Also going by the name ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’, this is a memorial located in Berlin dedicated to the Jewish victims of the catastrophe known as the Holocaust which took place from 1941-1945.
During the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler and his collaborators put about six million Jews to death. This memorial is designed by engineer Buro Happold and architect Peter Eisenmen. The site of the memorial covers an area of nearly 5 acres and comprises of 2711 concrete slabs or “stelae” arranged in slightly askew rows going north to south.
The stelae have a length of 2.38 meters and a width of 0.95 meters. The height varies from 0.2 meters to around 5 meters. The grey color of the stelaes imparts vibes of soberness more than somberness. It also has an underground “place of information” which records the names of around three million Jewish victims of the Holocaust massacre.
This memorial had started being constructed on April 1st, 2003 and was completed on the 15th of December, 2004, undertaking a cost of 25 million euros approximately. It is situated at a distance of a single block south of the Brandenburg Gate and was inaugurated on 10th May, 2005, sixty years after the Second World War ended.
A group of few private German citizens headed by Lea Rosh, a television journalist and Eberhard Jackel, a historian first began pressurizing Germany back in the late 1980’s to do something to honor the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Both of them were not Jews but Rosh became the force which made the construction of the memorial possible. She managed to find a group in 1989 that were ready to support the process and collect the donations and eventually a resolution was passed in favor of the project.
CONSTRUCTION, COMPLETION AND OPENING
The symbolic beginning of construction of the memorial was celebrated on 27th of January, 2000 and the first stelae were put up in May, 2001. The stelae were of varying heights to resemble a grid-like structure. The spring of 2003 brought with it the start of the construction work and along with it a well-designed and underground information centre was put up which surrounded the construction site. A public ceremony was held on the 15th of December, 2004 to put the final stelae of the 2711 count in place. The official inauguration of the memorial took place on 10th of May and it was opened to the public two days later on the 12th of May, 2005. By the end of that year, nearly 350,000 people had already visited the site.
The possible causes of concern at the time of the construction were weathering, graffiti and fading. By 2007, there came an urgent need of repairing the memorial as already hairline cracks were found in 400 of its slabs. In 2012, the German authorities began supplementing hundreds of concrete blocks with steel collars after a research concluded that they were at an immediate risk of breaking and crumbling.
THE INFORMATION CENTRE
Also designed by Eisenmen, this is an example of a unique piece of architecture spreading over 800 square meters. It is situated on the south-eastern end of the memorial grounds and can be reached via two flights of stairs or a lift. The Centre is supplemented with documentation and information pieces on the victims and their families. They also provide biographical details, recordings and information on memorial sites present all over Germany and Europe. This place starts with a timeline that shows the history of the Final Solution (1933-1941). The remaining portion is divided into four rooms committed to the victims of the catastrophe. The Room of Families concentrates and talks about the fates of fifteen unfortunate Jewish families. The names of all the known Jewish victims of the Holocaust massacre are read out loud in the Room of Names.
INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE (MEMORIAL) DAY
It is an international memorial day which is observed on 27th of January every year and commemorates the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It mourns the genocide that had been caused by the Nazi Regime and its collaborators. Resolution 60/7 of the United Nations General Assembly designated the date of 27th January to be this day and urges every member nation to pay tribute and respect to the Holocaust victims. In 2005, 149 votes out of 191 were given by the United Nations in favor of the Holocaust commemoration. The UN also supports educational programs enlightening people about the Holocaust history to prevent such acts of genocide in the future. It also actively participates in the preservation of Holocaust places that were used as Nazi death camps, forced labor camps, concentration camps and prisons. This date also marks the release of Auschwitz-Birkenau which was the largest Nazi death camp by the Soviet Union in 1945. The aims and policies of the Holocaust Memorial Day are given in the statement of commitment. This day was first observed on 27th January, 2001 and has been held every year on that date since then. The theme for the event changes each year and the one for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 is ‘How can life go on?’