University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • Removal of the Brandenburg Gate

    Removal of the Brandenburg Gate

    Project for the Removal of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and subsequent projection of the Gate of Auschwitz on the Brandenburg Gate, January 27, 1997.  This project was part of the competition for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was not accepted, although the projection below was allowed to take place.

    Hoheisel's plan was to demolish the Brandenburg Gate, a critical symbol in Prussian and German history, grind it up, and spread it over the 4.1 acre site for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, under construction a few hundred yards away. Thus German and Jewish memory would be co-mingled but the monument would be "non-redemptive" and not uplifting in any way. The project was rejected but continues to inspire debate and paved the way for an exhibition of variations of the removal idea with an exhibition at the Berlin Jewish Museum in April-June, 2003.

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    "Arbeit Macht Frei" Projection on 1997 Brandenburg Gate. Memorial Day for Auschwitz, January 27, 1997.

    Hoheisel's idea with this projection of January 27, 1997 was to co-mingle the two most important images from German history and memory -- the Brandenburg Gate and the Gate of Auschwitz. Two different slides of the Auschwitz gate with the well-known phrase, "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Makes you Free"), were used in the projection: one of the historic gate and one from a slide purchased at the Auschwitz Museum store. Auschwitz, while a German death camp, is now in Poland.

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    Below. Images from film viewed through special large 6 meter high camera where the viewer becomes the lens for viewing the image of the partially destroyed Brandenburg Gate. Hoheisel "updated" his conceptual vision partially as a result of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11. This revised work shows partial destruction of the Gate, with columns remaining. The film shows people walking by and taking photos and in conversation, just as if the gate was in tact. The film was made by masking the actual components of the gate which are, of course, still there .

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    Below. Note that the artist  by law was not allowed to use the Official German Eagle (right side of the advertisement). So a new eagle was designed with different tail feathers and reversed image. The artists received more than 40 offers from companies to purchase the site of the memorial for construction of commercial buildings, even though they should have know, according to Hoheisel, that it was the official monument site in Berlin. Many companies who submitted bids to the fictitious office names, which had a real postal address, however, and were thus eager to acquire the property were often the same ones who refused to enter into negotiations for claims of loss of life and property as well as slave labor during the NSDAP period.

    advertisementHoheisel remarked that these companies came to try to purchase this property "like sharks." The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is a serious newspaper and after this ad, other newspapers asked that they be hired to run the advertisement. Ultimately, lawyers advised Hoheisel that he and his staff might be responsible if corporations began to make plans to built on the site and would have to pay expenses. Ultimately, the ad was judged to be an art work by the Berlin prosecuter. Corporations that submitted bids were sent a letter back with illustrations of other memorial sites in German to victims of the Nazi past.