After the controversy of siting the Oregon Holocaust Memorial has died down it’s time to take a look at what’s there.

The location in Washington Park was worth fighting for. It’s absolutely exquisite, calm and quiet, surrounded by high timbers, gardens and winding paths. It’s very accessible, and yet alone – a solemn mystery in the woods.

As you come up the stone path early morning a startling corner-of-your-eye sight. A doll (a child) black (burned?) left behind (abandoned?) set modestly on a curved stone bench. There’s another – what’s that? A suitcase?

Step to the level ground. Trees shape a bowl, bright blue sky above. Things are strewn about a dignified park. A black wrought-iron streetlamp.

What are these things? A child’s shoe. A broken violin. Cracked spectacles. A bent menorah, spilt.

The items make a wandering trail to a heavy solemn wall of stone. Tears are streaming down my face. Why? Because I have a soul.

Approach the gray marble, the mass of text blotted out with tears, gravel crunching under foot. This memory device – this memorial – made by those who followed, to clearly know what happened, to understand the cause and effect, to teach to illuminate to illustrate, to change the hearts of others who follow. The text, beautifully scripted by John Laursen of Press-22, is grueling. Facing the forest wall of life are the names of the families of current Oregonians lost in the Nazi genocide.

Does remembering the past alter the future? Possibly, immeasurably. But the black cloud of hatred and death continues unabated. Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Afghanistan Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan. It’s happening right now, today.

Can a soul be touched, changed? Absolutely.

So the second function of this memorial, and those like it scattered in civilized communities, is to serve as a placeholder for those who did not survive to create their own memorial. When they arrive, I hope Portland can give them a nicer welcome.

Work begins on long delayed Oregon Holocaust Memorial – The Jewish Review

Oregon Holocaust Memorial – Pacific University, which is part of the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center.

Holocaust Memorial, Portland, OR – City of Dust – blog, July 2005

Holocaust Memorial Finished – The Jewish Review, September 2004

Holocaust memorial dedicated in Washington Park – KATU, August 2004