Project "Lublin. 43 thousand"
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the creation of NN Theatre, we are in the process of developing the “Lublin. 43 thousand” project, dedicated to the Jewish community that had lived here. The Jewish District and its inhabitants have perished; gone are the streets, houses and synagogues. In 1939, before the outbreak of World War II, a census was taken in Lublin. It showed that a Jewish minority of forty-three thousand lived in the city. Back then no one had any idea of the upcoming Holocaust and genocide, and that the whole community would be annihilated.
This is why it is necessary to realise that behind the number – forty-three thousand – there are forty-three thousand faces, forty-three thousand given and family names, that they were men, women and children; that each of them was born on a specific day, in a specific year; that they each lived in a specific house with its own address.
Those that enacted the Holocaust wished for all memory of their victims to fade. It was not enough to sentence the Jewish population to death; they were meant to be pushed out of our collective memory, forgotten. All evidence that this community lived here was meant to disappear forever. Every document witnessing the genocide was to be destroyed.
Against this idea of absolute erasure of all signs that thousands of people existed, this dystopia emerging from the heart of evil, we put forth an equally absolute utopia.
We titled this project “Lublin. 43 thousand” as a symbolic reference to the number of Jews who lived in Lublin in 1939. As part of the project we would like to preserve the memory of each person who lived in the Jewish District. We would like to discover their names and reconstruct their histories to the best of our ability. For this reason, we have assigned each person a folder to contain all the information pertaining to them that we were able to collect. We have placed forty-three thousand of these folders throughout the Grodzka Gate.
The reasoning behind the project is epitomised by Ida Glickstein, a Holocaust survivor who wrote in her memoirs: “I list names of the murdered, because maybe it is the only gravestone they will get, because there is no one left of their families who would mourn their premature deaths.”
And so we search through various archives, read through memoirs and try to find all remaining traces of those who lived here.
The “Lublin. 43 thousand” project begins the process of searching for evidence documenting life in Lublin’s Jewish District, and its destruction. It will create a space to discover and showcase all, even the seemingly irrelevant, mentions of the Dictrict’s inhabitants. Until now these were often overlooked; they were devoid of an overarching narrative. They were only a barely discernible trace of someone’s existence. Often, it is the only trace that remained.
The rationale behind this undertaking can be surmised in the words of Czesław Miłosz:
Slowly, boring a tunnel, a guardian mole makes his way,
With a small red lamp fastened to his forehead.
He touches buried bodies, counts them, pushes on,
He distinguishes human ashes by their luminous vapor,
The ashes of each man by a different part of the spectrum.
Czesław Miłosz "A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto"