Virtual Shtetl reports that the extraordinary monument memorial at the former Belzec Nazi death camp in southeast Poland is among 15 structures in the running for an award for the most striking masterpiece of Polish architecture built in the past two decades. The competition is sponsored by the Polityka weekly and readers can vote for their choice online.
The Bełżec museum was designed by sculptors Andrzej Sołyga, Marcin Roszczyki, Zdzisław Pidekoraz, a late professor of the Gdańsk Fine Arts Academy (died in 2006) and by DDJM Architectural Studio in Krakow (Marek DUnikowski, Piotr Czerwiński and Piotr Uherek). In 1997, their common project won the competition for commemorating the annihilation of Jews in Bełżec. Construction works , commissioned by the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites (Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa) and the American Jewish Committee, in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, were completed in 2011. (Read full Virtual Shtetl article.)
The Belzec monument is an extremely powerful space; in effect, a sculpture that totally fills the entire footprint of the former death camp, where 500,000 people were killed. It covers the area with slag, to make it look like a field of ashes. Twisted iron evokes barbed wire, and inscriptions were written in iron letters so that their rust seems to bleed tears. The names of towns whose Jews were deported here to their deaths are written around the perimeter, and a deep pathway cuts through the slag field, piercing it to end in a memorial space where the first names of murdered people are written. The complex also includes a good little museum that tells the story of the camp and its context.