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.
The Jewish complex of Poles
with Uri Huppert
In 2012, at a party on the occasion of Independence Day in the Polish Ambassador's residence in Israel - where was also present the recently deceased Samuel Willenberg - you mentioned about the lecture "Who is a Jew?" that you gave in Bialystok a month earlier. You joked then that looking at the crowd that accompanied him, in Poland it would be rather to give a lecture entitled “Who isn’t a Jew?”. Why are Poles so interested in this subject?
Poles have a Jewish complex and it must be said that it is a unique complex. No other nation has such a complex. In the Polish nation, the concept of who is a Jew is so fascinating that it should be dealt with by a psychiatrist rather than a historian. This complex, however, results from the fact that Poland, which was in the Middle Ages and in modern times one of the most liberal countries in the world, focused on its territory a huge number of Jews, which before the outbreak of the WW2 reached over ten percent of the entire society. It was therefore a powerful and clearly perceptible minority. As will be taken into account that Poland was a de facto country with many minorities, it ceases to be surprising that for people who felt culturally, linguistically and civilizationally Poles, the foreignness of these minorities was extremely irritating and led to conflicts. I think that this conflict was much stronger that is what anti-Semites or even philo-semites imagine today. He was, however, in Poland was particularly strong because simply a large Jewish minority lived on the Polish land. It is in Poland within the framework of Judaism developed two completely different and completely noncontacting with each other concepts. On the one hand, Hasidism was established in the east of Poland, which was a Messianic and fundamentalist concept, based on the influence of Orthodox churches and Byzantines, and in its far genesis even on the admixtures of Iranian influences. On the other hand, the concept of Zionism was also created in Poland. Of course, it wasn’t created in Poland, but in Austria and Hungary, because Theodor Herzl was a Hungarian Jew, educated in German and Austrian culture. However, millions of Jews living in Poland were the strength of Zionism. Polish anti-Semitism fueled these movements and thus had a huge impact on the history of Jews. It created the extreme Orthodox Jew who doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world, unless he came there once from Jewish towns from the east of Poland. It also created a powerful national movement, Zionism, which was indeed part of the great nationalist movement that was created in Europe after the Spring of Nations.
If there is indeed something so specific and scientifically identifiable as "Polish anti-Semitism", then it can’t be forgotten that a significant influence on its face and shape - in addition to a number of other factors - had to include partitions and Russian anti-Semitism. The word "pogrom" after all comes from the Russian language and means the planned murder of a specific ethnic group. Most often, it was referred to massacres carried out in the Russian Empire on Eastern European Jews.
However, Russian anti-Semitism was much less important to Jews than Polish anti-Semitism. Russia has always been an area beyond the influence of Western Europe and has stood out of the way. She was always the East. Poland, on the other hand, always wanted to be Central-West. Thanks to this, Jews from Poland had constant contact with Western Europe and its political thought. Zionism, which originated in Vienna, was a movement of very enlightened, liberal and secular Jews. Thus, he had, through the location of Poland in the Western world, an enormous influence on the Jewish inhabitants of Poland, enlightened by civilization, who were over one million. This human background, which Poland had then, wasn’t in Hungary, Germany or Austria. Of these three and a half million Jews living in Poland, over 70 percent were people who belonged to the Jewish-Talmudic or Jewish-secular-socialist civilizations. One third, or over a million, were the Poles of the Mosaic faith. Polish Catholics, however, not took them in, but pushed them away. The Poles of the Mosaic faith experienced this rejection very much because they were people strongly associated with Polish civilization. This repulsion, however, was no longer such a problem for the Hasidim. The Orthodox Jews didn’t seek contacts with the Western world at all, including Poles. They were always quite happy that they had their own closed world.
Why did the Polish Catholics push the Poles of the Mosaic faith away from themselves?
Because the Poles had an aversion to this stereotypical, eastern Jew, which he also shed on those who wanted to be part of the Polish nation. Zygmunt Krasiński said simply that he doesn’t want converts, because they want to enter Polish civilization. He got scared of these converts. This led to a situation in which neither Jews converting to a Christian religion and wanting to become Poles, nor Poles of Jewish religion, nor Jews who didn’t convert to Catholic religion, but wanted to be Poles of Jewish nationality - just like Poles with Polish nationality - didn’t they were recognized as full of legal Poles. Polish anti-Semitism didn’t accept them as a threat to Poles and doesn’t do it to this day. He doesn’t accept a Jew to the Polish nation, regardless of whether his civilization is based on the Talmud or on Mickiewicz and Słowacki. In anti-Semitic publications appearing in Poland, all Jews, regardless of whether they are assimilated or a national, have always been only those who are guided by the Talmud in their thinking and behavior. Each time there will be a reason to mark these Jews. Because today, however, you can no longer pigeonhole all Jews, that they are Talmudic, they are said to be communists. If they aren’t communists, they are internationalists and bankers.
This is that what is nowhere in the world outside of Poland. The Poles pigeonhole these people just because they are of Jewish origin. And it doesn’t matter if they are of Jewish origin to the extent that Jewish orthodoxy considers them Jewish. Although for the Orthodox, the person who has the father of a Jew isn’t a Jew, for a Pole such a person will always be a Jew. Incidentally, this person is a Jew for Zionism, because according to the "Law of Return", such a person also has the opportunity to come to Israel, but this doesn’t change the fact that Poles have a big problem with classifying people as Jews.
Is thisn’t too generalized? On this principle, we can say that the Jews consider the "Goy" to be worse than themselves. It is known that similar views apply only to a certain part of the Jewish community, and not to all Jews.
I'm sorry: the term "goy" doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. By saying "Poles," I am not talking about all Poles, of course. However, I am referring to the problem that occurs among many of them. This problem mainly concerns Polish anti-Semites who not only don’t understand, but also don’t want to understand the great contribution made by Polish Jews - among whom were Julian Tuwim, Jan Brzechwa, or Artur Rubinstein - in Polish culture.
Recalling the figure of Artur Rubinstein, it is difficult not to mention that in 1945 at the ceremony of signing the Charter on the United Nations, when he didn’t see the flag of Poland among the state flags, who was a founding member of the United Nations, he said furiously: "In this Hall where great nations gathered to make this world better, I don’t see the flag of Poland for which this cruel war was fought". He added ostentatiously: "So now I will play the Polish national anthem!". When he sat down at the piano and began to play Mazurek Dąbrowskiego, all the delegates from other countries present in the hall rose. It is often forgotten that such outstanding people had a Jewish background as Hugo Steinhaus, Janusz Korczak, Antoni Lange, Antoni Słonimski, Wojciech Jerzy Has, Jacek Kaczmarski, Jan Kiepura, Bolesław Leśmian, Władysław Szpilman, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński and Wiera Gran, Irena Kirszenstein - Szewińska, Leopold Tyrmand, Bruno Schulz, prof. Ludwik Mazurek, Aleksander Hertz, Stanisław Lem, Marian Hemar and you could exchange long names for a long, long time. They undoubtedly gave Polish culture more than those who despise them. They were so much more saturated with Polishness than many of the anti-Semite Pole, which claims the right to determine whether they are Poles or not.
