Berlin: Walking Through Concrete

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The IR to Zurich Flughafen, the plane to Germany’s capital, the Straßenbahn to our hotel — and we were there.

History at our school is not limited to the classroom. I was part of the group of students that had the opportunity to visit Berlin; one of Europe’s most memorable cities. As part of this IB course, we have been studying Nazi Germany and Hitler’s position as an authoritarian leader. This was not a light topic and I felt deeply affected by the visit. Along with our teachers, we visited a number of different museums and historical sites including the Neue Synagoge, Hohenschönhausen (Stasi remand prison), Schloss Cecilienhof (place of Potsdam Conference 1945) and more.

The place that really struck a chord with me was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas). It is located just south of the Brandenburg Gate and consisted of two thousand, seven hundred and eleven grey concrete slabs. Their horizontal dimensions are reminiscent of coffins and only differ vertically to form alleys between them.

Without the title, it would be almost impossible to understand what the objects represent. The memorial has been criticised for its vagueness due to its conceptual style, however I think that this was precisely the creator’s intention. Not that they wanted the site to be misunderstood, but instead they invite the viewer to perceive the ambiguity created by the dehumanisation of a race. Here, Jewish people are represented by concrete slabs that all generally look the same, highlighting the assumption that all Jews were the same. The Nazi belief that this group hindered the development of German society is brought to light by them being symbolised by these “roadblocks” or “barriers”.

There are no crying faces, no eyes filled with hope. There is no love, no human emotion. We are seeing the Jewish race through the eyes of Nazi ideology, not through the truthful lens of the painful reality.

I stepped into the shoes of historical figures. And isn’t that what history’s all about?

 

 

External links:

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

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