We must not forget

October 27, 1994

The chronic desecration of Baltimore's Holocaust Memorial is a blemish on the entire metropolitan area. It raises the question whether a redesign, as planned by Jewish leaders, is enough to preserve the shrine as a suitable memorial to the six million Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis a half-century ago. Opening the design to passers-by and turning it around so it faces a more heavily traveled street would help somewhat. The question is whether it would solve the problem in a way that would preserve the whole community's remembrance for generations to come.

One argument for keeping the memorial at its present downtown site cannot be lightly brushed aside. Holocaust survivors and their children living in the Baltimore area overwhelmingly favor that approach. They have no cemeteries in which to mourn. Many visit the memorial regularly, not just on the annual Day of Remembrance. They feel comfortable in the location, with readily available off-street parking and the proximity of police headquarters. They favor a redesign which would make the memorial less a nighttime haven for vandals and worse. That would include turning the memorial around so it faces Lombard Street rather than the infrequently traveled Water Street.

Still, the memorial serves more than one function. It is also a vital reminder to Baltimoreans and visitors who were not personally touched by the Holocaust of the horrors human beings are capable of. Although the Holocaust was overwhelmingly a Jewish tragedy, it was the world community's as well. Despite the weekday traffic, the memorial is not in a highly visible location. It is off the beaten track for visitors to the Inner Harbor. Not even turning it around to face busy Lombard Street would heighten public awareness.

Some day the area near Lombard and Gay streets may have as much bustle as the blocks to its west. If so, the memorial site could become a valuable tract for development, providing taxes to a fiscally strapped city. Or the rejuvenated Baltimore City Community College adjoining the site might need the land for expansion. City planners are studying land use along the Inner Harbor. There must be a better site so that future generations, with and without personal links to the Holocaust, can always be reminded: Never again.

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