Sid Ruckriegel, left, chairman of the board of Peoria Riverfront Museum, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the relocation of the Peoria Holocaust Memorial. Dignitaries and elected officials line up, shovels in hand, for the groundbreaking on an unseasonably mild Sunday afternoon in February.
BY CLARE HOWARD
After 11 years at Shoppes at Grand Prairie, the Peoria Holocaust Memorial is relocating to Peoria Riverfront Museum. Groundbreaking for the new location was Feb. 26 with dedication scheduled for Holocaust Remembrance Day April 23.
The memorial includes glass structures holding 11 million buttons representing those killed in the Holocaust. Six million buttons represent the six million Jewish adults and children murdered in the Holocaust, and five million buttons represent enemies of the state who were killed. The glass structures will be installed on the south west corner of the museum on Washington and Liberty streets.
“The new location will allow for a more sensory experience and more ability to contemplate the meaning of the memorial,” said Sid Ruckriegel, chairman of the museum board of directors.
The museum will be planning lectures, films and exhibits to strengthen the message of the memorial.
Mayor Jim Ardis commended the new location that’s near the museum, the sculpture walk, Caterpillar Visitors Center and the Warehouse District.
“Our country is going through a challenging time right now and the more we can have displays and talk about our history and be inclusive, the better we will be as a community moving forward,” Ardis said before the groundbreaking.
In his formal remarks, the mayor said it is critically important to remember the Holocaust and remember it could happen again.
“We can’t rest on history. We have to make sure it never happens again,” he said. “In some cases, it’s again starting to happen.”
He was referring to the proliferation of hate incidents that have been documented around the country leading up to and following the November election.
Susan Katz, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Peoria, said “This is the perfect space for our mission near the museum that can address these important issues.”
Hate spreads when people turn a blind eye to racism and bigotry, she said, urging people to step forward when they witness incidents.
“Be an upstander not a bystander,” she said.
Katz explained the significance of indicating six million Jews were killed and five million enemies of the state by quoting Elie Wiesel who said, “Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.”
Michelle Eggert and Brian Smith were co-chairs of the Peoria Holocaust Memorial Re-Birth Project.
Rabbi Robert Feinberg, Congregation Anshai Emeth, led a prayer.
Peoria County Board Chairman Andrew Rand referred to efforts to force Amazon to stop selling books that deny the Holocaust. He said bigotry, racism and bullying of any kind stand in opposition to all that is good in humanity.
For more information go to www.peoriaholocaustmemorial.org.