Anniversaries & holidays

The attic calendar: Holocaust History Writen by Objects

Before the war broke out, Celina Glücksberg had studied psychology at the Warsaw University. She came from a family of printers and publishers. The Glücksbergs published i.a. Kłosy and other periodicals in the late 19th century. Celina was the favourite grandchild of her grandpa – he would never start a Shabbat meal without her, even though he called her apikoyres (‘apostate’ or ‘heretic’) due to the fact that her parents did not bring her up in the Jewish tradition.

Celina Glücksberg survived the Holocaust in Ukraine. In all likelihood she was in hiding somewhere near Łuck. After the war she worked as a journalist and reporter. Jan Grądzki, Celina’s grandson and a guide and educator at POLIN Museum,  tells us about her life.

The object was named ‘an attic calendar.’ My mum found it amongst papers after grandma Celina, her mother, passed away. Two visiting cards on which only the name had been printed: Sarnawska Aniela. The rest we had to deduct by ourselves, as nobody expected to find such a treasure.

Grandma used it to mark the days spent in hiding. Each line, i.e. seven vertical lines, stood for one week. What is even more curious are the abbreviations of the names of towns towards which the front line moved, especially the Eastern Front. They become more clearly visible when scanned and zoomed in. The story ends on the last location Celina had marked – Łuck.

We know that grandma was in hiding somewhere in that area. Other than that, we do not know much about the whole story.

We can conclude with absolute certainty that she was not deported and she did not flee too far after Germany had invaded the Soviet Union, as it was Germans she was hiding away from. Prior to going into  hiding, she must have been a force labourer at a German agricultural estate, probably also somewhere in Ukraine.

I think the calendar was repeatedly erased and written over anew. That is why we only know when it ends – on 2 February 1944, the day the Red Army entered Łuck.

We also know that one time a German warned Celina that they would be getting rid of the Jewish employees and advised her to run away. There was yet another episode – the  Germans led a group of people towards an execution site, and one officer said to the soldiers: “I’ll handle this one.” He then walked with her into the forest, pointing a gun at her for the whole time. Finally, he told her to go away.

While in hiding, grandma made tons of dumplings (pierogi). It was her landlady’s way to earn some money – she made dumplings, or told grandma to make them, or they made them together. She then sold the dumplings and bought flour or sugar.

That is how it went.

In the much longer periods in-between being busy making dumplings, grandma had to stay in the attic, without making the slightest noise. Not to let anyone know about her presence.

Hence the name – the attic calendar.

Interview with Jan Grądzki from the oral history collection of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, conducted by Małgorzata Kozera on 12 February 2015. Edited by: Joanna Król.