Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

When walking up to the site of the Memorial one might not realize what they're looking at. It's not until you take the trip down the stairs to the information center and take the time to read each display that the enormity that was the Holocaust hits you.

I read a few reviews on the memorial (the above-ground portion only) and it gave people mixed feelings. I agreed with parts of each side. On the one hand some were upset that no real attention is brought to the fact that it's a memorial to the Jewish people until you see the (rather small) sign near the entrance to the underground section. And that isn't even located on the main street that the site is on. In fact, walking up to it (if you're completely ignorant of your surroundings) it might look like a type of artwork, an outdoor sculptural installation that children are jumping from rectangle to rectangle on and people are checking their messages at while leaning against them. On the other hand, some supposed that that very fact could be a sort of commentary on how the whole world was ignorant of what was happening until close to the end of the war and how it seems that much of Germany simply let this happen to it's Jewish citizens without extreme resistance. Honestly, I see the points of both sides, and there were many more than that of course. But mainly I think that a trip to the memorial without a visit down the stairs and into the darkness is more than a shame, it's inadequate.

That last line was really all I needed to feel the weight of it all.

I'm so glad we went to Berlin in January. Yes, it was freezing. But no one was around. And on Sunday, even less people than the day before. Our breakfast cashier explained to us that "Germany sleeps on Sunday." I feel that going to this memorial in the silence that was that morning was the perfect way to experience it. Anything else would have been distracting and obnoxious.

Even if some think that the tribute is not enough, it's still more than many country's governments might have allowed in their capitol in the center of it all as a reminder of its terrible past. I mean, this is only a two minute walk from the Brandenburg gate. You can see them both from the main street that they're on, at the same time. So I guess even if it might appear lacking to some, and might not be enough to hold the past offending Germans and their government accountable with, it's a lot more than they might have done.

Switching gears a tiny bit, one of my favorite books of all time is Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place. It's the story of their family as she and her father and sister helped the Holland resistance against the genocide of their Jewish neighbors and countrymen. It is often a hard book to read but I've probably read my copy at least once a year since I was in tenth grade. The cover is hanging on by pieces of tape and its pages are soft with turning. I don't always recommend books (or movies) because you never really know a person's preferences. But I do recommend this one because it is one person's account of a part of history that should never be forgotten.

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