In the year 1984, a small community of Holocaust survivors united with a shared vision to create an enduring Holocaust memorial museum in Miami. Dedicated to the six million Jews who tragically lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. Their collective efforts led to the formal establishment of the Holocaust Memorial Museum Committee. Which is a nonprofit organization committed to this significant cause.
South Florida boasts one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors in the United States. Many residing within the city limits. Consequently recognizing the significance of choosing Miami Beach as the memorial location.
“This region is home to 20-25,000 survivors,” stated the late Abe Resnick. He is one of the committee’s founding members and a Miami Beach City Commissioner, in an interview with The Miami Herald in 1985. “We believed that this was the most fitting place to erect a monument representing all of Florida.”
However, not everyone supported the idea of a memorial in Miami Beach. Opponents argued that the city was synonymous with leisure and entertainment. Adding that a memorial would be too solemn for a vacation destination.
“Gloom is doom! Don’t transform one of the few bright spots in this city into a cemetery,” objected Florence Shubim, a member of the Miami Beach Garden Club. The Garden Club had plans to expand their center adjacent to the proposed site of the memorial, which were thwarted by the memorial’s footprint.
Consequently some individuals contended that a memorial on city-owned land violated the principle of the separation of church and state, asserting that it constituted a religious monument. However, while the memorial serves as a tribute to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, it is unequivocally a historical monument, devoid of religious symbols.
In an attempt to sway the decision, around 500 people gathered at a meeting of the Miami Beach Planning Board on November 27, 1984. Dozens of Holocaust survivors from across South Florida were transported to the meeting. They all passionately pleaded with the Board, sharing their personal stories of loss and devastation. 79-year-old Clara Linder tearfully recounts loosing five sisters and five brothers, speaking in Yiddish through a translator. “They were all killed” said Machela Oksenhenbler, 80. Her story was told to the Time Herald reporter while rolling up her sleeve to reveal a faded tattoo on her forearm. This tattoo mark was inflicted by the Nazis.
Consequently, the Planning Board unanimously approved the memorial. Eight days later the City Commission granted approval for the memorial’s construction. Eventually the proposed location for the Holocaust memorial Museum encompassed several city blocks with the address range of 1933-1945 Meridian Avenue. This coincides precisely with the years of the Nazi regime and its persecution of Jews. This coincidence further solidified the belief among many that the memorial’s placement was destined and convinced several city legislators that it should occupy this specific spot.
“Imagine yourself in a concentration camp in Poland, surrounded by Nazis, cut off from the outside world, enduring immense suffering, sacrificing your life,” Treister contemplated when tasked with memorializing the Holocaust victims. “Each one of them probably died believing that no one would ever care, know, or remember.”
The Holocaust Memorial Committee then entrusted the monumental task of conveying the unimaginable and remembering the unthinkable to architect Kenneth Treister.
Have a memorable visit by staying at the Cavalier’s South Beach Art Deco hotel that is located on Ocean Drive in front of the beach. For reservations call (305) 673 1199.