Poland's capital commemorates the date with special events and the much-anticipated preliminary opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
Dariusz Paczkowski's mural of Marek Edelman
The 19th of April 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the first armed uprising in Nazi-occupied Europe. Poland's capital commemorates the date with special events and the much-anticipated preliminary opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews
The commemoration of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 is remembered along with other armed revolts in Białystok, Treblinka and Sobiborz. It was the most extensive Jewish revolt of the Second World War, located in a sealed-off area of the city that had held between 300,000-400,000 Jews. The operation in the ghetto was a desperate one, a fight to oppose the Nazi's final deportation of all Polish Jews in the ghetto to death camps.
The Germans crushed the uprising on the 16th of May, carried out plans to liquidate and level the ghetto, and destroyed the Great Synagogue of Warsaw. 13,000 Jews were killed in the ghetto during the uprising. Most survivors were captured - about 50,000 people - and sent to their deaths. Commemoration of the Uprising is among the most important events tied with remembering the casualties of the Second World War and the Holocaust.
Each year, events begin at the Monument of Ghetto Heroes, with Polish and foreign dignitaries in attendance, along with war veterans and survivors. At this year's 70th anniversary, the President of Poland will be joined by the President of Israel. The commemoration ceremony features two light projections across the night sky over three days, one lit by the Warsaw Rising Museum and the other by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Culture.pl hosts live streaming of the event.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is located on the site of the former ghetto, alongside the Monument of Ghetto Heroes. The museum, not yet complete, plays a major role between the 19th-21st of April for the commemorations, with an educational programme, the launch of a lecture series and workshops. Visitors can view the progress of the museum's construction, while participating in more than 30 events - art projects, Hebrew and Yiddish language workshops, history presentations and walking tours of what was once the Warsaw ghetto.
Art and the Uprising
On the 17th of April the Jewish Historical Institute opens an exhibition titled Polish Art and the Holocaust, featuring the works of Polish artists who had lived through the war - Tadeusz Kantor, Jonasz Stern, Alina Szapocznikow and Andrzej Wróblewski - set alongside works by Polish artists of later generations who treat the subject of the Holocaust and its legacy in their works - Zbigniew Libera, Mirosław Bałka, Wilhelm Sasnal, Artur Żmijewski and Jarosław Kozakiewicz. The exhibition runs through the 30th of November.
See a photo gallery of the works below...
On the 19th of April the Kordegarda Gallery opens the Archaeology exhibition, organised in cooperation with the Jewish Historical Institute and the National Centre for Culture. It presents works of art tied in with the space of the city and the concentration camp as a medium for perpetuating memory. Artifacts retrieved from ghetto sites are presented alongside the artworks of such artists and architects as Oskar Hansen and Julian Pałka. The exhibition runs through the 28th of April.
Andrzej Brzozowski's 1967 film Archaeology is a study of how the past is uncovered in artifacts dug from the earth. The men work silently, drawing out Soviet military caps, ceramic corks from bottles of Dutch beer, pencils. The camera slowly rises to show the barbed wire of the fence, making it plan that the site of the dig is the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Oskar Hansen's 1955 project for an unrealised monument titled Droga / Road takes the site of the camp into account, blending it into the form of the work. The road of the title crosses the site diagonally, leaving the existing buildings behind and freezing that moment of history. Yet time and nature were to run its course, degrading the buildings and swallowing them up in the underbrush. Nature also plays a main role in the film by Jarosław Kozłowski, which depicts a similar context for the fate of the site of the former ghetto.
The focal point of the exhibition is a single artifact that speaks volumes, set up by Tomasz Lec: a corroded cafe table and several remnants of objects that were likely to have laid upon this table, dug out of the earth beneath the former ghetto. It is a relic of the war, a witness of the horrors of the Holocaust, a symbolic memory of the city at that time. The exhibition is meant to "uncover the traces of a recent history that many would like to forget. Revealing the testimony of the Holocaust is incredibly difficult and often underminded". Organisers of the exhibition explain that this past
appears to be out of reach, its image constantly escaping the space of our imagination. There are always resources lacking that would relay the terror of the Holocaust. We are left with tracing an outline, documenting the past, listening to witnesses, reconstructing memory.
For more information on both exhibitions, see: www.jhi.pl
A few blocks away, the History Meeting House hosts a series of photographs from 1940, titled Behind the Wall. How the Warsaw Ghetto Was Built. The images document the establishment of the ghetto by the Nazis, drawn from the National Archives of the City of Warsaw (starts 11.04). The Fotoplastykon museum also hosts an exhibition of photographs from the ghetto, titled Window on the other Side.
Art takes to the streets with a mural commemorating Marek Edelman, who was among the ghetto's last surviving heroes. The young Edelman clutches a bouquet of jonquils - a symbol of life and hope. The mural has been designed by Dariusz Paczkowski, a well-known street artist, based on an image of Edelman from 1945, adding extra details like the flowers and the fist in the air. The mural graces a wall of the building at Nowolipki Street 9b on the site of the former ghetto, and is financed by the Klamra Foundation on the basis of private donations. The unveiling takes place on the 18th of April at 6 pm.
Among the events hosted by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is a screening of Agnieszka Arnold's Rotem on the 20th of April. The film shares the extraordinary true story of Kazik Ratajzer, a protagonist of the Jewish resistance movement during the Second World War. Polish television will also broadcast films and documentaries related to the Uprising, such as Jolanta Dylewska's Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising according to Marek Edelman.
The publishing market is also active in reviving memories of the ghetto, with the publication of Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak's. Warsaw Ghetto. Guide to a Non-existent City / Getto Warszawskie, complete with a set of maps. The Jewish Historical Institute is planning the Poetic Documents of the Holocaust / Poetyckie dokumenty Holokaustu as a two-volume anthology, with poems in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish from 1939–1945. The Znak publishing house has released Isaac's Army. Battle and Opposition of Polish Jews / Armia Izaaka. Walka i opór polskich Żydów. Major newspapers, magazines and radio stations are also covering the history of the uprising throughout the week.
Commemorative postage stamps are a tradition across the world and for this occasion the postal services of Poland and Israel have decided to issue their own special stamps in April. Israel's stamp depicts Paweł Frenkel, leader of the Jewish Military Association. Poland's stamp depicts the jonquil - a traditional symbol of hope in the context of Second World War - designed by Marzanna Dąbrowska. One of the last remaining heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, Marek Edelman, placed a bouquet of jonquils at the Monument of the Ghetto Heroes each year. (The symbolism of the jonquil will be continued for the commemoration through the distribution of paper flowers by volunteers.)
The Stacja Muranów audio guide, based on Beata Chomątowska’s book, provides an English-language tour of the Muranów district in Warsaw, which includes the former ghetto, through the memories of its former inhabitants. The old Nalewki and the district at the beginning of the 20th century is covered, the destruction in the Second World War and then the construction of a model housing development for the New Socialist Man, and finally the newest point on the district's map, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The My Warsaw iphone application allows users to take a walking tour of Warsaw as seen through the eyes of Janusz Korczak, the scholar and pedagogue who provided great material and emotional support to children victimised by the war.
Download the Stacja Muranów audio guide at: www.jewishmuseum.org.pl
Download the My Warsaw smartphone app on: itunes.apple.com and play.google.com
Warsaw's History Meeting House has also compiled an interactive map guide, reproducing the ghetto through photographs and eye-witness accounts. The app launches on the 19th of April, available at www.warszawskiegetto.dsh.waw.pl
For more information on Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration ceremonies, see: www.getto.waw.pl
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart, based on the original text compiled by Mikołaj Gliński on Culture.pl