"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.



"The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg"  exhibition was organized by the IPN as part of a nationwide, year-long educational project made possible thanks to the kindness of the widow of the sculptor, Ada Krystyna Willenberg.
It is no coincidence that Częstochowa was chosen as one of the venues for presenting the exhibition, as this is where Samuel Willenberg, the author of the sculptures, was born and raised. It is worth noting that the Częstochowa Museum is also displaying the paintings of Perec Willenberg, Samuel’s father.
The exhibition of 15 bronze sculptures by Samuel Willenberg in his hometown, was organized by the Institute of National Remembrance in cooperation with the Mayor of Częstochowa and the Częstochowa Museum. The works depict everyday life in what can be described as hell on earth and are a unique, painful  testimony of one of the most tragic chapters in the history of the Holocaust.

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  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  his  testimony, describing figures and scenes which Willenberg remembered and wanted to commemorate. In spite of the perpetrators’ efforts to destroy all traces, the sculptures provide direct evidence of their deeds.
The 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.




As a prisoner at Treblinka, Samuel witnessed the death in the gas chambers of his two beloved sisters, Itta and Tamara, among countless others. In his sculptures, the most poignant of these individual tragedies are brought back vividly to life.  Like Polansky’s “The Pianist”, the film focuses on one man’s personal odyssey to reflect the enormity of the genocide inflicted upon Poland’s 3.5 million Jews, at the time the world’s largest Jewish community, seven times greater than the Jewish population of pre-war Germany.
Samuel’s story is one of survival against staggering odds and, though heart-rending and horrifying, it is ultimately one of triumph. WLRN

As an expression of respect for St. John Paul II, after the Pope's death, the artist made his sculpture, the mold of which can also be seen in the Town Hall in Częstochowa. The Institute of National Remembrance, in cooperation with the “Dobry Grunt” Foundation, added the work devoted to the Holy Father to the exhibition during its presentation in Poland.

So far, the exhibits have been presented at the IPN’s Lublin Branch,  the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk and the Cracow Branch of the IPN. The sculptures will further be shown in Kielce and Warsaw.
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.


The exhibition "The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg" in Częstochowa is on display from 18 September to 15 October 2020.

go up