Speech at the inaugiration of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Picture: Visitors on their way to the underground Information Centre

Speech by the President of the German Bundestag Wolfgang Thierse at the inaugiration of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Honoured guests from all parts of Europe, respected representatives of the Jewish communities and families, Ladies and Gentlemen

Two days ago, on 8 May, the Federal Republic of Germany commemorated the end of the war and the liberation of our country and continent from Hitler’s barbarism.

Today we are formally opening a Memorial which recalls the worst and most horrifying crime of Nazi Germany, the attempt to exterminate an entire people. This Memorial is dedicated to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

This is a Memorial at a boundary, a memorial in transition. And that in a number of respects.

In order to create this Memorial, a decision was made at the highest possible level in this nation: a decision by the German Bundestag. The decision was taken with a multi-partisan large majority on 25 June 1999. It was preceded by a decade of intensive debate, stimulated by a citizens’ initiative that sprang from the very centre of our society, and pressed forward with unwavering engagement down to today.

The decision for the creation of the Memorial in Berlin was one of the last taken by the Bundestag in Bonn before its relocation. It was the decision for a first joint project of memory in a reunited Germany and the avowal of faith that this united Germany acknowledges its history: this Memorial in the centre of its capital recalls the greatest crime in its history. In the centre of that city, which was not a place of mass murder, but from which the systematic killing of millions was conceived, planned, organized and administered.

No other nation had ever undertaken the experiment, wrote the American Judaic Studies specialist James E. Young, to »reunite on the stony subsoil of the memory of its crimes, or to place the remembrance of these crimes in the geographic centre of its capital«. So this was a task at the very boundary of what is possible for a society. This may perhaps help to explain and justify the vehemence of the debate about the memorial, and even some of the opposition to its creation. Disagreement and debate will also probably continue to accompany the Memorial, a factor that does not have to be the worst of prospects.

The Holocaust touches the very »limits of our understanding«, that is an accurate comment. This Memorial comes to act at that boundary. It is the expression of the difficulty to find an artistic form that could somehow be appropriate to the Inconceivable, the monstrosity of the National Socialist crimes, the genocide of the European Jews. It does not blur the boundary between a memory that can in no way be »coped with« on the one hand, and that memory which must have significance for the present and future on the other.

This is intended to be a place of commemoration. It should thus overstep the boundary between cognitive information and historical knowledge on the one side and empathy with the victims, sorrow and grief for the dead on the other, though both certainly are intertwined. This Memorial, with its Information Centre, can make it possible for us today and for coming generations to confront, intellectually and emotionally, the incomprehensible events that occurred.

What today can still be narrated vividly by contemporary witnesses must in future be transmitted by museums, by works of art. We are at the moment within a change in generations, a shift in the tides, as some may phrase it. National Socialism, war and organized genocide will become less and less the living experience of contemporaries to the events. They will become ever more events of history. There is a shift under way from personal memory, individually certified, to a collective memory transmitted by knowledge. The Memorial is the expression of that transition.

This does not portend the end, as some fear, the stony final point in the public dealings with our Nazi past. Rather, it transposes this unsettling memory into the cultural memory of the Germans, though without any reduction in its power to unsettle and disconcert us. The Memorial will still be a point of contention, the dispute about it will continue, of that I am certain. It does not refute all the arguments that have been brought against its creation. It does not claim any monopoly on commemoration. The Information Centre clearly refers to the authentic places of murder and to other memorial sites. Its dedication remains controversial.

Ladies and gentlemen, the opening of such a Memorial is most certainly not an occasion for happy celebration. But for me in my capacity as client for its construction, it is an occasion for expressing my gratitude to all participants for the fact that the decision of the Bundestag has now become a reality.

The initial stimulus for this Memorial came from a citizens’ initiative. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Association and its representatives Lea Rosh and Eberhard Jäckel – for their patient impatience, and the unwavering and persistant commitment with which they have pursued this project down to today.

My thanks to the architect Peter Eisenman for his ingenious design and yes, also for his patience.

I would like to thank Dagmar von Wilcken, the quiet, sensitive and precise designer of the Information Centre.

I owe a debt of great gratitude to the Memorial Yad Vashem and all other memorials which in bonds of friendship supported us in many and diverse ways. The fact that Yad Vashem is working together with us should truly not be considered something to be taken for granted. It puts us to shame. This cooperation puts us to shame, it honours us, it challenges us for the future.

My sincere thanks to the Jewish families, the survivors of the Holocaust, who opened their personal archives for us, placing the testimonials of their life and suffering at our disposal.

