The Lamp of Memory
The area of the destroyed Jewish Quarter in Podzamcze
The Jewish Quarter had been gradually expanding in Podzamcze ever since the 15th century and continued to thrive until the outbreak of WWII. In the inter-war period the main street of the Podzamcze district was Szeroka in which the house of the Seer of Lublin was situated and where the Council of Four Lands (Waad Arba Aracot) was held. It was here also, in Jateczna Street, that the Maharshal synagogue stood – the biggest in Lublin. The Saul Wahl synagogue was situated in Podzamcze Street and the building in 41 Krawiecka Street housed the Orphanage for Jewish children (run by Bela Dobrzyńska), Jewish aid societies helping the poor, Zionist organisations and a pre-war tobacco factory. It was during this period that Lublin Jews made up 1/3 of the general population of the city. After WWII the Jewish district in Podzamcze was demolished – streets, synagogues and houses with adjoining buildings were razed to the ground. A big section of the area is now covered with a concrete surface underneath which rest the foundations of the destroyed Jewish houses. The remaining space left by the Podzamcze ghetto was re-edified.
As part of the “Lublin. Memory of the Holocaust” project two sites situated in the area of the former Jewish Quarter were marked: the Lamp of Memory and the house where the Yiddish poet Jacob Glatstein was born and raised.
History of the place
The lamp of Memory is situated at the pre-war crossing of two streets – Krawiecka and Podwale. It was lit in 2004 and is permanently switched on. This symbol is directly related to “The Poem of the Place” – a Mystery which was organised twice in its vicinity. The Mystery was held in 2002 and then repeated in 2004 in the area of the former Jewish Quarter. It took place at night, with all the surrounding lights turned off. The idea behind it was the manifestation of the forgotten and unwanted past always finding a way back – even from under the concrete layers concealing it. In the realisation of the Mystery, manholes situated in the area were used. Floodlights shining out from beneath the concrete surface of the parking lot were meant to demonstrate the returning memory. To conclude “The Poem of the Place” Mystery, the only surviving pre-war street lamp standing in the area was switched on. With this symbolic gesture, we make the light which pierces the concrete shell of the parking lot remain with us. The glowing lamp, like Ner Tamid (Hebrew, eternal light) hanging above the ark in every synagogue, never goes out. The lamp continues to shine day and night to remind everyone of the Jewish town and its inhabitants. It is a testament to our memory of the world which is now long gone.
As part of the project an educational programme was designed for students attending schools situated in the vicinity of the principal sites which form the route of the Memory Trail. The programme included workshops on the history of the commemorated sites and events which were most significant in Lublin and in the whole of the General Government territory during Operation Reinhard. Walks along the Memory Trail commemorating the Holocaust of the Lublin Jews were also organised.
Students from the Władysław Grabski 1st School Complex and St. Dominique de Guzmán Mediterraneam High School participated in educational meetings organised in the area of the former Jewish Quarter. Workshops on the history of the Jewish town and the liquidation of the ghetto in Podzamcze were conducted on the premises of both schools. Afterwards, students moved outside to the area of the former Jewish District, visited the mural by the Czechówka river and walked to the Umschlagpltaz memorial. All three sites constitute crucial elements of the Memory Trail.
The form of commemoration
As part of the “Lublin. Memory of the Holocaust” project a concrete slab (1m x 1m in size) was placed next to the Lamp of Memory. It bears a metal band in which the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is cut. The typeface of the letter resembles that used for the preparation of The Book of Zohar. The slab is inscribed with the following bilingual information (Polish and English) on the history and significance of the site:
The Lamp of Memory
In the area of the former Jewish Quarter, a symbolic “eternal lamp” was lit as a commemoration of the world that is now gone. The street lamp shines day and night and is here to remind us of the Jewish town and its inhabitants. It stands as proof that we remember. The lamp was switched on in the autumn of 2004.