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Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe

 

The memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is located near the Brandenburg gate, on the site of the former Reichs chancellery in Berlin.   It was built between 2003 and 2005 according to a design by the architect Peter Eisenmann.

 

 

‘The design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial, partly because he does not use any symbolism.  The grid pattern consisting of 2,711 concrete stelae, which can be walked through from all sides, leaves it up to the visitor to find their own way in and out of the complex.

 

 

The underground information centre was designed by Dagmnar von Wilcken and provides information on the victims, the places of extermination and today’s memorial sites.’[1]

 

 

The background to this memorial is long and complex.  In 1994 a prestigious international competition was called for design for Germany’s national memorial for the murdered jews of Europe. 

 

 

Some 528 designs were submitted from all over the world – these ranged from Horst Hoheisel’s blowing up of the Brandenburg gate, to Dani Karavans field of yellow flowers in the shape of a star of david.  Renata Stih and Freider Schnock propsed a series of bus stops from which the buses woulod take visitors to actual sites of extermination corss Germany and Europe.  ‘Other designs included numerous variations of stone, broken hearts, and rent Stars of David.  Round, square, and triangular obelisks were proposed, as well as a gigantic vat (130 feet tall), an empty vessel for the blood of the murdered.  One artist proposed a ferris wheel composed of cattle trucks instead carriages, rotating between the “carnivalesque and the genocidal”’[2]



 
 
 
 
Eisenmann’s design was short listed and at this stage he was working with Richard Serra.
 
 

‘In its original conception, the proposal suggested a startling alternative to the very idea of the Holocaust memorial...theirs was a pointedly anti-redemptory design: it found no compensation for the Holocaust in art or architechture. In its waving field of 4000 pillars, it at once echoed a cemetery, even as it implied that such emblems of individual mourning were inadequate to the task of remembering mass murder....’[3]

 
 

Changes were recommended to the design and Serra withdrew from the project rather than compromise his integrity, suggesting that once changed, the project would, in effect no longer be his.

 
 

After a raft of politics, elections and problems, the memorial design was finalised and ground was broken in 2000.

 

‘Rather than pretending to answer Germany’s memorial problem in a single, reassuring form, this design proposed multiple, collected forms arranged so that visitors have to find their own path to the memory of Europe’s murdered Jews.’[4]
 
1]Information booklet – The memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (2012).

[2] James Young,‘At memory’s edge, (USA: Yale university press, 2000) pp 206-222

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

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