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This 1990 memorial was added to an existing courthouse building at Madison Square, one of Manhattan’s busiest areas. A column, resembling a smokestack of a crematorium, was added to the northeast corner of the façade of the 1896 Beaux-arts Courthouse in 1990. The now half-column is decorated in swirling flames carved into the column at eyelevel is a representation of the Auschwitz I concentration camp. The camp is shown from a highly detailed bird’s-eye view, with the commandant’s house, the execution wall, torture chamber, gas chamber, and crematorium. Around the carving is inscribed the words, “Indifference to Injustice… Is the Gate to Hell,” a message appropriate on a courthouse.
The sculpture is based on an aerial photograph taken on August 25, 1944, by the 15th US Army Air Force.
History: The idea for the memorial purportedly originated with Judge Francis T. Murphy, presiding justice of the New York State Court of Appeals. An organization was formed to promote the idea. A competition was held in 1988 and was won by Harriet Feigenbaum, who proposed to create a replica of an aerial photograph of the Auschwitz concentration camp taken by American planes as they bombed German oil factories nearby on August 25, 1944. The photo and others indicate that U.S. planes had the ability to bomb the death camp, but the camp was not designated as a priority target.
Description: The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (quoted on Wikipedia) describes the sculpture as "a six-sided half column rising 27 feet above its base The five-sided concave base extends one story below ground level, the overall height of the Memorial being 38 feet. Carvings of flames along the length of the column recall the flames of the gas chambers at Auschwitz. They appear to blow in the direction of the courthouse as if to threaten the symbol of Justice. A relief of an aerial view of the main camp at Auschwitz is carved into the base at eye level... On the base under the relief is a giant flame extending below ground level as a final reminder of Crematorium 1 at Auschwitz."
The words "Indifference to Injustice is the Gate to Hell" are engraved around the image.
Feigenbaum's carving noted five of the specific points within the Auschwitz camp that were visible in the original photograph: "Torture Chamber," "Execution Wall," "Gas Chamber and Crematorium 1," "Commandant's House." Under the relief, the place and date of the original photograph is given: "Auschwitz 1 / 25 August 1944"
A small plaque next to it lets us know that this is a “Memorial to All Victims of the Holocaust, 1938 - 1945” and the names of the sculptor, commissioner, sponsor, and owner.
Howard Brandston and Charles Salzhauer
Organization for the Memorial to Victims of the Injustice of the Holocaust
The New York Department of Citywide Administrative Services
“The Hidden Holocaust Memorial of Madison Park: A Manhattan courthouse hides a small but scathing memorial to Holocaust injustice.” https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-hidden-holocaust-memorial-of-madison-park-new-york-new-york (accessed Sept 28, 2021).
“Memorial to Victims of the Injustice of the Holocaust.” Wikipedia online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_to_Victims_of_the_Injustice_of_the_Holocaust (accessed Sept 28, 2021).