Construction is underway on DU’s Holocaust Memorial Social Action Site. The site, located between Penrose Library and the Margery Reed Building, is expected to be complete in early May.
“This project is less about a new space than it is about the things that take place on our campus in the spirit of this new space,” says Sarah Pessin, director of the Center for Judaic Studies.
The design is a collaboration of DU architect Mark Rodgers and noted landscape architect Spencer Nickel of Five Design. It radiates outward from a central stone bench shaped like the Hebrew word for life, ‘chai,’ to an amphitheater of natural stone benches for a wide range of gatherings. At the entry to the site are metal lattice partitions that suggest the shattered windows of Kristallnacht, and spell out the Hebrew word ‘hineni,’translated as ‘Here I am.’
The outdoor gathering place is deliberately designed to transform the memory of the millions in Europe murdered by the Nazis more than 65 years ago into acts of social justice in the broadest sense.
“Remembering the Holocaust should not simply be a passive act,” Pessin says. “When we say ‘never again,’ we commit ourselves to repairing the world through learning, intercultural dialogue and social justice initiatives. These are key parts of what it means to remember the Holocaust.”
The memorial is linked to an endowed chair of Holocaust studies and will be home to performances, lectures, readings and vigils that advance humanitarian causes, foster intercultural dialogue and incubate empathy and public good works.
“The site will be a public square for social-consciousness raising,” Pessin says.