Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The rows of columns
A trip to Berlin would not be complete if you didn’t head over to West Berlin and visit The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is located near the Bandenburg Gate and is an impressive monument. It consists of 2,711 seven-foot-long grey concrete columns of varying heights organised in rows and placed on uneven ground.

The controversial memorial was designed by Jewish-American architect, Peter Eisenman. It took about two years to construct and was officially opened in May 2005. If you take a close look at it’s abstract design, you’ll see that the columns are slightly skewed and irregular. I heard a theory that the columns represent crooked gravestones and you may get a feeling of oppression or entrapment as you walk down the narrow maze of paths. I don’t think that the architect has ever publicly disclosed the exact significance of the design but part of its simplistic elegance, for me, is the fact that it makes you stand back and think.
Captured by the sun

When I was standing there observing the monument I got the impression that the columns could represent individuality, as each column is slightly different to the next. What do you think they could represent?

Within the complex there is a very interesting underground museum that contains photographs, biographies of some of the victims and general information about the holocaust. You can pick up an optional audio guide in English for a few euros and it takes about 75 minutes to listen as you walk round.

There is one room in particular within the center that drew my attention. This low-lit room holds some snippets of letters, postcards and some prose that victims wrote to their loved ones at the time of their capture, their transport away from their homes or whilst in the concentration camps themselves. While reading I was reminded that they were all just normal people who must have gone through hell at the hands of the Nazis. It is incredible to believe that this actually happened at all.

"It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say." 
~Primo Levi 

Potsdamer Platz overlooks the memorial

Back in 2003 I visited the sites of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps in Poland, which was an emotional, solemn, but educational experience. This type of tourism might not be at the top of your “trips to take in 2012” list but I think that a visit to the Holocaust Memorial is a must for anyone visiting Berlin. These great atrocities against humanity happened not that long ago and we need to be reminded about it every once in a while so that mass-murder and discrimination of this scale will never happen again.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is free to walk around any day of the week and the free museum is open year round between 10:00 and 20:00 in the summer and until 19:00 in the winter.

For more information visit their website.

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