Miami Beach, Florida U.S.A. – “Then in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” That’s a quote written by Anne Frank, a Jewish Dutch girl who died at the age of 16 in at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany during World War II.
Later, she became famous worldwide for her diary, which she wrote during the time she and her family hid in Amsterdam from the Nazis.
I read the quote an ocean away from the Netherlands, the country where I also grew up. It is carved in the stone walls of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach.
Growing up in Europe, I learned a lot about WWII. I visited the Anne Frank House and museums dedicated to Jewish culture and history. It could be because I carry the same first name as Anne Frank, but I was always intrigued by her story.
I have to say I was very skeptical about visiting a Holocaust memorial so far from the place it all happened. But I was immediately dragged into the story by reading this first quote.
The Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach is a 13-meter-high bronze arm reaching into the sky, surrounded by hundreds of almost fully detailed, extremely skinny – nearly skeleton-like – bronze sculptures of figures trying to climb it.
The sadness, pain and fear is in every single face. It is absolutely, undeniably and intensely dramatic.
The walls around the monument are filled with pictures, numbers and quotes from that time. I can’t drag my eyes off of a picture in the stone wall portraying the face of a young child.
“What to expect, what to fear, what to hope for?” says the text below.
Might as well have been a picture from today’s news stories, couldn’t it?
Kids, parents, babies, an elderly couple – they’re all are made out of bronze and are around and attached to the enormous hand. They’re motionless, yet seeming like they could move at any second.
Their names, as well as those of many more Holocaust victims, are written on the walls surrounding them. The names of the camps where they were murdered are written in the tunnel leading to the monument.
“Ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered.” Another quote by Anne Frank.
The message behind the monument is as strong as it is because of the route you have to walk towards it.
From a distance, the hand is enormous, gigantic even. It’s surrounded by water like a castle needing protection. Moving closer, you vaguely notice the people clinging to it.
You get the message, yet you’re so caught up in the looks of it, it doesn’t quite hit yet.
Walking around the water of protection and closer to the statue, you turn your back on it as the stories written on the walls behind you start to catch your attention, each one more horrifying than the next.
More unbelievable, more, How could a person do such inhumane things to another person?
By the time you’ve read them all, you’ve gotten so intrigued by the stories on the walls, you’ve almost forgotten about the giant hand behind you.
Then you’re met with the tunnel leading you towards the statue, towards all these people who lived the stories you just read.
As you hear the song they used to sing, take one lone step after another, a bronze image of a crying baby appears on the floor. It starts to dawn on you that this is real. It’s a statue, but it’s real.
As you take a few steps more, so many more statues are revealed, just screaming in utter helplessness.
You feel their pain. Instantly.
Remember the past, educate the future, is on the blue bracelet I got from the women in the memorial’s office. It gave me a reason why this memorial was positioned here. It allowed me to think about the world in its current state.
Another quote I would like to conclude with is the following, carved in stone on one of the walls forming the memorial:
“While the world watched…
While the world listened…
And remained silent… “
Anne van Mill is a Senior Photographer and Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.