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The Holocaust Memorial and Other Memorials in Berlin

Concepts and Ways of remembrance

The "Memorial for the killed Jews of Europe" is being built only minutes walking distance from the Brandenburg Gate in the centre of Berlin. The official name of the monument is hardly known, being generally addressed as "Holocaust Memorial". The discussion about the memorial continued for more than ten years. The original idea was initiated in the end of the 1980s by publicist Leah Rosh, nom de plume of Edith Rohs. The memorial should remember the six million Jews of Poland, the Soviet Union, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, France, Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Greece, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway deported and killed in concentration camps.

The Chronology

The "supporting circle to build a holocaust memorial" was founded in September 1988. In May 1994 the group held a competition for designs to the holocaust memorial. 1200 participants sent in their drafts. Two first prizes were given out in March 1995, one to architect Simon Ungers and the other to a group of artists around Christine Jackob-Marks. Three months later the jury agreed on the proposal of Christine Jackob-Marks. The design showed a 20 000 square meter big and inclined plane on which the names of all holocaust victims were to be inscribed. In July 1995 the then chancellor Helmut Kohl declared the memorial design as unacceptable. The Berlin Senate postponed a final decision to 1996. 1997 finally 25 artists are asked to send in new proposals. November 1997 four winners were chosen, among them Peter Eisenman.

The new elected federal government decided 1998 that the national parliament should decide over the memorial. After a heated debate, the parliament finally decided on 25 of June 1999 on the construction of a holocaust memorial and upon the design of Peter Eisenman. His design showed a field of steles, originally made up of 4000 individual steles of different size and inclination. The design was then reduced to 2700 steles.
A new "site of information" was added to the original design. The same year a foundation was installed. The construction was started autumn 2001. In spring of 2004 the memorial should be completed. The site will occupy an area of more than 20 000 square meters.

Concentrating on this central memorial, people forget that there are already a number of other memorials in Berlin, a city in which 170 000 Jews lived prior to 1933. These memorials remember the discrimination, persecution, expulsion, murder of Jews in a number of ways. Certain of these memorials are public and easily found within the city boundaries, others are a result of private initiatives and are not easily detected by a passers-by. Stones, tablets, sculptures, installations, and many other artistic expressions indicate the living and working space of expelled and murdered Jewish Berliners, former synagogues, Jewish institutions, sites of deportation, and -very rarely- traces of resistance activists.
This development started in the mid 1980s, after a lengthy period of silence about the extermination of six million European Jews. It wasn’t until January 2001 that the exposition "Holocaust – Nazi ethnic cleansing and the motives of it’s remembrance" opened in Berlin, documenting the deportation and assassination of European Jews, as well as forms of remembrance since 1945.

The concepts for the memorials are very different from each other. They originate in different epochs after the holocaust. A memorial indicates much more about those remembering than about those remembered. Thus the following thoughts should be taken into consideration when looking at a memorial:

· Which aspects of remembrance are on the forefront and which
  on the background at what time?
· Which perspective was chosen?
· Which artistic materials were chosen?
· What does the memorial articulate?
· What is not being concealed, veiled, falsified, or covered by

It is evident that when constructing a memorial, only a partial aspect of the topic is indeed addressed. The chosen aspect shows what is and what is not discussed in society at a certain time.
The chosen aspects are a mirror of the historical view and the myths developed in the aftermath of the holocaust in German society (e.g. "the clean Wehrmacht", "nothing could be done", "we didn’t know anything", "who resisted ended up in a concentration camp himself", etc.).

A selection of varying memorials in different districts of Berlin will be presented on this page. This collection will be expanded over the coming months. The illustrations are, if not otherwise mentioned, taken from Michael Eun’s vast archive.

Events in Berlin
Synagogues and Services
Important Addresses in Berlin
Kosher in Berlin
Berlin Rabbis
Jewish Groups in Berlin
Guided Tours about Jewish Life and History
Jewish Women's Activities
Searching for Your Berlin Roots?
Historical Background
The Jewish Museum of Berlin
Memorials in Berlin

German Content


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