Tekst jest traktowany jako integralna całość, można go cytować, ale zgodnie z prawem z podaniem źródła, tzn. autora książki i jej tytułu, osoby udzielające wywiadu, no i tłumacza amatora:). Tłumaczenie jest moje (z pomocą Google Translate), dlatego jest pewnie w nim dużo błędów:), pro publico bono, całkowicie bez wynagrodzenia.
Dialogue has no limits
with Bogdan Białek
You are the initiator of the creation of the Menor monument, commemorating the life and annihilation of Jews from Kielce; a Gate monument, located at the Jewish cemetery in Bodzentyn, and together with Yacov Kotlicki, a grave monument to the victims of the Kielce pogrom in Pakosz. In addition, you are also the co-chairman of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews. Why did you get involved in Polish and Christian-Jewish dialogue?
It was influenced by various circumstances, cases, but also conscious choices. Probably these engagements were and are a consequence of all my life and events and experiences that left a mark on me and eventually created what could be called an "unconditional moral reflection".
Could you say something about those circumstances that have directed you precisely to the path of dialogue with the Jews?
In my childhood, I spent a lot of time alone because my parents and siblings were busy with work or study. I didn’t go to kindergarten and I spent time with my neighbor, Mrs Zawistowska, a concentration camp prisoner, who were victim of Germans pseudo medical experiments during the war. As a result, she had limited opportunities to move independently. So she sat at home and made dinner for the family, and at the age of four, I assisted her. At that time she told me about concentration camps, Jews and gas chambers.
In my class there were Jewish girls and Tatars in primary school. I was brought up in contact with different traditions and customs. But as early as childhood, I also came into contact with intolerance, segregation, constraints on the background of religious or national differences. I remember my colleagues warn me not to play with some girls because they were Jews. I didn’t understand why I shouldn’t do it. What's wrong with being Jewish?! So these questions were very early in my life.
When I was five years old, I was walking with my father along Białystok street, where there was still a synagogue and a tenement house where a lot of Jews lived. They sat in front of the house with an Eastern custom, they chatted. They sat there and talked in Yiddish. So I went with my father and still with a lady who came from Lodz. To this day, I remember how she said to her father: "Did Hitler not make order with the Jews with you? He has already done it a long time ago in Łódź!" It made a staggering impression on me. I knew that she said something terrible, I was terrified, I could tell you a lot of similar stories.
While studying in Krakow, I went to Auschwitz every year. I don’t even remember why. I just got on the train and I was going. After studying in Krakow, I came to Kielce. I knew then what had happened here a year after the Holocaust. I knew then that there was a terrible crime committed on Jews by Poles, Christians. It turned out, however, that few people in Kielce had this idea. I remember a conversation with a native Kielczan, a journalist by profession. When I mentioned the pogrom to him, he looked at me surprised, took in air and didn’t know what to answer. He didn’t know what I was talking about. He heard that there were some riots with the Jews, but the pogrom? Those who knew about it didn’t want to talk to me and treated me like a provocateur, a security agent from UB or a Jew. And most often, as a Jewish security agent from UB who is a provocateur.
Didn’t this discourage you from getting involved in discovering the truth about this event?
On the contrary. In 1981, I was a delegate to the regional "Solidarity" congress. The interval between the two rounds of the congress was on July 4, exactly on the 35th anniversary of the pogrom. At that time, at the initiative of the then vice-chairman of the temporary board, candidate for the chairman of the Solidarity region, Jerzy Stępień, later president of the Constitutional Tribunal, there was the first public commemoration of the pogrom. There was a mass celebrated by the parish priest of the cathedral parish, later a Kielce auxiliary bishop, Fr. Mieczysław Jaworski. Many people came along. I was very moved by this event. But I soon realized that the people who gathered there, including my colleagues from Solidarity, didn’t do it to mourn the victims. They came only to manifest to the communist authorities their disagreement with this "terrible meanness that the communists did to us Poles by murdering their Jews".
Regarding what you said, I would like to quote you the words of prof. Jana Žaryna: "In my opinion, this agreement of the NKVD and MBP in Kielce was the genesis of murder. This is also confirmed by the accounts of former communists. They show that the NKVD officers and (...) Sobczyński were interested in provoking this tragic incident. "What do you think about the thesis that the communists organized and even carried out a pogrom of Jews in Kielce?
Where does Mr. Zaryn know that? Does he have any documents, notes, recordings of conversations, etc? I am asking Mr. Zaryn to show this "agreement." These are just guesses of Mr Zarin, hypotheses to which he is of course entitled, but he shouldn’t present this as knowledge, as verified facts, thus simply confusing. that the ordinary people of Kielce, bribers, workers, craftsmen took part in the pogrom, those who came with the intent to murder and completely random onlookers, passers-by, there were also single soldiers and militiamen.
The hypothesis of provocation not only explains nothing, but makes us ask more difficult questions - and where did this ghastly mood come from after the pogrom, the crowds of people who gathered in front of the hospital, to reproach the wounded people gathered there? Why did some Jews hide for many days, afraid of showing themselves on the street not to communists, but to their neighbors? Eyewitnesses have made numerous testimonies that ordinary people have taken part in the crime, many of them are ordinary women, as they were defined by Ms. Miriam Guterman, who in Poland was Maria Machtynger. She was an eyewitness to the murders in the building at Planty 7/9, from the beginning to the very end.
There were two investigations carried out by the prosecutor's office and materials from these proceedings are available. Mr Żaryn knows this perfectly. They were published by the Janusz Kurtyka. I remember his speech in Kielce on a conference organized by me along with the IPN. He said then, clearly annoyed: "Stop talking about it at last! Poles, Catholics and Kielce took part in this crime. Stop it!". During the discussion, people were asked whether the birth certificates of persons convicted by the communist court for taking part in the pogrom were checked, because they were certainly not from Kielce.
So, according to your point of view, didn’t matter who took part in the pogrom?
The pogrom happened on Thursday, the funeral was scheduled for Monday. The bodies were gathered in the city hospital, located opposite the church of St. Wojciech, the oldest Kielce church. In front of the hospital there were trucks prepared for transporting coffins. Some of them had a propaganda slogan from the referendum on the sides - "3xYes." People left the Sunday mass, showed themselves trucks and, laughing, cried to each other - "Look, there they wrote that three more times we have to do that."
I know this story from the relationship of my close friend from Kielce, Krystyna Maciejewska, a Catholic. And here is the report of another witness from the movie "Witnesses" by Marcel Łoziński from 1986. I will quote the whole: "The loose crowd, after these few hours of these excesses, stood around the Jew ... Jew - he was a twenty-something man, already heavily bloodied ... I remember that he was in a vest and a white shirt ... Actually, he didn’t shout or move, his head lowered. He stood in the middle of this small river, in the water, and there was a crowd around which threw stones. And threw it so dispassionate, that is: there was a flying stone - the crowd watched if he was falling over or not yet ... And if he does not fall over, in a few seconds someone would throw that stone again ... Well, there was a bit of a mood there - well, maybe not a picnic, but some kind of talk about people after some great shock. .. And there were different such remarks, experiences, how this Jew got there, those elsewhere ... thirty-year-old craftsman in a leather apron was a “director”, who spoke very strongly against the Jews: "Finally, we got them” ... I don’t know if this Jew has fallen over or not, in any case the most tragic thing was that this crowd was doing it with neutral mood... That there was no excitement already ... After a few hours of these events, everybody was actually tired, and yet they raised the stones and threw them ... And somehow it was quiet, as if it wasn’t about death, about killing a man ... ".
Pogroms have had and still take place all over the world, are made on people of different nationalities and professing different religions. The participation of ordinary people in pogroms results simply from the dark depths of human nature. Such pogroms can happen almost everywhere and in relation to each group?
Absolutely yes, but I don’t know if it is for each group. There were no pogroms of NKVD officers carried out by patriotically minded Poles.
The attackers would certainly encounter strong resistance, as the NKVD officers were armed.
Yes, the victims of the pogrom were indeed defenseless ... And usually the victims of the pogroms are defenseless, weak, lonely, for whom no one and nothing stands on. There is a question that has been repeated for generations, which will probably haunt me for the rest of my life and I think that it will also pass to next generations: Unde malum? Where does evil come from?
During all these years I have asked myself this question many times. The immensity of compassion that I have for the victims of the pogrom also begins to include its perpetrators. This crime has wounded everyone, for many generations. Compassion is born in me also for the perpetrators, even though I am still shocked by the fact that among the victims of this pogrom was a pregnant woman, a child, or a man whom we know only from the number from the Auschwitz camp. He survived the hell of Auschwitz and lived to see the end of the war; he came to Kielce in the hope of a better life and was murdered by his neighbors. Among the victims, we also find other former prisoners of concentration camps, as well as people who after many years left the burrows, hiding places, behind the wardrobes. Also those who passed the hell of Siberian labor camps, Kazakh deportations
Where does evil come from? What is its source? How do you answer this question?
When American students visit me - their knowledge and understanding of processes that take place in this part of the world is different - I often show them a famous photo of the ruined Warsaw with Christ from the church of Holy Cross. I tell them: "This is the moral state of Polish society after this horrible hecatomb, which was the WW2".
