RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — The mayor of Rio laid the cornerstone of a long-awaited Holocaust memorial in Brazil’s second largest city.
“The greatest homage we can render to the six million victims of the Nazis is to shout to the world: Holocaust, never again!,” said Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella during Friday’s ceremony, quoting Rio’s state assembly member Gerson Bergher, creator of the project, who died last May.
The memorial will feature a 72-foot-tall tower divided into ten parts alluding to the biblical commandments, including the phrase “Thou shalt not kill” at its base. The memorial, which is being built with private funding, is located at the Yitzhak Rabin park, inaugurated by the widow of Israel’s murdered prime minister, Leah Rabin, in 1996.
“Even 70 years after humanity experienced this terrible tragedy, we still see all sorts of persecution, discrimination and injustice in our world. With the Holocaust memorial, Rio de Janeiro joins other major cities on the planet, in revering the victims of this genocide,” added the mayor, who is a fervent evangelical and openly pro-Israel.
Teresa Bergher, Rio’s current secretary of social assistance and human rights and Gerson Bergher’s widow, said the location was the first place chosen by her husband for the memorial. She also stressed the memorial’s educational purposes.
“Our intention is that public schools can make constant visits to the memorial, so that students of the municipal and state network will know better what the Holocaust and the Nazi regime as a whole were. Jewish schools’ students already have access to these contents, but it is important that this knowledge reaches all students,” she said.
The landmark, which also will feature a 130-seat auditorium and a digital media area, will honor all ethnic, religious and sexual minorities persecuted by the Nazi regime. A rail car used to transport prisoners to the concentration camps is expected to be brought from Poland as well as victims’ clothes and shoes from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, according to the organizers.
Israel’s Ambassador Yossi Shelly, who came from Brasilia especially for the event, also highlighted the importance of the monument as a way to keep the horrors of the Holocaust alive in the collective memory.
“We must always remember the Holocaust. Only then will the world avoid repeating this horror in the future,” he said.
Brazil’s second largest city is home to some 35,000 Jews. About half of Brazil’s 120,000-member Jewish community lives in Sao Paulo, the country’s financial center.