A memorial dedicated to Slovaks who helped Jews escape during the Holocaust was ceremonially opened near the Jewish cemetery in Zvolen on September 8 – the eve of Holocaust Day – and it is called Noble Souls Park. Its most dominant features are a glass Obelisk of Hope which was unveiled a year ago and the new Way of Humility, which resembles a tomb that can only be entered at its lower end and exited at the top of its stairs. According its author, Peter Abonyi, the Way of Humility symbolises Jewish graves that are laid with stones but its rails also represent the deportation method used to send Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust. “The whole way ends with white stairs that lead, symbolically, to the Tree of Life,” Abonyi said.
Miloš Žiak, the chairman of the board of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia, told the SITA newswire that the memorial is a unique way of expressing thanks to Slovak citizens who helped save Jews – often in an isolated and unorganised way and it honours both those who succeeded and those who failed and died together with those they tried to help. The Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia initiated the project and secured construction of the memorial. Jozef Klement, the head of the Banská Bystrica-Zvolen Jewish religious community, said the park has no par in all of Europe.
The Way of Humility includes about 14,000 stones of more than 80,000 stones from rivers that have been assembled together with wire by artist Peter Kalmus over more than 20 years. “There were about 80,000 Jewish Holocaust victims in Slovakia, thus the number,” Kalmus told the TASR newswire, adding that the remaining stones should be exhibited elsewhere in Slovakia at other memorial sites similar to this one. Pavol Mach is the author of the glass obelisk which is about 5.5 metres tall and weighs 17.5 tonnes.
The location of the new monument is not accidental as the nearby cemetery holds a mass grave of 140 victims of Fascist atrocities. The idea of the memorial park was born in 2006 and was originally promoted by Žiak and Ladislav Snopko. Later the Banská Bystrica religious community joined the effort, together with the town of Zvolen, the Technology University in Zvolen, the Israeli Chamber of Commerce, Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, and the Slovak National Uprising Museum in Banská Bystrica.
20. Sep 2010 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská