Obj. ID: 48108 New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, MA, USA
New England Holocaust Memorial
Who is Commemorated?
Six million Jewish victims and other innocent people “of many races, religions, and nationalities” who were murdered by the Nazis. “Among the victims were Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political dissidents, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically disabled,” as well as “survivors of the death camps, those who courageously aided them, and those soldiers who liberated them.”
The Memorial is designed around six luminous glass towers, each reaching 54 feet high, and lit internally from top to bottom. Millions of numbers are etched in the glass, representing the numbers tattooed on many of the victims’ arms. Each glass tower also has inscribed quotes, historical facts, and the names and memories of some survivors.
As one follows the path through the towers, steam is released from grates that serve as the path within the towers as if it is smoke. Though symbolic, this creates an active and dramatic experience.
Starting at the south end, one follows a path from the pre-existing Curley monument into the small grassy area of William Carmen Park, in which is set the Monument to Liberators, consisting of a flagpole and low gray granite inscribed “tombstone” type markers set upright facing the path. The flagpole is on the west side, and beside it is an inscribed stone with a quote from Survivor Stephan Ross. In the space corresponding to the flagpole on the east, is an inscribed paving slab with a quote from General (later president) Eisenhower about his experience at the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp. Though Ross envisioned the entire memorial honoring American liberators, this portion was only dedicated in 2005, ten years after the main memorial. This part of the memorial explicitly links it to Boston’s Freedom Trail
Further along the path, it is flanked by two large granite slabs inscribed with the names of project sponsors and donors. Beneath the path, between these slabs, a time capsule was buried in 1993. Still further along, a single slab rises on the west side of the path, and this contains historical information about the Holocaust and a timeline of events.
The path then reaches the six towers and passes through them. Steam rises, and through the steam, one can read quotations from survivors etched on the glass, and one sees embedded in the glass millions of numbers. After the towers, at the end of the path at the north end of the memorial park is one more upright granite slab on the east side. This contains the famous quote attributed to the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, that begins “They came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist .” There is also an explanation that “Ironically, Niemoller had delivered anti-Semitic sermons early in the Nazi regime, He later opposed Hitler and was sent to a concentration camp.”
According to architect Stanley Saitowitz, the choice of six towers was for several reasons: the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust; the names of the six main death camps; a row of memorial candles; and the six years, 1939-1945, during which the infamous “Final Solution,” the deadliest phase of the Holocaust, took place.
From architect Stanley Saitowitz’s description of the memorial (https://www.nehm.org/the-memorial/design-of-the-memorial/):
The memorial to darkness is built with light. The construction began on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. The horror of the Holocaust is reenacted in the brutal cutting of all the trees on half the site. These stumps remain.
Six pits are dug and lined with black concrete. At the bottom of each pit is a glowing fire.
Six glass towers are raised above. Etched on the glass towers are millions of numbers that flicker with light. On the walls of each tower, a memory of a survivor from the camp is etched. Between the towers, a line of text locates the Holocaust in historical context.
At the two entries are didactic panels, one outlining the chronology of events that led to the Wannsee Conference and the horrific propositioning of establishing the factories of death this memorial marks, the other quoting Pastor Martin Niemoller, who placed responsibility for such events in the hands of every individual.
As visitors walk along this path, entering the towers, they are tattooed with the shadows of numbers, and trapped momentarily in a theater of horror.
On the black granite ramps is incised REMEMBER. | Each of the six burning chambers is named after one of the six death camps constructed in Poland, factories whose product was death: CHELMNO. TREBLINKA. MAJDANEK. SOBIBOR. AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU. BELZEC.
At the scale of the city, the memorial has another role: path, colonnade and frame create urban space, defining edges and relationships with the buildings and city beyond. These six towers are emblems of faith, a covenant of trust that memorializes a collective evil.
Atop the signpost near the south entrance:
Carmen Park is named in
recognition of William Carmen’s
service to the community and his
vision and leadership in creating the
New England Holocaust Monument
To take a tour, scan the
code above or visit:
Welcome to the New England Holocaust Memorial
This site is in memory of the six
million Jews who were murdered
during the Holocaust
Please be respectful while visiting
this sacred space
On a stone by the flagpole:
APRIL 29TH, 2003: THE FREEDOM TRAIL, BOSTON
WE HAVE RAISED THIS FLAG IN TRIBUTE to all the American and other allied soldiers who
have liberated us from the brutal Nazi tyranny and open the gates to our trail to freedom in America.
