precedent: MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE (Holocaust Memorial)

Title: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Authors: Peter Eisenman

Location: Berlin, Germany

Year complete: 2004

Description: 4.7 acre site covered with approximately 2,000 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on sloping field. “Place of Information” is attached underground, holing the names of about 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.

The monument is located on the former location of the Berlin wall, and near Berlin’s foreign embassies, allowing diplomats and leaders from around the world to observe how Germany acknowledges its past while continuing to move forward.

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In 1980s, a small group of private German citizens first began pressing for Germany to honor the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. With growing support, German Federal Parliament decided to build the memorial designed by Peter Eisenman, selected through competitions.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl who took a close personal interest in the project insisted many changes and Eisenman accommodate the changes that were requested. He reduced the pillars from 2,800 to around 2,000 pillars, and modified by attaching a museum, Place of Information, designed by Berlin-based exhibition designer.

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According to Eisenman’s project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, and confusing environment. He also mentioned that the number and design of the monument had no symbolic significance which leaves room for interpretation.

The most common interpretation is graveyard for victims, the landscape work suggests cemetery.

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Many critics found the vagueness of the stelae disturbing. Also, the concrete blocks don’t offer any detail or reference to the Holocaust. The fact that Eisenman assumed that everybody knows about Holocaust is the first step on the road to forgetting about the tragedy that happened.

On the other hand, some critics says that the memorial “is able to convey the scope of the Holocaust’s horrors without stooping to sentimentality – showing how abstraction can be the most powerful toll for conveying the complexities of human emotion”.

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SOURCES:

New York Times – A Forest of Pillars, Recalling the Unimaginable

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Official Website

New York Times – Holocaust Memorial Opens in Berlin

The New Yorker

PBS Frontline

 

 

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