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Jewish Warsaw

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The history of Warsaw is strictly connected with the Jews who, before World War II, constituted one third of the city's population. They mainly lived in Nalewki district situated in the north-west of the centre of Warsaw.

On November 16th, 1940 Nalewki was transferred into the Jewish Ghetto by the Nazis who made 450,000 people live in the area of about 300 ha bordered by a three-metre tall wall topped with a barbed wire. The reign of terror, appalling living conditions, slave labour, a takeover of Jewish factories – these were the methods applied by the Nazis to exterminate the inhabitants of the Jewish Ghetto. By 1942, a vast majority of them died, either inside the ghetto or at Treblinka gas chambers. The Jewish community did not surrender. The Jewish Fighters Organisation inspired the ghetto inhabitants to defy the Nazis. Their aim was not to plead for mercy or freedom, but to defy heroically and die with honour. That is how the Ghetto Uprising broke out on April 19th, 1943. The Nazis suppressed it and razed the whole area of the Jewish Ghetto to the ground. Nowadays, there are a lot of places in Warsaw which commemorate the heroic 1943 Ghetto Uprising participants and the ghetto inhabitants. The most crucial ones include:

Monument Ghetto HeroesMonument to the Ghetto Heroes, erected in 1948, to commemorate the struggle of the 1943 Ghetto Uprising heroes. It is part of the Path of Remembrance which leads from here to the Umschlagplatz Monument – the black and white marble monument at the site of a former railway siding (Umschlagplatz in German) from where the cattle cars, deporting the Jewish Ghetto inhabitants to the concentration camps, departed from. The whole Path consists of 16 granite blocks, each of which is dedicated to a hero or an event in the Jewish Ghetto. One of the people whose name is engraved on the Path is Janusz Korczak, who together with a group of orphanage children, chose to die at the Treblinka extermination camp.

Remains of the Ghetto Wall can still be seen at 55 Sienna Street and at the junction of Pereca and Walicow streets.

pawiak warsawPawiak Prison , part of the Warsaw concentration camp, once used by the Nazis for imprisoning Jews and Poles (mainly the Home Army members, civilians, political prisoners,etc.). Nowadays Pawiak with the symbolic ''obituary tree'' serves as a museum.

This area of the former Jewish Ghetto abounds in other sites connected with the traditions, culture and history of the Jewish community. The major ones are as follows:

The Jewish History Institute, once the Judaic History Institute and the Judaic Library, houses a museum where the relics from the Jewish ghettos and the Nazis' death camps can be seen. There are also paintings by renowned Jewish artists on display.

The Jewish National Theatre, situated in Plac Grzybowski, performs plays in Yiddish, with Polish translations. The performaces are strictly associated with the Jewish traditions.

Nozyk Synagogue WarsawThe Nozyk Synagogue, situated at 6 Twarda Street, was named after the donors of the land on which the synagogue was erected from 1898-1902. Having served as the Nazis' warehouse during World War II, it was renovated and restored to its former beauty. Currently, it is the only active synagogue in Warsaw.

Jewish Cemetery in Okopowa Street, covering the area of 33 ha, is regarded as one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe. There are as many as 200,000 individual graves as well as mass graves of the Warsaw Ghetto victims. Such prominent people as Ludwik Zamenhof, the Esperanto initiator, Janusz Korczak, children's author and child pedagogist, Estera Rachela Kaminska, film and stage actress also known as the founder of the Warsaw Jewish Theatre, Isaac Leib Peretz, writer and playwright, and Samuel Orgelbrand, famous publisher and bookseller, have been buried here. A part of the cemetery is still used by Warsaw's Jewish population.

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