Poland launches Warsaw ghetto tourist trail


Warsaw – A tourist trail tracing the boundary of the former Warsaw ghetto was inaugurated in the Polish capital Wednesday.

Twenty-one commemorative plaques bearing photographs from the period have been installed at key points along the trail, although few vestiges of the ghetto remain today.

“The Warsaw ghetto was the largest to be set up in Poland during the Nazi occupation. It was a horrific place of isolation and death for a third of the city’s population,” Warsaw mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, said during inauguration ceremony.

The plaques, and an accompanying tourist map, were developed by Warsaw city hall, Poland’s culture ministry and the city’s Jewish Historical Institute.

The inauguration date was chosen to be as close as possible to the November
16 anniversary of the walling-off of the ghetto by the Nazis in 1940, programme coordinator Eleonora Bergman said.

After invading Poland in 1939, the Nazis set up ghettos across the country to isolate the Jewish population.

At its height, around 450,000 people were crammed behind the walls of the 307-hectare (758-acre) ghetto centred on the capital’s traditional Jewish quarter.

About 100,000 died inside from starvation and disease.

More than 300,000 were sent by train from the infamous “Umschlagplatz”
mostly in mass deportations in 1942 to the Treblinka death camp, 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the northeast.

In April 1943 the Nazis decided to wipe out the remaining tens of thousands of inhabitants.

The move sparked an ill-fated uprising by hundreds of young Jews who decided to fight rather than face near-certain death in the “Final Solution.”

Around 7,000 people died in the month-long revolt, most of them burned alive, and more than 50,000 were deported to the death camps.

The Nazis razed most of the district as they crushed the revolt. Similar destruction was unleashed later on the rest of Warsaw after a failed two-month uprising by the wider Polish resistance in 1944.