Tuesday, 18 March 2014



This proposal for a National Holocaust Monument
 is from the team including David Adjaye and Ron Arad (source).

This spring, the National Holocaust Memorial will announce the winning proposal for a Holocaust monument which will be built in Ottawa near the Canadian War Museum. The monument was originally announced last April and is to be built this summer. The National Post recently wrote a thorough overview of the 6 monument proposals. Of note is the proposal by the Daniel Lebiskind team, which may be familiar in terms of its sharp angles and crystalline style -- apparently a stylized Star of David.

Daniel Libeskind and Gail Lord's design (source)

In addition to describing the designs, the article asked several interesting questions about the nature of the project. For instance, what is the best way to explain and remember the Holocaust, especially because "we are separated from those unspeakable events by an ocean and, nearly, a lifetime."

The exposed  bedrock design of Krzysztof Wodiczko andJulian Bonder (source).

I think that the questions raised in the National Post article need to be asked, and they are questions that go far beyond the representational or conceptual design possibilities proposed by each team. In fact, I have questions of my own: what is the purpose of the monument? Why now? Is there a broader political context for this?

According to the monument website and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, the monument is meant to “[remember] the suffering of the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust. This monument will not only preserve their memory but will also educate visitors of all faiths and traditions about the causes and risks of hate. Let us use the lessons of the past to remind us of the importance of tolerance, to inspire us to uphold human rights and to prevent future acts of genocide.”

The website notes that roughly 40 000 survivors of the Holocaust came to Canada in the 1940s and 1950s. This would imply a definite need for a memorial, perhaps particularly as these individuals approach old age. This brings up broader questions regarding the usefulness of memorials as well as the idea that perhaps memory is served in another arena. Certainly, as a fixture in the capital, the monument would attract visitors as well as demonstrate national importance. The National Holocaust Monument Development Council's fundraising goal is 4.5 million dollars. Would this money be put to better use elsewhere? If it was used in a different area to memorialize the Holocaust, would it have the same impact as a monument which is form that is recognizable in the Western world as the way to memorialize significant events?

I think this question can only be answered individually. Clearly there are supporters of the monument. If you scroll down to the supporters and friends section on the "about" page of the website, you can gauge the support for yourself. Despite this, I'm sure there are also those who do not support the building of the monument. I would be interested in hearing some other thoughts on this, particularly in terms of the Holocaust Monument but also in terms of general memorialization through monuments.

1 comment:

  1. Alex, thank you for this post. It raises so many questions about the representation of difficult memory and the practices of building star monuments to remember such histories.