The Jewish history of Poland is often hidden within the Polish landscape. Nazi destruction of Jewish sites, World War II and its destruction of Poland, post-war anti-Semitic destruction, have all contributed to a lack of pre-war Jewish sites remaining in Poland. Another reason for the lack of Jewish sites in Poland today, is the Polish collective memory about the Jewish population and the Holocaust. Though many Jewish sites in Poland were destroyed, the Jewish history in Poland remains. Visitors to Poland will most likely interact with Polish-Jewish history through monuments and memorials than physical historical sites in their travels. And most of the Jewish history still standing in Poland are remnants of the Holocaust: concentration camps, ghetto walls, and death camps.
This project, with the help of the digital world, will aim to make Polish-Jewish history more visible. This project will focus on the capital of Poland, Warsaw, and its Jewish past. In its end, it will be an interactive map of Jewish locations within Warsaw. The user can visit this site to use the map and discover images and more information about these Jewish sites. Users will engage with this project in order to learn more about the Jewish past in Poland. Images of the Jewish sites will show the changes that have occurred to Warsaw and users will witness how the landscape has changed. Information from images will give users information about the changing landscape. Hopefully, this project will bring up the following questions:
How have Jewish sites in Warsaw changed over time?
Why have Jewish sites in Warsaw changed in such a way?
What types of Jewish sites exist in Warsaw today? And why?
How would travelling to Warsaw be different than experiencing it through this site?
Without this digital tool, how would people experience Warsaw?
Is Jewish history in Warsaw remembered? If so, how is it being remembered?
In order to complete this project, various digital technologies will be used. First, Omeka will be used as a base site through which the project will function. Omeka will contain the digital collection, images (and their subsequent) information. From there, I will use various plugins, such as Curatescape, in order to create a mapping template for the site.
The goal of this project is to engage with the public about the Jewish history of Poland. The hope is that users will utilize this project to either help them do research or aide them when visiting Poland. The target audience for this project is anyone in the public who is interested in Polish-Jewish history. Many of those that will use this project will have family that were Polish-Jews. This project is also geared towards anyone interested in travel, especially travel to Poland. While this project is specifically focused on Poland’s history, it aims to help the public to not travel “blindly,” to ascertain knowledge and questions about a place’s history before visiting.
End Goals: Fulfilling a graduate degree. Discovering unbiased information. Genuine travel experiences.
Quote: “I want to understand as much as I can about life and human behavior – to do that, I need to understand the past.
A Day in a Life Narrative: My name is David and I am currently a graduate student at Duke University. A normal day for me consists of reading and writing, graduate school is my life. I want to know as much as possible in my field and I do so by researching and traveling. I don’t trust everything I read or hear, and I am critical of much information presented to me, particularly on the internet. That is why I love to travel, I can see and understand the world for myself, rather than learning about it through someone else.
End Goals: Fulfilling a graduate degree. Discovering unbiased information. Genuine travel experiences.
Demographic:60s, Event designer, upper-middle class, Jewish, white
Descriptive Title:Inquisitive Professional
Quote:“My life is wonderful – but I yearn to learn more about my past.”
A Day in a Life Narrative: My name is Sue and I have been an event designer for almost twenty years now. I am very passionate about my job, but my family comes first. I have a great husband and wonderful children. But ever since my mother’s death, I have wanted to know more about my family history. Recently, I have been considering traveling in order to discover information about my past, but I have realized that it might be too hard on me to travel. I am looking into other ways to discover information on my family’s past. I am fairly technology-literate, although I do not know how to use technology and the internet to its fullest.
End Goals: Discover information on family’s past. Learn how to better use technology.
Digital collections allow for a wide array of public history activities. Digital collections can be large or small, contain documents, photographs, oral records, material culture, etc. Often, the public views a digital collection to view or utilize the “artifacts” for their own purpose. However, public history digital collections often also allow for the public to contribute to the site.
There are many public history digital collections that utilize the public in order to add to their collections. The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank and Baltimore Uprising both rely on public contribution to add to their collections. In this way, digital collections can help the public be a part of the history.
