Various monuments have been built in many cities around the world in order to remember the Holocaust and the people who suffered during that time. The objective of conducting a research is to learn about how the Holocaust was memorialized in different countries like the United States, Germany, and Israel, the different monuments dedicated to the Holocaust, a comparison of those monuments, and the various issues and concerns related to memorializing events in history like the Holocaust. Part of the research involves the review of various issues that spark controversies and debates regarding the monuments that are dedicated to the Holocaust. Some of the issues include the accuracy of the information embedded on monuments, the kind of architectural structures that are incorporated in the monuments, and the representation of those monuments. These issues will be thoroughly discussed in the succeeding discussions.
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Debates Over Holocaust Monuments
According to Carrier (2006), monuments are popular objects or mediums used to memorialize people or events. However, the primary issue concerning monuments is that they are unnoticeable. Most people pass by monuments every day, but these people do not take the time to look closer and read the inscriptions embedded in them. As a result, most people are unaware about the meaning and symbolism of public monuments. In terms of memorializing the Holocaust, many people argue that building monuments may not be the best means of honoring those who were severely afflicted by one of the darkest times in history. Other people, however, insist that monuments play an important role in increasing the awareness of people and that the fault of their neglect of monuments lie with the saturated media that overpower the meaning and symbolism of monuments. Moreover, public and private exhibitions like monuments also lack advertising in order to get people to pay attention to the monuments and care to learn what they represent (Carrier 2006).
The appropriateness of monuments and the amount of advertising surrounding it are minor concerns. In memorializing the Holocaust through monuments, one of the biggest debates and arguments were rooted in the kind of monument that would be adequate for the memorial. Another subject of the argument is whether monuments are the right mediums for this purpose. One of the greatest debates about the Holocaust memorial began in 1989 when Berlin, Germany decided to erect monument in honor of the murdered Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. Aside from building monuments, Berlin also planned to rename the streets and demolish some monuments that were erected in the past (Carrier 2006). The efforts of Berlin, whether concerning monuments or renaming the streets, etc., sparked debates due to the social and cultural implications of Germany’s decision. Other people who support Germany’s efforts focused on the design of the monuments. According to them, the monuments “should be systematically analysed in relation to their specific social context” (Carrier 2006, p. 99). Authenticity is another major issue when it comes to planning and implementing Holocaust memorial efforts. Earlier debates about the project in Berlin were also related to complaints about the inauthentic approaches being taken to remember the Holocaust. “Many people felt the central Holocaust Memorial diverted both funding and attention from ‘authentic’ sites” and people thought, “whether it is impossible, or even desirable to use artistic means and a central site to memorialize the murdered Jews” (Jordan 2006).
Another reason why there was controversy surrounding Berlin’s previous attempt to build monuments in honor of the Holocaust is that some people believe that Germany is more concerned about reconstructing the city. According to those who opposed the “Holocaust Memorial” project, Berlin is more concerned about improving the city’s aesthetics and enhancing its image than focusing on the real reason behind building the monument, which is to honor and show respect to those who suffered and died during the Holocaust as well as their families who are living today. Many people also argue about the exclusivity of the memorial. Apparently, the planned Holocaust Memorial excluded non-Jewish groups and other people are arguing that if they want to be part of the memorial, they should be allowed to do so. The issue about the limitations or regulations of both the design aspect and the people who will be allowed to join the memorial are related to several other control issues when it comes to memorializing the Holocaust. In Berlin, the major groups who were involved with the project had debated over who would take over the Holocaust Memorial event. While there were disputes initially, all groups involved were only able to create a solid plan when control was distributed among them. Therefore, the work on Holocaust memorial and rehauling plans in the city will be a collaborative effort between entrepreneurs willing to fund for the project, private contractors, the city government in Berlin, and the state government in Germany (Jordan 2006).
Overall, the primary issues that surround Holocaust monuments are concerned with: the appropriateness of monuments as mediums or representations to memorialize the Holocaust (1), the need for advertising that comes with ensuring an audience for Holocaust memorials (2), the adequacy of monuments to memorialize the Holocaust (3), the authenticity of the sites that will be built (4), the intentions and motivations of the people or groups who will be involved in the project (5), and the people or groups who will be able to control the outcomes from all aspects (6), like the theme and design of the monument, the people who will be involved in the memorial, among others. These issues will be cited and referenced in the latter part of the research where ideals or standards in Holocaust memorials using monuments will be discussed.
