Thursday 5 June 2014

Ghetto Wall

A metal plaque draws a line through the cobblestones to mark where the Wall of the Warsaw Ghetto stood from 1940-1943. One of many chilling spots you keep coming across as you walk the streets of the city.

Today people cross this line without noticing, deep in contemplation or conversation; children play in the park, cyclists cycle and dog-walkers walk their dogs. Back then it was a line of life and death.

The path at the back that people are strolling along was Nalewki, the busiest market street in pre-War Warsaw. There are some wonderful photographs of it, full of bustle and trade, in the exhibition at the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which I saw yesterday.

And at the very back, in the park beyond the railings, they are excavating the site of the building that was the headquarters of the workers' organisation The Bund, where the resistance in this area of the Ghetto was co-ordinated by Marek Edelman, amongst others. Here is his account of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in the course of which most of those not yet killed lost their lives.

Nalewki in the 1930s
photo by Roman Vishniac