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Cracks Plague ’05 Holocaust Memorial

Thursday, May 29, 2014

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Severe cracks have been discovered in thousands of concrete slabs that make up the nine-year-old Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin.

The rapid deterioration of 80 percent of the memorial’s stones, also called stelae, has sparked questions about its cause and, ultimately, about who will foot the repair bill, according to reports.

Some 2,200 out of the 2,711 concrete memorial stones are said to be damaged.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
© Foundation for Monument, photo: Marko Priske

Concrete slabs that make up the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, designed by Peter Eisenman, are showing signs of severe deterioration, according to reports. The memorial opened in 2005.

Designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, the $36.7 million Holocaust memorial was completed in 2005.

The memorial, consisting of the 4.7-acre "Field of Stelae" and a subterranean information center, honors the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Steel Reinforcements, Testing

The memorial foundation said it had already reinforced 44 of the more damaged slabs with steel and had ordered an additional 380 steel collars for other reinforcements, reports relate.

The foundation has sent two of the slabs to Aachen Institute for Building Research to be examined, but only one has been returned.

The cause of the damage is still under investigation, but some speculate the concrete used was not designed to withstand extreme weather fluctuations in Berlin.

‘Best Concrete Berlin has Ever Seen’

At the time of the memorial’s opening, Eisenman reportedly touted the concrete used in the installation as the “best concrete Berlin has ever seen.”

According to the memorial’s website, the slabs were manufactured by Firma Geithner and were erected onsite after receiving final approval from Eisenman and his planning team.

In a recent interview with, the 81-year-old architect blamed the damage on the memorial’s board of trustees.

© Foundation for Monument, photo: Marko Priske

The memorial, consisting of the 4.7-acre Field of Stelae and a subterranean information center, honors the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

“Things have been changed in order to save money,” he told the news bureau. “This is a huge problem.”

He added that he would “certainly not pay for the damages.”

Courts May Decide

A foundation official told the newspaper that it was too early to blame anyone, including the board of trustees.

Uwe Neumärker, director of the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, said officials must determine the cause, remediation method and cost before laying blame. Then, the responsible party will be determined, likely by the courts, he said.

At the foundation's request, Berlin’s city development department is also said to have opened an investigation into the concrete’s failure.

Some reports say the memorial’s crumbling stones make it a danger for visitors; others say that visitors are safe, as the stones are assessed every six months.

Michelle Obama visits Holocaust memorial
© Foundation for Monument, photo: Marko Priske

First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters visited the Holocaust Memorial in June 2013.

Approximately 450,000 people walk through the field and visit the information center each year.


Tagged categories: Concrete; Concrete defects; Concrete repair; Cracks; Design; Designers; Maintenance + Renovation

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