Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev being presented with the Shoah Heritage Campus Scroll of Dedication by donors
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02 May 2019
Today, during Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yad Vashem broke ground for its new Shoah Heritage Campus. The emotional ceremony was attended by former head of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, Ambassadors of Germany and Austria to Israel, donors, representatives of Yad Vashem Societies worldwide and Holocaust survivors.
The new Campus, to be built at Yad Vashem on Jerusalem's Mount of Remembrance, will include the Joseph Wilf Curatorial Center; the Heritage Gallery for display of artifacts from its collections; and an auditorium, including a main hall and a Family and Children’s Exhibition Gallery.
The central component of the new Campus is the Shoah Heritage Collections Center, with state-of-the-art intake, conservation and storage facilities for Yad Vashem's unrivalled collections of Holocaust-era artworks, artifacts and archival materials. Situated in a strategically prominent, highly visible location – opposite the Hall of Remembrance, one of the most frequently visited sites of Yad Vashem – the Shoah Heritage Collections Center will comprise four subterranean levels covering a total area of 5,880 square meters (63,300 square feet).
During the ceremony, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev called the items in Yad Vashem's collections – including 210 million pages of documentation, 34,000 personal artifacts and close to 12,000 original artworks – "the building blocks of truthful Shoah remembrance and the human memories that allow us to pass on the stories of their creators and owners for future generations."
Former Jewish Agency Chairman and "refusenik" Natan Sharansky cited Viktor Frankl's seminal work Man's Search of Meaning, and the importance of giving significance to one's life even as one faces certain death. The experiences of people under such regimes as Nazi Europe and the Communist Soviet Union, as he himself recalled, are vital not only for those living their lives at the time, but also for those living in the future, in order to learn how best to advance humanity. "The State of Israel, Yad Vashem and Yad Vashem's friends guarantee that the memory of the Shoah will live on for generations to come," he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Wilf family and other donors of the Shoah Heritage Campus, Jane Wilf said "Yad Vashem is the epicenter for Holocaust remembrance, for the Jewish People, Israel and all of humanity. The Shoah Heritage Campus and all of its components, including the Joseph Wilf Curatorial Center, the renovated Auditorium and the Family and Children’s Exhibition Gallery, constitute an integral thread in the fabric of Yad Vashem’s vital work. Through these very components, we are faced with the profound challenge of ensuring the preservation of Yad Vashem’s collections for posterity, their accessibility to the public, and the transmission of the memory of the victims and survivors of the Shoah to future generations."
Representing Yad Vashem Friends Societies worldwide, Kai Diekmann, Chairman of the Society of Yad Vashem Friends in Germany, called the occasion a "humble moment, full of responsibility." Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, he stated, "is a place that not only collects all the memories, it also treasures and disseminates them for all of humanity to see and learn. Here, on the Mount of Remembrance, we have partnered with Yad Vashem to build a new home for all of the pieces of the history of the Holocaust, bringing them together, under one roof to serve as everlasting proof to the atrocities of the Shoah. This is the place that not only holds them together, but restores the voices of the victims. This campus will serve as home to the dreams that were never dreamt; the hopes that never came true; the wishes that will never be fulfilled."
Following the moving ceremony – which included a performance by the Ethiopian children's choir Sheba – stakeholders signed two copies of a Scroll of Dedication. One was presented to Chairman Shalev by donors and another was then buried in the ground under the spot where the Shoah Heritage Campus will be built.