Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani
September 12, 1997

New York City's Memorial to the Holocaust:
Learning about Tragedy and Triumph

by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani

On September 11, a host of New Yorkers, including former Mayor Ed Koch and myself, attended the dedication of the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, located in Battery Park City, which opens to the public on September 15. This museum is the culmination of over fifteen years of effort by hundreds of dedicated New Yorkers.

It is an important, significant place, and a precious asset to the city. Those personally scarred by the Holocaust will go to remember lost lives. Children from across the city and around the region will visit the museum on school trips and with their families. And we all will learn more about this terrible time in world history, about the campaign to destroy the Jewish people.

The first lesson that the museum teaches is that we must know our history. The Holocaust, despite being the subject of volume after volume of scholarship, despite being more intensely documented than perhaps any other historical event in this century, is still a subject on which many people remain uninformed. It is imperative that we all grasp the facts of the tragedy, because understanding our history is a prerequisite to ensuring that similar tragedies never happen again.

But this particular museum is like no other, because it is not only about the horrible tragedy of the Holocaust. Its name, "Museum of Jewish Heritage -- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust," reflects this dual purpose. Even as this museum remembers the six million lives lost and looks at the horrors with an unflinching eye, it celebrates Jewish life and shows that the Holocaust is part of a story that ultimately resounds with hope.

This museum is made up of three floors: one detailing the richness of Jewish culture in Europe before the Holocaust tried to bring it to an end, one documenting the Holocaust, and one paying tribute to life after the attempted genocide -- the life which continues today, all around us. It is proof that the mission to exterminate the Jewish people failed.

We are lucky in New York City, because proof that the mission failed is all around us, in the form of a large and vibrant Jewish population. That's why there is no better place than New York City, the Capital of the World, to remember the Holocaust and to celebrate the legacy of Jewish heritage past, present, and future.

New York City is home to more Jews than any city in the world, including the largest cities of Israel, and is home to more Holocaust survivors than any other city in the world. No city has been as blessed as New York by the rich heritage and unparalleled creativity of American Jewish life.

The museum is ideally located, perfectly positioned to reflect that history. New York City was the port of entry and the place of settlement for hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants over the years. And from the museum you can see what they saw when they came -- the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, downtown Manhattan, Battery Park, and New York Harbor -- the whole expanse of freedom.

When they arrived, many with deep scars from the horrors of the Holocaust, they gathered strength and persevered. They strived to survive, to raise strong, moral families, to build businesses and communities, and to keep their culture strong. They succeeded, and in the process made this city, and this country, better for all of us.

Holocaust survivors and their descendants, and all those who fled Nazi persecution in Europe, have enriched and enhanced this city immeasurably. The museum is a tribute to them, because they proved to the world that as long as we remember the past, there can be productive, joyous, and beautiful life after unspeakable tragedy.

So many people worked tirelessly to help this museum come to life. We worked very hard with Speaker Peter Vallone to give the museum cultural institution group status, which will save it over $1 million in operating costs annually.

I hope you find time to visit the museum. The exhibition spaces are wonderfully conceived. Hundreds and thousands of voices speak to you when you visit -- voices that will stay with you forever.

In this way, the museum will change lives. Children will learn about the Holocaust and about the lives lived before, during, and after it. And they will learn that when we refuse to forget, when we learn from history, and when we come together in love, life overcomes. There is no more important lesson in the world.

Museum of Jewish Heritage -- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is located at 18 First Place in Battery Park City. It will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and eve of Jewish holidays. It will be closed Saturdays and all Jewish holidays.

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