Moroccan Authorities demolish Holocaust memorial near Marrakesh

Authorities initially denied that the project was being built, saying such claims were ‘unfounded’

August 27, 2019 20:28
3 minute read.
Moroccan Authorities demolish Holocaust memorial near Marrakesh

A Holocaust memorial being built by German NGO PixelHELPER was destroyed by Moroccan Authorities on Monday. (photo credit: OLIVER BIENKOWSKI)

Moroccan Authorities demolished a Holocaust memorial on Monday that was being built by German NGO PixelHELPER in Ait Faska, southeast of Marrakesh.

This comes less than a week after The Jerusalem Post revealed that the Holocaust memorial was in the works.

Founder of PixelHELPER Oliver Bienkowski said that all the installations and artworks that had so far been built “were deliberately destroyed by bulldozers,” and the rainbow blocks at the entrance, which memorialize LGBTQ+ victims of the Holocaust, were also desecrated.

A Holocaust memorial being built by German NGO PixelHELPER was destroyed by Moroccan Authorities on Monday. (Oliver Bienkowski)

He added that the “water and power lines have been cut.”

“We thought that there was acceptance of Jewish society in Morocco but its not [the case],” he told the Post. “We get a lot of antisemitic and anti LGBTQ+ messages.”

Late on Monday, Moroccan Authorities denied in a press statement that the memorial was being built, adding that such claims were “unfounded.”

“Information conveyed by certain electronic sites and on social networks about the establishment of a project by a foreign national including a museum and several facilities as well as a memorial in the form of art paintings, in the commune of Ait Faska, in Al Haouz province, are without any foundation,” the local authorities of Al Haouz province claimed. “The relevant services in this province have not granted any authorization for the establishment of such a project.”

The authorities added that “the establishment of such a project follows regulatory procedures and requires the obtaining of existing administrative approvals.”

However, on Tuesday, journalists at Yabiladi Radio station in Morocco also told the Post that the Interior Ministry had said the PixelHELPER did not get the authorization it needed from the Culture Ministry.

Bienkowski claimed that authorities were aware that the memorial was being built, but had “declined to cooperate.
"Unfortunately, from the beginning, the authorities refused any cooperation and, during the first year, all requests for meetings were rejected by the mayor," he said.

In an interview with the Post last week, Bienkowski said construction on the project had begun in 2018.

Bienkowski spoke of the inspiration for the creation of the memorial. He said as the founder of the PixelHelper Foundation, which promotes human rights and fights against racism worldwide, “I did research in the Yad Vashem database and found my last name, ‘Bienkowski.’

“I read that people who have the same last name as me were killed by the Germans in concentration camps, and that Freemasons were also killed in concentration camps,” he said. Although it was not clear whether the Bienkowskis found in the Yad Vashem database were directly related to him, for Bienkowski, he said it made no difference.

It was soon after making this discovery, he started work on building the memorial.

“Our goal,” he said at the time, “is to take people from the entrance, and go through our memorial until the end in an emotional, eye-opening and artistic happening that will reach people’s heart and not only their mind, [like what happens] if they see movies or hear sound files.

“It’s so important to show videos, audio and live theatrical forms for people [to understand] in their minds the brutality of the Holocaust,” Bienkowski added. “Culture and historical exchange is the best fertilizer for tolerance between humans. We hope that this Holocaust memorial will push the friendship between Muslim countries and Jews.”

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