It seems that basic digital collections allow for the public to do their own research, contribute to public history projects, and interact with history. These could be used for practical purposes, whether the users are amateur historians or merely want to connect with history.
I hope to use Omeka, with various plugins, so that users can connect to the Polish-Jewish past through historical understanding. I want to showcase places/sites in Warsaw that contain Jewish history in some way. While I think of this as a travel tool, it will also be a learning tool. One goal of my project is to compile images of the sites from the past alongside images of the site currently. I want users to question how these sites have changed and why the sites appear this way today. Hopefully, they will gain a historical understanding of Warsaw through this site that contains commentary from both the past and the present.
This module explored the importance of understanding audience when designing a digital public history project.
Audience seems to be a key difference between general digital humanities projects and digital public history projects. Digital humanities projects seem to be by academics, often for academics (not always true, but many are). Though digital humanists make sure to know their audience and who their projects are focused towards, digital public historians need to understand their audience even more. When the public is the audience, designers of digital public history projects must spend a good deal of project planning time in attempting to understand all aspects of their audience.
Understanding the audience of your project will help you provide the best user experience possible in your project. Ultimately these projects are for the public and the better tuned they can be towards the public, the better.
Some of the best ways to learn about your audience is through interviews. Interviews, if they use appropriate questions, can highlight trends in potential users and what they are looking for in digital projects. They can even help elucidate parts of your own project that you had not considered, or help you decide on an aspect of your project. Some digital designers also choose to create personas for their project. Often based off of interviews with their target audience, personas help designers synthesize their audience and keep in sight the goals of their project.
By utilizing interviews and personas, the designer of a digital project will be more “in tune” with their audience and will create a better project in the end.
Before actually completing any user research, I needed to flesh out my project and all ideas for my project. After much more thought, and guidance from my professor, I have decided that I will work on a website that would help serve people that want to visit Poland to learn about its Jewish past. This project will focus on one town or region, where much of the Jewish history of the town is hidden or no longer exists. This tool could be used by anyone who wants to learn about this history, not just people who want to actually visit these sites.
In order to help narrow down my focus on this project, I conducted interviews with two people that are in my target audience for this project: members of the general public who are Jewish or have some connection to Polish Jewish history and want to visit Poland with the hopes of learning about its Jewish past. I had two main goals in these interviews. First, I wanted to make sure that there was a need or want for this type of project. The entire goal of a project such as this is so that the public will interact with it and learn from it. Second, I wanted help with figuring out which town or region to focus on in Poland. Personally, I was torn between a few and hoped these interviews would help me decide.
The user interviews did confirm a few things for me about the project. From the people I interviewed, I learned that there are people that would be interested in this type of project and felt that this project was a great idea. I learned a few things from these interviews as well. The interviewees emphasized the want for not only a geographic reference, but also for the geography to be tied to information. Simply, they want to learn. They want to be able to take information from the website and actually learn from it and be able to use it in person during travel.
They also had some suggestions on which town or region I should focus on. Although their thoughts did not make my decision much easier. One user suggested Warsaw, a town that I had been considering heavily. They have not been to Poland, but figured that if they were to go, they would most likely go to Warsaw. They concluded that Warsaw’s size would make it difficult to know where to start when first visiting, therefore a website to aid people traveling to this town would be helpful. I had considered Warsaw for similar reasons. Another reason I had considered Warsaw was because it was decimated during the war and much of its Jewish history no longer stands in the town and is difficult to find.
The other user suggested Lublin. They have been to Poland before, but has not been to Lublin. They have heard much about Lublin, however, and felt as though there is a lot of Jewish history there to uncover. They suggested that it might be a good town to start with, since it is a medium-sized town. Lublin is a good suggestion because it, like Warsaw, has very little physical presence left of its Jewish population. It could potentially be easier to make a project on since it is smaller and more succinct than Warsaw.
After conducting these user interviews, I am more confident about my project. I will focus on Warsaw, Poland, because it is more likely traveled by people traveling to Poland. It is a good town for this type of project because so much of the Jewish history in this town is no longer standing. I also know that my project will have geographic elements along with information and pictures of the sites mentioned.