Marcin Zaremba in a brilliant book “The Great Anxiety” enumerates that in 1946, around 20 million people lived in the borders of today's Poland, of which 300,000 people had a secondary education, and 50 thousand people with higher education. These numbers speak for themselves.
Kiedy we wrześniu 1939 roku Niemcy wkroczyli do Kielc, jedną z pierwszych ich ofiar był prezydent tego miasta. Rozstrzelali go, mimo że w niczym im nie przeszkadzał i nie stawiał oporu. Kiedy w 1945 roku do Kielc weszli Sowieci, od razu aresztowali polskich sędziów sprzed wojny i wywieźli ich w nieznane miejsce. Ślad po nich zaginął. To jest ta straszliwa danina polskiej krwi, którą zapłaciło obydwu okupantom - niemieckiemu i sowieckiemu - nasze społeczeństwo. To jest pierwsza kwestia - wyniszczenie elit polskiego społeczeństwa.
When in September 1939 Germans entered Kielce, one of the first victims was the mayor of that city. They shot him, despite the fact that he didn’t bother them and put up any resistance. When in 1945 the Soviets entered Kielce, they immediately arrested Polish judges from before the war and deported them to an unknown place. The trail was lost after them. This is the terrible tribute of Polish blood, which our society paid both to the occupiers - German and Soviet. This is the first issue - the destruction of the elites of Polish society.
And further reasons for the birth of evil?
Drugą kwestią jest wojenna trauma. W Kielcach getto nie było oddzielone od reszty miasta wysokim murem, jak to miało miejsce w Warszawie. To było czasami kilka drutów kolczastych lub jakiś płotek. Mamy nawet zdjęcia, jak ludzie ze strony żydowskiej i ze strony aryjskiej podchodzą do siebie. O tym, co działo się w getcie podczas jego zagłady wiemy wyłącznie z relacji Polaków, którzy obserwowali ten dramat z okien swoich mieszkań. Widzieli oni na przykład, jak Niemcy wyprowadzili z getta na plac koło synagogi około sześćdziesiąt kobiet w ciąży. Kazali im się rozebrać do naga, uklęknąć i zaczęli do nich strzelać, tak jak strzelali kiedyś kowboje do butelek... Nad miejscową rzeczke Silnicę Niemcy wyprowadzili dzieci z sierocińca i również kazali się im rozebrać do naga. Potem, przykładając lufę pistoletu do skroni ustawionych koło siebie dzieci, jednym strzałem rozstrzeliwali kilkoro z nich. Wiemy to z relacji Polaków. Nietrudno zgadnąć, jak widok takich rzeczy oddziaływał na ich psychikę.
The second issue is war trauma. In Kielce, the ghetto wasn’t separated from the rest of the city by a high wall, as was the case in Warsaw. It was sometimes a few barbed wire or some fence. We even have pictures of how people from the Jewish side and from the Aryan side come to each other. We know only what happened in the ghetto during its extermination from the relation of Poles who watched this drama from the windows of their apartments. They saw, for example, how the Germans brought about sixty pregnant women out of the ghetto to the square near the synagogue. They ordered them to strip naked, kneel down and shoot at them, just as cowboys used to shoot bottles ... At the local river Silnica, the Germans took children out of the orphanage and ordered them to undress. Then, applying the barrel of the pistol to the temples of the children standing next to each other, they shot one or several of them with one shot. We know it from the Poles' relations. It isn’t difficult to guess how the sight of such things influenced their psyche.
However, please, clarify this matter.
Imagine this situation: in the middle of the night you go out with your dog for a walk. It is dark and empty. Suddenly you see six well-muscled young men hitting the old woman by a stick. You are alone, and your dog is a ratler. If you call for help, they will also get you and probably beat to death to have no witness. Alone you can’t help her. You can only withdraw. 99 percent people will do just that. Of course, a small fraction will help and perhaps even manage to frighten them somehow. The vast majority of people, however, silently and discreetly withdraw. They will act instinctively. They will want to save themselves and return to their families. Such behavior, however, makes them silent witnesses of crime and reflects on them. Would you be the same man the next day after such a withdrawal?
The Poles' problem wasn’t that we had too many blackmailer or too few Righteous among the Nations. The problem is that most were indifferent, for various reasons. I don’t judge them. I don’t know myself how I would behave in this situation. I would probably be in this withdrawn, silent majority.
I think that this experience of violence that we have not reacted to has changed us very much. In order to deal with the extermination of Jews, carried out before our eyes by the Germans, we dehumanized Jews. It isn’t by accident that Jan Karski is the patron of my Association. He was the first man in the world who understood what the Holocaust meant. He understood that Hitler had redefined the concept of humanity. In the film by Claude Lanzmann, Shoah is the scene in which Lanzmann asks Karski: "You didn’t know that the Germans killed 200,000 people there?" "I knew, for me it was just statistics," says Karski. . " They killed 100,000 Greeks, 50 thousand French - statistics" he continued. Karski understood the entire tragedy of the Holocaust only after he entered the ghetto, when he saw a man dying on the sidewalk and indifferent people passing by, as well as paupers, waiting only to peel off of rags after death that didn’t be needed after all. Karski later said that he had entered the ghetto as a soldier and left him as a man.
We know from psychology that man isn’t a rational being, but a rationalizing being. We use our reason and mind to explain our choices and behaviors. What else does the heart serve us for? The wisdom of the heart tells us that we shouldn’t be indifferent. Often, however, we walk around saying, "I'm just a guest here. What can I do? I will not save the whole world!". This is the simplest category we refer to, and at the same time one of the greatest illusions we live in. We can improve the world. You just have to start with yourself.
One often hears about the passivity and indifference of Poles to the suffering of Jews. However, under these extreme conditions, the death penalty was awaited for Pole for help the Jew. There are cases where a Pole paid his life for giving a Jew a glass of water or a slice of bread. An elderly woman who lived in the Warsaw ghetto during the war told me once how, as a little girl, she walked with her mother on the Aryan side along the ghetto wall and threw crumbs of bread behind her. Because they knew that it could be killed by death, they determined earlier that they would call it birds feeding. Of course, these birds were Jewish children who passed through the wall and ate the bread left for them. Today, many Jews, especially those from the United States, have unjustified claims against Poles for passivity and indifference, forgetting that the Poles were in danger of helping Jews and it isn’t known whether they themselves behaved in a similar situation in relation to Poles whether transferring it to the American realities in relation to black people. After all, many Jews also showed total indifference during the war in relation to the fate of other Jews. Moreover, no one can demand heroism from an ordinary man, because they are something extraordinary, something more than concept of normality. It is difficult to let heroism be a norm from which someone could be accounted for. They can only be a model to which one should strive and which can be achieved only by a few.
According to dr. Michał Bilewicz, people honored after the war with the title "Righteous Among the Nations" were "abnormal", that is, they were not like everyone else, they exceeded the barrier of the psychological norm. Outstanding sociologists, the Ossowski family, created the concept of "perverted deviant", defining someone who is far from mediocrity, beyond it, rising above the ordinary, common. "The Righteous" were such pernicious perverts. This experience of violence, which was then everyday life and not only against Jews, but also towards Poles, anesthetized the suffering of others.
My friend, elderly gentleman, once told me that in 1942, when he was fourteen, he watched the sidewalk of an SS man in front of him, wearing an elegant uniform designed by Hugo Boss, who carried a beautiful, fragrant lady by the hand. He remembered the woman from before the war. He knew that she was a Jewess. The SS man spoke to her with a smile. They changed the language of the conversation from German to French. They laughed and flirted with each other. My friend was charmed by this beautiful, elegant couple. Years later he still remembered the smell of toilet waters that were drenched ... And suddenly the German reached into the holster, pulled out a gun, violently put it to head women and fired. Her dead body fell to the sidewalk. The SS man put away the pistol and, as if nothing had happened, he just walked away quietly, leaving her body lying on the sidewalk. After what my friend saw then, he could not get out of shock. After something like this, you are already a completely different person. Such brutality was then everyday life. Of course, also brutality towards Poles: arrests, roundups, executions, public executions.
The attitude of Poles towards Jews was also influenced by anti-Semitic German propaganda. In the diary of a Jewish boy from Bodzentyn, Dawid Rubinowicz, the situation is described. There was no enclosed ghetto in Bodzentyn. The Jews simply got a ban on crossing certain boundaries - streets, some designated by the buildings of the line. But generally Jews lived there among Poles. Dawidek Rubinowicz saw one day how a Polish official hangs a large German poster depicting Zyda who lets the rat through a meat grinder. His Polish neighbors stand next to him and croak. Dawidek writes in his diary that when he saw this, he immediately fled home, to Daddy, because he was so ashamed for the Jews. The anti-Semitic propaganda was very strong.
