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Cracks still plaguing Holocaust memorial

AFP · 1 Apr 2010, 07:43

Published: 01 Apr 2010 07:43 GMT+02:00

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Germany's Holocaust memorial, a solemn maze of concrete grey slabs in central Berlin commemorating the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, split public opinion when it was erected five years ago.

But now, ahead of next month's anniversary, the splits are all too real as a viciously cold winter, inferior building materials and possible building flaws have resulted in cracks in more than two-thirds of the 2,711 columns.

"Can the Holocaust memorial still be saved?" asked mass circulation Bild recently.

The head of the foundation that manages the memorial, which stretches over 19,000 square metres (205,000 square feet) at a site close to the city's famous Brandenburg Gate, said a committee of experts was looking into the problem.

The committee's report should "help to clear up what caused the cracks and who is responsible for them, but also to work out an appropriate method of repairing the damage," Uwe Neumärker said.

"We'll find a solution. Whatever happens it will be repaired. But we don't know exactly when. We have to wait for the results of the report," said Leonie Mechelhoff, the foundation's spokeswoman.

The cracks in the columns, which vary from ankle height to 4.7 metres, "are not dangerous," said Mechelhoff, adding she was confident the monument would be restored quickly to its former state.

But the fissures are the latest in a series of controversies to dog the memorial, situated near the site once occupied by Adolf Hitler's chancellery and the bunker where he committed suicide.

Construction of the memorial was delayed in 2003 when it emerged that the company which made an anti-graffiti covering for the blocks had also supplied Zyklon B, the poison gas used in the Nazi death camps.

When the memorial was unveiled on May 10, 2005, some critics questioned why it did not also pay tribute to the Nazis' non-Jewish victims.

The memorial's architect, Peter Eisenman, said he did not want names on the blocks because he feared that would turn the site into a graveyard when he hoped it would rather be "a place of hope."

Eisenman was also conscious of the dangers of cracking and had originally intended the columns to be made of natural stone, which is less likely to split.

However, due to the higher costs involved, concrete was used instead and the construction work entrusted to German firm Geithner.

The concrete used was not supposed to crack, but Joachim Schulz, an expert in the material, told AFP: "You cannot stop cracks appearing in concrete, you can only reduce their size."

However, "a new procedure was used which had not been sufficiently tested, and that was risky," he added.

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In addition, the slabs were made of "non-reinforced, hollow concrete", making it more vulnerable to cracks, added Schulz, who said it would be "difficult" to repair the columns.

Indeed, the first attempts at "papering" over the cracks in recent months have proved disappointing, on an aesthetic level as well as on a practical level.

"It's a shame that this problem is attracting all the attention," said Mechelhoff. "We would have preferred the slabs to be intact" for the fifth anniversary of the monument's opening, set to be marked by a host of events.

One tourist wandering around the strangely disorientating concrete jungle said he could not believe the damage was so extensive after so short a time.

"I had heard about these cracks," said Andreas Fink, a tourist from Munich in his mid-forties. "I thought they would be worse, but it's still crazy after such a short space of time," he said.

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Your comments about this article

09:33 April 1, 2010 by berlinski
What has happened here is a common occurrence in the building industry. This is a common problem with buildings. Similarly look at what has happened with the Cologne underground network where material was skived off to line the pockets of construction supervisors. Builders skimping on building materials to increase profits is another problem. This sort of practice should be within a courts scope to apply a large detrimental fine to the infringing company. It is only a matter of time before buildings start collapsing and killing inhabitants in this country. Whatever happened to the German tradition of building to last?
19:23 April 1, 2010 by dcgi
Not to be the boring one here but I guess they're also a bit worried about the health and safety aspect of some of the columns cracking. The exhibit is meant for you to be inside it, to hear the warped/distorted/disorientating noises of the traffic/city once you're in it, it's certainly not for just looking at, which, I guess if the columns continue to crack may end up in the exhibit being partially/totally cordoned off.

I'm sure they must have insurance for the build of this thing, if not just to protect against the obvious vandalism from certain types. Shame that this is crumbling so soon.
21:54 April 1, 2010 by Kelly McDonald
I hope the memorial can be saved, I remember reading about the Anne Frank tree and how it might not be saved. If all memorials and monuments disappear the chanced of the past repeating itself is quite possible, a past I'm sure the world would not want to revisit. ( * _ * )
07:13 April 2, 2010 by richard_vijay
The cracks in a way symbolize the story of the "holocaust". A Hollow cracked story.
14:52 April 2, 2010 by mid503
An acquaintance made a similar comment - the three important facts to retain about this site:

* The concrete blocks are plain ugly;

* they're hollow;

* and they have cracks.

If that isn't symbolic, I don't know what is.

It is past time to raze this symbol of emotional blackmail and to return this valuable and important property to citizens for more fitting use.
21:54 April 2, 2010 by Heinz-Reg
I agree totally with richard,and mid503!!!
14:04 April 3, 2010 by sniffey
According to media reports the Berlin Holocaust memorial has started to crumble.

If the desperate attempts by the Zionist Holocaust ¦#39;Industry¦#39; Lobby to silence anyone who dares to question their version of World War ll history is anything to go by, it is not just the memorial that is starting to crumble.

The Zionists have press-ganged ten of the twenty-seven EU countries, as well as Australia, into making it a criminal offence to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. With desperate measures like this, the question must be asked: ¦quot;Do they have something to hide?¦quot;
18:09 April 3, 2010 by wenddiver
This doesn't exactly showcase German technology, get it fixed before the whole world can see.
02:48 April 4, 2010 by janreg58
I've often asked myself why everything can be questioned. God or religion, national leaders, countries borders, and so on, but why is it that the subject of the holocaust is totally off limits. In some countries you can even be put in jail. With todays modern technology, this should be investigated futher, because the numbers keep changing and could be alot higher or alot lower then what is claimed. And the starvation aspect should be completetly removed because German citizens themselves both military and civilian were starving. This lack of food can also cause diseases because your body is weak and more susceptible to diseases.
11:42 April 5, 2010 by green idea factory
Let it degrade and rope off any dangerous sections. Even if it is repaired the debate will continue, so use this as an occasion to invite more response, debate, even performances on the site, etc.

The exclusion of other victims, the memorial shopping mall display location, the horrible street nearby which says as much as about German hubris and ambition than any identified sculpture, the experimental construction process, the uptightness about fashion shoots... those are the things I notice. This is a living sculptural performance.

Let it go to ruin and ask people what this means. Repairs or reparations only do so much.

(I am a first-generation Californian Jew, with parents from what is now Slovakia and what is now Israel)
18:23 April 5, 2010 by William Thirteen
@green idea factory - to which "horrible street nearby" are you referring?

Those interested in the controversies surrounding the building of the memorial may want to read Simone Mangos book "A Monumental Mockery".
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