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July 5, 2012

Museum of the History of Polish Jews will open in Warsaw in 2013

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:00 am

Photo Credit: Czarek Sokolowski/AP
A worker polishes a recently restored monument to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which stands across from the nearly finished Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, on July 4, 2012.

The monument, pictured in the foreground of the photo above, is the work of sculptor Nathan Rappaport; it is sometimes referred to as the Nathan Rappaport Memorial. It is located on ul. Zamenhofa, the street where the fighting began in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  You can see the photo and read the article about the new Museum here.  A blogger in India has put up lots of photos, which show the design of the Museum here.

The photo above shows the back side of the Rappaport Memorial. The carving depicts a line of Jews marching to the gas chamber in a Nazi death camp.  After the Jews were defeated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the survivors were sent off to the Nazi extermination camps to be killed.

My 1998 photo of the monument is shown below.  Note that construction of the Museum, which is now located in the background of this view, had not yet started.

My 1988 photo of the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial

The front of the Warsaw Memorial is shown in my 1998 photo below. It shows several of the resistance fighters with Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Warsaw Uprising, in the front holding a hand grenade in his hand. At the start of the fight, a few hand grenades were virtually the only weapons that the Jews had. After they killed a few SS soldiers and the others retreated, the resistance fighters took the weapons from the hands of the dead and continued the fight the next day when the Nazis returned.

My 1998 photo of the front of the Warsaw Memorial

The date that the Nazis chose to destroy the Warsaw Ghetto was on Passover, April 19, 1943. The leader of the Jewish resistance movement, Mordechai Anielewicz, was determined not to give up without a fight. By this time, the Jews in the Ghetto knew that the daily trains to Treblinka were not transporting the Jews to resettlement camps in the East, but were taking them to  the Treblinka death camp to be killed in gas chambers. It was because the ghetto residents began refusing to get on the trains that the Nazis decided to liquidate the ghetto.

Map of the Nazi extermination camps shows that the Jews in Warsaw were sent to Treblinka, and some were sent on to Majdanek which was near the city of Lublin

Ukrainian and Latvian SS soldiers marched into the Warsaw Ghetto on April 19, 1943, entering at the northern border of the Ghetto on Zamenhofa street. It was not until May 16 that the SS was able to defeat the handful of resistors, who lasted longer than the whole Polish army when the Germans and the Russians jointly invaded Poland in September 1939.

Jews surrender to the SS soldiers at the end of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

On April 19, 1988, the 45th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a Memory Lane was marked out through the former Ghetto. The route starts at the corner of ul. Anielewicza and ul. Zamenhofa where a plaque tells you that this was the site of the former Ghetto. The buildings were severely damaged during the fighting, and the Ghetto had to be torn down. Jewish prisoners were sent to Warsaw from the Auschwitz death camp to clear the ruins of the Ghetto.

An SS soldier stands in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto

SS soldiers fighting against the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto

In the courtyard where Warsaw Ghetto Memorial is located, and at many other places along the route of Memory Lane, are black marble stones like gravestones in a symbolic cemetery, honoring those who died in the ghetto and in the extermination camps.

Monument which stands on the sport where Mila 18 was located

My 1998 photo above shows the memorial stone to the Jewish heroes of the Z.O.B. (Jewish Fighting Organization) who died in an underground bunker beneath the house at ul. Mila 18 during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The stone sits on top of a mound of rubble, where the house at this address once stood; it is turned slightly toward Mila street which is to the left. The street is still named Mila, but #18 is no longer an address there.

The Mila 18 bunker was the last one to be destroyed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, according to a book entitled A travel guide to Jewish Europe by Ben G. Frank.

This quote about the new Museum is from the Washington Post blog which you can read in full here:

The key difference between the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington or Yad Vashem in Jerusalem will be the breadth its historical narrative.

It will extend “beyond the Holocaust to encompass an epic Jewish heritage–from which the majority of world Jewry descends and that, even today, shapes contemporary Jewish life all across the globe,” the museum said.

Before World War II started on September 1, 1939, there were 375,000 Jews living in Warsaw, as many as in all of France, and more than in the whole country of Czechoslovakia. Only the city of New York had a larger Jewish population than Warsaw.

The first Jews had settled in Warsaw when King Kasimierz the Great welcomed Jewish refugees from Western Europe to Poland in the 14th century after they had been expelled from the German states. During the 15th century, the Jews were expelled from the city of Warsaw. Between 1527 and 1768, Jews were banned from living in Warsaw.

After Poland was partitioned for the third time in 1795 between Russia, Prussia and Austria, the Jews began coming back to Warsaw, which was in the Russian section, and by the start of World War I, Jews made up forty percent of the population of the city. During the 19th century and up until the end of World War I, Warsaw was in the Pale of Settlement where all Russian Jews were forced to live; when Poland regained its independence after World War I, Warsaw was once again a Polish city. From the beginning, the Jewish district was located southeast of Old Town Warsaw.

The Nazis liked to take action against the Jews on Jewish holidays, so it was on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, that the announcement was made on October 12, 1940 that “Jewish residential quarters” were to be set up in Warsaw. The Ghetto would comprise 2.4 percent of the city’s land, but would contain 30% of the city’s population, according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. To create the Ghetto, the Nazis moved 113,000 Christian residents out and moved 138,000 Jewish residents in. The rest of the Warsaw Jews were already living in the section of Warsaw that was turned into a Ghetto.

In the Warsaw Ghetto, 450,000 Jews were forced to live in very crowded conditions. The population of the Ghetto included Jews from the surrounding villages in the General Government of German occupied Poland. The Ghetto was divided into two sections, the Small Ghetto at the southern end and the Large Ghetto on the north. By the time deportations to the extermination camps began, about 100,000 residents of the Ghetto had died of starvation or disease, according to Raul Hilberg.

Starving children in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942