The tragedy, however, is that some of these eminent Polish Jews, or Poles who have Jewish origins or Poles of the Mosaic religion, weren’t recognized by the Poles and are still not. I will quote the words of my father who was in the service of the Polish Army. My father was an infantry soldier in the rank of an officer who fought in the ranks of the Polish army. He wasn’t the Jew who is afraid of water. At the moment when he was supposed to raise the rank of captain to the colonel, he heard that in order to get a promotion he must first baptize. My father replied “If sprinkling with water decides about my military capabilities and abilities, thank you so much for such an army!". And after treating him in this way, he joined the Zionist organization, and I think that Poland had a unique, and even a historical contribution to the creation of the State of Israel, this million Jews involved in social life, because there was no other country in the world. All generations involved in the construction of Israel came from Poland and were the military and intellectual elite of Israel. They were the elite in every respect.
Arthur Koestler argued that the command of the people fighting for the creation of the Israeli state were mostly "young Polish intellectuals brought up in the knight's tradition of romantic independence and revolutionary uprisings". Many Jews from Poland had a huge impact on the creation and formation of the Israeli state. We can mention here the founder and leader Lochame Cherut Jisra'el (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) - Abraham Stern; co-founder of Mapam and the member of Maki party - Moshe Sneh, one of the signatories of the declaration of independence of Israel - Isaac Grünbaum; Israel's first prime minister, activist and leader of the Zionist movement and one of the main founders of Israel - David Ben Gurion; former Prime Minister and President of Israel - Szimon Peres; leader of Bejtar in Poland and leader of the military organization "Irgun Cwai Leumi" (National Armed Organization) - Menachem Begin; the former Prime Minister of Israel - Yitzhak Shamir; former Knesset chairman - Szewach Weiss; Israel's multiple minister - Chaim Landau; the founder Lochame HaGeta'ot (Kibbutz The Ghetto Fighters) - Icchak Cukierman; creator and director of the Military Intelligence Agency Aman-Isser Be'eri; or the former head of the Mossad - Zwi Zamir. The father of the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was born in Warsaw. As Szymon Peres once said: "In our first Knesset, 61 of 120 members came from Poland. (...) And in the temporary government of this country, led by Dawid Ben Gurion, six of the 13 ministers were of Polish descent. "Also from Poland come so important to Israel people of culture, like Uri Cwi Grinberg, Natan Alterman, or Isaac Bashevis Singer. it would be worth popularizing this knowledge both in Poland and in Israel.
That's right. Poland, however, lost this incredible strength of intellect through anti-Semitism. Before the war, anti-Semitic and ND tendencies intensified. They were hostile to minorities, including the Jewish minority. At the same time, with this hostility, Zionist organizations in European countries were, however, very strongly supported by national or even nationalist movements. They had one common goal, namely, that there would be no Jews in Europe. Poles also helped the Zionist organizations to build a state in Palestine so that the Jews could leave Poland. Therefore, Israel's construction took place at that time in the context of the desire to get rid of Jews from Europe. However, the Holocaust changed the approach of the world to the idea of the creation of the State of Israel, and above all, the motives for helping Jews. The Holocaust was because I know a drama that changed the whole concept of European relations to minorities, including Jews. At that time, moral and historical coercion was created, so that similar things would never happen again in the future. This increased acceptance among European countries of the idea of owning their own state by Jews who had survived the extermination.
You mentioned the help that Poles gave to the Zionist organizations in the interwar period. It is worth recalling that members of Lochame Cherut Jisra'el, Betar and Irgun Cwai Leumi were trained by instructors from the Polish Army. Jewish trainings were held, among others in Zofiówka in Wołyń, Poddębino near Łódź, or near Andrychów. How could the Israeli state look if it weren’t for war and annihilation from the perspective of the scale of involvement of Polish Jews and the Polish state in the Israeli construction project?
The Holocaust undoubtedly changed the character of the Israeli state. Because of him, Jews from Iran, Iraq, North Africa and Ethiopia came to Israel instead of Polish Jews. I'm not saying that if there was no Holocaust, they wouldn’t come. The proportions, however, would be different from those present and Israel would have a completely different face. According to what we know from history, the Polish government was very friendly towards the Zionist movement. If not for the war and the Holocaust, then most probably the majority of Israeli citizens would have a European origin, mainly Polish origin. Regardless, however, the Polish Jews played a huge role in establishing the state of Israel.
How would you rate the idea of the Polish President's participation in the celebration of Israel Independence Day and emphasize in his speech that he is proud of the great contribution and effort of Polish Jews to the construction of the Israeli state?
This would certainly be a very important event that wouldn’t go unnoticed in Israel. Only this is apparently an obvious statement. Certainly many people would like to hear something about it. After all, in Jerusalem itself, on the main military cemetery, there is a huge, impressive monument dedicated to the Jews serving in the Polish Army and fighting during the WW2.
Your father was a soldier of the Polish Army and a Polish patriot. Is to commemorate people like him, or people like Jakub Zylberberg, a volunteer from 1920, who is mentioned in his autobiography by prof. Hirszfeld, should there be a Mausoleum of Jewish Fighters for the Independence of Poland in Warsaw? In the end, there were many Zylberbergs who loved Poland and were ready to give their lives for her.
My father didn’t consider himself a Jewish fighter. He considered himself a Polish fighter of the Mosaic faith.
I think that under the name Mausoleum of Jewish Fighters for the Independence of Poland, Poles of Jewish origin can be picked up as well. I understand, however, that it would be better if this name were modified by adding to it: "Polish Fighters of Jewish Religion"?
Of course. My father and his brothers considered themselves Polish, not Jewish officers. Their Jewish origin often caused problems, but they were Poles. However, they wouldn’t have such problems if they had even a German origin. The name of Władysław Anders isn’t a Polish last name after all. Nevertheless, no Pole has trouble with him. If, however, Władysław Anders' mother was a Jew, he would say that he was a lousy Jew. This is the problem. For a long time I was a legal advisor at the Ministry of Tourism, Israel's contacts. When I was in Masuria, I once met a man who had a network of hotels called "Anders" there, so I asked him if it was somehow connected with General Anders, and he replied: "Don’t even ask". Once time came to me, a tourist from Germany, Mr. Anders from Bremen. It turned out that these buildings were his property, but he didn’t want to return them, All he asked was to name this hotel network with his name". The hotel owner met his request and is proud of it today. He is proud because it is a German name. I think it would be different if it was Jewish. Similarly with General Józef Bem. Although his grandfather was a Prussian officer, the whole district of Warsaw - Bemowo was named in his honor.
With Józef Bem, the hero of Poles and Hungarians, the story is even more complicated. He converted to Islam, took the name of Murat Pasha and was the field marshal of the army of the Ottoman Empire.
In any case, he certainly didn’t have Polish origin. And did Romuald Traugutt have Polish origin? And does anyone ask, what was the origin of Emilia Plater? Nobody asks about it, because it is important that they weren’t Jews. Meanwhile, from the posthumous honoring in Bialystok, the inventors of the Esperanto language, Ludwik Zamenhof, resigned only because he was a Jew. It's sad.
