Re: How to set up memorial in Gnojnik, Poland #galicia


Roger Lustig
 

Dear Nancy:

This is going to the list, because it addresses an issue close to the hearts of
many of us.

I didn't put it there, and the place wasn't a shtetl, but I've been to the
dedication of a memorial in my father's home town of Gliwice (olim Gleiwitz). It
was a profoundly moving event, attended by many townsfolk, quite a few Jewish
former residents, the Israeli ambassador to Poland (Shevach Weiss), a
representative of the US Embassy, and many others. And, yes, it's a wall plaque.
Two, really: one is artistic and breathtaking in its appropriateness, for it
represents a burning scroll, the words ascending. (The memorial is next to the
ruined foundation of the synagogue that was destroyed on Reichskristallnacht.). The
other plaque gives an explanation and the URL of the memorial website:
http://www.jewishmemory.gliwice.pl/.

Turn the situation around: someone who, long ago, lived in your town, wants to set
up a memorial with official recognition and protection. (The latter is important:
there are idiots everywhere who will vandalize just about anything they can, just
because they can.) Think of the issues: either private or public property will be
involved; it will be a newsworthy event; the locals should be informed about the
memorial; and perhaps most of all--they should be given every opportunity to
understand its significance and become its supporters and protectors. After all,
you want the living to see, to remember, to tell others about this memorial, i.e.,
to make it a tool of remembrance.

I can tell that you've already thought about these issues, because you've asked to
hear the experiences of others. I hope I'm not the only one to respond to you, but
I can tell you what went before. My father did historical and genealogical
research in Gliwice on visits that spanned 15 years. Partly because of his efforts,
people began to realize the significance of the Jewish population of the city. He
did not live to attend the dedication, nor did he even know the memorial was
planned--it was dedicated 9 years after his last visit. But I doubt that the
event I attended on October 28, 2003 would have come to pass had he not done the
things he did.

Have you been to this town? If so, whom did you meet? Have you made an effort to
get to know people in the town's government? Remember: the memorial should be a
living thing, a gift >from people to people. Others will see it a million times
more often than you. Its success will be measured by the understanding and
righteous deeds that it inspires, and those deeds of other kinds that it deters.
Ideally, the day it is unveiled the people who live near it will consider it their
own.

How heavy a small piece of bronze can be! Find others to help you carry it.
Solicit people who came >from the town, or descendants of those who did, not only to
contribute to the memorial but to act as ambassadors and friends to the
inhabitants, to show that you and they care about the people who live there now and
not just those >from long ago; and that you wish to have this memorial be something
that you and they have in common.

And when you realize that all of the above is of little practical use, contact the
US Embassy in Warsaw. They won't be able to wave their hands and get the
requisite permissions just like that, but they'll know what's involved. As you
know, judging >from the wording of your query, this sort of thing has been done
before, and I'm sure that some installations have been more successful than others.

But one thing is certain: you'll do well to visit and visit again, and to learn
about Gnojnik today. A memorial is a bridge, and building a good one requires
knowing about both ends and all that lies between.

Roger Lustig

Nancy Fox wrote:

Dear Genners, if any of you have ever placed a small memorial (even wall plaque)
in your family's shtetl in Poland, would you kindly offer me some advice?
Please correspond with me directly.

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