Germany´s Holocaust Memorial Takes Shape (AP) By TONY CZUCZKA BERLIN, Germany 08/16/03 2:21 PM)
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BERLIN - Germany´s national Holocaust memorial took shape Saturday
after years of delay as its U.S. architect presented the first of
2,700 stark charcoal-gray concrete slabs that will make up the
monument near the Brandenburg Gate.
Backers expressed relief that the memorial was finally getting under
way in earnest on a sandy site in the capital´s revived center where
the Berlin Wall ran before Germany reunited in 1990.
"It´s been a long road," writer Lea Rosh, who first proposed the
project in 1988, said as red-and-white tape marking off sections of
the construction site fluttered in the wind.
German politicians rallied behind the project in the late 1990s after
decades of debate over how Germany should remember Holocaust victims,
but wrangling over details and the contract for making the slabs
persisted even after the final design by American architect Peter
Eisenman was approved in 1999.
The planned monument - 2,700 concrete slabs on a plot the size of two
football fields - commemorates the more than 6 million Jews who
perished at the hands of the Nazis.
After the backers resolved the final details, a German company began
producing the slabs to Eisenman´s specifications. On Saturday, he
inspected the first 13-foot high block that passed muster and praised
Germany´s commitment to the project.
"I feel great because I think it´s going to be a fabulous project,"
he said. "It´s a tribute to this country, this city, its government."
Eisenman said the monument - undulating rows of closely spaced slabs
set slightly below street level - would evoke the feeling of being
trapped that Jews felt when they were sent to Nazi death camps.
"You´ll feel like what it´s to be alone when all of these 2,700 are
here," he said.
"I talked to people who walked alone at Auschwitz, who saw their
parents taken away, who felt lost to the world, felt lost to reality,
lost to any kind of explanation," he said. "When you walk in this, it
is not an abstraction. It will be just as real as walking alone
Eisenman said he hoped the monument´s starkness would free visitors
to reflect on the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jews, making younger
generations of Germans "speak about what they feel and what they
think today" about the Holocaust.
Backers once penciled in a Jan. 27, 2004 completion date to coincide
with the 59th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death
camp. Latest plans call for completion by May 8, 2005 - 60 years
after Nazi Germany´s defeat in World War II.
The planned monument´s site resonates heavily with German history:
Near the former site of Adolf Hitler´s Fuehrer bunker, the area was
part of the Berlin Wall´s no man´s land during the Cold War.
Now the revived Reichstag parliament building and vibrant Potsdamer
Platz square draw visitors to the neighborhood, and the new U.S.
Embassy is slated to be built across the street.
At the German parliament´s insistence, the memorial will include an
explanatory documentation center in an effort to prevent the site
from becoming a place where Germans could simply unload
responsibility for their past. The slabs will have a graffiti-
resistant coating, reflecting officials´ worries about neo-Nazi
Eisenman took a more sanguine view, saying he wouldn´t even mind if
the site were used for picnics or skateboarding.
"It will mean different things to different people," he said. "That´s
fine." (© 2003 The Associated Press 08/16/03)
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