The as-yet-unfinished Memorial to the Murdered Roma and Sinti

A friend mentioned to us the other night that the memorial in central Berlin to the Roma and Sinti murdered by the Nazis is to be opened soon. This was surprising news. We had heard that the completion of this memorial has been delayed for years and years, in part because of a number of protracted disputes between the Berlin city government and the Israeli artist commissioned to build the monument, Dani Karavan. For years, the site – which is only a few hundred metres from the Reichstag – has sat incomplete.

There is something interesting in the sight of an unfinished memorial. Its incomplete state seems an apt way of symbolising that history is always in a state of being constructed, of being assembled. It is as though the city was loathe to put a lid on this project and allow it to rest in a final state (the plan for the monument is a shiny black pool of dark water, with a triangular plinth in the centre, atop which there will rest a single rose, signifying life),  because this would mean that the relationship of present-day Germany to this part of its history would also become sealed off and finalised, once and for all.

In fact, however, it seems to be fairly prosaic matters that are responsible for the hold up on the project. According to an article from Der Spiegel, the artist is unhappy with what he perceives as substandard materials being used by the Berlin Government as they realise his plans. On the other hand, the Berlin government has disputed the artist fees and expenses claimed by Karavan. The poetic effect of incompletion seems to have been an inadvertent consequence of bureaucratic squabbles.

After being told by our Berlin friend the other night that the memorial is to open soon, Amy and I have searched for information about the date or plans for the dedication ceremony. Google hasn’t yielded anything definite yet, although the website of the Foundation for the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe states, albeit somewhat tentatively, that the Roma and Sinti memorial “probably will be presented to the public on October 24”.

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