Holocaust memorial gets go-ahead
14 November 2003 , BERLIN - Work on Germany's Holocaust memorial will resume despite deep controversy over the role of a company which produced gas used in Nazi gas chambers, the foundation in charge of the monument announced Thursday.
14 November 2003
BERLIN - Work on Germany's Holocaust memorial will resume despite deep controversy over the role of a company which produced gas used in Nazi gas chambers, the foundation in charge of the monument announced Thursday.
The scandal is over Degussa AG, which is to provide anti-graffiti protection for the Berlin memorial comprised of 2,700 concrete pillars which are also partly made by a Degussa firm.
Some committee members had demanded Degussa be barred from the project because a subsidiary called Degesch - of which it owned 42.5 percent - produced Zyklon B used at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.
This is despite the fact that Degussa is widely regarded as having been exemplary in coming clean about its Nazi past and paying compensation to former slave labourers.
Sacking Degussa would have been costly and could have endangered the whole project, Germany's ARD TV said.
ARD quoted an internal study which warns eliminating Degussa's low-cost services would add EUR2.3 million to the project's cost. This would have meant overshooting the planned budget and a probably a delayed completion date.
Nevertheless, the leader of Berlin's Jewish community, Alexander Brenner, remained fiercely opposed to giving Degussa any role.
"It's pouring salt into old wounds," said Brenner.
Others who had sought to get rid of Degussa included a top mover of the project, Lea Rosh, as well as the vice-president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Salomon Korn.
In contrast, the Jewish-American architect of the memorial, Peter Eisenman, was furious over the bid to kick out Degussa.
"We can no longer hold all Germans responsible for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers and make them hostages of political correctness," said Eisenman in comments to the newspaper Die Zeit.
Eisenmann added that if he had known in advance the project was going to be carried out in this sort of a spirit he would have never gotten involved.
The point of the memorial, Eisenman noted, is not just to come to terms with the past but also to look to the future. Thus, he said, it had been nonsense to try to punish Degussa.
This is echoed by a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, Avi Primor, who says that while the Holocaust is without parallel so is the building of a memorial by the nation which carried out the act.
The row came amid concern that the vast memorial will not be completed on time for for its planned May 2005 opening date on the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat.
Eisenman's Holocaust memorial will be the size of two football fields and include a small underground history museum.
It is being built in downtown Berlin close to the 18th Century Brandenburg Gate almost atop the bunker where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler committed suicide in 1945 rather than face capture by the Red Army.
Construction of the memorial only began in April - several years later than planned - because securing and checking the site for unexploded munitions took longer than expected and there were last minute wrangles over project costs.
Subject: German news