The Different Faces of Jewish Warsaw from the late 18th century to 1939, and the influence of the Jewish community on the development and character of the city, is the subject of the latest exhibition at the Museum of the History
Image from The "Warszawa/Warsze" exhibition - organizers materials
The idea of the "Warsaw, Warsze" exhibition, is to show how the character and appearance of the capital was largely influenced in part by Jews for centuries - says Ewa Małkowska-Bieniek, the exhibition curator. "We start with the chronology. Through the chronicle, by means of film, we present the beginnings of the Jewish presence in Warsaw, and we discuss, in detail, the period from the late eighteenth century to the outbreak of World War II" - says the curator.
Warsaw was city around which numerous jurisdictions were created. These were private towns with their own town halls, where people were subject to the laws of the owner. The Polish king Zygmunt Stary had ruled that Jews were forbidden to settle in the city limits. However, this did not apply in the jurisdictions. The Jewish population lived just outside the walls of the capital, often next to the roads, for example, at what is now Senatorska Street and Theatre Square, where in the second half of the 18th century Tomasz Adam Uruski – the owner of the Pociejów jurisdiction, had settled them.
They traded on the square in front of the old Pociejów palace. Sometimes they also rented a room in the palace. The marketplace was effective competition for Marywil (another marketplace) because of its location"- says the curator.
The marketplace was moved in the 19th century to the back of the Marszałkowska and Królewska street, and then to the Bagno street, still under the name of Pociejów.
Not far away from Pociejów palace, just between Senatorska and Niecała street, between 1907-1910, Maksymilian Luxenburg – a contractor with Jewish roots, built an elegant arcade with a shopping centre, restaurants, a Grand Café, hotel, cinema and theatre. Above the entrance the words 'Suis et sibi' were posted- said Małkowska-Bieniek.
Qui Pro Quo
The Luxenbourg Gallery hosted a cabaret, Qui Pro Quo, founded by landowner and actor Bolesław Leszek Przyłuski, architect Tadeusz Sobocki and merchant Izydor Weisblat.
"Its owners were composer and journalist Jerzy Boczkowski and Seweryn Majda, co-owner of the soap and candle factory at Okopowa Street. Fryderyk Jarosy – a Hungarian Jew was the announcer. The incorrect pronunciation of Polish words constituted an additional advantage that attracted the audience " - said the curator.
Jan Wiktor Lesman (known as Jan Brzechwa), earned some extra money in Qui Pro Quo while he was still a student. Michał Halicz (aka. Leopold Blomberg) had his cabaret debut there. Qui Pro Quo also featured Hanka Ordonówna, Zula Pogorzelska, Mira Zimińska, Eugeniusz Bodo, Zofia Terne ( Chajter and Maria Modzelewska – the wife of Marian Hemar.
"There should be a separate memory of excellent entertainers: Kazimierz Krukowski – the famous 'Lopek' and Ludwik Lawiński, actually Latajner" - added Małkowska - Bieniek . The Kino Splendid cinema also operated in the gallery. It was later renamed to Sphinx, and had 2000 seats on the ground floor and balconies. Films were played there in both Polish and Yiddish.
The curator wants to emphasise that one part of the city could change its character so much. "In addition to the typical commercial area where Jews dominated with distinctive outfits and speech, the nature of the area, service and culture was created by cosmopolitans " - says Małkowska-Bieniek.
This Jewish Warsaw does not exist any more, but the exhibition's artefacts can bring it closer to visitors. These include collections of accounts showing the diversity of Jewish shop trading in pre-war Jewish Warsaw. Krzysztof Jaszczyński, who is the manager of the virtual museum foundation Warszawa1939.pl, lent them to the exhibition. There is also a collection of books from the series "Groszen libraries" - owned by Dawid Mazower, a descendant of Szalom Asch, a well-known Jewish writer associated with Warsaw. The exhibits are mainly from the National Museum in Warsaw.
“One of the exhibits is a beautiful feminine silk cap from the end of the eighteenth century, decorated with sequins and metallic lace. Its additional advantage is that it comes from the collection of Mathias Bersohn, the Warsaw philanthropist and art historian of the late nineteenth century."- told the curator.
The technical achievements of the 30s is represented by a radio from the Natawis company, founded by Jewish entrepreneur Nathan Wisenberg.
The exhibition, which will be presented from 28 March to 30 June, will be accompanied by family workshops, walks around the city, lectures and film screenings.
Sources: PAP, ed. mg, 24.3.2014, translated: Katarzyna Maksimiuk, 28.03.2014