Wall Street Opinion Journal TOM L. FREUDENHEIM Thursday, June 16, 2005
Berlin memorializes the Holocaust and World War II.
BERLIN–Last month, this city focused on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, part of this year’s cultural theme: “Between War and Peace.” At the Museum of European Cultures, “Die Stunde Nul” (Zero Hour) showed Berlin in the immediate postwar period–destruction, starvation, imaginative attempts at re-creating some semblance of normality–with a special focus on the various art museums, their damage from Allied bombing raids, and how much was saved and destroyed. The German Historical Museum’s “1945: The War and Its Consequences” dealt with the politics of memory in postwar Germany, East and West. And its “Legalized Robbery: The Exchequer and the Plundering of the Jews in Hessen and Berlin, 1933-1945” was truly frightening. The booklet for “Between War and Peace” lists 38 exhibitions this year for Berlin alone.
But the highlight event seems to have been the May 10 dedication of the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” near the Brandenburg Gate and across from the new American Embassy. A sotto voce refrain is that it took more time to get the memorial built (17 years) than the span of the Nazi period (12 years).
It’s not as though Berlin isn’t already filled with an array of monuments to the war. Indeed, one can hardly pass down a street without confronting signs reminding one of what took place at a given location (e.g., where a notable person lived prior to emigration or expulsion, where Jews were assembled for deportation), quite aside from the various specially designed memorials.