However, the Polish political and intellectual elite doesn’t attach much importance to the Jewish origin of great Poles. This may be testified by the fact that the President of Poland Andrzej Duda in 2015 prided himself on the UN forum for the achievements of Rafał Lemkin, a Polish lawyer with a Jewish origin who created the concept of "genocide." On the other hand, it can’t be denied that Poland didn’t counts among Polish Nobel laureates many Polish Jews, or Poles of Jewish descent, such as: Józef Rotblat, Andrzej Wiktor Schally, Roald Hoffman, Albert Abraham Michelson, Szymon Peres (Perski), Jerzy Charpak (Szarpak), Leonid Hurwicz, Mieczysław Begin (Biegun), Isaac Singer, or Tadeusz Reichstein. We didn’t have such a problem with Maria Skłodowska-Curie, even though she tied her life to France.
Yes, there were many of them and they aren’t considered Polish Nobel Prize winners at all. Only because they were Jews don’t see them and not talk about them. One pretends that they don’t exist.
Even the politically correct environment of "Gazeta Wyborcza" doesn’t count them among the Polish Nobel Prize winners. So is there any chance that this will change?
No, it's too deeply vaccinated. When it comes to Gazeta Wyborcza, it is only anti-Semites who consider it to be a Jewish newspaper. Here again we return to whoever considers whom to whom. From the point of view of orthodoxy wife of Polish President Andrew Duda isn’t Jewish, because it was her father, but not mother was a Jew. From the Polish point of view, however, she is a Jew. Adam Michnik isn’t a Jew either, although he is considered a great Jew, he is an exemplary Jew. These are things that are annoying, because such interest in who is Jew, what is in Poland, there is nowhere in the world. In some way, it can be nice to me, of course, because I come to Poland and in my lecture the room is full and still add chairs. However, it shouldn’t be that way. That interest is abnormal. it is precisely from this Jewish complex of Poles, which today has a different face than before the war, when the ND investigated the origin of individuals, so that the management to make them feel that they aren’t Poles, but Jews. It didn’t matter to the Polish anti-Semites whether they were dealing with Tuwim, Brzechwa or Rubinstein. For them, they were only Jews.
Julian Tuwim in the text from 1944 titled “We, the Polish Jews” exceptionally accurately explained to people who undermine his Polishness, why he is Polish. The most significant argument on the part of Julian Tuwim is his clamoring statement: “I am Polish, because I just want to".
It is true. Antisemites, however, didn’t like it and would never accept such a person as a Pole. He will be a Jew for them forever. A Jew was also discovered in Fryderyk Chopin. His mother supposedly supposed to be a Frankis. However, because Chopin has a French surname, it would be too much if he was additionally considered as a Jew. Adam Mickiewicz is already clogged up. Mickiewicz is too great for the Poles to be considered Jewish.
I know that Adam Mickiewicz planned to organize a Jewish Legion in Turkey during the Crimean War. What, however, would bear witness to the Jewish origin of the Polish national poet?
His mother was a Frankis. After all, this is Mickiewicz's "44", it is a reference to Kabbalah!
"The Son of a foreign mother, in his blood old heroes and his name will be forty and four"?
Exactly. It is difficult to imagine Polish civilization in its purest form without people who see anti-Semites as Jews.
You can find information on the Internet that Saint John Paul II was a Jew. Perhaps, however, if the man widely regarded as the greatest Pole in history had indeed Jewish roots, then those Poles who are negative towards Jews would change their attitude towards them?
I highly appreciated John Paul II. A photo from the meeting with him hangs on the wall of my office. As for your question, I regret to say that a Pole who is an anti-Semite will still see John Paul II as much as he wants. The brothers of the Jews don’t really correspond to the concepts of the narrow-minded Polish church. If it turned out that John Paul II is a Jew in the fourth or fifth generation, he would immediately resolve the problem of his involvement in dialogue with the Jews and he would soon cease to count on him.
When it comes to searching for Jewish descent from John Paul II, it seems that not only anti-Semites would like to see him as a man of Jewish origin, but also some Jews. Historian Yaakov Wise claims that the striving to improve relations between the Church and Jews is most probably caused by the Jewish roots of the mother of Karol Wojtyła. Such a statement may indicate that the negative stereotypes concerning the Catholic Church are so strongly rooted in some Jews that it is difficult for them to accept at all that people of the Church who don’t have Jewish background can rise above divisions and prejudices and draw to them hand for reconciliation.
Perhaps. However, the fact that some Poles saw a Jewish origin in John Paul II past testifies to the fact that Polish anti-Semitism is much deeper and stronger than Christian anti-Semitism (Catholic and Orthodox). Polish anti-Semitism is much more racial than other anti-Semitisms. I am not talking here, of course, about Nazi anti-Semitism.
Regarding the absurd insinuations regarding John Paul II and the fantasies surrounding the non-Aryan origin of Lolek Wojtyła's mother, it should be said that they confirm the anti-Christian racial complex of perhaps negligible Polish margin that both Poland and the Polish Church should spit out. How this complex can be reconcile with prayer to Christ the Jew and his unbaptised mother Mary with the demands of her coronation to the queen of Poland? of course, this is a paraphrase of the statement of Bishop Pieronek.
However, bearing in mind what Nazi anti-Semitism was, which included Jews into the category of subhumans, it is hard to see any racial background in Polish anti-Semitism. Poles never considered themselves a race of masters, while Jews were subhumans. It was commonly believed that anti-Semitism among Poles came primarily from the economic rivalry between Poles and Jews, the influence of Russian anti-Semitism on Poles, and was rooted in the culture and religious tensions between Catholicism and Judaism.
It's not true. In Poland, in a colloquial manner, every person is considered to be a Jew, whom even a grandmother was a Jewess. A person who is of Jewish descent will always be a Jew for Poles. This desire to look in pedigree, physiognomy, character, gait, or any other fanciful attributes of proof that someone is Jewish also results from the complex of Poles towards Jews. For some Poles, every stranger is a potential Jew. Another thing is that the germ of anti-Semitism was Catholicism. According to the former Jesuit priest, Stanisław Obirek, who married Israeli and left the convent, anti-Semitism was created to separate itself from the original Christ of Judaism. Jesus Christ didn’t say anything about Christianity after all. Christ wasn’t a Christian, but he was a Jew. No theology can deny that Jesus and all his apostles were Jews. There wasn’t a single man around him who wasn’t a Jew. They were all praying inthe Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, the Second Temple of Solomon. Only after the period of Peter and Paulus activity there was a differentiation and schism. It wasn’t the only schism in the history of the world. A similar schism took place even between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The hatred between them was so strong that one murdered the other. Between Catholics and Protestants, or between Catholics and the Orthodox, we had the same. Thus, through schism, Christians wanted to distinguish themselves from Jews.
First, however, the Jews rejected Christians from themselves, recognizing them as heretics to be fought off. However, I think it's a topic for a longer conversation.
This is certainly a complex topic. In any case, it was, however, an internal schism. It is enough to read Henryk Sienkiewicz's “Quo Vadis” to see that the Romans didn’t see the difference between Jews and Christians when they were send to the lions. They were the same nationality, they looked the same, and above all, their beliefs followed from the same monotheistic religions concept.
