Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media the five millionth visitor.
Five million people have now visited the underground information centre and many many more have experienced the above-ground memorial site itself. This is an achievement which makes it clear that, in the ten years since it was opened, the memorial site has firmly established its place in the lives of residents and visitors alike, said Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters happily.
Today she welcomed the five millionth visitor to the exhibition – an 18-year-old schoolgirl from Wittenberg. The huge crowds that the memorial attracts are also living proof of the huge need people still feel to come to terms with the barbaric regime of the National Socialists, continued Monika Grütters.
Germany has a perpetual responsibility, says Monika Grütters
"We owe it to the victims of the Nazi regime, to whom we pay tribute here, to preserve the memory and the awareness of the inhuman ideology of the National Socialists, especially among the young generation, and thus to strengthen their feeling of responsibility for upholding the democratic values for which we stand today." The memorial is a clear commitment of the Federal Republic of Germany to its perpetual responsibility to keep alive the memory of the inconceivable crimes committed by the National Socialist regime, she stressed.
The visitor’s attention is first captured by the rows and rows of 2, 711 stelae or concrete blocks, only a few steps away from the Brandenburg Gate. The abstract design of the memorial is expressly intended to encourage the visitor to contemplate.
Under the field of stelae, there is an underground information centre, where an exhibition documents the persecution and annihilation of European Jews. They two levels of the memorial do not compete; they complement one another and together form the whole.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is Germany’s central Holocaust memorial site. After a resolution was passed by the German Bundestag in 1999, the monument was erected in the immediate vicinity of the Brandenburg Gate between 2003 and 2005. It was designed by the architect Peter Eisenman, and is run by the eponymous foundation. This year it will receive funding of almost 3.3 million euros from the budget of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
The persecution and murder of European Jews
About six million Jews were murdered in Europe under the National Socialists. The figure is based on documents kept by the perpetrators and statistics of the then twenty, today twenty-eight European states from which the murdered Jews came.
The exhibition approaches the subject matter from a historical standpoint and from an individual perspective. In the underground foyer, visitors first gain an overview of the politics of terror practised by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The systematic persecution and murder of European Jews is shown over time so that the visitor can correctly place the content matter shown in the themed rooms. The huge number of victims, the sites of persecution and annihilation, and the memorial sites across the European continent are presented in other rooms.
Reconstruction of family histories
Today it is difficult to find information about those who were murdered and the life they left behind. The National Socialists and their helpers ripped millions of Jews out of their homes, their culture and the world they lived in. Today little is left that bears witness to the existence of the murdered Jews. In many cases we do not even know their names. Many personal records and documents of the planned annihilation were destroyed or lost in the war.
In some cases though, historians have managed to piece together family histories. The lives of Jews who were persecuted under the regime of terror of the National Socialists are portrayed in the Room of Families. In the face of the worsening anti-Semitism in the 1930s, the family, and the Jewish community, offered important support to all those persecuted. German occupiers across large parts of Europe, however, tore almost all family bonds apart. The few survivors of the mass murder had often lost their entire family and found that their cultural heritage had been stolen.
Portrayal of individual fates
In the Room of Names visitors discover the fate of the individuals who were persecuted, with brief biographies of those murdered. One of them is Olga Tseitlovskaya, born in 1904 in what was then Russia. She was living with her husband and children in Kharkhiv, when the German Wehrmacht invaded in summer 1941. In December of that year the occupying troops forced all Jews into a ghetto, where she was shot by the SS in early 1942.