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Bialystok. In the ruins of the Great Synagogue, she found fragments of the Torah. Her great-granddaughter donated them to the gallery

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In the Gallery of Sleńdziński in Białystok, you can see fragments of the Torah saved from the fire of the Great Synagogue, where hundreds of Jews were locked up there on June 27, 1941 by the Germans. A valuable memento of the synagogue was found in the ashes of the building by Grażyna Hajdul-Zielik’s great-grandmother, who, 82 years after those events, gave it to the museum staff.

– Until now, it was believed that no memorabilia from the Great Synagogue had survived. The two fragments of the Torah donated to the gallery are the first such artifacts, says Jolanta Szczygieł-Rogowska, director of the Galeria im. Sleńdziński in Bialystok.

It is there – specifically to the branch at ul. Waryńskiego 24 A, where Jewish culture is presented – two fragments of the Torah from the Great Synagogue burnt down in 1941. The artifacts were donated to the gallery by Grażyna Hajdul-Zielik. It was her great-grandmother who found them in the rubble of the building.

Two fragments of the Torah have been added to the gallery Gallery of the Sleńdzińskis

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When she found out that the synagogue was burning, she ran to look for her friend

Jolanta Szczygieł-Rogowska explains that Mrs. Grażyna’s great-grandmother had a Jewish friend who lived near the Great Synagogue. When she found out that the synagogue was on fire and there were people inside, she ran to look for her.

– The fact that she found these Torah fragments and picked them up from the ground was a great courage. For her, it was symbolic, it had a connection with a friend who probably died then – says Szczygieł-Rogowska.

He adds that subsequent generations of the family kept the fragments.

These are the only remnants of the burnt Great Synagogue Gallery of the Sleńdzińskis

– I am very happy that such an important thing has come to us, to the gallery, and we will be able to take care of it – emphasizes Szczygieł-Rogowska and points out that it is extremely important, not only for historical reasons, but also for emotional ones.

SEE ALSO: On the 80th anniversary of the Germans blowing up the Great Synagogue in Warsaw, they created a “living monument”

They trapped people inside and set fire to it

On Tuesday, June 27, the 82nd anniversary of the burning of the synagogue was celebrated in Białystok. At noon, flowers were laid by representatives of state and local authorities, the diplomatic corps, social organizations commemorating Jews and uniformed services at the monument commemorating those events.

Torah fragments have been preserved in good conditionGallery of the Sleńdzińskis

The day of June 27, 1941 was – as emphasized by historians – the beginning of the extermination of the Jewish population in Białystok. According to various accounts, German troops drove from about 600-700 to a thousand Jews to the Great Synagogue, trapped them inside and set fire to it. Germany they surrounded the building, shot at those fleeing. The fire spread to the entire center of Białystok, Jews were also killed in the streets, the district ceased to exist. Historians estimate that about 2,000 people died there on that day.

SEE ALSO: Amid barbed wire and apathy, they founded Radio Majdanek. “Let’s remember that tomorrow will be better”

The heroic deed of Józef Bartoszko and his wife

Józef Bartoszko, who together with his wife Julianna took care of the building of the Great Synagogue, showed great courage that day. They lived nearby and – although they were not Jews – they cleaned the temple, so they had the keys to it. After the Germans locked the entrances and the building burst into flames, they managed to open the door and save a dozen or so Jews.

In “Place” at ul. Modlińska 6, which is a recently opened mini-museum related to Jewish culture, you can see a comic book dedicated to Józef Bartoszko. There is also a photo of the burning synagogue.

In “Miejscu” you can see a photo of a burning synagogue and a comic book about Józef Bartoszko and his wife Tomasz Mikulicz

Main photo source: Gallery of the Sleńdzińskis

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