75. anniversary of blowing up the Great Synagogue in Warsaw

On 16th May, 1943 not only the most impressive synagogue in Warsaw but also the entire Jewish district ceased to exist. Destruction of the synagogue was a symbolic act of the triumph over the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which had been ongoing since 19th April 1943. The person responsible for the bloody suppression of the uprising was Jürgen Stroop. In his report he wrote down a characteristic sentence, “Es gibt keinen jüdischen Wohnbezirk in Warschau mehr!”

Wide full hd gmach g  wnej biblioteki judaistycznej i wielka synagoga na t omackiem

Jürgen Stroop was kept in the same cell with Kazimierz Moczarski from 2nd March to 11th November, 1949. He told him the story of his entire life. Moczarski’s report of his conversations with Stroop was released after years, in 1973, in a form of a reportage Conversations with an executioner. Stroop’s statements from Moczarski’s book perfectly picture how the destruction of the Warsaw synagogue looked like.

Under these circumstances I decided to complete Grossaktion on 16th May, 1943 at 8:15pm with a beautiful frame of the official closure of the Great Synagogue in Tłomackie. The preparations lasted 10 days. We had to empty its interior and drill hundreds of holes in its foundations and walls in order to place the explosives. The synagogue was a solidly built edifice. Then, in order to blow it up at once, we had to perform laborious sapper and electric works.

Stroop also recalls:

A fantastic view from the perspective of painting and theatre! We stood with my military staff quite far from the synagogue. A sapper officer responsible for the proper blowing up, handed me through Max Jesuiter, an electrical apparatus which caused, through electrical wires, a simultaneous detonation of explosives placed in the walls of the synagogue. Jesuiter ordered a general silence. In the glow of the burning buildings stood, tired and grimy, my brave officers and soldiers. I prolonged the moment. In the end I shouted “Heil Hitler!” and pressed the button. A fiery explosion lifted up to the clouds. A terrifying boom. A brilliance of colors. An unforgettable allegory of the triumph over Jewry. The Warsaw Ghetto ceased to exist. Because Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler wanted so.

The fire which began after the explosion in the Great Synagogue, entered the building of the Main Judaistic Library – currently the Jewish Historical Institute. It is proven by discolourations caused by high temperature, still visible today. In order to prevent further destruction of the floors and to strengthen it, we decided that it should undergo specialist conservation. During a renovation, which has been taking place due to preparations to an exhibition What we were unable to shout out to the world, we have made a very special discovery. We managed to reach wooden elements of the ceiling, which were charred in the fire of 1943!

However, contrary to intentions of German torturers, as early as in 1946 burnt building was renovated and became home to Jewish Historical Institute. Jews who survived the Holocaust returned here to collect testimonies of murdered culture from all over Poland: books, art, documents. It is in JHI where miraculously found Ringelblum Archive is kept. Today, number of the volumes kept in JHI nearly equals the number of volumes in pre-war Main Judaic Library. The collection is probably even more precious, though originating from orphaned, annihilated Jewish communities from all over Poland.

On the 73rd anniversary of the tragic events of 1943 Jewish Historical Institute recreated the lettering on the façade of its residence, bringing back patch of the pre-war Tłomackie, bringing back from oblivion the detail that was obvious and natural for every Varsovian, passed by without marvel as a piece of landscape of the European capital of Jewish culture.

Read more about the history of the Great Synagogue.

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