The story of a certain sculpture

Alina Szapocznikow was an extraordinary sculptor and artist who lived between 1926 and 1973–March 2nd is the anniversary of her death.

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On this occasion we would like to share with you the story of one of her works which is part of the Jewish Historical Institute’s collection — the “Fighting Ghetto” sculpture”. The sculpture was created in 1953 for the “10th Anniversary of the Ghetto Uprising” contest and gifted to the JHI by the Ministry of Culture and Art.

It is a good example of socialist realism. In the foreground we see a young man in a disheveled shirt. He almost represents the archetype of a warrior-defender. He stands straight with a grenade in his right hand and his left arm protectively curled around an elderly man. Next to them, supported by the elderly man, is a woman holding a young child in her arms. She is rushing forward, her face shows despair but also determination.

The author created a very expressive work, we can guess that she imbued it not only with propaganda ideals but also some of her own emotions connected to her personal experience of the Holocaust.

“The Fighting Ghetto” is not a typical example of Alina Szapocznikowa’s work but this is exactly why it is one of a kind.

The sculpture’s fate in the JHI is also interesting. It was made of plaster which is not a durable material and is susceptible to mechanical damages and the destructive effects of the elements. Displaying the sculpture held a high risk of damaging it. Due to this in 1985 — 12 years after the author’s death and 32 years after its creation — a bronze cast was made to protect the work and allow for its display. This decision was tied o the planned permanent exhibition about the Warsaw Ghetto. “The Fighting Ghetto” sculpture was then placed in the JHI’s entrance hall as an important element of the exhibition. Now we can still admire it when entering the JHI. It’s plaster original is in a protected warehouse which allows us to protect it from the destructive nature of time…

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