and administration. It included a few minor celebrities such as Frank Schirrmacher, co-editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The deadline for the proposals was October 28. On May 11, an information colloquium took place in Berlin, where people interested in submitting a design could receive some more information about the nature of the memorial to be designed. Ignatz Bubis, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Wolfgang Nagel, the construction senator of Berlin, spoke at the event.[5]

Before the deadline, the documents required to submit a proposal were requested over 2600 times and 528 proposals were submitted. The jury met on January 15, 1995 to pick the best submission. First, Walter Jens, the president of the Akademie der Künste was elected chairman of the jury. In the following days, all but 13 submissions were eliminated from the race in several rounds of looking through all works. As had already been arranged, the jury met again on March 15. 11 submissions were restored to the race as requested by several jurors, after they had had a chance to review the eliminated works in the months in between the meetings. Two works were then recommended by the jury to the foundation to be checked as to whether they could be completed within the price range given. One was designed by a group around the architect Simon Ungers from Hamburg; it consisted of 85x85 m square of steel girders on top of concrete blocks located on the corners. The names of several extermination camps would be perforated into the girders, so that these would be projected onto objects or people in the area by sunlight. The other winner was a design by Christine Jackob-Marks. Her concept consisted of 100x100 m large concrete plate, 7 meters thick. It would be tilted, rising up to 11 meters and walkable on special paths. The names of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust would be engraved into the concrete, with spaces left empty for those victims whose names remain unknown. Large pieces of debris from Massada, a mountaintop-fortress in Israel, whose Jewish inhabitants killed themselves to avoid being captured or killed by the Roman soldiers rushing in, would be spread over the concrete plate. These plans would eventually be vetoed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl.[citation needed]

Chosen design[edit]

Peter Eisenman and the artist Richard Serra collaborated on a plan that emerged as the winner of the next competition in November 1997. Richard Serra, however, quit the design team soon after, citing personal and professional reasons. On June 25, 1999, a large majority of the Bundestag decided in favor of Eisenman's plan, modified by attaching a museum, or "place of information," designed by Berlin-based exhibition designer Dagmar von Wilcken. Across the street from the northern boundary of the memorial is the new Embassy of the United States in Berlin, which opened July 4, 2008. For a while, issues over setback for U.S. embassy construction impacted the memorial. Construction of the memorial started in April 2003.

Completion and opening[edit]

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. 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 emphasised that the children of the perpetrators of the Holocaust are not responsible for the actions of their parents.[6]

It is estimated that some 3.5 million visitors entered the memorial in the first year it was open, or about 10,000 every day. About 490,000 people also visited the underground Information Center, 40% of them non-Germans. The foundation operating the memorial considered this a success; its head, Uwe Neumärker, called the memorial a "tourist magnet". There was also vandalism, however: swastikas were drawn on the stelae on five different occasions in this first year.[7]

Criticisms[edit]

The memorial covered in snow, February 2009

The monument has been criticized for only commemorating the Jewish victims of the Holocaust,[8] however, other memorials have subsequently opened which commemorate other identifiable groups that were also victims of the Nazis, for example, the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism.

In 1998, when accepting the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade,[9] German novelist Martin Walser cited the Holocaust Memorial. Walser decried "the exploitation of our disgrace for present purposes." He criticized the "monumentalization", and "ceaseless presentation of our shame." And said: "Auschwitz is not suitable for becoming a routine-of-threat, an always available intimidation or a moral club [Moralkeule] or also just an obligation. What is produced by ritualisation, has the quality of a lip service".

Eberhard Diepgen, mayor of Berlin 1991-2001, had publicly opposed the memorial and did not attend the groundbreaking ceremony in 2000.[10]

In January 2013, a controversy was sparked after the blog Totem and Taboo posted a collection of profile pictures from the gay dating app Grindr, taken at the memorial.[11][12] The emerging trend met with mixed responses - while grindr's CEO was "deeply moved" by how app members "take part in the memory of the holocaust", others found using the memorial as a backdrop for hook up profiles to be disrespectful.[13][14]

Degussa controversy[edit]

Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.jpg

On October 14, 2003, the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger published a few articles presenting as a scandal the fact that the Degussa company was involved in the construction of the memorial producing the anti-graffiti substance Protectosil used to cover the stelae, because the company had been involved in various ways in the National-Socialist persecution of the Jews. A subsidiary company of Degussa, Degesch, had even produced the Zyklon B gas used to poison people in the gas chambers. At first these articles did not receive much attention, until the board of trustees managing the construction discussed this situation on October 23 and, after turbulent and controversial discussions, decided to stop construction immediately until a decision was made. Primarily it was representatives of the Jewish community who had called for an end to Degussa's involvement, while the politicians on the board, including Wolfgang Thierse, did not want to stop construction and incur further expense. They also said it would be impossible to exclude all German companies involved in the Nazi crimes, because — as Thierse put it — "the past intrudes into our society".[15] Lea Rosh, who also advocated excluding Degussa, replied that "Zyklon B is obviously the limit."[16] In the discussions that followed, several facts emerged. For one, it transpired that it was not by coincidence that the involvement of Degussa had been publicized in Switzerland, because another company that had bid to produce the anti-graffiti substance was located there. Further, the foundation managing the construction, as well as Lea Rosh, had known about Degussa's involvement for at least a year but had not done anything to stop it. Rosh then claimed she had not known about the connections between Degussa and Degesch. It also transpired that another Degussa subsidiary, Woerman Bauchemie GmbH, had already poured the foundation for the stelae. A problem with excluding Degussa from the project was that many of the stelae had already been covered with Degussa's product. These would have to be destroyed if another company were to be used instead. The resulting cost would be about €2.34 million. In the course of the discussions about what to do, which lasted until November 13, most of the Jewish organizations including the Central Council of Jews in Germany spoke out against working with Degussa, while the architect Peter Eisenman, for one, supported it.[17] On November 13, the decision was made to continue working with the company, and was subsequently heavily criticized. German-Jewish journalist, author, and TV personality Henryk M. Broder said that "the Jews don't need this memorial, and they are not prepared to declare a pig sty kosher."[18][19]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Title as given in the official leaflet: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Information Centre by Der Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.
  2. ^ "Germany's Memorial - Germany's National Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe | A Jew Among The Germans | Frontline". PBS. 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2013-02-27. "The plan also gives the impression of a massive cemetery." 
  3. ^ Brody, Richard. "The Inadequacy of Berlin's "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2013-02-27. "The memorial also evokes a graveyard for those who were unburied or thrown into unmarked pits, and several uneasily tilting stelae suggest an old, untended, or even desecrated cemetery." 
  4. ^ "Lost and found in European wanderings". Seattle Times. 2012-11-25. Retrieved 2013-02-27. "[...] memorial to the Holocaust by Peter Eisenman, the stones at odd angles like the cemetery in Prague." 
  5. ^ Leggewie/Meyer 2005 pg. 91-94
  6. ^ "The Girl From Boryslaw: Australian Story with Sabina Wolanski". ABC. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  7. ^ (German) Wefing, Heinrich. "Sehr populär und knapp bei Kasse" in FAZ. May 9, 2006. Retrieved May 17, 2006.
  8. ^ "Press cool on Berlin memorial". BBC News. 2005-05-10. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  9. ^ Full text in German[dead link]
  10. ^ Roger Cohen (2000-01-18). "Berlin Mayor to Shun Holocaust Memorial Event". New York Times. Retrieved 2003-08-12. 
  11. ^ Beth Stebner (2013-01-31). "Outrage as Grindr users post revealing pictures of themselves in front of Berlin Holocaust memorial". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  12. ^ "Totem and Taboo: Grindr remembers the holocaust". Grindr-remembers.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  13. ^ By Daniel D'Addario (2013-01-30). "Grindr’s odd Holocaust fetish". Salon.com. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  14. ^ "Grindr Users Post 'Sexy' Pictures From Holocaust Memorial In Bizarre, Ironic Trend". Huffingtonpost.com. 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  15. ^ Original quote: "Die Vergangenheit ragt in unsere Gesellschaft hinein". Quoted in Leggewie/Meyer 2005 p. 294.
  16. ^ Original quote: "Die Grenze ist ganz klar Zyklon B". Quoted in Leggewie/Meyer 2005 p. 294.
  17. ^ (German) Eisenman, Peter. "Geisel der Geschichte" in Die Zeit. October 30, 2003. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  18. ^ Original quote: "Die Juden brauchen dieses Mahnmal nicht, und sind nicht bereit, eine Schweinerei als koscher zu erklären." Quoted in Leggewie/Meyer 2005 p. 296.
  19. ^ Leggewie/Meyer 2005 p. 287-300

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°30′50″N 13°22′44″E / 52.51389°N 13.37889°E / 52.51389; 13.37889