This essay reopens the countermonumentality debate in memorial design through a rereading of the Berlin Jewish Museum, discussing not only its memorial function but also the architect Daniel Libeskind's early sketches and unfolding statements throughout the construction and thereafter; the building's location in a city undergoing an urban renewal program; and its reception in academic, professional, and public media during the competition, after it was built, and after September 11. The shift from triumphalist to apologetic memorials during the late Cold War era reflects the growing need to take responsibility for the past. Yet today a new series of questions suggest themselves to understand the Berlin Jewish Museum in its cultural context as it was shaped by and helped shape the Western imagination of self and other, on the one hand, and a new triumphalism based on a perceived victimization, on the other. To that end, the essay elaborates on the building's place within the context of both German multiculturalism during the Cold War era and the United States' geopolitical choices after September 11.
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Research Article| August 01 2010
Esra Akcan; Apology and Triumph: Memory Transference, Erasure, and a Rereading of the Berlin Jewish Museum. New German Critique 1 August 2010; 37 (2 (110)): 153–179. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2010-009
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