I attended St. Mary’s College of Maryland for my undergraduate education. This school was not only a wonderful institution with a focus on tolerance and the liberal arts, but the school itself was surrounded by history. St. Mary’s College of Maryland is located in the vicinity of St. Mary’s City, the first capital of the state of Maryland. Along the banks of the St. Mary’s River, intermixed with the boundaries of the college, lies Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC), a living history site and museum. I might have a bit of a bias when it comes to Historic St. Mary’s City, as I grew to love this place as an extension of my own beloved institution. But I have visited “Historic,” as St. Mary’s College students like to call it, many times. As a student of history and anthropology, I feel as though I can make thoughtful judgments about this site and its purpose as a public history institution.
St. Mary’s City was the location of the landing of settlers, under the direction of Leonard Calvert, on the Ark and the Dove in 1634. These settlers founded the first successful non-native settlement in Maryland, a town that would come to be the first capital of Maryland.
In total, the land of HSMC takes up about 800 acres but it feels intimate, with many various small “sites” on HSMC property. As a living public history museum, HSMC attempts to recreate the first capital of Maryland. The center of the historic town has been “rebuilt” as it might have looked in the past. Other vestiges from the original town remain as well. The first statehouse of Maryland has also been rebuilt and stands on this site as a symbol of the importance of justice and what has become the United States of America’s judicial system. In stark contrast, directly across from the Statehouse, is the Brick Chapel, also a reconstruction, that stands as a symbol of the importance of religion and religious freedom. These two sites that lie on the same road yet stand hundreds of yards apart, were meant to symbolize the separation of religion and the state and the balance between the two that the settlers sought after.
Brick Chapel (Image 1)
Within this narrative lies the argument this site attempts to communicate to those that visit: St. Mary’s City was the beginning of the great American ideals we honor today. The fights for religious freedom, separation of church and state, and equal rights all began in St. Mary’s City. This is what the site tries to communicate to its visitors.
Anyone can visit this site and not only learn much about Maryland history but they will also enjoy the site. As is, this site is aimed for the general population. When walking the grounds, you are likely to run into families, large student groups, and locals that use the site to walk their dogs or exercise.
As a visitor, one can take part in a group tour of the site or check out the site on your own. Either way works, however, I believe you get the most out of this site by taking a tour of it. It is not so easy to figure out your way around the site without some guidance. There is not one clear path that one should take and it would be easy to miss important sites or features of HSMC. However, along your journey at HSMC you will find a few interpreters, dressed in period costumes, that tell the stories of St. Mary’s City residents. There are very few actual interpreters at the site, though. So when walking through the site, it is likely that you may not run into any interpreters at all. The interpreters can provide fascinating information about the history of St. Mary’s City, though their use seems to be directed towards children and school groups.
Interpreters at the Dove (Image 2)
Though HSMC is situated on a lot of land, the land remains mostly empty. Archaeological digs, which have been ongoing at the site for the past forty years or more, have proven the location of many original buildings from the first capital city. HSMC has taken information from archaeological digs to “rebuild” the town, most notably by using “ghost” houses. These houses are merely the outlines of structures, but mark where actual houses or buildings from the original town once stood and what they might have looked like.
Ghost houses (Image 3)
You can also take a trip down to the waterfront, where the reconstructed ship from the settling voyage, the Dove, sits today. Visitors to HSMC can get a tour of the reconstructed ship, which to me is one of the most interesting parts of the entire site. Also featured at HSMC is an Indian Hamlet, somewhat hidden in the woods, that attempts to portray what the site might have looked like before settlers from Europe arrived. Here, you can learn about Indian modes of subsistence, how they built their own canoes, and how to make an arrowhead. Another interesting part of HSMC is the St. John’s Site Museum. This museum is situated on the grounds of the college, where archaeologists uncovered the foundation of an early English home along with a wealth of archaeological finds. This museum is worth the trip to HSMC over any of the other aspects of this site. The museum is one of the most interesting archaeological museums that I have ever been to. Unfortunately, this museum is “off the beaten path” of HSMC, so many visitors may not make it over to this part of the site.
Overall, HSMC is a great example of a living public history museum. The archaeological work that has allowed for the site’s existence has successfully articulated the history and the lives of the various types of individuals that used to call St. Mary’s City home. Though there is not one path to follow throughout the site, visitors can either take a tour of the site or follow the maps to find each educational experience at HSMC. However, having clearer signage and more directive maps would help visitors get the best experience from HSMC.
The digital site for HSMC is www.hsmcdigshistory.org. The opening page reads, “Experience life in 17th century Maryland!” At first glance, visitors to the digital site understand that HSMC aims to be a recreation of life from seventeenth century St. Mary’s City. The opening page also discusses St. Mary’s City’s “legacy of democracy and toleration,” hinting at the site’s argument that HSMC was a building block for modern America.
This website is aimed for those interested in visiting the site. There are many tabs on the page for users to view, but the first two tabs include information about visiting the site and the various programs and tours the site offers. Other tabs on the HSMC website include, “Support,” “Private Events,” “The Shop,” and “The Inn.” Besides being aimed at potential visitors, the HSMC website is aimed at those interested in financially supporting the institution. Finally, the site is geared towards those interested in the history of the site and the various research opportunities that are ongoing at HSMC. This website gives out a lot of information about HSMC. In this way, I think they cover a variety of information that anyone visiting their website might in search of.
Home page of HSMC’s digital site (Image 4)
The most interesting component of the website is a Museum Map, an interactive digital map of HSMC. By including this map on the website, potential visitors can not only get a grasp of the site before they go, but they might be able to gain any information they are looking for on the site without needing to physically visit. The interactive map works by the website user clicking on the various buildings or monuments on the map. Small windows will appear with a picture of the building and some brief historical information. The only downside to the map is that it seems to be a work in progress. Each of the small information windows that pop up include a link for visitors to “Dig Deeper,” suggesting that a new window will appear with even more information on the site. But when clicked on, the page brought up has an error message. Despite this, the interactive map on HSMC’s website a great tool for visitors to use and brings the website into a more interactive sphere.
HSMC’s Interactive Map (Image 5)
Overall, the digital site for HSMC has a simple layout, yet contains a large amount of information on this site. There is only one interactive aspect of the website, the museum map. Though it is the sole interactive element, it is visually engaging and could be very helpful to visitors to the page. The website could be improved by streamlining much of the information on the site and ensuring that various links on the site work.
The physical site and digital site make similar arguments about the history of St. Mary’s City. However, the visitor to the digital site might gain more information on the formation of the site and the archaeology that preceded the site’s creation. It might be beneficial for those that aim to visit the physical site, to take time to visit the digital site beforehand. The digital site would help visitors make sense of the site, even before their actual visit.
The genre of Digital Public History seems to have changed much over time, especially as digital technologies became better and as audience engagement became more important.
Early digital public history projects were focused mostly on presenting historical information. These projects were usually some sort of collection or grouping of historical sources/information portrayed through a website page. One very early site on the infamous blackouts of NYC aimed to be a collection of audience memory of these blackouts, and therefore was an early example of a future goal of digital public history: audience assistance and engagement. These early projects were limited in design and content (the internet was still quite limited in the late 1990s/early 2000s).
By the second phase of digital public history, the presentation of historical information became the most important feature of these sites. The audience could interact minimally with these sites, usually just to move to the next section of information or view a different section of the page. These sites highly valued education, seemingly hoping to educate the general public about more extensive issues in history, often lesser-known historical events, such as the Holocaust in Croatia and slavery in NYC.
The third and most recent phase of digital public history attempted to balance the need to present historical knowledge and the want to engage the public. Most sites of this more recent time period (2010s) focused on portraying history for the masses, but one site asked the audience for help indexing pages of war diaries from WWI. These sites show the increase in technology that occurred in more recent years and how these improvements also improve the audience experience with the sites. Now, users can truly interact with history and help digital projects make historic documents useful to a wider audience.
I feel as though this is where digital humanities, and in particular, digital public history is heading – towards the balance of presenting the public with historical information and getting the public involved in the study of history. As technology gets better and better, the types of actions and assistance the audience can provide to history projects will increase and become more sophisticated and easier to use.
