Yediot Achronot’s piece on Mila 18 | WGM in the media

On 26 May, Yedi’ot Achronot, one of the largest Israeli journals, featured an article covering the archeological excavations at the former Mile 18 and the WGM’s efforts to preserve and properly commemorate the excavation site.

Itmar Eichner, diplomatic correspondent of the Yediot Achronot, wrote about the basements discovered during excavations carried by the Warsaw Ghetto Museum.

A translation of the article can be found below.

A discovery in excavations in the Warsaw Ghetto area: thousands of items belonging to Jews from before the Holocaust (Itmar Eichner)

Two house cellars, possibly connected to the Mordechaj Anielewicz bunker at 18 Mila Street in the capital of Poland, were uncovered as part of archaeological excavations at the site. Over 5,000 items related to Jewish life before the war were found in the basements

In the excavations carried out in the basements of two houses in Warsaw, at Muranowska Street 39 and Muranowska Street 41 – not far from Milla 18, where Mordechaj Anielewicz’s bunker was located in the ghetto – over 5,000 items related to the lives of the Jews who lived in these houses before the war were found. The objects were transferred to the Warsaw Ghetto Museum.

In the surviving basements, various items related to the daily life and religious practices of the residents were discovered, including tefillin, prayer books and tools for washing hands. According to the researchers, the discovery of the basements is an unusual thing. First, due to the proximity to Anielewicz’s bunker (the commander of the Jewish organization fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising), which they may have been part of. Secondly, due to the special kind of memory they enable – the excavation area at the former Mila 18 is the only place in contemporary Warsaw, which was rebuilt after World War II, that allows you to get close to a city that no longer exists and see that large parts of it are still under the feet of its residents.

“In the beginning, the archaeological research was supposed to last four weeks. But at some point we realized that we couldn’t finish the excavations because more and more rooms were discovered,” said Hana Wroblewska, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. “Interpretations of where we are began. It was Mila 18, it was Mila 20? Muranowska? At some point it turned out that we had discovered an underground city. Now we are wondering how to treat it.”

At the Faculty of Architecture of the Warsaw University of Technology, a discussion was held on May 8 on the issue of commemoration in the public space, where they discussed the possibilities and challenges related to the preservation and appropriate commemoration of the cellars at Mila 18, which were uncovered during archaeological work carried out there in the past.

The Warsaw Ghetto Museum has already decided not to bury the exposed basements at this stage and to take steps to preserve them and turn them into a memorial site, material evidence of the history and heritage of the Jews of Warsaw. The decision not to bury the excavation area stems from the hope that it will be a kind of commemorative site – a permanent memory of the history of the city that no longer exists.

Albert Stankowski, director of the Warsaw Ghetto Museum, spoke about the need to preserve Mila 18 for future generations: “What was shocking for me was a meeting with a group of Israeli teenagers, during which one of the girls approached me and asked if she could take a stone from the excavation site with her. Only then did I understand How important it is that young people who come to Poland and are looking for material traces of history, can actually touch and see this history. This, among other things, led to the request of the Warsaw Ghetto Museum to preserve Milla 18.”