Plans to erect a giant monument in Berlin, commemorating European Jews who perished in the Holocaust, have stirred a public controversy in Germany.
As a result, the federal government has decided to oppose and halt the existing plans until a further decision is made on the controversial project.
After years of deliberations, a committee last week selected the plan prepared by group of artists, headed by the German painter Christine Jackob-Marks.
The plan calls for the erection of a giant tombstone, 330 feet long and 330 feet wide, which displays engraved named of 4.2 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust whose identities are known.
Had it not been for the objection of the federal government, construction work would have begun next year, and should have been completed in two years.
The memorial monument was to be built between the Brandenburg Gate and the Postamerplatz, right in the heart of Berlin, capturing the skyline of the German capital.
The controversy surrounding the project involves a combination of financial and emotional arguments.
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 monument as well as a sum of $3.5 million.
Where the rest of the money should come from remains an unanswered question.
The initiator of the project, media magnate Lea Rosh, suggested that the public be asked to “adopt” names of Holocaust victims in exchange for a contribution, as a way of raising of funds.
But Ignatz Bubis, the influential chairman of the central committee of German Jewry, opposed this suggestion, saying that such an idea amounted to commercial trading with Holocaust memories.
Another aspect of the public controversy is the project’s relationship to the cut in funds for memorial; sites at the 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, with a head in the sky, 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.
The failure of the federal government to give its blessing to the project means that public debate has not ended. It is only starting.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.