Exhibit shows how gravestones of Polish Jews are used for sidewalks, sandboxes, and basketball courts
A new photo exhibit at The Florida Holocaust Museum documents how Jewish gravestones have been reappropriated in Poland, finding themselves in walls, roads, basketball courts and elementary school sandboxes.
The exhibit is called “Matzevot for Everyday Use,” after the Hebrew word for “gravestone,” and the photographs are from Łukasz Baksik. Baksik is not Jewish but nevertheless felt enough passion about the issue to travel around Poland for four years to take the photographs and show the lengths “people have gone to wipe out traces of Jewish culture,” according to a press release from the Museum.
Elizabeth Gelman, the Museum’s executive director, connected the use of Jewish gravestones to the essential mission of anti-Semitism and of Nazism in particular.
“The sole goal of the Nazis during the war was to erase all traces of Jewish culture and Jewish history,” Gelman said. “The practice has been documented as continuing among the local populations for decades.”
The exhibit comes at a time of increased anti-Semitism, both at home and in Poland, where the government has recently backed away from a Museum of the Second World War and historian Jan Gross was charged with “publicly insulting a nation” for pointing out the role of Poland in the Shoah.
Baksik sees a straight line between the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism that led to matzevot being misused, saying it all stems from “the process of excluding someone from the community, from humanity.” He elaborated that “if people are removed from humanity, they don’t deserve to be remembered, their ghosts don’t haunt us, their gravestones can be used any way we want.”
“Matzevot for Everyday Use” is on view until January 29.