The Ghetto Fighters' House (Heb. בֵּית לוֹחֲמֵי הַגֶטָּאוֹת, Beit Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot) Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum and Study Center, is the first Holocaust memorial museum. The museum was founded on April 19th, 1949, the sixth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The founders were all Holocaust survivors, among them fighters of the ghetto underground's and partisan units, including the deputy-commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Yitzhak (Antek) Zuckerman and his wife, Zivia Lubetkin. On the same day, the founders established kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot in order to commemorate their families that perished during the Holocaust.
The unique nature of the place lies in its primacy, in its being a project that was thought of and constructed by a group of young people who fought against the Nazis, and survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and when laying the foundation for their kibbutz home, they also laid the foundation for commemoration and remembrance as an educational asset. The GFH museum is accredited by the Israeli Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and is committed to promoting educational activities on the subject of the Holocaust both in Israel and on a global level.
The newly renovated museum, which is located on a hill overlooking the Acre valley in the Western Galilee, Israel, has four floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions that chronicle Jewish and non-Jewish resistance in all its forms and expressions, as well as the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its supporters. Among the permanent exhibitions are the Treblinka Hall that has on display a scale model of the Treblinka Death Camp, the Yizkor Hall that makes available to the visitor a large selection of the museum's archives, the House of Testimony in which the story of the founders is told based on the literary work Pages of Testimony (Dapai Edut, interviewer and editor: Tzvika Dror, 1984), Warsaw Ghetto Fights Back and Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust.
The museum building’s uppermost floor serves as an art gallery, named after the late Miriam Novitch, one of the founders and first curator of the museum. A special feature of this floor is its original use of natural light. The building’s architect, Shmuel (Milek) Bikeles, introduced daylight by means of a row of apertures at ceiling height, without the viewer’s experiencing any glare caused by the light source. The gallery floor comprises three large spaces for exhibitions from the GFH Art Collection of over 3,000 artworks of artists from the Holocaust period. The gallery houses two permanent exhibitions: a sculpture exhibition, Elsa Pollak: Auschwitz 5170 and an art exhibition called Butterflies in Auschwitz with some 30 of the Max Bueno de Mesquita's oil paintings. On this floor stands the original glass booth in which Adolf Eichmann sat while on trial in Jerusalem.
In 1995, the Yad Layeled Children's Memorial Museum was established at the Ghetto Fighters’ House in order to commemorate the memory of the Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust. The aim of the children's museum is to acquaint young visitors with the world of the children who lived during the Holocaust, providing an experiential venue through which they can explore the subject of the Holocaust in an age appropriate manner.
All the exhibitions at Yad LaYeled are especially suited to young visitors and feature three-dimensional displays, as well as audio and video testimonies. Throughout the museum, the story of Jewish children, who lived in different European countries during the Holocaust, unfolds. Told from the point of view of the child survivors, their stories are based on various sources: diaries written during the war, as well as personal testimonies and memoirs written after the war.
The building, which was designed by Ram Carmi, has three levels: the Memorial Hall, the route of the exhibit, and the Hall of the Eternal Flame. The Memorial Hall serves as an introduction and entrance to the exhibit, The Jewish Child during the Holocaust, which spans three floors. Set in its walls are stained glass windows, created by Roman and Ardyn Halter, whose designs are based on the drawings of children in the Theresienstadt (Terezin) ghetto. Leading from the first hall, a spiral ramp takes the visitor along a descending path. The circular form of the exhibition does not allow the visitor to take in the entire exhibition at a glance; rather, it unfolds section by section. Along this winding path, one follows the story of Jewish children in Europe during the Holocaust that leads to the Hall of the Eternal Flame. Situated at the center of its middle level is the permanent exhibit, Janusz Korczak of the Children, which is an integral part of the main exhibition and tells the story of the Polish-Jewish educator and physician, Dr. Janusz Korczak, from his childhood to the last days of his life in the Warsaw Ghetto. This exhibit emphasizes his ideas, which are introduced through an interactive presentation inspired by his writings. The
The museum's general archives contain diverse forms of testimony: oral testimonies, reports, journals, depositions, underground newspapers and a large quantity of correspondence. There are an estimated 2,500,000 archival items. The archive's Documentation Center includes a specialized library with over 50,000 titles available to students, teachers and research scholars, a photo archive containing approximately 60,000 photographs, and a film archive comprised of 2,000 films, Among the 350 titles in 16mm or 35 mm film are some rare archival materials that are of ongoing interest to scholars and producers.
The archive houses a number of unique collections, including:
The Janusz Korczak Archive
The Coordinatsia Files: Unique collection of files and photos from the Zionist Association for the location and relocation of surviving Jewish children in Poland after the war.
The Hechalutz Zionist Youth Movement Archive: Archive covers three periods: between the world wars, during WWII and immediately after WWII.
The Katzenelson Collection: Works and poems by the author written in Warsaw and in Vittel internment camp, which were unearthed after the war by Miriam Novitch.
The A. Berman Collection: Correspondence of Jewish resistance leaders secretly passed during the war to the Polish government in exile in London.
Alongside the museum is the Center for Humanistic Education, whose goal is to instill knowledge and understanding of the events that took place during the Holocaust through dialogue and joint learning. The center strives to create multi-cultural gatherings in which intensive discussions can take place concerning the human and universal meaning of the Holocaust both within and beyond Israeli society.
Each year on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Nissan, as the final event of the national Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, a public commemoration ceremony is held in the amphitheater of the Museum complex, attended by over 15,000 people: Holocaust survivors, youth movements from all over Israel, IDF soldiers and public figures.
Address: Kibbutz Lohamie Haghetaot D.N. Western Galilee 25220
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.