Holocaust memorial, step by step

During World War II, 67,000 of the 78,000-strong population of Greeks of Jewish descent perished in Nazi crematoria, yet it took over 65 years for Athens to get its own Holocaust memorial.

Following an international competition, Greek-American artist DeAnna Maganias?s design for a sculpture was chosen. Depicting a shattered Star of David, it was placed in at the crossroads of Ermou, Efvoulou and Melidoni streets next to the Kerameikos Cemetery, with the six outer triangles of the star pointing to Athens?s historical Jewish neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, January 26, the Jewish Museum of Greece unveiled an exhibition titled ?The Memorial,? featuring scale models and mock-ups presented by the artists to a panel of experts for judging during the competition. The tribute is part of a series of events commemorating Holocaust Martyrs? and Heroes? Remembrance Day, held annually in the Hebrew month of Nisan, usually around March or April in the Western calendar.

Mary Michailidou, an art historian who was on the panel of judges, explains how difficult it was to settle on one design.

?I must confess that the proposals submitted by the artists were excellent and it was quite a chore to narrow it down to DeAnna Maganias?s. Her design was ultimately chosen because she handled the issue of the Holocaust with moderation, order and clean lines. However, we decided to organize this exhibition so that the public could see how the rest of the participants approached this sensitive subject and what means of expression they used. We must not forget the special significance of the site that was chosen for the memorial, at Kerameikos, at the Pompeion and the start of the Panathenaic procession; it is a holy site.?

The exhibition comprises 16 of the total 19 proposals submitted by artists belonging to different generations and different schools of thought and style.

?All of the artists who presented a proposal took into account a number of different factors before shaping their concepts,? says Michailidou. ?Each artist addressed the Holocaust through a personal prism. Andreas Angelidakis envisioned a walk through a tunnel of concrete walls, while Giorgos Gyparakis presented us with a kind of memorial temple. Other artists showed us sculptures and others still wanted to make interventions in the space.?

?The Memorial? is on display at the Jewish Museum of Greece (39 Nikis, Syntagma) until August 31. Opening hours: Mondays-Fridays 9 a.m. – 2.30 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Admission costs 6 euros for adults and 3 euros for students.