Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin
The Holocaust Memorial (Holocaust-Mahnmal) is a monument in the city centre of Berlin commemorating the 6 million Jewish victims exterminated by Nazism during the Holocaust. Located between the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz, it is a large maze (+19,000 m²) of dark grey stelae in the heart of Berlin.
Opened to the public in 2005 on the initiative of a group of citizens, the memorial was designed by the architect Peter Eisenman and the engineer Buro Happold and completed by an information centre housing a permanent exhibition dealing with the persecution and extermination of the Jews of Europe.
Originally called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), the monument is now more generally called the Holocaust Memorial in order to avoid creating a hierarchy among the victims of genocide. In addition, since 2009, the centre has been required by law to dedicate part of its exhibition to gay, Sinti and Roma victims murdered under the National Socialist regime.
Labyrinth of stelae
More than just another historical monument to contemplate, a visit to the Holocaust Memorial is an experience to be lived.
Built on the fallow grounds of the former ministry gardens, the stelae are of different heights and seem to follow the undulations of the ground so that as one enters the labyrinth, the ground seems to slip away from under one's feet creating an impression of unease and oppression. However, seen from the sky, the stelae are straight and identical and the place now looks like a large expanse/place covered with concrete tombs. The architect, Peter Eisemann, however, insisted on the non-funeral nature of the installation.
The real strength of this place lies in its overwhelming anonymity. Thought and designed without plaques, inscriptions or symbols, the installation offers its visitors an oppressive promenade, winding between large concrete blocks.
Did you know ?
- Many people blamed the architect for the total absence of inscriptions. This extreme sobriety was intended by the author, who said: "The world is too full of information and here is a place without information. That is what I wanted". However, in order to satisfy the needs of the public, Eisenman also designed the information centre under the stones of the Memorial.
- In 2004, a scandal broke out on the construction site of the Memorial, which was stopped for a while. The Degussa company, responsible for the anti-graffiti coating of the stelae, played an important role during the Holocaust by producing Zyklon B, a toxic agent used in the gas chambers, especially in Auschwitz. In the face of the indignation of the Jewish community, it was the important work of remembrance undertaken by the company since the end of the war that finally put an end to this controversy. Work resumed with the same company.
- Yolocaust - a reminder of dignity. Although the architect has always insisted on the non-sacred character of the place, the prevailing public opinion is that there are places where the weight of History imposes decency. This is the opinion of Shahak Shapira, a Berlin-based Israeli artist who has decided to pinpoint the bad taste clichés of tourists posted on social networks. Shapira adds to the photo the "missing elements" that inspired the creation of the memorial - yoga poses in front of a mass grave and Selfie smiling in front of murdered children. Shapira's "victims" can still request that their photos be removed from the site by sending a request to "email@example.com". The site (https://yolocaust.de ) no longer allows to consult the photo montages (a search on google-image is enough to find them easily) but it still gathers some feedback received by the artist as well as "explanatory" messages from people who wish to have their photos removed.
- On 9 May 2008, a unique concert was organised at the Memorial. Specially composed for the occasion, "Vor dem Verstummen" by Harald Weiss was created as a world premiere in the field of stelae. It was performed for the first and only time in front of an audience of thousands of people, a unique experience since each individual felt differently, depending on his or her precise location among the stelae.
The information centre
In contrast to the stone-inspired silence on the upper floor, the information centre is filled with testimonies and documents from Holocaust victims. Arranged by Dagmar Von Wilcken, the visit is organized around 4 rooms: the dimension room, the family room, the name room and the location room.
In order to access the first room, you have to go through a corridor giving an overview of the policy of terror carried out by Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945.
1. The dimension room
This room presents diaries, letters and notes written during the Holocaust. The room is also lined with a frieze indicating the number of victims in each European country (according to the 1937 borders).
2. The Family Room
This room traces the destiny of 15 Jewish families of different origins through photos and personal documents.
3. The Room of Names
In this room the names as well as short biographies of Jews from all over Europe who were murdered and disappeared during the war are read without interruption.
4. The Hall of the Places
This room shows the geographical spread of the Holocaust throughout Europe. It highlights the scenes of crimes committed in Central and Eastern Europe. Two hundred and twenty places of persecution and extermination of European Jews and other victims are presented through historical films and photographs.
5. Memorial portal and database
Developed by the Yad Vashem Israeli Memorial Institute, the database contains the names of more than three million victims of the Holocaust. It can be used to conduct individual searches. It is also possible to consult the Book of Remembrance in the Federal Archives for the victims of the persecution of Jews by the National Socialist regime in Germany, 1933-1945.
Every Sunday, the centre also includes a video archive - "Sprechen trotz allem" ("Speaking out against all odds") which offers interviews with Holocaust survivors.
The Holocaust Memorial (Holocaust Mahnmal) is located in the Tiergarten district bordering Mitte in Berlin. Children under the age of 14 are not recommended to visit the memorial.
- Address: Cora-Berliner-Str. 1 10117 Berlin
- Transport: S1 / S2 → Unter den Linden.
- Opening hours: 24 hours - The information centre is open from 10.00 to 20.00. From October to March from 10.00 to 19.00.
- Price: free of charge (but audio-guide for a fee)
-> Website: https://www.stiftung-denkmal.de
With a curious personality and a passion for well-chosen words, writing and discovery are my two passions. Berlin intrigues and fascinates me, with its cultural and artistic richness, its modernity and its ability to constantly renew itself.