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80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The director of the POLIN Museum comments on the ceremony

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Before the outbreak of the uprising, there were about 50,000 civilians in the ghetto who had no chance of survival. – They decided not to leave the ghetto. They will not let themselves be herded to the Umschlagplatz, taken to the extermination camp in Treblinka, they will only resist. And their civil resistance, of people who did not have weapons, who hid in bunkers, is proof of extreme heroism, said Zygmunt Stępiński, director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The director of the POLIN Museum, when asked which words stuck in his mind the most during Wednesdays ceremony in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, he replied: – It is difficult. Because this commemoration of the anniversary of the ghetto uprising has a long tradition. And in fact, very similar words are used every year: “never again”, “don’t be indifferent”, “this must not happen again”. And in fact, this world that goes on around us is one big contradiction.

According to director Stępiński, the anniversary should be important for “those young generations that are just growing up”. “It’s such a clear message of a tragedy that should never have happened. The tragedy that took place in Warsaw – he said.

About the silent resistance “hardly anyone has spoken so far”

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He reminded that the POLIN Museum is already on display the exhibition “A sea of ​​fire around us”, about what happened to the civilian population during the uprising. In his opinion, “hardly anyone has talked about their silent resistance so far.” The director said that he had been watching the exhibition for many days.

– And at first I had such a deep anxiety in me that we reach for fragments of memory, for very few texts from that period that have survived. And in fact, the strongest hit was when I heard the soundscape – he admitted. He added that in the headphones given to visitors, one can hear sounds reminiscent of those heard by those hiding in the ghetto: explosions, closing hatches, “terrible silence and loneliness” and “complete lack of hope of surviving”.

He recalled that on Tuesday he also participated in a touching ceremony – right next to the museum Krystyna Budnicka unveiled a square dedicated to the memory of her family. – Finally, she said that she had been waiting for this all her adult life. Because she could never bury her family, and this is very important in the Jewish religion – said Stępiński.

The exhibition “Sea of ​​Fire Around Us” is about civilians who put up passive resistanceTVN24

“The cure is education of the young generation”

He also talked about the present. – All over the world we are dealing with increasingly dangerous acts of anti-Semitism. And this is what Marian Turski was definitely talking about today. But really, I think the only cure for that is education. First of all, the young generation – noted the director.

As he assessed, “far too little” is still said about this topic in schools and the last living witnesses of history are not included in this education. People who miraculously survived the Holocaust and the ghetto.

He also recalled the words of Marek Edelman, who once said that “in order to understand the ghetto, you had to be in the ghetto”. Stępiński emphasized that “even people with a huge imagination cannot imagine the horrific conditions there.”

He said that at the time of the outbreak of the uprising, up to several dozen people were staying in the bunkers of the ghetto. They were united by one hope: that maybe it would work out. That maybe they will survive, – said the director. He added that the inhabitants of the ghetto also struggled with “extreme loneliness”, which no words can describe.

Main photo source: TVN2

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