Robin's Adventures

Central and Eastern Europe
An Adventure Steeped in History

Warsaw Ghetto

The Warsaw ghetto was established by German Governor-General Hans Frank in 1940 in German occupied Poland. More than 400,000 Jews, about 30% of Warsaw's population, were rounded up and sent to live in a ghetto that was only about 3.5 square miles, or about 2.4% of the area of Warsaw.

The ghetto was enclosed behind a wall that was nearly 10 feet tall and topped with barbed wire. In the summer of 1942, about 254,000 ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp.

Today, there are markers along the streets of Warsaw to show the boundary lines of the ghetto's perimeter. A small portion of the ghetto wall remains standing as are the posts that held a footbridge connecting one area of the ghetto to another.

Another memorial is located at the umschlagpatz, or collection point, where the Jews from the ghetto were loaded onto the trains that took them to the death camp at Treblinka. The monument is designed to look like an open freight car.

Jewish Cemetery

At 83 acres, the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery is one of the world's largest Jewish cemeteries. There are more than 200,000 graves that are marked and numerous mass graves that hold victims of the Warsaw ghetto.

The cemetery was neglected during the second World War and became seriously overgrown. Renovations of the cemetery began in the 1990s.

Insects at the Cemetary

Large colonies of the Firebug, Pyrrhocoris apterus, appeared in various locations around the cemetery. They eat seed from lime and mallow trees. Mating can take anywhere from 12 hours to 7 days.

An interesting discovery was made about this insect when scientists at Harvard tried to breed the insect. None of the insects survived to adulthood in these experiments. It turns out that American paper towels, which were used in the rearing process, are manufactured from balsam fir trees and contain a hormone from that tree that affected the insect. How's that for interesting trivia?

Museum of the History of Polish Jews

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opened in 2013, uses a variety of multimedia exhibits and artifacts to chronicle the history of Jews in Poland for the past one thousand years.

The museum, with a modern glass exterior, has a large empty space to symbolize \"cracks in the history of Polish Jews.\" In front of the museum is a memorial to the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

Note the exhibit that shows the travel document and $5 bill that was part of the 1968 anti-Semitic movement which drove about 200,000 Jews from Poland.

Dance of Death

One interesting exhibit at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews looks at a painting relating to the Dance of Death. The message is supposed to show that all people are the same in the eyes of death, but even this painting had anti-Semitic overtones.

Museum of the Warsaw Uprising

This museum chronicles the activities of the Polish underground movement including the Warsaw Uprising and its aftermath. There are lots of artifacts from the time period and calendar pages posted throughout the museum describe the day-by-day activities of the resistance during each of the 63 days of the uprising.

According to Wikipedia, \"The Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II\"

Aftermath

Some of the old buildings in the area that was once part of the Warsaw ghetto are still standing. Steel girders in the courtyards are being used to prevent the buildings, which are causalities from the war, from collapsing. Most of the living spaces in these buildings have been abandoned, but some of the apartments are still occupied.

Copernicus Science Museum

The Copernicus Science Museum, which opened in 2010, is a hands-on, interactive science related museum with more than 450 exhibits.

After all of the historical and holocaust museums we had been visiting, spending a few hours in a science museum was a breath of fresh air.

The displays were nicely set up and covered a wide variety of topics. It was a fun way to spend our afternoon.

Chopin Museum

The Chopin Museum had many interesting exhibits relating to the life of the composer.

There were musical scores written in Chopin's own hand as well as his last piano in a room set up to look like Chopin's study.

There was also a lock of Chopin's hair and a death mask that was made at Chopin's death bed by sculptor Augusre Clesinger.

Lazienki Park

Lazienki Park is like the Central Park of Warsaw. The park, which is about 190 acres, has gardens, fountains, an amphitheater, stables, a boathouse, a bath house, and numerous other attractions.

While walking through the park we saw a hooded crow gathering nuts, a red squirrel, and a peacock.