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Friday, August 22, 2014

Our walk through Jewish Warsaw on 8/15

Decided to forego public transportation to discover the Jewish areas of Warsaw on foot for the day. We had picked a booklet from Tourist Info titled 'Warsaw Judaica' and it was invaluable planning our own walking tour of Jewish Warsaw.

It was a sunny day but we took our rain ponchos just in case; turned out to be a smart move later as it sprinkled off and on. Seems to be the same weather pattern for a while now with temperatures in the mid 60’s and rain most days. Not sure if I've brought enough cold weather clothing and we're only a couple of weeks into the trip. We'd both thought it'd be considerably warmer at least until the end of August.

Walicow St. 11: Fragment of the Ghetto Wall 
Boundaries of the wall were commemorated 
with cast iron plates set in pavement.

Initial boundaries of the Warsaw Ghetto:
Later it became much smaller.

Keret House: Built in 2012, it’s the narrowest house in the world at only 72 cm at its narrowest point and 122 cm at its widest point; it fills a narrow gap between one post war block and an old tenement house; designed to be a studio for artists from around the world, the 1st of whom is Israeli writer Etkar Keret whose family came from Warsaw. Heard of the whole tiny house movement but this is certainly an extreme version of it. Never did see the entrance to it.

Jewish Cemetery: Founded in 1806, it’s one of the few currently operating Jewish cemeteries in Poland; over 100,000 tombstones survived here; contains mass graves from WW II, graves of residents of the Warsaw Ghetto, leaders from the Warsaw Uprising as well as those of many prominent figures. Most moving for us was the Memorial to the Children of the Ghetto below.

 Headstone of Zamenhof, founder of Esperanto,
 the universal language designed to eliminate war on

 grounds of disagreements between users of different languages.

Umschlagplatz: Beginning on 7/22/42, transports
of Jews to the Treblinka death camp departed from
this square. The monument is the shape of a cattle
car as that was the mode of transport. 448 names
Aba to Zanna are cut in on one of its walls.

Mila St: Looks like a mound in an otherwise deserted spot between 2 houses; basement of house that was located here served as the headquarters bunker of the Jewish Combat Organization; was a shelter for more than a 100 people until it was discovered by German troops. After the war in 1946, a mound was formed and a stone with an inscription in Polish,Yiddish and Hebrew was placed on the ruins of the house.

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes above:  Unveiled on the 5th anniversary of the  outbreak of the uprising on the ruins of the ghetto, one side shows the insurgents: men, women and children holding grenades, guns and bottles of gasoline in their hands; the other represents the suffering and martyrdom on innocent victims. Copies of these bas reliefs are exhibited at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem which deals with the study of the Holocaust – wonder if we’ll see them there in late October? Slabs of stone, ordered during the war by the Germans in Sweden as a material for monuments to commemorate Hitler’s victory, cover the monument. How unsettling.

Museum of the History of Polish Jews: 
Located across the square from the Ghetto Monument;
we didn’t go in what we thought w as a very attractive
building. We were both struck how very attractive the old
 looking buildings are in the downtown core; certainly every
bit as appealing as the Smithsonian in DC; the newer
skyscrapers are equally stunning, we both thought;
 again, very unlike those we saw in Berlin.

Statue of German Chancellor Willy Brandt: 
Located in pretty large corner of the square with 
Museum and Monument; when Brandt, a memeber
 of the German resistance against Hitler visited
 Berlin in Dcember 1970 he knelt down by the monument. 
Poles understood him to be apologizing for Germany’s 
actions during the war.

Jerusalem Ave: One of the major boulevards
 in Warsaw, it was named in 1774 when a Jewish
settlement named New Jerusalem was established;
 the installation of an artificial palm tree, similar to
those that can be seen in Israeli cities, is referred to as
 'Greetings from 

55 Sienna St. Only other fragment of the wall I believe still in existence according to what I read. Very difficult to find this section of the wall as it's situated in an interior courtyard of apartment buildings. The actual access wasn't on Sienna St but on Dluga St.  Bricks have been taken out and are now in DC at the Holocaust Memorial, in Houston (we wondered why there?) and at Yad Veshem in Jerusalem

Jewish Historical Institue: Tried to see it on the 15th but it was closed for the National Holiday and on Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath so walked over on Sunday morning before catching our 1pm bus to Krakow. Watched the riveting 40 minute film about life pre war and then during WW II in the ghetto; all filmed then. Should be seen by anyone interested in seeing first hand the atrocities perpetrated by the Germans against the Jews in WWII.