We don’t want to tempt fate, but there are signs that spring is well on its way. So what better time to look around our memorial gardens and explore their journey from concept to realisation?

The memorial gardens have been central to the Centre’s vision and aims since it opened in 1995. Consisting of statues, rose gardens and a water feature, the memorial gardens offer a peaceful space for visitors to sit and reflect.

Each year the gardens are enveloped with the scent of just under 1,000 Margaret Merril roses. Chosen partly for their beautiful fragrance, the white roses also symbolise purity and innocence. In Behind the Rose co-founder Dr James Smith explains the purpose of the rose garden:

“As we built the Holocaust Centre, Stephen and I were concerned that the pictures we used in the exhibition of starving prisoners with no names in striped uniforms behind barbed wire just continue to dehumanise the victims.

So the idea of the Rose Gardens at the Holocaust Centre was born. We expected a hundred or so roses to be planted. Today, there are nearly one thousand highly scented white roses growing in the grounds of the Holocaust Centre, many of them dedicated by Holocaust survivors and their families. Each rose has an inscribed plaque helping visitors, mostly schoolchildren, to understand that the victims are not just a catalogue of statistics but human beings, with names.”

The gardens are planted with over 1,000 Margaret Merril roses. 

The concept of the rose garden is, therefore, unique. Rather than being purely academic or historical, the gardens are shaped by the stories and identities of Holocaust victims. As a result, the rose garden is not just a place of memorial but a place for victims to be remembered as individuals, humans, rather than statistics. Mike and Christine Hogg planted a rose in memory of Mike’s grandmother Malie, who was murdered in Treblinka. Speaking on what the rose means to them, they said ‘planting a rose for Malie helped to give her back her identity’.

In addition to the roses the gardens also house a number of memorial statues. ‘Abandoned’ was designed and created by Czech survivor Naomi Blake who, as a child, was interned at Auschwitz, where many of her family were murdered. Inscribed on the memorial are the words “Dedicated to my family and friends that never returned. For their courage and dignity.” AJR Journal Editor Howard Spier wrote that ‘the memorial poses the rhetorical question: how could God have allowed the Holocaust to happen?’

Abandoned by Naomi Blake.

Whilst Blake’s sculpture is a lone figure the garden contains a number of other memorials. The garden is also home to ‘The Briefcase – Raoul Wallenberg’, in memory of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Designed by sculptor Gustav Kraitz, the sculpture is an imitation of the original which stands near the United Nations building in New York. Wallenberg’s story is an inspirational one, as a diplomat he worked alongside the Swedish government to rescue Jews from Budapest, Hungary. Through his efforts and those of his colleagues, which included issuing certificates of protection, and forged papers, over 100,000 Jewish people were still living in Budapest at the time of Soviet liberation in February 1945. The sculpture is a bronze suitcase engraved with the initials RW and represents Wallenberg’s unfinished work; he disappeared shortly after the war and his fate is unknown.

The statues and roses stand together to create a garden of peace and a space for reflection. The gardens, therefore, serve a number of purposes; memorialisation, education and commemoration are just a few. So as the days are getting warmer and the evenings lighter why not take some time to sit and reflect? 

If you would like to dedicate a rose in the memorial gardens please follow this link.


Brown, David (ed.) (2011) Behind the Rose: Stories behind the roses dedicated in the Holocaust Centre’s Memorial Gardens Nottingham: The Holocaust Centre.

The Association of Jewish Refugees ‘Saving the world from itself: a visit to a unique institution’, October 2002 Journal, AJR [Online]. Available at: http://www.ajr.org.uk/index.cfm/section.journal/issue.Oct02/article=461 (Accessed 16 March 2015).

The National Holocaust Centre and Museum (2014) The National Holocaust Centre and Museum: Souvenir Book Nottingham: The National Holocaust Centre and Museum.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ‘Raoul Wallenberg and the rescue of Jews in Budapest’ (June 20 2014) Holocaust Encyclopaedia, USHMM [Online]. Available at: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005211 (Accessed 16 March 2015).