The Boston Holocaust Memorial

The New England Holocaust Memorial.

The shimmering towers of the memorial.
The shimmering towers of the memorial. | Source

Glass Towers Shimmering in the Sunshine

One day in early September 1996 my husband and I had spent a few hours in downtown Boston, laughing at the antics of the penguins in the aquarium, before heading over to Quincy Market, where we watched jugglers, ate cakes and generally behaved like the tourists we were. Eventually we wandered out, following our noses rather than the guidebook in my husband’s hand.

Up ahead, a strange glass structure glinted in the sunshine, and piqued our curiosity. As we drew closer we saw that it was not one, but six, glass towers.

The walkway beneath the towers

The steam rising from below the walkway represents the gas chambers.
The steam rising from below the walkway represents the gas chambers. | Source
On a recent return to Boston, our teenage daughter was as affected by the Memorial as we were. Here she reads the inscriptions on the walkway.
On a recent return to Boston, our teenage daughter was as affected by the Memorial as we were. Here she reads the inscriptions on the walkway. | Source

Prisoners Numbers Seen From Inside the Towers

Reading the numbers in the glass towers is chilling. Beyond them, Boston's traffic and buildings remind us that life goes on.
Reading the numbers in the glass towers is chilling. Beyond them, Boston's traffic and buildings remind us that life goes on. | Source

Modern art, we thought, and consulted our guidebook, written in 1994. We found no mention of any glass towers in the area.

At ground level each tower had only two sides, so it was possible to walk through them. Inside the first tower we stopped to take a closer look. Numbers were engraved onto the glass, hundreds of numbers, thousands of numbers. We began to wonder about their significance – and then we noticed words among the numbers.

“I was chosen to work as a barber outside the gas chambers.”

Shivers ran down my back then as realisation dawned. Shivers run down my back again now as I remember that moment.

What we had thought was a sculpture is in fact a monument built in memorial to the millions of prisoners who died in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. It was build in 1995, and designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz, his design selected from over 500 entries in an international competition. As we later discovered, the six towers represent the smokestacks of the six death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdaanek, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec. Below the gratings at the bottom of each tower are chambers where smouldering coals billow steam out onto the granite walkway.

To my mind the powerful impact of the memorial is due to its simplicity. The numbers speak for themselves, for the six million who were murdered in the death camps. Lives became numbers, and then were numbers no more, lives no more.

In our haste to get to the towers we had missed a large granite panel that lists key events from 1993 when the Nazi party came to power, until their defeat in 1945. Mass murder of Jews began at Treblinka in 1940, and the Nazi’s “Final Solution” – the plan to exterminate the Jewish race – was put into action in 1942. This was the beginning of the use of gas chambers, and at their peak thousands of people were murdered each day. Children were usually murdered upon arrival in the camps, with around one and a half million Jewish children killed by the Nazis.

It wasn’t just Jews who were murdered in the death camps, and along the walkway of the Holocaust Memorial are reminders of this, with facts engraved into the granite.

At the end of the walkway, another panel provides a further reminder of this in the famous words of Martin Niemoeller. Niemoellor was a Lutherian pastor, who at first supported the Nazis but later spoke out against them and was imprisoned in a concentration camp. The quote (in the photograph below) expresses the regret he felt at his earlier attitude, serves as a reminder to us all that silence in the face of another’s oppression is not in our own best interests, and invites us to think about our own prejudices.

The Words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller


The six towers of spirit


The Power of the Human Spirit

The New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston is not just a record of the atrocities of World War II; along the walkway it also records some of the heroic acts carried out to protect Jews and others. For example, when the Nazis invaded Denmark, the Danish people ferried almost 8000 Jews to safety in neutral Sweden, and 99% of Denmark’s Jews survived the war. When Stanley Saitowitz submitted his design to the Memorial competition he included a poetic vision of how these six towers could be interpreted, and as well as: “six towers for six million Jews”, he also suggested: “six towers of spirit.”

Many years ago I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, and more recently I read Viktor Frankl’s astonishing book, Man’s Search For Meaning, in which he writes about his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner. What these have in common with the Boston Holocaust Memorial is something very hard to put into words – at first there is shock and horror at the appalling cruelties of which humans are capable, and then, slowly another feeling emerges: amazement, admiration, awe at the astonishing resilience, strength and power of the human spirit.

I can think of no better words to end this article than those of Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and author who dedicated the Boston Holocaust Memorial at its opening in October 1995:

We must look for hope. There is a marvelous saying by a great Hasidic master: ‘If you look for the spark, you will find it in the ashes.’

Prisoners became numbers

Words from a survivor, surrounded by prisoners' numbers. It makes chilling reading.
Words from a survivor, surrounded by prisoners' numbers. It makes chilling reading. | Source

Listen to Viktor Frankl explain why he believes in others.

