Thursday, May 7, 2015

Netherlands: ‘Just not in my backyard’ for planned Dutch Holocaust memorial

As Jewish communities in Europe are dwindling, Holocaust memorial monuments and Jewish museums are being built - they are regularly defaced and there was a massacre at the Jewish museum in Brussels.  And people are not happy.  There are plans to build a Holocaust memorial in a park in Amsterdam where there is already one - at a cost of $6.8 million.

Times of Israel reports:
As seen in 2012, the ‘Broken Mirrors’ Auschwitz memorial is located in Amsterdam’s Wertheim Park, the proposed site for a much larger Holocaust memorial. Underneath the six shattered mirrors is an urn with victims’ ashes taken from Auschwitz (photo credit: Matt Lebovic)
In Amsterdam, a groundbreaking Shoah memorial designed by Daniel Libeskind awaits approval, even as some of the proposed site’s neighbors beg to differ.  It’s the Dutch Holocaust memorial everyone says they want to see built — just not in their neighborhood.

Early last year, Amsterdam’s mayor endorsed the creation of the Netherlands’ first Holocaust memorial to include the names of more than 102,000 Jewish victims deported and murdered from that country. It was relatively clear sailing until memorial planners zoomed in on secluded Wertheim Park — close to what the city declared a Jewish Cultural Quarter in 2012 — as their preferred site. 

Claiming they were presented with “a done deal” last March, a group of residents living close to the park has consistently opposed constructing the $6.8 million Holocaust memorial in their neighborhood. “Not in our garden” has been a common refrain, with opponents demanding the city have the Shoah edifice built anywhere but in the heart of their leafy Plantage district. [...]

“We are quite sure that if we would want to erect the memorial in any other park in Amsterdam, there would be an equal amount of neighbors’ resistance,” said Koster. “Most of the people would say they are not against the memorial, but that it is not appropriate for their neighborhood,” she said.  In addition to concerns about aesthetics and tourist infrastructure, something more is at play along the Plantage neighborhood’s picturesque canals, said Koster.  “The park is now mainly used as a spot to walk dogs, and the opponents of the memorial have said it’s not pleasant to be confronted with names of Holocaust victims,” she told The Times. “It’s not a reminder that anyone wants in their backyard,” she said. [...]

Unbeknownst to even some of its visitors, the shady Wertheim Park is already home to an obscure, almost invisible Auschwitz memorial.  Installed in 1993, “Broken Mirrors” is composed of six cracked mirror panels, under which an urn with the ashes of victims from Auschwitz was buried. Surrounded by bushes and trees, the ground-level monument is hard to spot from within the park itself, much less the street, though it is the site of an annual memorial gathering. Viewing their proposed Memorial of Names structure as a companion to the humble, often-defaced Auschwitz monument, the Dutch Auschwitz Committee worked with Libeskind to thematically integrate the structures in his master plan. [...]

When Amsterdam’s remnant Jewish community constructed its first post-Holocaust edifice in 1950, it was named — perhaps somewhat astoundingly — the Monument of Jewish Gratitude.  [...]  This Monument of Jewish Gratitude was built on the literal ruins of the extinct Jewish Quarter, and half a decade before the country’s official war monument went up in Dam Square. Along with Anne Frank’s diary, the Monument of Gratitude enhanced the image of Dutch citizens as “helpers” of Jews and brave resisters, as opposed to Nazi collaborators who greased the wheels of genocide. More.

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