My name is Jacob Petersen and I am a junior psychology major and exercise physiology minor from St. Paul, Minnesota.
We had a relatively early start today to leave Kraków. We left the Spatz hotel for Warsaw. We stopped in Kielce to visit the site of the Pogrom Ulica Planty 7th St. and two other monuments. A Pogrom is an organized massacre of a specific ethnic group, particularly Jewish people. Before leaving for our trip, we watched a documentary called “Bogdan’s Journey,” which focuses on the Kielce Pogrom. In it, a man named Bogdan worked to establish positive collaboration between the Polish and the Jews. He wanted to remember and memorialize the event and peacefully move on.
The Kielce Pogrom took place July 4, 1946 after the Jews who lived in Kielce returned home from the concentration and work camps. The tension was extremely high upon their return. Antisemitism was still very prevalent among the Polish people. The Pogrom started due to a rumor that the Jews kidnapped a boy to use as a sacrifice for passover. Passovers are also known as blood libels. The rumor wasn't true. Regardless, 42 Jews were murdered by the militia, soldiers, and civilians of the town of Kielce. The Jews left the indescribable terror and hardships of the concentration camps, but returned to a life of ridicule and hate.
The building where the Pogrom took place was transitioned into a center of education for the Jan Karski Society. We met Andres, Bogdan’s brother, at the center. He was able to tell us all the functions that the center carries out. Their aim is to “educate teachers and the youth about working together to be accepting of all people and to understand other’s beliefs” said Andres. The town house is a place of memory, dialogue, and reconciliation so that everyone can come and have a conversation.
Like many other sites we have visited recently, this is a site of darker tourism. Darker tourism is best defined by William Miles in his article “Auschwitz: Museum Interpretation and Darker Tourism,” as the site where an atrocity took place. Dark tourism is visiting a place that is associated with, but not the exact place where and horrors happened.
At the center, there was a multitude of pictures of the people who lived in Kielce, including those individuals who were killed in the 1946 Pogrom. There were memorials inside the center and nearby in town to remember and honor the murdered Jews. For example, there was a blessing room in the center after going through the exhibition of the history of both Kielce and the history of the Pogrom. This blessing room had a mock replica wall of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where Jews put prayers and wishes. These wishes and prayers collected at the center in Kielce are then brought to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem once a year by Bogdan himself. This idea for the wall was such a moving and incredibly sentimental, living, and active memorial. On the walls in this room was a quote etched into glass in different languages, it read:
“Give us the Wisdom to understand the limits of our knowledge, the patience to make the world a better place and the courage to refrain from gossip and lies which destroy the world that You have created with beauty, majesty and mystery.”
To me, this quote was placed here in the blessing room because it embodies the purpose and passion of this center in society through faith.
This center not only was a memorial, but an active location for personal and societal betterment. Bogdan, his brother Andres, and the rest of the organization work very hard to stick to their goals and aspirations— those being, to spread conversation and dialogue with anyone willing, to open their hearts and minds, and to engage and listen. It was an honor to listen to Andres and to see first hand what they are accomplishing and what they have accomplished.