Why Did Morocco Just Demolish a Holocaust Memorial?

Uniquely for the Muslim Middle East and North Africa, Morocco has officially called to commemorate the Holocaust. Its king, Mohamed VI, has declared the Holocaust "one of the most tragic chapters in history," pointing out the role played by his grandfather, Mohammed V, in saving Jews from the discriminatory anti-Semitic measures imposed by the collaborationist Vichy regime ruling Morocco during World War II.  

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Mohammed V, who led Morocco to independence in 1956, is said to have defiantly pronounced to the French colonial authorities: "There are no Jews in Morocco, only Moroccans, and all of them are my subjects." The story of Mohammed V’s courageous act has become an integral part of the Moroccan national narrative and is celebrated by Moroccan Jews worldwide. 

It therefore may seem counterintuitive that a Holocaust memorial under construction at Ait Faska, southeast of Marrakesh, was demolished on August 27, 2019 by the Moroccan authorities on the orders of the Ministry of the Interior.

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Even more surprising than the demolition of the monument was its unauthorized nature – a monument conceived, planned and constructed under the radar of official state bodies. 

Its creator was Oliver Bienkowski, a German self-styled social entrepreneur and "guerilla-artist" who has lived in Morocco since 2014. He's a founder of Pixelhelper International SARL, a little-known NGO dedicated to an array of diverse political causes,.

Bienkowski says he launched the project to create a Holocaust educational center, which he proclaimed to be "North Africa’s first ever Holocaust memorial." Bienkowski told the Jerusalem Post that he was inspired to build the monument when he discovered his family name in Israel's Yad Vashem database.