towers of shadow and light 10/2012

The New England Holocaust Memorial

Excerpt from Colin Flavin’s tour remarks for the University of California, Santa Cruz


Designed by San Francisco Architect Stanley Saitowitz, the New England Holocaust Memorial was opened on Holocaust Remberance Day in 1995. Rather than being tucked away in a serene location, the monument has become an integral part of the city’s fabric by being located along Boston's bustling Freedom Trail. It is experienced as a series of hollow towers we can enter and walk through, engaging us in reflection, but also becoming a part of the daily ritual of the city, catching the attention of passing Bostonians walking to work in the early morning light, or a tourist returning from nearby Quincy Market.


Saitowitz uses symbolism and repetition to deepen our experience. The number six is used again and again. There are six towers, with six segments, and the pit at the bottom of each tower is six feet deep and six feet wide. Carved in stone at the base of each tower is the name of one of the six death camps. There are six million numbers etched in the glass, for each of the approximate number of Nazi death camp victims. The darkness of the holocaust is expressed with light. During the day, the etched numbers refract the sunlight; at night the numbers glow with light from within. We are left to wonder if the towers symbolize the crematorium chimneys of the Nazi death camps or the six branched Menorah of ancient times.


Etched in stone on the west side of the monument is this quote from holocaust survivor Martin Niemoeller


             They came first for the Communists,

                                  and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

             Then they came for the Jews,

                                  and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

             Then they came for the trade unionists,

                                  and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

             Then they came for the Catholics,

                                  and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

             Then they came for me,

                                  and by that time no one was left to speak up.


Architect Stanley Saitowitz, Natoma Architects