on June 12, 2009
Located on the corner of Ul. Stawki and Ul. Dzika in Muranow, a relatively central part of Warsaw which was once "the Jewish ghetto" lies an unassuming memorial. With people toing and froing from a nearby philosophy faculty to a nearby supermarket and the street buzzing with traffic and pedestrians at this cross roads, it’s easy to walk past this stone monument. The only time it may draw attention is when there is a crowd of guide led tourists hanging around it, built in 1988 by architect Hanna Szmalenberg and sculptor Władysław Klamerus, this is a dedication to 265,000 Jews which were said to have been moved for relocation the east but were in fact transported from this very point to the extermination camp "Treblinka". Umschlagplatz itself means "collection point" in German and queues of Jews were formed here, with as many as 7,000 boarding the so-called death trains on some days. The monument itself is designed to represent an empty freight train and whilst I’m sure it was designed with good intentions, it doesn’t really do the cause justice and I think they haven’t pulled it off succesfully, leaving it looking strange and just like several sculptured walls. Obviously with the area having evolved (what was an extension of Warsazawa Gdansk train station is now a mixture of flat blocks and car parks) and with every day life continuing around this monument, it’s difficult to feel the aura of death and other than a trail of Israeli tourists, there’s little that would give it away as such a tragic location. Despite being guarded this sad memorial is occasionally defaced with swastika or KKK emblems usually by Legia Warszawa’s notoriously racist football firms from across the river keen to leave their mark in rival KSP (Polonia Warszawa) territory. It’s usually cleaned up as quickly as possible but obviously not a welcoming sight for anyone, especially not a Jewish tourist.
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