Romania: More on Bucharest Holocaust Monument
by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) Earlier this month I wrote about the pending dedication of the new Holocaust Memorial in Bucharest. Romania: Holocaust Monument to be Dedicated in Bucharest. The inauguration did take place, but the monument remains incomplete.
For more and continuing information about the monument and and to see pictures of the inauguration and the structure click here for the web site about the monument created by Marko Maximilain Katz, Director of MCA Romania -The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania.
Regrettably, many of the inscriptions which will tell some of the facts about the Holocaust in Romania, and which are the real rationale for the memorial, were not ready for installation.
Photos from www.holocaustmemorial.ro
What participants in the formal ceremony and observers (including the Romanian and international press) saw was an architectural framework and an ongoing worksite. We have all experienced time and budget overruns on construction projects. Still, in the case of a much anticipated monument such as the one in Bucharest, we can certainly wonder why the decision was taken to dedicate it before its completion. Was it simply that the government sponsors thought the deadline of the local Holocaust Remembrance day would force the contractors to hurry up? Or were there other reasons? Has rushing the dedication in any way diminished the impact of the monument?
K.K. Brattman, Managing Editor of the Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project: "Forget You Not" reacted strongly to the apparent inadequacies of the new monument, perceiving the one inscribed plaque in situ to be the only working that was to be included. This plaque merely indicates the sponsor and the artist, Romanian sculptor (who lives in Germany) Peter Jacobi.
In fact, several more historical and commemorative plaques are still to be completed and installed. The texts to these plaques – or something close to the final texts – were apparently included in the program of the inauguration.
I have been in contact with representatives of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Jewish Committee and the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, three organizations that actively pressured the Romanian government to create the Wiesel Commission, and then to follow through with many recommendations. They all shared the concerns of Mr. Brattman, but assured me that his concerns would be resolved when the monument was complete, with all the intended text.
One problem causing delay was the Hebrew inscription, which was being engraved in Germany. According to my sources, there were problems, but I don’t know whether these were in the text, the translation or the actual carving of the Hebrew letters. Other source reported that at the time of the dedication, where many things were rushed, there may have been some issues about having the proper translations (it is in Romanian, English and Hebrew) or questions about misspellings, which could require it to be remade.
I can attest from prior experience the difficulty in moving from idea to finished text on a Holocaust monuments. I have folders full of draft texts for monuments in Estonia, Croatia, Poland, Ukraine and elsewhere. Sometimes a single word or number - or the translation of the ta word - can hold up a project for a long long time.
In Bucharest (and in Washington) the general expectation is that all the problems about the final inscriptions should be resolved soon, and the final installation should take place within “a month or two.”
I encourage readers of this blog to report in from Bucharest with information and new pictures when they have occasion to visit the site.
I post here part of the moving speech by Liviu Beres, President of The Association of the Jews from Romania - Victims of the Holocaust, delivered at the unfinished monument on Romania's Holocaust Remembrance Day (the Text of the speech by the President of Romania has not yet been posted in English):
It was my destiny to have lived the best years of a person’s life during a dramatic turning point of history. It was a time when the commandment “Thou shall not kill!” was reversed. A time when the spiral of evil was expanding in Europe and all over the world, when anti-Semitism, hatred and discrimination were dominant and lawlessness became a state of the law.
Its initiators conceived the Holocaust in such a way that it was supposed to have no witnesses or history. As you know, the fate of the war turned against them and there remained many witnesses. Thus, the Holocaust has a history.
One of the witnesses is the person who wrote these lines. I belong to a fading generation: the survivors of the Holocaust.
We all know that, as persons, we move in space and change in time. We can return to the same location in space, but never in time. Only memory remains, with what you were able to keep in mind. For me, memories are often conversations with the dead or with myself, as I was at a time and changed to what I am now.
Sixty-eight years have passed since the freight trains, filled with the Jews who were deported from Bukovina, were running to the Dniester River. They “unloaded” the merchandise at the bank of the river for them to cross to “the other side”. At the same time, after the mass executions of the Jews, which took place in July-August 1941, when the troops entered Bassarabia and Northern Bukovina, the survivors were forced to walk, in convoys, to the same place. Whoever stayed behind was shot. I was part of those convoys when I hadn’t been 14 of age, yet.
Having been looted of their goods, of their rights and especially of their right to live, the Jews were going to an unknown place, which also got a new name: Transnistria.
The extermination policy was set into motion. Tens and hundreds of thousands of people were sentenced to death. Their only fault was that they were born and their parents were Jewish. It is true: no gas chambers were used in the Holocaust perpetrated by Antonescu’s government. People died from bullets, cold, hunger, insanitary conditions and disease (and they made “all the proper conditions” for it to appear). People also suffocated in tightly closed freight trains (the death trains from Iaşi). They were set on fire and blown up while crowded in warehouses. They were hanged (Odessa) and they died because the people around were bad.
In this bleak picture, where the scene is mainly occupied by the victims, perpetrators and indifferent spectators, there were good people as well. They were not many, among those who believed in light, despite the general dark. They risked their own life so as to save others.
The Holocaust is still here, in the memory of the few survivors. It is here with us in its whole horror. It was a cruel reality, a denial of any sense of morality, a denial of humanity. This memorial that we inaugurate now and here was made in honor of the victims of this cruel reality. As a tombstone for the ones who have no grave, the memorial will be a token for all those who want to know what happened. For, if we speak about learning from the Holocaust, it means we should not only tell the truth about the past, but also show how the same mechanisms act today in various societies and in people as well.
The fear of unknown finds its release in the fear and hatred for the “stranger”. Intolerance, fundamentalism, fanaticism, they all get their nutrients and new energy precisely from this “fear”. This is why it is necessary to spread the knowledge about the Holocaust.
By knowing our past, they will be able to act efficiently so that it does not become their future. It is possible that many will start thinking about what life and death is, and especially about what the world is. Even today, there are enough signs that warn about the always active potentiality of evil.
People forget too often that whatever starts with the hatred against the Jews continues with the loathing of all that is different. Mankind, who created tyrannical utopias and suffered from their disasters, can now better understand the consequences of one’s deeds.
This Memorial about people who existed at one time was erected for the people of today and of tomorrow. It is meant to remove indifference, the lack of knowledge about this matter and it should have an important contribution in this sense.
Let me tell you that, despite of all that happened, I still believe that MAN should be the purpose of man, in life.