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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 17:19 GMT
Berlin builds Holocaust memorial
By Barbara Miller
BBC News, Berlin

Berlin Holocaust memorial
The memorial consists of 2,711 charcoal-coloured stone blocks
A ceremony has been held in Berlin to mark the laying of the last of several thousand slabs, which will constitute a memorial to Holocaust victims.

After years of controversy, the memorial will be inaugurated next year.

On a bitterly cold afternoon, the final slab was winched into place in the far corner of the memorial site.

It is the size of several football fields and lies in the heart of Berlin between the Brandenburg Gate and the site of Adolf Hitler's bunker.

The building of a memorial to the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust was approved by the German parliament more than 15 years ago.

But the project has been held up by disputes over the location, the artistic design and the discovery that the firm supplying the anti-graffiti coating for the slabs was associated with the production of poison gas used in Nazi death camps.

Information centre

At the ceremony, the American architect Peter Eisenman acknowledged that there had been many difficulties along the way.

"I never at many moments thought we would build this and here it is," he said.

"I think that this was a political decision made for the will of the German people and without the Bundestag and many others the architect and this memorial wouldn't be here."

The memorial design also includes a subterranean information centre. The president of the German parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, said it too would be completed before the scheduled inauguration next May, 60 years after the end of World War II.

Mr Thierse said that would be an important day for Berlin and for Germany.

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