Multidirectional Memory: Remembering for Social Justice
The MultiMemo project (2023-2024) proposes an intersectional approach to remembrance – one that underscores the relevance of remembering for social justice and facing contemporary challenges related to human rights violations, military conflicts and violence, social exclusion, and the migration crisis. Drawing from the concept of ‘multidirectional memory’, the project discusses and initiates a variety of forms of active remembrance in the public spheres across several European countries – a remembrance that does not exist in a social vacuum, and instead underscores the urgent need to stand up to contemporary practices of violence and exclusion.
MultiMemo’s point of departure is the troubling legacy of WWII in East Central Europe (ECE). The project focuses on sites and practices of ‘mutliple exclusion’ with respect to remembrance that are problematic or/and overlooked because the trauma of the Holocaust overlaps with other intricate social, historical or contemporary issues. Such sites in ECE also represent a form of legacy of both totalitarian regimes in modern history – National Socialism and Communism. The intersectional approach proposed by the project is relevant now more than ever, when we are experiencing – again, after almost eight decades of peace – a war in East Central Europe, in Ukraine, resulting in massive refugee and humanitarian crises.
The project is funded by the European Union (CERV-2022-REM) and involves nine European partners: FestivALT, UMF, Zapomniane Foundation, JCC Warsaw, the Formy Common Foundation, the Foundation for the Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries, CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg and the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg.
Series of events
1. KICK-OFF MEETING – WARSAW
The first meeting of the MultiMemo project took place on February 19-20, 2023 in Warsaw. Together with the partners of the consortium we discussed the project goals and approach and presented them to a larger audience. We started the event with walks around two Jewish cemeteries of Warsaw, Okopowa and Bródno, focused on the topic of approach to remembrance, the concept of green commemorations and various types of commemoration. Then, the event was focused on project planning, communication and coordination of work for the upcoming months between the partners. The purpose of this meeting was also to integrate project partners and set an efficient and clear cooperation model.
2. PARTICIPATORY MEMORY WORKSHOP – PAWŁÓWKA
In March, a ceremony was held in Tomaszów Lubelski and Pawłówka to commemorate the burial place of three Jewish children: Rywka, Balka and Jankiel, murdered during the Holocaust and buried near their home in Pawłówka. The highlight of the educational workshops was the ceremony of marking this place with a wooden matzeva. The workshops and the ceremony were attended by students of the 1st High School in Tomaszów Lubelski and students of the Primary School in Michalów, school directors, representatives of local authorities, museum employees, several residents, teachers and a local choir. A prayer for the dead was sung in Hebrew and Psalm 23 was read by a student. These were the first series of workshops carried out by the Zapomniane Foundation as part of the MultiMemo project. We would like to thank the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute and the donor Szlomo-Albam-Stiftung for co-financing the workshops in Pawłówka “Reference Points” – creating a wooden matzevot.
3. CONSULTATION WALK – JEWISH CEMETERY IN BRÓDNO
In April 2023, our partner, the Formy Wspólne Foundation, organized a consultation walk and meeting as part of the so-called MultiMemo Community Labs, which concerned the cemetery in Bródno – the oldest Jewish necropolis in Warsaw, and the conceptual project of its renovation. This project assumes presenting about 40,000 matzevot, which are currently decaying in the heaps in the central part of the cemetery. The first part of the meeting was a walk around the cemetery and getting acquainted with the unusual and tragic history of this place, as well as with its actual state. Thanks to this, the participants could better understand the assumptions of the project presented by the architects of the Foundation in the second part of the event at the Museum of Warsaw’s Praga. Apart from residents, the event was attended by activists from the Forum for Dialogue Foundation, researchers from the anthropology and cultural studies department, engineers, architects, and representatives of the Jewish Community from Warsaw and Sweden.
4. PARTICIPATORY MEMORY WORKSHOP – ZAMOŚĆ
On May 10-11, the Zapomniane Foundation organized a ceremony in Zamość commemorating the burial place of the Jewish family of Mendel, Chajka and Niura in Zrąb, murdered by a German military policeman in their home during WWII. The event was preceded by educational workshops, which began with the screening of the documentary film “Ukos Światła” directed by Wojciech Szumowski for students from two classes of the II High School in Zamość. After the film, there was a conversation with the representatives of the Foundation about the activities aimed at restoring the memory of the forgotten burial places of the Holocaust victims in the context of the events in the town of Zrąb. On the second day, workshops with a laser were held, during which students, together with the Foundation, prepared a wooden marker in the shape of a matzeva with an inscription containing the names of the victims, which they then placed at the burial place of a Jewish family in Zrąb, located less than 15 km from Zamość.
5. COMMEMORATING THE RINGELBLUM ARCHIVE – WORKSHOPS AND DISCUSSION ON COLLECTIVE MEMORY IN WARSAW
On June 18, 2023, our partner organization Formy Wspólne from Warsaw gathered all stakeholders – individuals, representatives of the administration and social organizations – involved in the creation of the monument commemorating the Ringelblum Archive as well as local residents. The purpose was to start the next stage of cooperation and discussion on the future of the memorial and plans for educational and cultural activities to maintain the memory of the Archive and its creators – the Oneg Shabbat group. The event began with community work aiming at tidying up the area around the monument, and then finishing the planting of the hedge – the last and so far unrealized element of commemoration. The second part of the event took place at the Muranów Railway Station, where the organizers recalled the history of planning and designing the commemoration of the Archive, followed by a discussion.
6. MEMORY POLES. STRATEGIES FOR REBUILDING THE IDENTITY OF THE BRÓDNO JEWISH CEMETERY.
In June 2023, the Foundation for the Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries started a series of meetings for the local community entitled: “Memory poles. Strategies for rebuilding the identity of the Bródno Jewish cemetery”. The aim of the workshops is to restore the memory of the Bródno cemetery and to involve residents, activists, social organizations and local authorities in this process. During the first event, there was a walk through two large Jewish cemeteries in Warsaw located on opposite banks of the Vistula river, whose histories are completely different. The first one is the cemetery in Bródno, almost completely destroyed by the post-war regime and forgotten. Today, pioneering research and commemorative activities are carried out there. The second one is the cemetery at Okopowa Street, which continues to serve the local Jewish community and is visited by crowds of tourists and descendants. During the tour, the directors of both cemeteries presented the history of these places. Comparing the fate of both cemeteries, we discussed, among other things, how to restore its cultural character to the necropolis in Bródno.