FRANKFURT, July 20 (JTA) — Nearly two years after they selected a winning entry, the sponsors of a planned monument in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust have reopened the competition for the project’s design. The move reflects the long-standing difficulties surrounding the construction of a Holocaust monument in the German capital. The project has created sharp disagreements among German officials, Jewish leaders, artists and historians, and has become the subject of an often heated national debate. A 1995 decision by the sponsors to build a design by Berlin artist Christine Jackob-Marks was attacked by critics who found her project too colossal. Marks’ design called for building a slanting stone monument the size of two football fields. The monument was to be engraved with the names of the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. Ignatz Bubis, the leader of Germany’s Jewish community, questioned whether Marks’ plan to inscribe millions of names on the monument would succeed in personalizing the Holocaust. Bubis contended that there were so many names, some of which were similar, that it would blur any individualization of the victims. Holocaust experts also pointed out that many of the victims’ names are unknown. They warned that an incomplete list could fuel arguments by Holocaust deniers that the 6 million total had been exaggerated. The project was launched by an independent group of sponsors in conjunction with the city of Berlin and the German federal government. Hundreds of mostly German artists and architects participated in the competition. After a jury designated by the sponsors selected the winner and eight runners-up in 1995, the lengthy process of criticism began — and the project became an ongoing national controversy. At one point Chancellor Helmut Kohl intervened, threatening to rescind the government’s offer of a central site in Berlin for the monument if the winning design was not reworked. The continuing stream of criticism prompted the sponsors to hold three colloquia earlier this year in Berlin to discuss the site and purpose of the proposed monument. Dozens of experts on the Holocaust were invited. Few agreed with either the form, design or location of the proposed monument. After the sponsors said they would not change the location or reopen the competition, a number of invited guests left the forum, including several prominent members of Germany’s Jewish community. After the extensive criticism and the lack of public consensus for the important project, the sponsors backed down from their position and reopened the artistic competition. They have invited the winner and eight runners-up from the previous competition, as well as 16 internationally known artists and architects, to submit entries. It is unclear if all 25 artists will participate. Some of them, including a few Jewish artists, have said that they disagree with the idea of building a monument that only commemorates the Jewish victims of the Nazis.
Sponsors of Berlin memorial reopen project design contest