Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holocaust Memorials

Outside of the Reichstag Building is a memorial to the 96 politicians who were murdered because their beliefs did not align with Hitler and the Nazi Party. They were members of the ill-fated Wiemar Republic, the weak post WWI attempt at German democracy. Most of the 96 politicians were members of the Communist or Socialist party; they were murdered in concentration camps.

Each slab of the memorial represents one man; on each slab is the man's name, his party, his date of birth, and the date and location of death.

The next stop was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This Holocaust memorial was completed in 2005 and is this first formal, government sponsored Holocaust memorial. Designed by Peter Eisenman, the 2711 concrete slabs vary in height and are arranged on an even surface. The interpretation of the memorial is left up to the visitor. Some view it as a symbolic cemetery; some think of it as a representation of how European Culture was changed. However, I doubt that it was ever intended for people to use it as a bus stop bench, a place to sit and talk on cell phones, or a playground for climbing all over.

Underneath the memorial is an information center containing 6 exhibits about the Holocaust.
  1. Introduction - 12 years of the Nazis' extermination policy shown through text and pictures.
  2. Room of Dimensions - written personal accounts of Jewish men and women - including postcards and letters thrown off trains on the way to extermination camps. This room also included the breakdown of murder Jews by country.
  3. Room of Families- stories, pictures, letters, and writings of Jewish families and how the Holocaust affected them.
  4. Room of Names - biographies of murdered Jews read aloud with their name , year of birth, and year of death projected on the walls. It would take over 6 and a half years to read through the entire database - names and stories are still being added.
  5. Room of Sites - information on 220 sites of genocide.
  6. The Holocaust Memorials.Database
While the spot for the memorial was chosen based on where there was room for lots of people to experience it, it lies within a historical area. The land was available here because the memorial is built on land that was once covered by the Berlin Wall. During the building of the memorial, Joseph Goebbels' (the leader of the Nazi propaganda machine) bunker was uncovered in the northwest corner of the memorial. Additionally, Hitler's bunker is less than 200 yards away. Both sites have been left buried so they do not turn into shrines for the neo-Nazis.

Since the focus of this memorial is the Jewish victims, the government has promised to build memorials to the other victims of the Holocaust as well. Behind the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is small memorial to the homosexual victims of the Holocaust; however, it was not government sponsored.

1 comment:

Book Lust said...

I had heard from my tour guide (waaay back in 2006) that is was designed to reflect the feelings and emotions of being isolated, as one would have been if they were separated from the community and their family, because as you walk into the memorial you can get completely lost and not know who is around you. I saw this memorial with a group of 50 people, and believe me, it was very isolating even though we were all there.

There is also a very moving Holocaust Memorial in Vienna.

-B. Dobson