(Half of this post was written in 2016, I ran out of steam clearly…but I figured I’d not let the work go to waste and finish of this post now! :))
This is Berlin, Take Two. I’ve included photos and videos below of four Holocaust memorials. Over the last two months I have recognised a real distinction between government sponsored and developed memorials and community driven memorials. Take One included a few examples of community or individual driven memorials (such as the Stumbling Stones). This post isn’t going to pit one type over the other, but I found that these four, all ‘national’ or government sponsored memorials, compliment each other.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The thing I like most about this memorial is that you have to go into it to really experience it. As memorials move away from simpler forms, such as plaques etc, they become more like pieces of art. So, in a way, what you take away from them is in the eye of the beholder. For me, the experience of being in the maze of stelae was one of disorientation. Sometimes you’re walking up, then down, sometimes you can see around you, other times the stelae tower over you. It was cooler than outside and damp. When you did see other people walk past it was only fleeting or you might turn a corner and crash right into someone!
While we can never truly understand what people experienced during Holocaust, the memorial certainly made me think about what it would have felt like to live during times when a ruling party wanted you dead just because of your religion, ethnicity or religion. Sobering considering things happening in the world at the moment.
Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism
See the comments in Take One, for some nerding out over this memorial between Kate Brady and myself.
Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism
I found the names of each of the Holocaust memorials in Berlin really interesting. The names alone make a statement. Almost all memorials are political in nature but not all make purposeful political statements in the naming of the memorial. In Berlin, this is reflective of the broader attitude of frankly and openly discussing and linking the political ideologies of the national socialist movement and Nazism to causing and perpetrating of the Holocaust. From psychosocial and memorial perspectives, this link, while confronting for memorial visitors, is crucial in community healing.
Neue Wache: The Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Victims of Tyranny and War
Neue Wache, the building that houses this memorial was originally built as a guardhouse for the crown prince of Prussia (what is now Germany). Since 1931, the Neue Wache has housed several different memorials, reflecting the political turmoil in Berlin during this time. After 1931 it was the Memorial to Those Who Fell in the World War. This memorial and the building suffered heavy damage during WWII. The Communists then rebuilt Neue Wache and from 1960 it served as the Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism. In 1969, the remains of an Unknown Soldier and Unknown Nazi concentration camp victim were buried at Neue Wache. The current memorial was rededicated, to include the permanent installation shown in the video, in 1993.
In essence, Neue Wache, in its current incarnation, is a memorial to hundred of thousands, but likely millions, of unnamed victims of war.