Israel Arbiter, President
American Association of Jewish Holocaust
Survivors of Greater Boston
On the granite "tombstone" slab opposite the flagpole:
APRIL 29TH, 1945 DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP
I WAS AN EMACIATED 14 YEAR OLD BOY when an American soldier lifted me into his
strong arms. He looked into my tired eyes with compassion, shared his food with me and gave me a
small American flag of freedom.
Stephan B .Ross
Granite pavement plaque opposite the flagpole:
April 12th, 1945. Ohrdruf
The things I saw beggar description, visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”
Granite slab near the south entrance, west side:
The New England Holocaust Memorial is placed in Boston, near the freedom trail, surrounded by important symbols
of American history and human rights, to be used by generations to witness history and reaffirm the basic rights of all people.
The memorial was built through the generous contributions of hundreds of citizens, including the following leaders.
[Lists of sponsors and donors]
On the pavement near the south entry:
On April 18, 1993 on Holocaust
Remembrance Day a time capsule was
Buried here by survivors of the Nazi death
Camps and their children and their liberators.
The capsule contains names submitted by
New Englanders, of family and loved ones
WHO PERISHED IN THE HOLOCAUST
Granite slab near the south entrance, east side:
“I will give them an everlasting name.” – Isaiah 56:5
This memorial is dedicated to those six million Jewish men, women, and children.
We seek to encourage a universal understanding of all that happened in that period. Nearly eleven million people, of many races, religions, and nationalities were murdered by the Nazis. Among the victims were Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political dissidents, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically disabled.
Survivors of the death camps, those who courageously aided them, and those soldiers who liberated them with compassion were caught up in this great tragedy, and they carry the burden of those memories throughout their lives.
We acknowledge each unique experience, as well as the horror of the collective history.
On granite slab near the south entrance, west side:
Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis created a regime of hate and victimization in Germany that eventually consumed most of Europe. Driven by racist beliefs, they killed as many as eleven million men, women and children in their quest to dominate Europe and to create a quote pure and superior UN quote race. The Nazis singled out the Jews for total extermination - their very existence to be raced from history and memory. Before their defeat in 1945, the Nazi regime murdered 6 million Jews - more than half of Europe’s Jewish population.
Those who have perished have been silenced forever. Those who witnessed and survived the horrors carry with them the burden of memory. Through their voices, we seek to comprehend the acts of inhumanity that can stem from the seeds of prejudice.
To remember their suffering is to recognize the danger and evil that are possible whenever one group persecutes another. As you walk this Freedom Trail, pause here to reflect on the consequences of a world in which there is no freedom—a world in which basic human rights are not protected. And know that wherever prejudice, discrimination, or victimization are tolerated, evil like the Holocaust can happen again.
[Followed by a timeline]
On the path near the towers
On the path, one name before each tower
Inscribed in the glass panels on the first stories of each tower:
“I remember stooping down and picking up
a piece of something black near the
crematorium. I realized it was a bone.
I was going to throw it down again,
and I thought,
my God, this may be
all that’s left of someone.
So I wrapped it up and carried it with me.
A couple of days later, I dug it out
of my pocket and buried it.”
Participated in the Liberation of
the concentration camps in 1945
“Some Catholics, including Father Amyot,
invited me to join them in prayer.
Seven or eight of us gathered,
secretly of course,
in the shed used as a lavatory.
In prayer we laid before God
our rags, our filth, our fatigue,
our exposure, our hunger
and our misery.”
French resistance fighter who later became
Pastor of the French Reformed Church
“Transports arrived every day,
mainly from Poland, but also from
other European countries—
Czechoslovakia, and others.
In one transport there was a Ukrainian woman.
She possessed documents
that proved that she was a genuine Aryan,
and yet she went to the gas chamber.
Once you crossed the gate to the camp,
there was no chance
to get out of there alive.”
Metal worker imprisoned at Belzec
“I was assigned to work outside digging ditches.
We dug in the freezing cold and rain,
wearing only the thin,
striped dresses issued to us.
The ditches weren’t to be used
for any particular purpose.”
