A Polish Film Provides a New Perspective on the Warsaw Ghetto

Sept. 16 2019

Reviewing a new Polish documentary about the Warsaw Ghetto, titled Warsaw: A City Divided, Rokhl Kafrissen reflects on the lessons of a film she terms “remarkable”:

The ghetto was officially justified by the Nazis as a “public-health” measure, serving, they said, to protect the population from “disease-carrying Jews.” The exact placement of the walls was subject to haggling with city administrators who worried about things like traffic problems. It’s odd to think about traffic patterns in relation to the murder of Jews, but it reminds us that genocide was built on thousands of acts of seemingly mundane bureaucracy.

The Warsaw Ghetto was the first and largest ghetto established by the Nazis. After the Germans finally crushed the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising [in 1943], the ghetto was methodically razed, its building-by-building destruction meticulously documented by Nazi photographers and architects. Before the war, Warsaw had been the second-largest Jewish community in the world. At the end of the war, only a handful of its Jews were left alive. Today, only a few scattered pieces of the ghetto walls that imprisoned them still stand, including fragments between properties as well as the sections of the wall that were part of buildings.

Unlike Auschwitz or Dachau, the Warsaw Ghetto cannot be visited in any meaningful way. And yet, the ghetto looms large in Holocaust memory. The uprising there in 1943 is still the most famous act of Jewish resistance.

In addition to the newly discovered footage, [the film’s] writer and director, Eric Bednarski, uses a mix of archival documents, architectural plans, and, most movingly, eyewitness testimony. Irena Agata Boldok is a Jewish Warsaw resident who spent two years within the ghetto before escaping to the Aryan side. Bednarski films her in front of one of the most famous wall fragments, at Sienna Street, where a plaque commemorates the horrific events that took place inside the ghetto walls. “This was a street I was scared of, and I still am to this day. I’ve never walked this street without feeling afraid.” Boldok describes how after the war she returned, over and over, to this fragment, hoping to find the hole through which she and her mother had escaped. It’s a quietly devastating moment.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Film, Holocaust, Warsaw Ghetto

 

As World Leaders Gather to Remember the Holocaust, They Should Ask How Anti-Semitism Differs from Ordinary Hatreds

Jan. 22 2020

Today, an international conference titled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Anti-Semitism” opens in Jerusalem, attended by representatives from some 40 governments, including the presidents of France, Russia, and Italy and the vice-president of the United States. While ample attention will no doubt be paid to the anti-Semitism of the extreme right, Fiamma Nirenstein fears that less will be paid to that of the left, and still less to the Islamic variety. She also fears that those in attendance will give in to a related, and dangerous, temptation to subsume anti-Semitism into an amorphous “hatred”:

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Intersectionality, Radical Islam