Maps Showing Location of the New England Holocaust Memorial In Boston

show route and directions
A markerFaneuil hall, Boston -
Faneuil, 1 Faneuil Hall Sq # 1, Boston, MA 02109-9998, USA
[get directions]

Quincy Market is also known as Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

B markerUnion Street Park II, Boston -
Union Street Park II, Boston, MA 02108, USA
[get directions]

The Holocaust Memorial is towards the north of Union Street Park II

How to get to the Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial is close to several of Boston’s major attractions including the Aquarium, Boston City Hall and Quincy Market. It is on the Freedom Trail, along which you can walk to find many of the city’s historical landmarks.

The map above shows the general area, while the map below covers the area between Quincy Market and the Memorial in more detail. The Memorial is towards the north end of Union Street Park II, which runs alongside Congress street. On the map below you can see the path of the Freedom Trail through Union Street Park II, and the markings on that path towards the top of the park indicate the Holocaust Memorial.

The nearest subway stations are State Street or Haymarket on the Orange Line or Government Center on the Green Line. It is a short walk from any of those stations.

The area around the Holocaust Memorial in more detail

A marker Union Street Park II, Boston -
Union Street Park II, Boston, MA 02108, USA
[get directions]

Man’s Search For Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning
Man's Search for Meaning

Frankl was a survivor of four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. He was also a psychiatrist who went on to develop a logo-therapy. This book is both a memoir of his time in the camps, and an explanation of the theory he developed.


Thank you too

To my friend Pam Bennett for providing photographs from her recent trip to Boston.

For more information visit the official New England Holocaust Memorial website.

© 2011 Yvonne Spence

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Comments 32 comments

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

What a beautiful building. Beautiful hub...I don't really have too many words for it because it is simply gorgeous. Voted up.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Thank you Kitty for your very kind comment. I’m glad you liked the hub.

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

I was not aware of this particular memorial and your words drew me into it much like it must have felt to you when you saw it glistening like a modern day glass structure.

The symbolism is amazing, the numbers of deceased overwhelming in their annonymity, the smouldering coals beneath the grates eerie and ghost-like in the photo of the walk between the towers. And the quotes and the Denmark story also made one think about the beauty and power of the human spirit. Yes we can make a difference when we stand together instead of alone and stand up for what's right and just. Thanks so much for that inspiring reminder that we must look for and focus on hope, not just the trajedy of lives cut short.

The Hasidic master quote: ‘If you look for the spark, you will find it in the ashes,’ also reminded me of the recent 9/11 remembrances where so many stories of selfless courage were told, some for the very first time. I deliberately focused on the documentaries that focused on the way people pulled together and stayed away from the ones that just kept replaying the horror of the planes crashing and the death and destruction. The new memorial in NY seems divinely inspired in its beauty and simplicity, much like the Holocaust Memorial in Boston.

Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

WDG-writes profile image

WDG-writes 5 years ago from Philippines

Wow you are so great!!! sharing great memory to the people who died during world war 2... Keep writing and keep up the good work! I will add your article to my blog ...this helps a lot.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

HI Happyboomernurse,

Thanks for your comment, and so glad you liked the hub.

I hadn’t thought about the similarities of the Hasidic quote to 9/11, but I can see what you mean as I’ve also read many stories of great courage from that time. I can relate to what you write about staying away from documentaries that focused on the horror - it seems that it’s too easy (in the short term at least) to focus on this and while it needs to be acknowledged, I do think people have so much courage and love inside, and the more we focus on that the more it can grow. Thank you so much for your thought-provoking comment.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi WDG-writes,

Thank you for your kind comment, I’m glad you liked the hub. I had a look at your blog and it looks interesting, I think my father, who is a WWW2 veteran, would be interested to see it.

WDG-writes profile image

WDG-writes 5 years ago from Philippines

Great! I hope you Dad can give me his accounts of World War II so that I could publish it on my blog...There are many veterans in this world who have stories of the War.... thanx

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Wow, WDG. We have been talking this summer about getting my Dad’s story down on paper because it’s really interesting. He’s 88 and has cancer so gets pretty tired at times, and I think having a goal like putting it on your blog would be an incentive for him. Thanks.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

The Holocaust is one of my research and teaching areas. I was unfamiliar with the Boston memorial. Sounds like a very interesting and compelling design. I hope to have a chance to see it in the future. Thank you for an important Hub with great descriptive pictures.

I have written several Hubs about the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. And I have several books about Holocaust memorials. Perhaps I will create a Hub based on that material.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi phdast7, and thanks for your comment. This monument truly is worth a visit, and I am sure you would find it as stunning as we did, since this is a subject of research for you.

I will take a look at your hubs soon as they sound very interesting, though it may take a few days as I am so busy right now.