I would like to thank the Board of Trustees, the Advisory Board and the Executive Office of the Foundation for their spirited discussion and diligent work.

And last but not least, my thanks to all those who had a hand, very literally, in the practical realization of the project: the construction offices and firms, the artisans, the construction workers.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a sculpture you can walk through which – and this is very much my personal sense – unfolds a great emotional power. It is a symbol in concrete for the utter incomprehensibility of the crime.

It is, in the true sense of the word, an open work of art. Open toward the city, the spatial surroundings into which it extends. Open for diverse individual use: you cannot walk through this Memorial »collectively«, it is an experience which is isolating. For the visitor, it makes possible an emotional and sensual conception of isolation, torment, threat. It forces nothing upon us.

It is my hope that individuals, and particularly young people of normal average sensitivity, will sense this. That they will feel the expressive force of this Memorial beyond all conception. That they will be touched and moved by it, and will feel a desire to visit the Information Centre with questions in their mind and heart. Here the victims receive a name, a face, a fate. Who can elude the power of that! And then will return to walk again through the Field of Stelae, inwardly mindful of the victims.

That is how it can be. That is the intent. Not a kind of negative nostalgia but a commemorating of the victims that obligates us for the present and future: to a culture of humanity, of recognition, of tolerance in a society and country in which we can dare to be different as human beings and not be afraid.

Speech by Dr. h.c. Paul Spiegel, President of the Central Council of the Jews in Germany, at the inaugiration of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Mr. President, Mr. President of the Bundestag, Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President of the Bundesrat, respected deputies, Your Excellencies, Your Eminences, distinguished rabbis, presidents and directors, Mr. Eisenman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

When in 1945 the Allies liberated the concentration and extermination camps, many survivors believed that with the end of the Holocaust, the scourge of anti-Semitism had been overcome. Today, 60 years later, the Nobel Prize laureate and Buchenwald survivor Elie Wiesel recognizes with deep concern his naivete at that time: »If people had told me in 1945 that I would be fighting against anti-Semitism in 2005, I would never had believed it. Now the danger is here once again.« Wiesel fears that remembrance can be reduced to something banal as the result of dealing irresponsibly with historical truth. He thinks that is happening today in some of the media and in films.

The memorials and monuments at the former sites of extermination attempt to work against this development. As far as possible, they were dedicated to preserving and passing on the historical truth. The remembrance of the inconceivable enshrined in these spaces serves a single end: to prevent a catastrophe comparable to the National Socialist crime against humanity from ever occurring again. For that reason, at the centre of youth projects, exhibitions and initiatives against racism and anti-Semitism there always loom two questions: »Why were members of a civilized people in the heart of Europe capable of planning and carrying out a mass murder?« And: »How could all that have happened?« These central questions also refer to the victims, but above all they point to the motives and actions of the perpetrators.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe honours the victims of National Socialist tyranny yet indirectly also points to the perpetrators. The perpetrators and accomplices of the past and those who share their views today do not have to feel they are being directly addressed when they visit the Memorial. The monument itself  eludes the question of »why?«, avoiding any pronouncement about the guilty or the causes and reasons behind the catastrophe of the war. With the best of intentions and in an artistically impressive form, the conception of the Jews as a people of victims was cast instead in the form of 2,711 concrete stelae. The memorializing of those murdered spares the observer any confrontation with questions of guilt and responsibility. Against this backdrop, the Information Centre is an indispensable supplement to the Memorial. Yet experience shows that only a fraction of visitors will ever take the trouble to deepen the impressions they have gained in the Field of Stelae by means of additional facts. Ultimately, after all, the majority of the population in Germany and in other countries mistakenly think they know quite enough about the Holocaust, and are even saturated with information about the Nazi era. For that reason, it would have been desirable to thematise the motives of the perpetrators in the Memorial, in this way facilitating a direct confrontation with the deed and its perpetrators.

Ladies and gentlemen, my objections are related to what I think is the incomplete message of the Memorial. Yet quite apart from that, it is important for me today, in view of the solidarity with the Jewish community expressed by this structure, to emphasize my respect and appreciation for the project in its entirety. The tenacity and passion with which the initiators of the Memorial, especially Lea Rosh and Professor Jäckel, have been fighting now for some 15 years for the realisation of their project have left a deep impression on me. I would like in this connection to stress the importance of the decision adopted by the German Bundestag to establish the Memorial. The associated commitment on the part of all parliamentary groups to engage themselves over the longer term as well for preserving the memory of the crimes committed by Germans during WW II was a significant and necessary move in the struggle against forgetting.

