79th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
“The ghetto was not just dirt, stench and poverty, and killing. It also had a normal life. Under cruel conditions, well-hidden, behind walls, from the rest of society, a real everyday life took place – ghetto inhabitants could rise above the reality of occupation. How people lived in this closed city of half a million should be widely known – not just how they had their heads cut off. It is necessary to show the other side – the humanity which, in their misfortune, they did not lose. The greatness of the people in the ghetto was that, in cruel conditions, they knew how to love and they knew how to devote themselves to others.
[…] Life alone in the ghetto was impossible – it was impossible to survive and remain human. It was always necessary to be in a couple, in the sense that you needed someone with you who thinks the same as you, who is drawn to you just as you are drawn to them. For whom you would do anything and they for you. That is love.”Marek Edelman, Paulina Sawicka, I była miłość w getcie, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2015.
Love is the theme of the 10th Daffodil Campaign, organised by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, as part of the 79th annivsary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
When we try to imagine what Jews, confined into ghettos, experienced, we usually think of suffering, fear, loneliness and resignation. But, as Marek Edelman, a witness to history, emphasised, in this tragic situation, there was also a great amount of room for feelings – feelings that were opposed to the nightmarish reality of a closed-off neighourhood – friendship, devotion and even love.
They appeared in various forms – from paternal and fraternal manifested through care and devotion to loved ones, through to romantic, illuminating the long months of being in a dangerous, abnormal situation.
Learn the story of survivor Alina Margolis-Edelman and the fate of Stanisław Chmielewski and Władysław Bergman
In the POLIN Museum, through the stories of various figures, Poles and Jews, we show the different faces of love and what they meant in the Warsaw Ghetto – and what they mean today – mutual care, tenderness and sensitivity to the needs of others and also what can harm them:
- Anna Braude-Heller, director and head of the infants ward in the hospital located in the ghetto, who remained with her patients until the end of her life;
- Alina Margolis-Edelman, doctor, social activist, participant in the Warsaw Uprising, founder of the Polish “Nobody's Children” Foundation, wife of Marek Edelman;
- Stefania Wilczyńska, educator and founder of the Orphans' Home for Jewish children in Warsaw, who perished in Treblinka, together with her pupils;
- Miriam Ajzensztadt, who, with her singing, raised the spirits of those imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto;
- Pola Lifszyc, a teenager who ran a children's theatre in the ghetto. Not wishing to be separated from her mother, she volunarily went to the Umschlagplatz and boarded the train going to the extermination camp;
- Cywia Lubetkin and Icchaka Cukiermana, Zionist activists, initiators of the Anti-Fascist Bloc and the Jewish Fighting Organisation (ŻOB), fighters in the Warsaw ghetto and, after the War, co-founders of the Ghetto Fighters Museum;
- Geli Seksztajn and Izrael Lichtensztajn, painter and teacher, who co-created the underground Oneg Shabbat Archive, parents of littlej Margelit;
- Irena Sendler, head of the children's section of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews, and her partner Adam Celnikier (Stefan Zgrzembsk), whom Sendler led out of the ghetto;
- Stanisław Chmielewski, who helped over twenty Jewish men and women, as part of a promise he made to his beloved Władysław Bergman.
From 18th to 30th April, at the Centrum Metro station in Warsaw, you can view a mural commemorating these people. Special attention is drawn to Alina Margolis-Edelman, who survived the Holocaust with the help of Wincenty and Zofia Tomaszewicz, honoured, in 2017, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations; also Stanisław Chmielewski and Irena Sendler. With secondary students in mind, Anna Bikont prepared a reportage for secondary schools, in which she introduces the figures of Irena Sendler and her relationship with Adam Celnikier.
Ghetto survivors also talked about love, mutual care and sacrifice for those closest to them. Interviews with witnesses to history are now available on our new channel Oral History / the POLIN Museum Collection in the WARSAW GHETTO WITNESSES section.
The full program commemorating the 79th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – organised by the POLIN Museum
On 19th April, thousands of POLIN Museum volunteers will take to the streets of Warsaw and hand out paper daffodils to passers-by. The daffodil is a symbol of memory of the heroes and heroines of the ghetto uprising. This year, we hope to distribute 368,000 paper flowers. This number symbolises the number of Jews living in Warsaw prior to the outbreak of World War II.
This year's program, organised by the POLIN Museum, includes the drama “Mama Always Comes Back” (dir. M. Kalita), based on the book by Agata Tuszyńska, who tells the story, in a very poignant way, of three-year-old Zosia Zajczyk, hidden for three months, by her mother, in the ghetto. Today, with the war in Ukraine, how many children need to go into hiding? Will they be able to repeat the play's title – that their mother will always come back?
Information about the full POLIN Museum program and daffodil campaign, commemorating the 79th anniversay of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, can be found here: Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN.
We encourage you to post your daffodils photos onto social media. Remember the hashtags: #ŁączyNasPamięć and #AkcjaŻonkile, and also the profile @polinmuseum.