The Besser Holocaust Memorial Garden was built at the MJCCA's Zaban Park to serve as a beacon of memory and hope. The Memorial features nine sculptures by renowned sculptor Dee Clements, in addition to an eternal flame (or “ner tamid”.) The sculptures depict different aspects of Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. The Besser Holocaust Memorial, though a reminder of atrocities, stands in the middle of vibrant Jewish living. It is a testament to Jewish faith, fortitude, and hope.
This memorial was inspired by the generosity of longtime Atlanta resident and Holocaust survivor Abe Besser, in memory of his family and the other six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Since his days as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, Mr. Besser had dreamed of creating a monument that would document the greatest tragedies of our time. Now, Mr. Besser and his wife, Marlene Gelernter Besser, have sponsored the creation of this special memorial in an effort to “Never Forget” the Holocaust, a defining memory of our Jewish history.
Abe's mother, Rifka, was murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz like millions of other Jewish men, women, and children, in the most ruthless and systematic mass murder of the twentieth century. His father and brother were murdered at camp Gross-Rosen. His oldest brother was shot when he was caught in a hideout. His four sisters worked in a factory sewing German army uniforms and survived the Holocaust. The memorial bears witness to the deaths and remembers the lives of a vibrant Jewish community. In the Jewish tradition of zachor, we remember those killed by the Nazis and their collaborators.
This memorial also honors the legacy of those like Mr. Besser who survived. The five rooms of the memorial lead the visitor through a moving artistic impression of these years: the pervasive and extensive Jewish life of pre-war Europe, the years of persecution in Germany and the first steps towards the Holocaust, the genocide itself, and the difficult rebuilding of life post-war. By providing a space for reflection, remembrance, and education on the site of a living Jewish community center, this memorial honors the six million and pays homage to those who survived and have helped to build the vibrant community here in Atlanta. Thus, today we say: may their memory — and their lives — be a blessing to us all.
The MJCCA is proud to host annual Yom HaShoah and Kristallnacht commemoration ceremonies which take place at the Besser Holocaust Memorial.
To learn more about the Memorial and the Besser family, we encourage you to take the Guide by Cell audio tour at any time, from anywhere, by simply calling 678.254.1804.
Individuals and groups of all faiths are invited to visit anytime (when the Zaban Park campus is open). There is no charge and all are welcome. To make arrangements for a group visit, please contact Rabbi Brian Glusman, 678.812.4161.