A public plaza commemorating the victims of the Holocaust opened on the Parkway this week, bringing fresh memorials and features to sit alongside the country’s oldest public holocaust monument.
The space, dubbed the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza opened Monday at 16th and the Parkway after a year of construction. The $7 million project, lead by non-profit the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation (PHRF), aims to enhance the educational experience of the Six Million Jewish Martyrs monument, which has been at the space since 1964. It’s the oldest monument of its kind in the country.
Designed by WRT, the plaza, “offers a fresh approach to Holocaust and genocide education, incorporating interactive technology with material reminders of the Holocaust,” the foundation said in a statement.
That includes new features like the six pillars, which sit in pairs at the site and represent the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The pillars alternate between descriptions of atrocities committed during the Holocaust and quotes from US historical figures to, “communicate the messages that must be taught in the quest to conquer hatred,” the foundation said.
In addition to the monument and the six pillars, the new plaza features the original train tracks that led into the concentration camps—a stark and harrowing reminder of what victims had to endure. Finally, there’s a tree grove, meant to represent the woods where people took refuge during the Nazi regime, and a sapling of the Theresienstadt Tree, which children at the Theresienstadt Camp planted and nurtured.
In addition to bringing new physical features to the site, the foundation has brought in new technology—an iWalk app—to help passers-by and visitors educate themselves on the plaza, its monuments, and the history of the Holocaust. The app guides people through the plaza with victim testimonies and information on the symbolism behind the plaza’s monuments.