“The Nazis were merely trying to work
us to death. And many did die
Dressmaker who was forced to make
uniforms for German flyers
“In one transport, people refused
to be taken to the gas chambers.
A tragic struggle developed.
They destroyed everything in sight and
broke the crates filled with gold
taken from the prisoners.
They grabbed sticks and anything
they could get their hands on to fight.”
“But the guards’ bullets cut them down.
When morning came,
the yard was still full of the dead.”
Construction worker forced to build the gas
chambers of Treblinka
“I was chosen to work as a barber
outside the gas chamber.
The Nazis needed the women’s hair.
They told us,
‘make those women believe that
they are just getting a haircut.’
We already knew it was the last place
they went in alive.”
Barber who escaped Treblinka and survived in hiding.
“From our barracks we could see
the gas chambers.
A heart-rending cry of women and
children reached us there.
We were overcome
by a feeling of helplessness.
There we were, watching and
unable to do anything.
We had already worked out
a plan of escape.
But at that moment I decided—
we must not simply escape.
We must destroy the fascists and the camp.”
Captured Russian soldier who led the
prisoner revolt at Sobibor
“Ilse, a childhood friend of mine,
once found a raspberry in the camp
and carried it in her pocket all day
to present to me that night on a leaf.
Imagine a world in which
your entire possession is
one raspberry and
you give it to your friend.”
Gerta Weissman Klein
Deported from Germany as a teenager.
Later married the U.S. Army officer who
Led the troops that rescued her.
“My younger sister went up to a
Nazi soldier with one of her friends.
embracing each other,
she asked to be spared.
He looked into her eyes and
shot the two of them.
They fell together in their embrace—
my sister and her young friend.”
Young mother who witnessed the murder of her entire family
“At first the bodies weren’t burned,
they were buried.
In January 1944, we were forced
to dig up the bodies
so they could be burned.
When the last mass grave was opened,
I recognized my whole family—
my mother, my sisters and their kids.
They were all in there.”
Deported from Lithuania and forced to work
the death detail at Chelmno
“When my parents were sent off to the camp,
I gave my good shoes to my father
because I thought he’d need them
if he did physical labor.
When I saw my mother for the last time,
I hugged her and said I hoped
she didn’t have to work too hard.
I never dreamed they’d be dead within such
a short time of their departure.”
Captured by the Nazis in Amsterdam
“Nothing belongs to us anymore.
They have taken away our clothes,
our shoes, even our hair.
If we speak, they will not listen to us.
And if they listen, they will not understand.
They have even taken away our names.
My number is 174517. I will carry the tattoo
on my left arm until I die.”
A chemist captured in Italy while trying
to join the partisans.
Became an author after the war
North entrance gray slab:
They came first for the Communists
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist
Then they came for the Jews
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak because I wasn’t a trade unionist
Then they came for the Catholics
And I did not speak up because I was a Protestant
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up
This statement attributed to Martin Niemoller has become a legendary expression of
the lesson of the Holocaust. Ironically, Niemoller had delivered anti-Semitic sermons early in the
Nazi regime, He later opposed Hitler and was sent to a concentration camp.
New England Holocaust Memorial Committee
The New England Holocaust Memorial was initiated by a group of Holocaust survivors living in the Boston area and built to remember the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and to honor New England survivors. By the time of its dedication in October 1995, more than 3,000 individuals and organizations nationwide had contributed funds.
The memorial is located on Boston’s Freedom Trail, near Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, and many other important sites of American history.
As of 2022, the Memorial is maintained and operated through a collaboration of individuals, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. The Boston National Historical Park of the National Park Service maintains the site. Combined Jewish Philanthropies manages the site. The Jewish Community Relations Council coordinates programming. Facing History and Ourselves consults with schools and other groups on Holocaust education. Holocaust survivors and volunteers serve as educators.
Holocaust survivor Stephan Ross (Szmulek Rozental) initiated the project. Ross was imprisoned by the Nazis at the age of nine and his parents, one brother, and five sisters were murdered. Between 1940 and 1945, ross survived 10 different concentration camps. In 1948, the then-16-year-old was brought to America under the auspices of the U.S. Committee for Orphaned Children. Illiterate upon his arrival, he later earned three college degrees and worked for the City of Boston social services for more than 40 years.
