Holocaust Memorial in Berlin © CBA
Today, it is a tourist magnet that attracts some two million visitors a year: The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, which opened ten years ago. The project was in danger of failing more than once.
Michelle Obama was there with her daughters, and a few weeks ago, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also visited the memorial. And for almost every "normal" Berlin tourist it is a "must": The memorial commemorating the murder of the Jews of Europe in Berlin-Mitte. Ten years ago, on 10. May 2005, the field of stelae was inaugurated.
Appreciations from political representatives
Representatives of the federal government and the Bundestag acknowledged the importance of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin for the culture of remembrance. "In the heart of Berlin, in the middle of the parliamentary and government district, right next to the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial commemorates the unbearable crimes committed against the Jews of Europe in the name of the German people," said Minister of State for Culture Monika Grutters (CDU) on Thursday at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Holocaust. Anniversary of the handover of the memorial to the public. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is the central Holocaust memorial in Germany.
Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (CDU) emphasized that the Holocaust Memorial, together with the underground "Place of Information," should remind all future generations never to touch human rights again. He said the memorial was the "expression in stone" for the Germans to adhere to this self-commitment.
Two million visitors a year
Whoever goes to the Brandenburg Gate usually also comes to the Holocaust Memorial, that is the experience of the Memorial Foundation. According to their figures, around two million people visit the memorial each year. The associated, underground "Place of Information" also has half a million visitors. The memorial was designed by the U.S. architect Peter Eisenman.
Years of dispute over erection
Eisenman confessed at the opening that for him it was almost a miracle that the memorial with its 2.711 concrete steles were actually built. In fact, there had been disputes for years about the meaning of the project, about an appropriate place and the concrete execution. Several times the project was on the brink of collapse.
The impetus for the project, which has now been realized on an area three times the size of a soccer field, came as early as 1988 from a circle around the publicist Lea Rosh. Among the supporters were former German Chancellor Willy Brandt and author Gunter Grass. In the 1990s, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the relocation of parliament and government to Berlin led to the memorial project becoming the subject of a fundamental debate about the Germans' self-image at the end of the 20th century. The memorial was erected to mark the end of the twentieth century and the way it dealt with the Holocaust.
In 1999, the Bundestag finally decided to build. At the same time, he took up the suggestion of Michael Naumann (SPD), then Minister of State for Culture, to add an underground "place of information" to the field of stelae. There, visitors will find facts about the background to the murder of more than six million European Jews by the Nazis.
Costs higher than estimated
At the same time, the estimated costs grew to 27.6 million euros, double the original plans. Again and again, the start of construction had to be postponed: For example, there were security concerns about the U.S. Embassy, which was built in the immediate vicinity.
The project was also brought to the brink of failure by the involvement of the company Degussa, because one of its subsidiaries had produced the poison gas for the concentration camps during World War II. The fact that it was to provide graffiti protection for the stelae led to international protests, but was eventually accepted.
Finally, the then Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse and the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, were able to dedicate the memorial on 10. May 2005 inauguration.
Cracks in the concrete
Alongside much approval, there are still critical voices as well. Foundation director Uwe Neumarker never tires of emphasizing that these should not be silenced either. It is important that no one is left cold. "The memorial is not intended to be a stony conclusion."
Graffiti on the steles is now less common than it used to be. Even as a climbing park, the memorial is now obviously less attractive for children and young people. But one serious problem remains: Already after the first winters, cracks appeared in the concrete bodies, which have to be repaired again and again. A process to clarify responsibilities is underway. Meanwhile, according to the foundation, almost every stele is affected. The success of the memorial, however, could not be affected by this damage, Eisenman emphasized. Everyone knows that the material works.
The foundation, which is now also responsible for the memorial to the murdered homosexuals, the memorial to the murdered Sinti and Roma, and the memorial to the victims of euthanasia, hopes that the procedure will soon be completed and that the question of costs will also be settled.