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Yellow daffodils are everywhere in Warsaw this week, a symbol of remembrance for 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 Holocaust victims, and little paper daffodils worn on lapels.
The presidents of Germany, Israel and Poland wore them Wednesday when they led official commemorations for the 80th anniversary of the uprising, on the site of the former ghetto.
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Even members of the European Parliament wore them in Strasbourg, France, as lawmakers paid tribute to the Jewish victims.
Someone seeing the six-petaled flower badges for the first time might confuse them with 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 death camps.
But those displaying them in Warsaw associate them with memory, respect and a communal coming together by people of all backgrounds to honor the Jewish victims of the ghetto and Holocaust victims more broadly. That idea is captured by the slogan of the official daffodil campaign, which is “remembering together.”
The campaign was initiated by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in 2013 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
People hold yellow tulips during an observance marking the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Warsaw, Poland, on April 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk)
That year volunteers handed out 50,000 paper daffodil pins in the city.
The museum, which is located on the site of the former ghetto in Warsaw, printed 450,000 — the number of Jews who were imprisoned in the ghetto at the peak of its overcrowding, in the spring of 1941. For the first time, volunteers handed them out 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 up in what Czernek described Thursday as “a symbolic opening of remembrance of a traumatic history and a symbol of spring.”
They are by now a tradition. TV presenters wear them each April 19, the anniversary of the uprising. And this year Polish airline LOT said its crews wore them.
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The daffodils have helped spread knowledge about the uprising itself in a city where the Warsaw Uprising, a 1944 revolt by the entire city against the Germans, is better known and commemorated more widely.
“For me it is amazing that I could use my skills to be part of this development,” Czernek, who usually designs mezuzahs and other Judaica, told The Associated Press.
She said she did not chose her design specifically to evoke a yellow Star of David, though she recognizes the resemblance. 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 on them, and not yellow badges like in Germany.
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The daffodils are linked to Marek Edelman, a 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 murdered.
The Warsaw ghetto was razed to the ground by the Nazis and new buildings were put up 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 put on the day before as she and her friends commemorated the victims.
She said it was a moving symbol that made her feel a sense of belonging with the uprising heroes, adding: “It’s impossible not to wear this flower these days.”