The same holds for the public debate which accompanied the planning and genesis of the Memorial over the years. The argument, which at times stirred deep emotions, provided many notable contributions to German-Jewish discourse on a past which still remains burdened by events. Unfortunately this discussion contained the danger of creating a hierarchy of the victims and of pain suffered. But in the face of torture and death, there can be no gradation in the degree of individual suffering. The pain and sorrow over the loss suffered are great in every family touched by the catastrophe. This is why I emphatically support the demand of other groups of victims for dignified public places for their own memorialization.

It is regrettable that the debate over the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe took such a direction. This all the more so because the history of its genesis points to the fact that this is the official memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany in memory of the murder of the European Jews. Not, as was often mistakenly presented, the central place of remembrance of the Jews in Germany.

Aside from the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem in Israel, our places of mourning and remembrance exist, and have so for over 70 years. They are the former concentration and extermination camps, the mass graves, the sites for shooting and torture, the ramps from where persons were deported in cattle cars. And the many places across Germany where are our synagogues and community halls went up in flames. Here immeasurable suffering was inflicted on the members of families, relatives, friends and countless nameless victims. Here we were humiliated by our neighbours and fellow Germans, betrayed. And millions of us were murdered in the most cruel and horrible manner. Nowhere are we nearer to the dead, nowhere is there a more direct and comprehensive access to the atrocities perpetrated by the National Socialists than at these authentic sites. This feeling was only recently stirred anew by a moving event when during construction work on the grounds of the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen layers of human ashes were discovered, up to one and a half metres deep: the remains of tens of thousands of murdered prisoners. In 2005, in 150 mass urns each weighing 30 kilograms, the dead have now found their final resting place. The ceremonial burial on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp underscores once again the exceptional importance of the authentic places of remembrance. These are always also places for the peace of the dead. For that reason, it would be not only regrettable but a downright scandal if these sites of remembrance over the longer term were to pay a price for the creation of the »Holocaust Memorial«. Aside from that: without historical memory, without the authentic places of annihilation, every abstract memorial will, in the long run, lose its effect as a sign against forgetting.

Ladies and gentlemen, the dedication of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe falls together in time with the remembrance of the liberation of the concentration camps and the end of WW II 60 years ago. 8 May 1945 is the day of liberation from the National Socialist regime of terror. A liberation for all surviving victims of that tyranny and their descendants. Those who still regard that day as marking the defeat of Germany should ponder what really would have become of Germany had National Socialism been victorious. Because only the end of the National Socialist regime of injustice made it possible for all of us to have a life in freedom. Last weekend, tens of thousands of citizens, in the spirit of that conviction, came together from all spheres of society. And here in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz they made an impressive, encouraging and necessary demonstration of support for democracy, tolerance and open-mindedness in Germany.

Ladies and gentlemen, in these days we remember and commemorate the millions of murdered Jews, murdered members of the people of Sinti and Roma, the homosexuals and all others persecuted for political, ethnic and religious reasons, as well as the innocent victims of war and tyranny among the German civilian population. But this is also a time in which we remember in gratitude and respect the survivors and contemporary witnesses of those times whose descriptions provide us with some glimpse of the inconceivable. The time remaining for them to give testimony is limited. For that reason, those who come after have the historical duty to pass on the legacy of these contemporary witnesses. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is not an authentic site. And yet I hope that this Memorial will touch the heart and conscience of every visitor. May it contribute to keeping alive the memory which threatens to grow dim as the voices of the contemporary witnesses to the Holocaust fall silent.

Speech by the Architect Peter Eisenman at the inaugiration of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Mr. Chancellor,
Mr. Bundespresident,
Members of the Kuratorium,
Distinguished Guests,
my Family,
my Friends,
my Colleagues!

I speak as an architect and as just another human being; this is a momentous day for all of us. It is and has been a humbling experience. I am proud to have had the opportunity to work together with my colleagues and with members of the Kuratorium to finally be here today. Yes, there has been debate, controversy, and disagreement among us, as Paul Spiegel has pointed out. But this is healthy, and I believe it has brought us to a better project than when we began. It is clear we will not have solved all of the problems, or have satisfied everyone present. But this cannot have been our intention. To have done so would have been to have done nothing. To have known our result before we began, we would not have begun. Much of what we have produced is the result of the confidence that the members of the Kuratorium had that we would together succeed. But today’s success is not our purpose, for it is only transitory. Rather, our purposes have been twofold.

