The Days of Remembrance in Lodz, commemorating the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, are already behind us. As in every year to date, the four-day agenda of the event was filled with exceptional concerts, performances and encounters with extraordinary figures. This year’s edition was particularly popular – almost all the tickets disappeared from the box office at the Stefan Jaracz Theatre a couple of days before the event!
The opening event, which took place on 26 January on the Grand Stage of the theatre, began with a performance by the Children’s Choir of the City of Lodz. Afterwards, Artur Hofman, Chairman of the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland, Zbigniew Ziemba, Vice Marshall of Łodz Voivodship, and Marcin Derengowski of the Department of Culture at the Municipality of Lodz delivered their welcome addresses. However, the main highlight of the evening was the show presented by the outstanding artists i.e. Olga Avigail Mieleszczuk, a singer from Israel, and Tango Attack. The concert “Shalom Jerusalem” made all the gathered audience travel to a fairy-tale world of Jewish songs.
The major part of celebrations of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day took place on 27 January at Radegast Station. This was the site from where the Jewish people were deported to the extermination camps from the onset of 1942. As every year, representatives of Jewish organisations, municipal, provincial and state authorities laid wreaths in tribute to the victims of the greatest atrocity in the history of humankind. The ceremony was attended by, inter alia, Jarosław Godun, a representative of the Department of Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Marek Mazur, Deputy Governor of Lodz, Mariusz Goss, Municipality Commissioner for the Heritage of Lodz, and Professor Marcin Gołaszewski, Chairman of the City Council. We must continue to remind our children of those days so that they know that the atrocity of the Holocaust was indeed something unprecedented in the history of the world. Since the dawn of humankind, people have been killing and murdering one another, armies have fought against one another, but only German Nazism decided to exterminate an entire nation – said Artur Hofman, TSKŻ Chairman. During the ceremony, a letter from the Speaker of the Polish Parliament, Szymon Hołownia, was also read out, to remind everyone of the importance of remembering: There are now only few Holocaust Survivors among us. […] But the memory of the Holocaust must not pass away with its last witnesses. It is therefore important to take care of the Sites of Remembrance, as well as the artefacts collected, because they are poignant evidence of the crime, and silent witnesses to the tragedy. At the end of the ceremony, the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Lodz, Dawid Szychowski, said a prayer in the intention of all the victims of the Shoah.
Later in the evening, a premiere performance of a play titled Dwoje [The Two] directed by Artur Hofman, was presented on the Small Stage of the Stefan Jaracz Theatre. This performance has been based on the play of the same title by a playwright named Ron Elisha. The main protagonists of the play are Anna and Chaim: she is a German woman who wants to learn Hebrew, and he is a rabbi who, due to his war experiences, has lost his faith in love and hope. Their encounters gradually turn into lessons of humanity. The leading characters were portrayed by Ewa Audykowska and Robert Latusek.
An event accompanying the Saturday celebration of the 14th Edition of the Days of Remembrance was the launch of Tamara Włodarczyk’s book titled: Wrocławski jidyszkajt. Rozmowy z polskimi Żydami [Wrocław’s Yiddishkeit. Interviews with Polish Jews]. The meeting took place at the Ethnographic Museum in Wrocław.
The event was attended by three characters presented in the book i.e. Ignacy Einhorn, Anatol Kaszen and Jerzy Kichler, as well as family members of other people interviewed by Tamara Włodarczyk. Tomasz Kwietko-Bębnowski was in charge of the artistic setting of the event.
The book was released thanks to an art grant awarded by the Mayor of Wrocław and published by the Ad REM Publishers and the Wrocław Cultural Institute as part of the Wrocław Publishing Programme, in cooperation with the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland.
The Sunday celebration of the 14th Days of Remembrance included a meeting at Marek Edelman Centre for Dialogue and two performances at Stefan Jaracz Theatre. The Dialogue Centre hosted a meeting with Anna Bikont, a journalist, reporter and author of more than a dozen books, of which many were devoted to Jewish issues. Such titles as: My z Jedwabnego [We, the People of Jedwabne], Sendlerowa. W ukryciu [Ms Sendler. In the Hiding.] or the latest publication: Nigdy nie byłaś Żydówką. Sześć opowieści o dziewczynkach [You’ve never been a Jewish Woman. Six Stories about Girls], are just a few examples of books, which touch upon the complex issue of Polish-Jewish relations. The meeting was chaired by Joanna Podolska, the Director of the Dialogue Centre.
Too Few Lullabies Sang was another of the offerings for Sunday afternoon. Actress Katarzyna Post, accompanied by specially composed guitar-electric music, presented the audience with a collection of poems by Jewish poets.
28 January ended with another show of the play “The Two” at the Stefan Jaracz Theatre.
The grand finale of the Days of Remembrance commenced with a series of speeches delivered by the event’s most honourable guests. Yacov Livne, Ambassador of Israel to Poland, expressed his gratitude for organising such an exceptional event. In his speech, the Deputy Voivode of Lodz, Marek Mazur, stressed the importance of remembering those who had lived together with the Poles on the same land for centuries. The attending guests could also listen to speeches by Marcin Derengowski of the Culture Department of the City of Lodz, Piotr Adamczyk, Deputy Marshall of the Lodz Voivodship, Michał Chorosiński, Director of the Stefan Jaracz Theatre and Artur Hofman, TSKŻ Chairman. The initiator of the event, Magdalena Majsterkiewicz, also thanked all those gathered for their commitment and attention.
The gala event was further enhanced by a performance by actress and singer Anna Dereszowska, who was accompanied by Gang Tango, a band composed of Anna Wandtke (violin), Piotr Kopietz (bandoneon), Miroslaw Feldgebel (piano) and Sebastian Wypych (double bass and artistic direction). The repertoire of the concert titled: The Tango of my Desires and Dreams included inter-war tangos composed by artists of Jewish origin, including Henryk Wars, Władysław Szpilman and Jerzy Petersburski.
Another noteworthy highlight was the Special Educational Portfolio of the Days of Remembrance, which for the eighth time was offered to schoolchildren. This year’s agenda included workshops organised by the Warsaw Ghetto Museum and the Museum of the City of Lodz, and theatrical plays performed by Teatr Nieoczywisty and (Od)Nowa Group. One of the highlights of the project was a meeting with dr Marek Michalak, the former Ombudsman for Children, President of the International Janusz Korczak Association and Knight of the Order of the Smile. The teacher, much loved by children, talked to pupils about some of the most important values in human life i.e. tolerance and empathy.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to everyone – the event’s co-organisers, partners, media patrons, workshop leaders and artists – for their enormous commitment and willingness to create such an unprecedented project as the Days of Remembrance! Special thanks are due to the person without whom this initiative would never have seen the light of day, namely the coordinator of the event, Ms Magdalena Majsterkiewicz!
The Days of Remembrance in Lodz, commemorating the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, have been continuously held for 14 years at the initiative of TSKŻ, in cooperation with Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Lodz, Marek Edelman Centre for Dialogue in Lodz, Museum of the Independence Traditions in Lodz, and the Marshal’s Office in Lodz. The event was made possible thanks to a grant offered by the Ministry of Interior and Administration.