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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Historical Institute’

Newly Translated Book On The Warsaw Ghetto

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Many books have been written about the Warsaw Ghetto in the 66 years since its destruction. There have been reports, memoirs, studies, albums and movies of all kinds that have tried to tell the story of what happened. But to date for the English speaker the story was never complete.


We had bits and pieces of the story, we were able to see parts of the ghetto wall that still exist but the exact location of the complete wall always seemed a mystery. We had excerpts of the Ringelblum Archives but what life was like in the ghetto was still difficult to comprehend for the average reader who did not have a complete library at his or her disposal.


The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, by Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, published by Yale University Press is a monumental work that brings all the material together in one volume. First published in Polish, the book is now available in English.


It took years of research in Poland and Israel, in the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Yad Vashem and Kibbutz Lochamei HaGeta’ot in Israel to painstakingly bring together the full story of the horrific period of the Warsaw Ghetto. Other sources, such as the Polish State Archives and the Warsaw City Archives, were also invaluable in the source material.


The authors explore the history of the ghetto’s evolution, the actual daily experience of its thousands of inhabitants from its creation in 1940 to its liquidation following the uprising of 1943. Encyclopedic in scope, the book encompasses a range of topics from food supplies to education, religious activities to the Jundenrat’s administration. Separate chapters deal with the mass deportations to Treblinka and the famous uprising.


Even the technical material is brought to life with a number of rarely seen photographs and charts. A series of original maps shows the boundaries of the ghetto with streets shown as they were before the city was nearly destroyed at the end of the war. Present-day streets are superimposed onto the map, and even to one familiar with the area, I was very surprised at the changes shown on the map.


We learn the biographies, names of the people, who were activists, archivists, cantors, policemen, actors, musicians, teachers and politicians. These were the heroic residents of the ghetto; people who would not have been remembered in most English language books on the subject.


A glossary of terms and concepts is a valuable addition that helps the reader, not only of this volume, but any book on the Holocaust. Terms in Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and German are included. From Agudah to ZZW (Zydyowski Zwiazek Wojskowy: Jewish Military Union) the words and terminology are covered with a clear explanation, many of which cannot be found in most other glossaries.


A bibliography of sources is also included. Some will think that this section is the most valuable of all the indexes. These 40 pages are full of sources that scholars can look for to further their research on particular interests. The index cites not just published works but records found in various archives around the world with exact referencing. The list of published works is almost a complete list of all the material ever published on the Warsaw Ghetto.



      The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, by Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, is an important work that belongs in any library where there is interest in the Holocaust

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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