In what has been one of the major memorial events in Poland commemorating WWII, Warsaw saw a gathering of world leaders this week at the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
This year’s anniversary, April 19th falls out on Shabbat-Erev Pesach, and in deference to the Jewish victims and surviving community, the government has scheduled to start on the 15th and continue throughout the week. Leading the Israeli delegation is Israel President Shimon Peres, who was born in Poland.
Remnants of the wall surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto.
Polish Minister of State Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka said that Peres was invited to participate in the ceremonies because the Government wants the event “to bring together Jews and Poles.” Peres landed in Poland, where he was born, and will join survivors of the uprising at Warsaw’s Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto. Three sections of the ghetto wall are still visible, measuring 12 to 20 feet (three to six meters) high.
During his visit in Poland, Peres will address the Polish Parliament, in Hebrew. He also is scheduled to meet with Irena Sendler, a 98-year-old Polish woman who helped save 2,500 Jewish children during the Nazi Occupation, which systematically murdered more than two million Polish Jews.
The uprising in the ghetto began when several hundred young Jews took up arms against the Nazis instead of letting themselves be shipped off to death camps. The Nazis were surprised by the revolt, which lasted for three weeks, before the German Army overcame the Jews and torched the Jewish area.
Also attending the ceremonies will be the mayors of, approximately, 30 European and Israeli cities whose inhabitants have family ties with the victims and survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto,” said Hanna Paluba, an official of the Shalom Foundation, which organizes the annual commemoration.
Monument over Mila 18, Headquarters of the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters.
Leading the U.S. delegation was Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, who was among five members named by President Bush. Joining Chertoff are Victor Ashe, the U.S. Ambassador to Poland; Phyllis Heideman, a lawyer and member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council who is also active in B’nai Brith International and the Republican Jewish Coalition; David Mitzner, a Warsaw-born developer who is a major donor to Holocaust remembrance causes; and Bill Lowenberg, a San Francisco-based Holocaust survivor also active with the RJC and in Holocaust remembrance.
The foreign dignitaries will be joined by most of the Jewish community in Poland, for whom evidence of the Shoah is ever present in their daily lives, dwelling in a city that had been destroyed by the Germans and which today is filled with monuments.
Memorial to the heroes and victims of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Some of the guests will be visiting the present-day Jewish community to witness the growth and development of what had until recently been thought of as a dead community.
Mr. Peres will also be going to the offices of the Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews, of which he serves as the Chairman of the International Honorary Committee.