Last month my book club read The Storyteller, by Jodi Piccoult. We all were very moved by this story. It is about a young woman, who is a baker who works at night making pastries for a bakery. She is grieving her mother's death, and joins a grief support group, where she makes an unlikely friend in a 95 year old man with a terrible secret and a bizzare request. Skillfully woven into the plot is her grandmother's story of surviving as a young girl at Auschwitz.
Because of the theme of the book, instead of our usual lunch at someone's home, we gathered in Palm Desert Civic Center Park for a tour of the Desert Holocaust Memorial, given by one of our members. I am embarrassed to say, I didn't even know this memorial was in my city. It is beautiful, and quite moving.
A large area of cobblestones was set aside for the memorial. It is surrounded by curved light posts designed after those at Auschwitz that held electric barbed wire. Ceramic globes represent the fixtures used to emit gas at the camps.
At the center of the memorial is a marble base in the shape of a Star of David. There are 5 large bronze sculptures of people in the center.
One website gives this description:
"CENTER OF THE MEMORIAL"
AT THE HEART OF THE MEMORIAL THERE ARE FIVE BRONZE FIGURES REPRESENTING THE PEOPLE AND DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THE HOLOCAUST MOUNTED ON A DOUBLE TIERED STAR OF DAVID.
"BOY FROM THE GHETTO"
IN A STATE OF DESPAIR AFTER BEING SEPARATED FROM HIS PARENTS AND FORCED TO THE TRANSPORTATION AND TAKEN TO AUSCHWITZ.
"MOTHER WITH CHILDREN"
BEGGING FOR HER CHILDREN'S LIVES AS AN SS SOLDIER'S FINGER SQUEEZES THE TRIGGER OF HIS RIFLE BECAUSE SHE WOULD NOT LET GO OF HER CHILDREN.
PRAYING OVER DEAD BODIES AS SS SOLDIERS RIDICULE HIM. HE DID NOT SURVIVE.
"THE DYING MAN"
ALONE, SILENT, DYING, HIS DEATH REPRESENTS THE REALITY OF BIGOTRY, IGNORANCE AND HATRED THAT HAS TAKEN HIM TO ITS INEVITABLE END.
HE REPRESENTS THE 11,000,000 PEOPLE WHO DIED IN THE HOLOCAUST, JEWS, CHRISTIANS, GYPSIES, MENTALLY ILL, PHYSICALLY HANDICAPPED, HOMOSEXUAL AND MANY OTHERS, THAT WERE KILLED IN THE NAME OF NAZISM AND THE SICKNESS IT STOOD FOR.
"THE DEFIANT MAN"
THE ACCUSING MAN! HE STANDS TALL, HE SURVIVED THE MONSTROSITY OF MANY CONCENTRATION CAMPS. HE WEARS THE NUMBER "A-17874" TATTOOED ON HIS LEFT ARM IN AUSCHWITZ DEATH CAMP. HE IS TO TEACH, TESTIFY AND TO REMIND THE WORLD
The figures, done by artist Dee Clements, have so much emotion in their faces and bodies. Our group decided another interpretation could be that these figures also might represent Ross' 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance).
The base of the sculpture is also fascinating. The top marble step is a map of Europe with all the concentration camps marked.
The bottom step has the countries and number of people who died circling the Star of David shape of the base.
There are many plaques surrounding the memorial. This quote really grabbed my attention:
On your next visit to Palm Desert, after coming to see us, be sure to visit this amazing Memorial in our beautiful Civic Center Park!