Mike Roig, Sculpture


Remember is a sculpture commissioned by the Holocaust Speakers Bureau to mark the

burial site for ashes given to a U.S. soldier at the liberation of Dachau prison camp by one

of the liberated prisoners. That prisoner's charge to that soldier, "Never forget what you have seen here."

Seventy years later those ashes found a permanent resting spot in Durham, NC. Read extended

newspaper stories of their journey from World War II Germany to Durham here.

Dedicated on April 27th, the service was attended by several Holocaust survivors who

helped in the unveiling of the sculpture.

photo by Bonnie Hauser

Draped in a linen drop cloth the sculpture remained veiled through various speakers, including Sharon Halperin,

the driving angel behind making this project a reality. I too had a chance to express my gratitude for being brought in

to create the physical memorial.

photo by Courtney Long

photo by Bonnie Hauser

photo by Bonnie Hauser

I'll include a copy of my remarks at the end of this page. Part of the Jewish tradition at cemeteries is to

leave stones of remembrance on the grave markers. It is a symbol of visitation to the graves from those who

maintain a love and respect for those that have lived before. My wife Clay found a stone engraving company

in Minnesota that engraved river rocks with the word "Remember" in English and Hebrew just for the


photo by Courtney Long

photo by Bonnie Hauser

It was an extraordinary day, and an exceptional highlight for me personally to have been involved in this project. Beside

the holocaust survivors came people from all walks of life, including WWII veterans, families of survivors, and just a

whole lot of people who can stand in sharp contrast to the lack of humanity that gave rise to the history that

inspired this memorial.

photo by Courtney Long

photo by Courtney Long

photo by Courtney Long

Finally, one of the holocaust survivors caught my attention in particular. Esther Gutman Lederman,

ninety years old and with a sparkle in her eyes wept when the sculpture was unveiled and melted my

heart. She later sent me her autobiographical account of her war experiences, a beautifully written book

called Hiding for our Lives: The Wartime Memoirs of Esther Gutman Lederman and Ezjel Lederman.

She was the highlight of the day for me.

photo by Courtney Long

photo by Courtney Long

My thanks to my long time friend Steve Bell and David Klapper, a new friend, for helping to install the sculpture.

And to Vicki Smith a hearty thanks for the beautiful work on the signage explaining the context for the sculpture and

its setting.

Finally, my words. Thank you for exploring this deep into this moving story.



The Durham Holocaust Memorial Dedication

- Mike Roig, Sculptor



Let me thank Mirinda Kossoff and Sharon Halperin, and this extended community that made it possible

for me to be a part of creating this memorial. We sculptors are often asked to create a physical presence

that stands in memory of individuals, but it is not often that we are asked to address events that carry the

historical significance this memorial references.


Here lie some of the remains of human beings subjected to the worst humanity has to offer in treatment

of fellow human beings. To me it was important to create a resting place of beauty for them. The ugly way

in which they were ushered from this world will not be the last word on their worth, their dignity, or their

right to be remembered with love. The oasis of beauty we’ve created for them here is what they deserve.


There is no direct illustration in this memorial of what they went through, but rather metaphors for how we

can think about our own relationship to their trial. The base bridges over the burial site, and it is a thought

bridge we need to travel from now to that past if we are to remember well, and know what to do if we are to

“not stand idly by” effectively.


The “eternal flame” in this sculpture will surely never extinguish. It moves according to the currents of air

like those interred here were moved and shaped by the flow of history, and like we are by the ever-evolving



In its surface you will see a reflection of us all as we stand before it. It is necessarily indistinct and impressionistic,

and our reflected forms waver and distort as it moves, and that reflects a truth that in trying to see ourselves in

that history most of us cannot know with clarity how that history would have drawn us in, or how we would

have responded. There are those here that can because they were there, but for the rest of us we can only to

strive to conceive of a vision of ourselves where we would have responded with courage and dignity, empathy

and compassion, resistance and defiance. We need to do that so when we look on the times in which we do live

we put actions emboldened by these qualities to stopping a recurrence of the need for any future memorials like



One quality of the reflections to be found in this stainless steel surface is that the closer you get, the clearer the

image. It’s a quality I had ample time to meditate on as I worked away with the polishing wheel. The key to

never having to see ourselves too clearly in this mirror of history is prevention. If we can learn to actively cultivate

the kind of tolerance and acceptance – and better still celebration - of our differences and individuality coupled

with the eager seeking of shared experience, knowledge and values, we might live our lives reveling in a broadly

defined vibrant community.


If we succeed in that the reflection of ourselves that we’ll be able to see in history of the kind these people lived

through will remain indistinct, and I for one will be grateful to live in peace, where I won’t be able to see myself

clearly in like circumstances. But without vigilance and genuine outreach to our fellow beings the opportunity will

arise again to see ourselves all too clearly in the mirror of our times. Let’s not go there, let’s not stand idly by.


Finally, there is the basin for the stones where you may leave the sign of your visit to this grave. But today you

will find stones with the word “remember” in Hebrew and English inscribed. Take one home with you in honor

of the original gesture of that long ago liberated prisoner who pressed the ashes into that soldier’s hand. Remember,

and maybe in the future you will meet someone who you would like to encourage to visit this memorial and you will

pass it on. Thank you.