PORTLAND (AP) – The dedication of the first public Holocaust memorial in Maine honored the lives, and deaths, of those murdered by the Nazis.

More than 300 people turned out Sunday at Temple Beth El to help dedicate the Jerry and Rochelle Slivka Holocaust Memorial, named for a Portland couple who survived the Holocaust.

Created by sculptor Robert Katz, who specializes in public art, the granite memorial was commissioned by the Slivkas in memory of their family members and the other 6 million Jews exterminated during World War II.

“I hope this will inspire, and make us aware that there are still bad people in the world who want to do bad things to other people,” Jerry Slivka said.

Slivka said that while he hopes the memorial will serve as a reminder of the hatred that led to the Holocaust, he is aware of the ignorance that still exists in the world today.

Congregants attending the ceremony learned that vandals broke several windows at the synagogue hours before the dedication.

The memorial, which faces east toward Jerusalem, features six dogwood trees, in memory of the 6 million; the dogwoods bloom yellow, to commemorate the yellow stars that Nazis forced Jews to wear.

During the dedication ceremony, a brass box containing ash and dirt from three sites was welded behind a Star of David on the memorial. One of the sites was Auschwitz, the largest of the death camps.

“Did they not have lives, these Jews of central and eastern Europe?” asked Abraham Peck, director of the Academic Council for Post-Holocaust Christian and Jewish Studies at the University of Southern Maine. “Remember those lives as we mourn their deaths.”

Also speaking at the dedication was Brother Francis Blouin, of the Brothers of Christian Instruction in Alfred and president of the Maine Council of Churches, who said Christians should have done more to prevent the genocide.

“Though there were a number of righteous Christians who risked their lives,” he said, it was “a small island of light too soon overwhelmed… We acknowledge and we admit our failure and our cowardice in the face of evil.”

A representative of Maine’s Moslem community also offered thoughts.

The dedication honored liberators, as well.

Keith Waning, who liberated the Dachau concentration camp, and Harry Blumenthal, who liberated Buchenwald, lit a memorial candle.

“I saw thousands of dead,” said Blumenthal, who lives in Yarmouth. “I saw a cart, the Nazis had a cart, must have been hundreds of bodies. I saw inhumanity… Never should society get to that level.”


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