Defining public history is complicated, as the field itself has been somewhat undefined, or has lacked definition. As historian Ronald Grele puts it, “those of us who currently work in the field have not clearly defined what it is we do, why we do it, and why it is an alternative to other forms of historical effort” (Grele 41). In order to attempt to define public history for this blog post, I will try to answer the questions Grele asks in the article title: “Whose Public? Whose History? What is the goal of a public historian?”
Grele begins to answer this question by examining who “the public” has been to historians in the past. He claims first that historians have always had a public, even from the earliest point in history (Grele 41). But from the mid-nineteenth century to today, historians have generally addressed “the literate middle class” (42). Then, as the profession of the historian expanded in the recent centuries, this definition narrowed to historian’s peers: other academics and students (42).
The study of history was once again altered, as historians began to encounter the local history movement (Grele 42). By working within the bounds of local history, the historian’s “public” was finally beyond the bounds of the classroom. Ultimately, I believe this is the “public” that is in the definition of public history: it is the non-academic world, the general public.
If, for so long, historians worked for other historians, then it is fair to say that history was purely for academics. However, the public history movement suggests that history does not purely belong to the historians. It suggests that history belongs to everyone and that everyone has a right to understand and interact with history.
What is the goal of a public historian?
Grill suggests that the field of public history has changed the definition of the role of the historian (48). Public history, according to Grele, “promises us a society in which a broad public participates in the construction of its own history” (48).
I believe the goal of the public historian is to engage with the general public on history projects, and to help the general public become engaged with history.
Though I can create a very broad definition of public history, it is also true that there is not a generally agreed upon definition of this field. As Dichtl and Townsend (2009) note, when surveying historians about whether they consider themselves public historians, many noted that they did not feel comfortable confining themselves to such a label, or noted that they had no official training in public history. So, in many cases, even public historians are unsure of a clear definition for public history.
However, because the definition of public history tends to be very broad, so is the variety of work public historians do. Public historians are often museum professionals, archivists, preservationists, cultural resource managers, curators, historical interpreters, and much more (National Council on Public History).
Dichtl, John and Robert B. Townsend. “A Picture of Public History: Preliminary Results from the 2008 Survey of Public History Professionals.” American Historical Association (2009)<https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2009/a-picture-of-public-history>
Grele, Ronald J. “Whose Public? Whose History? What Is the Goal of a Public Historian?” The Public Historian, 3 (1981): 40-48.
National Council on Public History. “About the Field.” Indiana University-Purdue University. <http://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/about-the-field/>
I created this blog for a Digital Public Humanities graduate certificate that I am currently working on that is offered through George Mason University. I am also currently working on a Masters degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from Gratz College.
My interest in Digital Public Humanities stems from some research I started while an undergraduate student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. For my senior research thesis, I was researching the memory of the Jewish past in contemporary Poland. In order to understand this memory, I focused on how Jewish material culture, including cemeteries and mezuzah impressions, is being remembered in Poland today. At the time, I had wanted to map the data I had collected on Jewish cemeteries but had very limited knowledge on how to do so.
My research advisor suggested that I complete this certificate program with the hope of gaining insight into digital tools that I could use for my studies in history. Last semester, I was able to successfully map my cemetery work in the Introduction to Digital Public Humanities course. Now, I am taking a course on Digital Public History, which I am very excited about. While I have not personally worked on a public history site, I have been to many and also studied many of these sites. I am excited about public history for the education potential of these projects.
I am excited for this class because I could one day end up working at at a site of public history or work in the field of public history. This class would help prepare me for careers in public history and provide me with more knowledge and experience in digital public humanities.
I first visited Poland during the summer of 2012. The trip was a chance for my mother and I to discover our Polish roots and to find answers to some of our genealogical questions. It was a brief stay, but in the short time we were there I became fascinated with the interactions between Polish and Jewish culture and the way Poles seemed to remember the Jewish past.
Over the course of my undergraduate classes in history and anthropology, I became more and more interested in this topic. I visited Poland once again during the summer of 2015 through a study tour with a memory organization in Lublin, Poland called Brama Grodzka – NN Theatre Centre. This study tour brought me to many incredible places and raised even more questions for me. I returned to college, desperate to find more answers.
