Activists Try to Save Old Warsaw Ghetto Building : NPR
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — It was the place where Jewish women did their ritual bathing. It was a tuberculosis clinic. It survived the German onslaught and became a gathering point for Holocaust survivors.
Now “the white building,” the headquarters of the Jewish community and one of the few surviving remnants of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, could be torn down to make way for a multistory tower that would fit seamlessly into a modern city skyline.
The building’s fate will soon be determined by the Culture Ministry, which has been asked by advocates of historic preservation to declare it a historical monument, a classification that would ban its destruction. It’s not yet clear how officials will decide, though previous rulings by other state offices had declared the building not worth saving. Now those for and against destroying the old building are anxiously awaiting a verdict.
What is perhaps unexpected in this case is who is fighting for what: Warsaw’s Jewish community, which owns the dilapidated three-story building, is making the case for its destruction. The community leaders argue that a bigger building is needed to accommodate a Jewish community that is re-emerging in the young Polish democracy after the Holocaust and decades of communist repression.
The white building, in the heart of the city’s business district, is the place where the Jewish community gathers for lectures, Shabbat dinners, holidays, even sports. Jewish leaders argue that it is too cramped, bleak and fungus-infested to continue serving the needs of a community that has roughly tripled in number in the past decade.
Today, it can no longer accommodate all those who want to join Shabbat dinners after Friday evening prayers. There is no room for festive celebrations on the holiday of Purim. And a new Reform congregation, which embraces a modern style of worship different from the Orthodox services held in the Nozyk synagogue, must meet across town in rented rooms.