I was just recently in Berlin where I stayed at a hotel very close to the Holocaust Memorial. I thus got to pass by it during the early morning and late at night. I got to see the memorial against the backdrops of snow, early morning darkness, midday sun and evening light. All of these backdrops gave one pause and a different feel and sense in one’s stomach.
At one point I just stood completely still and soaked in all the scene. At first glance, one might find the memorial a bit cold. Many have criticized it for lacking symbolism. I thus went in with that critique at the back of my mind. I had also recently been to the Oklahoma City bombing memorial where the reflecting pool straddled by two gates and the field of 168 empty chairs for all that had died there, literally made you stop to reflect on the the moment in which the bombing happened.
The Holocaust Memorial has two thousand, seven hundred and eleven gray concrete slabs, on a sloping field. Thus, each of the slabs are of different heights. As you stand therein, you get a feeling, as my six year old son noted, that you are in a cemetery. Perhaps a cemetery in New Orleans. It’s a bit of a maze to walk through it and you get a bit disoriented and I even got a bit frightened, at one point, when I couldn’t see where my son was.
The natural and city lights that fall across the memorial throughout the day create striking shadows that play in your mind. I realized that to feel this memorial you need to see it during different parts of the day. You cannot just go once.
With the snow falling onto the slabs you feel a sense of fragility.Each tiny snowflake falls on to the ground and dissipates while as they fall onto the slabs they gather and add a beautiful white coating to the gray slabs. At night, the lights of the surrounding buildings and the nearby Brandenburg Gate draw you in as a moth to a flame. It’s haunting and you almost hear whispers of those gone. Even my son was a bit still. You look about and wonder about the lost lives. You also start to think of what is going on currently in the world.
If you are ever in Berlin, I do highly recommend taking time to see the memorial at different points in time in order to fully grasp its symbolism.