More than anywhere else, Berlin has had to grapple with its dark past, and placing Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial right in the center of the city makes sure that the 6 million murdered Jews of Europe will never be forgotten. The haunting open-air memorial is spread out over a large area, which makes visitors take their time and appreciate the enormity of the events which began in Berlin, 80 years ago.
Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. Image Marko Priske
Unlike many Holocaust museums and memorials around Europe, the abstract Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe tries to give visitors a sense of the scale of the crimes committed by the Nazis. The memorial is made up of 2,711 slabs of concrete (called ‘stelae’) of varying heights arranged in a sloping grid over a large area of land just outside the Tiergarten. The memorial has a different effect on each person: visitors describe it as creepy, haunting, unsettling and immense; some see it as a reference to the loss of humanity within an ordered system, others are reminded of a cemetery.
Under the open-air stelae field is a large underground information center, which serves as Berlin’s Holocaust Museum. Inside, there are six permanent exhibitions that give more details about the Nazi persecution of the Jews of Europe. Each room has a name and a theme: the Room of Dimensions, the Room of Families, the Room of Sites. The audiovisual display in the Room of Names tries to bring back the humanity of the individuals killed in the Holocaust, and not leave them as anonymous numbers.
The Hall of Names in the underground museum. Image Marko Priske
The Holocaust Memorial was seen as controversial at first, but with an estimated 10,000 visitors per day in the first year it was opened, including hundreds of German schoolchildren, it was deemed a success. There is certainly a need to keep the memory of the past alive, and the Berlin Holocaust Memorial succeeds in doing so. Its central position, next to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag parliament building, show its importance for today’s Berlin. Walking around Berlin, you can complete the picture by visiting memorials to murdered homosexuals, Roma, Soviet soldiers and other victims of the Nazis.
Visiting the Berlin Holocaust Memorial
The open-air stelae field is open 24 hours a day.
The information center / Holocaust Museum is open 10am – 8pm (until 7pm in the winter). The center is closed on Mondays.