About the Consortium
The Rescue Memory Consortium* (RMC) is dedicated to protecting and developing the memory of neglected Jewish heritage sites in Poland, where the histories and legacies of Polish, German, Jewish and other minorities overlap and intertwine. The core of the RMC’s approach is using heritage sites to bear witness to the difficult European experiences of the Holocaust, WWII and two modern totalitarian regimes – National Socialism and Communism.
The Consortium was set up in 2020 as a partnership between three Jewish organisations in Poland: FestivALT (Krakow), the Urban Memory Foundation (Wroclaw), and Zapomniane Foundation (Warsaw). The RMC is implementing two major projects “NeDiPa – Negotiating Difficult Pasts” (2022-2024) and “MultiMemo – Multidirectional Memory: Remembering for Social Justice” (2023-2024). Both are funded by the European Union’s Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV) and focus on establishing a pan-European framework for dealing with “difficult heritage.” Bringing together partners from 3 EU countries (Poland, Germany, Belgium), these projects will comprise 63 events and activities fostering discussion around Jewish heritage sites. These will include conferences, workshops, online seminars, peer-to-peer exchanges, artistic interventions, and debates between April 2022 and December 2024. Participants will include a broad range of stakeholders, such as civil society actors, activists, artists, youth leaders, researchers, and local governments.
The RMC is managed by three women, each of whom leads their respective partner organisation: Magda Rubenfeld (FestivALT), Agnieszka Jablonska (Urban Memory Foundation) and Aleksandra Janus (Zapomniane Foundation). Their combined experience allows them to support each other with knowledge, expertise and best practices when working with heritage sites. Currently, there are no standards for this type of activity, and the partners aim to develop best practices and policy recommendations at the municipal, national and European levels.
In addition to the three lead organisations, the Consortium includes:
- CEJI – A Jewish contribution to an inclusive Europe (Brussels, Belgium),
- Foundation Formy Wspólne (Warsaw, Poland),
- Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries (Warsaw, Poland),
- JCC Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland),
- The Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg (Heidelberg, Germany),
- The Würzburg University (Würzburg, Germany).
*The name of the Consortium is inspired by and derived from the concept of “rescue history” proposed by a Polish historian from Stanford, Ewa Domańska who drew from the works of an Israeli thinker Ariella Azoulay. Rescue history proposes engaged, socially and ecologically responsible practices of civic society, academia and grass-root initiatives aimed at discovering, discussing and commemorating the past in order to save the future (E. Domańska, Rescue history, 2014)
The destruction of European Jewish communities during the 20th century left behind a very troubling legacy in Eastern and Central Europe, particularly in Poland. This “difficult heritage” includes abandoned, destroyed or inappropriately repurposed architectural heritage (synagogues, bathhouses, schools, etc.); neglected or desecrated Jewish cemeteries; unmarked burial sites of Jewish victims of the Holocaust; as well as the material remnants of the infrastructure of genocide. Many of these sites have not been studied and are not adequately protected. Moreover, the identities and burial sites of many of the victims are unknown. In light of the rise of nationalism across Europe and the ongoing violence and war in Ukraine, gathering and sharing knowledge of the long-lasting legacy of the Nazi genocide is an urgent and relevant task. Indeed, it is crucial to engage with local communities and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices, which is one of the principal values of the RMC partnership.
Goals & Objectives
The RMC aims to develop an innovative approach to remembrance, linking it to social justice work. The approach underscores the importance of keeping the past alive not only for its own sake but for its relevance to contemporary challenges related to human rights violations, military conflicts and violence, social exclusion, the migration crisis, and the rise of nationalism. Its objectives are to:
- Bring Jewish perspectives to the forefront in the debates about the present state and potential future of material heritage and the difficult legacy of WWII
- Advocate for more inclusive remembrance practices and knowledge dissemination that contributes to furthering multifaceted identities in Europe
- Serve as a point of contact and expertise for local actors dealing with the problematic legacies of WWII as well as contemporary social challenges
- Propose innovative strategies and an intersectional approach to remembrance while fostering a practice-based culture of remembrance, together with cross-sectorial cooperation involving arts, academia, urbanism, activism and policy-making
- Support local communities, leaders, authorities and activists in Europe with practical tools, case studies and best practices in working with memory in the face of a contemporary war and refugee crisis
- Bridge the gap between Jewish-led organisations and other actors supporting Jewish heritage (museums, local/national authorities etc.).