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Remembering Berlin

December 7, 2010

Visiting Berlin I passed the Reichstag and the Brandenburger Tor, forgot about Checkpoint Charlie and walked straight to the Holocaust Memorial. I would have never wanted to miss this powerful site.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is impressive. It was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and constructed in 2005. As soon as you get the Memorial in sight you know it probably caused a lot of controversy during design and construction phase. But as soon as you enter the Memorial and walk through the labyrinth of concrete monoliths, you become silent.

Holocaust memorial

Holocaust Memorial

The Memorial hosts 2,711 concrete monoliths, or slabs. The monoliths differ in size and height, providing a different view after each corner. You can argue about the controversy of the design not being in line with traditional memorials, but the memorial succeeds in being a disturbing and confusing way of remembering the wounds of history.

Holocaust Memorial

There are so many ways to interpret the concrete monoliths and the way they are lined up. Every single one being (slightly) different, it seems like each monolith has its own story to tell. Like the murdered Jews in Europe who are referred to as numbers so many times, we have to remember them as individuals. Individuals with their own, unique story. For a long time to come, these monoliths will stand with pride, no matter the external influences like weather or controversy.

Holocaust Memorial

Being a labyrinth it also creates beautiful photography challenges. The sunlight creates its own magical effect, especially when it slowly fades away at night. During my stay in Berlin I visited the Memorial twice where the second time it was all covered in snow, intensifying the experience of walking amidst the monoliths.

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial covered in snow

Holocaust Memorial covered in snow

Traveling with children

If you travel with children, don’t worry taking them to the Memorial. They can enjoy the labyrinth and will probably get a bit lost on their way. The contrast between the silent monoliths and children playing is the best way to remember and to heal the wounds at the same time.

Crossing lines

My visit to Berlin was all about crossing lines, invisible lines. Walking the Potsdamer Platz area we crossed an important line several times, without us even knowing it. The line where the Berlin Wall used to be is now an intangible one. However, in several places in Berlin parts of the Wall still stand, to remember the partition between East and West Berlin.

One piece of the Berlin wall

The objective of me visiting Berlin was not a touristic one. I attended a great conference about Business-to-Business Marketing. The conference was mostly about online marketing with keynote speaker Chris Brogan. Chris mentioned that marketing is all about crossing lines once in a while. Cross the lines now and then and you will be noticed. Cross the lines a bit and you will succeed.

Another perspective was Wikileaks. Wikileaks was part of the discussion outside the conference rooms, a hot issue these days. Wikileaks is all about crossing lines we were not aware of earlier. Call these lines ethical or digital, we all seriously believe we have now entered a new phase in the existence of internet.

I have gained a lot of new insights in B-to-B marketing and met awesome new friends! We all crossed the lines between being unknown and being a friend. Berlin could not have been a better place for that.

Glühwein fun with B2B Marketing friends


From → Europe

  1. Love this post! The photography is stunning.

    • Danielle, I didn’t know you lived in Berlin for a while back in 1996. That must have been a great experience. Thanks for your compliments.

  2. What beautiful imagery Emiel! You are quite the photog … :)))
    I enjoyed crossing the line to make new friends in Berlin – hope our paths may all cross again one day.

  3. I didn’t have the heart to stay a minute longer. How did you, knowing what happened? How hard it was to be there, to pass even by the side walk. I am amazed by the photos but beauty is the last thing I see in them. Sadness, shame, disgrace, crimes against humanity, and I am not even Jewish. You were brave to bring it back. A memorial to remember. Thank you my dear friend Emiel and that last photo is AMAZING, I love it!

    • Thanks for your comment. Indeed it’s the visualisation of a terrible memory. I even had the plan to visit Sachsenhausen, but time was lacking. But I have to admit that I am scared to visit that place.
      From a photography point of view there is always this internal discussion you have. Photographers want to record things and bring it out to the public to see. But that includes things that are disgraceful, shameless, even terrifying. Sometimes you stop thinking and focus on the image on your camera. But you are right as this memorial is strong and stirs up a lot of different emotions.
      Thanks for reading and sharing Farnoosh.

      • My history is awful but this is a topic I have seriously avoided – I just googled Sachsenhausen and my heart is racing from reading the little I just read. What dark days. How could you possibly have the heart to walk through it? I am impressed by how brave you are, Emiel. For me, I have to just hope that humanity moves forward never forgetting, even when it’s agonizingly hard to remember.

      • Farnoosh, I am very sorry that I have maybe upset you with this topic. I also strongly believe we should always remember and never ever forget…

  4. Got the same sorrowful feeling at Dachau concentration camp memorial.

  5. maryrichardson permalink

    I would love to return to Berlin and see this monument. I last visited in June of 1989 just months before the wall came down, so it’s meaningful to me that I got to experience the city when it was still divided.

    • Emiel permalink

      Mary, you will not believe this is Berlin.. the city has changed so much since 1989. Definitely worth a visit!

  6. Janhavi Mercury McKenzie permalink

    Hello, I visited Berlin a year ago. It was amazingly beautiful and amazingly hard. I loved the memorial. You captured well my feelings and insights upon experiencing it. I walked out of it with tears in my eyes. I think it takes a lot of courage to have daily reminders of the painful sins inflicted upon one’s land and one’s people. And now the city arises like a Phoenix and becomes something new.
    Thank you for your article and your photos. It was nice to remember…

    • Thanks Janhavi, great comment. I’m happy to learn that I was able to capture your feelings when walking through the Memorial.
      Berlin is an intruiging city. As you mentioned, it arises like no other city. It is vibrating, but always with a certain memory just beneath the surface. We need Memorials like this in order not to forget.

  7. I will be traveling to Berlin next month and I’ll make sure to travel there and see it. Thanks again for the good informative post.

    • Thanks Joseph. I hope you enjoy Berlin and trust you will be impressed by the Memorial.

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