Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, No. 2 / Summer 1997
Holocaust Sites, Memorials & Art


The money for the project is in place, but plans for the Berlin Holocaust Memorial are at an impasse. No agreement has been reached on the exact location for the monument, whether it should be dedicated only to the Jewish victims of Nazi terror or even what it should look like. A design by Christine Jacob Marks initially adopted by the organizers called for putting a huge, black concrete plate on the site, on which all known names of the Jewish victims of the Nazis would be engraved. But the idea of the slab, which critics said could be as big as a soccer field, was dropped after protests by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and others, who called the project "megalomania."

Earlier this year, the organizers said the memorial should be chosen from the other nine proposals that won awards in a design competition. One proposal calls for building a bus station at the memorial site, with tickets sold and services offered to take visitors to the various concentration and death camps in Europe. Others have called for a new design competition. Lea Rosh, the journalist who launched the idea of a central memorial, said, "Let's stop debating and start with the work right away." Taking another tact, American cultural critic James Young, author of The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, 1993), the only non-German on the memorial jury, wrote in the The Forward (June 20, 1997) "The question remains: Will this memorial perpetuate the memory of six million Jews murdered at the hands of the Nazi regime, or will it serve only to bury this era altogether so that a reunified Germany can move freely into the future, unencumbered by its past?" Recognizing that the drawn out, often acrimonious debate on the Berlin memorials is the healthiest aspect of the entire project, Prof. Young goes on to say that "[the memorial] must not displace all other Holocaust memorials dotting the landscape; nor should it hide the impossible questions driving Germany’s memorial debate. Let it instead reflect the terms of the debate itself, the insufficiency of memorials, the contemporary generation’s skeptical view of official memory and its self-aggrandizing ways. Since every nation remembers the Holocaust according to its own experiences at the time, its national myths, self-idealizations, and current political needs, let Germany’s official memorial also reflect its suitably tortured relationship to the genocide of Europe’s Jews."

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, in April, a Holocaust memorial was dedicated in one of the chapels of the National Cathedral by the Cardinal Primate of Argentina, Antonio Quarracino. According to a JTA report, Quarracino said during the ceremony that discriminating against Jews is a sin against the Law of man and against the Law of God. "Our Lord Jesus was born among the Jews, and the Apostles He chose were Jewish." ISJM knows of no precedent of a Holocaust memorial placed inside a cathedral. The memorial consists of a panel of glass framed in solid silver. Behind the glass are preserved pages of Jewish books destroyed during the Holocaust. To one side of the silver frame, a small plaque states that the memorial is dedicated to "our Jewish brothers killed during the Holocaust and of the martyrs of the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and of AMIA." The plaque is signed by Quarracino.

While commemorating the Holocaust, the monument was erected in the current atmosphere of unease and insecurity for Argentina’s Jewish community. The March 17, 1992 car-bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people and left more than 100 injured. The July 18, 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, also known as AMIA, left 86 dead and more than 300 wounded. The Argentine government has been unable to find those responsible for either bombing.

Jewish and Polish leaders have formally approved a plan to preserve the site of the concentration and death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau while helping the adjacent town of Oswiecim to develop. Under the $100 million dollar plan -- to which the Poles will contribute 57% -- the camps will be linked as a single entity and will have a 500-year exclusion zone, where no commercial buildings can be erected. (source: WJC Dateline World Jewry, April 1997)

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Updated: 24-Jul-98