Today was our last day in Lodz! We started the morning out with a hearty Polish breakfast, and then went to the University of Lodz. We had a lecture from Dr. Durys an amazing, former colleague of Dr. Wright. We focused on Poland through the lens of film. So we watched a movie, the film took place in Poland during the post WWII years and focused on a gynecologist’s story and how she wanted to publish a book about sex. In English the movie is called “The Art of Love” and it was a really amazing movie. We then had some discourse of how this movie is related to the current situation in Poland.
The next part of the day was at the Jewish cemetery in Lodz. This was a really emotional experience for me today. Most of the graves were from before 1939, the beginning of WWII. This is because a lot of Jews lived in Poland and there was a thriving Jewish community in Lodz. But all of the cemetery is overgrown with weeds. Our job today was to clean a small section of the cemetery. Our group worked really hard to clean the area and we did a very good job, especially in the hot sun.
As we were talking about the cemetery, we were talking about how the Poles viewed the cemetery. Some believe that the cemetery is so overgrown because Jews do not take care of their dead. Which is completely untrue. There is no one to take care of the graves, a lot of the family members of those who are buried there died during WWII. I think this is the type of antisemitism that is seen in Poland. Antisemites get away with this behavior and way of thinking because there are no Jews to speak out against this. However, the most chilling part of the whole day, is when we found giant pits in the ground. These holes were dug by Jews in Lodz ghetto who were going to be killed by the Nazis in the graves that they dug. But due to the Russians advancing these Jews were saved. Unfortunately, the Russians did not advance soon enough and the Germans had already liquidated the Lodz ghetto.
As we were finishing up our time at the cemetery, we noticed a group of presumably Israeli Jews touring the cemetery. One girl was wearing the flag of Israel as a cape on her back and there were a lot of men wearing Kippahs. Most likely, the group would only see the camps and the cemetery and go home. This creates the view as Poland as a place of death, even though Jewish culture thrived before WWII. I was also wondering if these groups of Israeli Jews ever clean the cemetery. Our small group accomplished a lot in a small amount of time so it would be nice to see an increase in people cleaning up the cemetery. We talk about nationalism in Poland and it is very popular in the Unites States, with phrases like “America first”. But there is another problem and that is the idea that Israelis view Poland as a place of death and the only safe place is Israel. And these tour groups perpetuate this fact. These groups do not get to see Poland as the place of Jewish life. I think there needs to be a lot of healing between Jews and Poles.