Anniversaries & holidays

Anniversary of the passing of distinguished film director Janusz "Kuba" Morgenstern

Laska Janusz "Kuba" Morgenstern
fot. Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich

Wooden cane with a silver handle, one of Janusz Morgenstern’s keepsakes from his family who had perished in the Holocaust, is now held by the POLIN Museum collection. It was donated to the Museum by Krystyna Cierniak-Morgenstern, the late director’s wife, who shared the story of this object with us.

The cane belonged to the part of the family who lived in Oświęcim before the war. Their garden used to stretch across the grounds where the Germans would build the extermination camp several years later. It was precisely there, in Oświęcim, that the extended family scattered all across Europe used to meet and spend part of the summer holidays together. Relatives from Mikuliniec, namely Janusz Morgenstern’s parents, or the family from Vienna would all gather there.

During one such summer, in 1939, the Viennese branch of the family was given the cane as a gift from the hosts. The family members were soon trying to flee Austria, having applied for a British visa to Palestine. They packed their belongings, including the cane, and sent the container by sea to the relatives who had already made it to the Middle East. Alas, the Viennese branch of the family did not manage to escape in time. They all perished in Auschwitz—ironically, not far from the place where they used to spend their summers.

The cane, along with other stuff from the shipped container, was preserved by the relatives in Israel. The Druks family, who were related to Janusz Morgenstern’s mother, passed the cane to the already elderly film director, who hung it on the wall of his Żoliborz home.