New plaza will honor holocaust victims

Mayor Jim Kenney at unveiling of plans for new memorial plaza. (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)

Mayor Jim Kenney at unveiling of plans for new memorial plaza. (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)

A small, public plaza will soon be built around the sculpture, designed and funded by the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, an organization formed about a decade ago for this purpose.

At the corner of 16th street and the Parkway is a large sculpture, “Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs” by Nathan Rapoport, depicting the anguish, death, and resistance to the Nazi holocaust of World War II. It was erected in 1964, commissioned by holocaust survivors.

Fifty-two years later the sculpture is now almost hidden, sandwiched between the towering Phoenix condominium tower, the Verizon building, and LOVE Park now undergoing extensive renovation. It lives in downtown’s shadows.

“The legacy has to be kept,” said Mirian Case, 82, a holocaust survivor. At 7 years old she was shipped off to a Siberian concentration camp in a cattle train car.

NWPCholocaustx600Holocaust survivor Mirian Case, 82, speaks during an unveiling for the new plaza (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)

“History has a habit of repeating itself, and we really don’t want to see it. So it’s for everyone – not just for the Jewish population but for the world,” she said.

A small, public plaza will soon be built around the sculpture, designed and funded by the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, an organization formed about a decade ago for this purpose. The Holocaust Memorial Plaza will have an eternal flame, green space, and a living tree grown from a cutting of a tree originally planted by children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

HolocaustPlaza2x600A rendering of the new Holocaust Memorial Plaza at 16th and JFK in Philadelphia (Image provided)

The plaza is meant to give the sculpture more streetscape real estate downtown, to make it and its message more obvious to passersby.

“I’m fearful for our country, because some things I hear in alleged diplomacy speeches I haven’t heard or read since the 1930s,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney at the public unveiling of the plans. “When we talk about keeping people out of our country because of a specific religion, we’re talking about going back to where we never want to go again.”

It’s still early for this plaza – design plans for the plaza are not yet finalized, all the money is not yet raised, and it still has to go through the city’s approval process. Organizers hope to open it in 2017.

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