The Six Million Jewish Martyrs statue has sat at 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway since 1964, serving as Philadelphia’s memorial to Holocaust. At the time, it was the first such public monument in the country.
But the structure’s getting a massive facelift, and — if all goes smoothly through the construction process — it’ll be transformed into the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza by next year. Construction is expected to begin this October or November on the $7 million project, turning what’s currently a single statue into a multi-faceted memorial plaza that aims to contrast motifs of the Holocaust with American constitutional protections and values.
The overall goal? To remind visitors in Philadelphia, the birthplace of America, that if the United States remains faithful to its Constitution, an atrocity like the Holocaust won’t happen here.
“We had a real opportunity to take that property around the memorial and turn it into something that could amplify the messages of tolerance and freedom and constitutional freedoms,” said Jake Reiter, a board member at the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation whose ancestors escaped the Holocaust. “And obviously we don’t want to revisit the atrocities, but we also want to present a vision of hope and a recognition that we do live in a country of constitutional freedoms, and that we should celebrate that.”