The Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem: Israel’s Holocaust Commemoration Monument

Published: 
2020

Source: The Journal of Holocaust Research, 34:1, 24-48

 

This article discusses the design and construction of the Hall of Remembrance (Ohel Yizkor), the main memorial monument at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. It describes years of complex deliberations among the leaders of Yad Vashem and the decisions they made throughout the years.

Between 1942, when the idea of establishing a Holocaust memorial monument in Eretz Israel was first raised, and 1961, when the Hall of Remembrance was inaugurated, the initial idea of designing Yad Vashem as a large-scale site with several memorial structures was replaced with the decision to construct a site of much smaller dimensions, with this impressive yet minimalistic building at its center. The fact that it contains nothing but the names of the concentration and extermination camps, an eternal flame, and a symbolic grave with the ashes of Holocaust victims created an intense experience.

The Hall of Remembrance was intentionally built of concrete and basalt, as opposed to the local Jerusalem stone. The building had no features typical of Israeli or Jerusalem architecture. Authenticity was created using sophistication, realizing that Yad Vashem could not offer physical remains or extermination sites, but rather memories alone. As that, the site successfully reflects the connection between Israel and Europe, between the years of devastation and the years in which the institution was established, and between suffering and redemption. Although memory of the Holocaust is not explicit, but rather practically implied, the leaders and architects of Yad Vashem succeeded in transforming the Mount of Remembrance and the Hall of Remembrance at its heart into the most prominent memorial site in the State of Israel.

Updated: Feb. 17, 2020
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