SPACES: RACHEL WHITREAD’S VIENNA MEMORIAL

In a tiny historic Vienna square sits Rachel Whitread’s Holocaust Memorial for the more than 60,000 Austrian Jews murdered by the Nazis. The memorial rests on the site of an historic synagogue that was burned down by an angry mob in the 14th century and discovered during municipal excavations in the late 20th. For the site Whitread was commissioned to do one of her signature interior space casts: in this case a mold of the inside of a library, cast in solid concrete.

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On the surface of the concrete block, countless books line floor to ceiling shelves, their spines inscrutably facing inward. Each the same size and shape, the wall-to-wall books represent those lives lost, as well as the intellectual spirit of the Holocaust’s victims–both the brilliant minds it claimed and the artistic and literary masterworks it destroyed. The anonymity of each title conveys the tragic immensity of the event. Names of concentration camps ring the base of the memorial, and at center, a double door without knobs give one the sense of being trapped within, able only to look out and hope for freedom.

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