Yellow daffodils are everywhere in Warsaw this week, a symbol of remembrance of the 1943 uprising by Jews in the city’s ghetto against Nazi German occupiers.
There are the real daffodils that residents and visitors to the Polish capital place on memorials to honor the victims of the Holocaust, and the small paper daffodils that are used on lapels.
The presidents of Germany, Israel and Poland wore them on Wednesday when they led official commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the uprising, at the site of the former ghetto.
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Even members of the European Parliament took them to Strasbourg, France, as lawmakers paid tribute to Jewish victims.
Those who see the six-petalled flower insignia for the first time might mistake them for the yellow Star of David that the Nazis forced Jews to wear in Germany and some occupied countries, as a prelude to deporting them to ghettos and camps of extermination
But those who display them in Warsaw associate them with memory, respect and a common gathering of people of all backgrounds to honor the Jewish victims of the ghetto and the victims of the Holocaust more broadly. This idea is embodied in the slogan of the official daffodil campaign, which is “remember together”.
The campaign was started by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in 2013 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Rising.
That year the volunteers distributed 50,000 daffodil paper pins in the city.
The museum, which stands on the site of the former Warsaw ghetto, printed 450,000, the number of Jews who were imprisoned in the ghetto at its peak in the spring of 1941. For the first time, volunteers delivered them. in five other Polish cities in addition to Warsaw.
A POLIN museum employee, Ewa Budek, came up with the idea, and the paper flowers were designed by Helena Czernek, a Polish Jewish designer who was 26 at the time. They can be opened in what Czernek described Thursday as “a symbolic opening of the memory of a traumatic history and a symbol of spring.”
They are already a tradition. TV presenters wear them every April 19, the anniversary of the uprising. And this year, Polish airline LOT said its crews were carrying them.
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The daffodils have helped spread knowledge about the uprising itself in a city where the Warsaw Uprising, a 1944 city-wide revolt against the Germans, is better known and more widely commemorated.
“It’s amazing to me that I could use my skills to be a part of this development,” Czernek, who usually designs mezuzahs and other Judaica, told The Associated Press.
He said he didn’t choose his design specifically to evoke a yellow Star of David, though he recognizes the resemblance. The association is not as direct as some might assume because the Jews of Warsaw were forced by the Nazis to wear white armbands with blue stars, and not yellow badges as in Germany.
The daffodils are linked to Marek Edelman, an uprising commander who died in 2009 who every year on the anniversary of the uprising would place yellow flowers, mostly daffodils but sometimes tulips, in memory of his comrades lost and others killed.
The Warsaw Ghetto was razed by the Nazis and new buildings were built in its place after the war.
Anna Witkiewicz, a 47-year-old local resident, stopped by the memorial on Thursday, still wearing the daffodil she planted the day before as she and her friends commemorated the victims.
She said it was a poignant symbol that made her feel a sense of belonging with the heroes of the uprising, adding: “It’s impossible not to wear this flower these days.”