Above the gates of the Bayonne Public Library is a Holocaust memorial. We prepared this summary to familiarize the community with the history and significance of the memorial.
In 1984, Mayor Dennis P. Collins established the Bayonne Holocaust Memorial Committee for the “purpose of erecting a permanent Holocaust Memorial as a symbol of remembrance and education for the citizens of Bayonne.”
The professional advisory committee included, among others, Alan J. Coren, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center and Council; Marvin Eger, the Bayonne City Business Administrator and Finance Director, and Rabbi Zachary I. Heller, spiritual leader of Temple Emanu-El in Bayonne.
The Committee launched a competition to find a sculptor and design for the project in late 1985, and offered a $10,000 first prize award. By early 1986, the Committee was receiving entries from sculptors from across the country and abroad, including Canada, Europe, South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
In Spring 1986, the Committee chose a panel of judges to begin reviewing the large number of entries and narrow them down to a few finalists. The competition judges were Alicia Legg, Curator of the Department of Painting & Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art; Gary A. Reynolds, Curator of Paintings & Sculpture for the Newark Museum; and Walter A. Lent, Vice President and Managing Principal of Gensler & Associates, an architectural firm with offices in New York.
In July 1986, the judges named five finalists: Ralph D. Hogg of Detroit, Michigan; Yossi Barel of Atlanta, Georgia; Ted Egri of Taos, New Mexico; Jim Gallucci ofGreensboro, North Carolina, and Karl Ciesluk of Ottowa, Ontario, Canada. All finalists were invited to construct and submit models of their concepts.
In September 1986, the working models were displayed at the Library and the Committee and the public were able to view each design.
On September 29, 1986, Karl Ciesluk’s concept of mounting authentic concentration camp jackets was chosen as the winning design. The six shirts on the memorial are intended to represent six concentration camps: Treblinka, Auschwitz, Dachau, Majdanek, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen.
Ciesluk had previously won three international sculpture commissions in Alaska, West Berlin, and Washington. He was featured in art magazines in the United States and abroad.
Ruth Preminger, Chairperson of the Bayonne Holocaust Memorial Committee, reported that the entire $100,000+ cost to design, produce, and mount the memorial was paid for with private donations. Mrs. Preminger said that the gates will serve “as a continuous reminder of man’s inhumanity to man and the attempted genocide of the Jewish people and the senseless murder of millions of others by the Nazis.”
The memorial was officially installed on April 24, 1988. Presiding over the ceremony were Mayor Dennis P. Collins, Freeholder Samuel Kaye, Alan Coren, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center & Council, and Lois McGuire, Secretary of the Bayonne Holocaust Memorial Committee.
The memorial stands as a lasting tribute to those who died in the Holocaust and as a reminder that the attempted genocide of the Jewish people or any other people should never happen again.