Memory Void - Fallen Leaves: Haunting and Powerful Exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Berlin

First opening to the public in 2001, the Jewish Museum in Berlin is one of the largest in Europe. It contains two thousand years of Jewish history as well as the history of the Jews in Germany. there is no end of interactive and engaging displays in the museum with which you can learn about Jewish history and culture. There are even stations where you can learn a little Hebrew. Of course, a very important aspect of Jewish history is the Holocaust. Despite the popular stereotype that they ignore the matter altogether, Germans are actually very open about the events of the Second World War. They consider it their duty to continue talking about it and running programs to assist those who still live with the lingering impact of internment in the concentration camps. For them, remembering and taking responsibility for the actions of those before them is key to avoiding something similar happening again in the future. Us in North America could certainly take a leaf out of their book as far as concerns the atrocities committed by the first European settlers and continued violence and oppression of the Native population through the centuries.

Not to digress, let's get to the most haunting display in the Jewish Museum, the Fallen Leaves Memory Void. The display appears in one of several empty spaces throughout the museum created by architect Daniel Liebeskind to symbolize the continued absence of the Jews in German society and culture as a direct result of the Holocaust. Countless doctors, artists, professors and religious leaders were either killed or driven out of Germany as a result. It is still considered to be a great intellectual and cultural loss that will simply never be restored.

You can almost feel just how empty the Memory Void actually is

Scattered over the floor of the Memory Void are 10,000 steel faces. The concept comes from Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman who designed the display to not only represent the Jews who perished in the Holocaust, but also to stand for all who have fallen victim to war and violence. This is the only empty space "voided" area in the Jewish Museum where guests are able to enter. Guests are free to walk over the faces and explore the room. The constant clink and clang this causes represents the voices of the dead and, in effect, prevents them from being forgotten. In my opinion, Kadishmanm in a very real sense created ghosts with art.

The voices of the dead will never be silenced as long as visitors keep coming to listen to their haunting shrieks and wails.
The voices of the dead will never be silenced as long as visitors keep coming to listen to their haunting shrieks and wails.

Here is a view of the Memory Void from above. Guests of the Jewish Museum will find it difficult to get a good look outside from the windows. From this vantage point, you can really get a sense for the scale of the display and the profound sense of tragedy and loss it was designed to convey.

May their voices forever echo against the walls of the Memory Void.
May their voices forever echo against the walls of the Memory Void.

If you ever find yourself in Berlin I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the Jewish Museum. These photos do very little justice to the true power of this exhibit. Experiencing it for yourself is one of those terribly but at the same time oh so wonderfully true moments in life.

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