ATLANTIC CITY — The pavilion along the Boardwalk between New York and Kentucky avenues appears at first to be just another spot to seek shelter during a rainstorm.
But when years of planning come to fruition, the site will become the location of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial. And during Thursday’s second annual Yom Hashoah remembrance ceremony, memorial chairman Rabbi Gordon Geller said a major announcement about the site will come at the end of the month.
“You will find out shortly that we have passed with flying colors our first test — the worldwide design competition,” said Geller, of Margate’s Temple Emeth Shalom, adding that he expected to announce the results in a couple of weeks. “It will be an affirmation of the scope and significance of our common enterprise, a universal message of ‘never again.’”
As Northfield resident Nancy Kahane sang the Yiddish song of loss, “A Malach Veint,” survivors of the Holocaust and children of survivors came together with religious leaders from the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths, from Kaleem Shabazz of Masjid Muhammad in Atlantic City to the Rev. Paul Wise of St. Monica’s Church in Atlantic City.
The message: The memorial must be built.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Committee has announced plans for the design contest to be judged by a panel that includes two internationally known architects: Daniel Liebeskind, the chief planner in the rebuilding of New York's World Trade Center site, and the designer of the Getty Center in Los Angeles, Richard Meier. The city gave the committee the pavilion, and the group is raising funds for the project, which it hopes to open by 2012.
“I think this project speaks to all of us,” said Leah Wolinetz, execuitive director of the World Society of Czestochowa Jews and Their Descendants. “This is an amazing, amazing project, and it needs to be known — not only in Atlantic City, not only in New York, but everywhere. The Boardwalk is the expression of life. Everyone who walks here should know what happened. ... We have to put our positive energy in one place because (the memorial) is definitely going to happen.”
Holocaust survivor Solange Lebovitz happened to be walking by the pavilion during the ceremony.
“My daughter brought me last night,” said Lebovitz, visiting from Pittsburgh. “We were walking on the Boardwalk, and all of a sudden I found out about the Holocaust memorial.”
During World War II, Lebovitz was a “hidden child” — a Jewish youth living in secret with a Christian family. She stayed with a Catholic family in Normandy in occupied France. Her late husband, Larry Lebovitz, was liberated from the Dachau concentration camp in Germany by U.S. troops.
“It may take two or three years,” she said of the memorial, “but this is the place.”
Some survivors, meanwhile, traveled shorter distances to Atlantic City.
“My experience is in Auschwitz-Birkenau,” said Rella Roth, of Margate, who was put to work at an ammunition factory. “I don’t have to tell you about Auschwitz. It’s a long story.”
As to the planned memorial, “I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It makes you feel good to try to express ourselves about the past. There should not be any more of what happened (throughout) the whole world. God forbid.”
Also present was Ernest Paul, of Atlantic City, a member of the underground resistance movement in Budapest during World War II. Paul, who has written a book about his wife’s Holocaust experiences and is writing a book about his own, would often have to don a Nazi uniform to penetrate the military occupation and supply underground Jewish bunkers.
“Doing so saved thousands of people, but unfortunately, it was not enough,” Paul said of his comrades behind the lines.
“For us as survivors, it has very important and deep meaning because we still live every day with the atrocities. We still dream and have nightmares,” he said. “I’m very glad to see this memorial to remind young people and future generations of the atrocities that happened. ... We hope this memorial can shed some light on these atrocities and that they will never, never happen again.”
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