Ground will be broken today on the west side of the state capitol building complex for the Iowa Holocaust Memorial. Mark Finkelstein, the director of community relations for the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, says Confluence Architects of Des Moines designed the memorial.
“It’s going to be a series of four wall panels of aluminum. On each side of the wall there will be inscriptions and photographs,” Finkelstein explains. The memorial is based on three principles.
“First of all, memorializing the victims of the holocaust. Some 11 million died in the holocaust, six million of them Jewish,” Finkelstein explains. “It gives gratitude towards the Iowans who served in the United States armed forces who liberated the concentration camps. And it gives honor to the survivors who came to Iowa to build their new families here.”
Finkelstein says over 100 of the survivors of the Holocaust ended up living in Iowa. “Scattergood Hostel out in West Branch, Iowa made it possible for emigres from Hitler’s Europe to come from the East Coast and find a new home in Iowa itself,” Finkelstein says.
“And so those approximately 160 or so individuals of all backgrounds, came, found refuge here — learned what they could about being Americans — and then immigrated to wherever they wanted to.” Finkelstein says the memorial has a couple of messages.
“The fact that of the survivors some came and made new lives for themselves in Iowa, is a wonderful story for Iowans alike,” according to Finkelstein. “And obviously, there are the universal lessons of the Holocaust to be learned as well. Which have to do about doing the right thing. That when somebody is picked upon, somebody has to stand up and defend the defenseless.”
The groundbreaking is set for 1 p.m. today. Finkelstein says the plan is to have the construction of the memorial completed by the end of June or early July.
The memorial is funded by the Blank Family Foundation, and will cost between 250 to $350,000.