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Berlin Holocaust memorial still surrounded by debate

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BONN, Jan. 21 (JTA) — A Berlin municipal official has added new heat to the ongoing controversy about a planned Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Peter Radunski, an official responsible for cultural affairs, told a recent colloquium on the memorial that the budget for the monument would not be increased and that the cornerstone would be laid no later than Jan. 27, the 52nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Radunski’s statement caused an uproar among the 100 scholars, historians, architects and politicians attending the colloquium, some of whom cried foul, saying that they were being left out of the decision- making process. The memorial is to be erected near the Brandenburg Gate, in the center of the capital. But it has been held up as debate continues over the monument’s design as well as over who it will commemorate, only Jews or victims of Nazi terror in general. City officials and federal authorities, as well as a private advocacy group, have been overseeing the project. A design initially adopted by the organizers called for putting a huge, black concrete plate on the site, on which all known names of the Jewish victims of the Nazis would be engraved. But the idea of the plate, which critics said could be as big as a soccer field, was dropped after protests by Chancellor Helmut Kohl and others, who called the project “megalomania.” Now, the organizers say, the memorial should be chosen from the other nine proposals that won awards in a design competition. One proposal calls for building a bus station at the memorial site, with tickets sold and services offered to take visitors to the various concentration and death camps in Europe. But many participants at the colloquium disagreed, and called for a new design competition. Two more colloquiums on the Berlin memorial have been set for February and April. Meanwhile, the German media is engaged in a new soul-searching effort to deal with the past. The ZDF, Germany’s second public television channel, this month aired a six-part documentary titled “Hitler’s Helpers.” The series featured hours of motion pictures taken by Third Reich official photographer Heinrich Hoffmann and others, showing the main Nazi figures who stood behind Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and his extermination program. The channel also has been selling a 352-page book designed to help viewers understand how the Nazi regime operated. The editor, Guido Knopp, said large parts of the documentary were based on archival material that had never been shown to a large television audience. In another soul-searching piece, historian Ulrich Herbert of the University of Freiburg wrote in the weekly Die Zeit that after World War II, Germany willingly absorbed into its newly created democratic system a large number of individuals who had held major positions under Hitler. As early as 1946, a policy of forgiveness was pursued, with the church playing a major role as an outspoken voice against the social isolation of former Nazi officials, Herbert wrote. This attitude was adopted by Germany’s first postwar chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, who believed that it was essential for Germany to use the skills and experience of former Nazis to rebuild the country, Herbert wrote.

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