Roger L. Simon

Trying to explain the incomprehensible

German Holocaust Memorial.jpg The Holocaust Memorial designed by architect Peter Eisenman opens today in Berlin betwen the Brandenburg Gate and Hitler’s wartime bunker. My first awareness of the Holocaust is associated with seeing the tattooed numbers from Auschwitz on Mrs. Mendes’ arm. She was a nurse in my father’s medical office and particularly nice to me as a little boy. That must have been around 1950. I couldn’t comprehend then what those numbers were doing on her arm and in a way I still can’t. I don’t know that this new memorial will really increase understanding of this event either, but I guess I’m glad it was built. These days, with anti-Semitism appearing on the landscape again, even in the American academy, I’ll applaud whatever positive contribution anyone wants to make. Paul Siegel, a leader of the German Jewish community, feels differently.