Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial Offers Unique Perspective

Defense Secretary Ash Carter leaves a wreath at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial during a trip to Germany. DoD photo by Kevin O'Brien
Defense Secretary Ash Carter leaves a wreath at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial during a trip to Germany. DoD photo by Kevin O’Brien

By Katie Lange

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

There are many worldwide tributes to the victims of the Holocaust of World War II, but one of the most unique is in the heart of Germany, where Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a stop today.

The German Holocaust memorial is officially called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Located in the center of Berlin, it’s a poignant site that’s meant to honor and remember the roughly six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. It was built on the grounds of the former ministerial gardens, which were on the historic grounds of Adolf Hitler’s Reich Chancellery.

Carter visited the memorial today, more than 70 years after the liberation of Europe had begun. He laid a wreath at its center to honor those who were persecuted, as well as to help ensure that the world would never forget or ever again be complicit in genocide.

The memorial was initially proposed in 1988, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it took a long time to be realized. After nearly two decades of discussions, proposals and changes to the plan, it was officially opened in May 2005 and offers a unique tribute to survivors.

The memorial is made up of more than 2,700 concrete pillars of varying height that slope downward over the span of 19,000 square meters. Designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, the sloped pillars were arranged in a grid-like pattern so that each side would offer a differing, wave-like viewpoint for the people walking through it.

Another unique feature of the site is the Information Center that lies underneath the pillars. In it, there are exhibits that list the names and short biographies of many of the six million victims, as well as quotes from some of the few memoirs recovered from before their deaths. The exhibits illustrate the contrast between life before, during and after the Holocaust, and they highlight many individual experiences of the victims through historical films and photographs from the atrocities.

The memorial is of huge significant to people all over the world, including in America, considering U.S. forces played a large role in liberating surviving Jews from Nazi concentration camps.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, American forces first witnessed those atrocities on April 11, 1945, when they began liberating more than 20,000 prisoners at Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany. The U.S. also liberated Dora-Mittelbau, Flossenburg, Dachau and Mauthausen concentration camps.

In the past several decades, 24 Army infantry divisions, 10 armored divisions and two airborne divisions have been recognized by the U.S. Army Center of Military History as units that helped liberate Nazi camps.

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