๐‰๐ž๐ฐ๐ข๐ฌ๐ก๐†๐ž๐ง ๐…๐ฎ๐ญ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž ๐’๐œ๐ก๐จ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ๐ฌ ๐…๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฐ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ - ๐ƒ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ‘ ๐‘๐ž๐œ๐š๐ฉ #JewishGenUpdates #poland


Avraham Groll
 

๐‰๐ž๐ฐ๐ข๐ฌ๐ก๐†๐ž๐ง ๐…๐ฎ๐ญ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž ๐’๐œ๐ก๐จ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ๐ฌ ๐…๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฐ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ - ๐ƒ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ‘ ๐‘๐ž๐œ๐š๐ฉ
๐‘Š๐‘’ ๐‘—๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘›๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘š ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘“๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘”โ„Ž๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘ ๐‘ข๐‘๐‘๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘“๐‘ข๐‘™ ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž๐บ๐‘’๐‘› ๐น๐‘ข๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘†๐‘โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘  ๐น๐‘’๐‘™๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘š, ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘ข๐‘๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐น๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘’๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž ๐ป๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘’ ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘€๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘ง๐‘’๐‘ฃ๐‘Žโ„Ž ๐น๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›, ๐ผ๐‘›๐‘.
๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘š ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘”๐‘›๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘๐‘–๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘”๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘“๐‘ข๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘™๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘› ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ฃ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘š๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก. ๐น๐‘œ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘, ๐‘ค๐‘’ ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘’๐‘˜ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘’๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘, ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘๐‘’ โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘š๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘› โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘“ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘ค๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘‘ ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ, ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘ฆ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘ข๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘’.
๐‘†๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘Š๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘›๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ, ๐ฝ๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘ฆ 20๐‘กโ„Ž, ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ ๐น๐‘’๐‘™๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘  ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘๐‘™๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž ๐‘Ž ๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ-๐‘๐‘ฆ-๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ (๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘“๐‘™๐‘’๐‘๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ ) ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘›๐‘‘ 10-๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ ๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘.
๐ƒ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ‘: ๐–๐š๐ซ๐ฌ๐š๐ฐ, ๐Œ๐š๐ฃ๐๐š๐ง๐ž๐ค, ๐‹๐ฎ๐›๐ฅ๐ข๐ง
๐๐ฒ ๐„๐ซ๐ข๐œ ๐‰๐จ๐ฌ๐ก๐ฎ๐š ๐‘๐ž๐ฌ๐ง๐ข๐œ๐ค
Thursday marked the first full day that all eight Fellows and our respective group leaders were together and able to collectively experience a more in-depth context of what it means to be a Polish Jew; how we got here, how we grew, how we acclimated to non-Jewish rulership, how we became a resilient people, how we navigate the present, and how we can work towards a more inclusive future.
While our tour of the Majdanek concentration and extermination camp seemed to become the main talking point of the next several days, our day began in Warsaw with an amazing visit to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. A striking architectural gesture to the history of Polish Jews, the POLIN Museum is located in what was once a thriving Jewish district, the district that was eventually demarcated as the Warsaw Ghetto. The POLIN Museum provides a forum to establish a connection between the history of the Jewish people and Poland, curating difficult histories in a way that can be understood by children and adults alike.
I wonโ€™t recap every exhibit and artifact that the POLIN Museum offered, but I will emphasize that the museumโ€™s use of historical narrative, artifacts, and interactive exhibits helped to curate the history of Polish Jews from the pre-medieval era to present, providing a context that enforces the fact that Jewish history is Polish history. Jews were integral in the settlement, construction, and growth of cities and towns throughout Poland, finding balance between civic life and religious practice. I found it quite inspiring that the museum focused on the genealogical story and cultural growth of Polish Jews, and despite a chronic history of exclusion and exile, the museum perpetuated a story about resilience and growth rather than defeat. Even more apt is that the museumโ€™s research center actively connects with the Jewish community to maintain and preserve both the historical and contemporary Jewish story.
The POLIN Museum provided a historical context that strengthened our sense of belonging in our ancestral lands, but our โ€œnewโ€ perceptions were soon to be challenged. We departed sunny Warsaw for Lublin, and several hours later the lifeless fields and remaining barbed wire fence of Majdanek appeared on the horizon, creating a stark contrast to its otherwise suburban context. This concentration turned extermination camp was not hidden or remote, but it was in clear sight of its residential neighbors. As a site of memorialization and learning, The State Museum at Majdanek is unique in that it remains as one of the most well preserved concentration turned extermination camps in Poland, providing tangible evidence to the atrocities committed to both Jews and non-Jews during the Shoah.
