Lest younger generations forget one of the most evil events in history, the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation is expanding on a sculpture in Center City with a new plaza outside City Hall.
Mayor Jim Kenney joined survivors of the Holocaust and other public officials Wednesday to unveil plans for a new Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza surrounding the existing Holocaust Memorial at 16th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway.
At the base of the site of the Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs, the PHRF plans to create a destination landmark park in an effort to preserve the memories of so many lost in the Holocaust. It will be catty-cornered at 16th Street, Arch Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Early estimates of the cost of the project are around $4.5 million. It's slated for a late 2017 opening.
Steve Kessler is chairman of the PHRF. His wife, Madeleine, is a child of Holocaust survivors and lost three siblings and most of her family during that time.
“Resistance against the Nazi regime played out in different ways. At times people banded together in orchestrated attacks against the Nazis,” he said. “Some escaped the ghettos and concentration camps, taking to the forests for protection and retaliation against Hitler’s regime.”
As visitors enter the site at the gateway to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the first thing visitors will see is the Monument to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs.
The park design will consist of six columns that represent the 6 million Jews kiled by the Nazis in World War II. Inscriptions on the columns will describe key events of the Holocaust. Each column will be surrounded by newly planted trees and shrubs, with an eternal flame in the middle.
Kenney, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners' Chairman Josh Shapiro, Miriam Cane, executive vice president of the Holocaust Survivors Association of Philadelphia and others emphasized the need for a new Holocaust memorial plaza for a new generation, because the number of Holocaust survivors is constantly diminishing.
“Visitors can stop at the eternal flame and think about those who tragically perished and to the survivors and the losses and atrocities they endured. The flame represents light and hope,” said Kessler.
“The forest symbolizes those acts of resistance including, those who refused to submit to the will of the killing machine; those who took shelter under the canopy of the trees; those who plotted attacks beside the tree trunks; and those who fought to survive," he said.