Walking through Memorial Park in Providence, one might come across a stone sculpture upon which is written the towns that once housed concentration camps alongside a list of 14 names. Â
Dr. William Green, the department chair of landscape and architecture at the University of Rhode Island, was prominently involved in the assembly of this Providence Holocaust Memorial.
Two black, granite posts sit at the entrance of the memorial. One of the posts is inscribed with the words of Roman Kant, a Holocaust survivor and philanthropist, who came to America after the war. Following the posts is the curved train-track path, which diminishes in width by half throughout its length to symbolize the drop in the Jewish-European population throughout the Holocaust. The path ends at the white stone, carved out of light gray marble, dubbed the ‘Life Stone.’
Green served as the coordinating landscape architect, and said that it has been a long process. He worked closely with officials, artists and the organization over the years to develop the project.
“We’ve been working on it since 2003 in the fall,” Green said. “I was originally approached by the Holocaust survivors of Rhode Island.”
The six pillars represent the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. They vary in size as if they were cut short by some malevolent force. The pillars also taper towards the top in a nod to the smokestacks which were too often the prisoners’ only escape . The path’s train-track design is a reference to the trains used to transport prisoners from their homes across Europe to extermination camps. The stone is a symbol of those that were commonly left on graves, as is Jewish tradition, and it is placed there to represent the survivors, the continuity of remembrance and ultimately life.
Though Jonathan Bonner, a sculptor from the Rhode Island School of Design, was the architect for this project, Green gave his own input for the design as well.
“My inspiration was looking at the site and looking at who was going to be visiting,” Green said. “We did a lot of research and visited a lot of memorials. We really wanted it to reflect what the Holocaust survivors wanted.”
While a large part of the motivation for completing this project was to honor those who perished, there is also a hope among the project’s overseers that it will speak to a younger generation. Rather than just being a place to remember the Holocaust and its victims, the memorial will also serve as a learning experience. Part of the memorial’s purpose is to facilitate reflection for its visitors, so that they may be made wiser by the events of Nazi-era europe.