The Holocaust Memorial is immense and surprising. From the Brandenburg Gate or Potsdamerplatz you observe the expanse. Below the flag of the American Embassy dozens, hundreds, then thousands of concrete stelae stand in a field, a strange crop. The whole scene is like little else you’ll ever see.
Alone, as the first snow flakes of winter fell, a bitterly appropriate time to visit. Walking into the edges of the memorial the stones reach knee height, then waist; and all of a sudden you’ll find yourself eclipsed, ten or twelve feet underground. Echoes of voices from school groups and backpackers bounce around, muffled and then loud. It’s disorientating.
Whether by design or blitz, Berlin is a city of spaces. Rivers, stations, train lines, forests and boulevards abound. Belfast is a dense place: no open spaces, with the exception of Writer’s Square and City Hall. All the other parks are outside of the city centre, away from the public glare — an trace of our troubles gone by, no doubt. No open space the size of the memorial exists in Belfast. Amidst the office buildings of Donegal Square, if City Hall was removed you’d barely have enough space to fit this memorial in.
Cinema, gaming, or history; my chosen genre is war. I love the artefacts in Jersey and the French coastal battlements, I want to visit northern France and Belgium, I want to visit Malta. I couldn’t go to Berlin and not take in some of the human side of war. I hadn’t time to get outside the city to visit a concentration camp.
Pitched battles across fields and cities are a part of war, accepted and taken for granted. Soldiers die, damage is done, this is the basic price of war. Collectively and individually we mourn our lost ones, we are assured they fought bravely. However, it is the human tragedy, the callous waste, the hateful slaughter of this particular conflict that brings the tear to your eye. In this memorial we remember the depths that humanity has reached, and strive to never again let such hatred go untempered.