Commemorating the 81st anniversary of the Kielce Ghetto Holocaust

On the initiative of the Jan Karski Association, the victims of the Holocaust of the Kielce ghetto in August 1942 were commemorated. The main ceremony took place on July 20 at the “Menorah” monument.

– Standing in this August swelter, I try to imagine the enormity of the tragedy, which was happening right next to the ordinary summer life of the rest of the inhabitants of Kielce, and my imagination is helpless in the face of this task. After all, someone not anonymous, hiding behind the system, the good of the nation, decided that there would be people who could expand their “living space” and there would be people who should be removed from this world, disappeared, exterminated. – Malgorzata Kowalewska, president of the Association, said at the ceremony.

The ceremony was attended by Bożena Szczypiór, vice-mayor of Kielce, Dr. Robert Piwko, head of the IPN Delegation in Kielce, and Martin Gärtner, consul general of Austria – his presence was connected with the fact that about a thousand Viennese Jews were also imprisoned in the Kielce ghetto, most of whom perished with the Jews of Kielce at Treblinka.

On the eve of the ceremony, an outdoor exhibition “They Were Neighbors. Human choices and behavior in the face of the Holocaust,” prepared by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum’s representative in Poland, Alina Skibniewska, said:

– Poland’s history is shown in the exhibition against the background of other European countries (…). The problems that affected the inhabitants of this land also affected other people, and these are universal problems. We are an exception when it comes to the course of the Holocaust, we are not an exception when it comes to people’s attitudes, and this is the main theme of the exhibition. –

As part of the opening of the exhibition, a moving lecture entitled: “Absent. A story about the Jewish inhabitants of Kielce” was given by Krzysztof Mylinski, historian, specialist in the history of Kielce.

On Wednesday, August 23, dozens of residents took part in a city walk through the former ghetto area of Kielce, discovering with their guide, Piotr Swierczynski of the Jan Karski Association, what events were witnessed by Kielce buildings and streets that still exist today.

The commemoration of the 81st anniversary of the Holocaust of the Kielce ghetto ended with a Pilgrimage of Remembrance to Treblinka. The trip to the place of death of more than twenty thousand Jews from the Kielce ghetto, was attended by dozens of city residents. On the way to Treblinka, participants stopped in Warsaw, where they visited the Nożyk Synagogue with Rabbi Yitzhak Rapaport. In Treblinka, a commemoration was held, during which psalms were prayed and the surviving names of Kielce Holocaust victims were read. Participants in the pilgrimage lit candles at the stone commemorating the Kielce victims, and then in silence and reflection they dispersed around the site of the former camp to individually pay tribute to the murdered.