KRAKOW – Poland’s Jewish community is objecting to a plan to erect a monument to the Righteous Among the Nations in the center of Warsaw’s former Jewish Ghetto.
The controversy between the Jewish community and Warsaw authorities surfaced just days before the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which falls out on Friday.
Warsaw’s city council plans to erect the monument in question near the Museum of the History of Polish Jews – which is due to open on Friday, April 19 – and the monument to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto.
However, Jewish community leaders have opposed the plan because they believe it will infringe on the memory of murdered Jews.
Instead, they are asking that the proposed monument be placed at the edge of the ghetto.
“Poland is a long and wide country,” read a statement by Poland’s Center for Holocaust Research.
“There are enough places to erect a monument for the Righteous Among the Nations – let the Warsaw Ghetto remain an inviolate place dedicated to the memory of the murdered Jews. These few streets and squares are a one-of-akind place of memory where Jewish suffering should be honored above all, not Polish heroism.”
The statement was signed by Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Warsaw Jewish community; Jan Spiewak, president of the Polish Jewish Youth Organization; Piotr Wislicki, president of the Jewish Historical Institute Association; and Elzbieta Magenheim, president of the Second Generation Association- Descendants of Holocaust Survivors.
According to JTA, the Jewish community stated that it would never forget the Polish heroes who had risked their lives to bring aid to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. However, the statement continued, “we believe that this monument should not stand on the remains of those who were not rescued.”
Prof. Krzysztof Dunin-Wasowicz, a Polish historian who was awarded a Righteous Among the Nations medal, offered to situate the monument on the outskirts of the ghetto, near Murnawoski Street, where two Jewish teenagers raised a blue and white flag and the Polish flag in what became the symbol of the uprising.
“It should be a monument that will symbolize the generosity and dedication of a large part, though a minority, of Polish society,” said Dunin-Wasowicz.
Dr. August Grabski of Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute described the controversy between the city council and the Jewish community as “almost competitive bidding between the Polish and Jewish communities over the scale of their martyrdom during the Second World War.”