Ross wanted to memorialize his family and the millions of other victims of the Holocaust and to honor the soldiers who liberated the concentration camps. He formed a committee to put together a proposal and William Carmen, a World War II veteran, chaired the Committee which grew to include Israel Arbeiter, president of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston. City of Boston officials, including mayors Raymond Flynn and Thomas Menino. A small park at the memorial entrance is now named in honor of William Carmen. By 1989 the committee had expanded. Leading participants Stephen Dickerman. Ruth Fein, Alex Krieger, and Maurice Finegold all played major roles in the design process.
In 1990 the committee announced ab international design competition for the memorial and produced a 49-page Design Competition Program that included an introduction to the New England Holocaust Memorial Committee and the project, and “finalized statement of purpose; the design challenging and design considerations; a detailed description of the site; several site photographs; a written statement regarding the architectural, urban design, and historic context of the site; the proposed competition schedule; a description of the prizes and awards involved in the competition; the rules of the competition; the design presentation requirements; as well as an appendix with a resource bibliography, survivor testimony (taken from the first public hearing), images of additional public art in Boston, and individual and team identification forms.” (Nold, p. 31).
The call reached more than 1,000 people, and 520 entries were received. The jury was comprised of “Frank Gehry, noted architect from California; Rosemarie Bletter, architectural critic and historian from New York; Henry Friedlander, German historian and Holocaust survivor from Maryland; Katy Kline, art historian and art critic from Massachusetts; Marshall Berman, political scientist and author from New York; Michael Von Valkenburgh, landscape architect from Massachusetts; and Elyn Zimmerman, sculptor and environmental artist from New York.” (Nold, p. 34). Holocaust survivors and community leaders judged the proposals and South African-born architect Stanley Saitowitz’s design was chosen.
On April 18, 1993 (Yom HaShoah) Holocaust survivors, descendants, and liberators buried a time capsule near the entrance to the memorial with names, submitted by New Englanders, of family and loved ones who died or were murdered in the Holocaust.
The memorial was dedicated on October 22, 1995, in a public ceremony on the steps of Boston City Hall Plaza. Community and civic leaders spoke of the Memorial’s beauty and the significance of its location on the Freedom Trail. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel reminded those gathered that the evil of racism is still very much alive in the world today, “We must look for hope. There is a marvelous saying by a great Hasidic master: ‘If you look for the spark, you will find it in the ashes.”
According to architect Stanley Saitowitz: "I hope that visitors to the Memorial take away with them the ungraspable nature of the Holocaust, the completely overwhelming, inexplicable dimension of dimension. And coupled with that, a sense of hope that survival and the building of this memorial make possible."
After completion, the memorial won several design awards including The American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Henry Bacon Medal for Memorial Architecture, and the Boston Society of Architects Harleston Parker Award in 1997. Since its opening, the memorial has proved popular with the general public, and became a regular site of Holocaust commemoration, but also the site for public events and protects on behalf of human rights.
Despite its imagery that specifically relates to Jewish tradition and experience, the memorial was designed to commemorate a large group of victims and liberators. This was in part due to pluralistic altruism, but also as a way to gain wide public support for the project. Throughout the process, the public has played a large role in the design and emphasis of the memorial. In 2008, Christine Nold noted that “The process of engaging the public in the creation of the NEHM was largely responsible for the memorial's outcome. The interaction between the NEHMC and the public created a forum in which the needs of the public could be addressed. Widespread public participation helped shape the design competition and aided in the selection of a design that promoted American ideals without minimizing the experience of the Holocaust” (Nold, pp. 80-81).
Asofsky, David Dorosh, "Ritual in architecture and the New England Holocaust Memorial," a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Architecture,
School of Architecture, Rice University, Houston, Texas April, 1992.
Nold, Christine, "An Examination of the New England Holocaust Memorial" (2008). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 163. [with extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources], https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/graddis/163 (accessed March 12, 2023)
"The Memorial's History," (New England Holocaust Memorial website), https://www.nehm.org/the-memorial/history/ (accessed March 12, 2023)
Young, James. Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 323-335.
“Holocaust Museums & Memorials: New England Holocaust Memorial,” (Jewish Virtual Library), https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/bostonmemorial.html (accessed March 12, 2023)