Memorial to Holocaust, World Genocides Taking Shape at SSU Campus

ROHNERT PARK, CA.–A lasting memorial to the Holocaust and genocides in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America is beginning to take shape on the campus of Sonoma State University.

The monument ‘s a sculpture of glass and steel and eternal light ‘s was designed and is being constructed by Prof. Jann Nunn, associate professor of sculpture at SSU.

It is scheduled to be dedicated Sunday, March 29.

Three years in the making, the Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove sculpture is being constructed at the foot of a lake next to Alumni Grove on the northeast side of the campus along the path to the new Green Music Center.

Sonoma State University is located in Rohnert Park, 50 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sonoma County.

The project is being sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide at SSU, the Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust of Sonoma County, and private citizens.

The project includes the active participation of the Armenia’s of the North Bay whose supporters founded the Armenian Genocide Memorial Lecture Fund at SSU to ensure that the Armenian Genocide is included each year in the SSU Holocaust studies lecture series.

The memorial sculpture design consists of two 40-ft long railroad tracks emerging from a gentle grassy rise, crossing a foot path, and narrowing to a width of six inches at which the rails disappear into a black granite pedestal and foundation of a 10-ft tall, clear glass tower. The cylinder, fabricated from 5,000 pieces of glass, will internally illuminated from dusk to dawn, by sunlight during the day and artificial lights at night.

After several years of work inside SSU’s art department studios, major progress was made on the project in recent weeks including the pouring of a foundation, placement of the steel railroad tracks, paving of the path that crosses the memorial site, and beginning installation of memorial bricks that represent the traditional railroad ties supporting the tracks.

The sculpture is designed to remember the Holocaust and other mass murders throughout history and to challenge the world to remain vigilant against future genocides.

On the granite base of the tower will be engraved the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"The narrowing distances between the tracks represent the hope that as civilization progresses and we learn from past errors there will be fewer incidents of genocide and holocaust," said Nunn.

The $95,000 project is the product of volunteer labor of Nunn and students of the SSU art department, and organizers. It is being funded by private contributions, in-kind donations of materials and services from Sonoma County area businesses, and funds raised from the sale of memorial bricks that will make up the railroad-tie base of the iron tracks and on which personal statemen’s on the Holocaust and genocide can be inscribed. No public funds are being spent on the project.

The memorial bricks come in two sizes. A 4 x 6 inch brick, which costs $100, provides purchasers with three lines of text. An 8 x 8 inch brick, at $250, provides six lines of text.

A short video on the project is available online at www.sonoma.edu/socsci. To find out how to purchase a memorial brick, contact Sophia LaRosa at Sonoma State, sophia.larosa@sonoma.edu 707-664-3221, 707-664-3920 (fax).

The Memorial Grove project speaks to historic horrors of genocide on a global scale. It is being sponsored, created and embraced by individuals touched personally by the Holocaust and genocide.

Participants will include survivors and relatives of survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, the United States, and Darfur.

Along with the designer Nunn, the project has been spearheaded by Prof. Elaine Leeder of SSU and David Salm, a Sonoma County businessman.

Leeder brings two perspectives to the project.

As Dean of Social Services at SSU, she said the Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Grove will be an important addition to the landscape of the university that for 25 years has been home to the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide.

And from a personal standpoint, Leeder said Nunn’s art will stand as a monument to members of her own family ‘s a grandmother, aunt, uncle and dozens of cousins ‘s who were victims of the Holocaust. Leeder’s father was the last member of his family to get out of Nazi-occupied Lithuania before the murdering of Jews began.

"I’ve been a survivor’s daughter my entire life. This is probably my lasting memorial to the victims," she said.

Project activist David Salm, whose Jewish parents fled Nazi Germany shortly before World War II began, hopes the project will both commemorate the past and cause people to be more aware of genocide still occurring today. Although the Memorial Grove sculpture’s railroad tracks will cross the foot path along the lake, it will be installed in such a way that passersby may not realize they are in the presence of a monument to millions of victims of genocide.

"We do that everyday, walking over and past atrocities as they occur throughout the world. We still go on, puttering along with our normal lives," he said. "Somehow this project represents a way we can make a dent against genocide."

Sale of Memorial Grove Sculpture bricks continues through early 2009. Proceeds will cover expenses of the construction of the sculpture and Memorial Grove site as well as providing ongoing support for the university’s Holocaust study program.

For more information:
Prof. Elaine Leeder, SSU Dean of Social Sciences, 707-664-2112
Prof. Jann Nunn, Associate Professor of Sculpture, SSU, and Designer of the Memorial Grove Project, email: Jann.nunn@sonoma.edu, 707-664-2880; cell 510-326-6630
David Salm, Memorial Grove Project organizer and Treasurer and Secretary, Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust, 707-544-2220.
Christyne Davidian, Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust and 3rd generation survivor of the Armenian genocide, 707-762-2995, christyne@callatq.com

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