Personally, I did not know what to expect upon our arrival at Majdanek as this was the first concentration camp that my grandfather was sent to. When he arrived in the summer of 1943, he had already been separated from his family and survived both the Grodno and Bialystok Ghettoโ€™s. Would I be upset, angry, or hopeful? Would tears come to my eyes because of the torture my grandfather endured or would I rejoice in knowing he survived and I could now honor his memory by walking as a free Jew in Poland? What about the others, those who were not given a chance at life and instead were sent directly to the gas chambers? How would I sympathize with those who I did not know, despite the fact that a majority of my family suffered a similar fate at other extermination camps?
Our entry through the main gates was rather tranquil; a Soviet-era concrete memorial cantilevers over a stone plinth, but this is not how the victims entered the camp. Victims were transported via train, dropped off at a platform near the Flugplatz camp (a local airfield), and forced to march several kilometers to the sorting square at the camp. Hardly a traditional European square, this small plot of land beside the processing barracks was the first step in determining whether you were disinfected and sent to a โ€œliving barrackโ€ or detained to be executed by rifle or gas chamber. The intense emotions of this moment overcame me yet I chose to hold my composure, picturing my grandfather on these very grounds 79 years to the month. Despite the weather being overcast, the heat of the sun still cut through the clouds; did he experience the same sensations? Did he know if he would feel sunshine ever again?
Once sorted, victims would be sent to the processing barracks; females to the left and males to the right. Upon entering the processing barrack, his story came to life; the rooms where possessions were removed and prisoners shaved, followed by the disinfecting baths and showers. I remember his descriptions of how the disinfectant burned his eyes, how the showers blasted extremely hot water followed by extremely cold. How could this be real? How could one human devise a plan so inhumane and convince others to implement it? How did my grandfather and others survive? Could he โ€” or any of the survivors โ€” foresee that their kin would return to this very spot, 79 years later? Imagine if they knew at that very moment that, in the future, their kin would return as academics and intellectuals, seeking the truth, reconciliation, and healing. While this perspective provides hope, those that were deemed incapable of work were sent further into the barrack. An exit at the rear led to a brief moment of fresh air, quickly followed by entry into the concrete chambers where Zyklon B and carbon monoxide would be used to asphyxiate men, women, and children.
While it is inevitable that structures were modified and reconstructed in order to maintain a more accurate depiction of Majdanek, the flora and fauna โ€” native plantings, trees, birds, etc โ€” remain untouched. Perhaps thatโ€™s what was most painful yet inspiring; seeing the cabbage like weeds my grandfather picked for added sustenance, juxtaposed with the white and lavender perennials that inevitably come back year after year, regardless of war or peace. The work barracks have since been converted as exhibition spaces, and the living barracks of Field Three are preserved to depict the inhumane living conditions endured โ€” barracks meant for 250 often housed up to 1000. By the time we arrived at the crematorium our group had begun to reflect individually; some of us were reticent, others mournful, and a few seeking more answers. For me, the crematorium was a reminder that the Shoah was an attempt to completely eliminate any evidence of Jews โ€” as well as millions of non-Jews โ€” from the historical timeline, yet there was a poetic moment; if one made it to the crematorium, they no longer had to suffer.
At the conclusion of the tour there was a memorial to the 18,400 Jews of Lublin and Majdanek murdered during the โ€œharvest festivalโ€ in November of 1943, a fraction of the 42,000 murders that occurred in the region within the two-day span โ€” my grandfather was transferred from Majdanek to Blizyn two months earlier by chance. The topographic depressions of the mass graves and the brutalist architecture of the Mausoleum Memorial โ€” a semi-domed concrete structure covering a mound of ashes โ€” remain as markers to indicate the final resting place for those that were unjustly murdered. Their voices were taken, but we can โ€” and must โ€” preserve their memory.
๐€๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ ๐„๐ซ๐ข๐œ ๐‰๐จ๐ฌ๐ก๐ฎ๐š ๐‘๐ž๐ฌ๐ง๐ข๐œ๐ค
Eric Joshua Resnick is pursuing a dual degree in historic preservation and architecture at the University of Maryland. This is his second career path as his original career was in concert production. He currently resides outside of Washington, DC but is originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey. He grew up very close to his Grandfather and has always sought ways to learn more about his lineage, especially as a Jewish American with ancestry in Poland. Outside of academics and professional life, he enjoys spending time outside, playing music, attending concerts and baseball games, trying new cuisine, and exploring the DC region with his partner and dog.
๐‚๐ก๐ž๐œ๐ค ๐›๐š๐œ๐ค ๐ญ๐จ๐ฆ๐จ๐ซ๐ซ๐จ๐ฐ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ƒ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ’ ๐ซ๐ž๐œ๐š๐ฉ.
Some photos are available here.


Yvonne Airey
 

Thank You! Eric Joshua Resnick for a very vivid, yet sensitive, report. You were very brave to go there. I am so glad your grandfather escaped death there.
Yvonne Airey.


