The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin is one of many tributes to the millions of people who were tortured, executed, and ethnically cleansed by the evil Nazi regime.
Remembering history, and to do so from the perspectives of the marginalized, is one of the most important ways we can educate ourselves as human beings and global citizens.
It is for this reason that I chose to visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe when I was in Berlin.
Here is my experience laid out for you, what to expect, why you should go, and how to plan for this day.
History of the Memorial
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was designed by Peter Eisenman, an American architect.
It covers 27,527 square feet of ground and houses 2,711 concrete slabs of varying height. There is no gate or line to enter this area, and it is open from all sides.
It was created in order to remember the fallen Jews, and has come under heavy controversy and criticism. I encourage you to read the different perspectives brought to light from visiting this memorial, including this article from The New Yorker.
How to Plan Your Visit
The memorial is located near Brandenburg Gate and Tiergarten Park.
It does not require a ticket to enter the memorial or the museum underground.
Honestly, my visit was impromptu. I didn’t know if I would have the time in my recent trip to Berlin to fully visit the memorial and museum. I decided to set aside the hours to go, and I’m very glad I did.
My recommendation is to spend at least 1.5 to 2 hours in the museum underground, and expect to wait roughly 15-30 minutes in line. It is open from 10am to 8pm from April to September, and from 10am to 7pm October to March. Days of operation are Tuesday to Sunday.
You do not have to pay to go inside, but the museum staff will stagger entry for visitors so that the museum does not get too crowded.
Once you enter the museum, you will have to go through security. Afterwards, you can leave your belongings at the coat check, and rent an audio guide for 3 euros. I chose not to, because I prefer to read the plaques silently.
Why You Should Go
True remembrance of atrocities like the Holocaust is incredibly important. We must know the horrors that human beings are capable of inflicting upon others. I believe everyone should visit museums that tell the truths of such periods in history and modern-day occurrences.
However, please be a responsible, respectful visitor. Like many, I was deeply disappointed and disheartened at the amount of people who treat the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as a playground.
The memorial does not exist for our entertainment.
It is not a toy, hang out spot, or lunch venue.
Likewise, it is not the place to take a smiling selfie, do cartwheels between the stelae, or jump on them.
So, if you go, prepare yourself mentally to see others treat the memorial like this. And please do not treat it in the same way.
What to Expect
The museum is a self-guided tour. You will begin by reading the stories of Jews in the years of Hitler’s rise to power.
The museum exhibits detail how the genocide began in small actions to restrict Jews, including curfews, rules against their businesses, and other laws meant to exclude them.
It then explains how the regime began to place Jews in ghettos, which they later liquidated, sending the Jews to work camps. The work camps then housed other people groups the Nazis intended to exterminate, and Jews went to death camps instead.
Through the timeline, the museum explains in detail how the sequence of events happened.
You will also get to read the stories of Jews who went to concentration camps, and there is a map showing where they were from.
I read stories for hours, and still didn’t get to them all. The gravity of these stories, of how so many innocent people were murdered, is heavy.
I am grateful for the opportunity to learn the truth about periods of history such as the Holocaust. However, that does not make museum visits like this one easy. Not at all.
I would go again, and read the stories I did not the first time. There are so many that the museum exhibits, that it is emotionally exhausting to read them all. I say this not to complain, but to try to mentally prepare you for how difficult it is to read them.
I remember seeing one story of a Jewish family from Eastern Europe, and there was a photo of a smiling baby. The plaque explains that the entire family was never seen again after the Nazis marched on their hometown.
That baby’s face stays on my mind.
Visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe made me contemplate what it means to be an informed, respectful traveler, and how I can better implement this in my own life. It also taught me even more about the Holocaust, which I strive to learn more about.
When I looked at the map showing where the murdered Jews were from, I noticed a large concentration in Ukraine, which is where I’ve lived before.
I gained the most information from visiting the museum. Please set aside the time to go there when you’re in Berlin.
Honestly, I found it problematic that the aboveground memorial does not specifically detail why it exists. There are no victims’ names etched on the stelae, there is no way of knowing what this exists for, aside from prior knowledge that is often gained online.
Similar to Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, this visit has made me want to learn more about the Holocaust, and to read more stories from their perspectives.
. . .
In total, I think everyone should go to a memorial like this one, but please visit the museum. This is where the visit becomes more real, tangible, and respectful.
Before I visited, I read several accounts of people frustrated with other visitors of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and with the way it was built.
I must admit, I understand why they are upset.
The museum is free, informative, allows for time to contemplate, and tells the truth of the Holocaust from the perspectives of Jews whose lives were savagely taken from them.
If you go, allow yourself plenty of time to see it, and spend ample time in contemplation.
I hope it changes you as much as it changed me.
*Cover photo by Craig Cooper. Thanks, Craig!
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