Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum, sometimes also known as Mieczysław Dawid Apfelbaum is a disputed soldier who some contend was incorrectly credited as the commander of the Jewish Military Union, that fought in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, during the Second World War. It is claimed he died on 28 April 1943. Some allege he also served as a lieutenant of the Polish Armed Forces prior to the conflict. His existence was disproven by historians in the 2010s.[citation needed]

Street sign in Warsaw, Poland, with the former name of Mieczysław Apfelbaum Square, currently known as the Rokhl Auerbakh Square. Photography made in 2012.

Apfelbaum was first attested in statements by Tadeusz Bednarczyk, and later also mentioned by Władysław Zajdler, and Kałmen Mendelson, all of whom have claimed to have fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 under Apfelbaum's command, and to be members of the Polish Home Army. Their statements have been found by historians to be false, and their actual participation in the conflict, as well as the existence of Apfelbaum, was questioned.[citation needed]

History

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The existence of Dawid Moryc Apfelbaum, sometimes also called Mieczysław Dawid Apfelbaum, was first attested in 1948 by Henryk Iwański. Apfelbaum was also later mentioned in stories told by Tadeusz Bednarczyk, Władysław Zajdler, and Kałmen Mendelson. All of them claimed to have fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, and to be members of the Home Army. Their statements had been found to differ in details, to have changed over the years, making claims not attested to anywhere else, leading some historians to doubt the existence of Apfelbaum.[1]

According to the first statement given by Iwański in 1948, Apfelbaum was one of the Jewish insurgents fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. However, later, in the late 1950s, and early 1960s, he began being shown as a lieutenant of the Polish Armed Forces, as well as the creator and commander of the Jewish Military Union during the uprising. In contrast, currently it is believed that said accomplishments should be credited to Paweł Frenkiel instead. In various statements, they also described Apfelbaum's death due to wounds he would have suffered during a skirmish at Muranowska Street on 28 April 1943, in the first days of the uprising. Apfelbaum was also described to use pseudonyms Jabłoński, Kowal (meaning smith), and Mietek.[1]

In 1962 Iwański told a story about Apfelbaum to journalist Chai Lazar, who then published it in Israel. It contributed to its spread in historical sources, where he was credited as a historical figure and creator of the Jewish Military Union. However, there are no sources that would prove that Apfelbaum was ever a member of Polish military prior to the war, nor that he ever lived in Warsaw.[1] In 1963, Apfelbaum was awarded posthumously the Third-Class Order of the Cross of Grunwald.[2]

In 2011, historians Dariusz Libionka and Laurence Weinbaum published a book titled Bohaterowie, hosztaplerzy, opisywacze. Wokół Żydowskiego Związku Wojskowego. (Heroes, grifters, describers. Around the Jewish Military Union), in which they argued that Apfelbaum did not exist, and was fabricated by Iwański, Bednarczyk, and others for personal gain.[1]

Commemorations

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The inscription dedicated to Paweł Frenkiel and Dawid Apfelbaum on one of the sculptures of the Memorial Route of Jewish Martyrdom and Struggle, located at the Dubois Street in Warsaw, Poland.

In 1997, Apfelbaum was commemorated together with Paweł Frenkiel, with an inscription in a stone sculpture near Dubois Street, as part of the Memorial Route of Jewish Martyrdom and Struggle installation located in the city of Warsaw, Poland, in the Downtown district. The inscitiption, translated to English, reads: "Paweł Frenkel, commander of the Jewish Military Union; Dawid Apfelbaum, squad commander of the Jewish Military Union stationed near the Muranów Square; Killed in action in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising".[3][4]

On 24 March 2004 a garden square in Warsaw, located within the district of Wola between Smocza Street, Pawia Street, and Dzielna Street, was named Mieczysław Apfelbaum Square (Polish: Skwer Mieczysława Apfelbauma), in his commemoration. At the time, he was still assumed to be commander of the Jewish Military Union, and it was unknown at the time, that Apfelbaum was indeed a fictional person, and hoax manufactured after the war.[5] The name of the square was originally proposed by the Warsaw-based Jewish Historical Institute, which proposed naming the square located near the Pawiak Prison Museum, to be named after a person associated with the Jewish Military Union. It listed Apfelbaum as one of the potential candidates, whom was eventually chosen by the city, due to his, alleged at the time, status of the leader of the organisation.[5] In 2012, the name if the square was modified to Mieczysław Dawid Apfelbaum Square (Polish: skwer Mieczysława Dawida Apfelbauma).[6]

In 2022, the Jewish Historical Institute begun collecting signatures on a petition to rename the square in honour of Rokhl Auerbakh, argumenting that Apfelbaum was fictional.[7] In June 2023, the members of the Warsaw City Council voted unilaterally to change the name, which came in effect in September 2023, with the new name being the Rokhl Auerbakh Square (Polish: skwer Racheli Auerbach).[8][9]

References

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  1. ^ a b c d Dariusz Libionka, Laurence Weinbaum: Bohaterowie, hosztaplerzy, opisywacze. Wokół Żydowskiego Związku Wojskowego. Warsaw Warszawa: Polish Center for Holocaust Research, 2011. ISBN 978-83-932202-8-1. (in Polish)
  2. ^ Wysokie odznaczenia państwowe za udział w walce i za pomoc walczącemu gettu. In: Dziennik Bałtycki, issue no. 92/1963 (5850), p. 1. Gdańsk, 19 April 1963. (in Polish)
  3. ^ Irena Grzesiuk-Olszewska: Warszawska rzeźba pomnikowa. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Neriton, 2003, p. 164. ISBN 83-88973-59-2. (in Polish)
  4. ^ "Trakt Pamięci Męczeństwa i Walki Żydów w Warszawie". sztel.org.pl (in Polish).
  5. ^ a b Radosław Korzycki (12 February 2018). "Warszawa ma skwer imienia żydowskiego bohatera, który nigdy nie istniał. Apfelbauma wymyślił polski oszust". oko.press.pl (in Polish).
  6. ^ Jarosław Osowski (2 April 2023). "'Moryca Apfelbauma w getcie stworzył hochsztapler'. Co począć ze skwerem imienia osoby, która nie istniała?". warszawa.wyborcza.pl (in Polish).
  7. ^ Marek Kozubal: Nie chcą nazwy fikcyjnego bojowca. In: Rzeczpospolita, p. A3, 14 September 2022. (in Polish)
  8. ^ Aleksandra Żochowska (24 July 2023). "Już nie skwer Apfelbauma - zmieni się nazwa wolskiego placu". informatorstolicy.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 2023-07-24.
  9. ^ "Uchwała nr LXXXVI/2819/2023 Rady Miasta Stołecznego Warszawy z dnia 31 sierpnia 2023 r. w sprawie zmiany nazwy obiektu miejskiego w Dzielnicy Wola m.st. Warszawy". edziennik.mazowieckie.pl (in Polish). 31 August 2023.