Thursday, August 15, 2019

Visiting Jewish Warsaw - the remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto wall

I've been in Warsaw since last Friday. I came for the annual meeting of the European Association for Biblical Studies, where I gave a paper on the Aramaic incantation bowls. Before the conference started, I hired a guide who took me to visit locations in the area where the Warsaw Ghetto existed during the German occupation. She brought me to several places where small parts of the wall that enclosed the ghetto still remain, and we also went to the site of the only synagogue that survived the Nazi occupation (it's been restored and still functions as an Orthodox synagogue). We also saw the Jewish Historical Institute (although we couldn't go inside, because it was closed for Shabbat), and went to the Polin Museum for the history of Polish Jewry. Outside the museum is the famous memorial to the Ghetto Fighters - the museum was deliberately built across from the memorial, and its shape reflects form of the statue. The museum is amazingly well done. Today is my last full day in Warsaw - I'm flying to Israel tomorrow - and I spent the entire afternoon in the museum, and still didn't see everything I wanted to see.

A small memorial to those who died in the Ghetto - notice the stones that were left, according to Jewish mourning customs, both on the planter and in the places where bricks were taken out.

The map above shows the boundaries of the Warsaw Ghetto on November 15, 1940, when the Jews were no longer permitted to leave.. There were two sections of the Ghetto, separated by a street that non-Jews (but not Jews) were permitted to walk on. Eventually a bridge was built across this street so that Jews could walk from one section of the Ghetto to the other.

The plague on the top left reads (according to Google Translate): "Ghetto enclave. Place dedicated to the memory of Jews, martyred and murdered in 1940-1943 by the German occupier." The top middle plaque reads "In the period November 15, 1940 to November 20, 1941, this wall was the border of the ghetto." The bottom plaque repeats the information on the top middle plaque, in English and Hebrew, and says, "This plaque was affixed by the President of the State of Israel Chaim Herzog during his State Visit to Poland," on May 26, 1992.

The small plaque is dedicated to a Polish man who preserved this building as a memorial of the Ghetto. The space where a brick was taken out mentions Yad Vashem, the Israel Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

This section of the wall goes between two post-war buildings.

This part of the wall was reconstructed. The top bricks are from the original wall - they're less even, and some of them were scorched by the fire. The top plaque reads: "During the period November 15, 1940 to November 20, 1941, this wall was the border of the ghetto. The smaller hexagonal plaque on the left is from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

This is one of of the original bricks - you can see how uneven and pockmarked it is.

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