It's a great corn maze.
Two thousand seven hundred and eleven concrete slabs, most slightly askew or slightly different in size from one another, atop an undulated brick tile plain.
They say that when the victims were buried in mass graves at places like Babi Yar and Sobibor, that the earth would rise up as the decomposition energy of the corpses was released. Human parts would rise out of the dirt as though rejected.
The wavy ground surface reminds me of this.
I don't envy Peter Eisenman, the designer of this monument. Here's 25 million Euros and 5 acres in the center of Berlin. Six million people died. Give them the memorial they deserve. Don't fuck it up.
What a burden.
As a concept, it all makes sense. The scale, the grayness, the infinite-repeat all almost the same but a little different. But you don't feel it, at least I don't. It's some combination of the raw size of the place and the surrounding traffic and bustle and way it feels more prematurely run down than gracefully aging. I feel detached, an observer of an interesting structure, never crossing into participant.
I'm glad that kids have fun here playing hide and seek. It may be the best quality of the space. It makes it lighter and more approachable. The subterranean museum is where the real action is anyway. It does everything the monument does not do -- namely, it tells the stories of real people and real families in their own words. Down there, it really hits you. Upstairs is just the foyer.
Nearby there are a couple of placards describing how there had been displaced persons camps in this area. I think that my mother spent a bit of time in Berlin as a DP after the war ended, in between Czechoslovakia and France. I wonder what she'd make of it all today.
Across the street in the Tiergarden are 2 other Holocaust memorials. One for Roma and Sinti people who died, the other for Homosexuals. These succeed by putting the people closer to the front. The Memorial to Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism puts words and music into a contemplative space in the shadow of the Reichstag. The Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism is small but makes interesting use of video, which you see by looking into a window in the monument itself. See the pix below.
At both of these memorials an observer would see a freshly cut flower or two. It may have just been this that brought some life into the space, that told you that someone was really remembering people right now. In choosing size and gravity as its focus, the Jewish memorial somehow loses its ability to connect.