Writing in the New Yorker 18 months ago, Richard Brody described Berlin's 'Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe' (designed by Peter Eisenman) as inadequate: "the memorial, as imposing and as memorable as it may be in itself, hardly serves the function for which it was intended". He claims it is "merely symbolic, an affecting ersatz; Eisenman’s display is not just a symbol, but a symbol of a symbol" and is disturbed by what he calls a vague title that relies on people knowing that it's about the Holocaust: "The reduction of responsibility to an embarrassing, tacit fact that “everybody knows” is the first step on the road to forgetting".
I'd be interested in what other people think. As for me, I have always found the memorial to be one of the most powerful places I've ever visited and have never ever been unsure what it was about. Every time I'm in Berlin visiting friends and family, I'm drawn back to this place - sometimes to take pictures and on others just to ponder. It's a place to be seen and experienced, not one to be described.
These pictures were taken at Christmas when for the first time I noticed just how much some of the 2,711 concrete slabs (or stelae) are beginning to suffer. The cracks I've seen before seem to be wider now - some have even been filled in - and several of the stelae wear steel collars, designed to stop more gaps from appearing. You can see nature at play too - water condensing on the concrete as though on a bathroom mirror and algae colonising corners of slabs, fed by the Berlin sun.
Returning to Brody's article, I'll leave you with another excerpt - one that this time I can agree with. "But, upon entering the narrow alleys and plunging between higher and higher slabs, perspectives are sliced to a ribbon, other visitors are cut off from view, and an eerie claustrophobia sets in—even as some visitors (not just kids) play little games of hide-and-seek in the rectilinear maze. And the title, striking against the experience, creates sparks of metaphorical extrapolation: The Jews of Europe lived carefree, as in a park, until they wandered into frightening canyons of shadows from which the escape routes were narrow and distant. Yet, even then, amidst terrors and dangers, children played and families cohered, citizens from whose midst neighboring Jews were deported and slaughtered continued to frolic with indifference, exactly as many living in relative comfort do nowadays while political depravities are inflicted daily on far too many in places around the world. When my family and I got back to the bench-high stelae, I, too, sat down and checked messages."