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

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

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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