chapter  5
Dividing the ruins: communal memory in Yiddish and Hebrew
ByDavid G. Roskies
Pages 20

Cast in bronze and set in Swedish granite, the monumental Warsaw Ghetto Memorial of Nathan Rapoport was erected on the ghetto ruins in 1948.1 There were two sides to the memorial. The ceremonial side facing the empty plaza is where wreaths were to be laid in front of larger-than-life iconic figures redolent of “Liberty Leading the People” and of Polish insurrections past and present. The muscular figure with one hand bandaged and the other clutching a Molotov cocktail, as befitted the stand-in for Mordecai Anielewicz, once the most feared and respected person in the ghetto, was flanked on the left by a woman with one breast bared, by a youthful, slightly effeminate fighter on the right reminiscent of Michelangelo’s David, and a bearded Herculean figure below-altogether a defiantly secular, vital, vibrant and heroic tableau. No matter that the “real” Anielewicz had been described as slight, pale and unprepossessing,2 or that Rachel Auerbach who represented Jewish womanhood had not taken part in the uprising. (Proud of this rendering, Auerbach used it at the beginning of her ghetto memoir in lieu of a photograph.3) The bronze statues stood for the heroes, each of whom would be remembered by name and political affiliation.