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Berlin Holocaust Memorial

On the way to dinner last night, my friend Martin Oettinger offered to stop the car as we passed Berlin’s Holocaust memorial. I knew nothing about the memorial. I stepped into it fresh.

From the outside, it is unimpressive: a city block of plain slabs, laid out in a grid, a few feet high and slightly uneven. Oh, headstones, mortuary slabs, graves. Got it.

But, as you walk through it, you find that the paths deepen so that the slabs loom. They are uniform yet different. Endless yet quite finite. Banal yet overwhelming. Your poor little brain tries to make sense of it both perceptually and symbolically, struggling to find meaning in the sameness and the difference.

It’s quite moving.

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8 Responses to “Berlin Holocaust Memorial”

  1. David, be sure to visit the old Gestapo HQ–it is a ruin, but at least as creepy as the memorial you have described.

    I’m really writing because I need to interview you for Technology Review feature I’m working on. Also want to make sure you are still writing a piece of commentary for our Sept. issue. Please reply to [email protected] at your earliest convenience, and send a good phone # and time to call. Thanks!

  2. @David Talbot: do you mean the site that’s part of / next to the Martin-Gropius-Bau (museum)? Nearly 20 years ago it held the exhibition, “Topographie des Terrors” (no translation needed), which was certainly memorable.

    @David Weinberger: I haven’t seen the Peter Eisenman-designed Berlin memorial, but it sounds like it’s capable of making an impression. How does it compare, though, in your opinion, to what I think is the really excellent New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston ( You know, I didn’t “run into” that one until the time I was in that neighborhood longer to take my US citizenship oath, and …well, it was moving, memorable, and impressive. (Both things, I mean, the memorial and the oath.)

  3. David, I’ve replied via email.

    Yule, I’ve never been to the Boston memorial. Some day…

  4. Thanks for this post, David. I have never been there, nor heard it described in just this way.

  5. moving? yes. and also multi-functional: convenient for drunken midnight hide-and-go-seek as well as really easy le parcours…

  6. I got the same impression when I visited it.

  7. I am not very attired in the memorial. In my eyes the museum of Auschwitz in Poland is an much more impressive, historical, creepy and effectual memorial. That stonefield in Berlin is just an ugly waste of place in my eyes.

  8. I am in Berlin from tomorrow and I will go to the memorial, I am sure, that it will be verry nightmarish.

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