First was to establish a permanent memory, to record what has been in this capital city. Second, and perhaps more importantly, was to begin a debate with the openendness that is proposed by such a project, allowing future generations to draw their own conclusions. Not to direct them what to think, but to allow them to think.

For these reasons we have challenged most existing ideas of what a memorial could be. We were not trying to be provocative in itself but rather attempting something that would simply convey the ordinariness, the mundanedness, that all of those who suffered experienced. And perhaps it is in this simplicity that the work becomes provocative.

In this course we have all taken risks, but for me personally, I have learned when to fight for what I believed was right for the memorial, as well as to back down when I was wrong. I want to say that I was wrong about the inclusion of the Ort. I think the Ort and the field together are very important. As the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben writes in »Die Zeit« this week: there are two ideas of memory. One is the unforgettable, which is the silence of the field; the other is the memorable, which is recorded in the archives, in the Ort. Together they are what make this memorial possible. 

As I said at the beginning, this experience has been humbling, and it is important for me to reiterate that. But perhaps most of all, through this process I have become closer to my Jewishness. Orthodox or reform, religious or secular, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, German or Pole, we were all the same in their eyes.

For now it remains for me to become silent, to give this memorial to the German people, now and in the future, and to let your memorial speak to and for the German people and to the world. At heart I am a New Yorker, but from today, part of my soul will always remain here in Berlin.

Thank you.

Speech by the Holocaust survivor Sabina van der Linden, née Haberman, at the inaugiration of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Chairman of Yad Vashem,
my dear Holocaust-survivors,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

Not even in my wildest dreams could I have dreamed of this extraordinary day. Here, in this very place, after many years of controversies, public disputes, debates that have taken place and the Bundestag Resolution of the 25 June 1999 the vision of Lea Rosh and the people around her has come true. And today I am standing here before you at the inauguration of this magnificent Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and I thank you for it. I am humbled by the honor bestowed on me and overwhelmed by the responsibility. For I am the voice of the six million tortured and murdered Jews of which one and a half million were children and I am also the voice of the lucky few – the voice of survivors.

I am the only one of my whole family who survived. I am a witness to the unbearable crimes against the humanity. Try not to see the elderly woman standing before you, but an 11 year old girl from Boryslaw, a small town in former Poland. The date is the 1 July 1941, a significant date – the German army occupies our town. Three days later: a pogrom lasting two days, the first taste of what our life was going to be under the rule of Nazi Germany. German authorities have given a »free hand« to the Ukrainian and Poles who attacked their unprotected Jewish neighbours. I, an 11 year old child, witness indescribable cruelty, murders, rape and torture. Bewilderment, total incomprehension – why? Why is this happening? How can people, ordinary people be so heartless and cruel? Why is it happening to us? We did not do anything wrong. Weeks pass. I have to wear an armband with the Jewish star, why? I am not allowed to keep my bellowed dog and cat, why? My friends are not allowed to play with me anymore; I am not allowed to go to school, why?

The time passes and the killings and deportations continue. The despair, degradations, hunger, humiliations – and still desperately trying to cling to the last shreds of dignity, This has become our daily life. On the 6 August [1942] an »Aktion« lasting three days begins. My mother and I are in hiding, but our place is discovered and we are taken to a place where a selection is made. I am hanging desperately to my mother’s hand but I am brutally separated from her and taken out to work to a different place from where I am released after a few days. I never see my mother again. It was not after many months later that the rumors reached us about the Belzec death camp, and this is where she an the five thousand other Jewish victims from the same transport were put to death by gassing.

And again the daily life, if one could call it life, devoid of any hope continued. From »Aktion« to »Aktion«, trying to hide, building bunkers in the forest, escaping deportation – the struggle to survive, the mean desperate struggle. And the fear, paralyzing fear …

My father and my brother Joseph were looking for a safe haven for me. So they approached some of our Christian friends asking if they would shelter me. And those descent, brave people have taken me into their home risking their own lives, because hiding a Jew was punishable by death. And so I lived controlling my emotions, hiding my identity, in constant fear of discovery. And when it became too dangerous for our friends to protect me any longer my brother took me to the bunker in the forest which he and his friend have built. Whilst I was hiding in the forest, my father, my brother and my brother’s best friend were in the labor camp. They tried to escape but they were caught and as a warning to other Jews who were still in the camp they were killed on the order of the inspector of the camp. It was in the morning on the 19 July 1944. Seventeen days later, on the 6th of August, the Soviet Army liberated our small town Boryslaw.

