The exhibition, under the National Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda to mark the Centenary of Regaining Independence, presents sculptures, drawings, and excerpts of Willenberg's testimony, describing figures and scenes which he remembered and wanted to commemorate. In spite of the perpetrators’ efforts to destroy all traces, the sculptures provide direct evidence of their deeds.
The exhibition of sculptures portraying the author's personal experiences as both a prisoner and a participant of the revolt in the Treblinka German death camp is accompanied by the screening of "Treblinka’s Last Witness", a documentary film produced and screened courtesy of WLRN Public Television for South Florida, which is a first-hand account of Samuel Willenberg’s life as a Jewish prisoner of the death camp.
The aim of the IPN’s nationwide project is not only to educate about the tragedy of the Holocaust, but also to familiarize the younger generation with the author of the sculptures, a Jew from Częstochowa, a soldier of the September campaign, a prisoner of Treblinka, a participant in the camp rebellion, a Warsaw insurgent, and an advocate of reconciliation between Polish and Jewish nations.
After the ceremonial opening of the exhibition in Warsaw on 28 January 2020, with the participation of Ada Krystyna Willenberg, the widow of the artist, the sculptures were presented at the IPN branches in Lublin, Cracow and Kielce, as well as in Gdańsk (at the Museum of the Second World War) and Częstochowa (at the Częstochowa Museum). The Institute of National Remembrance has also prepared a virtual tour of the exhibition supplemented by a voice-over both in Polish and English, as well as touching artistic photographs by Sławomir Kasper (IPN). Quotes from Samuel Willenberg's book Surviving Treblinka in English and Polish were used as descriptions of the exhibits. This has allowed the author’s voice to reverberate fully. It is available at:
Samuel Willenberg was born in 1923 in Częstochowa, Poland, the son of Maniefa, nee Popov, and Perec Willenberg; he had two sisters, his elder Itta and younger Tamara. In October 1942 he arrived at the Treblinka camp in a transport of 6,000 Jews deported from the Opatów ghetto. Most perished immediately; he was the only one who remained alive. Willenberg was in Treblinka until the outbreak of the rebellion on 2 August 1943. He saw with his own eyes the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Jews and thousands of Roma and witnessed them being sent to death in the gas chambers; his own sisters Itta and Tamara also perished there. Willenberg himself suffered humiliation, violence, cruelty and extreme viciousness at the hands of the German SS staff and the Ukrainian “SS-Wachmänner” guards.
Samuel Willenberg was among 200 inmates who on 2 August 1943 succeeded in escaping from the German extermination camp in Treblinka. At the moment of his death in 2016, he remained the last survivor of the rebellion in Treblinka. Samuel Willenberg became the spokesman for good Polish-Jewish relations, speaking openly about both the tragic and beautiful events, linking these two groups of Polish citizens during the criminal German occupation.
For his activities during and after the Second World War Samuel Willenberg received the highest national honors of the Republic of Poland, including the Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Merit with Swords, the Cross of Valour, the Warsaw Uprising Cross, the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, the Order of Polonia Restituta, and the Polish Army Medal.
The official opening of the “Treblinka in the eyes of Samuel Willenberg” exhibition – Warsaw – 28 January 2020
"The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg" exhibition – Lublin, 16 June – 10 July 2020
”The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg” exhibition – Gdańsk, 15 July – 13 August 2020
The exhibition of Samuel Willenberg’s 15 bronze sculptures depicting life in the German death camp in Treblinka, can be seen at the IPN’s "Przystanek Historia" Educational Center in Cracow until 13 September 2020.
"The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg" exhibition prepared by the Institute of National Remembrance is now on display in Częstochowa, the sculptor's home town.
In early 2021, the exhibition of the Institute of National Remembrance appeared in the Cultural Center in Opatów, which, after Częstochowa and Treblinka, remains the most significant place in the artist's life. It was here that before the war, his father Perec Willenberg created paintings on the synagogue walls. It also housed the ghetto established by the Germans during the war, from which, in October 1942, young Samuel was sent to the Treblinka extermination camp.
"The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg" exhibition now to be seen in Chmielnik’s old synagogue
After two months in Opatów, the legacy of Samuel Willenberg, an outstanding artist from Israel, found its place round the only glass bimah in the world at the Education Museum Centre "Świętokrzyski Sztetl" (the former synagogue in Chmielnik).
The exhibition was officially opened by the Director of the State Museum at Majdanek, Tomasz Kranz, Ph.D., on 3 July 2021. Ada Krystyna Willenberg, who took part in the event online from Israel, told the gathered guests about her late husband, his experiences at the German death camp in Treblinka and his later artistic work.Art historian, Prof. Lechosław Lameński, who also took part in the opening of the exhibition, emphasized the artistic value of Samuel Willenberg’s sculptures as well as the powerful emotions they evoke.
The exhibition is on display at Majdanek until 29 August 2021, from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. It will later be presented in the branches of the State Museum at Majdanek - from 1 September at the Museum and Memorial in Bełżec, and from 14 October at the Museum and Memorial in Sobibór.
The opening of "The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg" exhibition at the Museum and Memorial Site in Bełżec took place on 6 September 2021. The participants of the meeting were, among others, students and teachers of the Bernard Morando State Secondary School of Fine Arts in Zamość. Apart from viewing the exhibition, the students also took part in the workshops entitled "Holocaust Testimonies – artifacts discovered during archaeological works on the site of the former death camp in Bełżec" and "The story of a certain ghetto. The Przemyśl ghetto as an example of a closed Jewish district during the German occupation”.
On this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Institute of National Remembrance encourages you to visit the exhibition "The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg" commemorating those murdered in the Treblinka extermination camp. Twelve exhibits can be seen at the “History Point” Janusz Kurtyka Educational Center at 21/25 Marszałkowska street in Warsaw, and three ̶ at the Central Museum of Prisoners-of-War in Opole, where the ceremonial opening is taking place on 27 January.
"The exhibit demonstrates what kind of things inhumanity and intolerance can lead to. Samuel was not like any other man: he feared no danger, and, when necessary, was the first to fight. This is best evidenced by his volunteering for the army in 1939, even though at 16 he was too young for military service; he was a great Polish patriot. Following the revolt in Treblinka, of which he was a very active participant, he contacted the Polish underground, and at first, got involved in diversion and sabotage in the streets of Warsaw. The moment the Warsaw Uprising broke out, he went in combat as a Home Army soldier, and then transferred to PAL Polish People’s Army. When the Uprising fell, he joined a partisan unit and fought in the Kampinos forest. After the war, Samuel once said that he’d made through it all and was happy. What he meant, I think, was that you should never give up: overcome whatever setbacks life throws at you. In the first place, I want to give my sincere thanks to the exhibitor and all of you in the audience, people who in such a difficult time and cold weather left their warm homes and came to see Samuel’s art."
Ada Krystyna Willenberg
The Offical opening of “The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg” exhibition in Wrocław, 27 July 2022
The opening took place on Wednesday, 27 July 2022 at 5.00 p.m. The exhibition of Samuel Willenberg's sculptures was officially inaugurated by Karol Nawrocki, President of the IPN, and Marek Mutor, Ph.D., Director of the Zajezdnia History Center. Ada Krystyna Willenberg, the widow of the late Artist, acquainted the audience with the 15 exhibits.
Enveloped by the opening of "The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg" exhibition in January 2020 and its Polish display in Wrocław this week has been a 30-month enterprise to which Ada Krystyna Willenberg is central.
The opening of “The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg” exhibition in the Museum of the Silesian Piasts, Brzeg, 1 September 2022.