Europe: A Continent of Reconciliation?
40 Years after Willy Brandt's Visit to Warsaw
Conference on December 7, 2010, Royal Castle of Warsaw


 

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial
 
During the Nazi occupation of Poland, the former Warsaw Ghetto temporarily had to accommodate up to half a million citizens of Warsaw that were of Jewish. While many of them died of hunger and epidemics most were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp and murdered there. When the SS started to clear the ghetto on April 19th 1943 they were greeted by gunfire. Though the fighters did not have any illusions about the outcome, they did not want to be murdered without fighting back. The unequal battle lasted for 28 days, which only a few of the about 60 000 remaining people in the ghetto survived. After the abatement of the uprising nothing but the burnt out ruins of the ghetto remained. Eventually they were reduced to rubble by the Germans.
 
In 1946, amidst the ruins of the ghetto on Zamenhofa street, the first cenotaph was unveiled – a round commemorative plate horizontally embedded into the ground. The design was developed by the architect Leon Marek Suzin. It was unveiled on April 16th 1946. On the plate made of red sandstone is inscribed in Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish: “To those who fell in the unequalled battle for the dignity and freedom of the Jewish people, the freedom of Poland, for relief of humanity. Polish Jews.”
 
Next to the first memorial, the Monument for the Heroes of the Ghetto was unveiled two years later on April 19th 1948, which marked the fifth centenary of the beginning of the uprising. It was designed by the Warsaw-born sculptor Nathan Rapaport in cooperation with Leon Marek Suzin and financed entirely through donations.
 
The monument consists of a column with a sculpture group in its middle and is flanked by two menorahs. A copy of the sculpture group can be found in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The carvings on the west side of the monument show the insurgents of the fighting ghetto. The relief on the backside of the column shows the train of the victims of the Holocaust. This monument is the place where former German Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt down in 1970 to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.
 
From the monument for the Heroes of the ghetto 16 stones of granite inscribed in Hebrew and Polish lead the way to the former reloading point („Umschlagplatz“) on Stawki street. From here, in the western part of the former Warszawa Gdańska freight station, the transports left for the Treblinka extermination camp.