Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

2005

Germany

Activism & Resistance Identity & Belonging

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is dedicated in Berlin on May 10, 2005. It honors the memory of the approximately six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The memorial represents the central Holocaust memorial site in Germany. The journalist Lea Rosh had already raised the idea of such a memorial in 1988, originally proposing for it the site in Berlin on which, under the Nazi regime, the Gestapo headquarters had stood, and which today serves as the location of the “Topography of Terror” memorial and documentation center. Rosh’s initial proposal was followed by several years of discussion and modification, until in 1998 the commission for building the memorial was given to the American architect Peter Eisenman. Construction work began in April 2003.

A total of 2,711 concrete stele, each 95 centimeters wide and 2.38 meters long, were erected on a site measuring 19,000 square meters and within immediate proximity of the Brandenburg Gate. Each of the stele was built to a different height, and together they are meant to generate a labyrinth-like sense of space. Apart from plaques listing the rules for visitors to the memorial, it contains no explanatory texts nor conveys any given interpretations. Every visitor is thus invited to explore their own thoughts and feelings upon entering the site. A subterranean information center nonetheless resides under the memorial, allowing visitors the opportunity in several languages to deepen their understanding of the Holocaust.

Alongside the numerous positive reactions to the memorial both in Germany and abroad, criticism was also voiced, particularly with regard to the extremely high cost of the project, far above that of other Holocaust memorial sites in Germany. Furthermore, attention was drawn to the fact that Jews were not the only people to be systematically persecuted under the Nazi regime: other groups, such as homosexuals, Sinti and Roma were also targeted.

This criticism formed the basis of the decisions made in the following years to erect a Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime and later a Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime. The former was dedicated on May 27, 2008 and sits in Berlin’s Tiergarten. The latter is in close proximity to the Brandenburg Gate and was dedicated on October 24, 2012 [see: Dedication of the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime, 2012]. Nonetheless, the criticism remains that the spatial separation of these memorials implies a strict separation of the events which they commemorate, and that their relative size and visibility could suggest a hierarchization of these events.