The New England Holocaust Memorial (NEHM) in Boston, MA was designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz and was dedicated in 1995. Located directly on the Freedom Trail across the street from Boston City Hall, it consists of six glass towers with each standing 54’ high on black granite. There are quotes about the victims, liberators, and perpetrators of the Holocaust scrawled on the ground. During the night, the memorial illuminates and a smoky fog fills columns behind the name of the death camps.
The number six plays a significant role the design of the New England Holocaust Memorial. Six million Jewish people lost their lives in concentration camps. There are one million number ID’s etched into each of the six towers each number representing a single victim from 000001 to 600000. There were six main death camps in Poland: Chelmno, Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibor, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Belzec. Six represents a row of memorial candles. Finally, the six years, 1939-1945, during which the infamous “Final Solution,” the deadliest phase of the Holocaust, took place.
The memorial has other key features imprinted on it. The memorial has the word “Remember” at both ends, with one side having the word in English and Hebrew and other having it in English and Yiddish. This was done as Hebrew and Yiddish are both dominant Jewish languages and languages that led to Nazis discovering who was Jewish to imprison them. Also, there is a timeline that illuminates major events between 1933 and 1945 that were important to the rise, fall, and overall destruction of the Holocaust.
It is also interesting to note that while the memorial reminds the public that the United States helped in the liberation, it also includes the statement “BY LATE 1942, THE UNITED STATE AND ITS ALLIES were aware of the death camps, but did nothing to destroy them”. To have this statement placed on the Freedom Trail that has a huge amount of patriotism was very bold. It helps show that the “American heroes” had turned a blind eye until it became convenient to free the camps and end the genocide.
Constructing a Holocaust memorial in the United States had a special challenge simply due to geographic location. As it is in North America, it is neither a cemetery nor a site devastated by the Nazi regime; therefore, the site was made solely for the purpose of commemoration. The exact placement of the memorial is also quite interesting: between steel skyscrapers and colonial brick architecture. This allows the memorial to bridge the domains of urbanization and history.
While the liberators were not memorialized in the main memorial, in 2003 a project was funded to create The Liberators’ Monument at the NEHM that consists of an American flag and a plaque.
As the number of survivors continues to decrease the importance of monument becomes increasingly important to preserve the past. The word of mouth and first hand stories will be told less and less and memorials such as the NEHM are necessary that such atrocities are not forgotten. The words, symbols, numbers, and other features of the NEHM will play a greater role in the American collective memory as it will become one of the few instances people are exposed to information about the Holocaust. The memorial will be the “moral compass for the nation” to remind Americans that their ancestors rallied against the Nazi genocide and supported the democratic tolerance that founded their nation.