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Remains of Warsaw ghetto wall
Leah Corne

Graffiti about Jews
photo by Leah Corne

Street where there used to be a bridge connecting both sides of Warsaw ghetto
photo by Leah Corne

Kibbutz Lochemai Hagetaot-Israel
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Leah Corne, grade 10 student Gray Academy June 29, 2014, with files from the Winnipeg Jewish Review

When I arrived in Poland this April on the March of the Living trip I was surprised that the country was so beautiful because the old pictures during the Holocaust that I had seen were full of destruction, and taken in black and white. The Poland that I was now witnessing was so colourful and full of life, almost as if nothing terrible had ever happened there.


In Warsaw, it was difficult to imagine that Jews made up 30% of this city, before the Nazis took power. 


Our group of teenagers went to visit the remains of the Warsaw ghetto set up by the Nazis-- even though very little remains of it.  That's because the Nazis razed the Warsaw ghetto after they crushed the Warsaw ghetto uprising, when a few hundred young courageous Jews decided to take up arms against them. A year and a half after the Jewish revolt, the Nazis flattened the rest of Warsaw after another failed uprising by the Polish underground.


Prior to  the trip, I had imagined a gigantic Warsaw ghetto wall towering over me, but in reality the chunk of the wall that still remains was not as high as I thought it would be. We visited one part of the remains of the wall and it was connected to two new apartment buildings, built on the rubble of what was once the ghetto.


There something very unpleasant happened. There were a lot of us in our group so our guide had to speak up very loudly to enable everyone to hear. A man living in one of the apartments started yelling at us in Polish from his window.


I didn't know what he was saying but he sounded extremely angry. After he calmed down and went back inside and shut the window, one of the Polish ladies that was there translated that what he said. He had said, "The Holocaust is over! No one cares anymore! Go back to Israel!" I was so shocked by his words.


In Poland I also noticed when we were walking through Warsaw and Krakow there was a large amount of graffiti. What caught my attention most was that there was graffiti with Stars of David and graffiti that said "Jude" and lots of other Jewish symbols. I asked one of the chaperones that was on the trip what the graffiti meant.  He told me that in Poland they're really into soccer and the worst thing someone could call another team is "Jews." I didn't realize the amount of anti-Semitism there still is in Poland.  (Editor's note: A recent Polish national survey conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at Warsaw University found that the belief in a Jewish conspiracy remains high – 63% in 2013 – and relatively unchanged from 2009 when 65% of respondents held this belief. This is the case, albeit 90% of these Poles said they had never met a Jew. The study also found an 8 percent increase in more traditional forms of anti-Semitism, including blaming Jews for the murder of Jesus Christ and the belief that Christian blood is used in Jewish rituals. Some 23% were found to hold such traditional, religious-based beliefs about Jews. Read more:


In Warsaw, we also went to a well-known street, where there used to be bridge that connected  both sides of the ghetto so the Jews could walk to either side. The Nazi's didn't want Jews walking on the road so they made the bridge. There I saw a faded line where it  says that no Jews are allowed to cross the line. When the ghetto existed any Jew who tried to cross the line would be shot immediately. Even though I have seen old photos of the bridge that existed, it was still hard to recognize the location, since it looks so different today. 



Since visiting the remains of the Warsaw ghetto, I have thought about the fact that seven years ago, when I was 8 years old, I visited a beautiful kibbutz with my parents and brother Dov in northern Israel near Akko called Kibbutz 'Lochamei Hagetaat." The kibbutz that was founded in 1949 by Holocaust survivors. Among these survivors who founded the kibbutz were the last remaining survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The ground breaking ceremony for the kibbutz was set for April 1949, on the sixth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt.  On that same day, the foundations were laid for a museum on the kibbutz, which became the first museum in the world to document the Holocaust of European Jewry.


My parents didn't take me to see the Kibbutz Lochemei Hagetaot Museum because my brother and I were too young.


But I remember the kibbutz well, as we stayed at the kibbutz guesthouse with friends for two nights and had a great time. There were fruit trees, green open space to run around in, pretty gardens and it was very peaceful.


It is only now after visiting the remains of the Warsaw ghetto in Poland that I am able to fully appreciate how much of a miracle it is that the founders of Kibbutz Lochemei Hagetaot were able to rebuild their lives in the State of Israel. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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