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Riverside Park

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, April 23, 2003

COMMEMORATING THE WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING


Each year on April 19, survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and their descendents gather to commemorate at Riverside Park’s Warsaw Ghetto Memorial. This year, because April 19th fell on the Sabbath, participants gathered at the park’s memorial on Monday, April 21st. Organized by the Congress for Jewish Culture, the Jewish Labor Bund, and The Jewish Labor Committee, the ceremony was attended by several Parks & Recreation officials including Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, and Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Julius Spiegel. Also in attendance were Superintendent of Schools at Hauppaugh Dr. Marcel Kshensky, President of Goldenland Connections Moishe Rosenfeld, Riverside Park Fund Board Member David Goldstick, and children from the Metropolitan Montessori School. It was the sixtieth annual gathering of its kind.

The Memorial honors the struggles of Warsaw’s Jews, who were confined to a ghetto in November 1940 and kept in a state of near-starvation until they were deported to concentration camps in 1942. In the spring of 1943, after news of an impending round of deportations, those who had survived decided to fight rather than submit. With smuggled weapons, they rose up against the Nazis. Superbly organized into roughly 50 combat groups, the Jews managed to hold off the Schutzstaffel (S.S). from April 19 to May 16. The Germans regained control only by burning the Ghetto to near ruin. Some 15,000 of the 56,000 Jews who fought were killed and another 40,000 deported to concentration camps. Historians estimate that 300 Nazis were killed and another 1,000 wounded in the uprising.

As part of Monday’s ceremony, three children recounted the events of the Ghetto Uprising to the assembled audience. Although everyone in attendance knew the story well, the re-telling was powerful. The children expressed gratitude for their peaceful, prosperous lives and sadness over what had happened in the past. Their presence was a reminder of all the children that have lived during wartime and of the thousands of children that died in the Warsaw Ghettos. Their knowledge of the past also reminded everyone of the importance of remembrance, and of teaching history to new generations so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

The Memorial itself is a modest plaque, originally intended to serve as a cornerstone for a larger memorial. Buried beneath the plaque are two boxes containing soil from Terezin and Sered, two concentration camps in Czechoslovakia, and a scroll describing the defense of the Warsaw Ghetto, in both Hebrew and English, composed by the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. There have been several proposals for larger memorials. Over the years, the plaque itself has become the monument. In the 1990s, the plaza was cleaned and restored with the help of the efforts of the community. David Goldstick designed and planted perimeter gardens. In 2001, the entire area was restored and improved through a partnership between the Riverside Park Fund and the City of New York. The site is now one of most beautifully designed and maintained memorials in the city, and has become, for many people, a place of genuine meaning and remembrance.

Written by Hannah Gersen

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

...to Parkies born on April 24: SPMO Melvin Beverhoudt; Construction Program Manager Intern Dwayne Flowers; Recreation Director Dennis Miller; Playground Associates Germell Anderson and James Brooks; Community Associate Carla Gonzalez; City Seasonal Aide Lynn Foxworth;and City Park Workers Domingo Forte, Kevin Jenkins, Gregorio Mojica, William Oertel and Charles Tusa.

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

"I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt

that having survived I owe something to the dead..

.and anyone who does not remember betrays them again."

Elie Wiesel

(b. 1928)

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