You said that the Righteous were "supernormal perverts" because their attitude wasn’t universally obligatory. In the West, it is often heard that Jews in Poland saved people who, unlike the rest of Polish society, didn’t have anti-Semitic prejudices. From the relations of saved Jews and the Righteous, however, it is clear that many Poles who saved Jews didn’t like Jews personally, but in spite of all this general antipathy didn’t prevent them from saving a particular Jew. So it wasn’t prejudice against the Jews that hindered the help of the Jews but the policy of the Third Reich, that punished by death for help and rewarded for denunciations. During helping the Jews the pre-war - political, economic and social - stereotypes and anti-Jewish prejudices were not reject, but possibly were corrected for the Jews which were helped. So what motives most often caused the Poles to decide to help Jews - love and a sense of responsibility for their deeds before God? Willingness to get rich? Nonconformity? An altruistic and empathic personality? Solidarity in the face of a common enemy like Germany?
It was really different. As I recall, the Ulma family from Markowa was guided by faith, the supreme religious order, and the command to love one's neighbor. I know the story of a woman who before the war was a servant to a Jewish family. During the war, this woman helped this family. To a Jewess she hid, she said she was praying that God would forgive her for saving them. She was guided by a purely human spirit, but not a religious one - in her opinion, saving Jews was wrong.
Before the war, the pedagogy of the Catholic Church, but also of other Christian Churches, was very anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic. The Jews were perceived as a "problem" that can only be "solved" through the conversion and acceptance of Jesus. For Christianity, the Jews were deicide, people with whom God broke his Covenant. They were also carriers of all evil - on the one hand, carriers of the Bolshevism plague, and on the other hand the capitalist bloodsuckers.
Please listen to a fragment of the pastoral letter from Cardinal August Hlond, Polish Primate, from February 29, 1936, which was read in all churches in Poland: "The Jewish problem exists and will exist until Jews are Jews. In individual countries this issue has different intensity and different timeliness. With us it is especially difficult and should be the subject of serious consideration. Here I briefly touch his moral side in connection with today's location. It is a fact that Jews are fighting against the Catholic Church, they are stuck in free-thinking, they are the vanguard of godlessness, the Bolshevik movement and subversive action. The fact is that the Jewish influence on morality is fatal, and their publishing houses propagate pornography. It is true that Jews commit scams, usury and human trafficking. It is true that in schools the influence of Jewish youth on Catholicism is generally negative in religious and ethical terms. But - let's be righteous. Not all Jews are like that. Very many Jews are believers, honest, just, charitable, charitable ... "..." In business relations, it is good to take account of others, avoid Jewish shops and Jewish stalls at the fair, but one can’t ravage a Jewish shop, destroy to the Jews of the goods, to break the window, to throw firecrackers on their houses"..." When the grace of divine Jews enlightens and he sincerely goes to his and our Messiah, let us greet him joyfully in the Christian ranks ... "
In the 1930s in Germany and Austria there was a group of Christian activists - Catholic and Protestant, who were very much involved in opposition to anti-Semitic fascist practices. At the same time, they maintained that suffering is a permanent element of Jewish fate, and the so-called Jewish problem can be solved only in the eschatological perspective, through conversion. So we love Jews as people who have a chance to become Christians.
Some Christians say that the non-recognition of Jesus by the Jews as Messiah has a deep theological meaning, because in this way Christians are forced to seek the answer to the question of why they themselves recognize him as the Savior.
There is a theory in the Jewish world concerning the Messiah, which isn’t so exotic among Jews, namely that Jesus was the Messiah, even this Messiah in Jewish meaning, but he simply failed, because upon his arrival the world didn’t become at all better. Jews have very clearly, enumerated view, what the world should look like after the coming of the Messiah. And for them, the world after Jesus' coming didn’t change at all. There is also another theory that says Jesus was the Messiah, but not for the Jews. He was the one who carried the idea of their God to pagans. Perhaps this path of thought was followed by orthodox rabbis who recently signed this declaration expressing gratitude to Christians and acknowledging that Christianity is God's gift to the world.
Close to me is the statement of Martin Buber, who said that Christians about Jews, and Jews about Christians can speak only with great fear of God's mystery. I don’t know why our paths have gone. The important thing is that it is real. How beautiful it is when representatives of Christianity and Judaism talk about themselves with great respect. For me, it is extremely important to teach Pope Francis that God is revealed in the Word, present in both the Torah and the Gospels describing the coming of Jesus Christ.
These are equivalent paths to salvation.
There is such a beautiful anecdote by Martin Buber: The Messiah is coming and the end of the world is coming. We all stand, Jews, Christians and others. Someone finally asks the Messiah the question: "Are you going for the first time or the second time?" Buber says that he will ask God not to answer this question.
Have you seen this beautiful clip with Franciszek, in which he says that we are all children of one God?
I have seen. This film caused a lot of controversy. It was put together in it, as if equivalent, a Buddha statue, a menorah, a tespih and a figurine of the baby Jesus, which for some unknown reasons replaced the symbol of Christianity - the cross.
Yes, this movie, and not just this movie, has caused controversy. I totally agree with him. Franciszek consistently warns against treating religion as an ideology. Religion was created for God's sake, not because of people. I don’t care much for the opinions of these or other journalists or even political theologians who are politically involved. I listen to popes; John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Franciszek - they light the way, not the homegrown teachers of "true faith," theologians' homeworkers.
However, when we go out to others, we must be careful that the differences between the message of Christianity and the message of other religions can’t be blurred.
Oh, so we have to defend differences like independence?
We should defend these differences, behind which hides the richness of our faith. Without emphasizing the uniqueness of Jesus' mission in the light of other religions, there may be a reduction in the significance of Christian values and bringing them to the politically correct content, which in turn may become the basis of one world New Age religion. The Church should avoid dangerous syncretism and boldly proclaim that there is only one mediator on the way to salvation - Jesus Christ.
And in my opinion, we are cutting Christian values without living according to them, without giving witness to our lives. The Church, all of us, and You and I, above all, must follow the path of the Eight Blessings, because these are the only Christian values whose observance makes us Christians. The rest is just a stage directions.
We will not go to one world religion. An eminent Spanish-Hindu theologian and philosopher of religion, Raimon Panikkar said: " I started out as a Christian, along the way I discovered that I am a Hindu, I was a Buddhist, and now back not cease to be a Christian". What isn’t shaky, is impermanent, says Father Tomasz Halik - imagining that we will always remain at the level of the catechism preparing for the First Communion, that our faith will not change, isn’t only naive, but also inhuman. We grow because we have different experiences in our lives. God experiences us and we experience God - in different ways.
I used to work in New York with an outstanding Polish graphic designer, Janusz Kapusta. He told me a story from his life. A publisher has ordered illustrations for the book. Janusz urgently needed money, so he quickly took the order and brought it to the publisher, who watches it and watches ... Finally, he says happy: "Come to me in a month, I will pay you." Janusz stiffened, but then he asked the publisher: "Who did this job?" "How is who? You! "Said the surprised publisher," why do you want to pay someone else? I don’t know who Janusz Kapusta will be in a month, I know who Jan Kapusta is today, pay me today! " - said the graphic designer
You surely are also someone different today than you were ten years ago. If your goals and values change, why shouldn’t you change and be subject to evolution? Sometimes we go forward and sometimes we go back. Human development isn’t straightforward. Apparently every 7 years almost every cell is mentioned in a human being.
You may be surprised, but twenty-five years ago, Adam Michnik was one of the biggest "brakes" in opposing the advancing anti-Semitism in Poland. In 1995, at the conference on Polish-Jewish relations in Krakow, next to Adam Michnik, the head of the European Jewish Congress, Jean Kahn, was present. When in his speech he accused Poles of anti-Semitism, Michnik scandalized him immensely. He said: "From talking about Poles, as anti-Semites, there is only one step to say that the Poles built Auschwitz!"
Until the discussion on Jedwabne, Adam Michnik was convinced that the problem of anti-Semitism in Poland is virtually absent, that it is some marginal situations, episodes not worth mentioning, that you don’t need to write about it, because the wraiths will wake up. When Jan Gross published the book "Neighbors" in Poland, Michnik had a big problem with accepting this work. He believed in the information contained in the book only after meeting with a man who introduced himself to him as a resident of Jedwabne. This man came to the editors of "Wyborcza" and demanded a conversation with Michnik to tell him what really happened there. "Michnik was curious about what he had to say to him when he first heard:" Mr. Michnik, this Gross, it's writing total nonsense! ", he was pleased. He thought he had a witness confirming that Gross was overreacting. Meanwhile, the latter continued: "Gross writes that one thousand five hundred Jews died in Jedwabne. What a thousand five hundred? Maximal seven hundred!". That's when Adam Michnik understood everything.
