Monuments of Lublin - Memorial to the Extermination of Jewish Population (Memorial to the Victims of the Ghetto)
Memorial to the Extermination of the Jewish Population (Memorial to the Victims of the Ghetto)
Until 2006 - on the square between Lubartowska and Świętoduska streets, currently on the square at the intersection of Radziwiłłowska and Niecała streets.
Date of unveiling
10 November 1962
Bogumił Zagajewski (sculptor)
Janusz Tarabuła (painter)
The memorial, 4.2 metres high, is set on a wide platform, at the top of a seven step granite stairs. Dimensions (before 2006): the platform - 9 x 11 m, the last step of the stairs - 9 x 3 m, the space between the stairs and the platform - 1,8 m). The monument is integrated with a low plinth. It has a form of an obelisk, semicircular at the top. The jagged, irregular surface bears concave outlines of human figures, portrayed in form of a negative.
Inscription on the front reads:
I AM SEARCHING FOR MY DEAD IN EVERY HILL OF ASH
Below, there is the original text in Yiddish.
On the back, the dedicatory inscription reads:
HONOUR AND ETERNAL REMEMBRANCE
TO THE POLISH CITIZENS
OF JEWISH NATIONALITY
OF LUBLIN VOIVODESHIP
WHOSE LIFE WAS BESTIALLY TAKEN
BY THE HITLERIST FASCISTS
IN THE YEARS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
PEOPLE OF THE LUBLIN REGION
Below, there is the same text in Yiddish.
The left and the right side of the monument bear inscriptions of dates: September 1942 and November 1963 respectively. The wide platform that supports the memorial bears engraved names of places related to the Holocaust in the Lublin region:
ZAMOŚĆ, KRĘPIEC, SOBIBÓR, MAJDANEK, BEŁŻEC, TRAWNIKI, PONIATOWA, BUDZYŃ
Written by Kazimierz S. Ożóg
Ożóg, Kazimierz S. (2014) Pomniki Lublina (Memorials of Lublin), Ośrodek „Brama Grodzka - Teatr NN”, Lublin
The memorial was unveiled in 1963, on the twentieth anniversary of the liquidation of the Lublin ghetto, but it was set in a somewhat random place. The then authorities did not accept the idea of the memorial being set in Podzamcze district and the Jews did not want it to stand in a back alley in the Old Town, since it had been meant to be set in Rybna Street. The place where the memorial was set had been used as a marketplace before the war and in the times of occupation. The location of the memorial to the Victims of the Ghetto has a symbolic character.
The memorial was erected on the initiative of the Lublin Jews - 200-300 of them were still living in the city at that time - but main inspirers were Izydor Sznajdman, who had emigrated to Sweden in 1968 and Dr Symcha Wajs, who was living in Warsaw. Paweł Dąbek, the then chairman of the Voivodeship National Council (a local government body) and prisoner of the Majdanek concentration camp, contributed greatly to the initiative.
The memorial is dedicated not only to the Lublin Jews but to the Jews of the Lublin region. The inscriptions are in Polish and Yiddish. There is also a quotation from Itzhak Katzenelson’s Song of the Murdered Jewish People:
“I am searching for my dead in every hill of ash.”
Names of all the locations of the camps in which Jews of the Lublin region perished are also inscribed on the memorial. Every year, on 9 November, flowers were laid here to commemorate the anniversary of the definitive liquidation of the ghetto.
In 2005, the city authorities entered into a contract with an investment company called Arkady. As a result, the authorities sold the square on which the monument stood, earmarking it as a site on which a shopping mall was to be built. This decision sparked protest of the majority of Jewish circles in Poland and in the USA. Because of the pressure of the Jewish organizations, the Lublin city authorities began to negotiate with the Jewish Community of Warsaw. The talks led to the decision that the memorial, instead of being moved, would be integrated into the surrounding architecture. In 2007, the memorial was temporarily moved to the corner of Radziwiłłowska and Niecała streets.
The case of the place where the memorial stands and its possible relocation called forth numerous statements of Jews from Lublin who live abroad:
In an open letter, the Lublin Jews from the USA wrote: “We, the Lublin Jews living in the USA and remembering the reality of Lublin in the 1960s, feel appalled by the actions of our city’s authorities leading to the removal of the Memorial to the Victims of the Lublin Ghetto, unveiled on the eve of Poland’s Independence Day on 11 November 1963, from the square in Świętoduska Street."
Professor Elie Wiesel said: “If the Holocaust is commemorated in a certain place chosen for this purpose, it should be respected as something hallowed. If in Lublin, on a square surrounded by streets once inhabited by so many Jews, until Hitler turned their life into death, a handful of their brothers who survived the Holocaust sets a memorial chosen and funded by themselves, this memorial should remain there forever.”
Professor Nechama Tec said: “It is an insult to the memory of those who were murdered in a cruel way. I have never heard of similar case of treating a memorial to the Holocaust in such a way. It resembles a second death of those who are long dead and the memorial commemorates them. A death after death...”
Abraham Foxman remarked: “If this account is true, we have to admit that we are dealing with an unfriendly act that undoes the facts. It seems that the mayor of Lublin does not attach any importance to the tragic fate of the Jews of this city during the Holocaust and does not respect the earlier promises made to the Jewish community regarding relocation of the memorial. This unfortunate episode that comes now, when the worries concerning anti-Semitism and hate speech in Poland are growing, reinforces the perception of Poland going backwards...”
Compiled by Jakub Chmielewski
Translated by Jarosław Kobyłko