Saturday, December 9, 2017

The New Monument

The National Holocaust Monument was long overdue in coming about, and was officially opened in September here in Ottawa. Situated in the Lebreton Flats area west of the downtown core, it sits between the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Firefighters Memorial. I photographed it from an angle taking in all three structures on the day after Remembrance Day.

The Monument is designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind, with concrete angles and a shape, from overhead, like a stylized Star of David. Libeskind also did the re-design on the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, with its harsh crystal additions coming out of the original building, a re-design that I dislike, for the record, but here the angles work well. Libeskind is the son of Holocaust survivors, and designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin. In collaboration with historian Doris Bergen, landscape architect Claude Cormier, and photographer Edward Burtynsky, Libeskind's final design is striking. Within, panels on the history of the Holocaust are to be found, as well as present day monochromatic photographs by Burtynsky, whose haunting prints are reproduced onto the walls. I first visited the Monument in the evenings on several occasions while going over to see the Miwate exhibition nearby. It was appropriate, I think, to visit this place for the first time at night. I did not get in during the daytime until Remembrance Day. With enough to photograph for one day, I decided to come back the following day to photograph the Monument.

This is the first of the photographs, etched into the concrete. Site Of Death March, Near Mauthausen, Austria depicts a place where, late in the war, the Nazis emptied camps in an attempt to conceal their crimes, force-marching prisoners back towards areas still in German control. In April 1945, 20 000 sick and weak Jewish prisoners were marched along this country road, and those unable to keep up were shot and left in the ditches. Today, as you can see in Burtynsky's photograph, it is a peaceful location with no obvious hint of its dark past.

Abandoned Railbed, Treblinka, Poland looms in a ghostly way on one wall. Burtynsky captures the remaining railbed through the woods as it appears in the current day, with nature gradually moving in. During the war, nearly a million people, most of them Jewish, passed through here to the death camp.

Here are the panels detailing the story of the Holocaust and its legacy. It is both an example of the resilience of humanity, and proof of just how evil that evil can be. And there are people in this world who still deny it happened.

There is a space here off the main court, a triangular room with a lit flame on the wall. It is a space for reflection.

An example of the angles here. One of Burtynsky's photographs is etched on that wall, and we'll get another look at it tomorrow.


  1. This is a very striking building. It appears to be all out of doors? I'm sickened that not only is the holocaust being denied but that Nazi types are publicly coming out of the woodwork in the U.S. Yet another of a seemingly unending stream of civic horrors.

  2. Nice. I hope enough people go look at the walls of the monument and see "the writing on the wall."

  3. Libeskind makes great monuments all over the world.I always like the way he creates such stunning monuments.

  4. So nice to see the blue skies as a backdrop to the dark memory.


  5. @Kay: yes, it is all exterior.

    @Dina: each time I have gone there have been others visiting.

    @Marianne: this one impressed me.

    @Marleen: it is.

    @Tom: I agree.

    @Janis: it is quite a contrast.

  6. Gosh it's an amazing monument William, I should imagine it would have quite an effect when visiting, the reflective space with flame even more so. When I see the state of the world these days I feel as if we've slipped into an alternative reality!

  7. All I can say is that this is very different . It is eye catching and that's what's needed to mark such a dark part of history.

  8. Hello, it is a wonderful and impressive monument. A great tribute! Happy weekend!

  9. What an amazing building. It is a tribute to those who died during that awful time.

  10. I got goosebumps just seeing those scenes etched into the concrete & reading the history associated with this.

  11. Amazing monument. Reminded me of the day I stood on the railroad tracks at the entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland last summer. Very sobering.

  12. Monument is impressive as are the designs of the walls and photos ~

    Happy Weekend to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  13. I like the design. Beautiful tribute.

  14. Very moving, William. Looking forward to more tomorrow.

  15. A wonderful tribute to those who lost their lives during the evil reign of terror. Very impressive!

  16. @Hilary: it is.

    @Grace: I find the monument to be quite powerful.

    @Red: it had just the right touch for its subject.

    @Eileen: thank you.

    @Sharon: it was a long time coming, building this.

    @Christine: it is quite a sobering place.

    @Cloudia: thanks for stopping by.

    @Lois: one of the other photographs in here that I'll show tomorrow features Auschwitz.

    @Carol: I agree.

    @Klara: it's very well done.

    @RedPat: I wondered how people would react to this particular subject.

    @Bill: I agree!

  17. Love the tilt of the memorial! And I'm biased, because I lived in Berlin and have seen several museums there. but, the association with the star of David is a little distant (in my opinion).
    When I lived in Holland, an American guest wanted to see Dauchau - on of the concentration camps, and since it was en route of our own travel we went with them - the views and atmosphere I will never forget. Am not a Jew, but am furious when some think the Holocaust is a made up thing.

  18. Impressive memorial. Photographs on the building are very gripping.

  19. Thank you. I will never forget the film clips from right after WWII when they showed the survivors of the death camps. They also showed the Nazi films of the railroad cars hauling off the dead bodies. Those scenes are etched in my mind.

  20. Nice shots of this impressive monumental building.

  21. What a lovely tribute to this space.

  22. @Jeannette: the angles of the memorial work very well.

    @Tamago: they have a sobering effect.

    @Mari: they're etched in my mind too. It had to be documented.

    @Jan: thank you.

    @Jennifer: it is.