Geometric Abstractions of History: The Holocaust Memorial*

*Click HERE to read the article with the full set of photographs.

At the risk of irritating an entire nation, or maybe even more, I am going to be brutally frank and say that I am completely underwhelmed by the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. After all the hype, and years of avoiding it, I stood in front of it, in the middle, to the sides, and wondered what I was supposed to conclude from this mass of blocks. Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not questioning the concept, spirit and the intention of the memorial, but the design. Granted, the murder of the Jews during World War II is something that the world will never come to terms with, there is no right way of erecting a suitable and dignified memorial. I personally find the location a bit of an odd choice,

Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe ©MTHerzog

It is difficult to place my finger on it, what irritates me more about it: the lack of solemnity, the location, the flagrant disrespect of some visitors to use the memorial more as a park, the insensitive youth smooching between the blocks, or the parents who allowed their children to jump from one block to the other like at a regular playground.

Or maybe it was the fact that the memorial is surrounded by buildings on three sides, making it feel like a prison chamber all over again. Either way, it didn’t draw out the emotions I expected it to like other Holocaust memorials I have visited around Europe.

Once you stand amongst the rows of blocks, I felt as if the blocks were going to tumble on top of me at any time. They are askew, if not lopsided, whether that is due to the settlement of the ground or intentional, there are rows that do make you feel as though you are captured in a maze. If you are luck, and you manage to spend some time there in silence, then it can be a bit spooky, until someone jumps out at you in an attempt of a funny selfie for Instagram or Facebook.

Disappointment at the lack of open spaces on all four sides where you could imagine that the souls these blocks represent would be more at peace is something I definitely walked away with. Either way, one has to acknowledge the attempt to reconcile with a horrible past and move forward.

For more opinions on the memorial: Der Spiegel and The NewYorker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.