Just days after Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world commemorated the 62nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it has emerged that Berlin's Holocaust Memorial has been used for a highly inappropriate purpose by members of the public. In the first few months after it opened in May 2005, the memorial in Berlin's city center was used as a public urinal.
The memorial -- officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe -- is made up of 2,711 concrete slabs, each 95 centimeters apart, and set in an area 19,000 square meters, the size of three football fields. It lies just next to the historic Brandenburg Gate and has many dark passages separating the slabs, that are barely visible from the exterior. It seems that many tourists and passers-by availed of this relative privacy to relieve themselves in a place that is intended to commemorate the fate of Europe's Jews under the Nazis. The memorial, which cost €25.3 million to build, has been seen as a major success, attracting 3.5 million visitors in its first year alone.
Unfortunately, some of those who entered the memorial showed a singular lack of respect. According to a report in Monday's Berliner Zeitung a "massive" amount of urination occurred in the first months after the memorial was inaugurated. The problem was revealed in a side note to a report that Berlin's Culture Minister Bernd Neumann submitted to the federal parliament's budget committee.
The foundation that operates the memorial had not made the problem public before, so as to prevent others from following the bad example. The director of the foundation, Uwe Neumärker, told the Berliner Zeitung, "I would put it down to the memorial's teething problems."
A wooden pavilion with shops and toilets was erected in the spring of 2006 and since then the problem has noticeably reduced, according to the culture minister's report.
However, the problem did re-emerge during last year's World Cup. A fan mile next to the Brandenburg Gate attracted as many as 1 million visitors on some days who watched the football games on giant screens. And many of them used the memorial as a toilet, despite the fact that a large park is right across the street.
Now Neumärker is calling for the temporary pavilion to be replaced with permanent service buildings, including public toilets.