I’m in Vienna. Its a fantastic city, full of great art and architecture! But the work I’m showing you in this post may as well be called horrendous, well the work is extremely well done and very interesting, but the reason for making it is gruesome – for this is The Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial by Rachel Whiteread.
In commemoration of more than 65,000 Austrian Jews,who were killed by the Nazis between 1938 and 1945.
— Inscriptions below the doors
The memorial is a steel and concrete construction with a base measuring 10 x 7 meters and a height of 3.8 meters. The outside surfaces of the volume are cast library shelves turned inside out. The spines of the books are facing inwards and are not visible, therefore the titles of the volumes are unknown and the content of the books remains unrevealed. The double doors are cast with the panels inside out, and have no doorknobs or handles.
The memorial represents, in the style of Whiteread’s “empty spaces”, a library whose books are shown on the outside but are unreadable. The memorial can be understood as an appreciation of Judaism as a religion of the “book”; however, it also speaks of a cultural space of memory and loss created by the genocide of the European Jews. Through the emphasis of void and negative casting rather than positive form and material, it acts as a “counter monument” in this way opposite to the production through history of grandiose and triumphal monumental objects.
As a work of art, the memorial was not intended to be beautiful and as such it contrasts with much of the Baroque art and architecture of Vienna. The monument resembles a bunker, and there is an aspect of discomfort in the monument that is meant to provoke thought in the viewer through the memorial’s severe presence. It is intended to evoke the tragedy and brutality of the Holocaust – it has to hurt.
Engraved on the plinth on the two sides and back of the memorial are the names of those places where Austrian Jews were murdered during Nazi rule.
But the memorial, also called The Nameless Library, is meant to hurt, but it is no doubt also a wonderful work of art.