BOSTON – Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and Facing History and Ourselves were joined by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Kim Janey last week to officially unveil a new, interactive mobile tour experience at the New England Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston. Recognizing the need for increased access to the memorial and the history it teaches through testimonies of local survivors, the memorial’s website recently underwent a significant transformation and now includes a virtual walk-through feature that can be experienced from anywhere in the world. These modern updates come at a crucial time, as reports of antisemitic speech and hate crimes are increasing at an alarming rate, and Holocaust awareness and education is reported to be at an all-time low across the country.
“Now more than ever, it is critical that we elevate survivors’ stories, because the opportunity to hear their testimonies directly will soon disappear. The memorial’s new in-person and virtual touring capabilities capture their stories enabling present-day and future visitors to bear witness to this unique event in human history,” said Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “JCRC is committed to a high level of Holocaust programming, education and survivor relationships in partnership with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Our stewardship of the memorial creates a wide variety of educational opportunities for people of all ages.”
“This memorial stands as a powerful symbol to the people of Massachusetts and New England as we remember the Holocaust’s victims and survivors,” said Gov. Baker, who attended the launch of the virtual tour on July 8. “I am proud that the New England Holocaust Memorial has implemented these virtual expansions, ensuring that even more people have the opportunity to experience this powerful place and learn from the history it contains, and am grateful to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Facing History and Ourselves for their continued work and dedication.”
Visitors to the New England Holocaust Memorial can now use their mobile phones to activate a nine-stop guided tour of the memorial by scanning QR codes dispersed throughout the site. Each stop along the tour features a carefully curated audio, text or video segment that together amplify the visitor experience and broadens the user’s understanding of the memorial overall. Segments include testimonials from local Holocaust survivors, a short history of the Holocaust, an explanation of the symbolism built into the memorial and resources for educators.
“This memorial reminds each and every one of us what we must never forget — that our struggle for freedom is ongoing and that we can never forget this history,” said Mayor Janey. “Through this important resource, the voices of our survivors will live on for generations, so that even those born today, who may never hear a Holocaust survivor, will know their story, know their history, and learn from the past. Thank you to Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, and Facing History and Ourselves for your work in making this possible.”
Around the country and abroad, visitors can also experience the memorial and all of the site’s mobile tour offerings virtually through its website, www.nehm.org. The immersive 360-degree experience places visitors right in downtown Boston outside of Faneuil Hall, allowing them to navigate their way through the memorial as if they were doing so in-person. The website also features historical information about the Holocaust, the memorial in Boston and an archive of survivors’ stories.
“These vital upgrades to the New England Holocaust Memorial and its website have long been in discussion and have now finally been made possible with thanks to the Kraft Family Foundation and its Final Whistle on Hate effort geared specifically toward combating antisemitism in all forms,” said Marc Baker, CEO and President of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “The Holocaust reminds us of the potentially horrific consequences of unchecked hate. Educating future generations about the past is a powerful way to combat hatred in its many forms. CJP and our whole community are grateful for the support of Governor Baker, local leadership within the City of Boston, the Kraft Family Foundation, JCRC and Facing History and Ourselves.”
“We are very proud to contribute to the revitalization of this important memorial, creating a new digital experience for current and future generations,” said Roger Brooks, CEO and President of Facing History and Ourselves. “Recent studies have shown a disturbing and profound lack of knowledge about the Holocaust, especially among young people. As we sadly will lose more survivors with each passing year, it is critical that the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten.”
The New England Holocaust Memorial was originally conceptualized and founded by Stephan Ross, a survivor of the Holocaust who died in February 2020. It was dedicated in Boston in 1995 with support from a committee of World War II veterans, Boston-area Holocaust survivors, local officials including former mayors Raymond Flynn and Thomas Menino, and the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund, which recently contributed $236,000 in support of the memorial’s latest renovation. The memorial serves as both a physical tribute to the 6 million
Jewish men, women and children whose lives were lost, and a stark reminder to future generations all over the world that wherever prejudice, discrimination and victimization are tolerated, evil like the Holocaust can happen again.