Design of the Memorial
The Memorial is designed around six luminous glass towers, each reaching 54 feet high, and each lit internally from top to bottom. The number six has many meanings here: the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust; the names of the six main death camps; a row of memorial candles; and the six years, 1939-1945, during which the infamous “Final Solution,” the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, took place. In addition, millions of numbers are etched in the glass, representing the infamous tattoos inflected on many of the victims’ arms.
From architect Stanley Saitowitz’s description of the Memorial:
The memorial to darkness is built with light. The construction began on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. | The horror of the Holocaust is reenacted in the brutal cutting of all the trees on half the site. These stumps remain.
Six pits are dug and lined with black concrete. | At the bottom of each pit is a glowing fire.
Six glass towers are raised above. | Etched on the glass towers are MILLIONS of numbers that flicker with light. | On the walls of each tower, a memory of a survivor from the camp is etched. | Between the towers, a line of text locates the Holocaust in historical context.
At the two entries are didactic panels, one outlining the chronology of events that led to the Wannsee Conference and the horrific propositioning of establishing the factories of death this memorial marks, the other quoting Pastor Martin Niemoller, who placed responsibility for such even in the hands of every individual.
As visitors walk along this path, entering the towers, they are tattooed with the shadows of numbers, and trapped momentarily in a theater of horror.
On the black granite ramps is incised REMEMBER. | Each of the six burning chambers is named after one of the six death camps constructed in Poland, factories whose product was death: CHELMNO. TREBLINKA. MAJDANEK. SOBIBOR. AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU. BELZEC.
At the scale of the city, the memorial has another role: path, colonnade and frame create urban space, defining edges and relationships with the buildings and city beyond. These six towers are emblems of faith, a covenant of trust that memorializes a collective evil.
They are towers of hope and aspiration.