Holocaust Memorial Monuments
Based on research, there are various Holocaust memorial monuments in different countries. In Vienna, Austria, for instance, there is a monument called the Holocaust-Denkmal, which was built to honor the 65,000 Austrian Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. The monument sits in the center, the Judenplatz square. The monument is square, pale, and simple with markings that resemble the entrance of synagogues. It is open for anyone and people usually visit the monument and leave flowers by the door markings (Bedford & Eberle 2007). The Jewish Ghetto, called The Pit, is a monument in Minsk, Belarus, which was built atop the site where Jews were kept under as forced labor. The Jews who were captured and sent to the ghettos suffered from hunger and abuse. The monument depicts how the Jews lived at The Pit because it shows shapes of human beings who seemed to be chained to one another (Elliott, Horton, & Kokker 2006). The dark and eerie nature of the monument contrast with the simple design of the monument in Vienna. In Belgium, a National Monument to the Jewish Martyrs of Belgium was erected in order to honor the Jews who fought for the Belgian Army during the Holocaust (Ehrlich 2008). The monument is a tall embedded with a scroll on fire and atop the monument are a man, a woman, and a child. Compared to the other monuments, it has rather old and industrial look.
Another Holocaust monument could be found in Czech Republic. The memorial ground in the country is rather unique because it is not entirely a monument but an enclosed space where people put stones on earth beds. The stones contain all the name of people who died during the Holocaust. Compared to the other monuments, the one in Czech Republic seems to allow more engagement from people because those who want to be involved can get a rock and write the names of those who they want to honor and leave it there (Nowak 1999). Known for its art, Paris has also erected a monument to honor the 76,000 victims of the Holocaust who were deported from France. The monument can be found in Geoffroy-l'Asnier. Under the monument there is an underground graveyard where the ashes of those who died are buried. People can also explore and learn about the history of the Holocaust by visiting the museum behind it. The monument is as simple as the one in Vienna, although it looks bigger. The monument is a raised rectangular stone with the Star of David and a message in French engraved on it (Steves, Smith & Openshaw 2010). A unique monument could also be found in Greece. In Thessaloniki, there is a small monument built as a means to remember all those who died when the Germans invaded Eastern Crete. Greek lost a majority of their Jew population during the Holocaust (Mazower 2006).
In Germany, there are a number of built monuments, including the ones in Berlin and in Hamburg. The “Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe” in Berlin was designed by Eisenman. The structure consists of different blocks called stelae and is notable for housing a list of all the names of Jews who died during the war. Since the monument was built in 2003, the structure looks modern and minimalistic (MobileReference 2007). The monument in Hamburg, on the other hand, is also minimalistic but it looks older than the one in Berlin. In the block, 1933 is engraved (DeCoste & Schwartz 2000). In Israel, the Hall of Remembrance was built in order to help people remember those who were lost during the war. The Hall of Remembrance is a space where people can view several exhibits in different areas around it. Other monuments that were built in Israel include the Pillar of Heroism is a tall monument, following a concave, and simply embedded with messages in Hebrew (Habib 2004). The Memorial to Jewish Soldiers contains six large tablets or blocks set atop each other in two groups and separated by a thin sword in the middle. The Star of David is embedded in the sword (Wertheimer 2007).
In the United States, there are various monuments in Florida, Brooklyn, California, and Louisiana as well. In Florida, the Martyrs Monument was built inside the Lakeside Memorial Park. The monument was built inside a fountain. It is shaped like a big hand reaching out to the sky (Syonzi & National Jewish Resource Center 1985). In Brooklyn, the Holocaust Monument is in the form of blocks of graves distributed around a path that leads to a museum. The museum in California, on the other hand, is a much more graphic monument because there are many children who are lying dead on the ground. Aside from the monuments that were mentioned, there are also Holocaust monuments in New Orleans, which is the most colorful one among those researched, one in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and New England, which looks similar to an elevator made of glass windows (Godfrey 2007).
Remembering those who lost and sacrificed their lives is very important part of our becoming attuned to our culture and history. Therefore, memorials like the ones built and conducted for the victims of the Holocaust play an important role in helping us remember events that happened in the past. However, building monuments to memorialize Holocaust is ridden with various issues that must be appropriately addressed before hand. For one, groups and organizers must make sure the monument is a proper medium for the intentions and motivations in memorializing the Holocaust. A thorough evaluation must also be done to make sure that the monument would be adequate, authentic, and would represent the meaning and the symbols of Holocaust. Another important issue is how the organizers and creators would ensure that the monument would attract attention, because nowadays, not many people notice them or take the time to learn and research about them. Thus, advertising is also a very important component of memorializing the Holocaust by building monuments. The design is also part of advertising because the more striking and interesting the monuments are, the more likely people will get curious, attempt to learn what the monuments represent, and consequently end up joining the cause in remembering the victims of the Holocaust.
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