Journals from the ghetto — drawings

Journals from the ghetto — drawings

From The Underground Archive Of The Warsaw Ghetto

The exhibition in the Kordegard gallery, titled “The Journals of the Ghetto — Drawing from the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto” was open on July 22nd 2012 at noon on the 70th anniversary of the great deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Jul 22 – Aug 12

The mass deportations were part of the so-called Operation Reinhardt whose goal was the physical extermination of all the Jews in General Government district and the Białystok area. The decision to exterminate the Jewish population was made in the fall of 1941. The liquidation of ghettos began. More extermination camps were created. In June 1942 the operation was given the secret codename “Operation Reinhardt” after Reinhard Heydrich the chief of the Reich Main Security Office one of the main architects of the Holocaust, shot by the Czech resistance. On July 22nd a new stage of mass murder began with the start of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. By the end of the year almost 1 million and 275 thousand people were murdered in the camps. 300 thousand Jews were left alive in the so-called Restgettos (residual ghettos) and work camps. The attempts to liquidate the final ghettos in 1943 encountered resistance, especially in Warsaw (April 19th) and Białystok (August 16th). 

The anniversary exhibition in the Warsaw Kordegarda gallery was made up mainly of drawings made by artists who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto. The drawings came from the unique collection of the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto (The Ringelblum Archive) which is kept at the Jewish Historical Institute. This was the first time that 5 drawings: “Stage point”, „Chaimek Sztarkman”, “The Hospital on the Other Side”, “The Funeral of the Cart Lady” and “Funeral Fund” by Rozenfeld, whose first name we don’t even know, have been shown. They are a moving record of people’s struggles with the “everyday” life in the ghetto. The author’s comments, which accompany them, leave no room form doubt as to what they represent. Rozenfeld shows evil in its many shades. Here is one of his comments, attached to the “Funeral Fund” drawing:

On a December morning in 1941 the owner of the store by Miła Street finds, on the doorstep of his tightly locked up store, the corpse of a child. The rigid little body, shrivelled up from hunger, is so tightly squeezed into the corner of the entrance that opening the door without removing the corpse is impossible. The trade on the street is picking up — […] the representative of the funeral home shows up and starts, with the routine skill of a professional, to collect the “funeral fund”. The only inheritance left by the dead child — an earthenware bowl that sometimes filled with soup someone shared or a few coins, the industrious funeral home manager sets out in the middle of the street. He covers the child with a sheet of paper and, in the voice of a preacher he starts to call out flowery Hebrew quotes at the passers-by to encourage them to fulfil their final obligation to the deceased. The goal is soon achieved — those who yesterday walked past a dying child with such indifference, today, moved by the pompous words of the preacher, drop coin after coin into the bowl […].

Together with Rozenfeld works the exhibit presented also a drawing by Witold Lewinson titled “Hunger” and the modern video-presentation by Mirosław Bałka titled “apple T” created on the grounds of the Treblinka camp. Another, very moving, element of the exhibition was a slice of bread, placed on a pedestal in the centre of the room, baked according to a ghetto recipe, the daily food ration of 140 grams.

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