on October 26, 2012
Janusz Korczak was a Polish pediatrician and children's writer. He was a wonderful man who spent his entire life devoted to the Jewish children of Warsaw. He wrote many stories using the pen name of Henry Goldszmit and beleived in trying to give every child a solid grounding in education as well as making them believe in themselves as individuals. He set up his own orphanage on Krochmalna Street with his female assistant, Stefania Wilczynska. Together they worked side by side at the orphanage, taking time out once every year to visit Palestine. Eventually Stefania moved there to live but Janusz refused to go as he wanted to carry on his work in Warsaw. The orphangae he created was very unusual, the children published their own newspaper and even set up a small parliament. In 1940 when the Germans took over Warsaw, the children who were staying at the orphange had to be moved to the Ghetto. Janusz left too and lived amongst 'his children.' Two years later when German soldiers entered the Ghetto to take the chidren to the deportation point (Umschlagplatz) he also went with them. From here they were transported to the extermination camp of Treblinka. There are stories that he was offered freedom by the German soldiers at the time but he refused. He felt that his place was to be beside his orphans.I know quite a bit about Janusz and I admire the work he carried out throughout his lifetime. There are several monuments of him and his troop of children, throughout the city and each one is interesting and beautiful to look at. This monument which stands about a hundred metres away from the entrance to the Jewish Cmetery was unveiled in 1982 to honour his dedication and bravery and also to remember the lost children. The monument was a lot smaller than I expected. It shows Janusz leading forward, holding a small child in his arms. There is a sad look on his face and the child looks scared and is clinging on for life. Behind the doctor stand five other children, all of different heights. It's a beautifully crafted monument in black, made from epoxy resin which is a substance used in electronics usually to coat metal and also as an adhesive. Miroslaw Smorczewskiego and Lucian Kota were the sculptors. It is mounted on a concrete plinth covered in small pebbles and stones that have been left there by Jewish visitors. There are aslo several small candles. The way the children are stood behind the kind doctor made me feel sad as they looked so forlorn yet totally devoted to this man. I loved the way the ribbons had been sculptured, wrapped around the little girl's pigtails and I particularly liked the way the monument was set in a small area with benches and trees, an area for contemplation. It is a sad monument but very well designed and crafted. It is definitely one of the highlights of the Jewish Cemetery. You can't miss it as it is very close to the entrance and on the main path.
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