At 15, Anneliese Nossbaum left her ailing grandmother to die at Theresienstadt. She said goodbye, and in a few days she and the remaining family were sent to Auschwitz.
“I was a child at the time. But children were no longer children at the time,” Nussbaum told Philadelphia Weekly.
Aftering arriving at Auschwitz, they were separated into two lines. Nossbaum’s newly engaged, 29-year-old aunt was born with a hip deformity, causing a slight a slight limp: she was put in the left line and sent to the gas chambers. Nossbaum and her mother were put sent to the right line and put to work.
“When we were separated, we didn’t utter a word,” Nussbaum remembered. “That haunted me for years.”
Before Nossbaum was separated from her father, he revealed that her mother had contracted tuberculosis. Nossbaum’s mother stayed by her daughter’s side throughout the war, “just surviving,” until the day of liberation at Mauthausen, when she collapsed. Soon after, she passed away.
Nossbaum, who now resides in Jenkintown, was one of the speakers at the opening ceremony of the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza on Oct. 22 at 16th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. As one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors, Nossbaum spoke about hope even in times of despair and the need to be “fluent in the truth of the past” in order to create a better future.
The day commemorated the completion of the $9 million expansion project of the plaza surrounding the “Six Million Jewish Martyrs” statue, constructed at the Parkway in 1964 by Nathan Rappaport. Honoring the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the “Six Million Jewish Martyrs” marked the first public Holocaust memorial in the United States.
Conducted by the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation (PHRC), the ceremony included speeches from US Congressman Dwight Evans, Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke, State Senator Larry Farnese, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell and Center City District CEO Paul Levy.
“The plaza we are unveiling today will also be able to educate those without prior knowledge of the Holocaust, providing a much more comprehensive and educational experience for a generation that is growing up in a world with fewer and fewer survivors,” said David Adelman, PHRF chairman. “The plaza tells the stories of the past with relics of the Holocaust...but while these features point to the past, the plaza’s goal is to build a better future where all people can live side-by-side in harmony.”
The plaza’s new features include the “Six Pillars,” six large scale plaques that reaffirm the American values and constitutional rights that protect its people. While honoring the past, the plaza stays modern with the interactive app iWalk. Developed by USC Shoah Foundation, the program guides visitors through the plaza and provides Holocaust testimonials, such as Nossbaum’s, as well as provides other multimedia educational content.
“[Even] in today’s often divisive national climate, Philadelphians and Americans will be united to fight against prejudice,” said Adelman. “This plaza is not just a tribute to the Jews, political opponents, homosexuals and resistance fighters that were murdered in the Holocaust.”
In addition, the plaza includes a tree grove to represent the woods where people hid from the Nazis as well as authentic train tracks from the railroads to the concentration camps.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro was scheduled to speak at the memorial ceremony, but he was unable to attend due to a funeral of a staff member.
“I first got involved with the project a decade ago. I believe then and now that it’s important for us to have a world class memorial to remind us all that no matter of our faith or background about the horrible atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust,” relayed through a public message read at the ceremony. “We must never forget the unprecedented tragedies that occurred, and we must continuously rededicate ourselves to the principles of ‘Never Again.’ My office sits on just the other side of Arch Street and I will be proud to look on this plaza everyday when I am in Philadelphia.”