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Or otherwise titled, "when is a Shoah Memorial not a memorial at all?" [And yes, in case it matters, this was posted earlier today on another board, but I thought that I'd share this perspective with you here.]

"Stones With No Heart" is the title of a commentary written by Ilka Piepgras, the editor of the Life section of the German weekly, Die Zeit (and I've no idea which way Die Zeit leans - meaning "left" or "right" - not that it should matter).

This opinion piece is negative. It asks some hard and serious questions about the new Berlin Holocaust Memorial. Of course, when it comes to art and architecture, interpretation of the piece is very subjective...sometimes you like it, other times you don't...often its a visceral reaction (its like when you go to an art museum like MOMA and stand in front of an abstract piece, maybe spend time there staring at it trying to come to a "meaning" or maybe leaving, just shaking your head).

That having been said, a number of the points raised in this piece by Piepgras raise some questions of the purpose or impact of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial and perhaps even the sensibilities of the post-World War II generations of German adults, and more importantly, their children, about the horrors brought upon the world by Germany during that time.


http://www.newsday.com/news/opinion/ny-oppie154258957may15,0,6796152.story?coll=ny-viewpoints-headlines

Peter Eisenman, the New York architect who designed the Holocaust memorial that opened Tuesday in the heart of Berlin, intends it to create the "intense feeling ...of being alone, and of being threatened."

But while wandering through the alleys of stone, I am surprised to find myself well at ease...

...I feel confused by the memorial's austere beauty. It does anything but simulate the feeling of being existentially deserted in, say, a concentration camp...

...art that has no obvious symbolic meaning but evokes lots of possible interpretations - that of a graveyard for example, a giant set of dominoes, a labyrinth or an unfinished construction site...No signs or guidelines, not a single Star of David or dedication, nothing.

Isn't a Holocaust memorial supposed to overwhelm its visitor by its emotional power rather than be a delightful place, I wonder? Shouldn't it be disturbing rather than inviting a picnic on its stones? A visitor who knows nothing or little about the Holocaust will consider Berlin's memorial anything but a place to remember the murdering of 6 million Jews in Europe.

Unless he descends into the information center that lies underground...

[So the educational and information area of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial is underground...subliminal???].

...Berlin, where the genocide was planned and where its perpetrators located their headquarters, certainly needs a place to reflect Germans' sense of guilt. But what is appropriate to represent the unbearable suffering of the victims? Isn't a historical site like a concentration camp more powerful than an abstract piece of art?...

...Soon, the generation of survivors will have passed away. Remembrance will become bare and distant. Jews in Germany tend to be indifferent about the memorial. It has been built by non-Jewish Germans for non-Jewish Germans, they say...

==============

Piepgras' opinion piece raises alot of questions, IMO. I don't know the extent to which the history of the Holocaust is taught to the children attending schools in Germany. I have no idea of whether or not they are exposed to the horrors, or if the Holocaust is simply relegated to a "bothersome" event (and I didn't write that to get anyone angry, its a real question of balance...how often have we read posts and links asking the question of what Arabic children are taught in school...I wonder if the history books in Germany show photographs of the survivors or talk about the ovens?).

==============A "shanda," IMO

In Berlin, Jew tells Holocaust joke, rankling builders of Shoah memorial
http://www.jta.org/page_view_story.asp?strwebhead=Holocaust+joke+no+laughing+matter+in+Berlin&intcategoryid=2
...the joke is about the poison gas the Nazis used to kill Jews during the Holocaust...

==============Images of Impact

In 1992 I was one of a group of three men from my Temple (Reform) who were drafted by our Rabbi to build a Holocaust Memorial in time for that year's Yom Hashoah in April. Of course, when the Rabbi "requested" this project, it was almost December and we had neither a design nor the money to build anything. Although it is featured on the Temple homepage, there is no single photograph available to show (so I won't). I had originally suggested something like the first link to the Memorial in San Francisco as a model. The Rabbi felt that that type of design was too forceful to place in front of the Temple. I suspect now, that he was right, but its an effective message nonetheless. The others are images that I found of others Memorials that "do justice" (IMO) to the Holocaust.

http://www.roundamerica.com/images/June/2003-06-22/trip-2003-06-22-CA-San-Francisco-Holocaust-Memorial-200.jpg

http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/PICS34/MIAMI04.jpg
http://tinyurl.com/do8vs

http://www.palmsprings.com/points/holocaust/images/pic1.jpg
http://tinyurl.com/bokgy
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