I would like to refer to the person of Jan Tomasz Gross, that was mentioned by you. In 2009, you invited him to Kielce in connection with the publication of his book entitled; “Fear. Anti-Semitism in Poland just after the war. Moral history and collapse”. The visit of Jan T. Gross in Kielce caused strong controversy, including allegations that to some extent you legitimized his scientific activity, the value of which undermined many recognized historians. Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz called the book 'Gross propaganda' and stated that its author “has a ready thesis”. Dr Janusz Kurtyka even called Jan T. Gross, a “vampire of historiography”. Sharp criticism was also given to Gross's book by Dr. August Grabski from the Jewish Historical Institute, speaking about its American version: " The shocking fragment in the description of Kielce's events by Jan Tomasz Gross is the summary of the conversation between the murderers of the Jewish mother and the child about their criminal intentions with the words: "It was the most ordinary conversation between strangers in Poland. Anno Domini 1946»". Marek Edelman said in turn that this book shouldn’t be called "Anti-Semitism in Poland", but "Banditism in Poland". On the one hand Gross indicates that the participation of Jews in communist security services was sporadic and shouldn’t be generalized, and on the other hand, as in the example just quoted, the anti-Semitic views of some Poles serve him to assign the majority to Poles. Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin stated: "the growing Jewish stereotype of the Poles as anti-Semites may encourage young Poles who are now free from anti-Jewish resentments and become anti-Semites." Is such selectivity, one-sidedness and generalization on the part of Jan T. Gross in describing the Kielce pogrom, don’t create - through a natural defense mechanism in humans - among Poles who have never before been anti-Semites, the so-called secondary antisemitism?
I apologize, but I will change the question: is the reminding of the Katyn massacre the source of anti-Russianism? I am not a specialist from Jews. I am not a specialist in the Kielce pogrom. I'm interested in a man! If I'm a specialist from anything, it's from people. What is important to me is the victim, harm and crime, the stigma of which has been imprinted on subsequent generations. This stamp is passed down from generation to generation. The aftermath of the meeting with Jan Tomasz Gross was that people started calling and coming to me, like my dead friend I had known for years. We met quite often and talked to each other on various topics. However, it never occurred to me to ask her about the pogrom and those times. And she told me, out of nowhere, the story from before the funeral of the victims. For me it was shocking that she would only talk about such memories after so many years. Another friend told me again: "Once, as a child, in the attic of the house I came across a "Soldier of Freedom", in which I saw the inscription: "Kielce Pogrom". So I started to ask my father about it, but he wouldn’t tell me about it. Once an uncle came to us, I started asking him about it. He drank a little and started telling me how passionately they were murdering these Jews".
The debate about Gross's book caused that a vent was opened and people dared to share such memories with me. They started talking about it. Both direct witnesses and those who indirectly witnessed the event began to release their memory. At the moment in which I speak to you, You became a witness - from hearing. Why? Well, because you have to relate to it. Either give it faith or not. It can shake you or leave you indifferent. However, you already have a certain relation to what you have just heard.
Can the use of the stereotype of a Pole anti-Semitism evoke contemporary anti-Semitism - you ask ... I am asking you, I don’t believe in any "secondary anti-Semitism". After Gross's book, only those who were previously hidden anti-Semites, cryptoantsemites, became explicit anti-Semites. Just like in the case of the Kielce thunder, it didn’t happen suddenly, as a result of one event, even if it was provocative.
Because the Kielce pogrom wasn’t a one-off incident. A grenade was thrown into the building at Planty Street earlier. Anti-Jewish activities became commonplace after the war. Jews were thrown out of trains and murdered.
So far no evidence has been provided of the existence of an organized train action against the Jews. Attacks on them resulted most probably from the usual bandit and the fight of the Polish independence underground with Soviet collaborators, among whom were both Jews and Poles.
Of course, after the war there was banditry. What else, however, when they attack someone and take money from him, and when they pull someone out of the train, they ask if he is a Jew and they torture. And then they take money and murder. To this day, we hear stories about how someone got rich "on the Jews", how much evil, in how many barrels he buried in the garden, hid in the wall or under the floor ... Blessed Memory Professor Lucjan Dobroszycki, director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, a long time ago, said that about 2,000 Jews were murdered in these kinds of attacks and that they were murdered first and foremost because they were Jews.
The result of the war was a deeply advanced demoralization. There was banditry and looter. Certainly some of the people who remained after the war in the forest were also motivated by patriotic motives. Many of them, however, could not simply change their lifestyle. They were in the woods for many years, they had weapons with them all the time. Hiding her or giving her up and going to a normal job was definitely very difficult for them. Here, as he talks with the peasants, they tell various things about the partisans. First, the Germans came and took something from them, and then the partisans came and they also took something from them ...
In Israel, I had the opportunity to meet Joseph Halperin, who he published his memories entitled “Tethered youth”. He was probably the only forest specialist in Israel. During the war he served in the Home Army. The war survived because no one knew he was Jewish. And there were troops in which the so-called "Schwanzparade" was made, when the partisans were ordered to leave their trousers, and the commander was doing a review, under the pretext of looking for venereal diseases. In fact, people were being searched for circumlocution. Such cases are documented by the AK soldiers themselves.
After the war, Halperin went to Kielce and to this building, which later was followed by a pogrom. He collected Jewish children there, which began to reveal themselves, leave hiding places in which they survived the war. Halperin arranged for these papers that all of them were Greeks. On July 4, 1945, he left Kielce with them. Half a year he wandered around Europe before he was allowed to enter Palestine. Two girls who didn’t want to leave Kielce with him were killed in the pogrom. Halperin, just before departure, confessed secretly to his closest friend from the former partisan unit that he was Jewish. He wanted to say goodbye to him. The friend was in a huge shock, he didn’t want to believe him. He said, "Jozek, it's impossible, we know each other so well, you're a Jew?" Do you understand? He didn’t want to believe that he was a Jew!
Let's stop for a moment at the Home Army. I mean a Home Army soldier, Henryk Pawelec, aka Andrew. His story seems to be a ready-made film script. At the end of his life, however, he had to face accusations of defiling his own nest. How did you disclose information about "Barabash"?
This is my great remorse, I can’t deal with it until today ... It was like that. After fifty years of wandering, Henio returned to Kielce. He missed the mountains, Poland. His wife, an English lady, a graduate of the American university in Beirut, a colleague of Hanka Ordonówna, came from Volhynia and didn’t know Poland. She decided, however, to come to the country, for Henia. Their home was a bit English, different than the Kielce houses I know. I went to their home, their family, we became friends. Heniu told me different stories. For example, about the Gestapo, Wittek, who was subject a net of spy. One day the Home Army decided to kill him. However, they wanted to take over the notebook hanging on his neck, in which he was supposed to wear the names of his confidants. So an order was issued to slaughter him, not shoot him. And Henio got the order. He settled on Wittek. Following them at some point, Wittek turned away. They looked into each other's eyes. Henio then escaped because he could not kill him. He could not kill the man he looked into. Shoot someone, it's completely different than stab. He repeatedly returned to this event and analyzed the situation. Once we sit by vodka and I tell him: "Henio, we've known each other for so many years. You tell me about your heroic deeds, but you don’t tell me about the ghetto. There was a big ghetto here in Kielce. There were 20,000 Jews from Kielce, including Jews from nearby shtetls and a few thousand Jews from Vienna and Łódź. It was in the very center of the city ... And there are no Jews in your memories. "And then I realized that in all the memoirs of the underground soldiers there were no Jews, as if they didn’t exist at all.
So when I asked Henio about the Jews, he answered: "Bogdan, but what could we do then?" I replied that I don’t ask what he did or didn’t for the Jews, but why the Jews are absent in his memories. He fell silent and for a long time didn’t return to this subject.
A few years passed and suddenly Henio began to speak spontaneously about his commander Marian Sołtysiak, "Barabash". And about what was happening in the "Wybranieccy" branch. About the "Schwanzparadach" and the crimes of "Barabasz" on Jews, it was a completely different picture of the commander of the unit than the one from the story of his exploits, although I think that both images were real.
And here is the problem. We have soldiers and partisans who fought with the invader on the one hand, and on the other hand, they had nationalistic beliefs, quite widespread before the war, when patriotism was connected in some sense with chauvinism, and Jews were treated as strangers. It was also connected with religious matters, which we mentioned earlier, with dehumanization of Jews and German propaganda. And depravation - which we have already mentioned.
War corrupts terribly. You must have a very strong moral backbone and an amazing mind to go through war and stay clean. You probably read the testimonies of people who were trained in the Home Army to execute death sentences issued by the Polish Underground State. It hurt. Killing always hurts even if the enemy is killed in combat. Nowadays, when soldiers return to Poland from a mission in Afghanistan or Iraq, they have at their disposal whole staffs of psychologists. Because there is PTSD, there is war trauma. A policeman who uses a self-defense weapon, for example shooting a rapist or a ruthless murderer, is immediately subjected to specialist psychological care. We know that the violence that one inflicts, or experiences, changes the human psyche. No matter what values we make acts of violence. Violence never leaves us innocent, that is, as we have been before. No specialist clinics were waiting for the partisans. There were no special resocialization programs.
Did Henryk Pawelec also participate in what he accused other members of his branch?
I don’t know. He never told me about it. I have no reason to think so.
How did the combatants of the Home Army react to its revelations?
He met ostracism. He was expelled from the World Association of Home Army Soldiers. He was abused and spat on. The main inspirer of this type of activities was the relative of "Barabash." A 90-year-old man was tried before the AK's friendly court and was deprived of all defense rights, his lawyers were not allowed to participate in the case. Finally, they told him straight away: "That's not why we think you're not telling the truth, but because you're talking about it at all."
