May 24, 2011 3:24 AM

Children’s Holocaust Memorial Sculpture unveiled

The service and dedication, Sunday, May 1, at 1:30 p.m., was held at Shalom Park, 5007 Providence Road. The dedication was the culmination of three years of work by volunteers to bring the memorial to Charlotte.

On Yom Ha’Shoah, the day of Holocaust Remembrance, the Children’s Holocaust Memorial Sculpture was unveiled in honor of the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust.

The service and dedication, Sunday, May 1, at 1:30 p.m., was held at Shalom Park, 5007 Providence Road. The dedication was the culmination of three years of work by volunteers to bring the memorial to Charlotte.

Following the ceremony, people took part in two educational programs: “Who Will Tell Their Story: Passing on the Legacy,” which highlights the stories of Holocaust survivors Suly Chenkin and Irving Bienstock, and “Voices of the Children of the Holocaust,” a lecture by Dr. Racelle Weiman, director of The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Temple University.

At the beginning of the ceremony, one by one, the 12 who had been touched by the Holocaust stood to get a close look at the sculpture of 2,800 butterflies, their bodies stooped with age, but their memories still vivid of the tragic events that led to the extermination of 1.5 million Jewish children.

Each ceramic butterfly represented a child. Yet to these dozen men and women, the dedication of the “Children’s Holocaust Memorial Sculpture” at Charlotte’s Shalom Park was a reminder of their past. They survived the camps – or had family who didn’t.

To Henry Hirschmann of Charlotte, two butterflies memorialized younger brothers Paul and Lothar, who with his parents perished in the systematic campaign by Nazi Germany.

“It is overwhelming,” Hirschmann, 90, said after the brief but stirring dedication on Holocaust Remembrance Day. “…I still hold out hope that one day there will be a knock at the back door, and there will be my brothers.

“This memorial keeps hope alive that what happened in Europe so long ago will never be forgotten – and never happen again.”

The sculpture by Charlotte artist Paul Rousso was the local Jewish community’s part in a global campaign to create 1.5 million butterflies and promote tolerance through education and artistic expression.

The Charlotte sculpture was three years in the making – spearheaded by Barbara Ziegler, Gwen Orland and Wilma Asreal.

During that time, volunteers from the Levine Jewish Community Center led workshops from Davidson to Rock Hill on the Holocaust and tolerance. To date, more than 60 schools, scout troops, senior groups and church groups took part in the Butterfly Project that began in San Diego, Calif.

The project will continue and more butterflies will be added to the sculpture. To make it real for participants, those who paint the sculpture’s butterflies are given a certificate with the name of a child who died in the Holocaust.

The sculpture is the centerpiece of a garden dedicated to the late Margaret and Lou Schwartz, Holocaust survivors and parents of JCC President Larry Schwartz. It’s located at the Jewish Community Center at 5007 Providence Road.

Many were mesmerized by the whimsy of the heart-shaped (or butterfly-shaped) sculpture made of steel and concrete covered in brightly painted butterflies.

“On a relatively beautiful Carolina day, it is slightly overcast to remind us that today is not a day of great joy,” Ezring said. “But a day of memory, a day on which we have come together to dedicate a place in our spiritual home… to the memory of those whose lives were torn out of our reality.”

Rabbi Yossi Groner of the Ohr Ha Torah conservative congregation said the memorial is “a beacon of hope” to raise children in a world “where evil no longer has a place.”

In many ways, the project has already done its work, said Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth El.

“Today we turn from memory to majesty in what we can create when we come together across our community and our city,” Schindler said. “May we as Jews and members of the broader Charlotte community continually move forward to create a world in which all children, no matter their background, are celebrated for the special spark of the divine they bring into our world.”

At the dedication’s end, live butterflies took flight.

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