2020 marks 75 years since Auschwitz, one of the Holocaust’s most notorious concentration and extermination camps, was liberated by the Soviet Army. In honor of the lives lost and countless cruelties those persecuted faced, artist Daan Roosegaarde has designed an illuminated, traveling memorial.
LEVENSLICHT, created by the Dutch artist’s social design lab Studio Roosegaarde, focuses squarely on the Holocaust’s history in the Netherlands. A temporary monument, it is made up of 104,000 illuminated blue stones, which together resemble bioluminescent algae in the deep sea. LEVENSLICHT translates to “light of life.”
Many of Studio Roosegaarde’s projects play with light and color, like its green, energy-conscious windmills and artificial rainbow railway station. (According to the Studio Roosegaarde website: “From an early age Roosegaarde has been driven by nature’s gifts such as luminous fireflies or jellyfishes.”)
The stones are designed to represent the 104,000 Jewish, Roma, and Sinti victims who were persecuted and murdered throughout the Netherlands. Each one honors the deceased in lieu of flowers, and they were designed (with the help of custom software) to absorb fluorescent pigments and light up when exposed to ultraviolet light, impossible to see with the naked eye. They radiate blue, turn dark, and turn blue again: a symbol of hope, perseverance, and freedom.
The memorial was first unveiled in full in Rotterdam on January 16, along the banks of the Maas River—the site of many locals’ deportation. Miniature versions of the larger design will spend the next few weeks exhibited across 170 different Dutch municipalities.