Henio was embittered in the last years of his life. Świętokrzyski Związek Żołnierzy AK didn’t invite him anywhere. Fortunately, these are not all environments and the army has always been inviting him. I was speaking with him three weeks before he died. It was obvious that he was leaving now. He was dying. He told me then: "I am dying with a calm conscience." Previously he recorded a report for the Museum of Polish History, he said everything he knew, but he repeatedly returned to it and analyzed whether he did well by revealing the truth about "Barabash".
Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, who described these stories, knew them from other sources. Henio wasn’t the only source of information. But he let her verify everything. Tokarska-Bakir, for example, had contact with an aristocrat who lived in Paris or London, I don’t remember. During the war, "Barabash" with a part of his unit robbed the house of this lady. This lady lived for a long time outside of Poland, she had no interest in "Barabash" to talk. It is also significant that "Barabash", who was sentenced by a communist court for many years in prison for crimes against Jews, left prison after Mieczysław Moczar's intervention. "Barabasz" was then an active activist of ZBOWiD and deputy Moczar. And Moczar reminds me only of anti-Semitism and national communism.
Henio wasn’t buried in the Home Army cemetery after his death. There was, however, an honor company and former Home army of the Virtuti Militari Chapter. The deputy minister of national defense and the Orlęta AK were also present. It was a worthy funeral. It moved me greatly that his close family comrades from the Home Army came to the funeral, who founded their uniforms for the occasion.
Did you have any unpleasantness regarding the publication of information about the "Barabash" activity?
I have my experienced from the 90's when someone done attempt for me.
Who wanted to kill you?
It may not kill, but scare you. From what I remember, one attack was carried out by a person associated with the National Revival of Poland. It was a group of kids. However, I have all the data to suppose that they were inspired by a former SB officer, negatively verified. The first attempt was in 1990. Together with Seweryn Blumsztajn, I was in a cafe where somebody threw an incendiary grenade. The floor caught fire, but the fire was extinguished. Another time, a bomb was placed at the door of my editorial office. It was located in the headquarters of the housing cooperative and over us, the upper floor, there was a safe office where people would come to pay rent. There was therefore very busy. They put the bomb under the door, but fortunately it was poorly constructed. If it broke, it could lead to a real tragedy. Many people would be injured. The railway bolts were hidden in this bomb.
How do you know that these assassinations were connected with your exploration of the subject of the pogrom?
The bombs were accompanied by threatening letters.
Why was it that the former SB wanted to ensure that you didn’t deal with the history of the pogrom?
Right-wing circles have no patent for anti-Semitism. Anti-Semites are also people of the Polish left. Sometimes they mask themselves as anti-Zionists, or "the defender of the rights of the Palestinian people."
Since we returned to the pogrom ... Apparently, on July 4, 1946, at the request of the Jewish community, the local curia sent 7 priests to Planty, priest Zelka, priest Danilewicz and three vicars to calm down the crowd gathered there. However, they were not let through the militia and the army. In view of this, they had to phone the governor Eugeniusz Iwańczyk on numerous occasions. Unsuccessfully. Despite these attempts, the Kielce clergyman, including the Kielce Bishop, Czesław Kaczmarek, are still accused of passivity. What do you think about these allegations?
Adam Michnik once published a two-part article in Gazeta Wyborcza, in which he opposed two attitudes: the attitude of Bishop Kaczmarek from Kielce and the attitude of Bishop Kubina from Częstochowa, Bishop Kubina, together with the governor of Częstochowa, issued a statement in which he warned against surrendering, anti-Jewish moods and provocations, calling by name, he said that this is a crime and actually prevented the pogrom in Częstochowa.
I am not a historian and I will refrain from assessing whether the actions of Bishop Kaczmarek were indeed sufficient. At the time, he wasn’t in Kielce at that time. I am not sure whether the trip of Father Zelek to Planty, where he was detained by soldiers, was all that the Kielce Church could do to prevent the tragedy from occurring.
I was told once that somewhere in Małopolska there was a similar rumor to Kielce that the Jews had kidnapped a Christian child. So the crowd moved towards the place where the Jews were to keep them. The priest reportedly learned about it right after the Mass. So he went out with the monstrance from the church and, holding it in front of this crowd, said: "People in the Name of Christ, stop!" When he held this monstrance, what did the crowd of believers do? "He immediately fell to his knees. for hours, until the army was there, then it turned out that the child was simply somewhere lost.
Nie wiem, czy ktoś od ks. bpa Kaczmarka mógł ruszyć z monstrancją na Planty 7. Słyszałem, że podobno w tym czasie w Kielcach był przejazdem ks. kard Hlond. Może on by mógł? Może by mógł, może nie. Może nie przyszło mu to do głowy. W każdym razie, warto się wczytać w raport, który ks. Kaczmarek skierował do amerykańskiego ambasadora. Z tego dokumentu wynika, że biskup uważał, iż Zydzi sami są sobie winni, gdyż działają w UB i pchają się do władzy. Katolicki biskup znalazł tego rodzaju uzasadnienie. On tłumacząc zachowanie tych ludzi, niejako przyznaje, że była to spontaniczna reakcja tłumu - a nie żadna prowokacja, jak chce prof. Zaryn.
I don’t know if anyone from Fr. Bishop Kaczmarek could move with the monstrance to Planty 7. I heard that at that time in Kielce he was passing through Fr. Cardinal Hlond. Maybe he could? Maybe he could, maybe not. Maybe it didn’t occur to him. In any case, it is worth reading in a report that Fr. Kaczmarek directed to the American ambassador. From this document, it appears that the bishop believed that the Jews themselves were guilty because they were in the UB and were pushing for power. The Catholic bishop found this kind of justification. He, explaining the behavior of these people, somehow admits that it was a spontaneous reaction of the crowd - and not any provocation, as professor Zaryn wants.
Professor Jan Żaryn isn’t the only historian who seeks a possible communist provocation in the genesis of the Kielce pogrom.
Jest również wielu historyków, którzy twierdzą coś przeciwnego. Chcę, żeby mnie Pan zrozumiał. Ja nie twierdzę, że na pewno nie było żadnych prowokacyjnych działań przedstawi cieli ówczesnej władzy. Zaniechania władz podczas pogromu na pewno ma znamiona prowokacji. Dla mnie to jednak nie ma żadnego znaczenia. Niezależnie bowiem od tego, czy.
There are also many historians who argue the opposite. I want you to understand me. I am not saying that there were certainly no provocative actions to present the authorities of that time. The failure of the authorities during the pogrom certainly has signs of provocation. For me, however, it does not matter. Regardless of whether it was a provocation or not, someone could be provoked. Because ordinary people murdered. And there were ordinary people among the onlookers. They didn’t take active part in the murder, and yet many of them stayed there for many hours and watched it. One of the witnesses, still alive, talks about the arrival of workers from the Huta Ludwików factory. They again began to murder, it was the so-called second wave of the pogrom. At the same time, there was already an army, which, however, didn’t prevent these workers from murdering, only separated them from a large crowd of onlookers. This witness was then fifteen and he was in this crowd. He saw everything. He saw them kicking and then search through a bloodied, battered man. They found a bundle of banknotes with him, they took out, they were bloody. They were afraid that the soldiers would take them away. So what did they do? They scattered them in the crowd. And what did the crowd do? He threw himself and collected the bloody money. I asked the witness what he did. He replied to me that it took the money and went to the ice to the nearest ice cream shop. I asked him if these ice cream tasted good. "No, I puked them," he replied.
On this one stage you can build the atmosphere of this moment. So if many historians say that it was a provocation, they stick to it like a drunk fence, because what explains it in the sense of responsibility and guilt of people who took part in this murder? Of course, it shows a mechanism, but the fact that someone was provoked means that there was some potential in it and the conviction that its action has the characteristics of certain justice. In this way, it avoids deepening the understanding of the significance of these people's actions, which in turn resulted from the conviction that the Jews are strangers and bad.
Miriam Guterman rescued herself from the pogrom only because a Pole who remembered her from before the war lived in this building. He worked as a caretaker in the home where she was born. In July 46’ Miriam was a secretary in the Provincial Jewish Committee, which was located in the building at Planty Street. When the villains arrived, she ran downstairs. This Pole stopped her in the corridor and covered her with his own body. He raised the cross and said: "People, for Christ's sake, what are you doing? There are no cellars here, no children!" He hid her and calmed her down, saying to her: "You will save yourself, you will save yourself. " For the following hours, her friends were murdered in front of her - forty-two people.
I don’t know if Bishop Kaczmarek could stop the pogrom. I think he could, but it only seems to me, I don’t want to judge him. The question is, what did he do with it. What certificate did he give in this document sent to the American ambassador? What did he do in the next years? What did his successors do? Why did the conspiracy of silence regarding the pogrom encompass not only the communist apparatus but also the Church? I understand why the communists didn’t want to talk about it. Assuming that prof. Zaryn is right, the more I understand that they wanted to keep it silent. Why, however, didn’t the Church say that?! In 1982, my friends were in prison and I was on the loose. I met then priest Chat, successor of priest Jaworski, who became an auxiliary bishop. I speak to priest Chat, that he could continue to celebrate Mass on the anniversary of the pogrom. He then bent down to me and said in great confusion, "Mr. Boguś, don’t get involved in these matters. I don’t know if you know that the Jews kidnapped Christian children to have blood on the mats". It was 1982. I went back home and scared the wife asked: "What are you so pale, you saw the ghost?”. Yes, I saw a ghost from an - seemingly - old past.
