The horrific scale of the Holocaust comes into focus at this sobering memorial in Peoria, Illinois. Here visitors can walk among 18 star-shaped glass columns each containing 6 million buttons, with each button representing one of the Jews murdered during the Nazi regime in Europe. Next to the columns are another five glass triangles containing an additional 5 million buttons to represent those “undesirables” who died at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
Located on the campus of the Peoria Riverfront Museum at the corner of Washington and Liberty streets, the memorial is a project of the Jewish Federation of Peoria. It started in 2001 with buttons collected by children, groups, and individuals across the country, and then cleaned and counted by volunteers.
Why buttons? According to the memorial’s website, the button is a symbol of holding things together, of vulnerability when undone, and in a more literal sense, an enduring part of the clothing left behind at the gates of the concentration camps and ghettos. Their circular shape is seen to symbolize the cycle of life, as the memorial serves to join together the past and the future.
Know Before You Go
The memorial is located in downtown Peoria. It is free and open 24/7. Free street parking is typically available nearby. Events and educational materials are available on the memorial website.