You see the germ of anti-Semitism in Christianity. Jews who were expelled from Catholic Spain, however, were accepted by Catholic Poland.
There is no doubt that Poland has a phenomenal gold card in accepting minorities. However, this was happening as long as Poland was a superpower. At the time when Poland ceased to be it and was enslaved, the antagonisms were inherently evident and came to the fore. Then a question was asked about who actually is a real Pole and whether he is with us or with our enemies. Therefore, the orthodox Pole was no longer one hundred percent Polish. A Lutheran Pole in Silesia likewise. It was the suspicion and distrust of Polish Catholics towards their compatriots of another denomination that often pushed them into the embrace of the partitioner. Hence the relatively easy Germanization of Poles from Silesia. Later, the time came for Roman Dmowski who, with his conception of "I am a Pole because I am a Catholic" most probably drew from Judaism.
You once said provocatively that Israel adopted the concept of nationality formulated by Roman Dmowski.
It was a bit cynical. I wanted to show the ridiculousness of the entire concept in which religion and ethnicity are connected. This wasn’t Dmowski's patent. In the end, Dmowski's concept accurately reflects what the years before him were created by the Jews. He borrowed this concept not only from Judaism, but also from Islam. Roman Dmowski, unfortunately, accepted the negative sides of these religions to his national philosophy. Only the concept of Reform Judaism had to come to separate religion and nationality. In Israel, however, the concept of combining religion with the ethnicity still exists in the formal, orthodox core. In Poland, the followers of this concept are Orthodox, headed by Rabbi Michael Schudrich. This is the common concept of Roman Dmowski and Michael Schudrich. That's why I think that certain orthodox rabbis are just such Jewish Dmowski. Let them say that it isn’t! Maybe they don’t know who Roman Dmowski was, because they have too weak Polish roots? If the roots of the rabbis working in Poland are American, not Polish, it is very difficult for them to do their work in Poland because they don’t understand Poland and Poles. However, if it wasn’t, they certainly don’t belong to the Polish civilization. They were transplanted to Poland. The transplanted organ will never be part of the body.
So the chief rabbi of Poland should be Polish Jew?
There is no such thing as the chief rabbi of Poland! The Constitution of the Republic of Poland doesn’t give the power to create a national religion. Even the Catholic Church, which is the church of the majority of Poles, independently decides within its structures about who will be a bishop or a cardinal. The President of Poland doesn’t appoint any bishop, because there are no such legal possibilities. Therefore, the president couldn’t appoint any chief rabbi of Poland. The fact that this title was used earlier by Pinchas Joskowicz doesn’t prove anything. Using it is completely illegal. It is self-conceit. In the best case, Rabbi Schudrich may be the main or the chief orthodox rabbi of Warsaw, Poland, Nożyk, or what he wants, according to his decision - within the orthodox structures. This is the internal decision of the organization in which he works. But this is primarily about the concept itself. He can’t be the chief rabbi of Poland, because there are independent Jewish reformed communes in Poland, over which he doesn’t exercise supervision.
In that case, I will slightly modify my previous question. Is the function of the main rabbi of Orthodox Jews in Poland sould be held by a person from Poland?
I don’t know. I am not an orthodox and I have never been one. My parents and my grandfather weren’t Orthodox either. So I don’t think that I would have any right to decide what is good and what isn’t good for Orthodox Jews in Poland. I wish them all the best, as I wish all the best to Protestants.
Do you celebrate the Sabbath?
No. I mean, I celebrate it my way, so not according to the orthodox concept. However, it seems that the laconic question requires additional explanation. The European Enlightenment made a dramatic revolution in Judaism. Despite the Talmudic, rabbinical closed regulations of Jewish theology, the concept of Saturday's rest day, the idea of secular Judaism appeared, which gave rise to two secular movements. The first was the "Bundists", a secular movement of assimilation into Polish culture, while preserving the Jewish language, the second-national Zionist movement, deeply anti-rabbi in its early days, which in time consumed some of the other secular movements among Jews.
Thus, Saturday, or a day off work, was an antithesis for the secular camps and even an ostentatious denial of the orthodox rabbinical "Shabbat." Two religious denominations joined the liberal movement: the Reformation and the so-called traditional ones who also moved away from the closed orthodox "Sabbath". These two movements were created in the Western Europe over 250 years ago, almost parallel to Hasidism and Orthodox messianism in the Eastern borderlands of Poland during the partitions. The lack of ecumenism in Judaism blew this religious conflict, and thus confrontation around the forms of spending Saturday.
In answer specifically, Saturday or Sabbath is literally a day off from work. For me it is a day for car trips and cultural entertainment, not a day laden with statutory restrictions and obligatory collective prayer.
Apparently, Poles often have problems with counting Polish Jews living outside of Poland to the group of Polonia. However, this problem also applies to Polish Jews who usually don’t define themselves as Polonia. Who do you feel after more than sixty years spent in Israel?
It is a difficult question. There is no doubt that I am a citizen of Israel. However, I don’t have Jewish background in a cultural sense. For generations, my origin as well as my parents and grandparents is Polish. Polish was the only language of my great-grandparents. This isn’t an exception, because there were over one million people in Poland like me. A handful of this million remain. There are no people, and the disease has been. I feel so an Israeli, but my roots are Polish civilization. I can’t change in one generation. This is very difficult, if not impossible. Also a Pole who is in the United States, despite having American citizenship, will always have Polish origin.
Closing of the “Polish Bookstore. A.E. Neustein" in Tel Aviv is considered with the closure in 2009 of the Polish-language newspaper "Nowiny - Kurier" for the symbolic end of the era of the Polish word in Israel. The almost complete disappearance of the presence of the Polish word in this country may also be proved by the fact that the official website of the Polish Institute in Israel doesn’t have a Polish language version. How is the knowledge of the Polish language among the next generations of Polish Jews living in Israel? Did you teach your children the Polish language?
It happens differently. As for me, however, my sons never heard Polish at home. I didn’t want them to blame us for bringing them up as emigrants. We were emigrants and we didn’t want to pass it on to children. That was the philosophy of our family. In the definition of my nationality, my sons are inscribed, however, Hebrew, not Jewish, because there is a national difference between Jewish and Hebrew. In the place where religious affiliation is given, my sons have a dash in their turn. I thought that it wasn’t I who should decide about it, but they themselves.
Do you keep the contacts with Jews from Poland in Israel?
The perfect question, but absolutely not. There was, of course, emigration from 1957-1958, so-called emigration of Gomułka. They came to me then to the office, because they knew that I knew Polish. However, I remained with them at my professional level. It was only later, as the years passed, that I discovered that somebody from Poland lived somewhere in Israel. I absolutely didn’t associate my company with Polish origin. In my environment, no one uses the Polish language as a language of social conversation. On the basis of my experience and knowledge, however, I can state with all responsibility that in the entire history of Israel there was no emigration that was falling into the Israeli society less than it did with Polish emigration. It isn’t only about language, but also about what it has done in almost every field of social life. What, however, fundamentally changed Israel, is the Russian emigration. The Russians came here, among others thanks to the article I won, because they usually got Israeli citizenship, proving to the authorities that their father was a Jew. Evil spirits say that some have used false papers for this purpose. Just like me during the German occupation, I had Aryan papers, so they - according to evil spirits - had to have Semitic papers.
