History of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Picture: Field of Stelae

January 1989
In August 1988, the journalist Lea Rosh proposes during a panel discussion that a »memorial as a visible affirmation of action« should be built on the former grounds of the Gestapo in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. In January 1989, together with the historian Eberhard Jäckel, Lea Rosh publishes the first call of the citizens' initiative »Perspective Berlin« for the creation of a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The project gains the support among others of prominent figures such as Willy Brandt and Günter Grass.

February 1990
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the »Association for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe«, which has emerged from the citizens' initiative, proposes a possible location in an area north of the site of the Reich Chancellery in the former Ministerial Gardens.

April 1992
The Federal Government under Chancellor Helmut Kohl expresses support for the creation of a memorial and declares that it is prepared to provide a portion of the grounds of the former Ministerial Gardens as a site.

Spring 1995
In a public artistic competition for the Memorial supported by the Berlin Senate Administration for Construction and Housing, 528 proposals are submitted. After examining all proposals, the jury headed by Walter Jens recommends the awarding of two first prizes: to Simon Ungers (Cologne/New York) and Christine Jackob-Marks, Hella Rolfes, Hans Scheib and Reinhard Stangl (Berlin).

June 1995
Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl expresses his dissatisfaction with the recommendation to implement the work of Jackob-Marks, Rolfes, Scheib and Stangl. The project now faces a serious crisis.

June 1997
After a three-stage colloquium at which international experts discuss the project and its location, matters embroiled in some considerable controversy, the supporters of the project agree to adhere to the original concept of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe at the previously agreed-upon location in the Ministerial Gardens. They decide to launch a new, more narrow competition and to appoint a five-member search commission. For this procedure, 25 architects and sculptors, some internationally renowned, are invited.

November 1997
The commission gives its approval to designs by Peter Eisenman/Richard Serra (New York) and Gesine Weinmiller (Berlin). The supporters accept this recommendation and in addition recommend the designs of Jochen Gerz (Paris) and Daniel Libeskind (Berlin).

January/February 1998
In intensive public debate on the projects and the works exhibited, the design by Eisenman/Serra emerges as the clear favorite. At the suggestion of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the design by Eisenman/Serra is revised.

Summer 1998
The modified design (»Eisenman II«) is presented by Peter Eisenman after the sculptor Richard Serra withdraws from the project. Due to the imminent election campaign for the Bundestag, there are no further decisions.

October 1998
The newly elected government coalition of SPD and the Greens decides in its coalition agreement to leave the decision about the proposed Memorial up to the Bundestag.

December 1998/January 1999
The new State Minister for Culture and the Media, Michael Naumann, argues for the concept of a combination of the Memorial with a library and research centre, the »House of Remembrance«, and together with the architect Peter Eisenman presents a new modified design for this (»Eisenman III«).

25 June 1999
After several hearings and exhibitions, the Bundestag decides to build a Memorial to the Murdered Jews according to the design of the Field of Stelae by Peter Eisenman (»Eisenman II«) on the site designated. It is to be supplemented by an »Information Centre« on the victims honoured and the authentic sites of memorialization. A foundation is created for implementing the decision of the Bundestag.

27 January 2000
The symbolic beginning of construction is celebrated on the memorial site.

March 2000
The Board of Trustees of the newly created »Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe«, headed by Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse, selects the political scientist Professor Sibylle Quack as Executive Director. At the same time, a working group is set up drawn from the ranks of the Board. It works out a basic concept for the Information Centre (among its members are Prof. Eberhard Jäckel, Dr. Andreas Nachama, Prof. Reinhard Rürup and the Executive Director, Prof. Sibylle Quack).

May 2000
The Board commissions the architect Professor Peter Eisenman to conduct a feasibility study for the underground Information Centre.

November 2000
On the basis of the cost estimate presented by the architect and the Foundation, the Bundestag approves the sum of 25.3 million Euro for the construction of the memorial (Field of Stelae and Information Centre) and 2.3 million Euro for the exhibition building and the initial equipping of the Information Centre.

January 2001
After a more detailed selection procedure, the Foundation commissions the Berlin exhibit designer Dagmar von Wilcken with working out a concept for the design of the Information Centre.

May 2001
The first provisional stelae are erected on the construction site.

November 2001
The Foundation organises an international symposium on the Memorial and the Information Centre together with historians, museum experts, art historians and experts on architectural theory.

November 2002
Preparatory construction works on the site.

March 2003
After conclusion of all the necessary announcements for tenders and the evaluation of the offers, contracts are given for most of the construction work, including the stelae, the rough construction of the Information Centre and the surfacing work.

April 2003
In the spring of 2003, work begins on the construction of the Memorial. At the same time, at the fence surrounding the construction site, an information point is erected.

September 2003
Completion of concrete casting for the foundation pit and base of the Information Centre.

October/November 2003
After setting up the first stelae, public discussion on the use of products by the firm Degussa in the manufacture of the stelae convinces the Board of Trustees to decide on examining the use of these products and possible alternatives. After the submission of a detailed examination report, the Board decides in November that the construction of the Memorial using Degussa products will continue.

November 2003
The Youth Webpage of the Foundation »Children and Youth as victims of the Nazi Crimes« is online.