My senior thesis focused on the remembrance of Jewish material culture in Poland. I specifically focused on Jewish cemeteries and mezuzah impressions (the marks left on the doorposts from the removal of mezuzot). In order to try to answer questions about memory in Poland, I analyzed the data of over one-thousand Jewish cemeteries in Poland. This data was found through Virtual Shtetl, a group that collects information on Jewish sites in Poland, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ), a group that works to preserve important physical sites of Jewish history and culture in Poland, and from my own travels throughout Poland. One goal of this project was to map the Jewish cemeteries on which I had collected data. In the end, I ran out of time to complete this part of the project.
Through research and examination of the material culture, I made a few conclusions about the memory of Jewish sites and objects in Poland. First, it is possible that “separate memories” of the past exist in the minds of the Polish people. An anthropologist completed a study of one small Polish town and through her interviews she discovered that the Poles in this town see the Polish history of the town and the Jewish history of the town as two separate histories. This anthropologist also suggests that the Jewish history is remembered by Poles as an almost fairytale-like story rather than actual history. I expanded upon this notion in my thesis by arguing that the “separate memories” notion could be the reason why some Jewish sites in Poland are being neglected and forgotten. (For more on this project, see: Wloszycka, Malgorzata. “Neglected Memory: The Recollection of Jews Among Poles. A Case Study of a Town in Southern Poland.” European Judaism 44 (2011): 81-90. Doi: 10.3167/ej.2011.44.02.06)
Specifically for cemeteries, I argue that there still exists a passive memory of these sites in Poles. But many Jewish cemeteries have been destroyed, left neglected, and do not have any forms of active remembrance (i.e., signs, information boards, fencing, cleaning, dedication ceremonies, memorials, etc.). Why is this the case? Why are some places/sites remembered while others are not? Through the “separate memories” theory, people that see Jewish history as separate from their own history will be less likely to act on remembering Jewish sites.
Jewish cemeteries in Poland are actively remembered and actively neglected in many ways. Through my research I established five categories of remembrance for Jewish cemeteries in Poland:
Absent (where there are no physical remnants of the cemetery above the surface and the cemetery has not been actively remembered in any way). This category indicates a lack of remembrance towards these site. In my thesis, I argued that the lack of physical markers on these sites might contribute to why there has been no acts of remembrance.
Neglected (where cemeteries have physical remnants above ground and have been neglected or destroyed. Many of these sites are overgrown, left in a state of disrepair, or destroyed.) This category also indicates a lack of remembrance. For me, this category is very intriguing. Even though physical remnants of these cemeteries remain, the lack of remembrance signifies that it is not the physical remnants that indicate whether a site will be actively remembered.
Szczebrzeszyn Jewish Cemetery Source: ACurry 2015
Altered (where cemeteries have been altered in some way and are no longer used as cemeteries. These sites include cemeteries that have been turned into parks, schools, housing developments, government buildings, playgrounds, gas stations, etc.) These sites now function in completely different ways than their original purpose. This category indicates neither remembrance nor neglect/ignorance. It seems to be a mix of both. While it seems some memory of these sites remain, as many of these sites have memorials to the Jewish cemeteries, this category overall indicates an ability for Poles and Polish society to overlook the Jewish history present in order to function within their own society.
Jozefow nad Wisla Jewish Cemetery Source: Virtual Shtetl. Site is used as a garbage dump today.
Memorial (where the only form of remembrance to the cemetery is through a monument or memorial.) This category usually indicates remembrance, where the memorial present identifies the site as being the location of a Jewish cemetery. It is often the case that though there are memorials at these sites, the memorials might mark a completely different event and disregard the Jewish cemetery present. In the site pictured below, the memorial contains plaques commemorating those that died during the war, but is not specific to Jews or to the Jewish cemetery present. The plaques are written in four different languages, including Hebrew. So while these sites mainly reflect remembrance, they also reflect a lack of memory.
