The building blocks of a Holocaust memorial in Ait Faska created controversy in Morocco, specifically in the region of Marrakech. On August 27, the region’s authorities demolished the memorial.
Rabat – On August 27, local authorities in Ait Faska demolished the buildings of the Holocaust memorial. The project has been under construction since September 2018.
The project’s owner shared photos of the demolition process on his Facebook page (at around 9 am). The demolition comes hours after local authorities denied all “rumors” about the memorial’s ongoing construction works.
According to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), Marrakech local authorities explained that the rumors of a Holocaust memorial being built in the region “are devoid of any foundation.”
“The competent services in the province have not granted any authorization for the establishment of such a project,” added the authorities’ statement.
Start of the controversy
During the third week of August, international media, Israeli news outlets in particular, reported the launch of construction work for building the Holocaust memorial in the village of Ait Faska (25 kilometers from Marrakech).
The project was launched by Oliver Bienkowski, founder of the German non-profit organization against racism, PixelHelper. The project would have been North Africa’s first Holocaust memorial.
The project was expected to include an LGBTQ+ corner dedicated to gay Jews who died in the Nazi concentration camps.
PixelHelper introduced the project in a Tweet on August 9. The tweet was accompanied by pictures of the construction site.
Un signe contre les #minorités persécutées dans le monde entier. La construction du premier mémorial de l’#Holocauste en #Maroc #Afrique du Nord devrait servir de source d’informations sur l’Holocauste pour les écoles et le grand public. #Marrakech #Juif #Hitler #génocide pic.twitter.com/TsJEn4bIrH
— PixelHELPER 🦇🇪🇺🌈 (@PixelHELPER) August 9, 2019
The Tweet said, “a sign against persecuted minorities all over the world. The construction of the first memorial of the Holocaust in Morocco, North Africa will serve as a source of information on the Holocaust for school kids and the general public.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, Bienkowski explained that he looked up his name in the “Yad Vashem” database and found people with the same last name among victims of the Holocaust.
“I found that people with the same last name as me, as well as Freemasons, were killed by the Germans in concentration camps,” he added.
Bienkowski also explained that “as a German with Polish roots and a Masonic background, I immediately started working and building this project.”
According to Telquel Arabic, Bienkowski constructed a “Jewish obelisk” (a quadrilateral stone column with a pyramid at the top), stone carvings for tombs, and oven-like structures, reminiscent of those used by the Nazis in the holocaust.
Auch #Freimaurer, #Rotary & #Lionsclub Mitglieder, #Sinti & #Roma & #Behinderte sind in deutschen #Konzentrationslager getötet wurden. All Ihnen wollen wir auf dem Gelände des #PixelHELPER Hauptquartieres einen Platz schenken. pic.twitter.com/jA5gNWtSlc
— PixelHELPER 🦇🇪🇺🌈 (@PixelHELPER) August 19, 2019
Bienkowski told The Jerusalem Post, “we have a black tower with an infinity flame, and in the black house we will show people the history of the Jews in North Africa during the Holocaust.” “Then, in the middle of the monument, we have [blocks with the colors of] a rainbow for the LGBTQ+ Jews and people who died in concentration camps,” he continued.
Bienkowski announced that the memorial’s rainbow installation will be finished by Hanukkah, on December 22.
Bienkowski also explained that he intends to “turn on the infinite flame on the tower, to indicate that evil does not come in quick steps; it starts with small steps that nobody recognizes.”
Questioned by Marrakech’s local authorities, he denied any political dimension to the construction project. Bienkowski said that the “obelisk” was merely an artwork, the tombs were meant for flowers, and the rainbow floor was simply a rainbow with no reference to the gay community, says Telquel Arabic.
Telquel Arabic further reported that Bienkowski had apparently rented a villa in Ait Faska in August 2018.
“He claimed he would build a children’s park, but local authorities, under the supervision of the Kaid, noticed unauthorized construction works and intervened to stop them last May,” says the news outlet.
Bienkowski’s Tweet on August 26, shows a live recording of the ongoing construction works. In the Tweet, Bienkowski started a crowdfunding campaign for the project.
— PixelHELPER 🦇🇪🇺🌈 (@PixelHELPER) August 26, 2019
The controversial memorial construction comes almost a year after Israeli media misinterpreted a message from King Mohammed VI. The message was addressed to a symposium on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani delivered it at a roundtable on “The power of education in preventing racism and discrimination: the case of antisemitism.”
The King called participants at the UN roundtable to “promote education for peace” and invest in education and culture to win the battle against the proliferation of exclusive and racist ideologies.
Journalists raised the possibility that Morocco might include the Holocaust and other episodes of Jewish history in Moroccan history textbooks.