Yad Vashem, Israel

“displacement, concentration, deportation and extermination”

North Terrace, Holocaust History Museum, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

In 1953, Yad Vashem was established as an institution “dedicated to the study and commemoration of Jewish annihilation at the hands of the Nazis.” (Joan Ockman, A Place in the World for a World Displaced) Located atop the Mount of Remembrance, the 45-acre site includes research centres, memorials and museums. Yad Vashem Director Avner Shalev writes: “We wished to call visitors attention to the fact that the Holocaust spanned the entire European continent, that the process was set in motion in Northern Africa, and that it threatened to reach the Middle East. Wherever the Germans came, the Jews faced the same process: displacement, concentration, deportation and extermination.” (Building a Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem)

The museum was designed by internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie whose other works include the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Safdie’s museum is a 600-foot long, triangular, sky light tunnel made of concrete. According to municipal law, all buildings must be faced with local Jerusalem stone. This 1918 stone ordinance dates back to the British Mandate in Palestine, and Safdie had to get special permission to use concrete rather than limestone for the Holocaust History Museum.

This photograph shows visitors standing on the terrace at the end of the tunnel-like museum, looking out toward Jerusalem. In The Architecture of Memory, Safdie writes about the power of emerging into light. “For the new museum, cutting through the mountains and bursting northward, dramatically cantilevering the structure over the Jerusalem pine forest to provide views of the hills beyond took this life-affirming experience to another level.”

Architect:  Moshe Safdie     Date:  2005

from Paris to Berlin & Berlin to Jerusalem

Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation, Paris 2009

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

Having completed a major study of change and continuity in Paris in 2009, I travelled to Berlin in 2010 to continue my urban explorations. Somehow, Paris led to Berlin, and Berlin led to Jerusalem.

My journey to Israel in 2011 really started in Berlin. After completing a series of photographic studies of Nazi architecture and the Berlin Wall, I felt compelled to travel to Israel – another charged landscape. Put simply, I wanted to explore the link between historic Berlin and modern Israel. Berlin was my springboard to Israel, both literally and figuratively.

In both places, I was fascinated by the theme of loss, longing and lamentation – individual and collective. Loss of land, loss of innocence, loss of humanity, loss of freedom, loss of life: these notions haunted me in Berlin and in Israel. For me, the power of these iconic locations lies in the responses that they elicit from ordinary individuals.

After returning home from Israel, I was both intrigued and perplexed by what I had seen while observing everyday life in Jerusalem. I wanted to make some sense out of what I had witnessed. I do not pretend to understand the horrors of the Holocaust, the long and complex histories of the Holy City, or the current politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, the one question that kept running through my mind as I explored historic Berlin and modern Israel was: at what cost?

Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation

“Dedicated to the living memory of the 200,000 French deportees sleeping in the night and the fog, exterminated in the Nazi concentration camps.”

Hall of Remembrance, Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation, Paris 2009

© Leslie Hossack

The Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation is located in Paris at the eastern end of Ile de la Cité, behind Notre Dame Cathedral. This monument, designed by Georges Pingusson, was inaugurated by President Charles de Gaulle in 1962.

The Hall of Remembrance is a narrow underground chamber whose walls are studded with 200,000 lighted crystals, symbolizing the deportees who perished. The dark corridor can only be viewed through a small window that is covered with heavy iron bars.

Pingusson’s style of commemorative architecture is very different from that of Moshe Safdie, architect of the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Two photographs of Safdie’s Israeli memorials are included in my exhibition CITIES OF STONE – PEOPLE OF DUST, on view at the Red Wall Gallery in Ottawa until September 2nd, 2011.

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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

In 2005, Berlin dedicated this memorial to Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

Today’s image is the last in a series of photographs from historic Berlin. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe serves as the transition piece from Nazi Berlin to modern Israel in my exhibition CITIES OF STONE – PEOPLE OF DUST, on view at the Red Wall Gallery in Ottawa until September 2nd.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is located in the heart of Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate, where the Berlin Wall used to divide East and West Berlin. Design by American architect Peter Eisenman, this Holocaust memorial was inaugurated on May 10th, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II.

The area covers four and a half acres, and consists of 2,711 blocks or stelae arranged in a grid. Narrow, undulating pathways run between the blank, concrete stelae which measure 7 feet 10 inches long, 3 feet 1 inch wide, and vary in height from 8 inches to 15 feet 9 inches. The site reminds one of an ancient graveyard, such as the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. “I fought to keep names off the stones, because having names on them would turn it into a graveyard,” said Eisenman.”I like to think that people will use it for short cuts, as an everyday experience, not as a holy place.”

Beneath the memorial, an underground information centre holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims; these names were obtained from the Israeli Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Originally Eisenman objected to the inclusion of an information centre under the field of stelae, but later he said, “One is the unforgettable, which is the silence of the field; the other is the memorable, which is recorded in the archives.”

Over 70 years after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, Berlin dedicated this memorial to the more than six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, the murdered Jews of Europe.

Architect: Peter Eisenman  Date: 2004