When it was installed in 1964, Philadelphia's Holocaust Memorial - a statue depicting figures consumed in fire - was the first of its kind in North America.

On Tuesday, city officials and a group of Holocaust survivors announced plans for the statue at 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to serve as the entrance to a memorial park - one that aims to educate future visitors as the events of the Holocaust recede further into the past.

On hand at the memorial Tuesday were members of the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, which spearheaded the plan, as well as local Holocaust survivors, some of whom worked to erect the original statue, by Polish artist Nathan Rapoport, more than 50 years ago.

Max Shieman of North Philadelphia was among them.

"We worked for this monument - it was hard, but we tried the best we could," he said.

He grew up in Poland, and spent the summer of 1939 with relatives in Warsaw. He was supposed to return home on Sept. 3, 1939. The Nazis invaded on Sept. 1, and Shieman spent the next several years in the Warsaw ghetto. He survived, came to Philadelphia at 18, and has spent the last 65 years here.

Seeing the plans for the new park, he said, "feels wonderful."

Plans for the new park include six pillars, for the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, with inscriptions that contrast the tragedy with the spirit of religious freedom Philadelphia was founded on. A low wall will showcase an eternal flame and railroad ties that once led to concentration camps.

A cluster of trees will represent the forests where resistance fighters hid and planned attacks on the Nazis. Another tree will sit at the center of the park - one cut from a seedling grown by a class of schoolchildren imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The project will cost an estimated $4.5 million, most of which will come through private donations. The Parks and Recreation Department has been receptive to the plan, said Jeff Jubelirer, a spokesman for the Remembrance Foundation, which expects to present the park proposal to the city's Arts Commission soon. With the city's approval, the park could open as early as 2017, he said.

Mayor Kenney, speaking at the event, said he grew up down the street from an Orthodox shul housed in a rowhouse, and remembered going to pick up his family's dry cleaning from a store on the corner and seeing the numbers tattooed on the owner's arm.

"She told me she was the only member of her family to survive," Kenney said, "and I began to understand."

He said memorials like the one on the Parkway, coupled with education, "make our neighborhoods stronger."

"I'm fearful for our country - some of the things I hear in alleged diplomatic speeches I haven't heard since the 1930s. People talking about keeping people out of our country based on religion," he said, referring to presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. "We have to steel ourselves from that ever happening again."

Miriam Cane, another Holocaust survivor from Poland and the executive vice president of a local survivors' association, said the revamped memorial would help "carry our legacy on."

"There are very few of us remaining," she said, "and this is so important."

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