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Memorial committee calls changes to park ‘political’

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Believing that the decision was “politically motivated,” members of the Holocaust Memorial Committee are steadfastly against the city’s plans to place five markers in Holocaust Memorial Park to honor homosexuals, gypsies and political upstarts killed by the Nazis.

In a scathing letter, the Holocaust Memorial Committee said that they are calling on the city and the Parks Department to “reconsider” the proposal and “respect” their group as well as a memorandum of understanding they had hammered out with the city when the Sheepshead Bay park was dedicated in 1997.

The committee and the city have been at odds for over a month ever since the city authorized a proposal by the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors to place five markers honoring homosexuals, Roma and Sinti gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled and political prisoners that the Nazis persecuted and killed as they cut a swath of horror through Europe.

The International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors, run by Rick Landman, has been trying to get the markers in the park for the last 17 years so “visitors would know what happened to other victims of the Nazi era.”

But Committee members said that these victims are already reflected on the base of the memorial, which notes the loss of “the five million other innocent human beings who were also murdered under German rule during World War II.”

To have a marker honor gays, gypsies and others would be redundant, unless it was for a specific person.

It would also go against the Committee’s memorandum of understanding with the city, which stipulates that “only one marker shall be used to honor a specific occurrence” and that the committee “shall participate in making decisions regarding the approval of the inscriptio­ns.”

“In the past, the city’s Parks Department has worked cooperatively with the community and the Holocaust Memorial Committee, but now the city is ignoring its commitments to the very community that has kept the memorial park alive and well maintained all these years,” the committee said in a statement.

Parks Department officials said that the all the marker inscriptions are subject to their final review.

The Committee, they said, reviews the inscriptions and gives advice.

A Parks Department spokesperson said that in this case the inscriptions were reviewed and approved by the senior historian of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Landman’s request for the markers was approved because “it would reinforce the monument’s educational purpose to remind us of the historical circumstances of the Holocaust.”

“You don’t want to forget the fact that all lives are precious and we don’t value any one group any more than others,” Mayor Bloomberg explained at a recent press conference. “Yes, the Jews paid a terrible price, but there were others killed and there’s nothing wrong with memorializing and reminding the next generations going forward of the terrible tragedy that took place and to make sure that they understand discrimination and genocide against any one group invariably leads to genocide among other groups.”

Calls to Committee Director Pauline Bilus for comment were not returned by press time.

The city’s plan has caused a divide among residents and elected officials in the area.

While State Senator Carl Kruger recommended that Landman’s group find another location for the memorials, Assemblymember Steve Cymbrowitz believes that “singling out specific groups for exclusion from Holocaust Memorial Park is the same kind of mind−set that eventually resulted in the Holocaust.”

City Councilmember Michael Nelson says he can see both sides of the argument.

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