The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews has granted its 2019 Polin award to Natalia Bartczak, who has cared for the Jewish cemetery in Wińsko, in western Poland, for 16 years — starting when she was just 13.
It also granted its 2019 Special Award to the Auschwitz Jewish Center, the educational and religious center in the town of Oświęcim, the town where the Nazis built the Auschwitz death camp, which next year marks its 20th anniversary.
The awards were presented at a gala ceremony at the museum on December 3. It was the fifth edition of the awards, which the museum has stated honor “people, organizations and institutions that, in the past few years, contributed to both the revival of the memory of the history of Polish Jews, and to building mutual understanding and respect between Poles and Jews.”.
“All over Poland, there are many people who work to preserve the heritage of Polish Jews,” said Marian Turski, President of POLIN museum council.
Through The POLIN Award, we want to express our appreciation and gratitude for their work. We care to show how important and needed what they are doing, because it is thanks to them that the memory of the history of polish Jews is reborn. They are the ones who really contribute to mutual respect and understanding between poles and Jews – says
Natalia Bartczak wrote her Master’s degree thesis on The Jewish Cemetery in Wińsko while a student at the Institute of Prehistoric Studies of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.
This thesis became the basis for the Wińsko town council to apply for EU funding for the restoration of the cemetery.
In addition, Bartczak was a consultant to the translator of a book by Rita Steinhardt-Botwinick book about Wińsko from 1933 and 1946, to the film Maleństwo na górce and to an exhibition of old photographs of the German-Polish-Jewish history of Wińsko.
The Auschwitz Jewish Center was opened in 2000 in a complex including the only synagogue to have survived in Oświęcim, which before WW2 was a majority Jewish town. It runs a variety of educational programs and includes a museum focused on the Jewish history of the town. Last week, it inaugurated a memorial park on the site of the destroyed Great Synagogue.
“For us, this prize is a motivation for even more hard work,” the Center said on Facebook. “We would like to thank everyone who has been accompanying us on a wonderful journey for almost 20 years, discovering the history of Jewish Oświęcim.”
POLIN awarded two honorable mention prizes.
— To Adam Musiał, a teacher and Holocaust educator, as well as a guide and translator of books and publications on the subjects of the Holocaust and the history of the Jews
— To cultural activist Katarzyna Winiarska, who has researched the history of the Jewish community of Białowieża and created the first full description of the Jewish community of Białowieża, which was published in the form of the Virtual Museum of the History of Białowieża Jews at www.jewish-bialowieza.pl.
Previous POLIN Award winners were:
2015 — Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, founder and director of the “Brama Grodzka—Teatr NN” foundation in Lublin was POLIN Award’s first ever laureate. His foundation has been involved in a number of educational and artistic projects dedicated to the heritage of Lublin Jewry since 1998.
2016 — Jacek Koszczan, founder and chairman of ‘Sztetl Dukla – Association for the Preservation of the Heritage of Jews from the Dukla Region.’ The Award jury decided to honour two more people. Honourable Mentions were presented to Robert Augustyniak, a prime-mover behind actions aimed at restoring the memory of the Jewish community from Grodzisk Mazowiecki, and Mirosław Skrzypczyk, teacher and animator of culture who is active in the field of preservation of the Jewish heritage in Lelów and Szczekociny. The Special Prize went to Jan Jagielski of the Jewish Historical Institute, to honour him for his lifetime achievement.
2017 — Joanna Podolska, Director of the Marek Edelman Dialogue Center in Łódź who is deeply engaged in preservation of the memory of the Jewish community of Łódź, was laureate of the POLIN Award3rd edition. Dariusz Paczkowski from Żywiec and Ireneusz Socha from Dębica were granted Honorable Mentions. The 2017 POLIN Special Award went to the Children of the Holocaust Association in Poland.
2018 — Tomasz Wisniewski, a researcher, activists and guide based in Białystok, who has been working for more than 30 years to preserve the memory of the Jewish communities of Poland’s eastern borderland.