With these words Magdalena Wojciechowska of Lodz, Poland handed a simple necklace to Michael Tal, an artifacts curator in Yad Vashem’s Museum Division. The necklace had been in Magdalena’s grandmother’s possession for over 60 years; but she always wanted to return it to its rightful owners.
The necklace was given to Magdalena Wojciechowska’s grandmother, Julia Podwarska-Nyderek by an anonymous prisoner of Auschwitz. Wojciechowska’s grandmother lived outside of the camp’s gates, and would regularly leave food for prisoners who worked outside the camp, in pots she would hide in the bushes. One day, she found a jeweled necklace in one of the empty pots, left as a gesture of gratitude by one of the prisoners.
Magdalena Wojciechowska spoke movingly about the necklace and her decision to give it back to the Jewish people:
“Noach Flug, a tireless advocate for the rights of Holocaust survivors, died in Jerusalem two weeks ago. Reading his memoirs, I found the sentence: 'We saw
people going to work. So we cried out: Give us water, give us bread!'
GIVE US WATER, GIVE US BREAD - that was all my grandmother wanted to do, to feed those poor hungry souls she saw passing by her every morning and night. Noach Flug was a prisoner of Auschwitz, and for all we know, maybe he was one of those souls, or even knew one of those who left the necklace for my grandmother in gratitude for the food she was leaving them. Now Noach is no longer with us, but I am sure he is looking down upon us and smiling, happy to see such a tiny piece of property return to its rightful place and its rightful owners. My beloved grandmother Julia had kept this necklace in a heart shaped box. She always knew the necklace was not hers to keep. She always knew that the necklace had to be returned to whoever gave it to her. She never expected anything in return for what she did, and always made us know that if we ever could, we should give the necklace back.
I do not know whether to call it fate, or diving guidance --- I met Mr. Bobby Brown [Executive Director of Project HEART] and found out about the HEART project. I was so moved. I mean THAT WAS IT, The absolute right place for the necklace. From the heart of my grandmother to the HEART of all the Jewish people. I need look no more. And I know that project HEART, through its mix of Internet and new technologies, together with the strength of the Jewish HEARTS and minds will achieve the justice so long denied Noach Flug, his family and all the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.
Past the Holocaust, the dark years of the Polish Communist Regime, to this day and time in the 21st century; and from Auschwitz, via Katowice, Lodz, New York and
Jerusalem to Yad Vashem, the necklace given to my grandmother ends its journey
here, TODAY, in the heart of the Jewish People. MY MISSION IS OVER. My
grandmother is resting more peacefully now, her aspiration accomplished. I can
only say thank you for all those who helped me in the realization of her wishes.”
[photo courtesy of Jorge Novominsky]