Nearby we found the Nozyk Synagogue, the one surviving synagogue in Warsaw after the destruction of WWII. Like many we have seen, it was used as a stable by the Nazis during the war years, but is now an active synagogue.
We continued on our walk through the Jewish area to find a remaining section of the ghetto wall. We later discovered metal plaques embedded in the pavement to highlight the boundaries of the ghetto.
The following day we headed for the Jewish Historical Institute. The Thomackie Street Synagogue, the major synagogue in Warsaw, used to be located across the street until it was dynamited by the Nazis. The building in which the Institute is located was the synagogue library and Institute for Judaic Studies. It is one of the few buildings that survived. There we were able to go through an exhibit on the Warsaw ghetto and uprising. A film is available in English which tells the story of the ghetto. It has extensive footage from that time period. There is also some chilling footage taken by the Nazis of the burning of the ghetto. Pre-war there were 380,000 Jews in Warsaw and they made up 30% of the city. About 100,000 died in the ghetto of starvation and disease. Others were deported to their deaths. The story of life in the ghetto is known to us today because of the efforts of Emmanuel Ringelblum. Ringelblum was a historian who prior to the war sought to tell the story of the Jews of Warsaw until the 20th century . By the time the war broke out he was up to the end of the 18th century and had published widely. In 1939 his attention shifted to what was occurring around him. He begain meeting with a group of the underground leadership under the code name of “Oneg Shabbat”. They collected documentary information and conducted research on ghetto life. When they learned of the Nazis’ plans for annihilation of the Jews they smuggling a report to London reporting on the 300,000 Jews who had been deported to their deaths in Treblinka. Thus knowledge of these activities was available to the US and British early in the war. Three milk containers were hidden in Warsaw containing this documentation. Two of these were discovered after the war containing 40,000 pages. One of the milk containers is exhibited in the Jewish Historical Institute today.
In addition to the ghetto exhibition, there was an excellent art exhibit of work done by artists who lived in the ghetto, most of whom died in the camps.
I had heard that the Institute did some genealogy work and inquired as to where. I was directed to the building across from the Institute where I found a small office. There I introduced myself to Yale Reisner and Anna Przybyszewska Drozd who work with the Jewish Genealogy and Family Heritage Center. I provided them with my family names and towns and they reviewed their records to determine what information was available. The materials which they located included a 1901 Homeowners List for Radom which included some family names and addresses. They also pulled out a 1932 and 1941 phone book. The 1941 phone book had just a few Jewish names because they would have been moved to the ghetto by then. It was chilling to see the Gestapo listed in the phone book. They provided me with a link I had not yet discovered for the Radom Municipal Library which has documents which can be downloaded that include information on the Jewish community, yet another source to mine for my research. They also have photographs of some of the Jews of Radom. I obtained a list to post on the Radom Shtetlink site which I created earlier this year. I took the opportunity to share the site with them and was gratified to learn that they had already accessed the site recently.
Yale told me of the AGAD Central Archives of Historical Records also housed in Warsaw. I learned that they have some information on voter lists from Radom and other materials that will have to wait for a future visit.
Yale told me that there had been a lot of activity in Radom in trying to clear title for development of abandoned buildings. Our friend Jakub in Radom had also talked of the difficulty in developing areas because of a lack of clear title due to buildings that previously belonged to Jews who were murdered. Apparently this is an issue throughout Poland. A notice is placed in the paper for three months and if no response is received the government takes control of the building.