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Warsaw marks 70 years since Jewish uprising

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-21

The Polish capital on Friday commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when hundreds of young, poorly armed Jews staged an ultimately doomed revolt against the Nazis. FRANCE 24 reports from the ground.

The Polish capital of Warsaw on Friday marked the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, when hundreds of young, poorly armed Jews staged an ultimately doomed revolt against the Nazis.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to preside over an official, state-sponsored ceremony at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, with thousands, including Holocaust survivors, to be present.

Also expected are European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Israeli Education Minister Shai Piron, who will join the procession toward the Umschlagplatz monument where Jews were rounded up and sent to the Treblinka death camp.

A new Jewish museum ‘for everyone’

Though Poland was once a Jewish bastion in Europe, 90% of the country’s 3.3 million pre-war Jewish residents were dead by 1945.

One synagogue remains in Warsaw, but it is tucked discreetly away among the skyscrapers and apartment buildings of the capital’s downtown area.

To honour the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the uprising, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is set to open Friday, as well. The museum is funded by the Polish state, the city of Warsaw, and several private donors.

“This museum is for everyone: it’s for non-Jews, it’s for Jews from around the world, and it’s also for Jews who are still living here in Poland,” Michael Shudrich, Poland’s chief rabbi, told FRANCE 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg.

The museum’s permanent collections won’t be unveiled to the public before next year. But several other exhibitions will be open to mark the occasion, including an outdoor photographic display contrasting how some streets in the Jewish area looked before and after the war.

Three small fragments of Polish history

Commemorations of the anniversary will continue throughout the weekend, with a candlelit march scheduled for Sunday. Participants plan to form a human chain where the ghetto walls once stood – but where only crumbled remains lie now.

The Warsaw Ghetto was the biggest of all of Nazi-occupied Europe’s Jewish Ghettos during World War II, but Germans razed the neighbourhood and the post-war communist regime later built houses directly over the rubble.

Three small fragments of the ghetto’s wall survived, however, with one of them situated in the courtyard of a man named Mieczyslaw Jedruszak, who opens his doors to visitors who wish to see the remains.

Jerdruszak is therefore an unofficial guardian of a remnant of painful Polish history, a role he takes seriously.

“Some people come and simply sit down here and cry,” he told Cragg. “But I have the satisfaction that I have done something to help preserve human memory.”
 

Date created : 2013-04-19

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