Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold.

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 debates over whether to have such a memorial and what form it should take extend back in the late 1980s, when a small group of private German citizens, led by a television journalist, Lea Rosh, and a historian, Eberhard Jäckel, neither of whom is Jewish, first began pressing for Germany to honor the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Rosh soon emerged the driving force behind the memorial.

In 1989, she founded a group to support its construction and to collect donations.

On June the 25th 1999, a large majority of the Bundestag – 314 to 209, with 14 abstentions – decided in favor of Eisenman’s plan, which was eventually 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.

It also emerged in late 1999 that a small corner of the site was still owned by a municipal housing company, and the status of that piece of land had to be resolved before any progress on the construction could be made.

They are identical in their horizontal dimensions (reminiscent of coffins), differing vertically (from eight inches to more than fifteen feet tall), arranged in a precise rectilinear array over 4.7 acres, allowing for long, straight, and narrow alleys between them, along which the ground undulates.

The installation is a living experiment in montage, a Kuleshov effect of the juxtaposition of image and text.

The memorial also evokes a graveyard for those who were unburied or thrown into unmarked pits, and several uneasily tilting steale suggest an old, untended, or even desecrated cemetery.

The metaphorical possibilities are varied—too much so.

The play of imagination that the memorial provokes is piously generic: something to do with death.

It contrasts unfavorably with, for instance, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

The latter is, in its details, an imperfect exhibit; there’s a little too much information dispensed with encyclopedic authority, a little bit of kitschy curatorial cleverness; but it is a true and specific memorial.

It recreates the persecution, the flight, the refuge, the life in danger and in hiding, the arrest, and the murder of Anne Frank as well as of other members of her family and their fellow-refugees in the secret annex.

It’s a memorial to one of the murdered Jews of Europe.