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The New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston

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A picture of the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston.

The New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston.

Photo by Jen Rosenberg

Before I left for a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, quite a few people told me that I must see the Holocaust memorial located there. "Very powerful!" they said. What disturbed me was that everyone I asked who actually lived in Boston, not only did not know where the memorial was located, they had no idea what I was talking about. And, I was soon to find, the memorial was not mentioned on any maps.

How to Find Holocaust Memorial in Boston

When I got to Boston, I decided to walk the Freedom Trail. This is a historic walk that many tourists follow to see the historic sites of Boston. The trail is a self-lead walk which winds throughout the city and which is designated by a red line on the ground (painted on concrete in some parts, inlayed in red brick in others). This trail starts the visitor at the Boston Common and passes by the state house (with its distinctive golden dome), the Granary Burying Ground (where Paul Revere and John Hancock rest), the location of the Boston Massacre of 1770, Faneuil Hall (famous local site, the town meeting-hall), and Paul Revere's house.

Why am I telling you so much about the Freedom Trail, you may wonder? Though the Holocaust Memorial is not listed on the tour guides for the Freedom Trail, it is very easy to sidestep the red line by just half a block and get a chance to visit the memorial. Located very near Faneuil Hall, the memorial is on a small grassy area bordered on the west by Congress Street, on the east by Union Street, on the north by Hanover Street, and on the south by North Street.

Plaques and Time Capsule

The memorial begins with two large, granite monoliths which face each other. In between the two monoliths, a time capsule was buried. The time capsule, buried on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on April 18, 1993, contains "the names, submitted by New Englanders, of family and loved ones who perished in the Holocaust."

The Glass Towers

The main part of the memorial consists of six, large towers of glass. Each of these towers represents one of the sixth death camps (Belzec, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, Majdanek, Treblinka, and Chelmno). Each tower is made out of plates of glass that are etched with white numbers, which represent the registration numbers of victims.

There is a paved path which travels through the base of each of these towers.

Along the sides of the concrete, in between the towers, are short quotes that give information as well as give remembrance. One quote reads, "Most infants and children were killed immediately upon arrival at the camps. The Nazis murdered as many as one and a half million Jewish children."

When you walk underneath the tower, you realize a number of things. When standing there, your eyes are immediately drawn to the numbers on the glass. Then, your eyes focus on a short quote from survivors, different on each tower, about life either before, within, or after the camps. Soon, you realize that you are standing upon a grate in which warm air is coming out. As Stanley Saitowitz, the designer of the memorial, described it, "like human breath as it passes through the glass chimneys to heaven."*

Under the Towers

If you get down on your hands and knees (which I noticed most visitors did not do), you can look through the grate and see a pit, which has ragged rocks at the bottom. Among the rocks, there are very small, stationary white lights as well as a single light that moves. I have yet to find a reason for the lights at the bottom of this pit, but there are many analogies that can be made, such as light even amongst darkness, etc.

Plaque With Famous Quote

At the end of the memorial, there is a large monolith that leaves the visitor with the famous quote ...

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 didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

---Martin Niemoeller

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