ATLANTIC CITY - The two women were mesmerized by the artist's rendering: Hundreds of papers seeming to blow in the wind in impossibly high stacks, each page representing the words of Holocaust witnesses.
"It's visually stunning," said Lois Kosmin, 79, of Margate. "It's awe-inspiring."
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"I always told my students, it wasn't just Jews who died in the Holocaust. It was 11 million people," said Elaine Geller, whose husband heads the memorial's executive committee.
But as the women stared at the drawing on the wall of Boardwalk Hall's lobby, they wondered how it would be brought to life in sculpture. The design, submitted from Texas, is one of 13 finalists for what will become the Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial.
More than 720 submissions were sent from 55 countries for the chance to create the memorial, which will be located at the Boardwalk pavilion between Kentucky and New York avenues. The entries, which were unveiled Monday, do not have names attached to them, instead they each represent a community destroyed by the Holocaust.
Ballots will be available for visitors to cast votes for their three favorites until Sept. 28, when a panel of architectural and Holocaust experts will meet to pick the winner. They will take into account the highest vote-getter, said Rabbi Gordon Geller, of Margate's Temple Emeth Shalom.
"I must say, we have been surprised by the tremendous number of ballots already," Geller said. "People coming in from the Boardwalk are making their voices heard."
Uvonka and Simmie Wheeler, visiting from Upper Marlboro, Md., saw the sign as they were walking by Boardwalk Hall and decided to take a look. They were impressed by the finalists.
"I think it's great to have such wonderful designs from all over the world," said Uvonka, 45, who has visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., several times.
The couple had three favorite entries - the maximum that can be chosen on each ballot. Their picks included the nearest entry, from South Orange, Essex County.
The walls would be 100,000 glass bottles, representing those who survived the Nazi death camps. Inside each would be the writings of a survivor or something representing them. The designer calls the sculpture "a glimmering beacon of hope and testament to human resilience in the face of atrocity."
Henry and Gayle Winkler, of Ventnor, liked the Jerusalem submission, "Fields of Memory," which includes flowers seeming to grow out of the Boardwalk to represent an unattended cemetery.
They also liked the Texas entry, "Writings of Wrongs," that grabbed Kosmin and Elaine Geller's attention.
"Those two will definitely draw you from the Boardwalk," Henry Winkler, 69, said.
"That really appeals to me," Gayle Winkler, 63, said of the writings sculpture. "I was an English major, and it's all about the written word."
Whitney Donovan, 15, understands that as well. The teen from Marlboro Township, Monmouth County, kept up on her texting as she and her grandmother, Maryann Giblin, studied the drawings.
"I really liked the one with all the papers," said Donovan, another fan of "Writings of Wrongs. "If they didn't write about it, people might not have known what happened."
She said it is especially important to her generation, since there are still people who deny the Holocaust.
"It's incredibly moving," said Giblin, 66, of Hazlet Township, Monmouth County.
Rabbi Geller said the committee hopes to have all the necessary permits in place within a year from the announcement of the winner, with the monument opening in fall 2012.
"It's very important," Gayle Winkler said, searching for the words to explain. "One can't be reminded too often."
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