Polin Meeting Point- August 2015- Yossi Edry
The two weeks I have spent as a member of the Israeli group to the Polin Meeting Point project were truly an amazing experience. I feel like I saw and learned so much from my time In Warsaw, but yet it only left me wanting more.
As we arrived at the Museum for the first time, one of the things I wanted to observe the most was the different dynamics between the groups- how would the Polish, German and Israeli groups would get along and how great will the openness and the willingness to share personal life stories. After a period of time we naturally took to get to know each other, I was happy to discover most of us were open and honest about personal family stories and experiences which made WW2 come to life and become from this monumental human tragedy, to an event that affected people with faces, names and a personal history that was changed suddenly. By hearing such stories by my friends from the different groups I felt as if I was introduced to different angles of WW2 I never thought of before. To me that was one of the most amazing aspects of the seminar, and something I will not forget.
Another thing I was curious about was the different perspective each group had towards WW2 and its tragic results. Before coming to the seminar I didn’t have a lot of knowledge regarding the way the Polish people conceptualized WW2 and the way they regard it today. Our visit to the Warsaw uprising museum and the debates that followed were eye opening and introduced me to a complete different narrative to that I knew of. This experience taught me that different parts of Polish society are at a conflict between themselves over the way to remember the Polish part in WW2 and the way the war changed Polish self image for ever.
My time in Warsaw also changed completely the image of Warsaw I had in my mind. I thought Warsaw would be a boring gray town, with not much to do. I was happy to realize I was totally wrong- Warsaw is a vibrant metropolis with a great night life, cool people and lots to do and see. Having said that, Warsaw is also a haunted city, haunted by the ghosts of its Jewish residents who were an inseparable part of the city’s energy and human fabric. The annihilation of the Jewish People of Warsaw will haunt the city and Poland forever. For me this part of Warsaw and Poland’s history was still very much present while walking the streets and imagining the great Jewish community that was once there, and now isn’t no more.
During our weekend in Krakow a part of the group visited the Auschwitz concentration camp, in what turned out to be an emotional day for all of us, no matter where we were from. Standing side by side, Israelis, Poles and Germans on that cursed soil, in a place where the human race had lost its compassion and basic decency felt special. We stood in a moment of silence to respect and remember the people who were murdered there, and we each had time to reflect with our feelings and thoughts. In a place like that where hate and death were the currency, it felt to me like we did a small gesture for faith and hope.
In conclusion I would like to say that these two wonderful weeks I spent in the seminar had taught me so much, and gave me the chance to make life-long friends. The time in the seminar also made me reflect a lot on my own identity and my roots as a Jew, and the place it has in my life, and also the place I want it to have in the future.
I cannot wait until my next visit to Poland and also to the Polin Museum, which is such a unique and amazing museum in my eyes. Polin Meeting Point is a great opportunity for someone who wants to view a story from a different angle, while making new friends and educating himself. Lastly I want to thank the Nissenbaum Foundation and the staff from the Polin Museum for making this great experience come to life- TODA RABA!
Until next time,