In Russian emigration to Israel is also a Polish accent. At the beginning of the 90s, as part of the "Most" operation, in cooperation with Israeli and Polish special services, as well as the participation of Andrzej Gąsiorowski and Bogusław Bagsik, who financed the entire operation with money from ART-B, they were transported to Israel from the USSR by Poland about 100,000 Jews. Trains then brought them to Dworzec Gdański in Warsaw, and thus to a symbolic place, because it was from this station that the Poles of Jewish origin left after March 1968. In general, in 1989-1996 came to Israel from former areas the USSR, over a million people speaking Russian, raised by Soviet standards. What in addition to the demographic and linguistic landscape has changed the Russian aliyah in Israel?
Russian emigration has changed Israel on many levels. Above all, the concept of dernocracy and parliamentarism has been undermined. Not because they wanted to undermine her, but because they were part of an element that, according to the Stalinist-Byzantine tradition, didn’t understand the spirit of democracy. Democracy doesn’t recognize not only Judaism, but also Christianity and Islam. The only difference in the approach of these religions to democracy lies in the fact that Catholicism has for centuries developed, together with the enlightenment of Western civilization, a concept that ensures the mutual coexistence of the Church and the democratic system.
Christianity, unlike other religions, also had a ready base for the separation of church and state, in the form of the words of Jesus contained in the Gospel: "Very well, pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and God what belongs to God."
Exactly. This isn’t in Islam or Judaism. This, however, only gave European civilization. Returning to the Russians in Israel, it should be emphasized that once the orthodox elements are combined with authoritative elements, they paradoxically find a common language easily. From the area of the former USSR people came to Israel with a completely different vision of the state, from that of the Jewish orthodox. Somewhere, however, they were jointly associated with the orthodox belief that democracy isn’t a concept worthy of their way of life.
Despite many problems, however, Israel is still a democratic state.
Democracy in Israel today is under fire. As well as being under fire in Poland. The elements that never felt comfortable in a liberal atmosphere come to the fore. Other structures require liberalism, other authoritarianism, and other still totalitarianism. And each structure draws together those who are comfortable for it. So it isn’t an exchange of elites, but the throwing out of the liberal concept and replacing it with other concepts that have their own elements. In Israel, the new elites are new, not because the elites didn’t let them reach the top of the social hierarchy, but because these new elites couldn’t have been elite for objective reasons. They weren’t blocked, as they claim. They didn’t have before only the possibility of expression that one can have only in a clerical state. If we have a clerical state, it is clear that such a new elite has more to say than university professors. The professor's elite is then replaced by a clerical elite in the form of rabbis. They aren’t, therefore, the new elites of the liberal system, but the new elites of the clerical system.
What is your attitude to Zionism?
It all depends on how we define Zionism. Among Jews in Israel and in the world there is the same discussion about what Zionism really was similiary how it was in Solidarity in Poland. You can be a vassal of "Solidarity" and support Lech Wałęsa or support "Solidarity" and the Kaczyński brothers. Personally, I think that Zionism was a secular concept that was replaced by a religious concept that didn’t have elements of liberal democracy in its germination. If, of course, someone who had a different vision of Zionism heard me, he would say I'm talking nonsense. Zionism, however, has a completely different form and content than it was at the beginning. It doesn’t only result from personnel changes or generational changes, but from the change of the whole concept. It is directly related to each other. With the new concept, new people come. Thus, from the secular state created in 1948, due to religious concepts, Israel became - as is aptly described by prof. Michal Pietrzak - confessional state. The state of Israel is today much more confessional than the concepts of nonformal, anti-Semitic movements in Poland. The national concept in Israel is fundamentally nationalist and clerical. So, returning to the question, what would happen if there was no Holocaust. Well, if it wasn’t there, to this day the state of Israel would be a democratic-liberal state.
In one of your articles, you wrote that "the notion of democracy conflicts with the adjective «Jewish». Conceptually, «Jewish» means (at least according to the Orthodox version) rabbinic and Talmudic". According to the original concept of Zionism, the State Israel wasn’t supposed to be a strictly Jewish state. Did anything change in this matter?
The state of Israel is correct.
However, the state Israel is spoken in Polish.
This is however a mistake. This state isn’t called State Israel, but State of Israel. This "of" in Poland has disappeared somewhere. They were omitted, why is it “of”? Therefore, it is that State of the Nation of Israel. This is important because it was created just as the state of Israel. The concept of the state had a future vision, because not every Jew is a citizen of Israel and not every citizen of Israel must necessarily be a Jew. A Jew may be an American or a Pole. In Israel, we have 20 percent an Arab minority who has Israeli citizenship, so they are also Israeli. Also the Druze who serve in the Israeli army are Israeli citizens. Besides, in proportion to the size of the community, more Druze than the Jewish ultra-Orthodox lost their lives in the defense of Israel.
Not without significance for the assessment of whether in certain circumstances Israel may be called a Jewish state is perhaps also a question of the possibility of obtaining Israeli citizenship by Jews from around the world and the definition of a Jew in Israeli law?
The definition of who is Jewish has been significantly narrowed over the years. In 1970, under the influence of religious parties in accordance with the concept in the orthodox edition, the act was changed, emphasizing that for the purposes of emigration to Israel, a Jew is one who has a Jewish mother. In this way, the base on which Israel was created was broken down. I said then, wait a minute, if the state of Israel wasn’t established in 1948, but in 1939, it would mean that you wouldn’t let people who were in Germany burn in Auschwitz! You can see that it hit them because they changed the law. They says that if a Jew is Jewish, he has a Jewish mother, but he who has a Jewish father also has the right to emigrate to Israel. According to of the Mosaic conception through the entire sequence of the Bible, the kings of Israel and Judea - because these were the two kingdoms - always came from male semen. For it was said that they came from the seed of Abraham. At one point, the Judaeans - because they were still Judaists, not Jews - were exiled to Babylonia, from where they returned after many years. At the time, the two prophets decided that all Judaic men would have to leave their Babylonian wives and only be married to Judaic women. And hence this decision, and indeed the curse, that you aren’t a Jew if you don’t have a Jewish mother. Since the Karaites didn’t accept this Talmudic concept, their father's and father's descent matters.
In one of your lectures you said that the Karaites weren’t recognized by Hitler as Jews. While searching information on this subject, I came across a mention that in 1944 even a battalion was formed in the Waffen SS under the Karaites. Although Karaism is derived from Judaism, according to Nazi scholars, who was Jewish was decided by racial affiliation, not religion. The Karaites were considered Tatars of a Quasi-Mosaic religion. Apparently Karaite SS-men even had permission to erect prayers.
