„Memory of the Righteous – Memory of Light” Exhibition
“Memory of the Righteous – Memory of Light” exhibition, situated in the “Grodzka Gate-NN Theatre” Centre, is a lasting trace of “The Lights in the Darkness – Righteous Among the Nations” project. After visiting the first part of the exhibition, devoted to pre-war everyday life of the Lublin Jewish quarter, one gets to a point where the story of its Extermination begins.
Part 1 – Two photographs
The symbolic gap between these two drastically different exhibition spaces is a wooden doorframe with an empty Mezuzah space.
The doorframe comes from one of the Jewish houses in the Grodzka Gate neighbourhood.
Passing through the empty doorframe, the visitor steps into a radically different space, which is emphesised by the surrounding black walls. The doorframe becomes a border between two spaces, the first one depicting life and the second- death.
There are two photographs situated on each of the two sides. In the first, everyday life exhibition space one can see a photo of Henio Żytomirski. 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 manage to survive the war and died in the Majdanek concentration camp.
In the space devoted to the Extermination the visitor sees with a picture of the place where Henio once stood. It was taken in 2008 and now remains empty.
These two pictures, facing each other, have no more than few metres between them and are devided by an empty doorframe through which Henio from the May '39 photo gazes at the other photo of the empty space where he once stood, now at the end of a black corridor.
Part 2 – the Dead Forest
Going further into the exibition-installation, the visitor enters an entirely black room with no windows; it is filled with dead tree trunks which symbolise a dead forest. To go on, one has to make their way between the trunks. The omnipresent sound here is the whistle of the wind recorded in Majdanek, in the place where the ashes of the victims are gathered. In the middle of the room, among the dead trees, stands another empty doorframe, which was also saved fom a gate of a Jewish house. The doorframe, with its empty Mezuzah space illuminated by candlelight, also contitues a part of the dead forest. Behind the gate the visitor sees a black wall with numerous, brightly-lit, round-shaped fissures. Each of these has a colour photo of the Jewish quarter. All the pictures were taken by a German soldier in 1941 and one can see the inhabitants wearing the badges on their arms.
Part 3 – The Poem
The visitor is now entering another darkened room, where Jakow Glatsztejn's poem The Dead Don't Praise God is heard in Yiddish. The poem is read out by one of the last Lublin Jews who speak the language. The poem is also written on the walls of the room – both in Yiddish and in Polish. The author was born in Lublin, in now nonexistent Krawiecka street. After the Holocaust he chose to write in Yiddish exclusively to underline its position of the language of an exterminated nation. The poem begins with significant words:
“We accepted the Torah on Sinai,
And in Lublin we gave it back.
The dead don't preise God –
The Torah was given for Life.
And just as we all stood together
At the giving of the Torah,
So indeed did we all die in Lublin”
Part 4 – “Lights in the Darkness – the Righteous Among the Nations”
From the dark, claustrophobic space the visitor suddenly enters an open wide space of a huge attic. On the white wall opposite the entrance one will immediately notice the clay tablets with names of the Righteous engraved on them.
In the very centre of the white space there is a huge bookcase full of files. Each of the files is attributed to one of the Righteous and contains documents on rescuing Jews. There are almost 500 files in the bookcase, 60 of them marked in a special way – these are the ones
with stories we have reached and documented ourselves. The remaining stories are known form different sources.
Sound installation has been situated next to the bookcase in such a way that when the visitor approaches it, he/she can hear a „choir” of voices of the Righteous telling their stories assembled together. Once in a while a particular voice would become audible for the listener so a story can be heard.
In the space of the loft the visitor will also find little boxes. Upon opening any of these, the visitor can hear an audio recording with fragments of the Righteous' testimonies. Every box also contains a printed version of the speaker's story and some basic information on them.
There is also a part of the attic space designated for the „One Land – Two Temples” Mystery.
The space of the loft is where the artistic part of the exhibition is merges with its practical counterpart, where one can find archive material stored in hundreds of files. These are also available in an electronic form.