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3 / History and Memory

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Artist / Origin Peter Eisenman (American, b. 1932)
Region: Europe
Date 1999–2005
Material Concrete
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions (Total) Covers 5 ½ acres; (Blocks) H: 0-13.1 ft. (0–4 m.), W: 37.4 in. (95 cm.), L: 7.79 ft. (2.375 m.) (each)
Location Berlin, Germany
Credit Photo courtesy of Simon Sinek

expert perspective

Lisa SaltzmanProfessor of History of Art, Bryn Mawr College

Additional Resources

Achinger, Christine. “Evoking and Revoking Auschwitz.” In Re-presenting the Shoah for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Ronit Lentin, 237-242. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books, 2004.

Davies, Marion. Absence and Loss: Holocaust Memorials in Berlin and Beyond. London: David Paul, 2007.

Rauterberg, Hanno, Hélène Binet, and Lukas Wassmann. Holocaust Memorial Berlin: Eisenman Architects. Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, 2005.

Young, James E. “Peter Eisenman’s Design for Berlin’s Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe: A Juror’s Report in Three Parts.” In (Re)visualizing National History: Museums and National Identities in Europe in the New Millennium, edited by Robin Ostow, 200-214. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.

Young, James. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

» Peter Eisenman (American, b. 1932)

In 1999, a decade after the Berlin Wall had come down, Berlin was re-established as the capital of a unified Germany.

That same year, the German legislature approved Jewish American architect Peter Eisenman’s design for a Holocaust memorial to be installed in the capital city. Known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the completed work was opened to the public in 2005.

Eisenman’s memorial is a complex arrangement consisting of 2,711 concrete pillars of varying heights. The slabs are kept to a human scale, and visitors are able to walk among them. The experience, however, is intentionally disorienting. Despite the fact that the pillars are laid out in a regular grid, they are oriented slightly off the vertical. As a result, they appear to lean over the narrow walkways. In addition, the ground on which the memorial sits is uneven. Thus, visitors can find their view blocked or their bodies completely enveloped by the columns rising above their heads in certain areas.

Although the monument has been likened to a cemetery, Eisenman resists this interpretation. Unlike a cemetery, the memorial, he insists, is not a sacred space. Nor is the memorial intended as a sentimental place. The abstract nature of the work, moreover, does not offer resolution to the horrors of the past; rather, it facilitates reflection on those events. In the same vein, the location of the memorial—lying along the former path of the Berlin Wall and in proximity to the Reichstag, as well as the site of Hitler’s now-demolished Chancellery—represents a self-conscious acknowledgement of Berlin’s painful history.

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