March 10, 2009

Unique Holocaust & Genocide Memorial Grove Dedication on March 29 Honors Many Who Were Lost

Holocaust MemorialA lasting memorial to the Holocaust and genocides in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America will be dedicated on the campus from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, March 29 near the campus lakes area.

A reception at the Commons follows. The lakeside program is open and free to the public.

Rwandan United Nations Ambassador Prof. Joseph Nsengimana is the keynote speaker at the lakeside ceremony and unveiling of an original sculpture of glass and steel designed and constructed by Prof. Jann Nunn, associate professor of sculpture at SSU.

Other speakers include representatives from ethnic and national groups victimized by genocide including Native Americans, Armenians, Jews, Cambodians and Darfurians of the western region of the Sudan.

The sculpture, a three-year-old project entitled the Erna and Arthur Salm Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove, is intended to remember past and present genocides and serve as a re-dedication of world commitments to prevent future crimes against humanity.

The monument will carry the personal remembrances of survivors of the Holocaust and genocides as well as the relatives and friends of the dead on some 460 laser inscribed bricks that are part of the sculpture foundation.

The memorial bricks have been purchased from people throughout the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, North Carolina and Nebraska, Ontario, Canada, and other areas of the United States.

Memorial  brickThe sculpture will become a permanent installation at the edge of a lake in Alumni Grove on the northeast side of the campus.

The project is sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide and School of Social Sciences at SSU, the Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust of Sonoma County, and private citizens. No public money was used to finance the approximate $100,000 project.

Jann NunnThe sculpture design consists of two 40-ft long railroad tracks emerging from a gentle grassy rise, crossing a foot path, and narrowing to a width of six inches where the rails disappear into a black granite pedestal and foundation of a 10-ft tall, clear glass tower.

The tower, a cylinder fabricated from 5,000 pieces of glass, will be illuminated from dusk to dawn, by sunlight during the day and artificial internal lights at night.

On the granite base is engraved the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"The narrowing distances between the tracks and the convergence into the lighted tower represent the hope that as civilization progresses and we learn from past errors there will be fewer incidents of genocide and holocaust," said Nunn.

Other speakers will include:
- Prof. Brenda Flyswithhawks, Santa Rosa Junior College and a member of the Bird Clan (Cherokee) Tsalagi Nation
- Archpriest Fr. Sarkis Petoyan; Very Rev. Fr. Baret Dz. V. Yeretsian and Very Rev. Barthev Gulumian, representing the Western Diocese of Armenian Church of North America
- Rabbi George Schleshinger, Beth Ami, Santa Rosa
- Venerable Masarin Visothea, Cambodian Buddhist Temple, Santa Rosa
- Jerry Fowler, Save Darfur Coalition, Washington, D.C.

The program begins with welcomings by Prof. Elaine Leeder, Dean, School of Social Sciences, and SSU President Ruben Arminana. It also includes Native American singers and drummers, Yiddish music, Cambodian classical dancers, and a Rwandan dance group.

Memorial  brickThe sculpture was designed and constructed by Nunn. She was assisted by students of the SSU art department and organizers. It is being funded by private contributions, in-kind donations of materials and services from Sonoma County area businesses, and funds raised from the sale of memorial bricks that will make up the railroad-tie base of the iron tracks and on which personal statements on the Holocaust and genocide are inscribed.

The project has been spearheaded by Leeder and David Salm, a Sonoma County businessman and leading financial supporter, who together conceived the idea for the memorial three years ago and enlisted the enthusiasm of the sculptor Nunn.

Leeder brings two perspectives to the project.

As Dean of the School of Social Sciences, she said the Memorial Grove will be an important addition to the landscape of the university which for 25 years has been home to the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide.

Memorial  brickFrom a personal standpoint, Leeder said Nunn's art will stand as a monument to members of her own family - a grandmother, aunt, uncle on her father's side and dozens of relatives from her mother's - who were victims of the Holocaust.

"I've been a survivor's daughter my entire life. This is probably my lasting memorial to the victims," said Leeder, a former visiting scholar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Project activist David Salm, whose parents fled Nazi Germany shortly after the Nazi attacks against Jews in November 1938 - Kristallnacht - and whose father was imprisoned at Dachau for four weeks, hopes the project will both commemorate the past and cause people to be more aware of genocides still occurring today.

Although the Memorial Grove sculpture's railroad tracks cross the foot path along the lake, it is installed in such a way that passersby may not realize they are in the presence of a monument to millions of victims of genocide.

Memorial  brick"We do that everyday, walking over present and past atrocities as they occur throughout the world. We still go on, puttering along with our normal lives," he said.

Memorial bricks are still available for purchase. The bricks come in two sizes. A 4 x 6 inch brick, which costs $100, provides purchasers with three lines of text. An 8 x 8 inch brick, at $250, provides six lines of text.

A short video on the project is available online at http://www.sonoma.edu/socsci. To find out how to purchase a memorial brick, contact Sophia LaRosa, sophia.larosa@sonoma.edu, (707) 664-3221.

TOP, Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove sculpture by Jann Nunn, pictured above right.


Jean Wasp
Media Relations Coordinator
University Affairs
(707) 664-2057
jean.wasp@sonoma.edu