80th Anniversary of the Sealing of the Warsaw Ghetto

Redakcja / Editorial staff / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 21 November 2020
The 80th anniversary of the sealing off of the Warsaw Ghetto falls on 16th November 2020. In November 1940, the Germans totally isolated Warsaw's Jews from the rest of society and any attempt to cross the wall without a pass was severely punished. To mark the anniversary, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews has prepared a varied program of online events between 15th and 19th November. In particular, we encourage you to view our projects published on our Polish Righteous Portal.

“We have occupied the same room now for almost a year – it’s spacious and quite decent, furnished and equipped with various necessary accessories [...]. I won’t paint a picture for you of how I feel. You believe that we’ll see each other again, so let’s talk about it in detail then. It’s really hard for me to believe in that, even though the hope of meeting you is the only joyful event which I can expect in my life.”

The author of this letter, Regina Justman, wrote these words shortly after the sealing off of the Warsaw Ghetto i nDecember 1940. It is one of the many testimonies, regarding life in the ghetto, from the collection of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Over the coming days, to mark the 80th anniversary of the sealing of the Warsaw Ghetto, more letters, sent from the Warsaw Ghetto to relatives in the USSR, will become available.

Commemorative Program: a lecture, an academic conference and discussions

The program of events, prepared by POLIN Museum, will commence of 15th November, with an online lecture by Prof. Jacek Leociak on the subject of life in the ghetto, located in the former Northern District and currently Muranów – where POLIN Museum is located today.

On 16th November, together with the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland, IFIS PAN’s Centre for Holocaust Research and the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv, we will present an online academic conference on the subject “The news came like a bolt from the blue.” 80th Anniversary of Sealing Off the Warsaw Ghetto. The conference will be broadcast online on POLIN Museum website and on the websites of the co-organisers, as well as on POLIN Museum’s YouTube channel.

Our commemorative program also offers two online discussions. 

On 17th November, we invite you to a debate on the subject “Plans for Waliców. The Memory of a Place Within a Modern City”, organised together with the City of Warsaw’s Economic Development Office and the Warsaw branch of the Association of Polish Architects. Should the tenement, on Waliców Street in Warsaw, which during German occupation was inside the ghetto’s borders, be given a second life? How should we reconcile the multi-threaded heritage of this place with the needs of a modern metropolis? We meet to talk about the plans, for Waliców, of Warsaw’s municipal authorities.

In the second online discussion, we will ask questions about Muranów. Can one live happily in a place marked by such a tragic history? Does history influence our contented lives and how? Is Muranów perhaps a tragic place, a cursed, marked and dead place? These topics will be discussed on 19th November during the discussion entitled “Is It Possible to be Happy in Muranów?”. Participants will include Monika Tutak-Goll, Patrycja Dołowa and Cezary Harasimowicz and will be moderated by Remigiusz Grzela.

The discussion will be broadcast on POLIN Museum’s Facebook page.

In addition, as part of the commemorations, our Virtual Shtetl portal will publish relevant articles and archival photographs, and the Museum’s website will feature selected objects from the Museum’s collection, including letters written from the Warsaw Ghetto. 

Stories of Survivors on the Polish Righteous Portal

To mark the anniversary, our Polish Righteous portal will feature selected stories of Jewish survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto. 

We also encourage you to read the, hitherto unknown, story of Joanna Flatau. For the first time, her story will be told in the film Form (dir. Filip Flatau, France, 2020, 53 min.). The Polish premiere of this documentary will take place at 8:00 pm on 18th November during the 18th Jewish Film Festival, the main patron of which is the POLIN Museum. Learn more about the film’s screening and about discussions with those in the film and with the filmmakers [»].

It is entitled Form, being a Yad Vashem Institute form which was filled in by the son of the Holocaust Survivor to honour the Polish family with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Only when filling out the form does Joanna Flatau begin talking about her past. Together with her son Filip, she decides to go to Poland, following the events of eighty years earlier.

Thhis free-of-charge program is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, through the EOG Foundation and from state budgets.