(JTA) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was on hand for the groundbreaking for his city’s $7 million Holocaust memorial plaza.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also participated in the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday.
The plaza, a project of the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, is scheduled to be completed next fall.
“In light of the toxic national rhetoric, it’s more important than ever that we properly commemorate the victims of the tragedy and never forget this dark period of history,” Kenney said at the groundbreaking.
The plaza will feature six pillars erected in memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, with each pillar chronicling a Holocaust atrocity and contrasting it with American constitutional protections and values. Original train tracks from the railroad adjacent to the Treblinka death camp will be embedded in the pavement near the “Theresienstadt tree,” a sapling of the tree nurtured by children in the Theresienstadt camp.
A bronze Six Million Jewish Martyrs sculpture has memorialized the Holocaust in Philadelphia since 1964, and was the first such public monument in North America, according to the foundation.
The foundation also is partnering with the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation to provide educational content, including an interactive mobile app with a tour providing context to visitors and explaining the meaning behind the plaza’s interpretive elements. The app also will include access to eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust from more than 50,000 survivors.