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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jan Jagielski’

Warsaw Completes Ghetto Project

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

    Poland’s capital recently marked the completion of a massive restoration project that marks the borders of the former Jewish Ghetto that was walled in by Nazis occupiers during World War II.

     The mayor of Warsaw, along with the minister of culture, inaugurated the project that included 21 new information points along the boundaries of the former Jewish Ghetto. The project also placed a beige line, labeled “Ghetto Wall,” along the city streets that outlined the furthest reaches of the Ghetto’s borders.

   The line snakes along sidewalks and around apartments and offices, broken only when it reaches roads or tram lines.

    Paid for by the city of Warsaw and the Ministry of Culture, the project was launched last year by a team of historians.

    “When you ask people in Warsaw about the Ghetto, they can tell you about it and have an idea of where it was,” said Tomasz Merta of the Ministry of Culture. “But in reality, nobody could tell you how big it was and how it was a huge prison in the heart of the city.”

    Varsovians  (people that live in Warsaw) can now easily find the line running along several major streets near downtown and curling around what is now the Jewish cemetery.

   “Now it’s here, and we can see it and touch it. And it’s very difficult to remember because of how hurtful it was,” Merta said, “but at least now we can remember. This is our responsibility.”

   Until now the only reminder of the Ghetto #20 Wall was a small section that was preserved at 60 Zlota Street. But even that historic monument was in the back of a building’s courtyard and if you didn’t know where to look for it a person would have a hard time finding it.



Last remnant of the original Ghetto Wall at 60 Zlota St.


     Another participant in the ceremony said that until now people in Warsaw had been able to just forget about the Jews and the ghetto by not going to the Ghetto Park and monument. Now they have a tangible marker that traverses the center of the city that many thousands of people will see on a daily basis. It cannot be ignored.”

     Nazi officials cut off the Jewish Ghetto from the rest of the city on November 16, 1940. At its broadest circumference, the ghetto wall enclosed 307 hectares (approximately, 760 acres).

    Some 360,000 Warsaw Jews and 90,000 from other towns were forced into the ghetto, according to the city of Warsaw. Some 100,000 people died of hunger.

     “It’s not only important to Warsaw, but it’s a universal lesson about memory,” Merta said.

     The inauguration ceremony included a bus tour that took people along the former borders and stopped at the information points that marked important sites or events in the ghetto’s history.

    A crowd of project officials, local residents and historians went along for the trip. Older residents recalled the disquiet in the city when the wall was first built.

    “Nobody was sure if their house would lay in the ghetto, or where the borders would be,” said historian Jan Jagielski, author of a book about the Ghetto. “Walls had been built earlier, and people were worried that there would be a ghetto. From November 16, people couldn’t leave.”

    Jagielski, a non-Jewish historian, who is a leading authority of Jewish history in Poland, lead a group of mostly elderly women through a park and wondered at how modern Warsaw sits atop borders that are gone but not forgotten.

    “This is all real and unreal,” he said. “That we’re here walking, through these streets.”

Jewish Historical Institute Photo Project

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

       Whenever I go to Poland I make a point of visiting the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. It is an amazing place, known not only for its exhibits, but all the projects that go on behind the closed doors of different departments.


         One person who constantly impresses me with the tremendous amount of work he does is Jan Jagielski. Jan is head of the Jewish Monument Division and Photo Archives for the institute. From all over the world, scholars, as well as novices in the field of Polish Jewish history, praise his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish sites throughout Poland.


         Mr. Jagielski has compiled a catalogue of synagogues in Poland that I use as a resource for many of my articles. (Plans are in the works to translate the book into English.) Last month when I visited him at his office I asked what he was working on at the moment. He got very excited at the opportunity of publicity for a new project of his – not for profit, but for posterity.


         “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Often a picture outlives the photographer and bears witness to events and times of long ago. Mr. Jagielski has been working with photographs that detail Jewish life in Poland before and during the Shoah. Using rare photos, he has made some interesting discoveries. His office is often asked to identify places, and if possible, people, in pictures sent in from around the world.



Jan Jagielski going over pictures of Jewish people and places in Poland.


         Some people sent him photographs they had bought on Internet auction sites, such as eBay. He discovered the wealth of material being sold, lost to him and other researchers.


         “In some of these pictures we can see synagogues, cemeteries, or other Jewish property, as well as a chronicle of Jewish life,” he told me. “Look at this picture here, you can see a synagogue in the background with children playing in the foreground and a cemetery off to the side. Using this photograph I hope to identify the town and maybe rescue the cemetery or synagogue from desecration.


         “I would like to ask your readers for two things,” he said. “One, if they have pictures from before the Shoah, to send a set to the Institute. (Even scans would be helpful.) Second, we need a budget to buy pictures off the Internet.” Mr. Jagielski figures that 20,000 zloty or $7,000 would be enough to buy the pictures online.


         It is interesting to note that Mr. Jagielski, foremost expert on Jewish remains in Poland, is not Jewish. There are a few Poles throughout the country that have taken it upon themselves to ensure that the history of the Jewish people in Poland is not forgotten. The chief rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, has coined this phenomenon as “The Jegielskian Complex.”


         There are many photographic collections of Jewish life in Poland; consolidating the material is underway. YIVO has a large collection for research on the Internet, and there are also photographs taken before the Shoah, e.g. by noted photographer, Roman Vishniak.


         There is also an exhibit, “And I Still See Their Faces” at the Yeshiva University Museum in Lower Manhattan. The exhibit is made up of photographs found mostly after the war by Poles, with captions telling what the donor knows of the people, places, and circumstances of each photo. The photos are on exhibit until the end of June. A review of the exhibit will appear in an upcoming issue of The Jewish Press.


         Anybody wishing to donate material or money to the project can send it to: Shmuel Ben Eliezer, The Jewish Press, 338 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11215-1897, or directly to Mr. Jagielski at: Mgr Jan Jagielski, The Jewish Historical Institute, Tlomackie 3/5 Street,00-950 Warsaw.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/jewish-historical-institute-photo-project/2007/03/21/

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