a memorial for all wars: the Polynational War Memorial

The 60 th Anniversary of WWII in Berlin

By: Jon Brunberg | posted: 5/6/2005 1:00:00 AM


Berlin is preparing for the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II

The hill that leads up to the mausoleum at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park still have some brown spots. Park workers are giving the recently renovated memorial site a new dress of fresh grass just in time for the festivities and ceremonies that will be held here on the 7th and 8th of May to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the german capitulation that ended the second world war on European soil. The city of Berlin wants to make this event a celebration that "marks a stand for tolerance, openness and antiracism" as the Tagesspiegel reports by arranging a "Day of Democracy". The main site for this event is located right next to the city's main monument, the Brandenburger Tor, but there are going to be a lot of events taking place all around the city in remebrance to the horrors of the second world war.

A bit of tension is lingering over the city as well. The neo-nazi movement, which is strong in eastern Berlin, has planned a controversial demonstration trough the city on May 8. The march was planned to end at Brandenburger Tor but have been re-reouted. This will not stop the neo-nazis to try to get there but antiracist activists have promised that they will do everything they can to stop them. Clashes between these groups somewhere in the city is expected. Thousands of people are expected to march trought the city against racism on the same day.

May 7 is the traditional day of celebration for the Russian community in Berlin that commemorates "the day of Victory" when the Soviet Red Army captured Berlin. One of the main festivals will take place in the Russo-German Museum in Kalhorst, which is close to the east Zoo, from 3pm. This is the place where the capitulation was signed by the German forces in 1945.

On may 7 - 8 the "Day of Democracy" will take place at Brandenburger Tor with speeches and other events starting from 11 am. A chain of candles will be made from Brandenburger Tor to Alexanderplats and Karl Marx Alle around 10 pm that night.

May 8 is the day where ceremonies in remebrance to the dead in World War II is taking place. Wraiths will be laid in several ceremonies all around the city. At 10am wraiths will be laid in the Soviet War Memorials in Treptower Park and on the 17th of June Boulevard.

The most spectacular and discussed event is however the opening of the "Memorial to Europe's Murdered Jews" or the "Holocaust Memorial" on a site only 50 meters from the Brandenberger Tor. The memorial is made of 2711 concrete blocks and was designed by the architect Peter Eisenmann. The way from idea to realisation has been marked by controversy and fierce debate since the publisher Lea Rosh and the historian Eberhard J‰ckel first outlined the idea already in 1988. The first proposal, which was the result of a competition made in 1994, was rejected by the German government that issued a new competition in 1997 after tough debates. Peter Eisenmann's proposal won that competition and in 1999 the government decided with a vast majority that the memorial should be built.

Even after the decision there has been ethical decisions that have brought the building process to a temporary halt. In 2003 it was revealed that the company that was providing grafitti-protection to the memorial had a skeleton in their closet. One of its sister companies had manufactured Zyklon B gas that was used in the gas chambers in which millions of jews were killed. This brought the building process to a standstill for several months. Even now that the memorial has been built it is still under threath from extremists that sees it as a needle in their eye. Neo-nazis has thretened to disturb the opening of the monument and they will most likely try to vandalize the memorial site in the near future.

The memorial will be dedicated on May 10 during a special ceremony and thereafter opened for the public on May 12. It will be open 24 hrs a day. The underground information centre will be open daily 9 am to 10 pm.

Jon Brunberg, Berlin, May 6, 2005.

The Holocaust Memorial

1. Preparations at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park
2. The Holocaust Memorial by Peter Eisenmann
3. People gathering outside the Holocaust Memorial to get a sneak preview
Copyright: the Polynational War Memorial 2005.



Part of the series ''60th Anniversary of the End of WWII in Berlin''

A series of articles from the events in Berlin during the anniversary of the end of WWII.

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