Both the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin make an architectural statement equally strong to its exhibits. The Jewish Museum, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, starts on the bottom floor as a series of zigzagging hallways. These hallways then help to divide the museum into three areas– Continuity with Germany history, Emigration from Germany, and the Holocaust. This is all compounded by the empty spaces, irregular windows, and interactive exhibits. Although I am clearly biased, the Jewish Museum or Jüdisches Museum is a highlight of my Berlin experience and I recommend Jews and non-Jews alike to go at least for a quick look.
Designed by another great architect, Peter Eisenman, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (the Holocaust Memorial) sits on a 5-acre site and consists of thousands of concrete slabs. These slabs of varying heights are arranged on a rolling landscape in a grid-like pattern. Eisenman leaves the interpretation of these slabs to the viewer, and not having one “correct” interpretation of the memorial forces individuals such as myself to stop and think for much longer what each slab may symbolize. The site may represent a cemetery or maybe train cars used to carry the Jews. The disorientation of the slabs may reflect the feelings of Jews during the time of the Nazis. In addition, there is little signage indicating the purpose of this site or even that it is a memorial. The subtly of the memorial just like its openness to interpretation add to its value and to its uniqueness. Finally, below the memorial is a small museum discussing the stories of specific individuals and families that suffered during the time of the Nazis. Individualizing the Holocaust is a saddening experience because I start to learn how real families suffered. That said, personalizing the Holocaust is effective when trying to explain the atrocities committed under Nazi Germany.