Are these "ghosts" still present?
A few years ago I found in the archives a letter handwritten by a person who presents himself as a peasant from Ostrowiec. This man writes: "You are still talking about this blood overeat. What superstition? It was knowledge, we were taught so! The priest warned us not to be afraid, because the Jews needed only a drop of blood. As an example, he gave a barrel full of water, to which it is enough to pour one drop of holy water so that all the water in it would also be blessed. So we sympathized with the Jews and we were ready to go to the Jews and give them a drop. And as the news reached our village that the child had been kidnapped in Kielce, we laughed because we knew that the Jews didn’t kidnap children in July, only in April, on Pesach". Do you understand what I am talking about? There's nothing we can do about it that our religiosity is often a mixture of various pagan beliefs. How long was the story of the painting of Charles de Prevot from the 18th century depicting Jews performing ritual murder of children in the Sandomierz Cathedral ?! However, Bishop Nitkiewicz came and in a few months he arranged what Bishop Dzięga couldn’t do for years.
I used to take young people and show them the panorama of Kielce, which lie in the valley. I showed them a housing estate, telling them that there lived about 20,000 people, so much that lived in the Kielce ghetto. At that time I asked them if they could imagine that within three days these 20 thousand people are disappearing. Annihilated, murdered. Old, young, women, children - everyone. It happened! This isn’t an intellectual experiment. It just happened on this earth.
I live in Warsaw within the Warsaw ghetto and sometimes go for a walk towards Hala Mirowska. Recently, I went along the line of the ghetto wall and saw how some son of a bitch painted a swastika there. If a young Pole, who may be a patriot and a Catholic, draws a swastika in this place, I can’t call it a summit of shrinkage.
That's why I bring a black spray with me in my car, which I paint over similar symbols and inscriptions. Fortunately, I'm not alone in this. Some time ago I took my daughter with me to show her how to deal with the slogans calling for aggression and hatred. We went to paint on the pole near the intersection with the inscription: "Kill the Jew!". It turned out that someone had us and managed to convert this inscription into: "Don’t kill a Jew!". The spirit in the nation isn’t lost. However, if we are talking about such a shrinkage as painting a swastik, you have certainly heard that after burning in Wroclaw, puppet of Jew, people associated with the Polish right handed an open letter, in which they wrote that the Polish patriot can’t be anti-Semitic. I asked then to write my name under it. Every Catholic should be opposed to this type of symbolic aggression. In the end, Polishness and patriotism - by their very nature - exclude anti-Semitic views.
A beautiful letter. I mentioned it in the text summarizing the Christian-Jewish dialogue for a certain Catholic writing, as a wonderful and noble testimony that something has changed in this country. This letter wasn’t possible a year or two ago. Terlikowski's voice, which protested against the incineration of the tombstone in Jedwabne, was a few years ago in the Fronda milieu in an isolated voice. It was one single voice. In my opinion, this letter is an absolute change. The fact that so many people from this political milieu and this significant person has signed up to this letter is certainly important. Here, however, politics understood in a very ad hoc manner also get entangled. On the one hand, the presidential minister Wojciech Kolarski says that he is outraged with what happened in Wrocław, and on the other hand the Presidential Palace hasn’t taken the message in this matter. The minister said that the president can’t raise this event to a higher rank than he deserves.
There is a dispute over the right about how to respond to such events. Many people think that marginal incidents shouldn’t be publicized, because in this way, free advertising is made to extremists and people with similar ideological views are inclined towards imitation. In addition, the burning of the Jew's effigy at the moment when the political camp came to power, which was almost presented in the West as an extreme, nationalist right, was perceived by a part of the Polish right as a pro-Russian spectacle directed by the pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic connotations. It was therefore decided that this provocation shouldn’t be commented on at all.
Why does the right-wing like this language of provocation, as if the word "provocation" meant anything? What's the provocation, since this guy who burned the Jew puppet in Wroclaw is well known in the community? Your letter was an excellent reaction, the only correct and possible in this situation. Glory to you for this. Exactly the same reaction should be from state factors, for example President Andrzej Duda.
I know that you wrote an open letter to President Andrzej Duda on this matter. During the celebration of the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, however, the President of Poland said: "For me as a Pole, for the President of the Republic, but also for the State of Israel since its inception, Auschwitz is a great lesson that everything must be done to protect the safety and life of its people citizens. And that this is the highest duty for the authorities". Commenting on these words, the former Israeli ambassador to Poland, Szewach Weiss, said: "This is the most important sentence in this speech and I don’t remember words from the Polish leader in recent years".
Fine. Very nice that he said it. The resonance of his words was completely different. If, however, he would refer to events in Wrocław, without even naming them by name, it would be a clear position. I think, however, that a kind of political calculation has decided here. The PiS community simply stated that one shouldn’t enter into a special conflict with national environments that, for example, have people with Kukiz. It is sad that ad hoc calculations affect moral choices. And this is exactly about this moral overtone. I received your vote - rightist journalists - with great gratitude. There has never been such a voice of the Polish right. This is a departure from the bad tradition, the slightly fascism and anti-Semitic tradition of the National Democracy. These are very strong words that anti-Semitism can’t be reconciled with patriotism.
Pope Francis said that "a Christian can’t be an anti-Semite, his roots are Jewish". If we Poles believe that our roots are Christian and we count the existence of our statehood from the baptism of Poland in 966, it is clear that being a Pole isn’t you can be an anti-Semite, because the core of Polishness precludes taking hostile attitude towards Jews.
Already thirty years ago, John Paul II said: "Who meets Jesus, he meets Judaism." In Charaktery publishing house, we gave a beautiful book by Fr. Hryniewicz about universal salvation and the idea of mercy. A beautiful book on "The Year of Mercy." He based his entire theology on the Galilean Gospel, that is, historical Jesus, whose depth of teaching we can’t understand without the Jewish and Judaic context, the one in which he came to live. Judaism, in which he hid and who practiced. This is Jesus who went to the synagogue. Of course there are various approaches and theological theses, as for example when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and left the Synagogue. But it isn’t true. Jesus lives to the Cross with the rhythm of Jewish life.
Is that why you once said that the Old Testament is essentially the First Testament and the New Testament the Second Testament?
Yes. We in Poland have not thought a lot of things. Poles generally have few things to think about. We have such a problem that we don’t think about certain things essential for our spiritual and national development. One of such important things - for us Catholics - is the Second Vatican Council and the Council declaration Nostra aetate. It was really a Copernican revolution. If we were to realize this completely, many unpleasant events wouldn’t happen. For example, if we accepted that God loves Jews as they are, then we would look at the world differently. God loves Jews because they are Jews and not because they are potential Christians. God loves them as much as we do and hasn’t excluded them from their love and from their economy of salvation. This is absolutely groundbreaking. We must therefore break down our internal stereotypes. Our mind is built so that it emits and generates stereotypes. It simplifies this world, because such a mass of information reaches us that we must organize it. We all have some stereotypes. However, there are innocent stereotypes and criminal stereotypes, which include stereotypes regarding cultural, ethnic and world-outlook differences. Why? For the fact that their consequences are terrible, because at best they rely on the exclusion of someone from the circle of people who are respectable. With time, however, they may lead to physical elimination of these "others", as was the case in Cambodia, Rwanda or Bosnia. Now on the one hand ISIS and, on the other hand, growing Islamophobia, whose followers say: "Kick out the Islam!". Only the difference between Islamists with ISIS and Muslims is that between Christian members of Ku-Klux-Klan from the American province of the south and Catholics of the Archdiocese of Warsaw. Dialogue is never easy, but you have to lead it. Dialogue with Jews is also not the easiest one.
An example of the fact that dialogue with Jews isn’t the easiest one is the resignation of Fr. prof. Waldemar Chrostowski from the seat of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, which was caused, among others, by differences in the positions of the members of the Council regarding the presence of the papal cross at the Oświęcim Gravel Pit.
Not only Fr. Chrostowski left the Council then, but also Kostek Gebert. It was a very dramatic moment in the history of the Council. I wasn’t there then, and I only know the relation for this one. It was a key moment that could even lead to the dissolution of the entire Council. However, I don’t want to refer to the figure of priest Chrostowski and his activity in the field of Christian-Jewish dialogue.
Does dialogue have any limits that shouldn’t be exceeded?
I don’t understand dialogue as some kind of negotiation. There is no question here whether to yield or not give way. Dialogue isn’t about determining its border. Dialogue has no limit. Dialogue has its own spirituality. Dialogue is a meeting. Consequently, the limit of dialogue is sensitivity to another human being. Dialogue is closely related to freedom and mercy, respect and love. Dialogue is essentially existential, religious, and not just an idea.