It happened really differently. One of the heroes of modern Israel is doctor of medicine Moshe Marzouk, Karaim, who was sentenced by Egypt to death for spying for Israel. As I have said, the Karaites differ from the Jews also because they originate not from their mother, but from their father. It's the same in the Samaritans and in the Jews of Ethiopia, who are wrongly called Jews, because in reality they aren’t. Jew is the Judean. They aren’t Judaeans, because their separation from this division took place in the period in which only the Kingdom of Israel existed. Therefore, even today they call themselves the House of Israel. However, this entire mosaic has been expelled by religious Orthodox people who have the right to return to Israel. The same was done with the Jews who were baptized. In the field of the definition of being a Jew there were many problems related to religious affiliation. They often led to various absurdities. For example, Father Daniel Rufeisen, who saved in Bełżec since the death of at least five hundred Jews, didn’t receive the Medal of the Righteous Among the Nations just because, according to Yad Vashem, he was a Jew. For Israel, Father Rufeisen wasn’t a Jew. Although his parents were Jews, the fact that he wasn’t a Jew was to be testified by the fact that he was baptized. When his trial took place, I wasn’t yet an advocate and I couldn’t defend him. At the time, I took a voice in this great discussion that flared up in Israel. However, this is a topic for a separate conversation. You are sitting in a place where these very special cases are being conducted. This is the field I have dedicated to many years of my life. Anyway, all literature is connected with it.
Stella Zylbersztajn once told me that when someone asked fr. Rufeisen about whom he would support if Jews played with Poles. He replied: "Indifferently. Always ours would win". Father Rufeisen was a Jew or a Pole?
I knew Rufeisen personally. I have even a photo of him with Adam Michnik from Jerusalem. Regarding your question, however, I must say that by getting the opportunity to leave Poland for Israel, he deprived himself of Polish citizenship. There was no element of Polishness in his identity. He considered himself a Jew of the Catholic religion. The real personal tragedy, therefore, was for him not to be recognized by the Jewish state as a Jew, simply because he had been baptized. In addition to the feeling of being a Jew, the most important element for him was the element of catholicity, which he didn’t want to get rid of. After all, he demonstratively came to Israel in his habit as a Jew of Jewish nationality and Catholic religion! Father Rufeisen even told me about his concept, which, of course, wasn’t recognized by either Pope John Paul II or the State of Israel. He wanted, just like in Poland, a Catholic Church with its own Episcopate, so that in Israel a Hebrew church with its own Episcopate would be established within the Catholic church. He would be the first cardinal in him. Certainly, he didn’t mean honors, but a sacred principle according to which Jews could find their own place in the Church, just like other nations. John Paul II didn’t go for it. He understood that in this way he would lead to unnecessary conflict with the Jews. He was very keen on creating a common platform for dialogue between Christianity and Judaism. The late decision of the Pope was, for Father Rufeisen, yet another personal tragedy that had already completely destroyed him psychologically. He ceased to walk in a habit and wore a civilian dress. He remained, however, until the end of his life in the monastery of Carmel, in Haifa.
Whether Israel's non-recognition of Jewish Christians as Jews did not sometimes become one of the foundations of the identity of Israeli Jews?
Father Rufeisen wasn’t the first nor the last. There were many such cases. In Israel, it was feared that the Catholic religion would dilute the concept of being a Jew and lead to a situation in which one would stop to see who is Jewish and who isn’t. This is where the trial came, during which the majority of the adjudicating panel stated that Father Rufeisen can’t be considered a Jew, because he is also a Catholic. Edith Stein, a nun who died in Auschwitz, was killed by the Germans for being a Jew. Later, John Paul II proclaimed her a saint of the Catholic Church. However, there is no religious orthodoxy in Judaism with that this size of understanding. There is no doubt that among the six million people who were killed by the Germans and who are universally recognized as Jews, many were Jews only according to the Nazi definition, and not according to the Talmudic definition. Those who were baptized and had a father or grandfather Jew also went to death. From the religious and theological point of view, the Orthodox have made a tragic mistake, not treating all these people as Jews. If I were the main orthodox rabbi of Israel or Rabbi Schudrich, I would clearly say that all those who had only a father or grandfather or were baptized but died during the WW2 as Jews are also Jews! They sacrificed their Judaism with blood. That's what I would do if I was, of course, a rabbi. However, there is no fear, I will not be him.
Referring to the definition of who is Jew, it is worth referring to the claims made by Jewish organizations that demand from Poland restitution of property after all Polish Jews who died in the Holocaust, and not only Jews according to definition of Jewish orthodoxy. These claims also apply primarily to those who didn’t leave any heirs. Let me give you an example, which can show the oddity of Jewish claims against Poland. Well, the Arabs who escaped from Palestine as a result of hostilities and were absent during the census in 1948 were deprived of the possibility of returning to their homes and the right to dispose of their abandoned property by Israel. Although the descendants of these people live and have property left to them by their ancestors not only moral law, but also often possess property acts, it is difficult today to imagine that Israel would return their property belonging to their ancestors. In the case of claims made against Poles by Jewish organizations or Israel, even moral issues are doubtful, because in the end they aren’t Poles, but the Germans killed and robbed Polish Jews on a mass scale. In addition, they were Polish citizens, not the United States or Israel, who didn’t exist at all during the Holocaust, and thus the claims of Jewish organizations have no basis in international law. Further demand by Jewish organizations from Poles of 65 billion dollars seems to lead only to mutual accusations and to maintain a continuous distrust and tension between Poles and Jews. What do you think about all this?
The similarity between the abandoned property of the Palestinians and the property of Poles (including Jews) who died or left Poland as a result of the WW2, the Holocaust and communism, is illusory. Israel demands compensation for the property of Jews from Iraq, Iran and Yemen. Peace talks with Palestinians and the Arab League can solve this problem on the basis of mutual property valuation.
Poland isn’t at war with its then citizens who died tragically, leaving no legal heirs in their mass. Undoubtedly, the masses of these people were focused on Zionism, as evidenced by their massive post-war emigration to Israel. At one time, in the confrontation with the Palestinian "live" on Polish television regarding the return of Palestinian property, I replied that the Poles had expelled over 5 million Germans from the so-called Regained Territories, and none of the Germans received compensation from Poland and didn’t return. In spite of the agreement with the German from 1991, the status quo ante was preserved and sealed with this arrangement. My Palestinian opponent fell silent on this argument.
Does the Poles accept that the World Jewish Congress or Israel has a moral right to apply for the restitution of all Polish Jews having citizenship of the Second Polish Republic wouldn’t worsen the current situation of Jews in Poland? This could be taken away, as a confirmation of the anti-Semitic thesis that even assimilated Jews or Poles of Jewish origin are more strongly associated with Jewish organizations and Israel than with Poland and other Poles, and therefore not only should they not be trusted but also they can’t entrust them with important state functions.
I have a critical attitude towards actions undertaken by the World Jewish Congress. In principle, the restitution of property isn’t a Jewish matter. Compensation is due to Polish citizens and their heirs. I agree with the thesis that Polish Jews didn’t constitute one compact "formation". Dr. Marek Edelman, hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, was an ardent opponent of Zionism and no less Jewish orthodoxy. He presented a very significant faction of Polish citizens of Jewish nationality grouped under the banner of "Bund". Neither he nor his kinsmen had any intention of donating their then estates to Zionist Israel or rabbis yeshivot.
