Awarding the 50,000 mark ($27,000) prize, German President Johannes Rau said that Daniel Libeskind's new Jewish Museum is an answer in the form of a humane architecture to the terrorism of a state that had aimed to exterminate an entire people. Libeskind, who has made Berlin his home, is himself a child of Jewish parents who fled the Nazis.
The jury comprised of renowned architects noted that the suggestive and sculptural form of Libeskind's Jewish Museum, in which some perceive a splintered and fractured Star of David, cannot be compared with any other example of contemporary architecture. Since its opening in January, the building, like most of Libeskind's work, has sparked extreme reactions from the critics, both negative and positive.
The former director of the Jewish Museum, Amnon Barzel, has called Libeskind a "chameleon" who "goes where the wind blows". "God save us and architecture from such people." The jury awarding the German Architecture Prize obviously begs to differ.
Appearing on German television, Libeskind once again took the opportunity to criticize the "mediocre" architecture that has been hastily erected throughout Berlin. It's a common refrain. In January, he told DER SPIEGEL, "Good, world-class architects have built the worst buildings of their career here." Renzo Piano's Potsdamer Platz, for example: "Disneyland is better."
One can't help but wonder what Libeskind would have to say to Florian Mausbach, President of the Federal Office for Building and Construction. Even as Libeskind was accepting his award on Tuesday, Mausbach and Berlin architect Josef Paul Kleihues were unveiling their plans for a 450,000 square meter complex dominated by what would be Berlin's first real skyscraper near the famous Zoo Station. They call it "Europolis". Mausbach: "Berlin is not just Prussia with its vanishing lines and steps. Berlin is also America."
All in all, "Europolis" has the distinctly high modernist look Libeskind enjoys disparaging as "old-fashioned". But modernism takes a variety of forms, and Dr. Caligari himself would hardly be lost among the almost expressionist angles of his Jewish Museum's interior.
That interior will remain empty until October 2000 when the first exhibition documenting German-Jewish history since the period of the Roman Empire opens. Even so, 80,000 visitors have made the necessary appointments to view the museum from the inside. The building alone is enough of an invitation to reflect on troubled history. As Libeskind says, "Museums are the cathedrals of today."
Germany and Europe on the Web today
Jef Vervoort maintains a page devoted to Daniel Libeskind.
On Wednesday, at about 11:30 am, stock in Mannesmann began a drastic fall in Frankfurt after steadily climbing for days. Rumors were evidently circulating that Britain's Vodafone AirTouch may have given up its pursuit of the German high tech firm after its first bid was rejected Sunday night. Business reporters have been marking every move in this "battle for dominance of mobile telephony in Europe," as Tom Buerkle calls it in the "International Herald Tribune" in the most succinct overview of the bunch.
As for the details, Tuesday's related main story was Mannesmann's counterattack, a law suit filed against Goldman, Sachs, currently advising Vodafone though it has advised Mannesmann in the past. Wednesday's story is Vodafone's appeal to British Prime Minister Tony Blair to lend a helping hand. David Teather on these stories in the "Guardian" as well as Lisa Buckingham's background on why it's next to impossible for a foreign company to stage a hostile takeover attempt in "fortress Germany." Free registration required
By Wednesday afternoon, there were signs that progress might be made after all in this crucial round of negotiations in Bonn between lawyers for those forced to work as slave laborers by the Nazis and representatives of Germany industry towards a compensation settlement. Roger Boyes outlines the positions of the two sides in the "Times" of London and notes the major developments: The German government has upped its contributions by another billion marks; more companies are preparing to admit to having made use of slave labor; and some companies with no such record may be "persuaded to contribute to a general no-blame fund making a gesture on behalf of German industry."
As Andrew Gimson reports for the "Daily Telegraph", a group of Britons represented by lawyer Martyn Day, who has won compensation for former prisoners of war from Japan, has staked its claim as well.
More Gimson: "German historians have published new details of the huge secret gifts showered by Hitler on his generals to bind them closer to him." And a follow-up on the scandal that threatens to damage the standing of the Christian Democratic opposition.
A group of historians led by Daniel Goldhagen is arguing that Hitler's bunker needs to be preserved by an international organization such as UNESCO, reports Allan Hall in the "Times".
Hitler is not only able to maintain a solid profile in the daily press, he can still sell books as well. In the "Guardian", Kate Connolly investigates a disturbing question: Who is making Mein Kampf a bestseller at major online bookstores? Free registration required
"Switzerland's fabled banking secrecy is under threat from a new breed of 'cyber-spies'." Fiona Fleck follows up on a story from DER SPIEGEL in the "Times".
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin pens a guest editorial in the "Guardian": "There is little point in arguing about 'the right way', or in choosing between 'the Blair way', 'the Schröder way' or 'the Jospin way'. I find it difficult to define clearly what the 'third way' is. If it lies between communism and capitalism, it is merely a new name peculiar to the British." Free registration required
In the "New York Review of Books", two-time Booker Prize winner J. M. Coetzee reviews William Gass's Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation and Tony Judt asks, "Is There a Belgium?"
The group of former world leaders that gathered in Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Wall last week were in Prague on Tuesday. This time, Helmut Kohl, George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev were joined by Margaret Thatcher and Vaclav Havel to ponder why the KGB provoked an attack on demonstrators that led to the Velvet Revolution, as Francis Harris reports in the "Daily Telegraph". In the "New Statesman", Teresa Smith notes that nostalgia for the days of communist rule is not confined to eastern Germany, but is currently sweeping the Czech Republic and its neighbors as well.
Jean Oppenheimer reviews "Train of Life", "the third so-called holocaust comedy," in the "Houston Press": "Far superior to either 'Life Is Beautiful or 'Jakob the Liar,' the French-language production has a silliness and a buffoonish humor reminiscent of 'Amarcord' and 'Roma,' yet somehow it feels neither excessive nor offensive."