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Warsaw. Archaeologists in the former ghetto. They dug up a baby bootie

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A children’s shoe, probably belonging to a 10-year-old girl, and other everyday items as well as surviving pages of books in Hebrew and Polish. These are only some of the items that were found during the work of archaeologists in the former ghetto. Researchers are also inviting volunteers who will help to recover and restore the memory of a place on the map of Warsaw, affected by a tragic history.

Archaeological research is carried out in the ghetto and has been going on for a month now. Christopher Newport University and Akademia im. Aleksandra Gieysztora in Pułtusk – a branch of AFiB Vistula. It is an area in the Miła, Dubois, Niska and Karmelicka quarter in Muranów. They are conducted under the supervision of Dr. Jacek Konik, who is an archaeologist and historian from the Warsaw Ghetto Museum.

Why did researchers enter this area? – This place is special because of the history that took place here in 1943. Our excavations are in the immediate vicinity of the so-called The Anielewicz Mound, which was built in the place where, at the pre-war address of Miła 18, there was the so-called the bunker of the Jewish Combat Organization – Konik explained in an interview with tvnwarszawa.pl. He added that the bunker was the headquarters of the organization’s staff during the ghetto uprising. – Here, the soldiers of the Jewish Combat Organization, surrounded by Germans, most likely committed mass suicide. Only a small group of people survived, he reminded.

He also described that the bunker itself was very large, with six entrances. He also explained that the research project does not concern the mound itself, because it is a grave. – We are digging in the immediate vicinity, in the area where Muranowska Street was located before the war. The tenement houses which had their entrances from Miła Street also had their entrances from Muranowska Street, which then ran parallel to Miła Street. Our excavation is located “astride” on both of these tenement houses, ie 39 and 41 Muranowska Street, ie Miła 18 and 20 (former – ed.) – he mentioned.

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Researchers want to collect information about how people lived in this place. – These are tenement houses from the second half of the 19th century, a fragment of old Warsaw. We want to learn about the life of people in the ghetto through found artifacts – described Konik.

Dr. Jacek KonikRobert Wilczyński, Museum of the Warsaw Ghetto

The pages of books survived in the thick layer of the burn

By the way, archaeologists want to verify the possible range of the bunker. 18 Miła Street was to be a kind of its center. – It also stretched under other tenement houses. And it had six entrances in different directions. We probably found the remains of one of the entrances – described the researcher. He also added that so far it has been possible to go down to the level of the basement floor of the buildings that stood there. – We found remains of a structure made of concrete there. In our opinion – as can be seen from the descriptions and reports – this particular bunker. In the basement, we found a lot of everyday objects of the people who lived here. From tableware to stationery items. We also found testimonies of the events that took place here. For example, in one of the rooms there were the remains of a burnt library. In fact, the pages of books were left in a thick layer of burn. We managed to recover some of them. It turned out that after the charred pages came into contact with air, letters appeared – he described.

Archaeologists were able to initially verify what kind of literature they are dealing with. As Konik mentioned, these are texts in Hebrew – probably fragments of the Talmud. – We also managed to identify a Jewish prayer book, and on the same shelf there was a novel in Polish, but we do not know yet what the novel is. The surviving fragments are too small to tell so quickly what exactly it is – he pointed out.

Children’s shoe – a symbol of the tragedy

During the research, it was also possible to find a children’s shoe, which – as Konik put it – is “a symbol of this place and the whole tragedy that happened here – both in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 and later in 1944 throughout Warsaw”. – He is a symbol of all children who have not been allowed to grow up. It wasn’t the only shoe found there, however. Objects of this type are already undergoing maintenance as soon as possible – he assured.

Also enthusiasts, volunteers willing to work in the excavation can take part in the research of this place. A group of archaeologists will help them on the spot and show to what extent they can help. – Anyone who is interested in research and who has a good will can come. Anyone who would like to help recover and restore memory. We treat it as a kind of social obligation so that as many people as possible, who may not necessarily be professional archaeologists, see and understand what kind of history we are dealing with. Because this is the story that affects us directly – concluded Konik.

Willing volunteers can apply to the following address: jkonik@1943.pl or b.jozefow-czerwinska@vistula.edu.pl

The works will last until the end of July.

Main photo source: Robert Wilczyński, Museum of the Warsaw Ghetto

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