Dorota Nieznalska / JUDENFREI (pyre I)

In summer 1943, in June or July, on a holiday,

[…] they led a Jewish citizen towards the wall.

[…] They led the citizen and held a stick and I saw

that the citizen’s head was bleeding. […] This man […] was saying

to spare his life, that the day is sunny and beautiful,

to let him go, that he wants to live. In reply to these appeals

he hit him twice with the stick and said: “Get on, you bastard, stop that babble”.


It is obvious that Hitler’s Germany is responsible for the extermination of Jews in Europe. Construction of the ideology, the system which, methodically and according to a plan, started the process of the Holocaust, mainly conducted in Poland, in German death camps (in KL Auschwitz, Chełmno on Ner, Bełżeć, Sobibór and Treblinka), was an intentional strategy of the ruthless politics of the Third Reich regime. Although the Polish were victims, too, an occupied nation, they also became Nazi helpers in time, unfortunately. Considering the then historical context, a radical anti-Semitic campaign, mainly in Podlasie or Lubelszczyzna, conducted by the Nazis supported by the Polish Nationalist underground, which in summer 1941 and in subsequent years resulted in a broad action of catching Jews in hiding, it is hardly imaginable now that it was their Polish neighbours who did it, and with overzealousness. Such a conduct forces one to pose a fundamental question about human ethics, morality, compassion – about humanity.

In historians’ opinions, the Holocaust consisted of three stages. The first one regarded exclusion, discrimination, stigmatisation, creation of ghettos and indirect extermination through hunger, disease and wasting labour. The second stage – group shootings and deportation to mass extermination camps. The final, third stage consisted in catching and exterminating (pogroms) the survivors who managed to endure until that moment.

In terms of the proposed project, I am interested in the third stage of the Extermination of Jews, mainly the citizens of The Second Polish Republic, conduced in 1941 – 1946 in the Polish towns under the authority of the General Government (Lublin environs). The installation focuses on the relations between Polish and Jewish neighbours which can be described as the neighbourly pogroms of Jews. I am aware that it is a one-sided and radical assessment of historical facts, considering the acts of human kindness, attempts to help, or hiding Jews by their Polish neighbours which also took place, but it is obvious that such attitudes were exceptional.

According to the historian Marcin Zaremba, the years of 1941-1946 witnessed a series of pogroms of Jewish population (Ludmiłówka, Radom, Przytyk, Dębica, Słomniki, Szczebrzeszyn, Miechów, Kraśnik). Mass murders of neighbours were usually conducted on the perpetrators’ own initiative. The Polish neighbours, the executioners, followed their lower instincts, hatred, meanness, desire for easy profit, the aforementioned anti-Semitism. The pogroms in Kielce, Cracow or Rzeszów are extreme examples.

We assume realisation of approx. 11-13 welcome signs with the names of the places where the pogroms of the Jewish population took place in 1942-1946, cut out in wood. The fact that most often they were executed by their neighbours describes a specific neighbourly relationship. Neighbourly pogroms or mass murders of Jews, in the Lubelszczyzna region in this case, mainly took place in provincial towns: Ludmiłówka (1943), Słomniki (1945), Kielce (1946), Szczebrzeszyn (1942), Miechów (1943), Kraśnik (1944), Przedbórz (1945), Klimontów (1945), Goźlice (1942), Rzeszów (1945), Jugoszów (1944). We want to place the welcome signs, arranged in a stack, on the lawn next to Podzamcze. All the crimes were documented and described by, among others, Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, “Okrzyki pogromowe. Szkice z antropologii historycznej Polski 1939-1946”, Mirosław Tryczyk “Miasta śmierci. Sąsiedzkie pogromy Żydów”, Jan Grabowski “JUDENJAGD. Polowanie na Żydów 1942-1945. Studium dziejów pewnego powiatu”, B. Engelking, “Jest taki piękny słoneczny dzień… Losy Żydów szukających ratunku na wsi polskiej 1942-1945”. Judenfrei or Judenrein (“cleansed” of Jews) – the term used by the German Nazis to describe an area or place where Jews no longer live.

The Third Reich authorities usually “cleaned” areas from their Jewish inhabitants by way of mass deportations to ghettos and concentration camps located in the occupied localities (Germany, Poland and other occupied countries), or mass murders conducted by death squads, sometimes formed by collaborating local authorities or the civilian population.


Dorota Nieznalska  – artist, graduate of the Faculty of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, living and working in Gdańsk. She participated in over two hundred group and solo exhibitions in Poland and abroad. Her works can be found in the collections of, among others, the National Museum in Gdańsk, NOMUS Nowe Muzeum, MOCAK in Cracow, the Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art, the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, The Arsenal Gallery in Białystok, The European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, Norrtelje Konsthalle in Sweden, Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie in Regensburg. In 2012, she was awarded the Scholarship of the Minister of Science and Higher Education in recognition of her outstanding artistic achievements. In 2013, she earned her PhD from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, Faculty of Sculpture, Intemedia specialisation. In 2010-2017, a lecturer at the Faculty of Sculpture and Intermedia. She works with sculpture, installation, photography and video. In her early works she referred to religious symbols. She linked the problem of the strong Catholic tradition in Poland with male dominance in the society. She also addressed the topics of identity, sexuality and stereotypical male and female roles. Nowadays, she explores the problems of social and political relations in terms of violence. She conducts research projects regarding memorial sites, traces of memory / oblivion, and history.  

Dorota Nieznalska