Embassy Officers Attend Samuel Willenberg “Image of Treblinka” Exhibit Sponsored by IPN

Visitor to ‘Image of Treblinka’ Exhibit Reflects on Sculptures by Samuel Willenberg. (Courtesy of IPN and Mr. Sławomir Kasper)

On January 28, Public Affairs Counselor Frank Finver and Cultural Affairs Officer Dan Hastings attended the opening of the sculpture exhibit “The Image of Treblinka in The Eyes of Samuel Willenberg” organized by the Institute of National Memory (IPN) to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  The sculptures were the work of Samuel Willenberg, an inmate at the infamous German Nazi extermination camp of Treblinka. Born in Częstochowa, Poland in 1923, Willenberg arrived at Treblinka in October, 1942 as part of a transport of 6,000 Jews deported from the Opatów ghetto.  Willenberg was in Treblinka until he escaped during the outbreak of a widescale prisoner revolt on August 2, 1943. During his internment, Willenberg witnessed the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Jews and thousands of Roma who were sent to their death in Treblinka’s gas chambers, including his own sisters Itta and Tamara.  After being wounded during his escape, Willenberg reached Warsaw where he participated in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, first as part of the Home Army (AK) and then with the Polish People’s Army (PAL).  After the war Willenberg remained in Poland until his father’s death in 1950 at which point he emigrated to Israel with his wife and mother.  At the time of his death in 2016, Willenberg was the last living survivor of Treblinka’s 1943 prisoner revolt which resulted in the Nazis closing the camp and trying to eliminate – unsuccessfully – all visible traces of its existence.  Willenberg wrote a book documenting his harrowing experience, Surviving Treblinka, that was published in 1984.  According to Willenberg’s widow Ada, who traveled from Israel to attend the exhibit opening, her husband’s dream and dying wish was that his sculptures one day be housed at Treblinka – as testimony to what he and other Jews endured there.  According to Polish government officials such as Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Secretary of State Jaroslaw Sellin and IPN Director Jarosław Szarek who spoke at the exhibit opening, that wish will be fulfilled, as the Polish government plans to erect a museum on the site of the former extermination camp in the near future.  For the time being, the exbibit can be viewed at the “History Point Janusz Kurtyka Educational Center of the IPN” located at 21/25 Marszałkowslka Street in Warsaw.