The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honour the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides. (USHMM)
I’ve never been to Berlin, though I’m becoming increasingly eager to go. My sister has been there many times. She loves the city. She was there again last year to research her thesis about the Berliner Kabaret of the 1920s, and she took the chance to visit the Memorial to the Holocaust. All the photos in this post are hers (Mascia Zama)
The idea for a memorial to the Holocaust was first proposed in Berlin in 1988, but only in 1999 was a project finally chosen, that of U.S. architect Peter Eisenman. The memorial was built in 2005.
It stands in Mitte, not far from the Brandenburg Gate, on land where the Wall once stood and not far from where Hitler’s bunker was located.
It is a unique memorial. Covering an 800 square meters area, it consists of 2711 rectangular blocks of concrete laid out as a grid. The outer blocks are smaller, they only reach knee height, and they resemble graves quite clearly. But as you go deeper into the memorial, the slabs rise in height until they tower over you, and you find yourself walking in the alleys of a concrete, silent, lonely city.
This memorial has apparently raised both praise and controversy, starting with its name. The official name is Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe), and some people have raised the question of why the Holocaust isn’t mentioned. Though my sister calls it Holochaust Manhmal (Holocaust Memorial), which I suppose is what they call it in Berlin.
She told me visiting it was a very emotional, almost touching experience. The grave-like shape of the outer slabs implants a very strong image in your mind, very strong ideas of what you are experiencing, and when you enter the maze of the memorial and slowly ease yourself among the towering, faceless, grey slabs, you cannot help yourself thinking where you are and what that place means.
There is a Visitor Center in the deepest part of the memorial, which is really a kind of museum, but I think the memorial itself is a very strong experience and a thought-provoking one.
When I visit Berlin, I want to go.