Big changes are coming to the decades-old Holocaust Memorial on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway after officials gathered Tuesday morning for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
The non-profit Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation (PHRF) officially began construction on a $7 million renovation of the Holocaust Memorial, located on a triangular lot at 16th Street and the Parkway. The occasion comes about six months after PHRF officially unveiled its plans to revamp the memorial for the first time in five decades.
“In light of the toxic national rhetoric, it’s more important than ever that we properly commemorate the victims of this tragedy and never forget this dark period of history,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at the groundbreaking.
At the core of the WRT-designed memorial plaza is the Six Million Jewish Martyrs statue, which has been at the site since 1964 and was the first public monument of its kind in the U.S. While the statue will remain, the makeover will bring a new plaza to the site and more memorials and features aimed to make the public space a place to educate the public about the Holocaust.
PHRF chairman David Adelman said to think of the future plaza not just as a memorial, but also as an “outdoor living classroom” and “engaging civic space.”
Here are six things to expect at the Philly Holocaust Memorial Plaza when it opens in fall 2018.
Six Pillars Memorial
The Six Pillars will honor the 6 million Jews who were killed by Nazi Germany. Each pillar will depict a motif of the Holocaust, contrasted with an adjacent pillar describing one of America’s core values.
An eternal flame
The eternal flame will be lit in perpetuity within the Remembrance Wall, as a sign of light and to never forget the suffering endured during the Holocaust.
A tree grove
Unlike now, visitors will be able to walk through a tree grove at the edge of the plaza. It symbolizes the woodlands that people took refuge in from the Nazi regime. A sapling of a the Theresienstadt Tree, which children at the Theresienstadt Camp planted and nurtured, will also be planted at the plaza.
Original train tracks
Train tracks from the Death Camp of Treblinka will be embedded into the plaza, serving as a solemn gesture to the Jews who were deported.
An interactive app
The PHMF will also roll out an interactive app specific to the plaza in 2018. It’ll take visitors on a tour of the space, as well as provide more background information on all of the features and what their connections to the Holocaust. It will also include 50,000 eyewitness accounts from Holocaust survivors.