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Germany Unveils National Holocaust Memorial

Germany unveiled a national Holocaust memorial in central Berlin Tuesday, commemorating the six million European Jews slaughtered by the Nazi regime.

The memorial, located hundreds meters away from the landmark Brandenburg Gate in the city center and covering 19,000 square meters, opened two days after the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

Wolfgang Thierse, speaker of the German Parliament, joined Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Horst Koehler at the opening ceremony.

Thierse took the opening of the memorial as a conscious confession of Germany to "the biggest crimes in its history."

"Today we open a monument that recalls the worst, the most dreadful crimes by Nazi Germany -- the attempt to destroy an entire people," he told a thousand guests from around the world, including Nazi Holocaust survivors.

Thierse stressed that it will not represent "a definite closure in the handling of our Nazi history."

While speaking out his recognition and appreciation, the head of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Paul Spiegel, expressed his reserved opinion over the monument at the opening ceremony.

The memorial failed to let visitors "be confronted with the question of guilt and responsibility," he said.

"The memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe honors the victims of Nazism, but it does not refer directly to the perpetrators," Spiegel said.

Nevertheless, Spiegel said the memorial was "an important and necessary sign" in remembrance of the Holocaust victims.

The vast memorial, designed by US architect Peter Eisenman, consists of 2,711 dark gray concrete pillars, which together produce an impression of an open grave yard.

An underground information center complements the field of pillars with stories of Holocaust victims.

Some people have argued that the design was too abstract. Others have criticized it for honoring the Jews and not other victims of Nazi regime.

The German Parliament voted to earmark some 27.6 million euros (US$35.5 million) to the project in 1999 and the construction work began two years later.

(Xinhua News Agency May 11, 2005)

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Nazi Camp Survivors Mark 60th Anniversary
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