Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe- Reading Response

In a 2012 New Yorker article I came across titled “The inadequacy of Berlin’s memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe” the author Richard Brody gives a critique of the memorial and what he saw as its shortcomings. Brody takes issue with many things about the memorial beginning with the title. He questions if the memorial is intended for solely the victims of the Sho’ah or if this is meant to memorialize Jews that were murdered before the Holocaust throughout European history. Not having the Holocaust mentioned in the title Brody finds problematic, but I have seen the name of this memorial as tactful in focusing on the fact that this was murder and memorializing the Jewish people. Brody also takes issue with the somewhat casual placement of the memorial and how one can sit on the blocks, or children can play in them. And another issue is the fact that in the exhibition that exists under the memorial, the names of individuals are not mentioned unlike Yad Vashem.

These are the typical criticisms of this memorial and I feel them to be slightly short sighted. It is true that this memorial does not offer much information on what it is but I think its a powerful experience and something more effective than a traditional memorial. The memorial provides an immersive experience with minimalist aesthetics that seem appropriate to attempt to remember such an atrocity. Such a historically unique experience requires a unique approach to memorial design.


Reading response- Maus

The comic book/graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman examines the holocaust through the narrative of a survivor’s stories told by his son. The format of the novel is interesting in the temporality of the narrative as it switches between Vladek the father’s stories of his time in occupied Poland and in a concentration camp and present day Artie talking to Vladek. Artie goes over to his father’s house and interviews him about what he witnessed during the Holocaust. Through the switching narratives Maus examines how children of survivors are affected by their parent’s trauma and how the Holocaust has been remembered through survivor’s testimonies.

The choice to write Maus as a comic is an interesting stylistic choice and something the sounds bizarre and almost inappropriate before reading it. The result though is powerful and makes it easier to keep track of the switching narratives. The Jews are represented as mice and the nazis as cats. When Artie interviews his father he often gets frustrated when his dad gives him conflicting stories, or can’t remember certain details, and it illuminates the issue of memory in holocaust testimonies and how Holocaust history can be a blend of documentation and witness testimony.

Reading Response- Young End of the Monument

This chapter opens with the description of a proposal for the 1995 competition for a memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Artist Horst Hoheisel proposed the unconventional idea of blowing up the Brandenburger Tor spreading the dust of the remains and covering them with granite plates. The idea was to decimate a part of German history to commemorate the decimation of an entire people by the Germans.

The chapter deals with the shift in the creation of monuments. Monuments have shifted in their construction and reflect the artistic environments, and have turned more and more to the reflection of a loss or absence by using negative space. We have seen this reflection of loss in Lin’s Vietnam Memorial and this chapter discusses Hoheisel’s response to a Jewish fountain that was destroyed in Kassel by the Nazis. Hoheisel’s monument to the Aschrott fountain is a mirror image of the old one “to rescue the history of this place as a wound.”

The chapter then discusses Rachel Whiteread’s Judenplatz Memorial in Vienna. The monument is a structure made of books but the spines are facing inwards. This memorializes the way that the events will never truly be understood by those who were not directly affected by the events, and also the Austrian Jewish writers and their contributions to Austria.

Young Antiredemptory- Reading Response

Young’s introduction deals with the issue of the post-holocaust generation of artists seeking to ‘remember’ this event even though they were not direct witness. Post-memory is a term used to describe the inheritance of memory, as each generation moves further away from the moment of witness. This generation of artists therefore uses a combination of history and memory to bear witness, as memory and fact work to support each other.

Artists and thinkers have dealt with the issue of representing the holocaust and how art representing the Holocaust has the danger of being in some way redemptory. The aesthetics must therefore address their own inadequacy in representation. Memorial artists in Germany have the challenge of representing the shame in the memorial landscape of the country, combining remembrance and self-indictment.

One of the memory-artists Young wishes to examine in the text is artist and author Art Spiegelman. Spiegelman wrote the famed “comix” Maus in which he interviewed his father and compiled a unique examination of the Holocaust through his father’s survival testimony and his own filtration of memory as a child of a survivor.

Representing the Holocaust poses a difficult and unique challenge as it would problematic for a memorial to be erected that sought to be redemptory in some kind

Reading Response Maya Lin

I did not know the background or controversy surrounding the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial until this class, this year. Its hard to imagine the emotional turmoil it caused Maya Lin as an undergraduate architecture student. It is powerful to hear about the design and experience of designing this memorial from Lin herself, who until recently had felt unable to talk about it. Lin intended the design to focus on the humanity of all the individual’s killed in the war, and was inspired by the Memorial Rotunda at Yale, where names of Yale students killed in war were carved into marble. Being at Yale in the wake of the Vietnam war Lin witnessed names being carved into this memorial and it left a lasting impression on her.

Lin wanted the memorial to reflect loss, a cut in the earth, show the absence of the 57,000 who were missing or killed. She wanted the memorial to be apolitical and contain the names of the 57,000 to show the loss and not be a memorial dealing with victory or defeat. After being selected as the winner of the competition Lin struggled to have her voice be heard largely due to her age and I’m sure the fact that she was female. She wanted the type face to be small to create an intimate experience, and for the wall to be thin to be purely surface, while others questioned these choices. People took issue with the color of the memorial being black referring to it as the “universal color of dishonor.”

Lin’s memorial has faced major backlash and scrutiny. It seems that when designing a memorial people will always take issue, whether the memorial be too political or too apolitical, not everyone will be satisfied. Having read Lin’s own description of her vision I find the design to be a beautiful and honest representation of loss and mourning, not a memorial of victory or defeat but one to acknowledge the pain and absence of loss.