Monday, March 19, 2012

Eisenhower Memorial

Controversry surrounds the proposed memorial to Dwight Eisenhower, saying it overemphazies his Kansas roots:
Unfortunately, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has approved a design by architect Frank Ghery that would highlight Eisenhower’s youth in Kansas far more than his military or political achievements.

Writing in The New Republic, Geoffrey Kabaservice has criticized Ghery’s oversized design “whose only representation of its subject would be a statue showing him as a barefoot boy” as “both bombastic and silly.”

Members of the Eisenhower family, in particular his granddaughters Susan and Anne, are asking the National Capital Planning Commission to halt the process and direct the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to come up with a different concept. They are right.

“I just don’t think Dwight Eisenhower is remembered because he was a barefoot boy from Kansas,” Susan Eisenhower told the Washington Post last December. “When I look at this memorial, I don’t see any bit of him in it.”

Critics say that we need to remember what Eisenhower was known for:
Eisenhower entered history not as a youngster in Kansas or as a graduate of West Point, or, even, as President of the United States. His unique contribution to our country’s and the world’s history was as Supreme Allied Commander for the European Theater during World War II and then, following Germany’s surrender, as Military Governor of the U.S occupation zone of Germany.

For Holocaust survivors and their families in particular, General Eisenhower holds a hallowed, place in our hearts and emotions. It was under his leadership that the Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Austria were liberated in the spring of 1945, and in our minds, he, more than anyone else, became the iconic representation of all the Allied liberators.

Rabbi Judah Nadich who served as the U.S. Army’s senior Jewish chaplain in Europe and as Eisenhower’s Jewish adviser wrote that “Eisenhower’s treatment of the Jewish displaced persons . . . was marked with understanding and sympathy. His friendship for the Jews left no room for doubt.”

In September of 1945, Eisenhower joined several thousand Jewish survivors at Yom Kippur services in the Feldafing Displaced Persons Camp not far from Munich. His “sudden unannounced appearance,” recalled Rabbi Nadich, “electrified the large congregation. The men and women could not believe their eyes . . . . The stormy ovation they gave him indicated the esteem, the appreciation and the love they bore him. Their enthusiasm showed that they felt that he was not only the symbol of all of the democratic forces that had set them free, but that he personally understood their plight.”

Eisenhower was also one of the first who understood the urgent need to preserve the memory of the atrocities that had been perpetrated against European Jews and all the other victims of the Third Reich. He personally visited a concentration camp within days of its liberation in order to be able to bear personal witness, and he directed the officers under his command to do the same.

Let us know what you think of the plan for the new memorial!

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