Jewish delegations from both Eastern and Western countries, including Israel, paid tribute yesterday to the memory of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the first ceremony of its kind since Poland broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.
Yesterday's ceremony, including the laying of a wreath and prayers said by a rabbi from Budapest, ended three days of commemoration that included the opening of a Jewish holocaust museum in the former concentration camp at Auschwitz and the decoration of 19 Poles with the "righteous among nations" medal by the Jerusalem Yad Vashem Memorial Institute.
Surviving ghetto fighters at the ceremony included Marek Edlman, one of the leaders of the ghetto uprising and now a cardiologist living in the Polish city of Lodz, and Stefan Grayek, secretary of the Jewish Fighters Organization who had come from Israel. Only about 20 of the insurgents are still alive and many of them live in Israel.
Wreaths and flowers covered the base of the ghetto monument which is made out of the granite Hitler had brought to Warsaw for a German victory monument. The monument is set in the area of the ghetto itself, which was so completely destroyed that all the houses now in the area were built in the postwar period.
The anniversary of the outbreak or the rising is observed here every year by representatives of the remnants the Polish Jewish community. Fewer than 20,000 Jews live in Poland today. In 1939 their number exceeded 3 million.
This year the Polish government invited Jewish delegations from a abroad the Israeli Yad Vashem Memorial Institute helped prepare the Holocaust museum, which will show the martyrdom of European Jews between 1933 and 1945 and will be larger than anything of its kind in Israel.
Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress, said here that this years ceremonies mark a new chapter in Polish-Jewish relations. Goldman was received Tuesday by Polish President Henryk Jabonski.
Jewish delegations here for the ceremony have been seeking assurances that Jewish Cemetaries and synagogues that remain in the large Polish towns will be protected by the state. They said promises to that effect were made by Polish officials.
The Polish government's policy toward its Jewish citizens changed sharply after the 1967 break relations with Israel. The next year the government cracked down on intellectual dissent and carried out "anti-Zionist" purges. As a result many Polish Jews were forced to emigrate.
Now, Goldmann said yesterday, "I have the feeling that the Polish government would like to have good relations with the Jewish people."