Last weekend, Tess- a friend of Andy’s from South America- was in town, and we took the opportunity to visit the Jewish Museum.
We had heard that it was good, but knew that this meant ‘good at making you feel the bad’, as any memorial to such a traumatising event in history must be.
Friends had mentioned how effective the architecture and exhibits are at making you feel the darkness, pain, and nausea of the times.
Trust me, words can’t quite explain it.
The entrance to the museum looks like this..
… but directly across the road you see a much more modern, gloomy sort of thing.
You enter, and immediately move nearly 10 m underground, across and down to the basement of the second building..
And here, the architechture of Daniel Liebeskind completely takes over. You are in a grey corridor, with a gradually sloping floor, so that the tunnel shrinks as you make your way through.
You walk slowly, and crowd quietly around exhibits. Here and there are windows with small treasures attatched to stories of their perusecuted owners. The windows are designed like tiny portholes, and you have to press your nose right up to them in order to see and read.
You follow one of three, criss-crossing axes.
The Axes of Death leads, perhaps unsurprisingly, to the Holocaust tower, and a dead end.
It’s a tall, angular, concrete hole.
You’re at the bottom, and there is just a spot of light entering at the top.
The Axis of Exile leads to a garden, with crooked, sloping paths, specifically designed to induce nausea…
It’s possibly the least-pleasant, and most oppressive outdoor experience you will ever have.
The final and longest axis, the Axis of Continuity, leads up into the museum.
This exibit, by Menashe Kadishman, fills one of the Voids in the museum. It is called ‘Fallen Leaves’, and contains over 10,000 iron faces.
It is impossible to walk over them without making a sound- the floor is deliberately uneven to make them swing and shift.
And it’s impossible to not look down at the faces as you travel over.
In the end, tired from a busy day (and in Tess’ case, lots of travel), we ended up speeding through the museum itself rather quickly, but there’s easily enough to see to spend a few hours in there.
In the end, it’s somewhere you should probably visit if you come to Berlin.
And it’s definitely something that anyone who thinks it’s ok to ‘be a little bit racist’, or anyone who thinks it’s fine to close ones mouth or eyes when small oppressions pass by, should be forced to experience.
But don’t plan anything big for the rest of the day…