Całość tekstu jest traktowana jako integralna całość, można ją cytować, ale zgodnie z prawem z podaniem źródła tzn. autora książki i jej tytułu, osoby udzielające wywiadu, no i tłumacza amatora:). Tłumaczenie jest moje, dlatego jest pewnie w nim dużo błędów:), pro publico bono, całkowicie bez wynagrodzenia.
Priest of Jews and Polish nationality
with priest Grzegorz Pawłowski (Jakub Hersz Griner)
You was born in 1931 in Zamość as Jakub Hersz Griner. How did it happen that a boy from a pious Jewish family became a Catholic priest?
My mother told me during the war that I would be a Messiah soldier. I remember her words well and I think that they were a prophecy. In relation to myself, however, I use the term servant of the Messiah because I serve him. If it wasn’t any war, it isn’t obvious that I would become a Christian.
I learned a little Polish language before the war, when I spent my holidays in the countryside where my parents rented an orchard. Knowledge of the Polish later turned out to be a salvation for me because I could pass as a Polish child. My blue eyes helped me in this too. Thanks to this knowledge, I didn’t have any difficulties in learning the prayer. Although during the war I used a baptism certificate, I was baptized only after the war. I received a baptism certificate during the German occupation from an older Jewish boy whom I met on the street. I remember that he didn’t have David's star on his shoulder. He asked me in Yiddish if I wanted to live. "Of course I want to," I said. So he said to wait for him and soon give me a baptism certificate with the name I used later. Although it was probably a false record, it saved my life. Once for example I was in Zamość, in the guards building in front of the forced labor camp for Jews, two Germans said to me: "Come with us, boy" and led me to the headquarters of the Gestapo. There, the Gestapo asked me how old I was. After the answer he hit me in the face. He said, "Not true". I showed them a baptism certificate. If this German at the Gestapo station, who decided to let me then, wanted to identify me as a Jew, it would be enough to check if I was circumcised. I think, however, that this German didn’t do it, because he had God in heart. I remember that at the Gestapo headquarters there was also a young Jewish woman, who was used by one of the Gestapo boys to play with his pistol to kill her. She confessed to being Jewish, and the German who ordered me to release said to the German with a pistol to stop threatening her, because everyone wants to live. Certainly she was later sent to death. As you can see, however, the baptism certificate helped me.
After the war, I came to the orphanage in Tomaszów Lubelski. Preparing myself there for the First Holy Communion, I confessed with tears to the catechist that I had not yet been baptized and asked him to baptize me. Later, I served as an altar-minister for Mass every day. I never concealed my faith. When I went to Staszic Gymnasium in Lublin, during one of the communist mass meeting, on which students and professors were gathered, faith was terribly assail. At that time I was the only one who protested her. They wanted to throw me out of the middle school. Sister Klara Staszczak, Benedictine, who at the time was at the school board, took me to the children's home in Puławy. Also I was in trouble there. In the Czartoryski secondary school in Puławy - to which I attended at that time - I also took a voice on the mass meeting in defense of the Church and the Pope. I was called by the local Security Office. I was told that I wouldn’t finish my final exams if I didn’t tell them about what was going on at the orphanage. I refused to cooperate with them, although I had the conviction that it would mean the end of my education. Sister Klara, however, learned from me about the UB proposal. However, they gave me chance to finish the Czartoryski secondary school and in 1952 I entered the seminary in Lublin, which I graduated in 1958. I came to Puławy as a seminarian and I conducted a summer catechization there. To this day I am very much connected with this city. Although there is a big age difference with the local monastic sisters, they are very close to me. For example, the Mother General is one year younger than the period of time that has passed since my priestly ordination. I have 58 years of priesthood behind me, and she is 57 years old.
When did you tell your parishioners that you are Jewish?
