At the end of 1931, the Old Cemetery in Zakopane, Poland, was entered in the register of monuments and given the name of the Meritorious Cemetery. The wooden marker identifying the grave of Wanda Gentil-Tippenhauer was made by pupils working under the direction of Polish sculptor Anthony Rząsa.
Wanda Gentil-Tippenhauer was a Polish artist who painted with watercolor, and an author who wrote about her love of skiing and the Tatras Mountains. Although Wanda married Wacław Widigier on June 13, 1924 in Warsaw, she later became the companion of Józef Oppenheim. Wanda was with him when he was shot and killed during a robbery at his home on February 28, 1946. Wanda was shot in the head and thereafter combed her hair in a manner that hid the resultant scar.
Antoni Rząsa, a sculptor who created wooden sculptures inspired by folk art described his work: “Through my sculpture, I strive to reflect various human emotions – joy, sacrifice, love, wisdom, suffering, despair, horror. Sometimes, my characters express a silent question: who is this person and what is the purpose of their passing. I call (…) for human dignity, which is nowadays becoming ever so scarce.”
The city of Paris has acknowledged the plight of Jews in the multitude of memorials dedicated to the victims of the German concentration camps. Within the grounds of Pere Lachaise Cemetery each concentration camp is recognized on its own memorial.
AUSCHWITZ, the main camp, was located in Oświęcim in southern Poland to hold Polish political prisoners. The camp went on to become a major site of the Nazis’ Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Most of the Jews from all over German-occupied Europe who were sent to the camp were gassed on arrival. More than 1.3 million men, women and children died in the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, the vast majority of whom were Jews.
Auschwitz was also known as Monowitz-Buna, Buna and Auschwitz III. The memorial consists of five emaciated figures in bronze bearing witness to the suffering and exhaustion of the deportees. A body carried in a wheelbarrow reminds us of the frightening mortality of this camp.
BIRKENAU This memorial is in the form of a column with the featureless silhouette of a human figure standing over an engraved plaque. Written in script are lines from the poet Paul Eluard: When we will no longer kill, they will be avenged … The only vow of justice has life as its echo.
BERGEN-BELSEN in northern Germany was an “exchange camp” where Jewish hostages were held with the intention of exchanging them for German prisoners of war held overseas.
The memorial represents the railway tracks leading to the gates of the camp. Between the ‘railway tracks’ are footprints in various sizes representing all age groups arriving at the camp. It was in this camp that the young Anne Franck died along with her sister.
1943 They suffered and hoped. You fight for your freedom. 1945 We broke their bodies never their minds.
BUCHENWALD near Weimar, Germany, was one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps within Germany’s 1937 borders. Many actual or suspected communists were among the first internees. All prisoners worked primarily as forced labor in local armaments factories.
The memorial expresses the horror and violence in the concentration camp system. Three emaciated prisoners define suffering, death, solidarity and resistance.
DACHAU, north of Munich in southern Germany, was a forced labor camp which imprisoned Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded.
The two pillars forming a gateway are symbolic of the gates of Heaven. The red granite triangle represents the patch worn on political prisoners’ clothes.
A plaque to the left of the stairs is inscribed with a quotation by Edmond Michelet. We have surveyed abysses in ourselves and in others.
DRANCY was an internment camp run by the French located in a northeastern suburb of Paris. It was an assembly and detention camp for confining Jews who were later deported to the extermination camps.
The Memorial reads in translation Inscription engraved at Ninth Fort of Kaunas deported by Convoy 73. In memory of 878 Jews deported from Drancy May 15, 1944 to Kaunas (Lithuania) and Reval-Tallinn (Estonia). 22 returned in 1945.
FLOSSENBURG A map identifies the location of the camp which unlike other concentration camps was located in a remote area in the mountains of Bavaria. Quarries, arms and aviation factories surrounded it. Although the camp’s initial purpose was to exploit the forced labor of prisoners for the production of granite for Nazi architecture they eventually produced armaments for the war effort.
The imprint of a staircase of ten steep steps are visible at the base of the monument in addition to four blocks of cut stone.
MAUTHAUSEN This concentration camp was located on a hill above the market town of Mauthausen in Upper Austria. It was one of the first massive concentration camp complexes in Nazi Germany, and the last to be liberated by the Allies.
Seven blocks of were used to reproduce the monument. Stairs carved into the granite from the quarry of Mauthausen represent 186 uneven steps known as the staircase of death that prisoners had to mount with stones weighing more than 20 kilos on their backs. A bronze statue depicts an emaciated prisoner collapsing under the weight of his load.
NATZWEILER-STRUTHOF located in the Vosges Mountains in France was the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on French territory. Prisoners were mainly from the resistance movements in German-occupied territories. This labor and transit camp eventually became a place of execution.
This memorial is the form of a triangle. The red triangle identified political prisoners and the letter F was an indication to the Germans that the prisoner could speak French and could be called upon to translate. The bronze sculpture of an emaciated figure lies beneath a stone wall with the letters NN, acronym for Nacht und Nabel (a Nazi directive targeting political activists).
NEUENGAMME This camp was located near Hamburg in Northern Germany close to railway and metallurgy factories. With over 85 satellite camps the Neuengamme camp became the largest concentration camp in Northwest Germany. The memorial is created in white granite and the plaque reads in translation “under this stone is a bit of ash from the seven thousand French martyrs murdered by the Nazis at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp – they died for us to live free – their families and comrades, survivors have erected this monument to their memory November 13, 1949“
ORANIENBURG AND SACHSENHAUSEN Used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. The prisoners were also used as a workforce, with a large task force of prisoners from the camp sent to work in the nearby brickworks to meet Albert Speer’s vision of rebuilding Berlin. At the base of the monument, a symbolic barbed wire fence impales an emaciated prisoner.
