Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Baltimore Holocaust Memorial

Recently I took a trip to Baltimore, Maryland. I was lucky enough to stay in the Inner Harbor, which is a one of the most beautiful parts of the city. What I like about the location even more is its proximity to Little Italy and Fells Point, which has a similar feel to 6th Street in Austin, only with more history, a maritime feel, and the residence of Michael Phelps. I had some of the best pizza of my life in Little Italy and went into a time warp at Max’s in Fells Point, downing Belgian beer I hadn’t had since I lived there.

The highlight of the trip though was my visit to the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial ( The story of the Memorial, like the Memorial itself, is as simple as it is powerful. Back in the 1970s, a ninth grade Hebrew class told their teacher that they did not believe that the Holocaust happened. Shortly thereafter, the Baltimore Jewish Council approved a proposal submitted by the Hebrew class teacher to build a memorial.

The Memorial takes up one city block, right in the heart of the Harbor district. It is entirely open air and outside, and we’re talking prime real estate. The block is owned by the adjacent Baltimore Community College, which houses a Holocaust resource center. What amazes me is that the college could use this plot of land for just about anything else it and it would bring in money, yet they chose to donate the use of it to a free memorial.

The Memorial itself is quite simple, yet powerful and moving. It simulates a railroad track yard with, at one end a concrete structure representing a train with words written by an Auschwitz survivor written across it: “On both sides of the track rows of red and white lights appeared as far as the eye could see… …with the rhythm of the wheels, with every human sound now silenced, we awaited what was to happen…. …in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the end of the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.” At the other end stands the most moving sculpture I’ve ever seen. You have to check out the website to see it, it’s amazing.

There is much nuance to the Memorial that I cannot describe in words – it must be seen. If you ever find yourself in or near Baltimore, make the trip to the intersection of Lombard and Gay streets only a few blocks from the Inner Harbor.

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