The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is odd in many ways, one being its official name: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. From the start, the memorial generated controversy even over this name. Who murdered the Jews? Is this about the Holocaust of WWII or some earlier pogrom? It’s really not clear. Then there is the design of the memorial. It’s made of plain cement blocks, or stelae, laid out in neat rows on undulating ground.
Maybe the number of stelae is significant? There are 2,711. I couldn’t find any reason for this chosen number. The architect, Eisenman, wrote that the stelae are designed to produce a confusing place, where order results in chaos and loss. You can indeed lose the people you came with as you all wander among the blocks, walking along the irregular ground.
The memorial contains no writing, no names, no explanation. But there is a way to connect the memorial with what it is trying to memorialize.
Here’s how: Include a tour of the almost-hidden underground Information Center. It’s at the far end of the memorial, away from the street side where you enter. You almost have to know it’s there and search for it. The day we visited, a short line above ground alerted us to the location of the Information Center. After going through security, you enter a stunning, moving museum dedicated to the Jews who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis during WWII.
This small museum tells the stories of people. At the entrance, six large portraits of lost Jews hang, larger than life. These represent the six million Jews murdered in the WWII era. One portrait is of Zdenek Konas, a boy age 11 deported from Prague and sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp, then to Auschwitz. This theme of individuals affected by the war carries throughout the museum.
One room is dedicated to families, with photos and words. Notes hastily scribbled and thrown from trains speak for themselves.
In the “Room of Names,” individual names line the walls while you hear a voice reading about each of them and their stories.
It’s said that Eisenman opposed the inclusion of the underground museum. But this is the heart of the memorial because this is where you can connect with the faces, the names, the magnitude of tragedy registered in one young child.
The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is located just steps from the Brandenburg Gate, in the shadow of the Reichstag, across the street from the Tiergarten. It’s just a short distance from the site of Hitler’s bunker. In other words, it’s in the center of Berlin. I would certainly include this in any itinerary for Berlin; just be sure to find your way to the Information Center to explore the meaning of this unusual place.
If you go:
The Information Center is open every day except Monday, 10:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is open to the street and always accessible.
These are both free of charge.
It one way of someone to speak and tell there story. But some did surrive. I came in from Biebkribels and if you fine the time stop in for a cup of coffee
Solid strength, regardless of the terrain.
Mass confusion is surely one the feelings these Jews must have had. The hasty notes are horrifying. That this may never ever may happen again:(:( Thank you for sharing this memorial with All Seasons – that we may never forget!
A sad but important memorial. Thank you for sharing with “Through My Lens” I have been enjoy your Berlin posts a lot!
What a fitting memorial. We we NEVER forget. Thanks for this moving post. Have a good week ahead.
Wow. I’ve heard the Berlin memorial is very powerful.
I’ve only been to one Holocause Memorail in Michigan and it was overwhelming. Berlin’s is so powerful. I join with my Jewish friends and say “Never Again!”
It’s very moving. And I like that the sculpture part makes it unmissable – you HAVE to think about it. #Thrumylens
It certainly is a bit strange but I think effective.
I did not like this memorial. Despite taking 17 years to decide what to build they came up with this. It was only when i returned home that i found out about the information centre. For the life of me i don’t understand why the underground section of the memorial is not advertised.
Yes, you almost have to know it’s there. That’s one reason I wanted to write about it, so people know to look for it. Even those in line with us were asking what the line was for. You really can’t see it until you’re at it, and it’s way in the back of the stelae.
Sad topic but wonderful memorial photos and great photography and info ~ thanks,
A ShutterBug Explores,
aka (A Creative Harbor)
Always remember, ALWAYS
Thank you for your thoughtful post. As a Jew and a fellow traveler, I have to say that I can’t stand this memorial. It is far too nondescript – there are many ways to enter without realizing what the place is, and on the day that we visited the museum was closed. We saw plenty of dumb teenagers and unwitting tourists climbing around and taking smiling selfies. Though it’s the largest memorial of the the set lining the path from the Reichstag, I think it’s by far the least impactful. All in all, I think the designers completely dropped the ball. It may be nice as public art, but on a daily basis it does nothing to remind those passing through the city of the horrendous events for which Berlin was the political epicenter.
What an interesting spot to visit.
Worth a Thousand Words
I quess it was created to make people think…
Will rwmember to visit this place if I ever go to berlin.
My daughter and I visited Dachau earlier this year and, like this, is somewhere that stirs such emotions within. Never forget. #MondayEscapes
What an incredibly moving place with so many questions left unanswered – much like the events of the war. I’m adding this to my list of places I want to see when I visit Berlin. Thanks for sharing this on #MondayEscapes
If the memorial was to remember, those stelae do nothing for me. The pictures of those beautiful families destroyed say it all.. how scary… A very difficult subject- Thanks for sharing your travels.
