The newly opened National Holocaust Memorial on Wellington and Booth is set to close when snow arrives in Ottawa. Rebecca Brady, Centretown News.

Winter closure of Holocaust memorial irks critics

By Rebecca Brady

Just a few months after its long-anticipated opening and to considerable surprise, the National Holocaust Monument is set to close for the winter due to insurmountable snow-clearing challenges.

Although the National Capital Commission had indicated recently that it was looking for a potential solution to the problem, an NCC spokesperson has confirmed the monument will be off-limits during the winter.

Some observers have questioned why the Star of David-shaped monument was designed without considering the impact of snow and ice in Canada’s famously wintry capital.

“The decision not to open the National Holocaust Monument during the winter, which was taken with the National Holocaust Monument Development Council, was taken to ensure its preservation,” said Cédric Pelletier, the NCC’s strategic communications advisor.  “The monument is special in that it not only is an evocative piece of visual art but also includes an interpretive component.”

Pelletier said that any attempt to remove snow and ice with specialized equipment may risk damaging both the structure and the content of the memorial.

The NCC’s decision to deny public access to the monument for the winter season was announced less than two months after the commemorative tribute was opened by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sept. 27.

There has already been controversy surrounding the monument because a plaque at the entrance had to be altered just days after it was opened since it failed to mention Jews as the main victims of the Holocaust.

Lionel Rowe, past-president of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Montgomery branch on Kent Street, told Centretown News that he has never heard of a Holocaust memorial among the dozens around the world being shut down for months at a time every year.

“It is my view that it is a memorial to six million victims of World War Two and it should remain open all year,” Rowe said. “I mean, that is not an official Legion response, but certainly as a memorial, why do you close it down when people visit this city in droves in the winter to go skating and do everything else – including monuments? It makes no sense.”

He continued: “I think a lot of people would agree, and I’ve heard people make comments about it, that it is inappropriate. We’ve just opened it and now they close it for six months.”

The monument, which cost about $8 million, was funded by the federal government as well as private donors. The original plans by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind included a sheltering roof over the monument and a snow-melting system, but these ideas were later abandoned after factoring in the added costs.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, the CEO for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, spoke to Centretown News about the forthcoming closure and expressed his desire to find a solution.

“While we understand that there may be some concerns about the use of heavy snow-removal equipment on the site, surely there are ways to undertake snow removal and ensure access to this important historical and educational exhibit year-round,” he said. “We have engaged the various stakeholders to evaluate the options and come up with a workable solution.”

The NCC has assured the public that the monument itself will still be illuminated throughout its period of closure, but that the flame and the elevator will be turned off.