We left bright and early this morning for Warsaw. After driving about 90 kilometers, we passed the site of the Kielce Pogrom. This was known as the deadliest pogrom against Polish Jews after the Second World War, the incident was a significant point in the post-war history of Jews in Poland. It took place only a year after the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust, shocking Jews in Poland, Poles, and the international community. It has been considered a catalyst for the flight from Poland of most remaining Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust. The Kielce Massacre was an outbreak of violence against the Jewish community centre’s gathering of refugees in the city of Kielce, Poland on 4 July 1946 by Polish soldiers, police officers, and civilians which resulted in the killing of 42 Jews and over 40 were wounded. Polish courts later tried and executed nine of the attackers in connection with the incident.
The townspeople placed the tombstones that endured the bombing in a sort of pyramid, with each level ascending containing less tombstones than the previous level. Even though not everyone’s epitaph is represented, the idea is to express that anyone whose final resting place is in this cemetery is honored and represented collectively.
Our first stop in Warsaw was the Gensha Cemetery, located inside of the ghetto territory. The memorial is designed as a celebration of life and a commemoration for those lost in the holocaust. The cemetery is one that cannot be explained with mere words. We were all very moved at the Gensha Cemetery, where hundreds of thousands of Jewish people are buried. Where the monument to Janusz Korczak stands it is an enormous iron statue of Korczak with an infant wrapped around his neck and children trailing behind. Janus Korczak, Warsaw-born Jew, put himself on the line for the children affected by the Holocaust. He opened an orphanage for children of the Holocaust, volunteered in summer camps for underprivileged children, and organized reading sessions in public libraries in poor neighborhoods. Unfortunately, this remarkable man, along with 200 orphans, fell victim to Hitler’s Final Solution.
Above are images of our visit to the Gensha Cemetery.
Our guide, David, arranged for us to have lunch and some shopping time in Old Town Warsaw.
Warsaw Uprising Monument:
Following our visit to Old Town we walked to view the Warsaw Uprising Monument. The Warsaw Uprising Monument is a monument in Warsaw, Poland, dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unveiled in 1989, it was sculpted by Wincenty Kućma and the architect was Jacek Budyn. It is located on the southern side of Krasiński Square.
Above are images of the monument.
We ended our site seeing at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. It is a museum on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The Hebrew word Polin in the museum’s name means, in English, either “Poland” or “rest here” and is related to a legend on the arrival of the first Jews in Poland.The cornerstone was laid in 2007, and the museum was first opened on April 19, 2013.The museum’s Core Exhibition opened in October 2014.The museum features a multimedia narrative exhibition about the living Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the Holocaust.The building, a postmodern structure in glass, copper, and concrete, was designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäkiand Ilmari Lahdelma.
Above are images from our visit.
Below are some of our group’s reflections.
“Never forget, but also never forget to act against injustice everywhere. That was the message I took away today. It is not enough for us to rely on our governments to do the right thing. We must be informed and take action for those who are suffering injustice today, or all the memorials are useless.”-Terri Tims, Bolivar Central High School
“We are here to learn about the Holocaust and see where the crimes and murders were committed but we are also becoming closer, old and new friends alike, supporting each other, sharing thoughts, interpretations and teaching ideas. The Holocaust is so incomprehensible- our guide, David, said the more he learns about it the less he understands. I know what he means, the murder of so many was so widespread and systematic, it’s hard to fathom how it could have been implemented. But it did and it’s our obligation to teach students about it so future generations know and this history is remembered”-Becky Hasselle, Dyersburg Middle School
“This trip sharpens the fact that the Holocaust is a singular event. To trace the path of this history is to see its unique dimensions and to avoid comparisons. While all genocides are atrocious, each one has its particulars, the most important being the identity of the victims. the mass graves at the Warsaw Jewish cemetery completely shook me and along with the other places, illuminates the enormous loss of Jewish culture and life” Kim Blevins-Relleva, Abintra Montessori School