The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial , is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000 square metres (4.7 acres) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or " stelae ", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38 m (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 m (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.8 m (8 in to 15 ft 9 in).
According to Eisenman's project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. A 2005 copy of the Foundation for the Memorial's official English tourist pamphlet, however, states that the design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial, partly because Eisenman did not use any symbolism. An attached underground "Place of Information" holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem. Building began on April 1, 2003 and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, and opened to the public two days later. It is located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood.
In April 1994 a competition for its design was announced in Germany's major newspapers. Twelve artists were specifically invited to submit a design and given 50,000 DM (€ 25,000) to do so. The only rules and guidelines given were that building the project could only cost up to 15 million DM (€ 7.5 million). The jury met on January 15, 1995 to pick the best submission. In the following days, all but 13 submissions were eliminated from the race in several rounds of looking through all works. As had already been arranged, the jury met again on March 15. 11 submissions were restored to the race as requested by several jurors, after they had had a chance to review the eliminated works in the months in between the meetings. Two works were then recommended by the jury to the foundation to be checked as to whether they could be completed within the price range given. One was designed by a group around the architect Simon Ungers from Hamburg; it consisted of 85x85 m square of steel girders on top of concrete blocks located on the corners. The names of several extermination camps would be perforated into the girders, so that these would be projected onto objects or people in the area by sunlight. The other winner was a design by Christine Jackob-Marks. Her concept consisted of 100x100 m large concrete plate, 7 meters thick. It would be tilted, rising up to 11 meters and walkable on special paths. The names of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust would be engraved into the concrete, with spaces left empty for those victims whose names remain unknown. Large pieces of debris from Massada, a mountaintop-fortress in Israel, whose Jewish inhabitants killed themselves to avoid being captured or killed by the Roman soldiers rushing in, would be spread over the concrete plate. These plans would eventually be vetoed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Peter Eisenman's plan emerged as the winner of the next competition in November 1997. On June 25, 1999, a large majority of the Bundestag decided in favor of Eisenman's plan, modified by attaching a museum, or "place of information," designed by Berlin-based exhibition designer Dagmar von Wilcken.
On October 14, 2003, the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger published a few articles presenting as a scandal the fact that the Degussa company was involved in the construction of the memorial producing the anti- graffiti substance Protectosil used to cover the stelae, because the company had been involved in various ways in the National-Socialist persecution of the Jews. A subsidiary company of Degussa, Degesch, had even produced the Zyklon B gas used to poison people in the gas chambers. In the course of the discussions about what to do, which lasted until November 13, most of the Jewish organizations including the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland spoke out against working with Degussa, while the architect Peter Eisenman, for one, supported it. On November 13, the decision was made to continue working with the company, and was subsequently heavily criticized. Henryk M. Broder said that "the Jews don't need this memorial, and they are not prepared to declare a pig sty kosher." On December 15, 2004 the memorial was finished. It was dedicated on May 10, 2005 as part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of V-E Day and opened to the public two days later. Holocaust survivor Sabina Wolanski was chosen to speak on behalf of the six million dead. In her speech she noted that although the Holocaust had taken everything she valued, it had also taught her that hatred and discrimination are doomed to fail. She also emphasised that the children of the perpetrators of the Holocaust are not responsible for the actions of their parents. It is estimated that some 3.5 million visitors entered the memorial in the first year it was open, or about 10,000 every day.
The memorial was the subject of years of controversy in Germany. The monument has been criticised for only commemorating the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. A monument to the persons persecuted for their sexual orientation is located across the street in the Tiergarten park. In 1998, German novelist Martin Walser cited the Holocaust Memorial in his speech, when accepting the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. In the speech Walser decried the "exploitation of our disgrace for present purposes." He criticized the "monumentalization", and "ceaseless presentation of our shame." And: "Auschwitz is not suitable for becoming a routine-of-threat, an always available intimidation or a moral club [Moralkeule] or also just an obligation. What is produced by ritualisation, has the quality of a lip service".
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|Geographical coordinates||52.5139230, 13.3783440|
|Address||Berlin, Ebertstraße 10117|
|Construction dates||2003 - 2005|
|More information||official website|