At the intersection of Meridian Avenue and 19th Street, in a quiet, manicured park near the Miami Beach Convention Center, stands the striking Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial. We came upon it unexpectedly while on a bike ride, first noticing the large heaven-reaching copper green hand. As we came closer, we saw the gaunt, desperate figures crawling up the forearm and decided to pull over, park our bikes and take a closer look.
While the statue is the memorial's centerpiece, the site certainly holds more to investigate. Around the back side of the large hand stands a semicircular black granite wall covered with a wooden arbor. Using maps and photos etched into the stone, the black granite panels tell the whole, heartbreaking story of the World War II Holocaust, when six million Jews were killed throughout Europe. Kristallnacht, the public humiliations, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Nazi death camps and crematoriums are all represented. It's a story so sad that even the liberation seems a somber event.
Halfway along the wall, you are directed away from the arbor into a tunnel that gets smaller as you walk through, creating a claustrophobic sensation of collapsing space. Then the passage opens up into the sunlight, where you can get a close-up view of the statue. Upon closer inspection, you can now see the letters and numbers inscribed on the giant forearm, representing the tattoos worn by concentration camp inmates. Each of the horrific figures ascending the arm seems to have a story to tell--some rising, some falling, some helping others, some trampled by others.
After returning through the tunnel, you can continue along the black granite wall, which beyond that point is etched with the names of thousands of Holocaust victims. It's a spot for quiet contemplation and meditation, which seems out of place in a party town like South Beach. You probably wouldn't want to visit here after kicking back a few mojitos at afternoon happy hour; but if you come upon it during the morning, as we did, it could be a powerful experience. The memorial is open daily from 9am to 9pm, and admission is free.