Program teaches Polish students local Jewish history

School of Dialogue students in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, learn local Jewish history. JOLANTA GODZIK, DOROTA CIELIK PHOTO

By Ruth Schweitzer

Students researching Jewish history in Polish towns learned of two unmarked sites where Jews were executed during the Holocaust, causing the teenagers to petition local authorities to install commemorative plaques there.

The students were participants in Polish-Jewish education workshops offered at their schools through the Warsaw-based School of Dialogue program. One site of genocide was located in Sosnowiec, a city in southern Poland, and the other in Bircza, a village in the southeastern part of the country, said Marta Usiekniewicz, a communications assistant with the Forum for Dialogue, which oversees the school program.

She said a group of 15-year-old junior high students from Sosnowiec, where 30,000 Jews lived before the Second World War, learned of an unmarked execution site next to another school’s sports field. Jews were murdered there in May 1944, after Sosnowiec’s Srodula Ghetto was liquidated.

In a 2016 video, one student, Martyna, says in Polish, “We had no idea so many Jews lived in Sosnowiec. We wanted to commemorate it. There was no mark, no plaque, nothing mentioning Jews.”

Then Igor says, “We want the residents of Sosnowiec to know about it because it is an important part of our town’s history. We have a school historical society. They told us to ask the local authorities. We submitted a request to the local authorities and they said, ‘Of course. Why not?”

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