Jewish Journal

Life in Oswiecim

by Ruth Ellen Gruber

May 11, 2012 | 2:56 pm

I’ve been in Warsaw the past week and just came down today to Oswiecim—the little city in southern Poland outside of which Auschwitz is located. I’m not here to pay homage at the death camp (which I have visited a number of times) but to attend part of the third edition of the Oswiecim Life Festival, which is aimed at using (mainly) youth-oriented music and arts to promote tolerance. There are concerts (I’ll have to miss the biggie—Peter Gabriel and others Sunday night in the local stadium), performances, educational programs and public meetings. Last year, Matisyahu was the headliner—I wrote about it in a JTA article about the city of Oswiecim wrestling with its past

Tonight, I went with my friend Tomek Kuncewicz, the director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center, to a stage performance in the town’s theatre, which is part of the local cultural center. It was the Polish language version of the English play “Shirley Valentine,” and starred the great Polish actress Krystyna Janda. Ahead of the play was the formal presentation of a mural symbolizing the arts and peace—each year another, different mural on these themes is painted on a city wall and left there as a permanent reminder of the Festival.

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The award-winning American writer Ruth Ellen Gruber has chronicled contemporary Jewish developments in Europe for more than two decades. As the author of National Geographic...

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