Dialogue with Judaism is very diverse on the Christian side. After all, both Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians are present in it. Evangelical Protestants are so pro-Israeli and pro-Jewish. The most pro-Israel is the American right, from evangelical backgrounds. They think that Israel must be preserved, because it will come to a point when the Jews finally convert. For they recognized that the prophecy was fulfilled and we live in the last days. Because the Jewish state was revived, they think that the Messiah will soon come again. For this reason, they also have much more pressure on Jews to convert to Christianity than Catholics, although many Catholics can’t accept that Jews can’t be converted anymore. The Church has recently officially resigned from the institutional evangelizing mission among Jews. Of course, neither the Church nor we Catholics can give up the testimony of our faith, because we would be false then. For real dialogue is when we are sure of our identity. Jews are also credible in their dialogue with Christians, as long as they are able to fully express their religiosity and their faith and make use of it. Because dialogue can’t stand hypocrisy, but it thrives when there is freedom and love. I know who I am, and self-awareness, the certainty of my identity allows me to be open to others infinitely. They don’t threaten me, they even enrich me.
And what did the Christian-Jewish dialogue look like in the past?
In the past, when meetings between Jews and Christians took place, great caution and efforts were made to ensure that Christians were not too Christocentric. At one time, I once had a great deal of annoyance when one of the meetings recognized that one of the Catholic speakers often mentioned the name of Jesus. One of my Jewish friends, the rabbi told me: "I like you very much, you know that I can do almost everything for you. One, the other, I can come, but don’t invite me anymore. I don’t know Christianity". I answered him that he knows more about Christianity than many Christians. He replied to me that during these meetings feeling converted, because he still hears mentioned the name of Jesus, as if it was a spell like talking to himself argued, however, that, in spite of everything he believes in Jesus, though he was not sure of his faith. These were the reactions of some Jews. However, I also have such a meeting behind me when, with caution, that the Jews wouldn’t feel converted, the word Jesus were never said. One of the rabbis didn’t endure then and said: "Why don’t you talk about Jesus? Do you feel ashamed of yourself?". We all learn, so if someone shows some impatience and talks about a certain kind of lack of symmetry, it irritates me a bit, because what would actually mean "symmetry" in dialogue. Is it that we will no longer give up or start forcing Jews to finally give way to us? Do we want them to say, "Okay, let's say Jesus was half-Messiah, not one hundred percent, not exactly kosher, but let's give it forty percent today, then maybe we'll get up to fifty percent". Will they then take the right step in our direction, or should the Jews do us a few pogroms?
How do you assess the Rabbis' statement of December 3, 2015, in which they acknowledged that Christianity is God's gift to the world?
It was fantastic. Especially because the statement was issued by orthodox rabbis. Being in Jerusalem while preparation for the pilgrimage of Benedict XVI, I passed by the synagogue and noticed powerful papal flags that would have been unthinkable in that place.
We Christians should never forget that the prejudices of the Jews towards us have never taken the acts of violence that Christians have been subjected to the prejudices against Jews. The Ghetto wasn’t invented by Hitler but by our Christian ancestors who wanted to separate Jews from each other.
Already in ancient, pagan Rome, the Jewish Diaspora, however, was grouped in a separate district. Later, Jews also avoided Christians themselves. They wanted to stick together for religious, moral and cultural reasons. Living near the synagogue, among their own, made their lives simply easier. Of course, they were often not welcome in other districts of the city. It seems, however, that the formation of ghettos resulted both from the approach of Christians and from the approach of the Jews.
I wouldn’t seek any further explanation here. The Ghetto was invented only to separate the Jews from the Christians. During the occupation, one of the Polish bishops wrote a pastoral letter in which he warned against allowing Polish children to play with Jewish children, because they have a bad influence on Christian children. This is the aftermath of what led to the creation of the ghetto. In fact, the Jewish labeling was invented in Catholic Spain.
It is true that Christians weren’t free from prejudices against Jews. However, it happened differently. Two later Popes, Karol Wojtyła and Eugenio Pacelli, for example, had Jewish friends in childhood. Karol Wojtyła had Jerzy Kluger, and Eugenio Pacelli had Guido Mendez, to whom Pius XII went on a Sabbath supper as a future Pius XII, and later helped him even to escape to Palestine. However, I would like to ask you about something else. Although Eugenio Pacelli - before he became Pope - called national socialism a pagan ideology and the greatest heresy of those times, some still see Christianity in the prelude to the extermination of Jews. You, however, once said that Hitler, wanting to kill Jews, in fact wanted to beat God.
Yes of course. If the Jews ran out, it would mean that God does not exist. We need Jews. I look with regret at the empty synagogues. May the Lord find a synagogue in Tel Aviv. It is very difficult to find them there. They are buried somewhere. On Sabbath Tel Aviv is having fun, not praying. As for Nazism and fascism, these were pagan and atheistic ideologies, completely cut off from God and Christianity. In my opinion, they didn’t have Christian roots, they were a rejection of Christianity. On the other hand, Bishop Mieczysław Cisło, until recently the chairman of the Committee for Dialogue with Judaism of the Polish Episcopate Conference, said that if the Nostra aetate declaration had been announced before 1939, the Kielce pogrom would certainly not have happened, and perhaps the extermination wouldn’t have happened.
You often meet Polish and Jewish youth. How do you assess the relationship between young Poles and Jews?
I know the research, which was carried out on a group of Israeli, German and Polish youth. An interesting thing was observed. Namely, the Israelis with Germany quickly find a common language. They make friends very quickly and these friendships are permanent. A German who befriends an Israeli generalizes his friendship and says that if this Israeli is cool, then other Israelis are also cool. It is the opposite with Poles and Israelis. There is a distance between them, and if they become friends, the Pole befriends this particular Jew, so he says that David is cool, but all Jews are not cool at all.
And what does the other side of the coin look like, that is, the attitude of young Jews to their Polish peers?
Jews have the same distance, but a greater tendency to generalize. When they become friends with the Pole, they are more likely to transfer this good relationship and sympathy from a specific Pole to all Poles. I worked with Israeli youth for many years. They were prepared for this journey for a long time. I went to Israel, where I had meetings with them.
Is there a chance for you to rebuild Jewish life in Poland?
What is happening here is impressive. Religious life returns, we already have Polish rabbis, we have the Rabbinate of the Republic. A wide range of attitudes and environments. New challenges are still emerging. The problems of Jews who learned about their Jewishness in recent years are completely different from the older generations. I know people from this environment. Some of them have fuzzy identities. They have received Catholic upbringing and Catholicism is something important and close to them. For some, however, the Church is in some sense a wound, open and painful. Not everyone feels good in Poland, safely. Especially when there are incidents like in Wrocław, are there any statements in the style of Mr. Międlar or Mr. Wolski on public (governmental) television.
If not for the war, then at least 4 million Jews should be in Poland, maybe more. Can you imagine Poland with four or five million Jews? Today in Poland there are tens of thousands, maybe twenty. Meanwhile, around 100,000 Jews live in Budapest.
Some participants of the Polish- Jewish and Christian-Jewish dialogue complain that Jewish folklore and Klezmer music lull spiritual reflection. Perhaps, however, instead to complain about something that we can’t change, it is important to smuggle important and deep content with this type of work? Dressing a valuable message in a form that is attractive to ordinary people can help you get to know each other and understand each other better than learned theological disputes, which usually take place in the same, closed and hermetic environment. Of course, they are needed, but maybe it should somehow center it all? From the folkloric dune you can learn to use a carrier of spiritual and intellectual material for building bridges of mutual respect and understanding.
Of course, of course. However, I sometimes get a white fever when Leon Kozłowski arrives, loves and wonderful, he will tell a few szmonces (Jewish jokes) and play something from "Fiddler on the Roof". Everyone is drinking beer and eating sausages. They are satisfied with joyful. It does not quite suit me. Although I am not a very happy person, I think that we have not yet sufficiently grieved for those Jews who died.
Bishop Cisło wrote a very beautiful letter last year, in which he called for taking care of Jewish cemeteries, which are in a terrible condition. Still, in many places, if you ask about the Jewish cemetery, the locals will not know what You are talking about. Only when you say a cinder or a “okopisko” (hill up-place), will you understand. This is called a “okopisko”, because the Jewish cemetery must be clearly separated from the rest. Sometimes this Jewish community was too poor to build a wall, and so they made such a rock-strengthened trench, on marshes from the ground. In this way, the boundary of the cemetery was marked. His border was marked because, because Jews can’t make shortcuts through the cemetery and they are not allowed to enter the cemetery on the Sabbath.
Jewish cemeteries are part of our common heritage. Unfortunately, they are very often in a deplorable condition, because nobody cares about them.
I think that what should happen in the future is a combination of Polish and Jewish memory in one common memory. Is it possible? I don’t know. Maybe someone will say that it does not make sense. But I have such a desire. Jewish history is Polish history. Still, we are not able to understand it. Look at the textbooks of Polish history. For political reasons, we are celebrating the 1050th anniversary of the baptism of the Polish nation. After all, this Polish nation, these are also Jews who have been living here for a thousand years. Some of the first coins minted on Polish soil have Hebrew inscriptions. They have Hebrew letters, not Latin letters.
