Never Too Late to Remember: The Politics behind New York City's Holocaust Museum

Never Too Late to Remember: The Politics behind New York City's Holocaust Museum

Never Too Late to Remember: The Politics behind New York City's Holocaust Museum

Never Too Late to Remember: The Politics behind New York City's Holocaust Museum

Synopsis

"Why has New York City, the largest center of Jewish culture and home to more survivors than any other city in the United States, taken more than half a century to begin implementing plans for its Holocaust memorial? Because the process of memorializing of any historical event, Rochelle Saidel explains, is inevitably political, and she gives a detailed analysis of how various groups within the American Jewish community, local power brokers, real estate developers, and major political players have all influenced the memorial's progress. Never Too Late To Remember traces the history of the numerous attempts to create a Holocaust memorial in New York City that began in 1946-47, and focuses on the present project, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust-Museum of Jewish Heritage, facing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in lower Manhattan and scheduled to open in 1997. Saidel is frank in attributing the many false starts and delays to conflicting political agendas, tensions among project organizers, and broken promises and commitments. More than a story of back-room politics, Never Too Late To Remember places New York City's project in the broader framework of Holocaust memorialization, thereby examining the dynamic between memory, ideology, politics, and representation." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The year of my birth, 1942, has been singled out by historians as statistically the worst year in the entire history of the Jewish people. I was born on January 30, on the ninth anniversary of the very day that Adolf Hitler took power in 1933. To commemorate this anniversary, Hitler proclaimed in Berlin on the day I was born that "the result of this war will be the total annihilation of the Jews."

Although I grew up with a strong commitment to Judaism, I was born in safe and secure upstate New York and it took some years for the Holocaust to affect me personally. My general interest in the Holocaust solidified in 1977, when I attended one of the first Nazi war criminal hearings in the United States in Albany, New York, and spoke with survivors who were witnesses. This led to my writing many articles and a book on this specific aspect of the Holocaust. Additionally, as part of my responsibility on the staff of Senator Manfred Ohrenstein from 1981 until 1989, I organized a permanent exhibit in the New York State Museum in Albany that detailed the odyssey of Holocaust refugees who were interned in Oswego, New York.

When I decided to write about the effort to create a major Holocaust memorial museum in New York City, I did so with deep personal interest in the subject. As part of my work for Senator Ohrenstein, as his liaison to the Jewish community and consultant on the Holocaust, I followed the New York City project closely, almost from its initiation by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1981. At that early date, and even in 1988-89 when I began research on the topic at the Graduate Center of City University of New York, it seemed destined for ultimate success. However, the intricacies of the political coalition behind the museum, the changes in the coalition over time, and other circumstances cre-

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