Goleniow Jewish Cemetery Source: Virtual Shtetl
Remembered (where there exist multiple forms of active remembrance to the cemetery. This can include: cleaning, fencing, memorials/monuments, on-site tours, dedication ceremonies, etc.) These sites indicate remembrance, and often remembrance in multiple ways. In my thesis, I analyzed how these sites are being remembered and who is remembering them. For the most part, these sites are being remembered by Jewish organizations, or Jewish groups that have a connection to the site. Despite remembrance efforts being led by Jewish groups, there are many examples of Poles leading remembrance activities as well. This indicates that some Poles understand, view, and remember this history in a way that makes them feel responsible for it in some manner.
Milejczyce Jewish Cemetery Source: Virtual Shtetl
This class, Introduction to Digital Public Humanities, has given me the opportunity to map the Jewish cemeteries in Poland. The goal of mapping these cemeteries is to understand if there is a spatial reason for the remembrance or neglect of Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Through my senior thesis, I was able to understand the social, anthropological, and psychological reasons behind the remembrance of Jewish cemeteries in Poland. But my analysis lacked a geographical perspective…until now! Thanks to CartoDB, I was able to map data that I have been collecting for over a year.
This link will take you to the interactive version of my general remembrance map. This map is a color-coded map of all of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland that I found data on. The sites are color-coded based on the remembrance of the site. In all, I have mapped 1,124 Jewish cemeteries in Poland. The majority of the sites are actively remembered in some way, but as you can see from the map, there are also many sites that have not been remembered.
Here is another interesting image from the general map of the cemeteries:
This is a heat-density map. It shows where most of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland are located (the red areas) and where there is a lesser density of Jewish cemeteries in Poland (the blue/green areas). This map shows that most of the Jewish cemeteries are centered around southeastern Poland. Though there were Jewish settlements throughout all of Poland, most Jews lived in this southeastern region of Poland. (We also have to remember that the boundaries of Poland changed many times throughout the last one thousand years. But this project is using the modern map of Poland to understand the past). In this way, it makes sense that most of the Jewish cemeteries would be located in this southeastern region of Poland.
Before digging into the remembrance data, I also want to post a time-lapse map of the establishment dates for these cemeteries. The establishment of cemeteries often denotes the establishment of Jewish populations in a specific town or village. This map, though it shows the range of establishment of the cemeteries, also thereby shows the establishment and spread of Jewish communities in Poland.
This first image shows the first step in the time-lapse map. Here we can see one of the first established cemeteries in Poland, the Wroclaw Medieval Jewish Cemetery, established around 1190. From the year 1200 on, we can witness through the time-lapse map the expansion of Jewish communities in Poland.
By 1300, a few more Jewish cemeteries had been established. We can see that there is a cluster of these early cemeteries in western Poland and cluster in eastern/central Poland. This shows the expansion further into Poland, from the west towards central Poland, which would only continue in the coming centuries.
By 1400 C.E., we finally see the expansion into southern Poland and into eastern Poland. The Warsaw Medieval Jewish Cemetery was one of the cemeteries established by 1400, signaling the beginning of a town that would become a center of Jewish life in Poland.
The explosion of Jewish life in Poland would not begin until around 1600 C.E. By this time, Jewish life, specifically in southeastern Poland began to expand fairly rapidly. This image from the time-lapse map further shows the expansion of Jewish communities in Poland, showing that many communities settled in the southeastern region.
The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were the climax of Jewish expansion in Poland. By 1800 C.E., there are more Jewish cemeteries throughout the entirety of Poland. We also see the first cemeteries in northern Poland during this time.
This image of the time-lapse map shows the Jewish cemeteries present by 1940. This map is fairly precise to the first Remembrance map, as most of the Jewish communities in Poland were destroyed during and after WWII. Very few cemeteries were established post-war, but there were a few. Overall, the time-lapse map is a great way to visualize and portray the settlement of Jewish life in Poland over the last eight hundred years. By viewing this map in motion, we can almost witness the expansion of Jewish communities as it happened.
Back to the remembrance of Jewish cemeteries. I broke down this map into five different maps, one for each category of remembrance.
