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New York Rejects Park Monuments Commemorating Holocaust Victims

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The New York City Art Commission was disclosed today to have rejected proposals for two memorials to the 6,000,000 Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust proposed for the city’s Riverside Park.

The 11-member Commission took the action without any formal announcement at a January 28 meeting. The reasons for the rejection, it was learned, were that the proposed memorial would be “distressing” to children playing in the area, and that other “special groups” might also want to be similarly represented in the city’s public parks. The Riverside Park site was set aside by the city in 1946 for the two memorials.

The larger one was to be a $1,000,000, 40-foot high concrete sculpture, for which funds would be collected by the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization, which has an office in New York. It would have two scrolls bearing inscriptions of episodes of Jewish martyrdom and the names of Nazi death camps and sites of Jewish resistance. This work would have been cast by Nathan Rappaport, the artist who designed the memorial on view at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto in the Polish capital.

The second memorial was offered by the Artur Zygelboim Memorial Committee to honor the Polish Jewish leader who committee suicide in London in 1943, after learning that the Nazis had finally smashed all Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto. Mr. Rappaport designed this work also.

COMMISSION’S SCULPTOR MEMBER AFFRONTED BY ‘TRAGIC POSTURE’

Newbold Morris, New York City Parks Commissioner, said that the Commission had acted on the basis of a letter written by Eleanor Platt, a sculptor member of the Commission, disapproving of the plans for both memorials. The letter, circulated to Commission members before the January 28 meeting, said that the figure in the Zygelboim sculpture “is depicted in so tragic a posture that it does not seem to be appropriate for location on park land intended for recreation and relaxation.” She wrote that it did not seem “desirable to confront children with a sculpture of such distressing and horrifying significance.”

The City Parks Department described the proposed work as “a bronze figure engulfed in thorns and flames, sharply leaning to the front as if about to fall; emerging from the inferno are heads and hands calling to humanity for rescue.”

Miss Platt criticized the Warsaw Ghetto monument as “excessively and unnecessarily large.” She added that “even if it were to be smaller and in better taste, artistically, I believe that by approving it, and the Zygelbom sculpture, we would set a highly regrettable precedent.” The Warsaw Ghetto group said its members had pledged $100,000 toward the cost of the monument.

Mr. Morris declined comment on the Commission decision but said he understood that two sentiments were expressed at the January 28 meeting. One was that a city park was not a place “for reminding people of anything so unpleasant,” and the other that “monuments in the parks should be limited to events of American history.” He conceded that there was a statue of Joan of Are in one city park, and one of King Jagiello of 15th century Poland in another park.

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