The Hotel Bristol, an opulent architectural blend of Art Nouveau and Neo-Renaissance design, opened in Warsaw in 1901. Chosen as the headquarters for the Gestapo while the rest of central Warsaw was reduced to rubble, the imposing structure was spared from destruction. This photo of Pawel Owczarek, a hotel bellman, is one of nearly forty from Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime, my upcoming book about my parents’ life as Holocaust survivors navigating the challenges of the American immigration system.
In April 1943—after more than a quarter of a million Jews had been deported from the Warsaw ghetto and sent to Treblinka in the summer of 1942—the remaining Jews began to build bunkers and smuggle weapons and explosives into the ghetto. They refused to surrender, and by May 16 the entire ghetto had been burned with more than 13,000 dead from suffocation or from being burned alive.
In 1993, almost fifty years to the date, I photographed these elderly men relaxing and chatting on the very site of the ghetto. This image and more are from Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime, my book that tells my parents’ Holocaust love story.
Warsaw was founded in the 13th century and by the 16th century became the seat of the Polish king. But between 1939 and 1945 more than 80% of the city was destroyed. Ever resourceful, the Polish people depended partly on a series of beautiful paintings by Bernardo Bellotto (an 18th century Venetian painter who was the nephew of Canaletto) to faithfully rebuild the city. This is Old Town Market Square in 1993 from Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime, my book about my parents’ story of love and survival during the Holocaust.