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Commemorative Events at GFH: Marking the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

With the arrival of spring each year, the Ghetto Fighters’ House abounds with activities and visitors – sometimes more than can be accommodated. This past month, a special atmosphere prevailed: Every few days, the auditorium or conference room was prepared to welcome VIPs from the IDF Senior Command Staff for a study day sponsored by a general or bureau chief, whose name, of course, cannot be disclosed.

Marking 70 years to the uprising, we offered several unique programs that grappled with the nature of the uprising, examining its role in the consciousness of Israeli society for soldiers and, in particular, for the commanders.

Some of the foremost experts lectured on the topic lectured on various aspects of the uprising – as an historical event and an element in the Israeli ethos of heroism: Prof. Hanna Yablonka, the House historian, spoke of the connection between the uprising – 70 years since 1943 – and the Yom Kippur War, 40 years ago. The testimonies and memories of those who fought in the Yom Kippur War and bereaved parents reveal that an awareness of the Holocaust was evident in the fighting, in the analysis of the event, and also in the press of those days. Muki Tsur spoke of the scarlet thread of Holocaust awareness woven through all of Israel’s wars. Dr. Mooli Brog, who conducts research on myths, examined the attitude toward the Holocaust uprising in comparison with the attitude toward the Masada story, and asked whether the story of the uprising is today a shattered myth. And Dr. Alon Gan, a scholar of Israeli society, examined the metamorphosis of the story of the uprising in Israeli society and culture.

These are particularly important meetings: They constitute recognition of the centrality of the Ghetto Fighters’ House and also serve to attract others: Every commander brings those under him, right on down through the chain of command.

Two more conferences were held in the past few months. In early March, Ghetto Fighters’ House hosted the "Sixth International Conference on Women and the Holocaust", which focused on “her-story”, rather than “his-tory”. Presenters and witnesses from Israel and abroad rescued from obscurity some fascinating personal accounts of women, casting light on our knowledge of the Holocaust, and considered whether there was a distinctive woman’s experience and narrative voice during the Holocaust era.  The conference was a joint project of the Ghetto Fighters' House, Beit Terezin and Beit Berl and supported by the Claims Conference and Remember the Women Institute and

Later in March, a conference was held at the Ghetto Fighters’ House, sponsored jointly with the Western Galilee College and Yad Vashem, which examined new perspectives in ghetto research. Using archival material, GFH researchers, Noam Rachmilevitch and Lior Inbar,  jointly presented the story of the Jewish Combat Organization in the uprising. The following day, Sharin David spoke of her research about education in the Warsaw Ghetto. Key to her research is a unique anthology of the Central Yiddish Schools Organization. David presented a selection of the writings and works that appeared in the anthology, examing the educational perception of the editor/teachers and how they interpreted the existential situation in the ghetto.  David's research provided fascinating insights from this anthology as a comparison work of Payn un Gvure [suffering and courage], with which we are more familiar.

None of these events could have taken place without the combined efforts of all departments of the Ghetto Fighters’ House and the responsibility they contributed. This is a good opportunity to thank everyone for their cooperation and the sense of mission they all bring to the task – staff, management, maintenance and technology crews, kitchen and dining hall staff, teachers and guides. Thank you all very much and yishar koakh!

Several VIP events are still ahead of us, and of course the Holocaust Day ceremony and the “Between the Sirens” events. L’hitraot – I hope to see as many of you there as possible!





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