Berlin Holocaust Memorial may crumble, caretakers say


Cracks are visible in one of the thousands of stellae at the Holocaust Memorial August 8, 2007 in Berlin, Germany.

Reuters reports that authorities in Germany have begun adding steel reinforcements to prevent Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe from crumbling to the ground.

Completed in 2004, the memorial consists in 2,711 concrete slabs, or stelae, spread out over five acres in a sloping maze in honor of the six million Jews killed in Germany’s campaign of extermination against the ethnic minority during World War II.

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According to Reuters, it is a popular tourist attraction and draws daily busloads of visitors at a prominent location near the Brandenburg Gate.

But the news agency said the monument has degraded over time since it was unveiled eight years ago and a survey by engineers has found that about one of every seven stelae is at risk of falling apart.

"We aren't sure why there are cracks in the blocks but it could be to do with extreme fluctuations in temperature and the weather," Felizitas Borzym, a spokeswoman for the memorial foundation, was quoted as saying.

Steel collars have been affixed to two blocks to prevent pieces from falling and to strengthen the foundations, according to the news agency, which said caretakers expected to extend this to another 380 blocks soon.

"We didn't want to close off the memorial, so the steel collars mean we can monitor the blocks and make it safe for visitors," Borzym was quoted as saying.

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Construction on the memorial was briefly halted in 2003 after a Swiss newspaper revealed that one of the contractors, Degussa, had been involved in manufacturing the poison gas used to kill Jews in German death camps, according to Wikipedia. The Internet encyclopedia also says Degussa had processed gold taken from the fillings of camp inmates.