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The Berlin Wall and the Holocaust Memorial
Edit by. So Young Koo | Published. 2018.05.09 20:21 | Count : 165
On a windy day of April, 2018, we headed out Incheon airport.  After a semester of world history, I suggested that we go to Europe for our next holiday destination for a family vacation. I wanted to see what I learned with my own eyes. Our first stop in Europe was Berlin. The city surprised me with its trendy atmosphere surrounded modern architecture. I enjoyed the very trendy atmosphere of Berlin. During the trip, I enjoyed sightseeing around the city and the places that were most impressive to me were the Holocaust Memorial and the Berlin Wall.

First, the Holocaust Memorial, also called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, is a symbolic graveyard with large open space that is covered in vast amounts of grey rectangular concrete slabs in various sizes. This huge Memorial covers 19000m2 and was built by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold. The pair finished the Memorial on December 15, 2004, 60 years after the end of World War 2. Each of these 2,711 slabs represent people who unfortunately lost their lives during the Holocaust. What impressed and surprised me the most was that the memorial looked very different depending on where you were standing. It may seem like a field of concrete blocks when one looks from the sidewalk, but when you follow the trails in between the blocks that descend as you go deeper into the memorial, you can see a very grand pathway which makes you feel like you’ve shrunk. To me, this method of construction seemed that they were showing us that although the Holocaust can be one of the many genocides in history of humanity, to the Germans, it had much more depth to them since it was their own country’s unalterable mistake. Likewise, watching the rows of gray concrete blocks overwhelmed me with a feeling of terror but also of respect. What Hitler and his National Socialist government of Germany did to the Jews is unforgivable, but I imagine that it must have been painful for the German government to start a construction that represents their horrid mistake in recent history. I realized that when you can’t fix your mistake then a more honorable thing to do is to admit it openly and remember to never repeat it. 
 
[Photos of the Memorial of Murdered Jews of Europe. Taken by So Young Koo]
Feeling heavy hearted, we continued our tour to another famous historical site, the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was a divider that separated the East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. It was built by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in August, 1961. The Wall was taken down in 1989. The site surprised me because it looked very different from what I had imagined. I pictured the wall to be a long, grey block of concrete stretched out across Berlin. However, when we arrived, I saw a colorful row of walls that looked somewhat like a graffiti gallery. On every section of the wall, I could see artworks that all had a different style of their own. It was very interesting to see a variety of art styles. One might see a very bright and colorful artwork but when one walks a few steps along the wall, one might see a dull, melancholic work side by side.  All the artworks communicate about unification. An old German car crashing the wall was depicted to celebrate that the wall has been broken down. Another one showed a scene with a large crowd of people flooding from the other side of the split wall which also expressed the same idea.
 
I think that instead of leaving the Berlin wall as a grey blocks of concrete that stretched through the middle of Berlin, expressing the history of Germany through art on the wall was a great idea not only lifting the atmosphere of the city but also making it much more interesting and more motivating for visitors to take a stroll along the wall. The artists expressed Germany’s dark times of being split into two nations and the hopeful future of Germany as a unified nation. The vast collection of the masterpieces creates together a very powerful and inspirational atmosphere.

 
 
[Photos of a part of the Berlin Wall covered with beautiful artworks.
Taken by So Young Koo.]

Visiting these two historical sites and reflecting upon the dark past of the country, I have learnt more about how these historical events closely relate to the mindset and lifestyle of the citizen in a certain country. In addition to that, I was reminded me of our own country, Korea. South Korea is still separated as a result of the Korean War and it still holds hostile relationship with North Korea. Despite a friendly inter-Korea summit between the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and the South Korean president, Moon Jae In, I wonder if there will ever be a day when Korea can be united just like how Germany did in 1990.

 

 










So Young (Ashley) Koo
Grade 9
Seoul Foreign High School

 

So Young Koo  student_reporter@dherald.com

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