A Jew Among the Germans
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reviews of germany's national "memorial to the murdered jews of europe"

The Germans Have a Nazi-Obsession
Michal Bodemann is critical of what he calls the "permanent" and "brooding" culture of Holocaust commemoration in Germany. A professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, he studies postwar German-Jewish relations and tells Die Tageszeitung that Germany's focus on the past overlooks the racist tendencies in society today and suggests a hopelessness toward the future. "My impression is that you hide yourself away in history in order to keep the present from cutting too close," he says.



The Holocaust Memorial: Against All Expectations
One of Germany's preeminent architectural critics, Heinrich Wefing has closely studied the rebuilding of Berlin after World War II. In this review for Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he chronicles the many years of controversy that had to be overcome to complete the Berlin memorial and credits Eisenman with creating "a new type of memorial": a beautiful abstraction that "does not dictate what its observer should think or experience," but is nonetheless thoughtful and moving.


Remembrance Is the Cause of a Few Activists
Julius Schoeps, head of the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies at the University of Potsdam, visited the memorial and was not impressed. In this interview, he tells Die Tageszeitung, Germany's daily newspaper, that the era of public memorials has passed: "They stand in the landscape, and people don't even know what they recall." "I find it regrettable," he argues "that they decided on a design that can stand for everything and for nothing." As a teacher, he would rather take his students to visit the concentration camps. "It would be better if we would consider what can be done to protect young people from making the same mistakes as their grandparents," he says.


A Forest of Pillars, Recalling the Unimaginable
Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for The New York Times, writes about the memorial's ability to "convey the scope of the Holocaust's horrors without stooping to sentimentality -- showing how abstraction can be the most powerful tool for conveying the complexities of human emotion." By creating a physical space that visitors must experience, he argues, the memorial can "psychically weave the Holocaust into our daily existence in a way that the painstaking lists [of victims' names] cannot."


Bleak Maze of Quiet Memory
Unlike Eisenman's previous work, which Tom Dyckhoff argues "suffered from too much theory, too little architecture, form but no function," Eisenman's Berlin memorial "hoes that line between void and monument, between vague symbolism and a denial of interpretation," he writes in The Times (London).


Stones with No Heart
In this review for Newsday, Ilka Piepgras, an editor for the German weekly Die Zeit, argues that the memorial is too abstract, too aesthetic. "Isn't a Holocaust memorial supposed to overwhelm its visitor by its emotional power rather than be a delightful place…?" she asks. "Shouldn't it be disturbing rather than inviting a picnic on its stones?" She suggests that personal objects, like those of Holocaust victims on display in the information center below the memorial, or historical sites, like a concentration camp, serve as more powerful symbols to the atrocities than "an abstract pieces of art."


A Visit to the Memorial (with photographs)
Peter Rigny, an American citizen, a longtime resident of Berlin, and an associate producer on FRONTLINE's, "A Jew Among the Germans," visited the memorial several days after its official opening, and offers here his observations and some of his photographs.


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posted may 31, 2005

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