by George J Elbaum
Płońsk, a town 40 mi. northwest of Warsaw, was initially established in the 11th century, gained city rights in early 15th century, and now its population is 22,500. In the early 20th century, its population of 10,000 was equally divided between Poles and Jews. Many of the Jewish residents of Plonsk immigrated to Palestine, spurred on by the idea of building a Jewish homeland. In September 1940, one year after the Nazi invasion, Jews from the town and the surrounding areas were imprisoned in a ghetto in harsh conditions, including a typhus epidemic. In total, 12,000 Jews were prisoners in the Plonsk ghetto, and in October 1942 they were sent to Auschwitz extermination camp, never to return.
Płonsk’s Henryk Sienkiewicz High School has an enrollment of 600 students aged 16-19, and it has participated in the School of Dialogue Program in 2019. Coordinating this program in the school was history teacher Ireneusz Cała, who also organized my talk which was attended by 50 students, and reading from my book in Polish were students Natalia, Kinga, Andzelika and Michal. Also in attendance were school principal Karina Kmiecinska, representatives of the Municipal Library in Płońsk, plus the Forum for Dialogue’s Marta Usiekniewicz and Hanna Gospodarczyk, who accompanied me to Plonsk and provided translation as needed.