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31.03.2015

The 10 most moving monuments to victims of the Holocaust

Shoes on a riverbank, concrete blocks, a menorah of barbed wire and glass pipes – in memory of murdered Jews

6 million Jews live in Israel today – and just as many (and probably more) Europeans with Jewish ancestry were exterminated in the Holocaust. The events of those years were not just a tragedy for the Jewish community, but for the entire world as a whole. In memory of the victims, hundreds of films, books, monuments, exhibitions and installations have been made, which remind us of the bloodthirsty madness which must never be repeated.

JewishNews.com.ua has made a selection of 10 monuments to Holocaust victims which cannot fail to move the visitor.

1. Arm on Miami Beach (USA)

The author of this memorial composition is Kenneth Treister. The project drew a wave of criticism – it was thought that the enormous arm would look “grotesque” and would be “a brutal intrusion on the cityscape”, but the initiative group said that this was the whole point of the project. The memorial was saved.

The bronze memorial was forged in 1987-89 – a gigantic arm stretching up to the sky, with hundreds of human figures crawling on it. At the base of the monument is pink stone, which was brought from Jerusalem especially for this composition. The monument was unveiled on 4 February 1990. Next to it is a memorial wall, in which the names of thousands of victims are engraved.

2. Shoes on the riverbank (Budapest, Hungary)

A very unusual monument to Holocaust victims is found on the bank of the Danube, in Pest (one of the two parts of Budapest). Along the embankment, 300 meters from Parliament, are six pairs of old-fashioned shoes in bronze – male, female and children’s. The idea of the monument came from Can Togay, and it was brought to life by the sculptor Gyula Pauer.

These boots and shoes remind us of terrible events – in 1944-45 the Hungarian Nazi party “Arrow Cross” carried out mass executions of Jews here. They were shot right on the river bank, and their bodies were thrown into the water. Before they were executed, the Jews were forced to take their shoes off – shoes were worth a lot of money, and could easily be sold on the black market. The victims were often tied together – they were made to stand on the edge of the river bank, and only one of them was shot. The limp body of the person shot ruined the group’s balanced, and they all fell in the river and drowned.

The monument to the executed Jews was unveiled on 16 April 2005.

3. Slabs, Slabs (Berlin, German)

The idea of the “Memorial of the murdered Jews of Europe” was devised by the Berlin journalist Lea Rosh, and realized by the deconstructionist sculptor Peter Eisenman. Despite its asceticism, the memorial is amazingly grandiose – on an enormous field, 2,711 faceless grey blocks of different heights stand in rows, forming a lifeless forest.

Construction on the memorial began in 2003, after the blocks were ready. An unpleasant history is attached to these concrete slabs: the chemical concern Degussa took part in their manufacture (providing anti-graffiti coverings), and the affiliated company of the concert, Dagesch, manufactured the gas which was used to kill the Jews in concentration camps. Work on the monument was suspended, but after discussions it was decided to continue. The memorial was opened in 2005.

4. Chair for 1,000 Jews (Krakow, Poland)

The memorial to victims of the ghetto in the district of Podgorze in Krakow was unveiled on 8 December 2005. The sculptural composition features 33 iron chairs of a height of 1.4 meters on the site of the former ghetto, and 37 chairs of the lower height of 1.2 meters – they were placed around the perimeter of this area and at tram stops.

Anyone waiting for a bus can sit in one of these chairs – just as anyone could become a victim of the Nazis back in those terrible times. Every chair is a memorial for 1,000 Jews from the Krakow ghetto.

5. Glass columns with smoke (Boston, USA)

This memorial was designed by Stanley Saitowitz, and the unusual monument was unveiled in 1995. In memory of the six million Jews who perished, six glass chimneys were set up to symbolize the six main concentration camp – Majdanek, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Bełżec and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On the glass of the chimneys, 6 million camp numbers are inscribed. The majority of Jews who went to the death camps did not survive – some of them were buried in common graves, while others were burnt in the ovens. “Smoke” passes through the glass chimneys – steam that comes out of metal grills at the base of the columns, symbolizing the grey smoke of the crematoriums.

6. The Pit (Minsk, Belarus)

This was one of the first memorials to victims of the Holocaust. The first part of the “Pit” memorial, an area of cobblestones laid by hand, was unveiled in 1947 in the site where the Nazis executed 5,000 Jews in 1942.

The second part, a sculptural group of people walking down a staircase, was unveiled in 2000. The scrawny bronze figures that make up the composition “Last journey” seem to be moving towards the pit where death awaits them.

7. Behind the barbed wire fence (San Francisco, USA)

The design and realization of this memorial composition which was unveiled in Lincoln Park in 1984 was the work of George Segal. The concrete figures – one standing by a barbed wire fence, and a heap of bodies in the distance – symbolize the survivors and victims of Nazi brutality. For every one person who survived, there were ten whom death did not spare.

Visitors to the park can go behind the barbed wire fence and even lie down next to the white figures.

8. Forest (Riga, Latvia)

At the end of 1941, the Nazis decided to exterminate the Jews of the Riga ghetto. In two executions (on 30 November and 9 December) in the Rumbula forest, around 25,000 people were murdered – both Jews from Riga, and those who were deported here from Germany. There were a large number of children among the victims. Three years later this place became the grave for hundreds of Jewish men from the “Kaiserwald” concentration camp.

The memorial of stones and thick metal wire in the form of a Star of David, designed by architect Sergei Ryzh, was unveiled on the site on 29 November 2002. The names of the people who were executed here are engraved on the stones.

9. Five men and a boy (Odessa, Ukraine)

Odessa also has a memorial to murdered Jews – according to official data during the Nazi occupation over 272,000 Jews were exterminated in the Odessa Oblast. Right behind the memorial, the Alley of the Righteous Among Nations begins, and a memorial sign is located at the other end – in the place where the deportation of Jews began to concentration camps scattered across Eastern Europe.

The bronze sculpture of the composition, five skinny men and a child, was designed by Zurab Tsereteli and unveiled on 9 May 2004.

10. Yad Vashem (Jerusalem, Israel)

Yad Vashem is a Holocaust museum where unique artifacts of that terrible time are gathered. There are also several memorials to the Jews murdered by the Nazis. The sculptural compositions of the complex include a tree made of figures of people, a barbed wire fence in the form of human skeletons, and many others.

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