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  • We tried to create a place that does not exist anymore. With just some pictures and a rough layout marked on the sidewalks, we were asked to imagine the Warsaw Ghetto. We stood exactly where it was, but this was just a space caught in limbo between the physical past and the present memory.

    Abby and I had done our presentation on the Warsaw Ghetto for class, so I figured I could get a general idea of what we were going to see and what the Warsaw Ghetto looked like even in the present. Surprisingly though I was unable to conjure up an image of what the Ghetto was like back during the time of its existence. I had done so much research on what it used to look like, but hadn’t been able to find any information on its present location and landmarks. Because of this, I was struggling to tie together this past and present, and drawing off my research just only muddled the idea that I was in the area of the Ghetto. Like a puzzle I tried to piece together the places and form a map in my mind, but in reality I was forced to realize that this past was lost in the present, even if only physically. The few landmarks did help, and there were certain original pieces of walls and buildings that remained from the time of the Ghetto, but they were swallowed up by the present architecture.

    Visiting the area of the Warsaw Ghetto really made me realize how incomprehensible the occurrences inside the Ghetto are. Reading Emmanuel Ringelblum’s journal Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto made this even more confusing, with all of the facts, figures, geographical points, and names thrown about. It gave me a sense that I can never truly get the bigger picture of the Ghetto, contrary to what I believed during my presentation. There is a strong feeling I get from this book of Ringelblum wanting to know everything and figure out the big picture. The frightening part is that if Ringelblum was never 100% sure with all of his expertise and personal experience with being in the Ghetto, how are people of the present ever to get a mere glimpse of it?

    Professor Stark brought up the question of what must it feel like to have the remaining bits of the wall be literally in your back yard. I tried to imagine what it would be like in an American perspective: we live soil where Native Americans were slaughtered and stripped of their land. But we do not think of this nor are reminded of it every day by plaques on the street and tourism. It seems like we have completely obliterated the fact that people used to live there before us and that we really are on their land. Here in Warsaw I do not get that same feeling. That is probably because everyone in Warsaw was here previously to the Ghetto’s establishment. The Poles on the outside and the Jews on the inside of the Ghetto already cohabitated, so it was in some respects initially a form of isolation and separation. Also, time plays a factor. WWII didn’t happen very long ago unlike the pillage of the Europeans on North America. The memory is somewhat fresh and there are people still alive here who were around when it happened and even some who survived.
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