On Fri, 22 Jul 2022 at 06:54, Avraham Groll <agroll@...> wrote:
๐‰๐ž๐ฐ๐ข๐ฌ๐ก๐†๐ž๐ง ๐…๐ฎ๐ญ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž ๐’๐œ๐ก๐จ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ๐ฌ ๐…๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฐ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ - ๐ƒ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ‘ ๐‘๐ž๐œ๐š๐ฉ
๐‘Š๐‘’ ๐‘—๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘›๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘š ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘“๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘”โ„Ž๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘ ๐‘ข๐‘๐‘๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ ๐‘“๐‘ข๐‘™ ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž๐บ๐‘’๐‘› ๐น๐‘ข๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘†๐‘โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘  ๐น๐‘’๐‘™๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘š, ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘ข๐‘๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘กโ„Ž ๐น๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘’๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž ๐ป๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘’ ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘€๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘ง๐‘’๐‘ฃ๐‘Žโ„Ž ๐น๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›, ๐ผ๐‘›๐‘.
๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘š ๐‘–๐‘  ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘”๐‘›๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘๐‘–๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘”๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘“๐‘ข๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘™๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘› ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ฃ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘ฃ๐‘’๐‘š๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก. ๐น๐‘œ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘, ๐‘ค๐‘’ ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘’๐‘˜ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘’๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘  ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘–๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘ƒ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘, ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘๐‘’ โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘š๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘› โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘“ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘ค๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘‘ ๐ฝ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ, ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ โ„Ž๐‘–๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘”๐‘Ž๐‘ฃ๐‘’ ๐‘ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘”๐‘’๐‘›๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘”๐‘ฆ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ ๐‘ก ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘ข๐‘ก๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘’.
๐‘†๐‘ก๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘Š๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘›๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ, ๐ฝ๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘ฆ 20๐‘กโ„Ž, ๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ ๐น๐‘’๐‘™๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘  ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘๐‘™๐‘–๐‘ โ„Ž ๐‘Ž ๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ-๐‘๐‘ฆ-๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ (๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘™ ๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘“๐‘™๐‘’๐‘๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ ) ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘Ÿ๐‘™๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘›๐‘‘ 10-๐‘‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ ๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘.
๐ƒ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ‘: ๐–๐š๐ซ๐ฌ๐š๐ฐ, ๐Œ๐š๐ฃ๐๐š๐ง๐ž๐ค, ๐‹๐ฎ๐›๐ฅ๐ข๐ง
๐๐ฒ ๐„๐ซ๐ข๐œ ๐‰๐จ๐ฌ๐ก๐ฎ๐š ๐‘๐ž๐ฌ๐ง๐ข๐œ๐ค
Thursday marked the first full day that all eight Fellows and our respective group leaders were together and able to collectively experience a more in-depth context of what it means to be a Polish Jew; how we got here, how we grew, how we acclimated to non-Jewish rulership, how we became a resilient people, how we navigate the present, and how we can work towards a more inclusive future.
While our tour of the Majdanek concentration and extermination camp seemed to become the main talking point of the next several days, our day began in Warsaw with an amazing visit to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. A striking architectural gesture to the history of Polish Jews, the POLIN Museum is located in what was once a thriving Jewish district, the district that was eventually demarcated as the Warsaw Ghetto. The POLIN Museum provides a forum to establish a connection between the history of the Jewish people and Poland, curating difficult histories in a way that can be understood by children and adults alike.
I wonโ€™t recap every exhibit and artifact that the POLIN Museum offered, but I will emphasize that the museumโ€™s use of historical narrative, artifacts, and interactive exhibits helped to curate the history of Polish Jews from the pre-medieval era to present, providing a context that enforces the fact that Jewish history is Polish history. Jews were integral in the settlement, construction, and growth of cities and towns throughout Poland, finding balance between civic life and religious practice. I found it quite inspiring that the museum focused on the genealogical story and cultural growth of Polish Jews, and despite a chronic history of exclusion and exile, the museum perpetuated a story about resilience and growth rather than defeat. Even more apt is that the museumโ€™s research center actively connects with the Jewish community to maintain and preserve both the historical and contemporary Jewish story.
The POLIN Museum provided a historical context that strengthened our sense of belonging in our ancestral lands, but our โ€œnewโ€ perceptions were soon to be challenged. We departed sunny Warsaw for Lublin, and several hours later the lifeless fields and remaining barbed wire fence of Majdanek appeared on the horizon, creating a stark contrast to its otherwise suburban context. This concentration turned extermination camp was not hidden or remote, but it was in clear sight of its residential neighbors. As a site of memorialization and learning, The State Museum at Majdanek is unique in that it remains as one of the most well preserved concentration turned extermination camps in Poland, providing tangible evidence to the atrocities committed to both Jews and non-Jews during the Shoah.
