There’s a new monument on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse. Some 1,800 Ohioans attended the dedication ceremony for the new Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial earlier today. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles was there and produced this sound portrait of survivors, liberators, memorial designer Daniel Libeskind, and Gov. John Kasich.
And Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports on the three-year saga to take the memorial from conception to creation -- including some controversy and the resignation of a top Statehouse official.
Three years ago during the annual Holocaust commemoration, Gov. John Kasich said Ohio needed some type of memorial to pay tribute to the victims and liberators.
“That members of our legislature and members of the public, as they pass through this great rotunda, will be able to understand not just the history of the times when people wouldn’t stand," Kasich said, "but the fact that it’s today that we must stand against evil.”
Those comments set the memorial project in motion. The Capitol Square board which runs the Statehouse created a panel to select a memorial site and artist. However, the board’s chair, former Republican Senate President Richard Finan, strongly opposed the project.
Finan didn’t believe the Statehouse was the appropriate site for a Holocaust memorial and claimed the governor’s involvement intruded the intended independence of the Capitol Square board.
“What the governor should have done was come to the board to apply for a memorial and then the memorial would go through a process within the board and be approved or not be approved," Finan said last year. "He didn’t do that.”
Tensions escalated after Finan asked a Statehouse crew to construct a mock-up of the memorial—and an 18-foot structure made up of pipes, tarps and rope stood on the south lawn.
Finan eventually resigned soon after casting the only “no” vote on the Holocaust Memorial plans.
Other groups suggested that the memorial, which includes two tablets displaying the Star of David in the middle, could threaten First Amendment rights.
Joe Sommer is an Ohio board member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation who testified against the structure.
“We’re concerned that the prominent display of the Star of David, which is a sacred symbol of the Jewish religion, constitutes an endorsement of a specific and therefore would violate the First Amendment," Sommer said in 2013.
Joyce Garver Keller, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, says the star does not promote any certain religion and stresses the importance of the memorial standing on public grounds.
"It’s appropriate for government, because the Holocaust did not begin in the camps. It did not begin with smokestacks and ovens. It began in the halls of government where legislation was passed that allowed the expulsion of Jews and others who the Nazis didn’t support.”
During the unveiling ceremony, Kasich said he hopes the memorial reminds visitors to continue the fight against prejudice and recognize the evil that still exists.