Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial
Miami Beach, United States
If there's one thing I've learned from travel, it's that countries love their monuments and memorials. I've seen so many men "immortalized" on horseback in the middle of plazas and statues dedicated to him, her, that death, and this place, that I've grown fairly numb to the whole scene.
But this morning's encounter was different. I walked Aidric over to a rather powerful Holocaust memorial, tucked away in the middle of Miami Beach. It's unlike any I've ever seen.
I spoke with an Israeli woman working inside an air-conditioned information booth adjacent to the memorial, who ultimately handed me a $2 information brochure for free. Contained within was a narrative walk-through of the memorial by the sculptor, Kenneth Treister.
It noted that Treister was commissioned in 1985 to "design a memorial to the memory of the Jewish culture and individuals destroyed in the Holocaust; to create a memorial garden that would give survivors and those who lost loved ones a place to visit in lieu of the cemetery they do not have; and to express in photographs and sculpture the history and sorrow of the Holocaust so that future generations will never forget."
The Memorial was opened on Sunday, February 4, 1990, with Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as guest speaker at the dedication ceremonies.
Treister's Walking Tour
- The Beginning—The first sculpture is of a mother and two nestling children, fearful as the signs of the Holocaust first appear. Their faces ask can it happen? Will God forsake us? The sculpture is framed by Anne Frank's message "… that in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
- The Arbor of History—A semicircular colonnade of Jerusalem stone columns support a wooden arbor with white bougainvillea vines. Following the arbor is a series of black granite slabs etched with photographs of the tortured Holocaust history.
- A Garden of Meditation—Some artists depict the Holocaust only in the dimensions of its horrors with concrete, metal and barbed wire. I broadened the theme to include a serene and peaceful garden dedicated to the memory of the beautiful European culture and its six million Jewish souls… now lost. The garden is composed of a large plaza of Jerusalem stone, a 200-foot-diamete water lily pond, and a classic semicircular colonnade and arbor, all set against a backdrop of dense green palm forest.
- The Dome of Contemplation—The procession continues into an area enclosed by a dome and semicircular wall with an eternal memorial flame and inscription from the Twenty-Third Psalm. Piercing the dark interior of the dome is a shaft of yellow light projected from a central yellow star of David with the black letters "Jude," the path of ignominy.
- The Lonely Path—The next space is a dark and lonely stone tunnel illuminated by thin slats of sunlight, the haunting voice of Israeli children singing songs from the Holocaust and the solemn memory of the camps carved into its walls. A crying child is seen in the distance and cries louder as one approaches along this lonely path.
- The Sculpture of Love and Anguish—This is my portrayal of the Holocaust… frozen in a painted bronze. A giant outstretched arm, tattooed with a number from Auschwitz, rises from the earth, the last reach of a dying person. Each visitor has his own interpretation… some see despair, some see hope, some the last grasp for life, and for some it asks a question to God… "Why?"
- A Series of Vignettes—Bronze tormented figures precariously cling to the skin trying miraculously to escape. The entire scene is a series of vignettes where families try to help each other in a final act of love. Caught in the abyss, fathers help mothers, mothers gather children, children comfort babies, all expressing the mixed emotions of terror and compassion.
- Sensing Both Love and Fear—The free-standing bronze figures surrounding the base are life-size so that the viewer becomes part of the sculpture… he touches and fondles… he senses both love and fear.
- The Memorial Wall—A walk past black granite panels etched with the names of countless martyred victims submitted by their loved ones.
- The Final Sculpture—The journey ends. The final sculpture depicts the same mother and two children who started the journey, now dead, framed by the words of Anne Frank: "…ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us only to meet the horrible truths and be shattered."