Personally, I did not know what to expect upon our arrival at Majdanek as this was the first concentration camp that my grandfather was sent to. When he arrived in the summer of 1943, he had already been separated from his family and survived both the Grodno and Bialystok Ghettoโ€™s. Would I be upset, angry, or hopeful? Would tears come to my eyes because of the torture my grandfather endured or would I rejoice in knowing he survived and I could now honor his memory by walking as a free Jew in Poland? What about the others, those who were not given a chance at life and instead were sent directly to the gas chambers? How would I sympathize with those who I did not know, despite the fact that a majority of my family suffered a similar fate at other extermination camps?
Our entry through the main gates was rather tranquil; a Soviet-era concrete memorial cantilevers over a stone plinth, but this is not how the victims entered the camp. Victims were transported via train, dropped off at a platform near the Flugplatz camp (a local airfield), and forced to march several kilometers to the sorting square at the camp. Hardly a traditional European square, this small plot of land beside the processing barracks was the first step in determining whether you were disinfected and sent to a โ€œliving barrackโ€ or detained to be executed by rifle or gas chamber. The intense emotions of this moment overcame me yet I chose to hold my composure, picturing my grandfather on these very grounds 79 years to the month. Despite the weather being overcast, the heat of the sun still cut through the clouds; did he experience the same sensations? Did he know if he would feel sunshine ever again?
Once sorted, victims would be sent to the processing barracks; females to the left and males to the right. Upon entering the processing barrack, his story came to life; the rooms where possessions were removed and prisoners shaved, followed by the disinfecting baths and showers. I remember his descriptions of how the disinfectant burned his eyes, how the showers blasted extremely hot water followed by extremely cold. How could this be real? How could one human devise a plan so inhumane and convince others to implement it? How did my grandfather and others survive? Could he โ€” or any of the survivors โ€” foresee that their kin would return to this very spot, 79 years later? Imagine if they knew at that very moment that, in the future, their kin would return as academics and intellectuals, seeking the truth, reconciliation, and healing. While this perspective provides hope, those that were deemed incapable of work were sent further into the barrack. An exit at the rear led to a brief moment of fresh air, quickly followed by entry into the concrete chambers where Zyklon B and carbon monoxide would be used to asphyxiate men, women, and children.
While it is inevitable that structures were modified and reconstructed in order to maintain a more accurate depiction of Majdanek, the flora and fauna โ€” native plantings, trees, birds, etc โ€” remain untouched. Perhaps thatโ€™s what was most painful yet inspiring; seeing the cabbage like weeds my grandfather picked for added sustenance, juxtaposed with the white and lavender perennials that inevitably come back year after year, regardless of war or peace. The work barracks have since been converted as exhibition spaces, and the living barracks of Field Three are preserved to depict the inhumane living conditions endured โ€” barracks meant for 250 often housed up to 1000. By the time we arrived at the crematorium our group had begun to reflect individually; some of us were reticent, others mournful, and a few seeking more answers. For me, the crematorium was a reminder that the Shoah was an attempt to completely eliminate any evidence of Jews โ€” as well as millions of non-Jews โ€” from the historical timeline, yet there was a poetic moment; if one made it to the crematorium, they no longer had to suffer.
At the conclusion of the tour there was a memorial to the 18,400 Jews of Lublin and Majdanek murdered during the โ€œharvest festivalโ€ in November of 1943, a fraction of the 42,000 murders that occurred in the region within the two-day span โ€” my grandfather was transferred from Majdanek to Blizyn two months earlier by chance. The topographic depressions of the mass graves and the brutalist architecture of the Mausoleum Memorial โ€” a semi-domed concrete structure covering a mound of ashes โ€” remain as markers to indicate the final resting place for those that were unjustly murdered. Their voices were taken, but we can โ€” and must โ€” preserve their memory.
๐€๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ ๐„๐ซ๐ข๐œ ๐‰๐จ๐ฌ๐ก๐ฎ๐š ๐‘๐ž๐ฌ๐ง๐ข๐œ๐ค
Eric Joshua Resnick is pursuing a dual degree in historic preservation and architecture at the University of Maryland. This is his second career path as his original career was in concert production. He currently resides outside of Washington, DC but is originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey. He grew up very close to his Grandfather and has always sought ways to learn more about his lineage, especially as a Jewish American with ancestry in Poland. Outside of academics and professional life, he enjoys spending time outside, playing music, attending concerts and baseball games, trying new cuisine, and exploring the DC region with his partner and dog.
๐‚๐ก๐ž๐œ๐ค ๐›๐š๐œ๐ค ๐ญ๐จ๐ฆ๐จ๐ซ๐ซ๐จ๐ฐ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ƒ๐š๐ฒ ๐Ÿ’ ๐ซ๐ž๐œ๐š๐ฉ.
Some photos are available here.

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