Memorial aims to evoke feelings, convictions
By SIMÓN RIOS
Union Leader Correspondent | July 27. 2012 8:24PM
Holocaust survivor Fred Teebom, a former Nashua alderman, stands amid 11,000-pound granite slabs that form the New Hampshire Holocaust Memorial in Nashua. Simon Rios
It wasn't hard to imagine a prison thousands of miles away and decades in the past as Teeboom stood between the granite blocks that form the memorial on a recent scorching hot afternoon just off Main Street.
“You have to learn from the past to prevent this from happening in the future,” said Teeboom. “It could happen again.”
In the center of the memorial will be a black cube, set on bricks from the Nashua Millyard's bygone boiler house.
“To me (the cube) represents the ashes, human ash from the people who were burned in these crematoriums,” Teeboom said. “And its shiny, so you'll see your own face reflected in the cube.
“In a different time, different place, you could have been in a death camp.”
Teeboom lamented the Holocaust that took over 100 of his family members, and described the effort to memorialize the millions killed during that horrific period.
“The Nazis had well over 100 forced labor camps,” said Teeboom, who was born in Holland and was 2 years old when World War II started. “But they designed six extermination camps, and they were for the specific purpose of bringing people from their homes, on trains, straight into these camps, and then straight into the gas chambers. Very few people (survived).”
The downtown memorial — located on Main Street beside Salmon Brook and a used-car dealership — will be the first Holocaust memorial in the state, Teeboom said.
The monument consists of six 11,000-pound granite walls, set onto a concrete hexagon 28 feet in diameter. Each of the walls is engraved with the name of an extermination camp: Sobibor, Chelmno, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek and Belzek.
The project began in 2009, and is slated to be completed next summer. When it first began to take form, Teeboom said the naysayers were plentiful.
“They said, 'Why are you doing this? The Nazi stuff is not an American concern. We didn't create the problem.' ”
Others said they didn't want their kids to have to look at the memorial and remind themselves of horrible things. But it didn't deter the 73-year-old former alderman, whose conviction proved stronger than anyone's opposition.
Teeboom, who spent his career as an engineer, said the memorial represents the marriage of art and science. Teeboom's knowledge, and the artistry of Brookline-based sculptor John M. Weidman are combining to build something Teeboom said will last as long as the pyramids.
“There's a lot of things about the arts that enters science and engineering an there's a lot of science and engineering that relies on the arts,” Weidman said. “They're interdependent.”
Though not Jewish, Weidman said it doesn't matter — the New Hampshire Holocaust Memorial is not a religious work.
“This is for people,” he said, “and it's so that we can understand things around us and when there's something terrible going on you speak up and stop it.”
Entering and exiting the memorial, visitors will see two plaques. Upon entering, the first plaque will read “Never Forget,” and upon exiting, “Never Again.”
“Never forget is passive,” Teeboom said. “Never again means this will never, ever happen again.”
The $150,000 project is still in need of donations. Teeboom said about half that amount has been raised.
Further information is available at holocaust-memorial-in-nashua.org.
Asked if the memorial applies just to the Jewish people, Teeboom pointed out that it does not contain a Star of David, and it is not a Jewish memorial.
“It should apply to all those who have gotten killed, and it should apply to all those who get exterminated,” Teeboom said.