Today, a growing resurgence of Jewish life in Poland shines bright against the past dark decades of a nearly vanished community. As an observer and researcher, I’m still amazed at how many times current news outlets vehemently voice blame to all of Poland for Nazi crimes, with no middle ground or recognition given for the death of three million Poles from the Nazi genocide. Clearly, strong feelings of documented historical wrongs and biases influence modern-day attitudes. But this is 2016, not 1939, and the growing and vibrant modern Jewish life in Poland is supported by facts and celebrated on many active Facebook pages and social media discussions. Hopefully, the resurgence is leading towards a renewed attitude of peaceful co-existence.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began April 19, 1943. This noble ‘last stand’ by desperate Jews against the Germans became the first urban uprising in German-occupied Europe. Symbolically it stands as the most important Jewish uprising. It lasted less than a month and nearly all who participated lost their lives, but it inspired other uprisings at Sobibor and Treblinka and changed the story of millions walking in resignation to their death without a fight.
The film Raise the Roof follows a ten-year project to rebuild an iconic wooden synagogue in Poland. Rick and Laura Brown, a husband-and-wife team of artist-educators who are neither Polish or Jewish, lead a host of participants as they rebuild a structure, recover history, and preserve both for future generations. I have never seen an art form quite like the Polish synagogue highlighted in the film. I recommend this film to artists, historians, anyone remotedly interested in Polish-Jewish culture, and more. The resulting structure now stands as the centerpiece of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Continue reading
Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank, died six years ago, on January 11, 2010, at the age of 100. Gies, along with her husband and three others, hid eight Jews from the Nazis for over two years, in a Secret Annex at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam. She never turned her back on her friend and employer, Otto Frank and his family, including his daughter Anne Frank. In Gies’ writings, she always described the eight people in hiding as “our friends.” Names like Miep Gies, Corrie Ten Boom, Henry Slawik, Irena Sendler, and so many others who risked their lives at great personal risk, share a special place in heaven.