Machela Oksenhenbler rolled up her sleeve Tuesday and showed the Miami Beach Planning Board the number tattooed on her forearm: 54092. It was all she had to say.
Three hours later, with the 80-year-old Oksenhenbler and dozens of Nazi death camp survivors looking on, the Planning Board unanimously recommended that a proposed memorial to the Holocaust be built in the city's Garden Center.he vote was the last act in a meeting that drew 500 people, packed into a City Hall chamber designed for 300. Though it must still be approved by the City Commission, the vote quashed objections from women of the Garden Center, who wanted a fish pond on the site instead.
"I was so happy when I heard they would build a memorial, and then I heard about the pond," said Oksenhenbler. With her fingers, she ticked off the deaths of all her family members in the Polish concentration camps of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.
Then she again showed her tattoo, crude and inky numbers that are a legacy of her time in Auschwitz. "I don't know why I survived," she said. "I would like some place, a beautiful place in a garden, where I could sit and remember." - Miami Herald, Nov. 28, 1984
As I listen to all the noise accompanying the debate over whether or not to build a convention center hotel on Miami Beach, I wonder how Mayor Philip Levine would justify the project to Holocaust survivor Machela Oksenhenbler if it were possible to travel back in time to 1984?
Would he avoid talking to her altogether, in much the same way that some of the hotel's staunchest defenders did this weekend when they refused to appear on Michael Putney's show?
Or would he patronize her - his trademark oleaginous smile firmly in place - and stare at her with his beady eyes and pretend to listen to her story of horror in the camps....and then pat her on the back and say something like this? "I just want to do what's best for Miami Beach, Mrs. Oksenhenbler."
I think I know the answer.
Levine is a man who has proven time and time again that he cares nothing about people unless they can help him line his pockets.
From the Miami Herald:
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine on Friday officially — and very publicly — declared his support for a March 15th referendum to move ahead with building a privately funded convention center hotel in the heart of South Beach.
“On March 15th, let’s continue moving our city in the right direction by voting “Yes” (#60) for a privately funded Convention District Hotel, vital neighborhood improvements for Miami Beach, and more than 1,400 new jobs for area residents,” Levine wrote in an open letter to constituents. “I’ll be voting “Yes” and I humbly ask you to join me, along with many leaders in our City, in doing so as well.”
|Is this the view Machela Oksenhenbler would see from the Holocaust |
Memorial if she were alive today?
Photoshop rendering by David Cypkin.