Saturday, 30 August 2014

The never-ending Freedom Trail

There's a steady stream of people following a 4km red-brick path through the streets of Boston.

Welcome to The Freedom Trail - the city's pedestrian track that passes 16 locations deemed significant to the history of the United States.  

Boston's Old State House - that balcony was where the US Declaration of Independence was read for the first time
While I'm familiar with the broad overview of US history, I suspect some of the graveyards, churches, buildings, statues and even a ship mean more to Americans who have lived and breathed their country's history since birth.

Still, even a foreigner like myself can appreciate the events in Boston that led to the US Declaration of Independence and some of the first sparks of the anti-slavery movement.

However, one of the most surprising and interesting finds along the Freedom Trail is the New England Holocaust Memorial.

The New England Holocaust Memorial

It's striking as it is six tall glass columns - each one representing a major concentration camp -  made even more evocative with a continual flow of steam rising up through them.

One of the six columns

Each column attributed to a major concentration camp

You can walk through the glass columns and note the six million numbers engraved onto the glass - each representing the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

The Boston connection?  Well, that's best explained by this eloquent inscription.

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis created a regime of hate and victimisation in Germany that eventually consumed most of Europe.  Driven by racists beliefs, they killed as many as 11 million men, women and children in their quest to dominate Europe and create a "pure and superior" race. 

The Nazis singled out the Jews for total extermination - their very existence to be erased from history and memory.  Before their defeat in 1945, the Nazi regime murdered 6 million Jews - more than half of Europe's Jewish population.

Those who have perished have been silenced forever.  Those who witnessed and survived the horrors carry with them the burden of memory.  Through their voices, we seek to comprehend the acts of inhumanity that can stem from seeds of prejudice.

To remember their suffering is to recognise the danger and evil that are possible whenever one group persecutes another.  As you walk this Freedom Trail, pause here to reflect on the consequences of a world in which there is no freedom - a world in which basic human rights are not protected.  And know that wherever prejudice, discrimination and victimisation are tolerated, evil like the Holocaust can happen again.

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