This monster of a memorial, which was unveiled in May 2005, is located in a very central place, near the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. It is based on a design by Peter Eisenman, an American architect. The “Field of Stelea” is made of 2,711 concrete blocks of different heights, structured in a grid pattern. It can be entered anywhere, and the blocks are supposed to form different wave-like patterns as you move through it. I didn’t really notice that. Click on the photo to enlarge.
The story of this memorial, in my opinion, is yet another story of Holocaust politics, of the disturbing kind. The whole story is long, beginning in 1988, and very expansive. I found it rather distasteful, being so large and conspicuous (I believe that trying to represent such an event with exaggerations, as if wishing to capture the enormity of it, is grotesque), and all the maintenance issues which came up recently are really ridiculous in my eyes.
And also, I liked the first ideas, such as Christine Jackob-Marks’ idea of a large sloping concrete surface with the names of the victims chiseled in, much better. I believe that with all the abstractness of representation and the big shocking numbers, one should never forget that the Holocaust was something that happened to actual people. Anything with names would have been more appropriate in my eyes.
But a wise friend who lives in Germany told me, when I voiced these complaints, that this memorial is not for me, but rather an internal German issue. So God bless them, I hope they had fun with it.
What saved my experience there from being a complete disappointment was the complementary underground Information Center, which was very well structured and provided a lot of interesting information. But the row of souvenir shops and restaurants next to the memorial, although expected, was rather distasteful. I’m sure the message is passed even better with a glass of beer at hand, isn’t it.
To take my criticism in perspective, you should know that I’m a 3rd generation to Holocaust survivors, and rather obsessed with the subject, and that I compared this memorial to other memorial sites in Berlin itself, which I felt were more appropriate and informative (I’ll get to the other memory sites later on). And you should also know that I do not believe in guilt (of any kind), but rather in responsibility and prevention, and by those standards, at least in Berlin, I think the Germans function rather well.
Opening Hours of Information Center:
April-September: Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun: 10:00-20:00.
October-March: Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun: 10:00-19:00.
Closed on Mondays, New year’s Eve and Day, Christmas Eve and Day, Boxing Day.
The entrance is free, but they welcome donations (I think I donated enough at home).
And this is the Official Site of the Memorial.