RAVENSBRUCK was a camp exclusively for women from 1939 to 1945, located in northern Germany. The prisoners were used as slave labor. Two hands linked in captivity and solidarity emerge from roughly hewn stones one of which is engraved; Here lies the ashes of deported women martyrs of Nazi barbarism.
There are many memorials around the world commemorating those killed by Hitler and his Nazi party during the Holocaust (Holocaustis a word of Greek origin meaning sacrifice by fire.) Most of these memorials recognize mass graves or those killed en masse.
The following gravestones identify individual families who were killed at the whim of a madman during an era in human history which is shameful and abhorrent.
Memorial to the Stroch family.
Early on the morning of March 9, 1942, the transportation of Mielec’s Jews commenced. That morning, all the remaining Jews were marched at gun point out to the aircraft hangers at Cyranka. The elderly, sick and certain prominent people in the community, including the rabbi, were shot. For the next three days, while Mielec’s Jews were deported by train, those remaining at Cyranka were marched around the compound. Any that appeared weak, sick or injured were shot. Those killed during the transportation were buried in a mass grave near the aircraft factory. (from Mielec Through The Holocaust by Howard Recht).
Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France
For My Dikerman family Exterminated in Auschwitz-Birkenau Moise aged 53, maria aged 52, Abel aged 30 and Regine aged 29
Note: Prisoners being held at Auschwitz were used to build the Birkenau camp crematoriums. In 1942, Auschwitz-Birkenau was a killing center.
Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania
Remembering the Kallos family In Auschwitz 28 May 1944 He was martyred for being a Jew Kallos Dezsone Parent Szalpeter Roza 1884 Kallos Jolan 1909 Her husband Lebovits Bela Kallos Jeno 1911 Kallos Helen 1913 They have memories to be remembered
Note: In November 1944 the gas chambers were being dismantled.
Germany and Europe
In 1993 German artist Gunter Demnig had a simple and effective idea to honour those who were persecuted and murdered during the Holocaust. After locating the former residence of a Nazi victim, and with permission of local authorities, he installed a small commemorative cobblestone topped with a brass plaque in front of the residence. The title of each plaque Hier wohnte (Here lived) records the individual’s name, date of birth and death, and fate. The premise is ‘One victim, one stone’. The project which began in Germany can now be found throughout Europe.
A few fateful words which are found on the brass plaques.
Verhaftet : arrested
Enthauptet : beheaded
Tot : dead
Ermordet : murdered
Uberlebt : survived.
Here Lived Fredy Hirsch Circa 1919 Deported 6.9.1943 Auschwitz Flight into death (this phrase is used in cases of suicide) 8.3.1944
Note: Auschwitz was located in South Western Poland
Here lived Ida Arsenberg Maiden name Benjamin Circa 1870 Deported 1942 Murdered On the 18.9.1942 in Theresienstadt
Note: Theresienstadt was a Czechoslovakian camp/ghetto.
Anyone who did not fit Hitler’s model of the perfect Aryan race was routinely arrested, tortured, and eradicated. Those at risk were:
the mentally ill and physically challenged who were viewed as useless to society were euthanized in gas chambers.
homosexuals were segregated to prevent the spread of homosexuality, and were identified in the camps by pink cloth triangles. Nazis interested in finding a ‘cure’ for homosexuality conducted medical experiments on those prisoners.
Jehovah’s Witnesses whose beliefs did not allow the bearing of arms refused to swear allegiance to the Nazi state. Identified with a purple triangular patch they were considered enemies of the state.
Gypsies were considered racially inferior on a level with the Jews.
Jews were considered racially inferior and a threat to German community. The persecution began in 1938. They were identified within the camps by a yellow star on a white band worn on the right sleeve.
Children were routinely killed on arrival at the camps unless they were considered useful to the medical doctors. Twins were subjected to cruel medical experiments.
This barefooted woman draped in a long vestment, with locks of hair falling within her hood, leans forward, hands covering her eyes as she weeps. I find this image to be the epitome of grief. There are few of us who have not felt the depth of this woman’s grief, the total despair and heartbreak.
“The grief within me has its own heartbeat. It has its own life, its own song. Part of me wants to resist the rhythms of my grief, yet as I surrender to the song, I learn to listen deep within myself” ~ Alan Wolfelt
The tomb at which the woman weeps is located near the top of the Cimitero delle Porte Sante, in Florence, Tuscany, Italy.
A gravestone is propped against the exterior of the tomb. I have not been able to find an image that clearly identifies all the details inscribed on the stone. From the few words that are decipherable it would appear that the inscription is in memory of Giovanni, a student who died suddenly of a disease.
The Remah Cemetery established in 1552 is located in Kazimierz, an historic Jewish neighbourhood in Krakow, Poland. Bodies were no longer buried there after 1800 and the cemetery was more or less abandoned.
The cemetery is named after Rabbi Moses Isserles whose tombstone is one of the few that remained intact after destruction by the Nazis.
During the German occupation of Poland, the Nazis destroyed the cemetery tearing down the walls and hauling away tombstones to be used as paving stones in the work/death camps, or selling them for profit.
The cemetery has undergone a series of post-war restorations. As is common in contemporary Poland, all tombstones unearthed as paving stones have been returned and re-erected, although they represent a small fraction of the monuments that once stood in the cemetery.
A wall within the cemetery backing onto Szeroka Street was created with some of the broken headstones. It is known as the Wailing Wall.