This was a somber day. I had been wanting to visit the sites that remembered Jews from WWII. The Jewish Ghetto is pretty much gone with the exception of a couple of wall remnants. We did not find these. The wall remnants near our apartment apparently are not parts of the Jewish Ghetto.
We did find a museum in the old Jewish Quarter. It turns out that the Ghetto covered 1.2 kilometers and held over 500,000 Jews. For some reason I had always thought that it covered just a few blocks, but it makes sense that it would cover such a large area. At 1.2 kilometers it was already teeming with people, disease and filth. If it had only been a few blocks, it would have been even more unbearable.
We found the site where the Jewish uprising was. It lasted for nearly a month from April to May of 1944. Thousands were killed. Bunkers had been created underground; the Germans found them and killed everyone. In the other bunkers people were buried alive. Those who were fighting the Nazis killed themselves rather than be captured by their enemies. The monuments were covered with love stones (the kind that were placed on Oskar Schindler’s grave at the end of Schindler’s List), along with candles, flowers and bouquets.
If you’ve ever watched the movie The Pianist, Adrien Brody plays a Jew who’s a piano player. He loses his family in the Holocaust but is saved by a Nazi who liked his music. He survives through the Holocaust. He is housed in an apartment that overlooks the area where the rebels were fighting the Jews. That is where we were.
We continued walking and found an incredible memorial called The Monument of the Murdered in the East. It consisted of a rail car filled with crosses. This particular memorial had me silent. After a day like today, it’s difficult to get excited over cuisine or architecture.
It’s ironic, but Barry and I found The Pianist on television the night before we visited these memorials. It was on the Polish equivalent of HBO, I guess. Anyway, we turned to it right when Adrien Brody’s Jewish family was waiting in a compound, waiting to be shipped to the gas chambers. I sat there watching and the irony was not lost on me. Here I was, in an apartment in Warsaw, Poland in 2014 watching a movie about the Holocaust set in Warsaw, Poland in the 1940’s. Watching the film had me choking back tears. There was something about seeing Roman Polanski’s depiction of the horror of the Holocaust and knowing it occurred only a few hundred yards from where I was sitting that shook me to my core.
And although I hate to pontificate on my blog, I can’t help but once again say how amazed I am at the depravity of the human mind. How people can humiliate, annihilate and eviscerate their fellow humans with no feeling whatsoever is lost on me. How a human can look at another human and decide that other human is
worthless, lower than an animal is unconscionable. I guess I will go to my grave never able to fully accommodate such vulgarity.