Thanks also for following me.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York

What a writer you are! Your hub begins easily and naturally, drawing the reader into your vacation jaunt and then...the power of the Memorial takes over the hub. Really great job and great choice of pictures. A great tribute to the people and the memorial. Voted up, interesting and beautiful.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi again tillsontitan,

I feel so honoured by your very kind comment. It is an amazing monument, that so beautifully honours all who died in the Holocaust.

Thank you for reading, commenting and for voting up. It’s good to meet you, I will check out your hubs very soon.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

I was also not aware of this Memorial. Thank you so much Yvonne for sharing this beautiful tribute. I'm sure many others would appreciate this. I'll tend to that. Way to go!

Swetankraj profile image

Swetankraj 5 years ago from India

Beautiful hub really liked it! It was amazing after reading yes it is a great Memorial as much as i know. Very lovely!

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 5 years ago from United States

I didn't know this memorial existed. I wish I knew about it when I taught my Anne Frank unit to my students! What an amazing tribute to all of those lives lost. Thank you for sharing your experience of finding this in your travels.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Sunshine, you’re not alone, even some people who live near Boston have missed seeing it. Boston’s best kept secret I think! It is a stunning memorial. Thanks for your comment and for letting others know about the hub.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Swetankraj, thank you for your very kind comment. I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

LadyFiddler profile image

LadyFiddler 5 years ago from Somewhere in the West

Thanks for sharing this informative hub.

As i am obssessed with trying to find out why did the Nazi killed the Jews , how humans who once eat and laughed etc with you can become so cruel. Yet my mind cannot comprehend all the answers i try to give to myself. I listen to survivors testimonies from the holocaust and it rips my heart apart and then i get depress for days. But i continue to search for my answers and believe you me something like that is coming again. So sad may God make us ready

I am very emotional and i get all angry when i hear about Hitler and those wicked Bastards.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

ThePracticalMommy, the memorial is truly an amazing tribute, and would be a great thing to show students - maybe if you go back to teaching when your children are older… I visited Anne Frank’s house many years ago, which was a chilling experience.

Thanks for your comment.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Hello LadyFiddler,

Sorry to see that hearing survivors tales leaves you feeling depressed. I recommend you read “Man’s Search For Meaning,” by Viktor Frank, which I mentioned in the hub. Viktor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor and also a psychiatrist, and his book is an astonishing testament to the power of the human spirit. I think you would find what he has to say illuminating. I’ve just found a youtube clip of him, so I will add that to the hub.

Thank you for your comment.

thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

Thanks for sharing this information and I am sorry to say that I have never heard of this memorial before! It must have been special to be there and to see all this. Imagine all the horror, it is impossible to grasp. Very informative and well written tribute!


BRIAN SLATER profile image

BRIAN SLATER 5 years ago from Nottingham Uk

Thanks for sharing this poignant and well written article. Voted up.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Tina,

Many people haven’t heard of this memorial, so I am glad to be spreading the word. You are right: it was very special to see it, though shocking too. I agree that it is hard to grasp the horror of the Holocaust.

Thank you for reading and for your kind comment.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Brian.

alocsin profile image

alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

One more thing to see when I visit Boston. Thanks for showing me something that I didn't know was there. Voting this Up and Awesome.

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada


This is incredibly powerful. I got the shivers when I read, "I was chosen to work as a barber outside the gas chambers." The shiver stayed with me throughout the remainder. I hope to one day make it to Boston so I can experience it in person.



Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

You’re welcome alocsin. Are you going to Boston soon? I love it, it’s one of my favourite cities.

Thanks for your comment and vote.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Thomas, that’s how I felt too when I read that. The monument is so powerful because it simply states the facts, and the facts were terrible. But its message of hope is so powerful too, and so, so important.

I hope you do get to Boston one day too.

Thanks for your comment.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina

I didn't realize there was a memorial in Boston. When I see the memorials and read the stories, my heart breaks for these people. It is a shameful piece of history. This is such a beautiful memorial. I thank you so much for sharing this.

Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 5 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

The Germans did not want to listen when some began to warn about the evil rising in government. They burned the Reichstagg and blamed it on others. Evil rose to power all over the world: fascism, nazism, and communism. Today, communism still lives. It is the same spirit, under a new name, just as Dumitru Duduman, the Romanian prophet forewarned: America will be destroyed by fighting from within, started by the communists. While America turns attention inward, she will be attacked suddenly, by the Russians.

Duduman predicted also these things which have already happened: his exile to America with exact year, month, day and hour; The collapse of the USSR, the revolution in Romania, the return to power of Russia after the USSR collapse.

We need to humble ourselves and pray.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Tammy, and thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree it is a shameful piece of history - and yet there is so much strength to admire in survivors and so much we can learn from them I think. I can only imagine what how strong they must have been; it fills me with awe.

Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK Author

HiMan from Modesto,

Thank you for reading, and for sharing your interesting thoughts on this.

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