Surprisingly, there’s a Holocaust Memorial in South Beach, Miami, and it might be the most depressing place I’ve ever visited.
Sobering and reflective, it’s a far cry from the party atmosphere just blocks away on the beaches of South Beach.
The gloomy atmosphere is intentional. When you’re telling the story about a horrific part of human history, you can either sanitize it to make it more appealing to the masses, or you can present the awful truth uncensored.
This memorial obviously chose the latter line of thinking.
What is There a Holocaust Memorial in Miami?
The Holocaust was one of the most horrifying events in modern history, and the Holocaust Memorial in Miami obviously doesn’t want anyone to forget just how awful it was.
The Holocaust was the persecution and mass murder of six million people, mostly Jews, by the German Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. That’s a staggering loss of life, one that can be difficult to comprehend even today.
In 1984, residents of Miami formed a Holocaust Memorial Committee to develop a permanent memorial in memory of those whose lives were taken.
South Florida, and Miami in particular, had one of the highest concentrations of Holocaust survivors in the country. One committee member said there were in excess of 20,000 survivors in the region.
Some members felt that the party vibe of South Beach was not the best location for such a memorial. But ultimately, the decision was made to put the memorial in South Beach.
Sculptor Kenneth Treister was selected to design and create the landmark. You can read his own explanation of the creation process here.
Treister says the work took five years and included research in Jerusalem. The sculptures were cast in Taiwan and Mexico City.
The sculptor said, “I created the memorial as a large environmental sculpture… a series of outdoor spaces in which the visitor is led through a procession of visual, historical and emotional experiences with the hope that the totality of the visit will express, in some small way, the reality of the Holocaust.”
The sculpture was dedicated in 1990 and has remained open to the public in the years since.
What You’ll See at the Holocaust Memorial
The first sculpture visitors encounter depicts a mother holding her two frightened children, who are weeping uncontrollably. This statue is downright cheerful compared to what’s still to come.
The Arbor of History is a tunnel made of Jerusalem stone columns with granite slabs that have been etched with drawings, photos, words, and other reminders of the Holocaust.
The centerpiece of the grounds is a hand reaching skyward, surrounded by a 200-foot diameter lily pond. It’s called the Sculpture of Love and Anguish.
Upon closer inspection, the hand is surrounded by dozens of emaciated naked bodies, some choking themselves, some helplessly crying out for assistance.
There’s a lot more anguish than love. These are the faces of death.
If you’d like to see it, head to Meridian Ave. between 19th Street and Dade Blvd. The address is 1933-1945 Meridian Avenue – the exact years that the Nazi regime terrorized Jewish people.
Admission is free and the memorial is open everyday from 10 am to sunset. There are brochures on site (suggested donation of $2) which explain the memorial and the Holocaust in greater detail.
Here’s more info for your visit. While the memorial is definitely shocking, you may want to include it on your list of Miami must-sees, along with Little Havana and a day trip to see the alligators in the Everglades.
Would you visit a Holocaust Memorial?