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Berlin's Holocaust memorial is falling apart

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Berlin's Holocaust memorial is falling apart
Photo: DPA
13:00 CEST+02:00
More than 80 percent of the 2,711 concrete blocks in Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe have been damaged. Dozens have been reinforced with steel and one is missing, the memorial's foundation announced on Thursday.

Since its opening nine years ago, 44 of the 2,711 columns in the €27-million landmark have needed steel reinforcement, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that another 380 steel collars have been ordered to keep the landmark safe for visitors.

The paper said that 2,200 of the 2,711 concrete stones were now damaged.

In 2010, two columns were lifted via crane and transported to the Aachen Institute for Building Research, where they were examined for the possible cause of decay, but one has still not been returned.

According to the foundation, the missing column remains in Aachen where a material sample is being taken.  

Designed by US architect Peter Eisenman, the memorial near the Brandenburg Gate came under staunch criticism when the first cracks were discovered, shortly after it opened. When it was unveiled in late 2004, Eisenman described the material used as “the best concrete Berlin has ever seen”.

But on Friday, the 81-year-old said the fault lay with the memorial's foundation. “Things have been changed to save money,” he told Stern.de, adding he would not be paying for the damage.

But Uwe Neumärker from the foundation said the method of upkeep was agreed upon before construction. “It’s not been decided behind anyone’s back,” he said.

And the question of who should be held responsible for the decay of the stones remains paramount, as estimated repair costs could reach millions of euros.

In 2012, at the request of the memorial's foundation and the city’s development department, the Berlin regional court opened an investigation into the construction company.

The probe aims to determine the cause of the memorial's decay, and thereby find out if the construction firm should be held accountable.

But memorial lobbyist Leah Rosh feels that the increased focus on the memorial's decay is unnecessary. "It is completely natural that the concrete would wear a bit," she said.

While many of the blocks, which way up to 16 tonnes, show visible signs of wear and tear, memorial visitors can wander the site without fearing for their safety.

The columns are examined every six months, and those most severely damaged will receive the steel collars, preventing stone crumbling from the up to 4.7-metre high structures.

SEE ALSO: US orders Holocaust relic return

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