Memorials in Berlin

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It’s not easy to admit you were wrong. It’s not easy to own up to a history you’d like to forget. Yet the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin is a striking and overwhelming admission of unimaginable pain caused. Walking up to the memorial, it is difficult to tell exactly what it is. There are no markings, and it appears to be a fairly level set of grey concrete blocks, or stelae.

As you walk further in, you realize the ground is uneven and slopes downward as you move toward the center of the over 200,000 square foot memorial. Though the blocks on the outer edges are only about a foot tall, the ones in the center tower over fifteen feet tall. It isn’t disorienting, but it gives a sense of isolation and uncertainty.

I was not prepared for the surge of emotion I felt walking through the memorial.

I remember it in complete silence. I’m sure there were people talking, city noises, birds and other wildlife, but my memory is silence.

The holocaust claimed victims of many minorities, not just Jewish victims. Targeted groups included Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies (Roma), and others.

Gay men were another targeted group. Instead of the Star of David, they were made to wear a pink triangle as an identification piece, a symbol now reclaimed as an icon of gay pride. Across the street from the main memorial, there stands a single stelae with a window. This is the memorial for the gay victims of the Holocaust.

When you peer inside the window, you see a video playing. This image is a still from that video.

When I saw it, all I could think of was love in its purest form. To me, the video stood in stark contrast to the memorials. While everything else evoked feelings of deep sorrow, loss, and grief, watching this video made me feel hope.

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