Commenting on the influence of Polish Jews on the uprising of Israel, Szewach Weiss once said that "Poland was pregnant with Israel." Some Poles fear that one day someone will say that "Jews were pregnant with Poland". Therefore, also a fragment of the text located on the monument after the blessed memory of Jews murdered in Jedwabne arouses their protests. This passage says that Jews from Jedwabne were "co-hosts of this land." Most Poles seem to think similarly and see Polish Jews not in the category of co-hosts of Poland, but its temporary guests.
Poles want to say that Poland was a welcoming country because it took Jews to itself. Jews, however, were not guests at all! A visitor can be for a week, a month, a year, but not for ten centuries! Jews have the same right to be on this earth and consider themselves as her hosts, like me or You. They were here a thousand years!
I ride around these little towns and say: "Here, Jews lived and here they were killed. You should honor their memory with the plaque". I hear: "Let the Jews give it money on that". I say to such a mayor: In this city you have buildings in which your inhabitants live. You have shops that are communal and you profit from them ... And you have the courage to say that the Jews would give money to commemorate the people who created the material substance of this city - which you now use and which no one is asking for?! Nobody - because these people are gone. Nobody will come and don’t ask for this building in which Biedronka is today, paying a lot of money every month for rent! And they can’t afford to have a modest, simple information board with the inscription «In our city lived so many Jews. Every Friday, they praised God in the synagogue, which stood in this place. They were all killed by the Germans that day» to celebrate their former co-inhabitants. But the walls of Polish cities and towns, roadside trees of Polish villages also remember the Poles who murdered their Jewish fellow citizens, and published them to the death of the German oppressors. Such stories must also be commemorated.
You have to remember Ulma and you have to remember who Ulma spent.
The Polish underground issued and executed a death sentence on this man later. Returning, however, to commemorate the Jews murdered by the Germans. Naming the perpetrators of the Holocaust happens really differently. The enchantment of reality even went so far that when the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv prepared a historical booklet for an Israeli youth going to Poland, in which the Germans appeared instead of the Nazis, the Israeli authorities refused to distribute it. On the other hand, in Turek, the Poles themselves refused to hang - a table prepared earlier by the Jews - a plaque dedicated to the memory of local Jews murdered by the Germans. The reason for the refusal was the Jews' disagreement with replacing the Germans with Nazis or Fascist. Thus - if you don’t want to - you entered into an infamous communist tradition. Few people today remember that Germans owe their full responsibility for the Holocaust and unleashing the WW2, among others the Cold War rivalry of the United States with the Soviet Union. The Americans in West Germany, and the communists in the GDR wanted to create a "new German." Among other things, the Polish communists renamed in 1949 - and thus in the year of the GDR - the Main Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, Investigation on Hitler's Crimes in Poland. Where two beats, the third one uses it. The third one was in this case Germany. Thanks to this, on most of the tablets and monuments devoted to the memory of Poles murdered during World War II, not only Germans but also Germans Nazis and Fascist: Lord Matthew Evans rebelled against the use of the word "Nazis" in 2015. Shortly after the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in the "Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen" he wrote to the "Guardian" a protest letter in which he opposed the substitution in the names of concentration camps with the word "German" with the word "Nazi". He noticed that through political correctness instead of talking about the WW2, as it is said about the WW1, and so that the British fought against Germany, it is now said that the British fought against the Nazis. In this way Nazism is detached from the Germans, as if national socialism wasn’t based on German nationalism at all.
There is no Nazi nation. Even if the executioners of extermination were here, for example, Latvians, they did so at the command of the German authorities, and so on the orders of the Germans. The German nation set a nine-month-old child in front of the firing squad. The city authorities, in which such barbarism took place, should teach their citizens the local history with the inclusion of this event. The martyr's death of the Jewish population is part of the history of this city and not exclusive Jewish history.
However, the inclusion of Jews by Poles in the history of their small homelands will not be so easy and simple. One of the reasons is the subordinate martyrdom rivalry between Poles and Jews, as well as the fear of dominating Polish history, especially the twentieth century, by strictly Jewish narrative, describing mainly the fate and suffering of the Jews, ignoring the suffering experienced by the Poles. For understandable reasons, Poles don’t want Poland to be seen outside mainly through the prism of a Jewish minority who once lived in it. From 1945 to 1989, we didn’t have a chance to create and promote Polish narratives outside of our borders on the subject of the Holocaust and the WW2. We also didn’t have the possibility of combining both perspectives - Jewish and Polish, into one coherent whole. Today, therefore, the Jewish vision of those events not only deviates from the Polish vision, but often stands in clear contradiction with it. Of course, the achievements and failures of Polish Jews are an integral part of both Polish and Jewish history. It can’t be separated. The history of Polish Jews is also part of the history of Polish Catholics, because the history of Polish Jews is an integral part of Polish history. In a wider dimension, the history of Poland is an integral part of the history of all Jews. However, understanding this fact and accepting it is a big problem both on the Jewish side and on the Polish side. What, in your opinion, should be done to overcome mutual prejudices that affect the relatively objective assessment of historical facts responsible for the present state of Polish-Jewish relations?
I wondered what would happen and what would be of personal importance to me and You if the Warsaw Uprising Museum were turned into a Museum of the Warsaw Uprisings. To build a pavilion at the Warsaw Uprising Museum, in which the history of the ghetto uprising would be told. Let the people who come there look at the history of two Warsaw uprisings. One would have to find a link to keep these exhibitions in the same form as is currently preserved in the Warsaw Uprising Museum. That one would complement the other. Not only that in this exhibition to refer to the Warsaw Uprising, find the same people whom we saw earlier in the exhibition dedicated to the uprising in the ghetto ... For example, Marek Edelman, who was a participant in both uprisings. Or Ziuta Hartman, my recently deceased friend, an honorary citizen of Warsaw.
I don’t know, however, what Jews would say if we wanted and could build something like that. The whole truth about the ghetto uprising and the whole truth about the Warsaw Uprising, would certainly be the whole truth about Poland as well as about ourselves. When I say the word "the whole truth" I feel a tingling on my back, because in such a museum we would show the moment when few insurgents puts Marek Edelman against the wall with the intention of being shot and only an alarmed officer stops the enthusiasts?
I admit that I didn’t know this story before. Certainly, however, your idea is very interesting and worth considering. I think that it would even have a chance to achieve it. For some time, meetings have been held at the Warsaw Uprising Museum as part of the cycle "Warsaw - the city of two uprisings", during which it is discussed, among others about the uprising in the ghetto and the Warsaw Uprising. However, the problem that inhibits such initiatives as the one proposed by You is the rivalry the Communists instilled between these two uprisings. It is also the same, unfortunately, in the Third Republic of Poland. People who argue that Warsaw Uprising is much less known in the world than the ghetto uprising, but they should realize that combining these two uprisings with one buckle will lead to the fact that the Warsaw Uprising will be heard in the farthest corners of the globe and, above all, no one will be wrong with them anymore. It seems, therefore, that the story of the uprising in the ghetto and the Warsaw Uprising with the help of one common and coherent narrative has a deep meaning and would be of great benefit to us.
In what other way it would be possible to talk about our common Polish-Jewish history?
In cooperation with the Americans, Bogdan's Journey documentary was made, the Polish title is At Planty 7/9. He talks a bit about the pogrom, a bit about Kielce, but above all about the path to reconciliation. It will be shown in American cinemas. Miriam Guterman, who saw the pogrom from the beginning to the end, is in this film. During the war she was hiding with a Polish family. She was hiding with her brother, who was killed by a Polish peasant during the change of the hideout. He did it completely without any interest. He simply knew that a Jew must be smitten. After the war, she returned to Kielce. Miraculously, she survived the pogrom. She saw how Poles murdered her friends and acquaintances. Then the communist authorities don’t want to let her leave Poland for years because she was an uncomfortable witness. Only after the intervention of a prominent activist from ZSL Ozga-Michalski, eventually he goes to Israel. I meet her there later. We fall in love with each other. All of our relationship is shown in the film. She is 92 years old. It does not move alone. However, suddenly I said to her: "Miriam, come to Kielce on July 4, the anniversary of the pogrom." And I got scared myself of this idea. Then her daughter, Sharon, calls and says: "Miriam will come." He comes to Kielce with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson on 4 July, on the anniversary of the pogrom. He stands in front of this building. The rain pours mercilessly. A crowd of people. And she says: "I love Poland, I love Kielce. I am a Polish Jew. Polish is my language. I don’t regret you. I feel sorry for those who hurt me and my loved ones. "
I have a moment under my eyelids, which unfortunately, was omitted during the editing of the film. Well, after Miriam's words, I see a man standing in the crowd who just cries, sobs. This is the point of all this history, what we talk about. What we Poles are going to do is go from various directions, with various political views, ideologies, or simply different life experiences, and reconciliation. Reconciliation with themselves. In fact, Christian-Jewish and Polish-Jewish dialogue is needed first of all for us Christians and for us Poles. So it is in fact a Christian-Christian and Polish-Polish dialogue. We want to forgive ourselves for certain things, but before we forgive them, let them call them honestly and openly. Miriam has gone a long way. I also went a very long way before that happened.
February 3, 2016