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The Hotel Detective File: Berlin


Berlin. Perfect high-summer June evening–even at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The light has sculpted the 2,711 concrete slabs, each meant to symbolize a coffin, into a pleasingly abstract play of gray and black. It’s contrary to the intent, of course. Even so, the behavior of this pair was what the Germans call “entsetzlich” (outrageous). How can anyone use one of the slabs as a beach chair? More astonishing was the number of under-30s using the monument as another selfie backdrop, climbing on the blocks, and larking through the narrow passageways between them, as it it were Legoland rather than a symbolic monument to mass death. I asked a guard standing off in a corner why visitors were allowed to act like this, and he said, “We’re supposed to let them do what they want.” The fact that at one corner of the monument bicycles were chained to the fence as an advertisement for a rental place nearby was another example of the blind eye turned. The Memorial is what the Germans call a “Mahnmal,” a word that means ‘reminder’ but is also freighted with an undertone of rebuke. Which is what someone should have done to these clueless kids.–Gary Walther


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