“Between Life and Death” Exhibition in Wrocław

Klara Jackl / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 13th April 2019
On 7th April 2019, the Official Opening took place of the exhibition “Between Life and Death – Stories of Rescue During the Holocaust” at the Centrum Historii Zajezdnia in Wrocław. The exhibition tells the stories of rescue during the Holocaust in ten European countries.

There is no future without remembrance. All activities which promote memory are essential to us. That which is happening in the world right now - the violence and the hatred that we see – all leads to what this exhibitions shows us. 

– Holocaust Survivor Elżbieta Ficowska, speaking at the Offical Opening.

Following Brussels, Amsterdam, Bratislava and Vilnius, Wrocław is the fifth city to  host the exhibition “Between Life and Death – Stories of Rescue During the Holocaust”. Numerous guests attended the Offical Opening at the Centrum Historii Zajezdnia. They included Elżbieta Ficowska, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto and one of the heroes of the exhibition. The Official Opening was accompanied by “Songs From the Ghetto”, a concert performed by Benta Kahan, one of Europe’s leading Jewish singers, Anna Błaut and Karstena Troyke. Speakers included the Centrum Historii Zajezdania Director, Dr. Marek Mutor and Prof. Jan Rydel, Co-ordinator of the European Remembrance and Solidarity Network. A video of the event can be viewed here.

The exhibition “Between Life and Death”

During the Holocaust, six million Jews died in German-occupied Europe. Confronted by mass crimes, civilians were faced with a difficult challenge – how to respond to these acts of genocide. Attitudes towards the Holocaust varied, but only a few decided to help persecuted Jews.

It tells of their experiences, efforts and motivations, It draws the viewer’s attention to acts of courage and to the will to survive. In an historical context, it shows the fates of heroes from Poland and also from eight other European countries – Croatia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Hungary.

The exhibition “Between Life and Death – Stories of Rescue During the Holocaust” presents stories of those who provided help and of those who received help. In an historical context, it describes their experiences, their efforts, their motivations, their acts of courage and their will to survive. It shows the fates of these heroes on Poland and in nine other European countries – Croatia, DenmarkFrancethe Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary.The exhibition shows the conditions within these countries under occupation. It also describes the multi-dimensional relationships and emotional ties that were born between the rescued and the rescuers.

Stories from occupied Poland

Part of the exhibition is devoted to stories of helping Jews in occupied Poland. It shows the story of Elżbieta Ficowska who, as an infant, was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto in a wooden box, covered over with bricks, to the “Aryan side”. The little girl was cared for by Stanisława Bussold, an associate of Irena Sendler

The dramatic fates of Jan and Aleksandra Gawrych and their children is also shown. They lived in the village of Wólka Czarnińska and hid Jews in their forester’s lodge. As a result of being denounced by a neighbour, the Gawrych home was burned down. Jan Gawrych and one of those in hiding – Tirca Zylberberg – were murdered. Years later, the Gawrych family were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations

Dad told us then that there were posters in Warsaw saying that helping Jews would result in the death penalty. And then you could hear shots. It was the Gestapo and the secret police. They shot Teresa in the yard. They took father away and killed him also. The house was in flames. A woman from the village had denounced us.

– Jadwiga Gawrych, daughter of Jan and Aleksandra, in an interview for POLIN Museum. Read her story »

The exhibition “Between Life and Death – Stories of Rescue During the Holocaust” was created by European Network Remembrance and Solidarity, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Silent Heroes Memorial Centre. To date, it has been shown in the Brussels headquarters of the European Commission, the Castrum Peregrini Cultural Centre in Amsterdam, the Bratyslava University Library and the Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius.

The exhibition can be viewed from 2nd to 30th April 2019 at the Centrum Historii Zajezdania in Wrocław, 184 Grabiszyńska Street. Admission is free. 

The exhibition is in the English language.

Below are links to the exhibition’s Official Openings in 2018 and 2019:

The European Commission in Brussels, 24/01/2018-06/03/2018 »

Castrum Peregrini in Amsterdam, 13/06-2018-15/08/2018 »

The University Library in Bratislava, 09/11/2018-29/11/2018 »

The Gaon Museum in Vilnius, 24/01/2019-17/03/2019 »

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Authors of the Exhibition: Dr. Martyna Grądzka-Rejak (ENRS) and Klara Jackl (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews), in cooperation with Marta Ansilewska-Lehnstaedt (Silent Heroes Memorial Centre)

Academic consultants: Dr. Aleksandra Namysło, Prof. Jan Rydel (ENRS), Dr. Piotr Trojański (ENRS), Prof. Johannes Tuchel (Silent Heroes Memorial Centre)

Organisers: European Network Remembrance and Solidarity, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Silent Heroes Memorial Centre in German Resistance Memorial Centre Foundation

Financial support: Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Federal Government Representative for Culture and Media (BKM)

Partners: Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, Memorial of Chambon-sur-Lignon, Mémorial de la Shoah, Danish Jewish Museum, "Tkuma” Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies, Castrum Peregrini, NIOD, the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk