Memorials/Denkmals that work

October 2016. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

I've recently had the pleasure of traveling with a group of international friends (an Australian couple, INTJ & ESTJ; a Dutch woman ENTJ; and a German ESTJ with an ESFP British wife — the Brexit discussion was lively); plus my American sweetie ENFP and me, an ESTJ. Yes, we had some diversity!

In Berlin, we went to a number of memorials (called Denkmal — denk means think and mal means time in German) and then we compared our reactions.

A very effective memorial for all of us was the Reichstag, now also functioning as the Capitol. When its burnt shell was captured by the Russians in 1945, many soldiers wrote their names and messages in Russian on the walls. A recent renovation uncovered those and a guide tracked down as many of the soldiers as possible and wrote a book about their lives.

The French contributed a memorial to democracy in that building. They looked for what made each elected Member of Parliament equal, and it was the rectangular mailbox! They recreated hundreds of those mailboxes stacking them up like in a post office and inscribed each with the name of a democratically elected Member of Parliament up to the year 1938. That included Hitler and Goebbels by the way! Their particular mailboxes are often punched in by those visiting the memorial.

The dome of the building has been resurrected in glass and offers stunning views of Berlin and a history lesson as you walk up. You are reminded of the past and how some things must never happen again and how others need to happen again and again.

From the dome, you could see in the distance the Holocaust memorial that looked like a Jewish cemetery with its irregular stones of varying heights. However, upon actually visiting that memorial…well it was disappointing for all of us.

It is made up of granite, casket-sized and shaped rectangles of varying heights, arrayed in a pattern reminiscent of farmer's fields. While there are small signs saying not to run as you walk between the structures or to climb on them, many people ignored that. It became a playground for so many — the antithesis of the events it is there to memorialize.

Our group had many ideas of how to change it, such as surround the area with glass walls topped by depictions of barbed wire with only a few entry points. The names of the concentration camps could be etched in the glass along with the numbers of people who perished in each. The reverent and somber mood was not there and it should have been!

We also went to the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The entry to the museum is quite confusing unless one stops to really pay attention. You begin by walking down stairs to a central hallway with three angled halls going off from it. Each angled hall represents a thread of Jewish experience — continuity, diaspora, or the holocaust. The only one of us who fully appreciated it was the ENTJ, in part because she was so well steeped in history and the facts, and in part because she quickly understands symbolism. She could draw upon both her Intuition and her Sensing. The rest of us missed it.

And we went to the Berlin Wall Memorial. That one worked for all of us. This Denkmal was blocks long at a place in the city where the actual border cut across an apartment building, a church and a cemetery plus gardens and streets. The stories of each and of the wall were laid out in storyboards along with videos and interviews with people who lived it. The names of those who had died while crossing were also included. Very powerful. Even though there were large grassy fields that one could play on, no one did. It was clearly recognized as a memorial and treated as such.

For all of us, the memorials that worked created a mood of reverence, the opportunity to go in-depth and learn more intellectually about the events and simply to experience the pull of raw emotions.

Have you experienced a memorial that worked for you? Why?