Jerry Kopel


It was only a 15 second comment in a five minute closing speech by Gov. Bill Owens at the Governor's Holocaust Remembrance Program in Denver the evening of April 14th, but it brought closure to a promise that then-Rep. Owens and 99 other Colorado House and Senate legislators had made 14 years earlier.

Gov. Owens told the audience that "he would build a Holocaust Memorial on the state capitol grounds during his administration."

Fourteen years earlier, the Colorado legislature had passed Senate Joint Resolution 14 carried by Sen. Harold McCormick, R-Canon City, which stated:

"Whereas, during World War II, six million Jews died in Nazi concentration camps and millions of other people perished as victims of Nazism; and

"Whereas, the Holocaust Awareness Institute of the Center for Judaic Studies, University of Denver, wishes to design and erect a monument to commemorate the victims of the Nazi Holocaust; and

"Whereas, it is fitting and proper that there be located on the state capitol grounds a permanent monument dedicated to the holocaust victims; now, therefore,

"Be it resolved by the Senate of the Fifty Fifth General Assembly of the State of Colorado and the House of Representatives concurring herein:

"That, we, the members of the General Assembly, do hereby urge the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Executive Director of the Department of Administration to consult with the Holocaust Awareness Institute on the selection of a prominent site on the capitol grounds for permanent placement of a monument honoring the victims of the Nazi Holocaust."

The institute had agreed to pick up the cost of the monument, so there were no state funds needed. Of course, no Administration Director is going to do anything without approval from his boss, the governor, and nothing happened for five years. In 1990, then State Sen. Sandy Hume of Boulder reminded me of the Resolution and asked if I could get something started.

I wrote to the institute. They replied they were still interested. I contacted the governor's office, which said they were not interested. The reason they gave was that such a memorial would be a target for anti-Semites and vandals. Of course, the memorial could have been placed inside the capitol building, to reduce any danger of damage.

In April, I wrote about the resolution in my weekly column in the Colorado Statesman and hoped a new administration would reach a better decision. By chance, the afternoon of the Remembrance Program, I saw and talked to now Boulder County Treasurer Sandy Hume on the second floor of the State Capitol Bldg.

We reviewed what had happened before, and Sandy, with a determined look on his face, went down to the first floor to the governor's office to find out if the matter was going to be finally resolved. And the governor did include the promise of a memorial in his remarks that night.

Sandy Hume deserves thanks for never giving up on the issue, and Gov. Owens deserves thanks for breaking with the decisions of his predecessors.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House of Representatives.)

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