History and art collide in Philly's new Holocaust remembrance plaza

"If we don't remember the past, it's bound to repeat."

Justin Udo
October 22, 2018 - 1:43 pm
David Adelman, center, with the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, cuts the ribbon at the Holocaust Remembrance Foundation opening ceremony.

Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Itka Zymuntowicz was just a kid when she was taken from her home in Poland and sent to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

"I barely survived," she said. "I was the only one of my family, but I was determined not to give up."

So for Zymuntowicz, attending the opening of Philadelphia's Holocaust Memorial Plaza in Center City on Monday morning was a pretty emotional experience.

"I feel very grateful that people care enough to do it," she said.

Holocaust survivor Itka Zymuntowicz
Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

The holocaust saw more than 6 million Jewish people murdered by the Nazis, a nightmare Sevito Gringlas saw firsthand as a child at different concentration camps.

"They kept me and my brother, and the rest of my family they killed," he said.

Gringlas joined other Holocaust survivors at the $7 million plaza at the corner of 16th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

"Feels good to be free, and see a lot of other people who were over there in camps too."

The plaza features original train tracks that led to Nazi concentration camps, pillars that contrast Nazi themes with American values, remembrance trees, and much more.

"What we hope is that people can get a Holocaust education, for those who never had it, hear about local Philadelphia holocaust survivors, and those in Philadelphia who were liberators of those prison camps as well," said David Adelman, with the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, who helped spearhead the memorial.

"My grandfather lost his first wife and children in the holocaust. They were murdered. And so I really did this in his honor and his memory," he said.

The plaza features pillars that contrast Nazi themes with American values.
Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

Zymuntowicz says it's important to have this plaza in a place where millions of people will see it.

"Because if we don't remember the past, it's bound to repeat," she said.

The plaza also has a dedicated mobile application where people can learn even more about the Holocaust.