"For so many of us, Poland stores the keys to our history, our identity, to discover resources and experiences enclosed in the deepest layers of our souls" - wrote in the book “Sparks Amidst the Ashes: The Spiritual Legacy of Polish Jewry”, student of the Jewish theologian Abraham J. Heschel, American Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin. Speaking on behalf of the Jews, he addresses the Poles in this way: "Please help us recover the keys to Jewish spirituality stored in this country. We ask you to help us discover our past, so that we can build our future". Many Jews come to Warsaw for a Yiddish language course, because they are run at the highest level in the world. However, this is one of the few exceptions when it comes to keeping the cultural heritage of Jews in Poland at a high level. Do you think that Jews can find in Poland the keys to Jewish history and identity? Is the revival of Jewish life in Poland still possible?
I think this topic is already closed. Today, the life of Jews in Poland can’t be a reconstruction of what was. This must be the Polish Jews who clearly distinguish and separate the issues of their nationality from their religion. In Poland, today, Poles of the Mosaic faith should live, who will be able to be both Poles and Jews at the same time, just as you can be simultaneously a Pole and a Protestant, a Pole and a Catholic. This kind of reformed Judaism, which is the Judaism of the absolute majority of Jews in America, corresponds most to the national structure of Poland and the sensitivity of Poles. American Jews, mostly in the 70-80 percent range they aren’t orthodox today. They are Americans of the Mosaic faith. Thus, the Jew in Poland is to be a Pole of the Mosaic faith today. It is to be an individual of this kind who defines religion separately and nationality separately. A Jewish orthodox can’t be on the Polish nationality, just as a Muslim can’t be a French nationality. It was only the French who thought that if someone has a French passport, he automatically becomes a Frenchman. It didn’t pass the exam though. This concept is obviously the result of the French Revolution that changed the whole world. However, she doesn’t update today among the Muslim community living in France. Thus, orthodox Judaism and Islam make it difficult for their followers to join European civilization, which for hundreds of years has been based on a national concept - on a native language, national culture, national theater, national literature, etc. Under this national concept, religion can be a foundation, unless of course it doesn’t interfere with national identification. This denial exists in Dmowski, and in the Jewish Orthodox and Muslim. These are the difficulties which, together with the influx of Muslim refugees and immigrants, are shattering Europe today. If these Muslim immigrants were culturally and religiously flexible, there would be no shortage on the part of European countries. This jam is due to the fact that there is a cohesion of nationality and religion among Muslims. However, I believe that Poland should be open to the adoption of a "foreign". The only condition Poland should put in place is that the stranger would be ready to accept Polish culture. Looking at this perspective on events taking place in Europe, Jews shouldn’t be for Poles, no problem at all. Islam and Muslims may be the only problem for Poles at the moment. Perhaps Jews are a significant problem in the theoretical deliberations of some Poles who have a Jewish complex. In general, however, the Jewish thread should not bother the Poles
It seems that many Poles have a slightly different problem. While asking someone in public about whether he has French or German origins isn’t a problem, asking someone about Jewish origin is quite embarrassing, as if there was something shameful and even anti-Semitic in answering this question. It is a taboo subject that causes a person asking a question, not only to feel uncomfortable, but additionally realizes that he may be called an anti-Semite. Publicly the task of such a question is sometimes also perceived as a kind of accusation against the person being asked about it. This is despite the fact that the pejorative character of the word "Jew" is slowly becoming a thing of the past. I can honestly say that there is a kind of paranoia in all of this.
This is also the aspect of this Jewish complex of Poles.
And doesn’t this sometimes result from something the opposite, that is, from the improperly understood political correctness imposed on the Polish society?
In the United States, however, there is no such problem and the artist on TV is proud to talk about his background, indicating that his mother is Italian and his father is Jewish. Who has what origin and where it comes from is very interesting for everyone and people boast about it. In fact, Jewish origin is treated like other people. When the audience hears about the roots of a given artist, everyone just applauds.
Since we are already at the United States, it is impossible not to ask about the attitude of American Jews to Poles. Many people in Poland have the conviction that the American Jews are unfriendly and hostile towards the Poles. This conviction Is true?
I think that's how it is. I lived in the United States for a few long years and my observations would be similar. Although my observations are individual, they confirm the opinion that Jews in the United States are poorly and even hostile towards Poles. It is difficult to notice and it may look unethical. Polish anti-Semitism led only to their emigration from Poland. Because of this, contrary to Germany, Poland paradoxically created a phenomenally organized, broad, anti-Polish front. Jews who left Poland because of anti-Semitism were usually intelligent people and quickly took up high positions in American society. Similar positions are also held by their children and grandchildren. It is an intellectual elite that includes many professors. This idiotic Polish anti-Semitism, unfortunately, has grown into the consciousness of successive generations of American Jews to such an extent that although they absolutely don’t know Polish culture and language today, they feel deep in their bones that this Poland must be denied. This is a great tragedy for Poland, because through its anti-Semitism it created a large number of carriers, and even ambassadors of anti-Polishness. Because America has become the center of civilization and military of the whole world, the echo of these anti-Polish testimonies is extremely powerful today. It is different in Israel. Jews who fled from Poland to Palestine began to build a new state, unencumbered by the problems of the past. Hence the attitude of Jews in Israel to Poland isn’t as hostile as the attitude of American Jews and there are no anti-Polish ambassadors in it.
Is it possible to change the attitude of American Jews to Poles or at least cause them to cease to be ambassadors of anti-Polishness and anti-Polishism?
I think that in the case of American Jews, the lack of culture is a big problem. The average American sees only America. The whole world is like Disneyland to him. He doesn’t see him as he is and doesn’t see the realities of individual places. He only looks at the world through the prism of how he lives in the United States. America still has a tradition of isolation and is still unaware of what is going on outside. This also applies to the Jewish community. I have many examples of what I say. My friend, Jew, who was a professor of history at one of the American universities, spoke in one of his lectures about the WW2 such nonsense that I couldn’t believe my ears. It was absolute illiteracy. If such things were said by the professor, what knowledge should the average American Jew have? Nevertheless, next generations are brought up there.
Additionally, in American textbooks for young people there is almost no information about Polish culture, history or great Poles.
But this is Poland's fault, because she isn’t fighting for it. Poland has the conviction that everyone knows about her successes and beautiful cards in history. Nobody knows about it! In Washington there is a Kosciuszko bridge. Who in the United States knows that Tadeusz Kosciuszko was Polish?!
Although supposedly Tadeusz Kosciuszko, after George Washington, is to have the most memorials in the US, I guess that he was Polish knew rather not many Americans. It is hardly surprising, however, since so far no Hollywood super-production has been made about him.
This is the fault of Poland and the lack of understanding of marketing principles. Poland simply can’t sell. This is despite the fact that Polish Americans have an elite at a very high level. Of course, there are peasants who came there in the 19th century and have no idea. However, the entire Polish intelligentsia lives in Chicago, however, which is the largest Polish city in the world. Nobody uses it, however. Poles have a mental problem, because they think that all people know about key things. And what seems to be a little less crucial to the Poles - but it is still important - leave important themes to oneself, not even trying to find out who other than Poles learned about it.
What can we do about it?
