Warsaw's Jewish Theater to Perform for Free at City Square Amid Real Estate Dispute

Formed in 1950 and in its present location since 1970, the troupe is a link to the rich pre-Holocaust culture of Poland’s Yiddish-speaking Jewish community.

The Theatre building at Plac Grzybowski
Wikimedia Commons / Tadeusz Rudzki

Locked out by their landlord, Warsaw’s historic Jewish Theatre said its actors will protest by performing for free at a city square.

Ghelamco, the company that owns the building where the theater operates, blocked entrance to it beginning Thursday. Looking to build a new high-rise at the site and move the theater, they cited a decision by the district construction supervisor’s office, which called the building a threat to public safety.

But the supervisor’s office has since stated that the building is not a hazard, and that the decision of the district inspector is no longer binding.

Formed in 1950 and in its present location since 1970, the troupe is a link to the rich pre-Holocaust culture of Poland’s Yiddish-speaking Jewish community. Earlier this year, Poland’s president honored the actors for their contributions to Polish and Polish-Jewish culture.

Golda Tencer, the theater’s director, told reporters that the owner, who last year bought the building from the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland, had promised to allow the theater to stay after the current building is replaced with a new high-rise.

But Ghelamco has since changed its mind, telling the management of the Jewish theater that it will receive floor space elsewhere.

In protest, actors will stage “Fiddler on the Roof” at the nearby Grzybowski Square throughout the weekend for free, Tencer said. She said the theater must remain in its current location for historical reasons.

“The law is on our side. We are the heirs of those who before the war walked here on the square, who played in Yiddish. We are one of a few theaters in the world playing in Yiddish. Here are the spirits of our ancestors,” Tencer said.