Jadwiga Młodowska High School No 4
The walking tour following the footsteps ofthe Jewish community of Chełm could start at Lubelska Street, the longest street in town and most closely related to Jews who once lived here. At the townhouse of Lewinsztajn family at Lubelska 8 a popular Jewish chess club was located. Just next door, at Lubelska 10, a print shop owned by Josef Bronfeld stood. “Kamena”, a monthly magazine was printed there, which, among others, published the works of Bruno Schulz. And further on: at Lubelska 27, the townhouse of Kupfer faimily, once a hotel, later it housed The Workers of Zion and the Society for Night Courses. The hotel owned by Lewinsztajn was at Lubelska 30, and at Lubelska70 there was the Lederman’s townhouse. Lubelska Street further leads to the market square where the fair was held once a week. In the centre of it, a round wooded building stood where you could buy everything you needed back then. Today, there is only a wooden stand which before the war was owned by Majer Dobkowski.
Jatkowa Street is nearby. When Jews constituted over 70% of the town’s population, you could buy fresh meat there. A synagogue stood very close, at the crossroads of Kopernika and Krzywa Streets. The building still stands today, and the Decalogue basrelief continues to adorn the ceiling. But one does not hear prayers there any more …
The outcome of the School of Dialogue workshops at the high school in Chełm is a “Guide through Life of Jewish Community” that the students prepared. The following pages of it describe the above-mentioned Lubelska Street, the slaughterhouse, the synagogue, the round building, the house of Szmul Zigelbojm, the school of Klara Morgenstern, the mikveh and the cemetery. This Guide did not just happen. First, the students organized a rehearsal walking tour and invited their friends and town residents for it.
When at Jatkowa Street, girls offered hot tea to their guests and explained the rules of kosherness. By Szmul Zygelbojm’s house, they recalled how this Bund activist took his own life as a protest against the indifference and inaction of the Allied governments in the face of the Holocaust. At the synagogue building,the students presented its history to the gathered guests and explained how religious Jews celebrate Shabbat. The tour participants also had a chance to see parts of the mikveh floor. The walking tour ended at the cemetery.
All these actions are the result of workshops held at school by the Forum for Dialogue educators. Already at the beginning, the high school students were aware that Jews lived in Chełm, but they did not know much about the culture and religion of the pre-war neighbors. “It is only now that I realize they are just like us, we are no different. When walking the town street I now know that thousands of people died here. The town changed very much after the war, only a few town houses survived.
Houses and buildings were destroyed. I makes me very sad that in a pursuit of a better life people forget how it was before the war” – said Dominika, one of the workshops participant. Students showed a lot of interest in learning about the most important Jewish holidays. They also met with WojciechZakrzewski, the Chełm District Governor spokesman, the cultural animator at the Youth Cultural Centre, and a journalist. He talked very colorfully about the history of Chełm, and illustrated his stories with old postcards. He also encouraged young people to take actions. Students regularly met in order to prepare a perfect walking tour. And they succeeded. “I feel that I can largely contribute to make others learn the history that I acquired during workshops“ – said Karolina, a student from Chełm. “I am proud to be born in this town and to be able to tell its story” – added her friend.
I was very touched by the history of Jews. It is only now that I realize they are just like us, we are no different. When walking the town street I now know that thousands of people died here. The town changed very much after the war, only a few tenement buildings survived. Houses and buildings were destroyed. I makes me very sad that in a pursuit of a better life people forget how it was before the war
Dominika, workshops participant
Jadwiga Młodowska High School No 4
students from different grades
Agata Jaworska, Natalia Kertyczak
School of Dialogue program in Chełm was made possible by the support from STACY and RON SCHEINBERG.
In appreciation to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) for supporting this educational program. Through recovering the assets of the victims of the Holocaust, the Claims Conference enables organizations around the world to provide education about the Shoah and to preserve the memory of those who perished.
Project co-financed from the funds granted by the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund.
In appreciation to Friends of the Forum for supporting the School of Dialogue educational program.