President Obama meets and thanks Polish soldiers, old and new,

in Warsaw's Pilsudski Square, May 27.



Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

Polish Jews Express Gratitude for President Obama's Visit


"Despite being such an important and meaningful political figure, President Obama found time to stop for a moment and consider the lessons of history."


-- Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland


Polish Press Agency


Translated By Halszka Czarnocka


May 27, 2011


Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article (Polish)

President Obama meets with members of Poland's Jewish community outside Warsaw's Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, May 27.


PRESS POOL VIDEO: President Obama and Polish President Komorowski at a discussion on Democracy, May 28, 00:05:25RealVideo

The image of the U.S. president laying flowers at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes is destined to become one of the most important from his visit to Warsaw. Obama's heartfelt exchanges with representatives of the Jewish community and the Righteous Among the Nations also left a great impression. He spoke with, among others, Marian Turski, board chairman of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.


During the TV broadcast of President Obama's visit to the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, viewers were able to observe the president spend quite some time speaking warmly with members of Warsaw's Jewish community and with the Righteous Among the Nations who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. What they said couldn't be heard. The president spent a particularly long time with Marian Turski, who later related that he told the U.S. president how he participated with Martin Luther King in a march for civil rights in Montgomery, Alabama. "The president said, ‘I thank you because it's thanks to people like you that I was able to become president,’" related Turski



President Obama came to Muranów after a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He stood for a long while, his head bowed, at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. At the time of the Ghetto uprising in April 1943, there were about 70, 000 Jews remaining there. Almost 14,000 died in the uprising, and the rest were deported to Nazi death camps. Having laid the wreath, the U.S. president spent 15 minutes greeting and talking to representatives of the Polish-Jewish community, most of them elderly. Also present were a number of people honored with the Medal of Righteous Among the Nations, bestowed by Yad Vashem [Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority].


"We spoke of our visit to Washington in 2009, when we were invited to the U.S. capitol by President Obama on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. For me, the most important part of that day was that President Obama spoke so warmly and beautifully about the Righteous Among the Nations, and that has reverberated around the world," said Anna Stupnicka-Bando, president of the Polish Association of Righteous Among the Nations, when journalists asked her about her conversation with the U.S. president.


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The vice president of the Group of Polish Righteous Among the Nations, Józef Walaszczyk, stressed the fact that President Obama spoke so warmly to each and every person. "We were very impressed. The conversation was so intimate and warm, there was nothing stiff about it: there were smiles, handshakes, and the ladies even got a kiss," reports Walaszczyk.


He added that in his conversation with the president, he mentioned his age of 92 years. The president then asked him what he did to remain in such shape despite his age. "One has to eat everything and always have young women around, I said. The president then laughed," says Józef Walaszczyk.


Obama: I’ll bring my daughters for the opening of the Jewish Museum


Barack Obama was also briefed on construction plans for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews being built across the street from the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, although, due to security reasons, he wasn't invited inside the building. In front of the site, Barack Obama spoke to, among others, the museum's acting director, Agnieszka Rudzińska, the Museum’s board chairman, Marian Turski, and Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski. Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz told the U.S. leader about the building of the museum. "I told the president that construction began just two years ago, although everyone thought such a place should be built for over 20 years," she told reporters. She added that during her conversation with Obama, she stressed the fact of the museum documented, "the thousand years of Poles and Jews living together, with the Holocaust just one element of that history." According to Mayor Gronkiewicz-Waltz, President Obama said that he would like to come to Warsaw again when the Museum opens in 2013.




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The museum’s director, Agnieszka Rudzińska, also said the president expressed an interest in visiting the museum when construction was completed. "President Obama told us that he would certainly come for our opening in 2013, and that he would bring his daughters. He said that the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is an important initiative, not just for Poles and the Jews, but for the entire world," she told PAP [the Polish Press Agency].


"It was an exceptional meeting. President Obama spent more time with us than we expected. He was able to talk about the idea of the museum with everyone, including people from the Righteous Among the Nations," she said. Marian Turski, for his part, related that he told the U.S. president, "this is a museum for Polish young people, so that they can appreciate the vacuum that was created in Poland when the Jews disappeared; and also for Jewish young people, so that they can learn about their roots, and for all people to understand the contribution to European and world civilization made by Polish Jews."


Minister Zdrojewski expressed satisfaction with President Obama, not only for laying a wreath at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, but for wanting to see the museum under construction. "This museum is quite a challenge, not only for the Ministry of Culture, but for the entire nation," the minister said. He announced that the planned opening for the museum was 2013.   



Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich pointed out that the laying of a wreath at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes was an important moment in Obama’s visit. He underlined the importance of having the Righteous Among the Nations at the ceremony. "For us Jews, it is important to remember the heroes of the Ghetto uprising, but on the other hand, we can never forget all of the righteous ones who were equally heroic to us," Schudrich said.


Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, saw the honor paid by Obama at the Ghetto Heroes as an important gesture. "Despite being such an important and meaningful political figure, he found time to stop for a moment and consider the lessons of history," he said.


Completion of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is planned for the fall of 2012, and the opening ceremony is planned for spring, 2013. The exposition is to be divided into eight galleries documenting various stages of the 1,000 year common history of Poles and Jews.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US May 30, 5:16pm]


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