Benjamin Paloff is the author of Lost in the Shadow of the Word: Space, Time, and Freedom in Interwar Eastern Europe and of the poetry collections And His Orchestra and The Politics. He has also translated several books and shorter works from Polish, Czech, and Russian. He is an Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.
In the courtyard behind the apartment building at 55 Sienna Street, one can still visit a rare fragment of the wall that, for a brief period between November 1940 and October 1941, marked the southern boundary of the Warsaw Ghetto. Though situated just northwest of the Central Train Station, in the heart of the Polish capital’s downtown, it is remarkably hard to find. To approach its east side, you have to be buzzed through a gate by a guard who, though unseen, is apparently keeping watch for visitors, who are invariably checking a map or guidebook against the addresses on the adjacent buildings, certain that if they were in the right place there would be a sign to direct them to a site of such importance.