Germans agree on monument to Holocaust

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GERMANY'S tortuous search for a fitting memorial to the Holocaust appears to be over. After 10 years of often fierce debate, the government has opted for a scaled-down monument near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, to be combined with a "House of Remembrance".

Dubbed "the final solution to the Final Solution", previous concepts attracted much controversy, primarily because of their monstrous size. The first design selected by an international jury, a slanting tomb-stone the size of a football pitch, was vetoed by Helmut Kohl when he was Chancellor. In a new artistic competition, Mr Kohl found something he liked: a field of 2,700 concrete pillars, designed by an American architect, Peter Eisenman.

Those walking through the narrow passages, planned forthe site of Hitler's devastated chancellery, were supposed to have felt overwhelmed and disoriented. But critics, including Berlin's mayor, Eberhard Diepgen, said that all they could see in this design was "monumentality", and virtually no reference to the Holocaust.

Intellectuals who had led the initial campaign for the mother of all memorials turned against the project, recoiling at the "monumental cliches" that have sprung from the fertile minds of fellow artists. The writer Gunter Grass press-ganged 18 other prominent intellectuals last year into an open letter denouncing the Eisenman design.

Now, under a compromise reached by the government and Mr Eisenman, his creation is to be miniaturised. Details are to be announced next week, but it is clear that both the monumentalists and those advocating a museum instead can find satisfaction in the outcome.

There will be a painful and highly visible reminder to German crimes against humanity, but there will also be a place where new generations can learn about the Holocaust.

MPs will have a free vote on the project in the Bundestag in the spring, and work on what is intended to be a bleeding wound in the heart of Berlin can begin at the end of the year.