Memorials

There are many memorials in Berlin, the most prominent being the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust memorial, or to give its proper name, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  Surrounded by controversy from the beginning, these 2711 concrete blocks are each unique, and the ground is undulating producing a profoundly unsettling experience.

The blocks are unmarked, except where they are cracking, and you can get different interpretations in different areas. My own thoughts vary from tombstones to canyons, with an overall impression of civilisations downfall. I’m also struggling to interpret the photo I took below. Does it represent fleeing in terror, or joy of new life?

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One of the symbols of the new Jewish community is a fallen tree, with a new shoot, so I think I will go with that.

Beneath the memorial is a hall, with the names of all the victims and a separate installation for a few selected families; letters, photos showing poignantly the basic disbelief of the soon to be murdered.

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The Jewish Museum is both memorial and celebration of Jewish life in Germany from late Roman Mainz (an oil lamp with a menorah) through the ups and downs of the crusades, (lots of pogroms) the enlightenment, nineteenth century racial anti-semitism, Weimar Republic and of course the nazi period. At the beginning, here is Eve in the apple tree!

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You can write a wish and hang it on a branch.  Mine was “I wish people would stop killing each other on behalf of their imaginary friend.”

Within, the building there are “memory voids”, odd corners, dark and echoing. The largest rises the whole height of the building, with only a sliver of daylight from the top. Too dark for a photograph. Very claustrophobic. The best though is a cavern with hundreds of steel disks lying loose on the floor by Israeli artist Menache Kadishman.  Each disk has two eyes and a mouth.  When visitors walk over them, the noise is like cries and screams. How to interpret this? Are we giving voice to the voiceless, or revictimising the victims by trampling on their faces?

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Fallen Leaves by Menache Kadishman

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Detail of the faces

The museum also comprises an older building, where there is an audio-visual installation called “Obedience” re telling the Genesis story of Abraham and Isaac, from Jewish and Islamic points of view.  In the Qu’ran, it is Ishmael who is to be the sacrifice.  Though there were some weird bits, overall it was quite powerful.

Just two blocks from where we are staying, we came upon this rather nice little pavement fountain.

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Then we noticed the sign, with a list of the major concentration camps.  There are also many small steel plaques inserted in the cobblestones, bearing the names of people who were deported from that area.

Memorials everywhere.

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