I knew the priests Jews who were hiding from others that they were Jews. One of these priests even spoke Yiddish and everyone knew that he was a Jew. He, however, didn’t acknowledge Jewish nationality. Why a comedy?! How would I, being a priest, guardian of morality, break the fourth commandment of God and deny my parents who were murdered by the Germans during the Holocaust?! How can you deny them?! What should I be ashamed of? My family is holy! I don’t even have to pray for her because I think they are holy martyrs. What did they do wrong? What were they murdered for? They were only killed for being Jews and belonging to the nation with which God made a covenant! I was advised not to reveal my Jewish nationality to the faithful, because this would it disturbs in pastoral work and I would have a hard life. They also worried about what the Poles would say about me. Why should I be silent in such an important matter for me. When in 1966 in the text "From Judaism to Christianity", which appeared in the pages of "Tygodnik Powszechny" under the title “My life”, I revealed my Jewish identity, in the parish in Chodel nobody said a bad word. After that, when I finally gave up the confession that I was a Jew, I felt completely free and faithful to my family. Thanks to this autobiographical article, I found my brother in Israel. Ks. Wincenty Łapkiewicz from Abramowice even asked me to give a retreat just as a Jewish priest. Then, in Gomulka's time, when in Poland there was an anti-Jewish campaign, I worked as a vicar in Abramowice. Nobody bothered me. It didn’t bother anyone that I was a Jew. Now, as I am in Poland, I will appear, as a countryman, in the church of the Divine Mercy in Zamość.
Recently, however, much is said about the so-called Polish anti-Semitism. Did you meet with anti-Semitism on the part of Poles?
What anti-Semitism?! I don’t know what anti-Semitism is on the Polish side! I will not say any bad words about Poles, because they saved my life! I was hiding in a lot of Poles during the war and, frankly, I have not met a single anti-Semite in my life. The Poles didn’t bother me. Nobody said to me, "You Jew!" even though I didn’t hide the fact that I was Jewish. On my book, it is simply written: Fr. Grzegorz Pawłowski - Jakub Hersz Griner. I don’t always talk about Jews in my sermons. Sometimes, of course, according to the circumstances, you have to refer to it. For nationalities shouldn’t be denied or praised too much. And I have a reason for glory from my nationality, for I am of the nation of the Lord Jesus! Nationality, however, isn’t the most important thing for me. Whether anyone is an Arab, a Jew or a Pole makes no difference to me. I live with Arabs as I do with Jews, that is, normally. All these are God's children. There are people and people everywhere. Before the deportation from Zamosc to Izbica, in a hidden room, which was entered through a camouflaged door in the closet, was my mother, two sisters and me. However, the Jewish police discovered this door. We were then sent twenty kilometers to Izbica, from where I escaped during the action. I believe that the Jews shouldn’t have helped the Germans at that time. However, there have been cases like this. However, I don’t want to criticism the Jews or Poles, but I want to build. The Shepherd loves his sheep. These are God's children, lovely sheep.
At some point, however, you decided to leave Poland for Israel. Why?
I wasn’t bad in Poland. I didn’t want to leave. I felt, however, a calling. Just as Jonasz against his will went to Nineveh after God's voice, I felt that I must go to Israel. In 1970, I came to Vienna and stood in front of representatives of Israel in a suit. They kept in touch with Jerusalem all the time and wondered what to do with me. The communist Jew didn’t disturb them, but the Jew and Catholic priest in the same time wasn’t considered a Jew. In the end, I didn’t receive Israeli citizenship on the basis of the "Return" as a Jew, but I only got the status of a permanent resident and only after several years of living in Israel I became a citizen of this state. Even though all my family were Jews, my own brother was also recognized as a Jew and he received Israeli citizenship, it was inscribed in the Israeli proof under the heading "nationality" that I was Polish. So I left Poland for Israel as a Jew, and in Israel, the Jews recognized me as a Pole! I didn’t want to agree with that, because I wasn’t baptized into a Pole. Baptism didn’t make me stop being a Jew. The Germans knew perfectly well who the Jew was. Although Edith Stein was a nun, she died because she was Jewish. Only Israel does not think of people like me as Jews. For example, the High Court in Israel didn’t recognize the much-deserved father Daniel Rufeisen as a Jew. After my intervention, they finally wrote a line to me in the rubric of nationality, which meant that I didn’t formally have any nationality. This line is in evidence to this day. In fact, I have two nationalities and two homelands. I have Polish nationality and Jewish nationality. I have Poland and Israel. I am Pole with a Jewish sign. It makes me a rich and happy man.