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New York, New York

The Hidden Holocaust Memorial of Madison Park

A Manhattan courthouse hides a small but scathing memorial to Holocaust injustice. 

The Appellate Division Courthouse in Madison Square is a highly ornate building.

Designed at the height of the Beaux-arts movement by James Brown Lord in 1896, it is adorned with marble sculptures of notable law givers, Moses, Lycurgus, and Solon among them. Some 16 sculptors worked on the building that Charles DeKay, founder of the National Arts Club said, “shines like an ivory casket among boxes of ordinary maple.”

But hidden away on the left hand side, and rarely noticed, is a miniature memorial to the Holocaust. A column was added to the façade in 1990, this one covered in swirling flames. And at eye level, carved into the column is a representation of Auschwitz. Sculpted by Harriet Feigenbaum, the camp is shown from a bird’s-eye view, and details where the commandant’s house was and, more chillingly, the execution wall, torture chamber, gas chamber, and crematorium. The sculpture is based on an aerial photograph taken on August 25, 1944, by the 15th US Army Air Force; the implication from Feigenbaum being that the US knew of the camp’s existence and layout, but did nothing about it. The camp itself was liberated by the Ukrainian army in January of 1945. To further underline the point, around the carving is inscribed the words, “Indifference to Injustice… Is the Gate to Hell,” a message made more poignant given its placement on a court house. 

Madison Park remains one of the city’s busiest public spaces, but most people pass through every day without noticing this tiny memorial, which is no less moving despite its size.