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Holocaust Sculpture at Frederik Meijer

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25,000 Mornings - Grand Rapids, Michigan by Lord is Good is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/
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Frederik Meijer Gardens is set to debut Grand Rapids’ first Holocaust memorial in 2022. The project is a gift from the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids, made possible by a donation from a local family whose father survived the concentration camps.

“Putting something of that magnitude in a public place shows how authentic this really is. This did happen,” Linda Pestka said.

As Linda and Steve Pestka look back on their father Henry’s life, they share feelings of pride and determination.

“One of the things he always said was I wouldn’t let him beat me, and he didn’t. He survived what they tried to do and he built a very successful life in the United States which he loved very much,” Steve said.

Henry was a Holocaust survivor, the only one in his family. His children say it was a title of perseverance he’d carry on.

“His life became a symbol of survivor. He was a survivor not just because of the death camps but of his own life building himself back up,” Linda said.

While family says his demeanor brought light, despite the darkness of his experiences, but they note the many painful remnants that would never disappear.

“73847 was front and center when you looked at his forearm,” Linda said.

In honor of Henry Petska and the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, the family is partnering with Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids to bring in the city’s first Holocaust memorial.

The sculpture ‘Ways to Say Goodbye’ created by artist Ariel Schelsinger, will stand as a permanent piece in Frederik Meijer Gardens collection, as a way to educate and promote peace. The Gardens curator, Jochen Wierich, says it’s a stand out moment in his long career.

“It’s exciting they came to us. It’s a first for me to find the right sculpture it was difficult it was exciting but I really enjoyed the process of working with a community,” Wierich.

The sculpture is set to debut in 2022. The Pestka family say they hope it serves as a tool of education and representation.

“To just cast some light on this topic, so people realize this kind of hatred still exists, and we’re just trying to demonstrate, this is where this can end,” Steve said.