Zvolen – The Park of Generous Souls

The Park of Generous Souls in the central Slovak town of Zvolen was conceived as an oasis of peace honoring all Slovak citizens who helped save Jews during the Holocaust. The Park of Generous Souls was an initiative of Miloš Žiak, the chairman of the board of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia, and his adviser Ladislav Snopko, a former Slovak minister of culture. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico laid the foundation stone in 2008 and took part in the dedication of the memorial in 2009. The architect Martin Kvasnica and his team designed the space, located between the city's old Jewish cemetery and the Technical University. Its centerpiece is an installation of two symbolic sculptural elements. One, The Threshold of Life, by the artist Peter Kalmus, cuts diagonally across the park and access road and incorporates stones tangled in wire, symbolizing prayers for Slovak Holocaust victims. The other, The Obelisk of Hope, is a five-meter-high sculpture made of glass plates. Designed by the artist-glassmaker Palo Macho, it transforms the tranquility of light, symbolizing hope and life. After dark, ground reflectors illuminate the monument, and a multimedia digital information point has been installed at the entrance to the park.

The major financial benefactors of the memorial were the members of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia and several other private philanthropists. A number of institutions also lent support. These included the Jewish community of Banská Bystrica, the Zvolen municipality, and the Zvolen Technical University, the Israeli Embassy to the Slovak Republic, the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, and the Slovak National Uprising Museum in Banská Bystrica. September 9 is commemorated in the Slovak Republic as the Memorial Day of Victims of the Holocaust and Racial Persecution. This is also a day to remember those righteous citizens who jeopardized or sacrificed their lives in order to help their Jewish fellow citizens.

The site of the memorial was not selected accidentally; it stands next to Zvolen's Jewish cemetery. After the Slovak National Uprising was suppressed, the cemetery became the scene of mass executions of Jews, partisans, civilians and children. The mass grave of 140 victims of Nazi crimes against humanity is located here. The cemetery has tombstones in Hebrew, German, Hungarian and Slovak and is a memorial to the Jewish community in Zvolen. More than 550 Jews lived in Zvolen in 1940. There are only a few Jewish residents here today, and they are members of the Jewish community of Banská Bystrica. The building of Zvolen's former synagogue, at Jána Kozáčeka Street 10, serves as shop and office premises.

Location: T. G. Masaryka Street, near the campus of Zvolen's Technical University
Site use: culture, education, tourism
Hours: free access
Entrance fee: free
Cultural route plaque identification: no

Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia
E-mail: eva@ilcham.sk
Website: www.ilcham.sk

Mailing address: Informačné centrum mesta Zvolen, Námestie SNP 21/31, 960 01 Zvolen
Contact person: Eva Bačková
Phone: (045) 542 92 68, (045) 5303 405
E-mail: ic@zvolen.sk
Website: www.zvolen.sk