WARSAW, Poland — Israel’s ambassador to Poland joined hundreds of Warsaw residents Sunday in recalling the first mass deportations of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto and in honoring a Jewish activist who took his own life while despairing over the world’s indifference to the Holocaust.
The March of Remembrance began at Umschlagplatz Memorial, the site where forces of Nazi Germany occupying Poland started in July 1942 putting Jews on trains to the Treblinka death camp. Some 300,000 Jews were sent to their deaths that way.
In the April 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, young Jews took up arms against the Jewish ghetto’s liquidation but were crushed by German troops, which then raised the ghetto to the ground.
Marches have been held by the Jewish History Institute each year since 2012 in memory of Warsaw’s Jewish community, which was Europe’s largest before World War II.
This year’s event was dedicated to Szmul Zygielbojm, who killed himself in London in 1943 after the fall of the ghetto. After fleeing Poland, Zygielbojm publicly relayed what he was hearing from the resistance movement about the Jewish genocide in Nazi-occupied Poland and begged allied leaders to help.
The head of the history institute, Pawel Spiewak, said Zygielbojm’s name needed to be recalled because it is not found in major Holocaust history books and there is no street in Israel named after him.
He read out a letter to the participants from Zygielbojm’s grandson, Artur, who quoted Zygielbojm explaining his dramatic gesture in the face of the “inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.”
The marchers walked in the streets that were in the former ghetto area with yellow ribbons bearing male and female Jewish names, symbolizing individual victims. They left them on a barbed wire structure that symbolized the ghetto’s isolating wall.
Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari said the memory should be a lesson for the present time and for the future.
The march came a month after the fallout over an agreement signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki on June 27, which Poland sees as exonerating it of accusations that Poles had any meaningful role in the Holocaust.
The declaration, which was been castigated by Yad Vashem, Netanyahu’s coalition partners, opposition MKs and others, was part of an agreement that ended the diplomatic spat between the two countries over a controversial Polish law that criminalized any accusation of the Polish nation being “responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”
It was issued on June 27 just minutes after the Polish parliament passed legislation to remove troubling passages from its controversial Holocaust law, which President Anderzej Duda signed into law.
The declaration says that the term “Polish death camps” is “blatantly erroneous” and that the wartime Polish government-in-exile “attempted to stop this Nazi activity [the killing of Jews] by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.”