Inspiration realized


Canadian Holocaust Memorial

Birch treeline at the front gathering area of the National Holocaust Monument.
  • qLab

Our team is privileged to have been given the opportunity to embark on a journey filled with deep personal, emotional and professional challenges.  We came together with a common purpose and a shared belief, based in part on our personal histories, in the importance of a monument dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust as part of Canada’s cultural and historical landscape.

We sought out Jeffrey Craft, a Canadian partner in the Dallas office of the international design firm, SWA Group. We added two internationally recognized young artists, Yael Bartana and Susan Phillipsz. Chen Tamir, our curator, helped to ensure that each artist could express herself individually, while their work and the monument maintained a cohesive point of view. Our Holocaust scholars, Deborah Dwork and Jeff Koerber, were vital in helping to articulate our message.

From the moment our team was assembled our initial journey was one of thought and reflection. It culminated in a shared vision for what this monument must achieve; and this morning, we want to share that vision with you.  From the outset, we concluded that the monument must bring into focus, for a whole new generation, the meaning of the millions of lives lost in the holocaust, and to do so, we set out to achieve four central goals.

First, to create a meaningful connection to the Holocaust for all visitors, including those who have no direct link to it or its victims, opening their hearts and minds to an understanding of the Holocaust for both its historic specificity and as a universal metaphor of evil.

Next, we wanted to impress upon visitors the evil of this atrocity so that they examine and confront the dangers of silence and the consequences of indifference, helping to ensure that its horrors will never be forgotten, and we wanted to encourage visitors to remember with sensitivity and solemnity the millions who died and suffered, along with the resilience of the survivors, perpetuating and honouring their memory among future generations, and finally, we wanted to evoke the lives of those who perished, celebrating the vitality of the human spirit even in the face of hopelessness and annihilation.

Holocaust Monument Competition

And, because we wanted to open the hearts and minds of all visitors, the new immigrant to Canada, the family from Lethbridge, the school group from Montreal, we were determined to create a unique monument that would engage visitors by creating an overall multi-sensory experience that fuses the best in moving image, sound, and landscape into a solemn all-embracing experience with the widest possible appeal.

Time is the enemy of memory.  As the events of the holocaust fade into history and the last of the survivors are lost to us, the challenge of how to bridge the gap between first-hand experience, abstract understanding, and lack of awareness grows dramatically.  The Canadian National Holocaust Monument must build bridges across that gap.

Our design bridges the gap between those who know and those who may not, between knowledge of history and the unknowable experience of the holocaust, between visual images and the unimaginable, and between the awareness of evil and the need to act against it.

Along with an architectural theme of light-and-dark, it includes audio and video installations – the latter, by the prominent artist Yael Bertana, a projection of symbols and objects of Jewish life before the war. I have not seen a monument or memorial that relies so strongly on audiovisual components; it might work very well.

- Alex Bozikovic

Birch trees inclined on a limestone base.

Our multisensory experience creates a connection for all visitors.  We use the sculpted forms as metaphors for the landscapes of Europe and Canada—but we also use them to celebrate the indomitable spirit of the victims and the survivors.  We both mourn and celebrate, and offer the visitor an opportunity to learn and to empathize…. So as not to forget—So as not to repeat.

This Canadian National Holocaust Monument will forever stand as a unique urban space in our nation’s capital which conveys powerful messages about the holocaust, the consequences of indifference and the enduring strength of mankind.