March 2004
After Professor Sibylle Quack resigns, Dr. Hans-Erhard Haverkampf assumes the position of Executive Director.

April 2004
Completion of the coffered concrete ceiling for the Information Centre.

12 July 2004
On the occasion of completion of the coffered ceiling of the subterranean Information Centre and the setting of half of total 2.711 stelae, a »topping out« ceremony is held, attended by the architect.

August 2004
Start of mounting the prefabricated concrete parts for the Information Centre.

October 2004
Start of exhibition installation.

3 December 2004
The redesigned website of the Foundation is awarded with the silver »Biene-Award« for redressing borders for handicapped persons.

15 December 2004
Public ceremony to put the last of the 2,711 stelae in place.

10 May 2005
Official opening of the Memorial, attended by 1.200 national and international visitors. The event is broadcasted live by national TV stations.

12 May 2005
The Field of Stelae and the Information Centre are opened to the public.

3 November 2005
The Foundation Memorial is granted the media prize of the Association of the Foreign Press (AFP, Verein der ausländischen Presse/VAP) as »recognition for excellent cooperation«, especially during the lead-up to and at the time of the opening festivities for the Memorial on May 10th of this year.

15 February 2006
Peter Eisenman's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is given the prize of the US Magazine »Travel and Leisure« in the sector »Best Cultural Space« in New York.

May 2006
On occasion of the first anniversary of the opening to the public, the Foundation looks back on a successful first year: about 3,5 million people have come to the Field of Stelae and half a million visited the Information Centre.

September 2006
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is among the five finalists of the »Urban Landscape Award« of the EuroHypo Frankfurt/Main.

3 November 2006
Eisenman's Field of Stelae receives one of the seven awards of the »Architecture Prize Berlin«. The international jury of architects and architectural critics thus honors the »paradigmatic examples in architecture and urban planning, pointing the way to the future«.

5 November 2006
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is awarded second place in the »Globe Award for Best Worldwide Tourism Project« of the »British Guild of Travel Writers« during its annual »World Travel Market« in London.

3 May 2007
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe receives the prestigious »Honor Award for Architecture« of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). This prize is considered the highest recognition for architectural excellence in the United States and internationally is one of the leading awards for excellence in this area.

9 May 2007
The Information Centre of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is accorded the »Excellence Award« of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD).

12 June 2007
State Minister of Culture Bernd Neumann welcomes the one millionth visitor at the Information Centre of the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.

23 January 2008
Via a computer the visitors of the Memorial receive direct access to the »Memorial Book of the Federal Archives for the Victims of the Persecution of Jews in Germany (1933-1945)«.

9 May 2008
Nearly 2.000 visitors witness a moving concert on 9 May 2008 in the Field of Stelae of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. 23 members of Berlins chamber symphony have positioned themselves between the stelae in order to play a composition from Peter Weiss together with the conductor Lothar Zagrosek. Weiss had especially composed the 15-minute piece of music with the title »Before becoming silent« for the third anniversary of the opening of the Memorial. The Associationf for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe has extended invitations to the world premiere in the Field of Stelae.

18 November 2008
Federal Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble and his Israeli colleague Ari Dichter visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Both secretaries were guided through the subterranean exhibition in the Information Centre by Uwe Neumärker, head of the foundation. The secretary from Israel lays down a chaplet in memory of the victims.

26 January 2009
On 26 January 2009 German chancellor Angela Merkel visited the exhibition in the Information Centre together with Lea Rosh, initiator of the memorial. Angela Merkel was accompanied by the government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm. They were guided by Uwe Neumärker and Dr. Ulrich Baumann.

August 2009
In summer 2009 the magical number of 2.000 visitors per day was several times exceeded. In the middle of August the two millionth visitor since the opening in May 2005 came to the Information Centre. On 26 August a record attendance with 2.311 guests was reached.

 

1 September 2009
Opening of the thirteenth Station – the first station in Austria – of the travelling exhibition »Was damals Recht war…«. Speaker in the Theater Nestroyhof Hamakom in Vienna was Barbara Prammer, President of the Austrian National Assembly.

3/4 September 2009
To coincide with the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II and the 20th anniversary of the political transformation in central and eastern Europe, the foundations »Remembrance, Responsibility and future« (EVZ) and Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe arranged the international conference »Unlashed Memory, Debates on Genocide, Forced Labour and World War II after 1989«. The conference took place on 3 and 4 September 2009 at the Representation of the Federal States of Rheinland-Pfalz in Berlin.

7 September 2009
During his trip trough Europe, Australian Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd visits the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe on 7 September 2009. Uwe Neumärker, Director of the Foundation, presents the
guest with the autobiography of Holocaust survivor Sabina van der
Linden-Wolanski, who lives in Australia today.

18 January 2010
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu visits the Memorial to the Murdered
Jews of Europe. He is accompanied by German chancellor Angela
Merkel.

5 May 2010
Celebration of the 5th anniversary of the Memorial to the Murdered
Jews of Europe. American architect Peter Eisenman, who designed
the Memorial and the Information Centre, attends the ceremony in
Berlin.

26 May 2011
Victoria of Sweden and her husband Prince Daniel visit the exhibition
at the Information Centre of the Holocaust Memorial.