The Monument May Be A Forest

By Gabu Heindl and Eduard Freudmann (2015)

The Monument May Be A Forest was the winner of the controversial competition "From Those You Saved", an initiative to build a monument to Polish Righteous gentiles who rescued Jews during the Shoah. The project proposal was based on planting a large tree nursery next to the POLIN Museum in Warsaw. Only if the initiative's quarreling stakeholders would be able to agree on some disputed questions the tree saplings could be planted as a forest and become a monument.

The Monument May Be A Forest

By Gabu Heindl and Eduard Freudmann (2015)

The Monument May Be A Forest was the winner of the controversial competition "From Those You Saved", an initiative to build a monument to Polish Righteous gentiles who rescued Jews during the Shoah. The project proposal was based on planting a large tree nursery next to the POLIN Museum in Warsaw. Only if the initiative's quarreling stakeholders would be able to agree on some disputed questions the tree saplings could be planted as a forest and become a monument.
Background
The idea to dedicate a monument in Warsaw to the commemoration of the Polish Righteous gentiles was first presented by Children of the Holocaust, a Warsaw-based association of individuals who survived the Shoah. The idea was then adopted and promoted by Sigmund Rolat, a Polish-American philanthropist and Shoah survivor who has been engaged in commemoration activities in Poland. Rolat announced he would donate and fundraise money to cover the costs of the monument, and his initiative received the support of then Poland’s President, Bronisław Komorowski.

In 2013 Rolat established the "Remembrance and Future Foundation" for the purpose of organizing the competition "From Those You Saved," which aimed to support and build a monument "to all the Poles who rescued Jews in German-occupied Poland." The monument was to be located in the Muranów district of Warsaw, next to the POLIN Museum.

The Proposal
Eduard Freudman and Gabu Heindl participated in this competition and proposed a large urban forest to be planted in the park next to the POLIN Museum. The neighborhood is a residential area, the focal point of Warsaw’s Shoah commemoration landscape, and the site of the much heralded POLIN Museum.

After being selected for the shortlist of five finalists, the duo learned about the strong criticism towards this initiative due to its envisioned location in the district of Muranów, the former Warsaw Ghetto. The two considered withdrawing from the competition, but finally decided to move forward with an altered proposal as they believed in building a monument that will honor the Polish Righteous.

The Altered Proposal
At its grand opening, the monument would be a forest nursery, located in a large, raised bed next to the POLIN Museum. It would consist of dense rows of two-year saplings of common trees in Warsaw. The tight planting pattern requires that the plants be re-located after two years if they are to continue to grow.

Therefore, after the opening of the monument as a forest nursery, a social discourse would aim to create a *We and decide on the future of the monument as a forest – that is, enable it to become a forest – at an urban location in Warsaw.

The forest should be planted permanently by way of a participatory process, which includes members of the *We and Polish civil society. It should be maintained and taken care of by the City of Warsaw and private volunteers, Jews and non-Jews, and serve as a litmus test for the Polish state and civil society, in valuing the memory of the Righteous gentiles.

The Outcome
The competition jury selected this altered proposal as the winning project. However, this transpired against Sigmund Rolat's recommendation who, a week later, presented the collaborative project as invalid: "Rolat, 84, told […] that the winning entry was 'radically changed' since its selection as one of the finalists […]. Therefore, he said, it was no longer a valid entry at the time of the judges' vote. He called it a new, 'sixth' entry that could not be considered with the five original finalists." (Donald Snyder: Warsaw Ghetto Memorial to Righteous Suffers New Setback as Design Is Tossed; Forward, May 2, 2015).

On July 31, 2015, the Foundation announced that the project selected by the jury will not be executed.


Credits
Architectural staff / GABU Heindl Architektur: Daniela Mehlich, Jan Růžička
Landscape architect: Marlies Rief
Architectural model: Nenad Ikudinović
Research: Tamara Kramer
Language editing: Julie Dawson
Translation: Rafał Morusiewicz


The Monument Is a Dilemma (Heindl, Freudmann; Political Critique, Feb 2016)