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.