610 4th Avenue
They truly went the extra mile to see this project come to fruition.
261 Broadway 8C
New York, NY 10007
Holocaust Memorial Committee
60 West End Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11235
By Email: HMCorg@aol.com
Re: May 5th Unveiling Ceremony and Future Requests
May 9, 2013
Dear Committee Members,
This is a personal note and does not represent any organization.
First, I want to express my condolences to Mrs. Bilus on the loss of her husband. Second, I would like to open a dialogue with your Committee and related my feelings as a son of Holocaust Survivors while trying to conduct a dignified, intimate Unveiling Ceremony last Sunday in the Memorial Park; and finally to let you know of some ideas for the future.
I paid for a Special Event Permit from the Parks Department back in February and notified Community Board 15, the 61st Precinct and local elected officials. To my dismay, when I came to the Park on May 5th, I was greeted with a political campaign rally with a group of over 20 people protesting on Park lands without a permit. Even Press Conferences on Park land require a permit. I do not understand why I had to follow the laws, and the man running for City Council could ignore them. His group should have left the Park entirely, and gone to the sidewalks away from our ceremony. I wonder if the men screaming slurs at me would have been so emboldened to say what they did, if there was no protest rally.
Then in addition to having to view the protesters posters, reading things like “Go To Hell”; I had to face a barrage of verbal filth. While trying to conduct the ceremony I had to shout over one man yelling FAGGOT at me over and over again. Then another man came over shouting that all non-Jews should get out of park. This bizarre statement reminded me of how Jews were treated in German parks during the Nazi era. This was followed up by a third man yelling anti-Obama slurs at us. All while our speakers were trying to talk. This included an elderly man who survived the T-4 Euthanasia program and arrests for being a Jehovah Witness, leaders of Disability Network, and Disabled in Action and the priest in charge of the City’s largest Soup Kitchen, members of Voice of Roma, and CBST and other LGBT organizations and a leader of the Communists USA. I thought of calling the police several times, but wanted to keep the focus on the unveiling ceremony and not escalate the situation.
A calm and rational member of your Committee did speak with me and I would like to continue that dialogue with him. But when I realized how much misinformation was being spread, I went over to the protesting candidate and asked if I could answer any questions and was told this is a protest not a debate. It seems that the protesters were not aware that the local Community Board , every local elected official, and a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel of members from the Holocaust Museums, etc. supported the concept of the five additional stone markers. That was why the permit was granted in 2010. The final decision was always up to the Mayor or the Courts; and not a local group. I tried for years to deal with your Committee, but was always rejected, as you know, and had no other option but to seek a remedy from other sources.
This member of your Committee rightfully acknowledged that one of the new stone markers used the term “Gypsy” (as does the main sculpture in the center of the park). The text was from the original text written years ago. I support the concern of the Voice of Roma people to have this remedied, but do not know the process is to accomplish this. I also had to remove all of the text from the Homosexual marker about Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld and his Institute due to the smaller size of the remaining stones; and would like to know the process to apply for another marker telling the history of Paragraph 175 and the destruction of the Institute and the Berlin Student Bonfires where his library, bust and materials were burned 80 years ago.
Finally, I had a question about your Memorandum of Understanding. I thought it dealt with the limited scope of inscribing the names on to future stones. Where did the approval for the numbering of the stone markers come from? They sort of look now like the kind of thing you see at a wedding telling people where to sit, as compared to a Memorial. There were better ways for people find the loved one’s names on stones, and it was also productive to have people walk around looking at all of the stones. I also noticed that the Parks Department seems to be maintaining the site. I even cleaned up the empty cans before our ceremony. Does the Committee contribute towards the maintenance of the Park anymore?
I hope we can come to some sort of dialogue which comes from what people learned from the Holocaust, when the Nazis turned people into second class or dehumanized beings. The behavior on that Sunday was closer to what hooligans do and was not appropriate for a Holocaust Memorial. This Holocaust Memorial Park belongs to all New Yorkers. You should also know that Mayor Koch emailed me a congratulatory letter last summer after the stones were finally inscribed. I hope we can go into the future united in the goals and mission of the Holocaust Memorial.
Cc: Jonathan Kuhn, Dept. of Parks
Petra Gelbart, Voice of Roma