Warszawa, Próżna 14. Mazowieckie Region
In the begining of 18th century the street was longer than today and full of gardens, so it was called Ogrodowa (Garden street). In 1770 the name of the street was changed to Próżna (Empty) because there were no buildings. In the end of 19th century most of residents of the street were Jews. One of them was Zalman Nożyk, a founder of Nożyk Synagogue, the only synagogue in Warsaw which survived the WW II and until today is the main meeting place for Warsaw Jewish community.
In 1899, the four-storeyed tenement on Próżna 14 was built by Mayer Wolanowski, the owner of the Factory of Screws and Wires in Warsaw. Before World War II it was one of the most expensive and well recognized places in Warsaw. Próżna 14 was a luxury building equipped with flats for rent. It was richly decorated. The street itself had typically mercantile character. On the ground level there were shops and workshops: department store of Meerson and Epstein, ironmonger’s of Maurice Graff and „H. B. Lebelsond”, a shop of P. Brykier with wooden boards for frames and “Autoprodukt” (phone number 2 65 24). Mordka Berghauer was a saddler there.
World War II – Ghetto and Warsaw Uprising
From December 1940 until March 1941 Próżna was a part of the ghetto. In March the ghetto border was moved to Grzybowski Square and Próżna became a part of “Aryan” side of the city. In 1943 the Polish tailor Rogoziński sheltered 2 Jews, Notke and Mietek, in this building. Both of them helped the tailor in his work. The watchman of the building Jabłoński, with the house owner, and with Notke and Mietek built double wall in the hall of Próżna 14 with a secret exit in case of a danger. Both of them survived the War.
In 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, a barricade was erected between buildings number 9 and 14. Number 14 was the quarters of 9th company of “Kiliński” battalion, from where they prepared the attack of the PAST building (Polish Telephone Jointstock Company), one of the most important battles during the Warsaw Uprising. PAST-a building was the highest building in pre-war Warsaw, so it was an important strategic point for the German army. The soldiers of „Kiliński” battalion won the battle after 20 days of fighting. Zbigniew Grabowski, pseudonym „Chemist”, grandfather of Helena Czernek, co-founder of Mi Polin, took part in this attack. A field hospital and a kitchen serving the insurgents were located in the basement of Próżna 14. From the staff report from September 5, 1944:
„The building at Próżna 14 is burning.The fire couldn’t be located. The troop was evacuated to Próżna 9.”
The tenement at Próżna 14 after War became a property of the National Treasury, as was the case with most Warsaw of buildings which survived. It has never beer renovated and fell into disrepair. In 1987 the tenement together with a few other houses on Próżna st. was entered in the register of monuments. Until recently, the building was inhabited. It had social housing character. Currently, it is impossible to enter Próżna 14 because of a poor condition of the building. Last years, the building was completely looted. It is possible that soon it will be renovated.
Próżna is the only street in the area of Warsaw Ghetto, that survived the War, and kept it’s original buildings. Because of this Próżna is an important tourist destination. The trace of the mezuzah is not visible from the street. It is locaded inside of building – in main hall which is permanently closed.
Próżna street was many times mentioned by I. B. Singer in his novels and stories, for ex- ample “The Magician of Lublin”, “The Family Moskat”, “Passions and Other Stories”.