- Portraits in windows
- Memorial plaque with a prayer
- Popes’ words
- Commemorative plaques from 1990 and 1996
- Karski’s Bench
- ‘Menorah’ monument
- In the vicinity
The following are the words that are placed inside a mezuzah. The last sentence is actually the source of this tradition:
The Mezuzah returned to the doorpost of the house at 7 Planty Street on April 23, 2015, during a ceremony to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Society, when the Institute for the Culture of Encounter and Dialogue began its activities. It was affixed by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, who said at the time that the mezuzah was to remind the visitors to the Institute of the everyday obligation to do good. It is worth noting that the rabbis require the mezuzah to be removed from homes where no Jews live, so as to prevent the desecration of the holy object. However, according to the sixteenth-century tradition, which was initiated by the outstanding teacher of the Law, Mosze Isserles (Remu) from Kraków, there is one exception – the mezuzah should not be removed when the former Jewish house is inhabited by friends who do not belong the Chosen People. Leaving this symbol on the doorpost is to be then an expression of trust and respect.
We are pleased that our Jewish friends trust us and every day the mezuzah reminds us of the purpose of our activities, which is building bridges where there were previously walls.
After 21 years since the inauguration of the exhibition the exhibition was presented in Kielce. Pictures, including photographs of the Kielce Jews, were exhibited not only inside the building at 7/9 Planty Street but also on the external walls and the neighboring bridges over the Silnica River.
After the exhibition was closed three portraits remained in Kielce to be presented in the blind windows of the house in Planty Street. Who do they show?
In 2006, when the 60th anniversary of the Pogrom was celebrated, the decision was made to organize the main celebrations of the 9th National Day of Judaism in Kielce. The celebrations took place on 17 January and it was the first time when such an event had been organized in a city with no organized Jewish community. The co-organizers of the celebration included the Bishop of Kielce, Kazimierz Ryczan, and the Jan Karski Society. The day after the main celebrations, on 18 January, a commemorative plaque with the words of the prayer of John Paul II, which he put in the Wailing Wall during his visit to Jerusalem, was placed on the wall of the building at 7 Planty Street. The prayer went:
The ceremony in front of the building in Planty Street was also attended by Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, who soon afterwards said:
As mentioned during the unveiling of the plaques by Bogdan Białek, this short sentence of the Polish Pope provoked criticism from all sides: “One of the Kielce columnists wrote: ‘Why is the Pope saying this? How long do we, Kielce citizens, have to be reminded of this crime in 1946?’. This happened in 1991, 26 years ago. Until 1991, few people had talked about it. (...) On the other hand, a well-known Jewish writer said: “What the Pope said was not enough. He should have added this, and this and that ...”. This caused dissatisfaction on all sides. However, if we look closely at this one sentence we have to understand that at that time the Pope sent a very strong message. Why? Because the sentence focused on the victims of the Pogrom”, said Bogdan Białek. “The Pope did not judge the event and he did not get involved in any historical speculations. He directed our attention to the victims, to those who should have always been in the centre of our attention”, the president of the Society added.
The second commemorative plaque presented a message of Pope Francis of the letter of 1 March 2016 to Rabbi Abraham Skórka:
The Bishop of Kielce, Jan Piotrowski, referred to the words of Pope Francis: “My dear, watch your hands, look at your faces – are there any scars? I have such scars. They have healed. We forget about certain events but the scars remind us of something. Because scars are a sign of history”.
The second plaque was a private initiative and was placed symmetrically on the other side of the building.
The third, cast iron plaque, is arranged on a former fence around the premises at 7/9Planty Street. It bears the following inscription: "In memory of the victims of the Kielce Pogrom on its 50th anniversary. Residents of Kielce ". The plaque was replaced by the city authorities in 2017 prompted by the Jan Karski Society - the earlier, original plaque of 1996 included ambiguous words of ‘the Jewish Pogrom:” instead of ‘the Kielce Pogrom’. The original plaque was laid in this place at a ceremony connected with the 50th anniversary of the pogrom in 1996. The celebration was scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 7, and it was attended by, among others, by Prime Minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, general secretary of the Polish Episcopate. "We cannot wriggle out of shameful heritage: in the middle of a sunny day a crime was committed and we have inherited it with the history of the city. Regardless of who killed, whether it was a worker of the ‘Ludwików’ Steelworks, a hysterical woman, a militiaman or a soldier", reported ‘Słowo Ludu’ daily paper.
Walking along the bank of the Silnica River, you will reach the main promenade of the city, the Sienkiewicza Street. There, in the heart of Kielce, on a bridge, the Karski Bench is situated. The monument, created by Karol Badyna, shows the figure of Jan Karski, the patron of the Society. Made entirely of bronze, the sculpture shows Karski sitting on a bench, looking thoughtfully at a chessboard. The location of the monument is not accidental and it has a deep symbolic dimension. A few dozen meters away, at 7 Planty Street, the main events of the Kielce Pogrom took place. Also the chessboard is not an accidental element - chess was a favorite pastime of Professor Karski. He collapsed and died while playing chess. The arrangement of the chess pieces on the board is the so-called Karski game. Pieces are placed in such a way that irrespective of any move of black pieces Karski would win using his white pieces. Symbolically, it means that our good small deeds can change the world for the better.
The ceremonial unveiling of the monument, founded by the Jan Karski Society, took place in Kielce, on April 23, 2005. This monument is the second in a series of monumental sculptures dedicated to the memory of Jan Karski. “Karski Benches”, each of which is different, were created after the year 2000 in Washington, New York, Lodz, Tel-Aviv, Warsaw and Krakow.
The ceremony of the unveiling of the Menorah monument was attended by the representatives of the Polish government and the office of President of the Republic of Poland, local, regional and city authorities and many residents of Kielce. There were also Yossef Levy, policy counselor and vice-ambassador of Israel in Warsaw, and Michel Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland. The guests were greeted by Bogdan Białek, president of the Jan Karski Society in Kielce, who said: ‘65 years ago every third inhabitant of Kielce was murdered. 65 years ago the Nazis murdered more than 20 thousand people who they did not treat as human beings. 200 meters from here there is the building of the former hospital, whose patients were killed with poison. 400 meters away, on the bank of the Silnica River, children from an orphanage were murdered - five with one shot. This monument is not needed to those who passed away but it is needed to us so as we keep remembering. It will not let the memory die’, said Białek during the ceremony.
At the intersection of Planty and Piotrowska Streets there is a monument called "White Wash II" by the American artist, Jack Hall, dedicated to the victims of the Pogrom. It is a two-meter-high wall in the shape of the number 7 (a reference to the number of the building at Planty Street as well as its shape) built of concrete blocks of which 42 (symbolizing the number of victims) are covered with lead plates. The rest of the blocks, which are whitewashed, is to symbolize preserving the memory of the tragic event. The monument was financed from the funds of the government of the United States Commission for the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad. The monument was to be modern, departing from the classical form of a monument commemorating a tragic event. It had to become a part of the life of the city. However, incomprehensible to many residents of Kielce, it did not assume the functions of a memorial site. During its unveiling on July 4, 2006, three oak trees - "Trees of Peace" – were planted in a neighboring green space.
Moving down Piotrkowska Street, which formed the southern border of the Kielce Big Ghetto, we reach Moses Pelc Street. Dr. Moses Pelc (1888-1941) was a Jewish doctor and social activist. In the pre-war Kielce, he cooperated closely with Mayor Stefan Artwiński. Pelc was also the director of the Jewish Hospital, which is now part of the municipal St. Alexander Hospital. In 1939, the occupation authorities appointed him president of the Judenrat. He quickly resigned from his duties taking the position of the director of the ghetto hospital. In 1941, he was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered on September 8: an SS-man crushed Pelc’s larynx with his boot. The Jan Karski Society took the initiative to commemorate Moses Pelc in 2011, when the building situated in the green belt between the two lanes of Warszawska Street, which housed the Jewish ghetto hospital headed by Dr. Pelc, was demolished.
The cemetery is currently under the management of the Jewish Community in Katowice, although the Jan Karski Society is still involved in maintaining it in due order. Visitors to the cemetery are asked to contact Marian Krężołek, telephone number 783 084 183 or 783 084 072. Visitors are asked to adhere to the cemetery rules in order to show proper respect and maintain the cemetery in an appropriate condition.
8On July 8, 1946 the victims of the Kielce pogrom were buried in the cemetery. On their grave there is a small obelisk with the inscription "Here lie the remains of 42 victims of the Kielce Pogrom of July 4, 1946. Honor to their memory". In 2005, during the 64th anniversary of the Pogrom, a new tomb, built at the initiative of the Jan Karski Society, was dedicated to the victims. The author of the reconstruction project was Marek Cecuła, who explained that creating a design of the tomb he wanted to give it a deeply symbolic form - a six-meter slab of black marble is cracked symbolizing suddenly interrupted life of the people buried underneath. In the middle of the tomb the artist placed the symbolic Star of David and the date "4 VII 1946". There are also the names of the victims and a brief description of the events that happened 64 years ago in Hebrew, English, Polish, and Yiddish. Next to the tomb a 450-kilogram boulder was placed. It was transported from Israel to Kielce as a gift from the Kielce Landsmanschaft Jews. The boulder carries a symbolic message - it conveys the unfulfilled dream of the Jews killed 64 years ago to go to Palestine .
Next to the tomb a 450-kilogram boulder was placed. It was transported from Israel to Kielce as a gift from the Kielce Landsmanschaft Jews. The boulder carries a symbolic message - it conveys the unfulfilled dream of the Jews killed 64 years ago to go to Palestine .
The second, equally moving, tomb is located in the corner of the cemetery. This is a tomb of 45 children murdered in 1943. On the tomb slab people leave candles and toys. The children came from a labor camp, located between Jasna and Stolarska Streets. “ On May 23, 1943, we were gathered in a camp’s square (...) There were all adults and children there including my parents. Suddenly, someone grabbed me by the neck and dragged me into a small, old house. When struggling to free myself I started to shout and the man hit me hard in the face. I sensed that something very wrong was about to happen”, wrote Jan Zabłocki, one of the survivors, in his letter read out during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the shooting of the Jewish children in Kielce. He was 13 years old. He survived because together with two colleagues he hid in an attic of a small house. The boys stayed there for four days and were helped to escape by some prisoners of the camp.
The children came from a labor camp, located between Jasna and Stolarska Streets. “ On May 23, 1943, we were gathered in a camp’s square (...) There were all adults and children there including my parents. Suddenly, someone grabbed me by the neck and dragged me into a small, old house. When struggling to free myself I started to shout and the man hit me hard in the face. I sensed that something very wrong was about to happen”, wrote Jan Zabłocki, one of the survivors, in his letter read out during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the shooting of the Jewish children in Kielce. He was 13 years old. He survived because together with two colleagues he hid in an attic of a small house. The boys stayed there for four days and were helped to escape by some prisoners of the camp.