The 2005 Berlin Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenman

A boy hops from one to another of the 2,711 stellae at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
A boy hops from one to another of the 2,711 stellae at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Architect Peter Eisenman stirred controversy when he unveiled plans for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The Memorial is made up of 2,711 massive rectangular stone slabs (stelae) on a sloping stretch of land. The site lies between East and West Berlin, within sight of the Reichstag Dome (top left in this photo) designed by architect Norman Foster.

Critics protested that the Memorial was too abstract and did not present historical information about the Nazi campaign against the Jews. Other people said that the Memorial resembled a vast field of nameless tombstones and captured the horror of the Nazi death camps.

The use of the stele is an ancient architectural tool to honor the dead. The stone marker, to a smaller extent, is used even today.

Undulating Stones

The Holocaust Memorial by architect Peter Eisenman stands on a 19,000 sq m (204,440 sq foot) plot in Berlin, Germany.
The Holocaust Memorial by architect Peter Eisenman stands on a 19,000 sq m (204,440 sq foot) plot in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Neale Clark/Robert Harding World Imagery Collection/Getty Images

Peter Eisenman's Holocaust Memorial is constructed of massive stone blocks arranged on a 19,000 square meter (204,440 square foot) plot of land between East and West Berlin. Each stele or stone slab is sized and arranged in such a way that the field of stelae seems to undulate with the sloping land.

A Memorial Without Names

Each stone at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial is a unique shape and size, forming an undulating memorial designed by architect Peter Eisenman.
Each stone at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial is a unique shape and size, forming an undulating memorial designed by architect Peter Eisenman. Photo by Juergen Stumpe/LOOK Collection/Getty Images

Architect Peter Eisenman designed the Berlin Holocaust Memorial without plaques, inscriptions, or religious symbols. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is without names, yet the strength of the design is in its mass of anonymity. The solid rectangular stones have been compared to tombstones and coffins.

This memorial is unlike American memorials such as the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington, DC or the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City, which incorporate victims' names within their design.

Pathways through the Berlin Holocaust Memorial

A labyrinth of passages wind between stone slabs at Berlin Holocaust Memorial.
A labyrinth of passages wind between stone slabs at Berlin Holocaust Memorial. Photo by Heather Elton/age fotostock Collection/Getty Images

Visitors to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe can follow a labyrinth of pathways between the massive stone slabs. Architect Peter Eisenman explained that he wanted visitors to feel the loss and disorientation that Jews felt during the Holocaust.

Each Stone a Unique Tribute

The Berlin Holocaust Memorial Being Constructed Within Site of the Reichstag Dome
The Berlin Holocaust Memorial Being Constructed Within Site of the Reichstag Dome. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Each stone slab at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a unique shape and size, put in place by the architect's design. In so doing, architect Peter Eisenman points out the uniqueness and the sameness of the people who were murdered.

After the slabs were in place, the cobblestone pathways were added.

Anti-vandalism at the Holocaust Memorial

The Berlin Holocaust Memorial, designed by architect Peter Eisenman, has 2,700 stone slabs.
The Berlin Holocaust Memorial, designed by architect Peter Eisenman, has 2,700 stone slabs. Photo by David Bank/AWL Images Collection/Getty Images

The stone slabs at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial have been coated with a special solution to prevent graffiti. Authorities hope that this will prevent neo-Nazi and anti-semitic vandalism.

"I was against the graffiti coating from the start," architect Peter Eisenman told Spiegel Online. "If a swastika is painted on it, it is a reflection of how people feel....What can I say? It's not a sacred place."

Abstract Forms

A boy hops from one to another of the 2,711 stellae at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
A boy hops from one to another of the 2,711 stellae at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Critics of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe say that the stones are too abstract and philosophical. Because they lack an immediate connection with common people, the Memorial's intellectual intent may be lost, resulting in a disconnect. Would people ever treat the slabs as objects in a playground?

People who praise the Berlin Holocaust Memorial say that the stones will become a central part of Berlin's identity.

Beneath the Berlin Holocaust Memorial

An information center has been constructed underneath the Berlin Holocaust Memorial.
An information center has been constructed underneath the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Many people felt that the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe should include inscriptions, artifacts, and historical information. To meet that need, a visitor's information center was constructed beneath the Memorial stones.

The architect, Peter Eisenman, was against the information center. "The world is too full of information and here is a place without information. That is what I wanted," he told Spiegel Online. "But as an architect you win some and you lose some."

Open to the World

Visible Cracks in Some of the Holocaust Memorial Stellae by 2007
Visible Cracks in Some of the Holocaust Memorial Stellae by 2007. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Designed by US architect Peter Eisenman, controversial plans for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe were approved in 1999. The Memorial opened to the public on May 12, 2005 and now carries its somber message to the world.

By 2007, a few short years after opening, cracks appeared on some of the stele.

Sources: