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Amsterdam and Poland 2017 

 Day 6, Warsaw

 Friday, June 9      

We slept a little later this morning. The hotel served a beautiful breakfast buffet in a huge room. There were many choices and everything was delicious.   After breakfast, we had the opportunity to meet our tour director. We will gathered tonight at 6:00 for our first meeting and a dinner. She was an attractive lady by the name of Marta.  We also met a couple from Rhode Island who said they would like to go with us on our adventure to the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews. The four of us took a taxi to the Museum.  

POLIN MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF THE POLISH JEWS

 The museum is about four years old, quite large with wonderful exhibitions. It is very interactive along with audio devices and traces the 1000-year history of the Jews in Poland. It traces how the Jews first arrived in Poland, why they stayed, and how Poland became home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world – there were 3.3 million Jews in Poland before the Holocaust.     The history of the Jews is traced through eight galleries. Below is a brief description taken for the Guide to the Core Exhibition which is given to each visitor. It is recommended that the visit could take up to three hours or more.    

Gallery 1- The Forest - the first gallery is a bridge from the front entrance to the main hall and then a descent on the grand staircase where you will discover a poetic forest, the setting for the Legend of Polin. According to the legend, Jews fleeing persecution came east. When they arrived in a forest, they heard the word Polin which sounded like “rest here” in Hebrew. They knew then that this was a place to settle. Polin is the Hebrew word for Poland. and the inspiration for the name of the Polin Museum of the history of Polish Jews.  

 Gallery 2 – First Encounters 960 – 1500   This gallery illustrates the first 600 years. As early as the 10th century, Jewish merchants were already traveling roads that passed through Poland. By 1500 Jews were living in over 100 places with organized Jewish communities in about half of them. Stories of the Jews who lived in these towns are illustrated on the town wall, which like the entire gallery is hand-painted. There are several interactive displays.  

Gallery 3 -  Paradisus Iudaeorum 1569 – 1648   This gallery showed the Golden age for Jews in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Rabbinical authority and scholarship reach new heights. Jewish communities were allowed to govern themselves locally, regionally and nationally. The outbreak of the Khmelanytsky uprising in 1648 devastated Jewish communities and left the Commonwealth in ruins.  

Gallery 4 – the Jewish Town 1648 - 1772   This gallery explored the daily life in small towns. In the center of this gallery is a synagogue with a celestial canopy. There are signs of the zodiac around the base of the cupola and the messianic animals along the middle band.    

 

 

 Gallery 5 – Encounters with Modernity 1772 – 1914   Between 1772 and 1795, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned the Commonwealth and inherited the large Jewish population living there. Jews were now individual subjects of the monarch, who regulated their everyday lives with law upon law.   This day there was a new monarch elected to the throne which was vacant at the time. This new king is King Thomas of Accokeek!

Gallery 6 – on the Jewish Street  1918 – 1939   With the collapse of the three empires during the first world war and the creation of the second Polish Republic in its aftermath, there began what some historians consider the second “Golden age” for Polish Jews – despite economic hardships and rising anti-Semitism.  

 Gallery 7 – Holocaust 1939 – 1945   The story of the Holocaust is presented within the borders of occupied Poland and focuses on the experience of the Jews. German repressions separate and isolate Jews and force them into ghettos. The German invasion of Poland marks the onset of mass murder by death squads and then in death camps.  

 Gallery 8 – Postwar Years 1944 – today   Barely 300,000 Polish Jews survived the war, most of them in the Soviet Union. Those who remained in Poland helped to rebuild the country and also Jewish communal life. Following the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968 only about 10,000 Jews remained in Poland. After 1989, with the fall of communism, there was a renewal of Jewish life on a small scale.  

 

THE WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING HEROES MONUMENT

In front of the Polin Museum is a large monument dedicated to the tens of thousands who lost their lives during the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  It was designed by sculptor Nathan Rappaport and made of granite which the Nazis imported from Sweden ironically to build their own victory tower. The front of the monument has a bronze relief depicting a groups of insurgents and the leader of the uprising , Mordacai Anielewicz, who stands with a grenade in his hand.  The back shows a groups of Jews being marched to their death. There is an exact copy of the monument in Yad Vashem in Israel.

  We meet our new friends again for lunch in the museum café.  Then we shared a taxi back to the hotel.  

We would highly recommend this museum as a must for any visit to Warsaw.  It was a moving experience.   I am sorry that I didn't take more photos.

Back at the hotel, we met with the Tour Manager for a few moments. She gave us some suggestions for the rest the afternoon. Our friends wanted to go on a further exploration than us.

We walked a few blocks to see the Three Cross Square and St. Alexander Church.    The first monument was erected in this square on the order of King August II Mocny in 1731. It consisted of two gilded crosses standing on stone columns, designed as the starting point for a monumental station of the cross complex. The rococo statue of St John Nepomuk (set just behind the two columns) was put up in 1752.

 

ST. ANEXANDER'S CHURCH

St. Alexander's Church (whose lovely neo-classical portico looks out at the original three crosses) was built at the beginning of the 19th Century. Today, the total number of crosses in Plac Trzech Krzyży has reached six, including the three on the church.   St. Alexander’s Church (modeled on the Pantheon in Rome) was designed and built between 1818-1825. Named after St Alexander to commemorate the coronation of the Russian Tsar Alexander I as King of Poland, it was renovated and enlarged several times over the course of the 19th century, only to be almost completely destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising. After the war, it was rebuilt in its original, neo-classical form.    

Yesterday we had passed a very tempting French bakery that had delicious looking cupcakes, tarts etc.   We passed it again this afternoon and the temptation was too great and we bought a cupcake each to have as our afternoon snack back in our room.  

At 6:00, we met our group in the lobby and then went into the breakfast room and sat 4 to a table.  We sat across from two ladies from U.K. who were retired school administrators.  Our Tour Manager, Marta, gave us details about the tour.  There are 44 on the trip, mostly seniors, but a few people brought their adult children....no little children.  After that we went through a very tasty buffet line and ate with the same ladies.   It appears to be a very nice group of traveling companions.

Next Day -

Day 1 - Amsterdam

Day 2 - Amsterdam

Day 3 - Amsterdam

Day 4 - Amsterdam

Day 5 - Warsaw

Day 6 - Warsaw

Day 7- Warsaw

Day 8 - Czestochowa and Kracow

Day 9 - Krakow

Day 10 - Auschwitz and Wroclaw

Day 11 - Wroclaw

Day 12 coming soon