Planned $7 million public plaza and memorial at 16th Street & Ben Franklin Parkway takes shape; construction anticipated to begin this year
The Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation (‘The PHRF’), a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the universal lessons of the Holocaust, unveiled new details and images of the planned Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza at the highly-trafficked intersection of 16th Street and Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The Plaza, which is funded in large part by donations from business leaders and residents across the region, is expected to begin construction this year.
The update depicts the centerpiece of the new Plaza, known as the Six Pillars, which will be erected in memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Each pillar is engraved with a narrative that chronicles a motif of the Holocaust, contrasted with an adjacent pillar describing one of America’s core values. The purpose of the Pillars is to show that, through a commitment to American democracy and protections, the country can continue to protect against the evils that lead to totalitarianism and genocide.
“When visitors lay eyes upon the Six Pillars, they’ll be reminded not just of the atrocities of Nazi Germany and its collaborators, but of our nation’s core principles of equality, democracy, and freedom,” said David Adelman, Chairman of The PHRF and CEO of Campus Apartments. “We believe that there is no better way to honor the memories of Holocaust victims than to promote the very values that can combat religious persecution around the world.”
The Six Pillars contain two sides: one facing Arch Street, and the other facing the interior of the Memorial Plaza. Visitors will be able to view six panel pairings, juxtaposing American values with motif of the Holocaust:
“Human Equality” vs. “The Master Race”, “American Democracy” vs. “Totalitarianism”, “Natural Rights” vs. “Nuremberg Laws”, “Freedom of Religion” vs. “Religious Persecution”, “Protecting Life and Liberty” vs. “Death Camps”, “Liberation” vs. “Bearing Witness”.
In addition to the Six Pillars, the new images show the configuration of the other components of the Plaza, including the black granite Remembrance Wall, which will create a somber enclosure, encouraging visitors to contemplate about the lives lost and the power of hate. Located at the western end of the plaza, the Wall will include a recessed Eternal Flame, which will serve as a further reminder of the determination of the global community to never forget.
Embedded in the Plaza’s pavement will be train tracks, which represent the tragedy of Jews being herded onto trains to labor and death camps; also depicted is the “Thereisenstadt tree,” which was planted by surviving children from the Thereisenstadt concentration camp. At the far western portion of the Plaza, the artists’ renderings depict The Forest, a planted grove, which hearkens back to the brave heroes of the resistance movement, who risked their lives to combat the evil forces in their midst.
The Plaza will also encompass the existing Six Million Jewish Martyrs statue, which memorialized the Holocaust since 1964, and was the first such public monument in North America.
“Standing at the birthplace of American democracy, the train tracks, forest and other elements serve as a reminder of the travesties that can result from a culture that loses its moral direction, while the six pillars demonstrate how a just, democratic society can prevent these horrors,” added Adelman. “As the years since the Holocaust pass and we run the risk of forgetting the lessons of history, this expanded memorial to the Holocaust will be a way of instilling these values to future generations.”
Construction of the new plaza is set to commence this Winter. The project is ground leased from the City of Philadelphia, and is being funded by generous donations from private citizens and an RACP grant from the State of Pennsylvania. There are numerous sponsorship opportunities available for individuals or firms looking to play a role in preserving the stories of the Holocaust.