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Warsaw. Photos from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A film found in the attic

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After nearly 80 years, original films from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising with photographs by Zbigniew Leszek Grzywaczewski were found in the family collection. They will soon be on display at the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Museum professionals emphasize that the discovery is of great importance, because these are the only known photos from the ghetto during the uprising that were not taken by the Germans.

Film containing photographs from the Warsaw Ghetto was found after 80 years. The authors of the exhibition “Sea of ​​Fire Around Us. The Fate of Jewish Civilians During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising” were looking for photos. The author’s son looked through his father’s entire photographic archive at their request.

A box found in the attic

– From the very beginning it was more or less clear what kind of photos to look for. Maciej Grzywaczewski knew that his father had taken these photos during the Uprising, but he did not know that he also had original material, i.e. films. This is a new find – explained Olga Kaliszewska from the press office of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. He found the film only in the last box he looked into, in the attic of his sister’s apartment.

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It contained a set of photographs taken during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Their author is Zbigniew Leszek Grzywaczewski, who during the war – at the age of 23 – served in the Warsaw Fire Department. Then the Germans sent firemen to the burning ghetto, they were to make sure that the fire did not spread to the houses on the “Aryan” side.

The image is sometimes blurred, recorded in a hurry, hidden, partially obscured by the elements of the immediate surroundings: the window frame, the wall of the building or standing figures of people. The photos, while imperfect, are priceless. As museum workers emphasize, these are the only known photos taken inside the ghetto during the uprising that were not taken by the Germans.

Jews led to the Umschlagplatz, photo taken through the window of St. Zofia, at the intersection of ul. Żelazna and NowolipieZL Grzywaczewski / from the family archive of M. Grzywaczewski / photo from the negative: MHPJ Polin

Several prints are in Washington

In total, the negatives contain 48 shots, and 33 of them show the ghetto. 12 photos were known to Holocaust researchers, but have survived only as prints and are stored at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. It had already been established that their author was Zbigniew Leszek Grzywaczewski, hence the idea to ask his son to check if anything else had survived.

The order of the photos on the film shows that the author entered the ghetto with a camera more than once. The light intensity in the photos shows that they were taken at different times of the day and in different weather. Frames from the ghetto are separated by images from a walk in Ujazdowski Park.

Many frames are a sequence of similar shots, in particular burning buildings, the ghetto wall and people led to the Umschlagplatz. “These are the views of smoke over the ghetto, in its streets and backyards, burned-out houses, firefighters putting out the fire, standing on the roof of the house and eating a meal from metal canteens in the street. It seems that Leszek Grzywaczewski tried to record these scenes as best as possible, realizing from the importance of documentation of events inaccessible to the eyes of people on the other side of the ghetto wall.

Films by Zbigniew Grzywaczewski from the Warsaw GhettoM. JAŹWIECKI / MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF POLISH JEWS

They will all go to the exhibition

The photos will be presented at the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews at the exhibition “Sea of ​​Fire Around Us”, which will open on April 18. – We will show film as the original material from which prints and copies were made in subsequent years. Some of them circulated around the world in publications and exhibitions. Finding their negatives is like getting to the source – the first record containing all the shots, showing the sequence of their recording.

Photographs from the film also reveal what could not be seen in the previously shown photos. They show new details and fragments of the image that was cut off on the prints. “The history of the author of the photographs and the circumstances of their taking are equally important. Knowledge about the context of the creation of this material enables its understanding and perception as a testimony that goes beyond the record of images from the uprising” – describe the museologists.

A firefighter with a passion for photography

Zbigniew Leszek Grzywaczewski worked in the Warsaw Fire Department from 1941. His passion was photography. Throughout the occupation, he took pictures, including photographs during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. He spent almost four weeks there: most likely from April 21 to May 15, 1943. He was also a soldier of the Home Army. He was a participant in the Warsaw Uprising, during which he was wounded in the leg.

After the end of the war, he worked in the fire brigade in Katowice. Then he graduated from the Faculty of Shipbuilding at the Gdańsk University of Technology. Then he also worked, among others in the Polish Register of Shipping and the Maritime Institute.

Recently, we wrote on tvnwarszawa.pl about unknown photos of Warsaw from the 1930s>>>

The Northern District in the photos of a French veteranThe Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, The National Library of Israel

Main photo source: ZL Grzywaczewski / from the family archive of M. Grzywaczewski / photo from the negative: MHPJ Polin

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