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Holocaust memorial sculpture coming to Frederik Meijer Gardens

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Holocaust memorial sculpture coming to Frederik Meijer Gardens

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A sculpture honoring the lives lost in the Holocaust will soon be part of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

A memorial site and sculpture will be dedicated next month at Frederik Meijer Gardens to honor the millions of people who perished in the Holocaust, Meijer Gardens said in a news release.

The memorial site is made possible by a donation from the Pestka Family in memory of their father Henry, survivors who settled in West Michigan and the millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust, the release said.

The site, which will be officially dedicated on June 30, will include “Ways to Say Goodbye,” a sculpture made by Ariel Schlesinger, the release said.

Meijer Gardens and The Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids envision the memorial as a gathering place for the Jewish community of Grand Rapids, the release said. The sculpture will also act as a teaching tool for educators both locally and nationally.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is extremely honored to dedicate Ariel Schlesinger’s beautiful sculpture ‘Ways to Say Goodbye’ and the surrounding memorial site, ”said David Hooker, president and CEO of Meijer Gardens. “We are deeply grateful for this gift adding such an important work of art to our permanent collection which is dedicated in memory of Henry Pestka and the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

“Our community will forever benefit from this extraordinary gift which serves to educate and promote peace,” Hooker said.

The sculpture is a 20-foot-tall aluminum cast of a fig tree that has shards of glass inserted among the branches. It deals with themes of profound loss and grief, the release said.

“This tree was specifically chosen by Schlesinger for its character and as a symbol of the Jewish struggle for survival both during and after the Holocaust,” the release said. “The tree appears fragile and clinging to life; however, it is also representative of great endurance. ”

The memorial is significant to the Pestka family because their father was a survivor, Linda Pestka said.

“The numbers 73847 are numbers that we will never forget,” she said. “They were tattooed to my father’s forearm, as though he were an animal, as identification for his potential death. It is our duty to educate, respect and honor the victims and their families of the unthinkable acts against life and morality.

“The Holocaust did happen. Holocaust deniers are reporting false and harmful information. Anti-Semitism and other hate crimes are on the rise. The Meijer Gardens Memorial sculpture will allow hundreds of thousands of people each year to become educated and aware of the atrocities against humanity. May we never forget. ”

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