Station: [160] Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, New York

The Mendelsohns were warmly welcomed in New York, but because of America’s accession to the war in December 1941 building contracts took a long time to develop here as well. Only war-related buildings were constructed. Mendelsohn received a grant during this period and earned his living as a travelling lecturer. 

Mendelsohn took an active part in the battle against the Nazis and in 1943, built what was known as the „German village,“ for the US corps in the Utah desert to the west of Salt Lake City. It consisted of realistic replicas of Berlin blocks of flats for the US Air force to test incendiary bombs on. 

After the war ended in 1945 Mendelsohn opened an office in San Francisco. Building contracts mainly came from synagogues and private villas and from 1947 Mendelsohn also taught at the University of California in Berkeley.

In 1948 Mendelsohn took part in a competition for a memorial to be erected in Riverside Park New York in honour of the six million Jews murdered in Europe. Mendelsohn won the contract and completed two successive designs in 1950/51. You can see a model of the second here. In the centre are Moses’ stone tablets bearing the ten commandments and the command: „Thou shalt not kill.“ The design also incorporated a relief by the Croatian sculptor, Ivan Mestrovic that depicted the struggle the people had to observe the Ten Commandments. For financial reasons, the granite monument was never constructed however.

Mendelsohn’s employee, Hans Schiller made a landscape model of the first design. At the beginning of the 1980s this found its way into the Berlin Art Library. Open to everyone, it could have served as a model for the holocaust memorial planned in Germany. The fact that it was designed by an important German Jewish architect who fled from the Nazis and had had an office in Berlin until 1933, went in favour of Mendelsohn’s designs. 

Art and architecture critics, architects and Mendelsohn’s family promoted this idea, but they didn’t gain a majority. In June 1999 the German Bundestag decided on Peter Eisenmann, a New York architect’s design. Completed in 2005, the memorial for Jews murdered in Europe stands at a central point in Berlin, close to the Brandenburg Gate.