Polish President Sponsors Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Commemoration

The month-long festivities will feature performances by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and will be attended by Simcha Ratajzer-Rotem, a hero of the uprising who lives in Israel.

WARSAW – Polish President Bronisaw Komorowski this week announced his sponsorship of events commemorating the 70th anniversay of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Nazis' destruction of Warsaw's Great Synagogue.

Komorowski welcomed in advance the delegations from around the world that will attend the events, scheduled to take place between April 18 and May 16. Among the honored guests will be European Parliament President Martin Schulz, representatives of the German Bundestag and British House of Lords and one of the heroes of the uprising, Simcha Ratajzer-Rotem, who will be coming from Israel.

Rotem, who is now 89 years old, was a member of the Zionist Akiva organization in his youth and is famous principally for his role, together with Bund activist Marek Edelman, in leading 30 of the uprising's last fighters through the city's sewers and out of the burning ghetto after the rebellion had been suppressed. Rotem is also an honorary citizen of Warsaw.

An official announcement of the president's sponsorship of the events was published this week in most media outlets here, except papers and weeklies with a nationalist bent.

At first, the events were meant to take place at the same time as the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and President Shimon Peres promised he would attend. But following an almost year-long delay in completing the museum, Education Minister Rabbi Shay Piron will be attending in place of Peres.

The commemorative events will open on April 18, with a festive concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Zubin Mehta. Some 1,700 audience members will listen to the orchestra perform at Warsaw's Grand Theater. At midnight, the orchestra will repeat its performance at the outskirts of the city next to the monument commemorating the heroes of Warsaw Ghetto. The concert will be open to all Warsaw residents.

The following day, sirens will sound throughout the city at 10 A.M., and the city's Catholic churches will ring their bells. At around noon, in the plaza of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the main ceremony will take place. In addition to speeches, there will be performances by musicians from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and singing by famous cantor Yaakov Lemmer. There will also be a concert by the Warsaw Philharmonic led by conductor Krzysztof Penderecki.

On April 20, a movie by Polish director Agnieszka Arnold on the life and actions of Simcha Ratajzer-Rotem will premier.   

Reuters