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Culture

Berlin To Finally Start Holocaust Memorial

The 27.3 million euro Holocuast Memorial, fraught with delays, is expected to be opened in spring of 2005.

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U.S. architect Peter Eisenman stands if front of a photograph of the planned memorial.

After a series of hangups, hurdles and false starts, construction Berlin's long-planned Holocaust Memorial near the central Postdamer Platz is finally set to begin.

German Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse announced on Friday that the 27 million euro ($28.9 million) memorial by New York architect Peter Eisenman will begin shortly. The memorial, featuring 2,752 concrete tablets spread out over a 19,000 square meter space, is scheduled to open May 8, 2005 - the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war.

"In the near future, an impressive piece of art, the expression of our responsibility towards our history as well as the symbol of a democratic process of understanding … will stand here," said Thierse (photo), as he opened an exhibit that will highlight details of the planned memorial as well as the pathway to its realization.

Wolfgang Thierse Holocaust Denkmal

Bundestagspraesident Wolfgang Thierse steht vor einem Bild des Bauplatzes fuer das Denkmal fuer die ermordeten Juden Europas in Berlin am Freitag, 4. April 2003. Thierse begruesste waehrend einer Pressekonferenz den baldigen Baubeginn im Fruehjahr. (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil) ---German Parliament President stands in front of a picture showing the site for German Holocaust memorial in Berlin Friday, April 4, 2003. Thierse announced the start for the construction work on the memorial this spring. (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil)

The memorial, initially proposed by a group of citizens 15 years ago, was approved by Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, in 1999.

Since then, construction start has been delayed as organizers worked out building contracts and complications arose with the planned construction of the U.S. Embassy nearby.

Second official start of a long-delayed project

On Jan. 27, 2000, Thierse was on hand, along with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to heft the first shovel-full of dirt from the plot as cameras clicked. But delays stemming from security needs of the planned U.S. Embassy down the road made the start of construction impossible. Confusion in the bidding for the building contracts as well as criticism of the plan further delayed efforts.

Now, oranizers announce that the first tablets, which measure 2.4 meters wide by 1 meter long (7.8 ft x 3.2 ft) with alternating heights, could arrive as early as August, according to a report in the Berliner Zeitung.

Workers will place them into the ground across the plot, creating a landscape of concrete tablets, each at a different height. The estimated cost of the tablets alone is expected to reach 10 million euro. Construction is expected to be completed at the end of 2004. An information platform, similar to one that sprouted near construction of Berlin's Postdamer Platz, will allow the public to view progress by the middle of 2004.