World War II is a hugely important part of history, particularly in Germany, and whilst I was in Berlin I figured it was important to learn as much as I could about it, and acknowledge what actually occurred all those years ago.
The Memorial Itself
The memorial is a short walk from the Brandenburg Tor in the middle of the city, so it’s super easy to get to. It was opened in 2005 after prolonged debates between German parliament members. Designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman, the memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of varying sizes covering 19,000 square metres. The uneven flooring often creates a sense of uncertainty and leaves you slightly disorientated – I was separated from Carys more than once whilst we were visiting.
The installation is free for public viewing at all times, and you can take as much time as you like to walk around and explore, allowing you to consider the true gravity of those historic events at your own pace.
The Information Centre
The information centre installed under the memorial is definitely worth exploring on your visit and is also free to access. Here you can find a complete timeline of the events that unfolded during the Great War. There are also several themed rooms including the Room of Families, the Room of Names and the Room of Dimensions that reveal more information about the atrocities that took place during the holocaust and take a certain level of anonymity away from the victims of the holocaust.
One of the most poignant moments of my trip to Berlin took place here, as I was able to read some of the letters that the Jewish families wrote to each other when they realised their impending doom. The letters from children bidding farewell to their mothers and fathers, brothers’ final words to each other, and some letters from parents desperately trying to save their children from the horrible destiny that awaited them absolutely broke my heart to read, and it wasn’t long before I realised I was crying silent tears. Yes, I had learnt about the holocaust in school, and yes, I knew that all of these horrible things had happened, but for some reason reading those letters made it all seem realer to me than anything else before, and I found myself incredibly humbled. For anyone who would like a glimpse at the harsh reality of life for victims of the holocaust, this centre is most definitely worth at least some of your time.
It is hard to say that a visit to this memorial was a ‘highlight’ of my trip simply because it was so heartbreaking, but I learnt a lot from my short time there and would urge anyone visiting Berlin to take the time out to visit it. Acknowledging their grim history is part of what makes Berlin the incredible city that it is, and I’m sure anyone who has been before would agree that this Memorial is well worth the trip.