Children’s Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem

effervescent lives about to come to an abrupt, catastrophic, unforeseeable end

Children’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The first building designed by Moshe Safdie at Yad Vashem was the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. It is a cave-like structure filled with tiny dots of candlelight and the sound of a voice reading the names of the murdered children, their ages, and their countries of origin. To name the names of Holocaust victims is one of the missions of Yad Vashem, and it was recently announced that they have collected the names of four million Jewish victims.

Of the six million who died in the Holocaust, it is estimated that: “the Germans and their collaborators killed as many as 1.5 million children, including over a million Jewish children and tens of thousands of Romani (Gypsy) children, German children with physical and mental disabilities living in institutions, Polish children, and children residing in the occupied Soviet Union.” (United States Memorial Holocaust Museum) The overall numbers are staggering, but impossible to comprehend. It is the power of the specific that is more easily understood: Uziel Spiegel, age two and a half, murdered at Auschwitz.

Uziel’s parents Abe and Edita Spiegel were Auschwitz survivors who donated funds for the construction of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. This photograph shows a cluster of 20 stone pillars outside the entrance. Each pillar is broken off at the top, bringing to mind the million and a half children whose “ordinary but effervescent lives were about to come to an abrupt, catastrophic, and unforeseeable end.” (Avner Shalev, Building a Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem)

Architect:   Moshe Safdie     Date:   1987

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