Two design contests were held for the purpose of finding a suitable plan for the memorial and hundreds of entries were submitted by architects from all over the world. Eleven designs were picked for the final round of selection. The top two designs were both rejected by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as being too grandiose.
One winning design, which was originally considered, called for a huge black wall of concrete with the names of all the known Jews who were murdered by the Nazis. Another winning design, which was also rejected by Kohl, called for a Bus Stop, or a terminal from which red buses would depart for the numerous memorial sites that have been built at the former concentration camps, including the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland. German students must visit these camps as part of their required Holocaust studies.
The glass dome of the Reichstag, where the German Bundestag (Parliament) meets, is shown in the center of the photo below, taken from the construction site of the Jewish Memorial, which is located 400 meters south of the Reichstag. To the right of the Reichstag, one can see the Brandenburg gate which was being renovated in 2002. A new American Embassy was under construction on the empty space in the foreground.
In the photo above, Peter Eisenman is shown at the construction site, talking with Lea Rosh, a non-Jewish journalist, who first proposed the plan for the Memorial in 1988. In the background is the dome of the Reichstag building and the Brandenburg gate. By putting a 5.5-acre Memorial for the murdered Jews in such an important and prominent spot, the current generation of German people have confronted their country's past and shown their remorse for what their leaders did three generations ago.
The photo below shows a path through the stones of the Jewish memorial with an apartment house in the background.
In the southeast corner of the field of stelae is the underground Information Center, which is accessible by stairs and an elevator. Designed by Dagmar von Wilcken, it consists of dimly lit basement rooms where visitors can see documentation about the victims and the places of extermination, including information about 200 sites where the Jews of Europe were murdered or persecuted.
The tour through the Information Center starts with pictures and text which gives the history of the Nazi extermination policy during the years of the Third Reich, between 1933 and 1945. This section shows the history of the extermination of the European Jews, as well as the persecution and murder of other groups.
The Room of Dimensions shows 15 personal accounts including letters written by Jews on their way to the death camps. The letters show that the Jews were aware of their fate. The number of victims in each of the countries occupied by the Nazis is given in this exhibit.
The Room of Families contains the stories of 15 Jewish families, which show the diversity of Jewish culture and tradition in Europe and how this rich culture was destroyed during the Holocaust. This exhibit consists of photos and personal papers which show the expulsion and murder of these 15 families.
In the third room of the Information Center, the names of the murdered Jews of Europe are read out while the name, year of birth and year of death of each victim appears on all four walls. Here, visitors can search for the names of Holocaust victims on the website of Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel. The Yad Vashem database contains 3 million names which were provided by the victims' families. Millions of families were wiped out during the Holocaust, leaving no survivors to record their names. The Nazis did not keep records for the Jews who were gassed upon arrival at the death camps.
Another room shows historical film and photos of 200 sites across Europe where Jews were persecuted and exterminated. These sites include ghettos, places of mass execution, death camps, concentration camps, evacuation routes and the routes of death marches out of the camps.
At the end of the tour, there are computer terminals where visitors can get information on current events at historical sites and do research on places throughout Europe which document the Holocaust.
This page was last updated on March 22, 2009