The house of Jacob Glatsztejn
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.
The poet Jacob Glatstein was born and raised in Lublin. In his literary works Lublin symbolises Jewish Holocaust. Glatstein became committed to the task of mourning Jews and striving to revive the memory of the Jewish community that perished in the Shoah. It is for that reason that he made a conscious decision to create poems exclusively in Yiddish. Glatstein's choice of language was a manifestation of his moral obligation to remember the murdered Jews. In his poem entitled “Lublin, My Holy City”, Jacob Glatstein depicts the image of the Jewish Town of Lublin passing away for ever.
Jacob (Yankev) Glatstein was born in Lublin to a traditional Jewish family on the 20th of August 1896. He attended Cheders, but was also taught by private teachers and graduated from a Secondary School. He made his debut in 1919 and his first collection of poems entitled Yankev Glatstein was published in 1921. He wrote poetry in Yiddish and as Prof. Monika Adamczyk–Garbowska underlines: “Despite having spent most of his life in America, he has never renounced his mother tongue […] which defined profoundly his identity as a poet”.
In an article outlining Glatstein's life, Prof. Adamczyk-Garbowska mentions also his unconstrained need to experiment with various poetic forms as well as his fascination with Yiddish, which was “constantly transformed and celebrated” by the poet. Shortly before the war, in 1934, Glatstein made a brief visit to Lublin which resulted in the publication of two novels: Wen Jasz iz geforn (When Yash Set Out) in 1938, and Wen Jasz iz gekumen (When Yash Returned) in 1940. He was the author of more than 10 poetry collections and 2 autobiographies. Moreover, he worked as a journalist and published in many daily and weekly newspapers in New York. Prof. Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska points out that Glatstein initiated the “introspectivist trend in American Yiddish poetry, aimed at demonstrating the poetic mission of some artists to revive and modernise Jewish poetry”. Jacob Glatstein died on the 19th of November 1971 in New York.
Determining the location of the house of Jacob Glatstein
The house of Jacob Glatstein was most probably situated in 25 Jateczna Street. Hitherto 19 Jateczna Street had been the assumed address, data which was however subsequently revised. Jacob Glatstein's birth cirtificate includes the police number 500 ½, which indeed suggests a house in Jateczna Street. Having analysed figures from the Lublin Calendars (including issues from 1912) Dr Hab. Adam Kopciowski succeeded in determining, with a high degree of probability, that the police number refers to 25 Jateczna Street, a building situated on the corner of Jateczna and the Krawiecki Square.
For the needs of the project the employees of the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre carried out on-site verification in the area of the Castle Hill in order to determine the location of Jacob Glatstein's house. The marked area is situated near the crossing of Aleje Tysiąclecia and Unii Lubelskiej Streets, right on the borders of the Lublin Castle.
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 site where the house of Jacob Glatstein stood before the war is marked with a concrete slab (1m x 1m in size) bearing 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. Additionally, the slab is inscribed with the following bilingual information (Polish and English) on the history and significance of the site:
The House of Jacob Glatstein, 25 Jateczna St.
On this site stood the house (destroyed in 1942) where the renowned Yiddish poet, Jacob (Yankev) Glatstein, was born (1896–1971). He received his lay and religious education in Lublin. Emigrated to the USA in 1914 and lived in New York. Lublin was always present in his literary work. Within the body of writing he produced after WWII were poems created in reaction to the tragedy of the Holocaust.