It happened such a long time ago, 60 years ago. Memories fade slightly but are never forgotten. And what are my thoughts and my feelings as I stand here before you gazing at my family, my son and daughter, their partners, my grandchildren and my husband who all traveled from far away Australia to be with me, to protect me with their love and support? What have I learned from my bitter experience? I have learned that hatred begets hatred. I have learned that we must not remain silent and that each of us as an individual must fight the evil of racism, discrimination, prejudice, inhumanity. I have repeatedly said that I do not believe in the collective guilt. And if I may paraphrase the great writer and an exceptional man Elie Wiesel: »The children of the killers are not killers. We must never blame them for what their elders did. But we can hold them responsible for what they do with the memory of their elder’s crime.«

It has been the lot of out people to confront the worst manifestation of evil in the human history, and yet our oppressors have perished and we have survived.

And from this perspective we face out future, confident in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit over brute force. A victory not only for Jewish people but a victory of all decent people over evil.

Ladies and gentleman, thank you.

Speech by Lea Rosh, Director of the Association Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, at the inaugiration of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Mr. President, Mr. Bundestag President, Mr. Chancellor, the Honourable Mayor of Berlin, respected guests from Israel,

First I wish to express my special greetings of welcome to the survivors of the Holocaust here today.

My heart is full of sorrow. And gratitude. Deep sorrow for those murdered. The millions of murdered Jews. The tears for them would, one imagines, come to fill an ocean. The crime of which they were victims is so incomparable, so singular, so horrifying, so immense that we may think the very sun should have to wrap itself forever more in grief and mourning. But the sun shone and continues to shine. No poems more after Auschwitz? Poems continued to be written. Most certainly. But also poems against the forgetting. I would like to recite to a short poem by Johannes Bobrowski. It is entitled »Elderberry Blossom«.

Babel comes,
He says: in the pogrom,
when I was a child,
they tore the head off
my dove.

Houses along a street of wood,
With fences, and elderberry above.
The threshold was scrubbed white,
And down the small stairway -
back then, you know,
the trail of blood.

You people you say: forget –
Young people come,
Their laughter like the bushes of elder.
Oh may those bushes
die from all your forgetfulness.

No, they should not have to die still another death. We want to prevent their obliteration from falling victim to a comfortable forgetfulness. With this Memorial, we wished to preserve the memory of this singular event. With this Memorial, we wished to honour those murdered. We wished with this Memorial to give back to those murdered their names. We are profoundly grateful that we have succeeded in this venture.

Who are »we«? We are the citizens of this country, women and men, non-Jewish Germans who have fought 17 long years for this Memorial. Many of them are among us today. And I have the honour to speak in their name. Let me express to you my profound respect and gratitude for the fact that over the many years, since 1988, you stuck resolutely to the task and did not fall prey to confusion, that you remained steadfast. And that month after month you made your contribution, both material and in spirit, in so doing strengthening the determination of the executive committee of this citizens’ initiative. Again and again you gave us renewed courage to continue to promote the project of the Memorial. My thanks to you all.

And my thanks to Yad Vashem, who have given us, the progeny of the perpetrators, the names of their Jewish victims. So that we might be able to name those names. We, the members of the Association, who approached Yad Vashem with this idea, will continue to work for the goal if possible all the names of the victims, all of them, shall one day be visible and audible in the »Room of Names«.

But I owe a debt of gratitude to others as well. For me there are seven persons in particular who, without their help, I would not be standing here today. Without whom we could not today open this Memorial.

First and foremost, Eberhard Jäckel. Eberhard, everything is owed to you. You had the idea, the first spark, which you passed on to me. It was in Yad Vashem, in 1988, we were filming a TV documentary for the ARD (Channel One) on the murder of the European Jews. And you turned and said to me: »We have to have a memorial in Germany that commemorates this event. That honours the Jewish victims, naming them by their names.« And I said to you: »OK then, let’s build that memorial to the murdered European Jews.« Eberhard, I want to thank you.

Then there is Jakob Schulze-Rohr, my husband. Every time I was about to become weak, every time I came home in those many difficult years and said: »That’s it, enough, we’re giving up«, you were there like a solid rock in the surge. »Give up?« You were always very composed and totally resolute. »Giving up« for you was out of the question. And so for me too it was no longer an option. Jakob, I want to thank you for that.

Then there were Edzard Reuter and Marcus Bierich. Without their help, without their totally private funding to finance our beginning, we would never have been able to launch our first publicity campaign. The names Daimler-Benz Co. and Robert Bosch Ltd. Certainly also opened many doors that we tried to pass through. My thanks for that to Edzard Reuter.

Then I must mention the former Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl. With his decision, entirely on his own authority, to reject the prize-winning design of the first competition, favoured by us, the famous name plaque with a place for six million first and family names, he provided us and the committees that had decided to approve this design with a stunning disappointment. Nonetheless, Helmut Kohl wanted the Memorial, a memorial. And during his tenure as Chancellor he truly fought for this idea, launching it on its irreversible path to realization. Our thanks to him for that effort.

But for that path we had urgent need of Hans-Jochen Vogel. Hans-Jochen Vogel has always been for the memorial. He has always been on our side and at our side. And he was the one who together with us in the Social Democratic parliamentary group argued and struggled decisively and eloquently against the attempt to create a Holocaust Museum in place of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. We have never forgotten that moment. Our deepest thanks to you for your help and spirited engagement.

And then, finally, there was a woman, Elke Leonhard. At the time, Elke was spokesperson for cultural policy of the Social Democratic parliamentary group and chair of the Bundestag Committee for Culture and the Media. She saw to it there was a debate on the Memorial, pushed through against all the resistance and much opposition. Since this debate and the decision in the parliament for the Memorial, since that 25 June 1999, we were able to rest assured, certain that in the country of the perpetrators, a memorial would be built for the murdered Jews of Europe, honouring their memory. Elke, our thanks to you for this.

The debate in the Bundestag. I was surprised and relieved by the intellectual acuity of the contributions to that debate and the determination of the many champions who argued for creation of the Memorial. We have already heard it time and again, the act is unparalleled. No where to date on this planet has a people recognized its greatest crime, making it for ever visible in the centre of its capital, so clearly and unmistakably honouring the memory of those it murdered. Jakob Schulze-Rohr formulated it in this way: »Now it’s easier to live in this country.«

Again and again, despite all the explanation and reasons given, people ask me why I and Eberhard Jäckel were so determined in wanting this Memorial. I’d like to explain it now. When we were shooting our TV documentary on the murder of the European Jews, we went to where they had been murdered, to Poland. We went to six extermination sites. We were in Chelmno and in Sobibor and in Belzec and in Treblinka and in Majdanek and in Auschwitz. It was horrible.

In Auschwitz there were the gas chambers. In Majdanek the ovens. In Treblinka the railroad tracks ending at a ramp. In Sobibor a pile of ashes many metres high, and at the foot of the mountain, bones. In Chelmno the small castle next to the church from where the gas vans departed. And in Belzec the long trenches into which the victims were thrown even while they were still alive.

In Belzec, in the sand, next to one of the long graves, I found this tooth. It’s a molar. There were other teeth lying there, in the sand. But I picked this one up and took it. I held it tight in my hand. And at that moment I promised myself, I swore that we would build a memorial for those murdered. And that this tooth would find its place in that memorial. Today, almost exactly 17 years later, I can keep that promise. Because I arranged with Peter Eisenman for him to create a place in the Field of Stelae, in one of the blocks, where this tooth will lie.

And then there is this yellow star given to me by a woman in Amsterdam. It belonged to her mother. She pressed it into her daughter’s hand before she was taken away, »for conscripted labour, in the East«. As a token of remembrance, because perhaps she sensed that her life would be extinguished in this »conscripted labour, in the East«. When the woman gave me the star of her mother, she began to cry bitterly. I promised her that it would receive a worthy, dignified place. Today, after 17 years, I can keep that promise. It will lie in a stele, next to the molar.

I want to quote from a very moving letter a friend wrote to me. He says there: »Now,  what no one believed and few dared to hope has become reality. There’s a place now where all those who found no other grave than ›in the air‹ have something earth-bound, their stele. They have finally arrived where all human beings belong in the end: on and in the earth.«

The tooth will be placed there. The star will be placed there. The murdered have no graves.* But this Memorial will stand for that grave. It will also preserve the names of those murdered. It is meant to keep alive the memory of the victims, of the deed. It is not a memorial that intends to prove enlightenment about the perpetrators. It is a memorial for the victims.

We owe a debt of great gratitude to all those who have made this possible. And our thanks also to Wolfgang Thierse.

* Some days after her speach, Lea Rosh resigned from this project.

The program and all the speeches of the opening ceremony, you can download here as a PDF.