When I first went through and separated these maps, I couldn’t find many differences between them. For the most part, many of these maps resemble the initial map: it seems most of the sites are in southern Poland, which was true for the initial map showing all of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland. So I decided to look at heat maps instead, to see if those would show more than the regular “dot” maps do.
Sure enough, this type of map was a great way of portraying the remembrance of Jewish cemeteries in Poland. I started again with the Absent category, which includes any cemetery that is not being actively remembered in any way. This map looks very different from initial map of the Absent cemeteries. Here, the Lublin region and a region near Wroclaw are highlighted as the areas with the least amount of remembrance. Also important to note is the absence of sites in the very southern portion of the country and in the regions surrounding Krakow.
The heat map of the neglected cemeteries in Poland shows concentrated regions of neglect in eastern Poland, southern Poland, southwestern Poland, and northwestern Poland. North-central Poland is conspicuously lacking neglected cemeteries.
Cemeteries that have undergone a change in identity have some interesting hot-spots in the heat map. Regions highlighted in this map include Bialystok, Lublin, Rzeszow, and an area outside Lodz. The majority of the Altered Category cemeteries are in the eastern/southeastern part of the country.
Though these maps are all different, many of the concentrated areas of cemeteries reside in southern Poland, where most of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland are located. However, these maps do show slight difference. The map of the neglected cemeteries shows a very concentrated regions of cemeteries northwest of Krakow and other less concentrated regions in central Poland and around Lublin.
Finally, the map of the remembered cemeteries shows intense concentrations of cemeteries in southern and central Poland. The cemeteries that have been actively remembered are centered around Krakow, Warsaw, Lodz, and the very southeastern tip of Poland. This patterning is understandable: Warsaw, Krakow and Lodz are some of the largest towns in Poland, places that still have Jewish communities to this day. It is likely that the remembrance of Jewish cemeteries in this region is due to the Jewish communities and organizations present in these towns.
Conclusions and Final Thoughts:
Mapping the Jewish cemeteries in Poland based on their remembrance did not highlight much new about the remembrance of Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Many of my initial conclusions about how Jewish cemeteries are remembered in Poland are supported by these maps. The cemeteries that are remembered seem to be located near some of the larger cities in Poland, where modern-day Jewish communities are centered, and in southeastern Poland where Jewish life in Poland was centered. It is these Jewish communities and organizations that are completing much of the memory work on these cemeteries.
This project did aide in helping me to visualize the data that I have been collecting. I can now see how heavily saturated the southern area of Poland is with Jewish cemeteries. I could also use the time-lapse feature in CartoDB to visualize the spread of Jewish civilization in Poland throughout the past one-thousand years.
CartoDB was a great tool to use for this project. The most complicated part of the project was editing my spreadsheet to work with CartoDB because my spreadsheet contained so much data. Despite this, working with CartoDB was simple and user-friendly. From the minute I connected my spreadsheet, CartoDB recognized my categories and my data. The work on my end from there on out was very little.
I think CartoDB, though it is a fantastic and simple mapping tool, could expand its possibilities in a few ways. First, I would love if there were a feature to add photos to the data in the maps. As my project was focused on material culture, being able to add pictures to the maps would enhance viewer interaction with the maps. Next, there were certain aspects of working within CartoDB that were repetitive. In order to alter or change a map, you need to re-publish the map to change the features. Even though I was working with much of the same data, I needed to publish six different maps just to show various aspects of the analysis or to change the text overlays.
Overall, this process was fairly straightforward and simple. If I were to continue this project, I would spend more time working with Carto’s various mapping tools. I focused here on the categories tool and the heat map tool, but better tools to use to understand this data might exist within CartoDB. I would also take some time to overlay certain data in order to better understand how this data interacts. It would be interesting to spend some time with the heat map of remembered cemeteries and overlay “dot” data from the absent and neglected ceremonies to see if there is any overlap. This might help to more deeply understand my data. I hope to work with CartoDB more in the future and gain a better understanding of how this program works.
I will leave this project with a quote from Polish journalist Anna Bikont on the memory of a small town in Poland:
“Polish truth. Jewish truth. It’s obvious to many residents that there are two separate truths here.”
(Bikont, Anna. The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. pg 140).