In 1989, when the Berlin wall fell, there was an empty strip of land just south of the Brandenburg gate, straight in the middle of what was now unified Berlin. This strip of land used to be a part of the “Death strip” that filled the space between the two actual walls that composed the Berlin wall. The name was given to the strip for the fact that venturing in to that area when the wall was intact was likely to result in an injury and sometimes even death.
The Berlin wall was erected in 1961 as a part of the Soviet – American conflict also known as the Cold War. Before the wall was built this area was covered with the rubble of what used to be Berlins government quarter. The strip of land to the south of the gate used to house the Nazi ministerium of foreign affairs. And a couple of hundred meters to the south of it, the Reichskanzlei (The prime minister’s office) and the famous Hitler bunker.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany marked a time of rebuilding but also of coming to terms with history in unified Germany, and a part of that past was also the Third Reich and the extermination of the Jews of Europe.
A local journalist by the name of Lea Rosh decided to gather support and funding for a central monument to the murdered Jews of Europe. After a long struggle she managed to achieve exactly that. The German government agreed to build this colossal memorial in the center of Berlin in a whopping cost of 25 million Euros. The designer of the monument is the architect Peter Eisenman (of Jewish American descent).
The monument spans 19,000 m2 (4.7-acre) and presents 2,711 concrete slabs. The slabs vary in height from 0.2 to 4.8 Meters (7.9 in to 15 ft 9.0 in). The number of slabs doesn’t seem to have a symbolic meaning.
Located under the monument is a small but impressive holocaust museum. Six of the slabs penetrate the roof of the museum from above.
Eisenman is considered a deconstructivist architect, which means he wishes to create meaning by designing chaos with different architectural means.
Eisenman never explained what he meant to “say” with his monument. The only thing he was clear about is that he wants the visitor to the monument to know that this is a monument to the murdered Jews of Europe. The individual interpretation is left to the visitors and their ideas and associations. This attitude is and was quite controversial and yet the monument is extremely popular and it had seen millions of visitors since it was opened in 2005 (3.5 million in the first year alone.)
The monument is a part of the Jewish tour of Berlin.