Peter Eisenman; Building Germany, the Holocaust memorial

Peter Eisenman; Building Germany, the Holocaust memorial

admin / January 13, 2019

The onset of the year 1933 in Germany was marked by the inauguration of the Nazi government into power. This government orchestrated the mass murder of the Jewish settlers in their country; Germany. These killings were methodical, technical and were financed by the Nazi government. In total, by the end of the Second World War, about six million had died as a result of the activities of the Nazi and its allies.

This event was named the holocaust, a Greek word that meant to ‘sacrifice by fire’. The proponents to this state of affairs (the Nazis) were spurred on by the feeling that theirs’ was a superior race and the Jews were the inferior, and for that they were a foreign threat to their race and their sovereignty.

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The Jews were not the Nazi’s only victims during the holocaust, other casualties were the weak and disabled people in the society, who were killed on the pretext of the Euthanasia program. This program involved isolating the mentally ill and the disabled people (both adults and children) in the German society, keeping them in some form of concentration camps under the pretext of medicating them.

The whole agenda behind this was that the Nazis wanted a perfect society, one representation of their own perceptions of themselves, and they could stop at nothing (Gilberts, 21). These people were collected and murdered in the concentration camps through overdose of medication and keeping them hungry. Children as young as three years who showed or had any symptoms of mental disorders were also killed.

The other category of people affected in Germany is those who had been serving the German households as workers and slaves to their farms; these included the Russians and the Polish. Politics, contrasting and differing opinions, weird characteristics that were not at par with the accepted social norms like homosexuality were given as the reason as to why other people were prosecuted. The people in this group included those with communist ideas, the socialists, and the people who belonged to the church called Jehovah’s witnesses.

When the Nazi took over, the Jewish population was over nine million, but as it would happen, they lived in countries that Germany would later conquer or have direct influence over their affairs during the Second World War. Around ten years after they took control of government, the Nazis had killed two out of every three Jews, though some two hundred thousand people with mental cases, mostly Germans had been killed through the Euthanasia program.

The Germans and the people who supported them during this ghastly acts mini-estate they referred to as ghettos and other concentration camps, this was to help them monitor the number of the Jews in their country as well as to make it easier when they would later depot them. With time the soviet republic became subject to German rule as they had been conquered by Hitler’s troupes in the year 1941. Organized killing units, then referred to as “Einsatzgruppen” trailed The German forces(Gilberts, 65).

They carried out mass-execution of the Jews, the people of the soviet republic and officials of the communist party in the Soviet. These people mentioned above were mainly killed using the gassing facilities, where they were held in confinement and poisoned the air they inhaled inside the chambers causing instant death.

This led to the death of millions of Jewish men women and children, until several years down the line when other forces came together and led a series of attacks against the German forces. In spite of this, they still came across people of the Jewish race in death matches and other prisoners. The allied forces piled pressure on Germany until May 7, 1945, when they were downed their tools in defeat (Gilberts, 75).

After this, the distraught survivors of the Holocaust obtained protection from Displaced persons camps which had been put up by an alliance of the allied forces that thrashed Hitler’s army. The three years after the holocaust witnessed mass movement of the Jews to Israel and other countries.

The Holocaust memorial is a commemorative building designed by architect Peter Eisenman and another Engineer Buro Haplod. It has been put up one block to the North of Brandenburg, in Friedrichstadt. Structurally, the building is erected on a nineteen thousand square meter parcel of land, calculated to round up to 4.7 acres of land. Its construction began in April 2003after much hullabaloo from the political sides.

By December 15th 2004 construction was complete, but its inauguration was delayed up to May 10th 2005, when it would coincide with the day the Second World War ended. It was open to the public on May 12th 2005. The total cost of construction was put at around twenty five million Euros (Eisenman, 24).

The construction of the memorial was not an easy task as it faced setbacks from every quarter of the German population and even the international community. The quest to erect a memorial as a memento to the atrocities of the past was driven by a journalist called Lea Rosh, and in 1989 formed a group that would advocate for its construction and help source for funds. As time went by, more and more people supported their initiative and the Bundestag resolved that the project should go on. The design of the memorial was obtained in a rather funny way.

Artists were called over and requested to give their designs on what they think the memorial should be (Eisenman, 31). It was so open to the point that the only rules outlined were that whatever their designs, their construction costs should not surpass Twenty five million Euros.

Quality was stressed upon, and the submissions were to be vetted by judges whose professions revolved around art, architecture, history, politics and other dimensions and fields the symbolic building would represent. Over five hundred proposals were submitted, and the jury would start their work on January 15th 1995 led by their chairman, Walter Jens, of getting the submissions.

The days that followed would witness the elimination of all but thirteen of the submitted designs after thorough scrutiny. As pre arranged earlier, the jury met again on the 15th of March, and this time eleven of the submissions were brought back to the contest as had been requested by some judges.

In the months that followed, thorough review of the submissions led to the recommendations by the jury; an enquiry into whether the costs of some two top most designs would be completed within the price range given. The concept behind one of the finalist’s submission was that of Simon Ungers, a native of Humburg.

It entailed an 85x 85M square girders that were made of steel (Eisenman, 73). The girders were placed above concrete blocks situated at the corners, and on this they would display the names of the various concentration camps. This would further be projected into visibility to the people around by sunlight.

The other design which reached the final two was a project by Cristine Jackob-Marks. The idea behind her design was that of a concrete plate whose dimensions measured 100x 100 M, and its thickness 7M thick.

It could lie at an angle, and reached a peak of eleven meters, special paths to tread had been designed in the structure. The names of the victims of the holocaust were to be written on the concrete slab, and spaces left for people whose names were still a mystery.

The plans to these designs were to be finally vetted by the then chancellor, Helmut Kohl. In 1997, the Bundestag decided on Peter Eisenman’s design of the project through another round of the competition. He had modified his design by attaching a source of information or museum close to the memorial center (Eisenman, 125).

Another incident that almost bugged the construction and put to question the credibility of method of sourcing companies was the Degussa incident. This was a big issue in the country that was trying to forget what it had gone through and live as one nation. The company had in a big way contributed to the state persecution of Jews.

One of its associate companies was involved in the production of Zyklon B, a gaseous substance that had been used by the regime to kill the Jews in the concentration camps. This made the construction of the memorial to be stopped so that the pending issues could be resolved.

After lengthy discussions they decided to proceed with the construction, since they could not exclude all the Nazi companies out of the project (Eisenman, 163). Many people debated on the Degusa incident while the architect himself did not have an issue working with the company. Their resolution set the stage for the completion of the project.

December 15th 2004 marked the completion of the project, and was dedicated on May 10th the following year; this coincided with their 60th commemorations of the V-E day. It was opened to the public a few days later and estimates show that on the first year alone the memorial center received about 3.5 million visitors and the number has grown ever since.

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