Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Poland --the power of a Jewish graveyard

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I've written for years about the power and emotions evoked by Jewish cemeteries, particularly those in Eastern Europe.... Now Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband has felt the pull -- as he recounts in an article in the Jewish Chronicle. Miliband visited the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews project. Had he headed south, he could have felt perhaps even more palpable evidence of the endurance of the Jewish spirit (if not a sizable Jewish population) at the Festival of Jewish Culture (which I still expect to comment on here).
Visiting Poland gave me a poignant link to my roots - and hope for the future [...]

This was my first visit to Poland. There must have been a deep ambivalence at the heart of this delay. Poland is my roots. But Poland is the scene of terrible tragedy — mass murder on an unimaginable scale. This counterpoint — normality and tragedy, centuries of construction and a decade of destruction, heroism alongside sadism — is at the heart of the new Museum of Polish Jews that begins construction on June 30, on a site in the heart of the former Warsaw Ghetto (www.shtetl.org.pl ).

The haunting void where once was the ghetto seems permanently wrestling with present and past —when I visited, dog walkers were to be found alongside an Israeli art group.

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