Holocaust Memorials Help Us Remember

In the heart of downtown Boston, six glass towers stand in a row; below them a deep pit is alight with glowing embers. Clouds of smoke rise from the pit.

This is the New England Holocaust Memorial, located near Boston’s celebrated Freedom Trail. The towers, representing the six million victims, are each 54 feet high and set on a black granite path. The memorial was designed by Stanley Saitowitz.

Each tower includes an excerpt from the memoirs of a survivor, describing first-hand experiences in the camps.

This is just one of many Holocaust memorials across the nation — a collection that make for especially memorable visits in a month when Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed (April 28).


Miami Beach

In sunny Miami Beach, an equally dramatic sight can be found not far from the celebrated Art Deco District: a giant sculpted hand pointed skyward, with fingers outstretched. But “The Sculpture of Love and Anguish”, designed by Kenneth Triester, is just one part of  an open-air site that blends art, nature and history.

As I walked through a tunnel made of Jerusalem stone, I heard the sweet and distant sound of a choir singing songs that were sung in the death camps. This unusual “concert” makes the overall experience even more poignant.

The tunnel led into a circular open area where Triester’s sculpture dominates. Close-up, visitors can see that  on the wrist, are  the  numbers of a tattoo. And on the arm were small human figures, who seemed to be reaching out in vain.

In San Francisco. George Segal’s sculpture, “Holocaust,” is located on the grounds of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, with a backdrop of tall, leafy trees and velvety grass to set off the somber memorial.

It  shows ten emaciated bodies lying on the ground, their limbs entwined. A lone male figure is upright near these bodies, and he seems to stare out blankly from behind a barbed wire fence.

This memorial stirred controversy at the start. Just four days after it was  dedicated in November of l984,  it was desecrated by vandals. “Is this necessary?” they wrote, smearing black paint over the sculpted figures.

An anonymous donor sent fresh flowers every day. That tradition has continued for years.

While Segal’s forms, crafted from his signature white plaster, art quite literal in their presentation, other memorials are more abstract. For instance, a memorial in Baltimore, located not far from the city’s popular Inner Harbor, is stark and symbolic.

In a one-acre park donated by the city, Joseph Sheppard’s cantilevered slab of concrete that’s been slashed evokes how the Holocaust severed the lives of its victims. Six slender, flowering trees, represent the six million victims, but also hope and new life in the future.

monument-to-six-million-jewish-martyrs-philadelphia-600In Philadelphia, Nathan Rapoport has expressed the loss via an 18 foot high bronze sculpture that is one large mass of huddled human shapes at sea on the city’s tree-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Dedicated in l964, “Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs” was the first Holocaust memorial in the U.S., and it remains a noteworthy landmark in the City of Brotherly Love.