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The Holocaust memorial

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Beside the Brandenburg Gate, the dignified and surreal Jewish Holocaust Memorial was unveiled in May 2006 after twenty-three years of planning, debate and building work. It’s the work of New York architect Peter Eisenman, who was inspired by the densely clustered gravestones in Prague’s Jewish graveyard. The entire site – about the size of three football pitches – is covered with 2711 tightly spaced, oblong, dark grey pillars of varying heights. With no single entrance, visitors have to pick their own way through the maze to the centre where the blocks are well above head height and intended to convey a sense of gloom, isolation and solitude. The underground information centre in the southeast corner of the monument, carefully relates the harrowing life stories of selected Jewish victims of the Holocaust; its audio tour is largely unnecessary.

Over the road from the Holocaust Memorial, the fringes of the Tiergarten park hold another concrete oblong: a Gay Holocaust Memorial, which remembers the 54,000 people convicted of homosexual acts under the Nazis, of whom an estimated eight thousand died in concentration camps. Inaugurated by Berlin’s gay mayor Klaus Wowereit in 2008, the four-metre-high monument mimics those commemorating Jewish victims, but leans differently and contains a window behind which a looped film of two men kissing plays.

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