Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

– These, here at  the edge, are like graves.  Not coffins, they are the size and shape of graves,  Each one at our feet a grave for an individual.

Look, the whole structure rises to the middle like a hill.  The separate blocks build a landscape.

– Then, as you move in, the blocks get higher.  They are not one person. Person on person on person, stacked …

It’s like a hill, but then there is an umbrella, and then a head, then shoulders, and one person and another and another emerges from inside.  And at the same time, people walking and disappearing into the hill.

– Toward the centre, the blocks tower over you.  All those people, all those people … piled …

Have you noticed also, the ground is uneven, it rolls and drops as the stelae get taller?

– Out here, at the edge, there are blocks missing.  They are not placed regularly.  There are wide spaces in between.

At first the blocks seem to be regular, uniform, identical, grey, anonymous …

– As you go further in, they crowd you, stand over you, overpower you.  It becomes oppressive.

…then, look, not one is the same, standing at different heights, erected at varying angles.  Even different patterns of rain on the concrete.  Every one an individual.

– Also, have you noticed, it’s …

Walking into the hill, from the sunshine, the stones standing higher and higher around you, and it’s …

– cold.

cold.

– …

It makes me think of descending into a barrow beneath standing stones. The rock cistern beneath the Senate where captive kings were strangled. The final walk, down, knowing

– All those people

12 responses to “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin

    • Thank you.
      I realise this has lived with me since childhood. Seeing the remnants of Auschwitz and hearing the words of Jacob Bronowski on television in the 1070s stayed with me life long, a cornerstone of how I see the world. I have written more in a second post on this subject. Sometime I also need to write about historian John Grenville, whom I had the privilege to know late in his life, and who talked to me a little of his childhood in Berlin and his escape on the Kinder Transport.

      • My best friend in 1950s grade school–Janie–had parents who spoke in a decidedly German accent. It wasn’t unusual to me, because my father, a German pastor, had a congregation made up of recently arrived post-war German immigrants. Much later I saw Janie’s mother on a PBS TV programme, describing how she and her physicist husband were rescued at the last minute in 1939 Vienna by faculty members of MIT. And later I learned how members of my father’s congregation had secrets and Nazi involvements they wanted to stay hidden. I personally discovered LIFE magazines kept away from our coffee table, and so learned as a young boy of Auschwitz by staring at those photographs. I married a Jew and became a pastor, and was a member of Jewish/Christian Dialogue, Montreal, and visited Yad Vashem in 1989. Your paintings speak to me in multiple ways–and I thank you.

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