WARSAW, Poland — Yellow daffodils are everywhere in Warsaw this week, a symbol of commemoration of the 1943 Jewish uprising against Nazi German occupiers in the city’s ghetto.
There are the real daffodils that residents and visitors to the Polish capital place in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and wear the little paper daffodils on their lapels.
This is what the president of Germany, Israel and Poland wore on Wednesday when he held an official commemoration on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the uprising at the site of the former ghetto.
Even members of the European Parliament wore them in Strasbourg, France, when lawmakers paid tribute to Jewish victims.
When one sees the six-petalled flower insignia for the first time, one might mistake them for the yellow Star of David that the Nazis forced upon Jews in Germany and some occupied countries as a prelude to deportation to ghettos and death camps.
But those who display them in Warsaw associate them with remembrance, respect and a community of people of different origins to honor the Jewish victims of the ghetto and the Holocaust. This idea is captured in the slogan of the official daffodil campaign, which is “we remember together”.
The campaign was initiated by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in 2013 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
That year, volunteers distributed 50,000 paper daffodil pins in the city.
The museum, which is located on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, printed 450,000 – the number of Jews imprisoned in the ghetto at the height of overcrowding in the spring of 1941. They were first given by volunteers. In addition to Warsaw, in five other Polish cities.
Ewa Budek, an employee of the POLIN museum, came up with the idea, and the paper flowers were designed by Helena Czernek, a Polish Jewish designer working in the MI POLIN studio, who was 26 years old at the time. They can be opened in what Czernek describes as Thursday’s “symbolic opening of the memory of traumatic history and the symbol of spring.”
They are now a tradition. Television presenters wear them every April 19, the anniversary of the uprising. And this year, Polish airline LOT said its crew were wearing them.
The daffodils helped spread knowledge about the Jewish rebellion in a city where the Warsaw Uprising, the city-wide revolt against the Germans in 1944, is better known and more widely remembered.
“It’s amazing to me that I was able to use my skills to be a part of this development,” Czer, who usually designs mezuzahs and other Judaica, told The Associated Press.
He said he didn’t choose the design specifically to evoke the yellow Star of David, although he recognizes the similarity. The association is not as direct as some might assume, because Jews in Warsaw were forced by the Nazis to wear white armbands with blue stars, rather than a yellow badge as in Germany.
Daffodils are associated with Marek Edelman, the commander of the uprising who died in 2009, who every year on the anniversary of the uprising placed yellow flowers, mostly daffodils but sometimes tulips, in memory of his lost comrades and others who were killed.
The Warsaw Ghetto was razed by the Nazis and new buildings were erected in its place after the war.
Anna Witkiewicz, a 47-year-old local resident, stood alone in reflection at the memorial on Thursday, still wearing the daffodil she had donned the day before as she and friends remembered the victims.
She said it was a symbol that gave her a sense of belonging to the large number of Jews who once lived in the area and others are mourning the tragic loss, adding: “It’s impossible not to wear this flower today.”