Saturday, 13 April 2013

Jewish district in Warsaw

If you would walk around Warsaw and ask people whether Warsaw has a Jewish district you are almost sure to hear that no. Only if you are lucky to meet an older person who was born in the city you may be advised to go to the surroundings of the Grzybowski Square. Before World War II it was a vibrant place that was the home for many Jews. During the war the district was almost entirely detroyed and most of the inhabitants perished in nazi concentration camps. Nowadays, you will only be able to see some sad remainings.

The square itself is not really square but triangular. In the middle there are a few benches and a little lake with a fountain that works in summer time.

The building in the back is the Jewish Theater. I've heard it is the only theater in the world that gives regular spectacles in the yiddish language.

Here is the main entry to the theater. It is named after two famous Jewish actresses, Estera and Ida Kamiński. They both worked in this theater until March 1968 when the Polish government employed anti-Semitic measures. As a result, many Polish citizens of Jewish origin had to leave the country permanently.

Behind the theater you can see some further proofs that the Jewish culture is still present in Warsaw. First of all, you can see the Nożyk Synagogue, an orthodox Synagogue named after its founders.

It has been refurbished recently.

The style is a bit similar to what we have seen in Josefov in Prague. It was designed by Leonardo Marconi.

Next to the synagogue is the seat of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland.

When you turn your back to the Jewish theater and look at the other side of the Grzybowski square, you will for sure notice a building made of brick with huge pictures. These are pictures of various Polish Jews. They are exhibited there by the Foundation Shalom.

The third side of the square (as you remember it is a triangle) is occupied by the Church of All Saints. It was designed by an architect you know well, Enrico (Henryk) Marconi, the father of Leonardo. It was for a long time the church of Christians who converted from Judaism.

Next to the stairs you can see a monument of Pope John Paul II. There are hundreds of such monuments in Poland, as you know the Pope was Polish. This particular one commemorates a mass he has held in this church. As a point of interest, one of the participants was Mother Theresa from Calcutta.

And one final remark. If you think that this Jewish district is somewhere far in a remote suburb you are wrong. It is in the very center of Warsaw. When you just take a step on the left side of the church you will see the Palace of Culture and Science, standing proudly in the sun.

1 comment:

  1. There is also a theatre in Brooklyn (New York) that does shows in yiddish :-)