"Lublin. Memory of the Place". Exhibition. DESCRIPTION
The Grodzka Gate, which used to be a passage between the Christian and, today non-existent, Jewish district, is now the seat of the "Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre" Centre.
In the place that used to be full of houses, synagogues and streets, now is an enormous parking lot, new houses and a busy street. A considerable part of this area has been covered with concrete, under which the foundations of Jewish buildings and the memory of those who once lived there are buried. During the years, the Gate has become a place, where – like in an Ark of Memory – old photographs, documents and testimonies can be preserved for posterity. All these materials are presented at the exhibition "Lublin. Memory of the Place" situated in the Gate. The exhibition is designed to look like an interior of an archive. The important elements contributing to its character are metal bookshelves with thousands of files. Several computer stands allow browsing of databases (of iconography, oral history and texts) and are also an integral part of the exhibition. Going through the exhibition, we watch hundreds of photographs, listen to the collage-reconstruction of sounds of the town and, at the same time, we can read information about specific houses and streets from files on shelves. The first part of the exhibition, devoted to Jewish life in Lublin until 1939, ends in the place where the scale model of Lublin is presented. The second part of the exhibition is dedicated to the Memory of the Extermination of the Jewish population of Lublin. It is also a story about the Righteous, who saved Jews, and it has a form of an artistic installation.
>>> MULTIMEDIAL WALK AROUND „LUBLIN. MEMORY OF THE PLACE" EXHIBITION
STORIES OF THE TOWN PLACES
The visit begins in the room where the oral history archive is placed. An artistic installation the Wall of Memory – Wall of Voices, dedicated to the memories of the prewar Polish-Jewish Lublin was built here. From the boxes forming the Wall of Memory one can hear memories of the town's inhabitants recorded by the Centre, speaking about Lublin's characteristic places (streets, squares, etc.) and its atmosphere. We can also listen to Hebrew and Yiddish languages or hear the legend of the coming of Jews to Lublin. One of the boxes contains a dramatic tale of a person who once lived in this very place, which was a flat during the war.
A map of the prewar Lublin and an aerial photograph of the Jewish Town are also on display here.
We leave the Room and walk up the corridor. A very typical component of this exhibition's design can be seen here: a type of box which, installed on the walls, guides us all the way through the display. In this box there are dozens of photographic views to look at in a form of mini peepshows. This part of the exhibition presents photographs of characteristic spots of the Old Town: Dominikanska, Archidiakonska, Grodzka, Olejna, Noworybna, Rybna and Jezuicka Streets. There are also separate sections dedicated to: the Hartwig family, Jozef Czechowicz with his "A Poem about Lublin".
This part of the exhibition presents the following streets and places connected with the Jewish Town of Lublin: Podzamcze, Jateczna, Szeroka and Zamkowa Streets, the Zasrana Gate, 28 Szeroka Street, the Great Synagogue. There is also a place dedicated to Władysław Panas.
STEFAN KIEŁSZNIA — A PHOTOGRAPHER OF LUBLIN
In the corridors of the Grodzka Gate, we can see more pictures of streets of the Jewish quarter (Lubartowska, Nowa and Kowalska Streets), as well as a place dedicated to Stefan Kiełsznia, a photographer of this district.
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE TOWN
In this part of the exhibition, we can see photos of some other streets of the Jewish Quarter, including Krawiecka, Lubartowska, Cyrulicza, Nadstawna, Furmanska, Ruska or Nowa Streets. There is also a place dedicated to the most important books and texts (poetry, prose and document) connected with Lublin. There are also places where one can find information about: the Lublin Yeshiva and Rabbi Meir Shapiro, Anna Langfus, Jacob Glatstein, Ludwik Fleck, Nimrod Ariav.
SCALE MODEL – ARCHIVE OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF LUBLIN
A scale model of the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter from the prewar period is placed in this room. There are also smaller models of Wieniawa district, the Old Jewish Cemetery and Lubartowska Street and an archive of photographs of Lublin (in the files). On one of the walls, there is a box that is a kind of archive of the Zytomirski family, where pictures of Henio Zytomirski, taken annually by Henio's father till 1939, can be found. Next to the window overlooking the tenement house at 19 Grodzka Street, there is some information about the history of the building.
THE EXTERMINATION OF THE JEWISH TOWN
After visiting the first part of the exhibition, devoted to prewar everyday life of the Lublin Jewish Quarter, we get to a point where the story of its Extermination begins. The symbolic gap between these two drastically different exhibition spaces, the first one depicting life and the second – death, is a wooden doorframe with an empty Mezuzah space. The door-frame comes from one of the Jewish houses in the Grodzka Gate neighbourhood. It was removed during a renovation. There are two photographs, facing each other, situated on each of the two sides of the doorframe. In the first, everyday life exhibition space, one can see a photo of Henio Zytomirski. The picture was taken by the Jewish boy's father in May 1939 on the steps of one of Lublin buildings. This was Henio's last photograph. He did not survive the war and died in the Majdanek concentration camp.
Henio from the May '39 photo gazes at the other photo of the empty space where he once stood, taken several decades later, now at the end of a black corridor. Passing through the empty door – frame, we step into a radically different space which is emphasized by the surrounding black walls. In the black space of the corridor we hear the whistle of the wind recorded at Majdanek, in the place where the ashes of the victims are gathered. After climbing a steep flight of stairs we enter another entirely black room.
MEMORY OF THE EXTERMINATION – PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE GHETTO
In the central point of this room, there is a lectern with a screen on which pages with names of inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter are displayed. The list was compiled in 1942 and contains 4500 names. In the middle of the room stands another empty doorframe, removed from the gate of a former Jewish house during its renovation. One can notice its illuminated empty Mezuzah space. Behind the gate, there is a black wall with numerous brightly-lit round-shaped fissures. Each of these has a colour photo of the Jewish Quarter in it. All the pictures were taken by a German soldier Max Krinberger in 1941 and one can see the inhabitants wearing the badges with the star of David on their arms. We pass to the next room.
This room is filled with dead tree trunks which form a dead forest. To go on, one has to make their way between the trunks. Jacob Glatstein's poem "The Dead Don't Praise God", dedicated to the Holocaust, is heard in Yiddish. The poem is read out by one of the last Lublin Jews who spoke the language. Its text can also be read here (in Yiddish, Polish and English). The author was born in Lublin. After the Holocaust he chose to write exclusively in Yiddish, the language of an exterminated nation. Lublin has become for him a symbol of the Extermination.
"MEMORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS – MEMORY OF LIGHT"
From the dark, claustrophobic space we enter an open wide space of a huge attic. On the white wall opposite the entrance one will notice the clay tablets with names of the Righteous engraved on them. In the very centre of the white space there is a bookcase full of files. Each of the files is attributed to one of the Righteous and contains documents on rescuing Jews. Sound installation has been situated next to the bookcase in such a way that when we approach it, we can hear a "choir" of voices of the Righteous telling their stories assembled together. Once in a while a particular voice becomes audible and so a story can be heard.
In the space of the loft the visitor also finds little boxes. Upon opening any of these, one can hear fragments of the Righteous' testimonies. Every box also contains detailed information on the speaker and his or her story.
There is also a part of the attic space designated for "telling" the "One Land – Two Temples" Mystery (2000), the first Center's activity connected with the Righteous.
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