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Poland Trip 2024 - Monday

Today we spent the entire day in Warsaw, exploring the history of Jews here before the Holocaust through modern day.

We started off with Tefilot at the Nozyk synagogue, the only pre-war shul still standing and in use in Warsaw. We heard from Rav Shai, a shaliach from Israel, about the state of Polish Jewry today. He explained that many Polish Jews have a very difficult relationship with the Holocaust because their only visitors come to see death, and neglect the life that is here today.

From there we went to the New Warsaw Museum, which artfully tells the story of Polish Jewry from the Middle Ages through the Holocaust. Since so much of our trip is focused on tragedy, it was very interesting to see how Jewish life developed despite many restrictions to Jewish growth.

Before we entered the museum, we spoke in depth about the Rappaport monument, erected in Warsaw in 1946, the first of its kind after the war. The monument depicts two narratives of the Jewish reaction to their tragedy in Warsaw. One side shows weakened Jews marching toward the deportation center in Warsaw where the Nazis shipped Jews to death camps, mainly Treblinka. The other depicts Jews facing outward, with strength and dignity, flames rising behind them. This side shows the bravery and conviction of the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Here we also spoke about Emanuel Ringelblum, a hero who established the Oneg Shabbat chronicle organization, which documented life in the Warsaw ghetto and stands as a crucial testimony to the horror of living there.

From the museum, we went to the Warsaw cemetery, which contains approximately 170,000 graves. There we spoke about Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netziv), Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, Y. L. Peretz, Stepha Vilchanske, and Adam Czerniakowa. Most of the figures we spoke about lived before the war—we enjoyed the opportunity to learn about Jewish life in Poland through these great Tzadikim and scholars.

We went on to the monument of the deportation center that stood by the ghetto. It was completely destroyed by the Germans during the war. From there we walked down Heroism Street; the path is home to many monuments for Jewish heroes, including a monument at the site of Mila 18, the headquarters of the Jewish resistance, who heroically rebelled against the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Such action was unheard of; the Jews across Europe were psychological slaves to the Nazi regime and couldn’t fathom resisting them.  

We ended our walk at the “Bet” Monument (ב). It was erected in 1946 as another commemoration of the tragedies in Warsaw. Shaped like the sewage lids resistance members used for smuggling, the symbolism of the letter “ב” can’t go unnoticed. Like “Bereishit,” the Jews who created this monument had to create from chaos. They were desperate to rebuild, create new homes, and have new children.

We ended our day with a meal at the Chabad of Warsaw and by traveling to Lomza.
By Katriel Camp