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A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective - a memorial that haunts but is beautiful

GERMANY | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [321] | Scholarship Entry

Walking around the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, brought out the photographer in me. The slate-grey cement blocks, of irregular heights stood lined up above the Museum. The centre of this Memorial was deep and the blocks towered over me. With the sunlight streaming in, I played with different angles and caught some lovely reflections. It was the afternoon of a Berlin September and everyone was frolicking in the sun, the athletic one jumping over the grey structures, the mothers feeding their infants, children playing catch between the grey monolith structures. It was like a park, and everyone was at play.

And then I saw her, standing stiff against all the tombs with fair, translucent skin, dull hair tied lying limp around her face, scrunched eyes that seemed more shielded than seeing. Wearing awkwardly fitting pants, a multi-coloured tee and carrying a simple handbag, she asked,
“Would you take a picture of me here… I don’t have my camera… I think I left it at my hotel…”

“Yes of course, I could email it to you”

A couple of pictures later, we warmed up to each other, emails ids exchanged, but her eyes still scrunched she said, “I was born in a concentration camp. I lost my mother there… After it was over, my father and I went away to Australia. I have never come back, never visited Germany. I didn’t want to. I was in Europe on a conference and everyone told me I should, so I bought a ticket and came….”

She looked around, across the grey slate structures surrounding us… “I shouldn’t have listened. I will never come back here. I can’t…”

“This is not a playground… it is a cemetery. There are people playing, running, jumping and eating on the tombs. They should be told to respect this. Would they do it at a cemetery?.”

The small, diminutive woman turned and walked away into the maze of tombs, her words reverberated. I stood there clutching my camera, embarrassed about my innumerable shots.

This was the Memorial for the Murdered Jew, the memorial for the Unknown Jew... It no longer remained a story in my history textbook, but came alive in front of my eyes, in her.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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