Located on the grounds of the West Terrace at the State Capitol, the Iowa Holocaust Memorial carries the proud role of being Iowa's most influential dedication commemorating the millions of victims, including six million Jews, that were murdered at the hands of Nazis and their collaborators in World War II.
Although Des Moines is home to only a small Jewish population, local community leaders felt prompted to erect this monument as the few local Holocaust survivors were reaching old age. The plans for the monument were approved by the Iowa State Planning Commission and the project was created by the Jaqueline and Myron Blank Fund of Des Moines.
The Memorial was completed in 2013, and it features four aluminum walls engraved with both inscriptions and photographs. With education initiatives provided by the Iowa Council for Holocaust Education and the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, the Memorial also serves as a resource for students and educators.
Creation of the Iowa Holocaust Memorial
With around 2,800 Jewish citizens living in Des Moines and even fewer Holocaust survivors, the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines felt that the study of the Holocaust in school districts was waning and that the memory of the Holocaust needed to be preserved.
The Jaqueline and Myron Blank Fund put the project together, and with the approval of the Iowa State Capital Planning Commission and the architectural firm “Confluence: Architecture and Urban Design” designing the structure, groundbreaking for the project was able to happen on May 14th, 2013.
By October 23rd of that year, the city held a dedication ceremony in which over 200 people from across the state attended. The four walls of the Memorial are lined up in a slightly curved fashion, and they feature stories, quotes, and 13 photographs. Twelve of these pictures are reproduced courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Photographic Archives in Washington D.C., while the 13th is reproduced courtesy of the Iowa Jewish Historical Society.1
The Iowa Holocaust Memorial was the first to be built on State Capitol grounds. Since its completion, the City of Columbus built a memorial on the Ohio State Capitol grounds.2
Inscriptions on the Memorial
One inscription on the Memorial reads:
“My mother and father brought my brother and me as young children to Iowa in 1949 after President Truman authorized immigration from the displaced persons' camps. My parents didn’t speak English. We came by train with a tag that indicated that “Des Moines” was to be our destination. Dad had an 8th-grade formal education but was certified by the DP camp in cabinetry, so that he would have a way to make a living. Once in Des Moines, we were assisted, in particular, by the members of the Jewish community who helped us adapt to the customs and culture of Iowa. My parents were very appreciative at having been accepted as Iowans. They were grateful to the U.S. and British troops that saved them. When my parents became U.S. citizens in 1955, citizenship was conferred upon us children as well. Jacob Shnurman, Des Moines – child of survivors.”