Monday, 24 October 2016

My visit to Poland

Pete Millington with author and photographer Wlodzimierz Malek in
the Jewish cemetery at Lodz 
I recently visited Poland on a trip relating to my work and stayed in both the capital Warsaw and in the second city of Lodz. Before going to Poland I had been doing some research into the Polish Jewish ancestors of my American brother-in-law Mike. The family were named Blumberg and they lived in San Francisco for many decades from the beginning of the 20th century.

Early US records, such as the family's arrival in Canada on a ship from Liverpool, followed by their appearance in the 1910 US census had initially led me to believe that the Blumberg family were Russian Jews, but in later records they said they were from Warsaw in Poland. A little bit of reading of Polish history taught me that large parts of Poland were occupied by Russia during the 19th century and that they created the first Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, decades before the Nazi invasion in 1939.

Further research showed me that the Blumbergs migrated from Russian-occupied Poland in the 1890s but went firstly to England where they attempted to build a new life in London's East End, still well known today for its large Jewish population. Here the Blumbergs (who already had two children) had two more daughters which included Mike's grandmother.

My personal mission in Poland (when I had some free time from working) was therefore to try to find out a little bit more about the origins of the Blumberg family. My research included visiting the amazing Museum of Jewish History in Warsaw and also seeing the only remaining section of the wall of the Jewish Ghetto. I also visited the Jewish cemetery in Lodz and an old train station and museum close by at Radegast.

In the cemetery I quite randomly met an old Polish gentleman named Wlodzimierz Malek who is the author of several books of local history about the city of Lodz. One of his books is The Historical Jewish Cemetery in Lodz which contains pages of fantastic photographs of the tombs and monuments in the cemetery plus photos of the train station at Radegast. 

Below are some of my own photographs of Radegast, which was the station from which the Nazis transported tens of thousands of Jewish people from Lodz to the concentration camps of occupied Poland.           

Radegast train station at Lodz

The trucks used to transport Jewish families to their deaths

Every truck was packed full with innocent human beings

Part of the museum at Radegast is this recreated gas chamber and
chimney - a very powerful experience to walk through

Nie zabijaj - thou shalt not kill

An over powering sense of sadness and disbelief at human inhumanity
haunts this train and its carriages

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing your travel experience to Poland!