The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), also known as the Holocaust Memorial (German: Holocaust-Mahnmal), is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000 square meter (4.7 acre) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38m (7.8') long, 0.95m (3' 1.5") wide and vary in height from 0.2 m to 4.8m (8" to 15'9"). According to Eisenman's project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. A 2005 copy of the Foundation for the Memorial's official English tourist pamphlet, however, states that the design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial, partly because Eisenman did not use any symbolism. An attached underground "Place of Information" (German: Ort der Information) holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.
Building began on April 1, 2003 and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005 and opened to the public on May 12 of the same year. It is located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood. The cost of construction was approximately €25 million.
Before the deadline, the documents required to submit a proposal were requested over 2600 times and 528 proposals were submitted. The jury met on January 15, 1995 to pick the best submission. First, Walter Jens, the president of the Akademie der Künste was elected chairman of the jury. In the following days, all but 13 submissions were eliminated from the race in several rounds of looking through all works. As had already been arranged, the jury met again on March 15. 11 submissions were restored to the race as requested by several jurors, after they had had a chance to review the eliminated works in the months in between the meetings. Two works were then recommended by the jury to the foundation to be checked as to whether they could be completed within the price range given. One was designed by a group around the architect Simon Ungers from Hamburg; it consisted of 85x85 m square of steel girders on top of concrete blocks located on the corners. The names of several extermination camps would be perforated into the girders, so that these would be projected onto objects or people in the area by sunlight. The other winner was a design by Christine Jackob-Marks. Her concept consisted of 100x100 m large concrete plate, 7 meters thick. It would be tilted, rising up to 11 meters and walkable on special paths. The names of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust would be engraved into the concrete, with spaces left empty for those victims whose names remain unknown. Large pieces of debris from Massada, a mountaintop-fortress in Israel, whose Jewish inhabitants killed themselves to avoid being captured or killed by the Roman soldiers rushing in, would be spread over the concrete plate. These plans would eventually be vetoed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Peter Eisenman's plan emerged as the winner of the next competition in November 1997. On June 25, 1999, a large majority of the Bundestag decided in favor of Eisenman's plan, modified by attaching a museum, or "place of information," designed by Berlin-based exhibition designer Dagmar von Wilcken. Across the street from the northern boundary of the memorial is the site of the new Embassy of the United States in Berlin, which is due for completion in 2008. For a while, issues over "set-back" for U.S. embassy construction impacted the memorial. Construction of the memorial started in April 2003.
It is estimated that approximately 3.5 million visitors entered the memorial in the first year it was open, i.e. about 10,000 every day. About 490,000 people also visited the underground "place of information", with about 40% of these being non-Germans. The foundation operating the memorial considered this a success; its head Uwe Neumärker even called the memorial a "tourist magnet". However, swastikas were drawn on the stelae on 5 different occasions in this first year.
Many believe that, instead of spending money on a new memorial, federal funds would have been better spent in supporting pre-existing memorial institutions in Germany and abroad. Just as the Central Council for the Sinti and Roma in Germany criticized the memorial for institutionalizing a hierarchy of the victims of Nazism, some staff at maintained Nazi concentration and death camps (for example) believed that the expensive new monument in Berlin would eclipse other important national, and international, memorial institutions pertaining to the Third Reich and Nazism.
In 1998, German novelist Martin Walser cited the Holocaust Memorial in his public condemnation of Germany's "Holocaust industry." Walser decried the "exploitation of our disgrace for present purposes." He criticized the "monumentalization", and "ceaseless presentation of our shame." "Take all the towns in the world", said Walser. "Check whether in any of these towns there is a memorial of national ignominy. I have never seen such. The Holocaust is not an appropriate subject of a memorial and such memorials should not be constructed..."
The "place of information" has been criticized as breaking with the tradition of having informational museums attached directly to various German Holocaust sites.
Many disability support groups have criticised the fact that the memorial is not entirely wheelchair accessible; however, there are different wheelchair accessible routes through the memorial and an elevator down to the information center.
Nowhere inside the memorial, or around it, does it say what it commemorates. Some think that this is a deliberate attempt to encourage visitors to reach their own conclusions.