The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is actually fairly new. Built between 2003 and 2004, this memorial serves as one of the most unique memory keepers of the Holocaust. Sitting not far off from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, this site consists of almost 3000 concrete blocks of varying heights set out in rows. People walk on, through and around this memorial, playing hide and seek, scaring one another and walking with reverence. Some realize the importance of its history, others have no clue what they are walking through.
Going through it myself, I couldn’t help but think it was trying to represent the fear and confusion that the victims of the Holocaust felt in some miniscule way. Wandering through, it’s fairly easy to get lost inside or at least lost from whomever you are visiting with. Others have commented that it is similar in features to a cemetery. Architect Peter Eisenmann however said:
“The enormity and scale of the horror of the Holocaust is such that any attempt to represent it by traditional means is inevitably inadequate … Our memorial attempts to present a new idea of memory as distinct from nostalgia … We can only know the past today through a manifestation in the present.”
The website for the memorial also suggests that it is an attempt to represent how a system with so much order can grow so large that it loses touch with humanity. However you interpret the memorial…it’s both haunting and moving.
Beneath the memorial is an information centre on the Holocaust. With a brief timeline of the Holocaust to start, visitors are led through a building which in my opinion houses one of the best memorials around. This museum is special because of its dedication to personal stories. In one room, one can read the outcomes and stories of single families that experienced a variety of fates. In the next, one can watch movies. The most well done room projects letters from victims on the Holocaust on the floor. One can walk through these letters in the dark and see numbers murdered from individual countries projected on the wall. The contrast between the personal and the statistics is so stark. It really makes you see six million as a group of individuals and not a single number.
Be kind to one another.
Peace, love and history.