The murals in the Podzamcze ghetto area
As part of the project, murals have been created in selected locations of the former ghetto. Their content is based on archival documents: photographs, original memories of historical witnesses, and works by Julia Hartwig and Anna Langfus. The writings of these two authors are deemed to represent some of the most important literary works pertaining to the subject of the Holocaust and constitute an integral element of our story of the ghetto. The artistic language used to communicate the message of the murals is inspired by street art.
49 Lubartowska St.
The mural covering the wall of a tenement house at the corner of Lubartowska and Ruska Streets is a fragment from the novel written by Anna Langfus, in which the author refers to the events following the 24th of March 1941, a date which marks the issuing of the German regulations concerning the creation of the ghetto in Lublin. As its immediate consequence, the designated area was soon fenced off with barbed wire. In this way, the Jewish inhabitants of Lublin were separated from other parts of the city. The general indifference to their fate is expressed in one short sentence: “They seem not to notice me”. The mural is situated close to the house at 24 Lubartowska Street in which Anna Langfus was born and raised.
The text of the mural:
Ghetto – the barbed wire
[...] life continues on the other side. People walk around, their steps slow or fast, the way they used to. Several metres away, two women stand on the edge of the pavement, engaged in an animated conversation. They seem not to notice me. In reality the distance between us is immeasurable. We are divided with a wire mesh bristling with spikes [...].
Building a fence was enough to make the space between Poles and Jews living side by side in the same city “immeasurable”.
The author of the text, Anna Regina Szternfinkiel–Langfus (1920–1966) was a novelist and playwright, writing about the Holocaust and Survivor trauma. She was one of the first artists to broach this subject in literature. After the war she moved to Paris and gained wide acclaim as a French-language author. Her work was also translated into several other languages. In 1962 her novel Les Bagages de Sable (The Lost Shore) was awarded with the Goncourt Prize – the most important French literary recognition (Prix Goncourt).
Anna Regina Szternfinkiel was born and raised in a Jewish family in Lublin and lived at 18 Lubartowska Street (present-day number 24). She made her debut when still at school, publishing a short story in a youth magazine. Aged 18, she married her peer Jakub Rajs with whom she left for Belgium in 1938 to study engineering. In the summer of 1939 the couple came to Lublin for a holiday and were caught in the turmoils of war. They spent the initial stage of the German occupation with their parents in Lublin. In 1942 they managed to move to Warsaw. Anna's parents remained in Lublin and were murdered in the ghetto. Anna and Jakub lived in the Warsaw ghetto at first, later escaping to the Aryan side of the city. They managed to stay undercover for some time and after that went into hiding in the forest north of Warsaw. As the informer of the Home Army, Anna was arrested and tortured on several occasions. Eventually, she was taken to the Gestapo prison in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki where her husband was executed. Anna herself was sent to another prison – in Płońsk. After the liberation, Anna Rajs made her way back to Lublin. Having found no living relatives in the city made her extremely unwell, which is why by mid 1946 she decided to leave for France, where she married Aron Langfus. In her novel entitled Le Sel et le Soufre (The Whole Land Brimstone), published in France in 1960, the author describes German occupation in an autobiographical record of her wartime life. Anna Langfus died on the 12th of May 1966 in Paris.
On the wall of the house where Anna Langfus was born, the following information (in the form of a simple plaque) has been conspicuously placed:
“In the period between 1920–1939 the writer Anna Szternfinkiel lived in the tenement house situated in the inner courtyard of this building. She was born in Lublin on the 2nd of January 1920. In 1962, under her married name – Anna Langfus, the author received one of the most important literary awards in the world – the Prix Goncourt, for her novel Les Bagages de Sable (The Lost Shore). She died in Paris on the 12th of May 1966.”
4 Kowalska St.
The mural covering the wall of a tenement house at 4 Kowalska Street is a poem by Julia Hartwig: “Classmates”. It was published in a collection entitled Without a Goodbye and is an important work written by the poet, being at the same time one of the most poignant lyrical works on the Holocaust. It depicts a fleeting encounter between Julia Hartwig and her classmates – Reginka and Miriam, when they “met unexpectedly / at the end of Lubartowska Street, / on the border of a freshly created ghetto”. The girls described by the poet were in fact real and referred to Maria Rechtszft and Regina Rubinfajer, who attended the Unia Lubelska State Midddle School together with Julia Hartwig. They both perished in the Lublin ghetto during the Holocaust. The poem is painted on the wall of a tenement house which was situated next to the entrance to the ghetto.
The text of the mural:
The Latin teacher’s voice seemed a bit sharper
when she addressed them
(never by the first name).
Miriam was always perfectly prepared,
Reginka weaker but correct.
They kept together
and together left the classroom before Religion.
The last time we met unexpectedly
at the end of Lubartowska Street,
on the border of a freshly created ghetto.
They stood there timidly as if something shameful happened to them.
Translated from Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter
On the 24th of March 1942, during the liquidation of the ghetto, when the Jews of Lublin were being taken to the death camp in Bełżec, an unknown inhabitant of the Lublin ghetto managed to send a letter. The dramatic text of the document written in Yiddish was sent to someone trapped in the ghetto in Warsaw. The letter was salvaged, but remains unintelligible in many places.
The text of the mural:
[…] I have to add several more words and days which are to become the darkest in the history of Jewish Lublin.
The Jews standing amidst a bloody, diabolic dance. It's […] Lublin, carried out drenched in blood and tears. Jewish belongings without […]. More than 10 thousand Jews banished […] little streets. Hundreds of dead bodies lying all around […]
abandoned flats and with no sufficient […] the orphanage and the nursery for the elderly […] of theirs were sent away […] without return. And […] during […]
we are left to rove the streets […]
[…] tortured, aching and broken. I can't do anything any more […] I can only cry out to you: help. Add […] and the shrouded dead. And […] leave […].