Initiators of a planned Holocaust monument in Berlin say they will go ahead with the project, despite objections from German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The “Memorial Monument for the Murdered Jews of Europe” has ignited a controversy across Germany.
The federal government decided last weekend to oppose and halt the existing plans for the monument, which would commemorate European Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
In a surprise veto by Kohl over the proposed plan, the government opted to wait for a further decision on the project.
Kohl took exception to the “gigantic size” of the proposed monument, a tombstone that would be 330 feet long and 330 feet high and would display the engraved names of 4.2 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust whose identities are known.
“The past, too, was gigantic and monumental,” said media magnate Lea Rosh, an initiator of the project. “To murder 6 million Jews, this is the past.”
Kohl was reportedly sticking to his position that the monument did not enjoy the “necessary consensus.”
Eberhardt Diepgen, mayor of Berlin, also called for “reconsideration” of the project.
The Central Council of German Jews has expressed concern that the wrangling over the planned monument would freeze the project altogether.
Ignatz Bubis, the influential chairman of the Central Council, said that even though he had his own reservations over the plans, the project should be materialized “soon.”
At a meeting in Frankfurt last week, the council decided that the project is indispensable.
After years of deliberations, a committee recently selected the plan prepared by a group of artists, headed by the German painter Christine Jackob-Marks.
Plans for the memorial monument called for it to be built between the Brandenburg Gate and the Potsdamerplatz, in the heart of Berlin, capturing the skyline of the German capital.
Construction was originally scheduled to begin next year and to be completed in two years.
In addition to the proposed monument’s size, a number of financial and emotional concerns are swelling the controversy.
Originally, the project’s cost was estimated at $11 million.
Now it turns out that the engraving of the names of the Holocaust victims would double the cost. The federal government has agreed in principle to provide the grounds for the monuments as well as a sum $3,5 million.
But where the rest of the money should come remains an unanswered question.
Rosh suggested that the public be asked to “adopt: names of holocaust victims in exchange for a contribution, as a way of raising funds.
Bubis opposed this suggestion, saying that such an idea amounted to commercial trading in Holocaust memories.
Another aspect of the public controversy is the project’s relationship to the cut in funds for memorial sites at former concentration camps.
Many have asked how tens of millions of German marks can be spent for one project in Berlin, while other monuments can barely be maintained.
Others have expressed concern that after the monument for Jewish victims, others would follow in memory of Gypsies and homosexuals. Concern was expressed that the site of the former and future seat of German government would turn into a congested area of memorial sites.
Meanwhile, architects have raised doubts whether a giant tombstone was the right way to commemorate the Holocaust.
Writer Ernst Cramer suggested in the German publication Die Welt that a smaller, more modest memorial monument would be more fitting.