Critics challenge Warsaw site for monument to Polish righteous gentiles

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — A monument commemorating Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust will be constructed on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto.

A monument construction committee initiated by Polish-Jewish businessman and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat made the announcement at a news conference Friday in Warsaw.

Construction of the monument, which is near the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, is scheduled to be completed by next fall.

“A monument commemorating Poles who saved Jews during the Nazi occupation was a dream of mine for many years,” Rolat, who lives in the United States, during at the news conference. “I believe that it should not be funded either by the Polish state nor any Polish city. It should be the initiative of and with the money contributed by the Jewish communities.”

Scholars from the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research and representatives of the Polish-Jewish community have objected to constructing the monument at the Warsaw Ghetto site.

“There is no lack of space for monuments for the righteous all over Poland,” the scholars said in a statement, “but the Warsaw Ghetto area should remain an intact sanctuary of the memory of the murdered Jews.”

Four representatives of the Polish-Jewish community — Elzbieta Magenheim, Jan Spiewak, Piotr Wislicki and Piotr Kadlcik — also questioned the placement of the monument, asking whether this kind of monument should stand in the ghetto.

The 27 committee members to build the monument come from various countries and include Adam Rotfeld, a former Polish foreign minister; Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich;  Shevach Weiss, former Israeli ambassador to Poland; and Samuel Wilenberg, a survivor of Treblinka.

Earlier in November, plans were announced to build a different monument to Poles who rescued Jews during World War II. It will be built next year near the Church of All Saints at Grzybowski Square in Warsaw and is financed by the Polish city and the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom.

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