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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 13:22 GMT
Work begins on Berlin Holocaust memorial
The project has been delayed by over a decade of wrangling over the size and style of the monument.
An excavator breaks into the ground during the symbolic start of the construction works
By Rob Broomby in Berlin

Work has begun in central Berlin on a massive Holocaust memorial, almost 2,000 square metres in size.

A large digger has started the process of turning this huge plot of land into a monument to the six million Jews of Europe killed by the Nazis.

The Memorial will cost $22m and is due to be finished by 2004.
The site is the size of four football pitches
The $22m scheme, located just a few hundred metres from the Brandenburg Gate - the symbol of German nationhood - is an enormous gesture of national remorse.

The location between the symbolic gate and the bunker where Adolph Hitler died is as important as the design itself.

Controversial project

The idea for a monument predates the fall of the Berlin Wall, though the plot of land was not set aside until 1993.

Initial plans for a huge iron plate, measuring 100 metres by 100 metres, and bearing the names of some four-and-a- half million Jews, was vetoed by the then chancellor, Helmut Kohl.

A vast field of nearly 3,000 concrete columns will be in the heart of Berlin
A model of how the Berlin memorial will look. Picture: Foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The present design, with its 2,700 concrete pillars of differing heights, was described by the architect, Peter Eisenman, as a waving cornfield.

It it is set just below street level.

The Bundestag president, Wolfgang Thierse, said the beginning of construction work showed an assertion of German's historical responsibility.

The memorial is expected to be completed by 27 January 2004 - the 59th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

See also:

27 Jan 00 | Europe
Berlin's battle to build memorial
27 Jan 00 | Europe
Focus on Holocaust memorial
09 Sep 01 | Europe
Berlin's Jewish Museum opens
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