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In Warsaw, Thousands of Jews Gather for Commemoration of Ghetto Uprising

April 18, 1988
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All of Warsaw seems to be preparing for the main events commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Thousands of Jews from 35 countries have been gathering here to participate in the commemorative rites, which began on April 14. It is by far the largest convocation in the history of the ceremonies, which began shortly after World War II and are held every five years.

This time round, the accent is on youth. Last Thursday, 2,000 children from 35 countries joined in a “march for the living,” from the chambers of horror at Auschwitz to the death camp of Birkenau, a distance of three miles. Almost half of the participants were from the United States and Israel.

Waving blue-and-white flags and wearing Windbreakers with Stars of David designed by artist Yaacov Agam, they were an endless sea of blue. At the end of their haunting journey, between the crematoria of Birkenau, they were addressed by former Israeli President Yitzhak Navon, now minister of culture and education; Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Executive; and Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently resigned from his post as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Avraham Sharir, who serves as Israel’s ministers of tourism and justice, brought a stone and some earth from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem as a symbolic offering.

From the blowing of the shofar to the “El Mole Rachamim,” the ceremony was a touching affirmation of life at this place of death.

For Navon and Dinitz, this marks their first visit to Poland. Dinitz pointed out that this is the first such high-level Israeli delegation to Poland. He praised the current Polish regime for marking the battle against Nazism and fascism through its Warsaw Ghetto remembrances.


The Palestine Liberation Organization has cast somewhat of a shadow over the ceremonies. According to Navon, the terrorist organization protested the observances some weeks ago to the organizing committee. Authorities are on alert for any PLO-inspired incidents during the next few days.

On Saturday, the Jewish state theater was to present a dramatic spectacle for Jewish delegates entitled “Songs About the Murdered Nation.” Medallions were to be conferred on a group of Poles for their aid to Jews during the Nazi occupation.

On Sunday, an international youth quiz on Jewish martyrdom was scheduled at Congress Hall. Twelve finalists, selected from 32 semifinalists, were to compete in the first contest of its kind ever to be held in Poland.

On Monday morning, a two-day round of events climaxing this extraordinary assembly of world Jewry is scheduled to begin. According to Zbigniew Unger, director of the Orbis Congress Bureau managing the crowded schedule, at least 6,000 people will be on hand for a solemn memorial observance at the Umschlagplatz, where the Nazis put 300,000 Jews on trains bound for Treblinka and other death camps.

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