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German Opposition Grows Against Berlin Holocaust Memorial Design

January 14, 1999
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The Berlin chapter of Germany’s leading conservative party has added its voice to the chorus of critics of the design for the country’s proposed national Holocaust memorial.

A plan by the Christian Democratic Party’s chapter rejects the design by American architect Peter Eisenman — a stone memorial the size of several football fields — and calls for the competition to be reopened for a third time.

The plan also calls for the memorial to be placed on a new, smaller site that its supporters call more central — between the future Parliament building and the chancellor’s office, instead of a site near the Brandenburg Gate currently reserved for the monument.

Disagreements between the private and public sponsors about the design and the site of the monument, which was first proposed a decade ago, have not only prevented construction but have jeopardized the entire project.

The city of Berlin, the federal government and a private foundation that launched the project must agree on a design before the monument can be built.

Berlin Mayor Richard Diepgen, also a member of the CDU, is pushing for the monument to be built on the site of a newly built Jewish museum, which will be opened this year, or on the grounds of a museum about the Gestapo, which is under construction.

The discussion about the proposed monument has heated up in recent months since top-ranking government officials proposed building a museum, documentation center and library complex instead of a monument.

One suggestion for such a complex included a repository for Steven Spielberg’s video project that records the life story of thousands of Holocaust survivors. Government officials are expected to discuss the idea with Spielberg next month when he is expected to attend the annual Berlin Film Festival.

In Berlin, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris reaffirmed the interest of the American Jewish community in the construction of a monument. He said the monument should have a distinctive design but also include basic information about the Holocaust for visitors.

Germany’s Parliament is expected to discuss the project this summer.

The president of the Parliament has reportedly invited representatives of all political parties to a preliminary discussion on the issue next week.

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