Reading the notes… No words. What a powerful memorial.
That sounds really interesting. I’d love to go even if it would be sad being there.
I’ve read a lot about this memorial, but never heard about the museum. Thank you for mentioning it, as I think it is a perfect companion to the memorial. While we may not completely understand or agree with what the artist was thinking when they designed this memorial it’s definitely sparking conversation, which is always important. The photos of these people and the notes are very powerful, they made me cry. I get what you were trying to say about which people murdered the jews, but I feel its clear that it refers to the Holocaust related to WWII. Thank you so much for sharing. #citytripping
So heartbreaking and yet we still haven’t learned our lesson on humanity and being kind to one another. This is probably the number one thing I would like to see in Berlin that I have not seen. Have a great week and thanks for sharing.
I know visiting places like this are not necessarily pleasant. I am glad you found a way to connect the place to the events in history. It would not have made sense to have the memorial standing without any explanation. I would like to know how people of Berlin felt when the memorial was opened and dedicated. It would be interesting to hear find out their feelings about all this. #TPThursday
This was one of the most chilling visits I had in Berlin, I really liked this museum, it was so well laid out. Have you been to Hohenschönhausen prison when you were in Berlin? It’s the old stasi prison and people who were held and tortured there actually give the tour. I wouldn’t say it’s a pleasant visit, but (like the Holocaust) it’s such an important part of Berlin history.
Esther, We didn’t have time to visit the Stasi prison, though I read about it and would have liked to go there. We heard that the documents are still there, as the Stasi didn’t have time to destroy them. Berlin has so many fascinating though horrifying places to see.
I visited a long time ago and I still remember how impressive the memorial is! I’m sad to hear though that people take selfies there disrespecting the memorial. In case you’re interested: http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/19/powerful-images-that-show-why-holocaust-selfies-are-so-disrespectful-6391091/ #WanderfulWednesday
I visited but didn’t know about the visitor center! Still I thought the memorial was very impactful. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Wow. What an unusual and emoting place. The notes and photos are so awesome and intriguing. Thanks for sharing this place.
Thank you so much for sharing this, I have been to the memorial twice but I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know about the Information Centre and will definitely check it out on a future trip to Berlin.
For something so simple, the memorial is very moving, especially when it’s quiet and you walk by yourself along the lines.
The notes really do bring the horror home. I didn’t go to the information centre part of this memorial when we went to Berlin. It certainly gives it a different dimension. Thanks for linking #citytripping
It’s certainly a really striking powerful memorial. I remember being worried about losing one another amongst the stelae too. I had no idea about the information centre though…. #farawayfiles
Would be a very emotional place to go to, particularly if you can find the museum downstairs.
It must have been heartbreaking visiting a place like this. Just reading the letters you posted was heart-wrenching for me. I’ve heard it said that you need to personalise a tragedy to get people to care about it. The killing of millions of people is just a number to us – but if you narrow it down and focus on the story of just one person who lost his/her life, people will care about it much more. I think this memorial (and especially the info centre) does a great job of that.
I was just reading in the news today about a far-right march in Poland (the largest ever in Europe, apparently), where people hoisted banners and yelled things like “White Poland!” I just couldn’t believe that less than 75 years after the Holocaust, and in *Poland* of all places, these sentiments can be publicly declared – proudly, no less.
This memorial is so important. It will be a must for us when we visit Berlin. Heartbreaking. I hope everyone who visits Berlin goes to this memorial. I would like to think this horror would never happen again…
It’s so easy to think that this could never happen. This literally stunning memorial tells otherwise. It can. It did. And it could again if we don’t keep its memory alive. This is truly one of those sites that everyone should see, and absorb; particularly those who ask to be leaders. Let it sink in. Hopefully then they can lead us away from this ever happening again. Thank you, Sharon. for sharing this sad yet beautiful memorial with us at #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust.
Thanks for this moving post! We have been to Berlin but now we have a new place to add to the list for next time. We visited the holocaust museum in Washington D.C. a while back, which was an almost indescribable mix of emotions – overwhelmed, heartbroken and steeled – all at the same time. Really enjoyed your post!
We are heading to Berlin in February Thanks for all the tips we look forward to exploring
When we visited Berlin the weather was so bad that we did not make it to the Holocaust Memorial. I loved Berlin and will definitely have this on our visit next go round. Important to remember and respect this difficult history. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles.
[…] Exploring Our World talks about an incredibly moving place with so many questions left unanswered – much like the events of the war. Claire chose this post because after reading it she immediately added to her list of places she wants to see when she visits Berlin – Visiting the Berlin Holocaust memorial. […]
Sad topic but wonderful memorial photos and great photography and information. Thanks foe sharing us. Keep writing and stay blessed.