Stanley Saitowitz's New England Holocaust Memorial (1995)
BOSTON — Designed by Stanley Saitowitz and dedicated in 1995, the New England Holocaust Memorial occupies a fascinating site on the Freedom Trail in Boston. This busy location may seem a bit incongruous for a commemorative memorial of this kind, but I believe those characteristics that make it seem most out of place are the very qualities that make the installation so well-suited to this city space. The site caters to tourists and commuters alike–both those with mere moments to spare and others who choose to linger and have a more contemplative experience.
In the context of the Freedom Trail (which marks and celebrates Boston’s unique role in the American Revolution), the New England Holocaust Memorial speaks to a slightly more nuanced aspect of freedom: it invites us to reflect upon the atrocities committed during the Holocaust and recognize that we have a responsibility to ensure such evil and injustice have no place in our society today.
Saitowitz’s memorial accomplishes what many like it strive to do, but often are unable to: it marks a profoundly tragic event in ways that are symbolically loaded without being overtly literal. For example, six glass pillars stand tall at the center of a leafy median. The pillars are etched with six million numbers signifying the Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust (but also referencing the diabolical efficiency of the Nazis and their assigning of numeric tattoos to their prisoners). As visitors walk the linear path beneath the towers, they will see smoke rise from six-foot depressions below the steel grates at their feet (one for each of the six major concentration camps), thus rendering the memorial experience that much more provocative.
With quotes, didactic texts, and significant historical dates peppered throughout this minimal installation, the New England Holocaust Memorial stimulates, educates, honors and—perhaps most poignantly—encourages generations removed from the reality of the Holocaust to remember–often.