Berlin's Holocaust Memorial and its museum is full of harrowing stories from the Second World War. The plight of Europe's Jewish people is covered in-depth in the museum and it is a deeply important place that you should 100% see.
What you need to know about the Holocaust Memorial
City: Berlin, Germany.
Transport links: Potsdamer Platz (S-Bahn), Brandenburger Tor (S-Bahn)
Access: The monument itself has no cost. You can just walk right up and into it so be sure to take a slow stroll through the obelisks and think of the significant. It can be quite a sobering experience certainly.
To access the museum and visitor centre is also free of charge but the audio guide will carry a cost of €3 which is definitely something you should do because it is first of all informative but also because the funds raised help to maintain the memorial and the exhibits within.
Fact: Unlike much of Berlin, you will not see any graffiti on the Holocaust Memorial. This is partly, one would hope, down to a level of decency from spray paint wielding locals, but primarily it is due to the fact that each stone that makes up the memorial is coated with a specific chemical spray that makes the stone resistant to spray paint.
There was controversy as the company that produced this chemical had once owned a subsidiary that was involved in producing the Zyklon B gas used in the concentration camps. As it could be difficult to disassociate from every company that had any ties to the Nazi party in the past, the partnership continued albeit with more than a bit of controversy and protest.
No symbolism in the amount of stones
There are 2711 stone obelisks in the Holocaust Memorial and it may be a surprise that this number has absolutely no significance whatsoever. The six million jews who perished and the stones - some say they are shaped like tombs - have no correlation to one another at all.
The memorial is simply made up of these component parts and one supposes that you can draw your own meaning or significance from any aspect of it.
It is a peaceful place where visitors are thankfully respectful and drawn there for the right reasons of reflection and education.
No two stones are alike
Despite the memorial being comprised of over 2,000 obelisks, no two of the mammoth stones are alike.
Each stands at 2.38m in length but they each stand at a variation angle so that the sizes are not uniform when you look at at them from the outside, or when you are surrounded by them once you walk into the labyrinth.
It can be slightly claustrophobic but if you were to feel ill at ease at any point you can just pick a direction - you are effectively in the middle of a large square - and keep walking the narrow pathway until you find the one of the ends.
There is no rules as to how you interact with the stones and you are free to express yourself in any way that is reasonable and respectful. Despite this freedom of expression please keep in mind the significance of what you are walking through and try to keep an appropriate amount of etiquette in mind.
The museum at the Holocaust Memorial is a must
The memorial itself is an experience. The real learning and feeling comes when you walk through the museum that is found on the memorial grounds.
Excerpts from diaries liberated from the concentration camps, stories of what went on before and after jewish people were transported to the camps and many personal, poignant accounts can be an exceedingly tough thing to be exposed to for sure.
It is however critically important that as many people as possible are exposed to this information so that they can leave Berlin and travel h0me with hopefully a perspective of togetherness, fraternity and resolute that this dark hour in human history is never allowed to reoccur.