04 April 2011

Have you...

Have you ever seen something or experience something that has moved you, but you can't explain how or even why?

That happens to me sometimes. Luckily though after a few days of contemplation I can express in words why I was moved. I don't know why but I always need some contemplation time.

I most recently experienced this in Berlin at this place:

Our guide had us take a seat while he explained what we were looking at.

This is the Holocaust Memorial.

Before you say it's disrespectful to be sitting on it you must know that the architect wanted something that people can walk, sit, and play on.

The only thing he has said about it was that he was inspired by a Jewish cemetery in some city (sorry, can't remember the city name) and how the headstones were jammed packed together. But other than that he hasn't said what this is supposed to mean.

I'm a believer that everyone will take something different from a piece of artwork. What moves one person may not move another. What speaks to one person may not speak to another. Two people can look at the same thing and receive different thoughts and emotions.

We then walked through the memorial. Afterwards he asked "What did you think?" and all I could muster up was "It's moving." I wasn't able to expound on my feelings. I wasn't able to put into words for my guide how the memorial moved me, but the words have formed and you (if you're reading this far) will know what it meant to me.

For my thoughts to make sense you must know a little bit about the memorial.

You may not be able to realize this from the image but all the stones are not uniform. The ground you walk on is not level, it goes downward a bit and in the middle it's at the lowest point making the stones TOWER over you. The very first row is not raised at all and is part of the sidewalk.

I decided to start my journey at the sidewalk (where the stones aren't stones) then I proceeded in. It was a bright day and I had to shield my eyes from the sun. I barely noticed that the stones were getting larger until the sun was blocked for me. I was in the shade and started to get chilly. (It was a sunny day, but if you were in the shade it was cold). I looked up and couldn't see any of the surrounding buildings. At this point the memorial struck a cord in me and I was moved.

I looked around and noticed I was alone. There are a lot of tourists here yet I'm alone. I would catch glimpses of a person (or two) as they would pass a few blocks up ahead but by the time I reached that spot there was no trace of them. I proceeded down the aisle and the sun was in my eyes again as the ground started to incline and the blocks were growing smaller. I was back at the beginning but on the other side.

I'm going to say it again, I found it moving. It's so simple but to me so powerful.

I saw this memorial as the progression of the Holocaust. At first everyone's part of the community, then there are small changes that happen a little at a time. You may be focused or worried about one change (like the ground descending) but didn't realize another thing has happened (like the stones getting larger.) And before you know it you're in the middle of something horrible that's looming over you.

You're no longer part of a community or the same as the rest, but you're hidden in the shadows. The stones are cold just as the way those in the camps were treated and humiliated. When you reach the lowest point the stones towering over you and making you feel so small and insignificant. I see this as the worst part of the holocaust - the death camps, the genocide. And you may be surrounded by others but you're not a group and you feel alone and helpless.

I did record walking through this memorial and I had hoped to have it edited to post with this entry but that's not going to happen.

If you have visited Berlin and walked through the Holocaust Memorial I would love to read your thoughts.


Ardith Haws said...

I found your post to be very moving. Thank you.

Laura said...

Wow. Love your perspective on the memorial. Great post.

Kim said...

Things like that are difficult to put into words....I find them very sobering because you it hits you that it really happened. Learning about something in class or a book is completely different then actually experiencing it. I've felt that way several times as well....when I was at a concentration camp and when I visited the Titanic cemetery. I'm glad you had such a simply profound experience.

Rita said...

I believe he was talking about the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. That is definitely a sight to see.

neffie said...

Prague! That's right! I would love to visit Prague. Thank you

Nancy said...

You are very insightful!!! I loved your perspective of how it happened slowly and before you realize, you are swallowed up in it.