I came to Poland for the first time in 1989. I must say that from that time, over the last twenty-five years, Poland has undergone an incredible metamorphosis. She was fully aware of what I was talking about and knew that something must be change, and she was going in the right direction to a large extent. An example is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, which was created as part of the Polish historical policy. It was pointed out in a delicate and unequivocal manner that the Holocaust completely obscured the rich history of the millennium of the common existence of Jews and Poles in Polish lands. In this way, an attempt was made to bring to the surface the completely forgotten chapters of Polish-Jewish history. This testifies to the huge awareness of people who have ruled Poland for the last twenty-five years. I hope that the people who rule it will continue to pursue the path chosen earlier, because only in this way does Poland have a chance to get rid of the ND and anti-Semitic faces. Poles, however, must learn to promote their strengths and achievements in the world. Poles, on the other hand, have many reasons to be proud. One of them is their largest number of Righteous in Yad Vashem in the world, and the fact that these medals have a much greater importance and value than those awarded to people of a different nationality. The heroism of Poles required much greater heroism than the heroism of a German who saved a Jew.. The German didn’t face the death penalty for helping a Jew, and the Pole did. There is no doubt, however, that Jews who have an exceptionally deep sense of history are closely watching what is happening in Poland today. If, then, there is a similar incident that took place in Wrocław, where the effigy of a Jew was burned, Poland will lose its gained image.
You aren’t the first person who mentions it. It shows, however, how easy it is to make today a completely marginal event a symbol used by the media and people who look for confirmation of anti-Semitism of Poles in every similar event. This event has had a much broader echo in the world than the daily reports from Western European countries about physical attacks on Jews, who are no longer so keen to wear a kipa in public places, but also fear for the safety of their families decide to leave Europe. Although against this background, burning the effigy of a Jew is a complete margin, it has been condemned by many Poles. Some of the right-wing circles even wrote in an open letter to Polish patriots that: "One who smokes a doll or destroys walls with anti-Semitic inscriptions can’t be considered a patriot". On the other hand, the Polish prosecutor's office set the person who burnt the puppet with the accusation of hating and demanded that the court impose a penalty of 10 months restricting freedom in the form of social work. But the court sentenced the man to 10 months of imprisonment. This punishment was so severe that the appeals of the prosecutor's office brought about its mitigation.
However, you will not hear this abroad. For a few years of my life, I dealt with information, i.e. what professionally is called propaganda. I can therefore say that one of the shortcomings of the Polish character is the inability to practice effective propaganda. Poles still don’t understand this. I will give you an example. I don’t come here to the question of whether Lech Wałęsa cooperated with the communists or not. In this case, it is completely irrelevant. Well, Lech Wałęsa was the first president of Poland who appeared in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. The only foreigner who appeared in the Knesset in front of him was President Anwar as-Sadat and this took place during the conclusion of peace between Israel and Egypt. It is, therefore, that the Polish president was supposed to speak in the Knesset, it was a great achievement of Polish diplomacy. Before announcing the speech by Lech Walesa, the Polish embassy asked me what he should say to be welcomed in Israel. I replied to them without hesitation that he would say: "he came here because there was a common front of Jews and Poles in the fight against Hitler. – “Mr. Huppert, after all, they all know"- a representative of the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv told me. Because they all knew about it, Lech Wałęsa didn’t say it. And that was the key to Israel and the Jews! I don’t know what's going on today, no one remembers what Wałęsa said at the time, but it was enough for him to know: "We fought together against Hitler!" But no, the Poles decided that everyone knows that. If everyone knows that, to whom he got here?! This is a perfect example of the Poles' misunderstanding of what propaganda is.
Do Jews and Poles stick with each other in a kind of clinch? It seems that our relations have been dominated on both sides by extremism, which is perfectly located in a vicious circle of mutual prejudices and accusations. At the same time, each party claims that the opposite site started and is guilty of everything. Although neither Poles nor Jews are blameless, we are still throwing stones at ourselves, and there is plenty of ammunition. Stone for stone, accusation for accusation, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Anti-Semitism for anti-Polonism and anti-Polonism as anti-Semitism.
There is no doubt at all that these two tragic concepts naturally overlap. Anti-Semitism creates anti-Polonism, and anti-Polonism creates anti-Semitism. In this way, mutual hostility, strangeness, separation from oneself and falling into separatism are created in the field of Polish-Jewish relations. There is no doubt that it is. These are two colliding mental concepts.
It seems that today the next battlefield between the Pole and the Jews is the issue of remembrance about the WW2 and about Polish-Jewish relations just after the war.
This is a very sensitive and delicate topic. At the time of the outbreak of the WW2, I was six or seven years old. My father died because he was betrayed by a Pole who was a Volksdeutsch. However, my mother was saved only thanks to Poles and the Home Army. In the lapel of the jacket I carry a badge attached to the Union of Veterans of the Republic of Poland and Former Political Prisoners, who belonged to my mother. I am very proud of this stamp.
What motives guided the people who helped you during the WW2?
I survived part of the German occupation of Poland as an altar-boy in the church. I learned to be an altar boy in Latin. Hence, I know the altar altar-boy prayers better than any Jewish prayer. Individually, I can’t give a testimony on a historical scale, although such individual testimonies also bear witness to something and are, of course, a contribution to a wider historical approach. I was the initiator of the trial in Yad Vashem, as a result of which two people received the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The people who helped us, of course, were much more. However, I never knew their names, which made it impossible to start a trial in Yad Vashem, as a result of which the title of the Righteous would be received by everyone who helped us then. On the other hand, these were often key people for our survival. There is no doubt, then, that there were Poles who helped Jews. And this fact doesn’t change even the fact that those who saved Jews were sometimes anti-Semites. Mrs. Mordarska, whom I mention in my memories, was allegedly anti-Semitic. When my mother confessed to her once that she was Jewish, she heard from her: "Are you Jewish? And you look like a normal person". And that Mrs. Mordarska saved our lives.
You once said that the collaborators weren’t only anti-Semites, but also Jewish policemen in the ghettos and a Jewish capo in the camps. Although we didn’t have our own Quisling, and as the only nation under German occupation, we didn’t have a fascist puppet government that would cooperate with Hitler. Indeed, as the only state in the world we have set up a state institution to help Jews, there is still talk of the collaboration of Poles with Germans in killing Jews. This question may sound somewhat naive, but is there really no equality today in the settlement of nations and states in terms of their attitude towards Jews during the WW2?
After all, we weren’t Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, Austrians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Frenchmen, or other nations who cooperated with Hitler. In addition, hardly anybody in the world knows that many Polish minorities lived in pre-war Poland. All those who were Polish citizens are treated like Poles, and yet some Polish citizens were also Ukrainians who didn’t consider themselves Poles at all. So when the third generation of Jews says that their grandparents were murdered in Poland, despite the fact that Ukrainians often stood behind it, it is said that they were murdered by Poles. Because who lives in Poland? Sure, Poles. Next to me sat on the plane once a lady, who during the conversation told me that the Poles are criminals, because they killed her grandparents. I therefore ask her where these grandparents lived. She answers me in Lithuania. I tell her that it wasn’t Poles, it was Lithuanians. However, she further says that, after all, it was Poland. Again, I try to explain to her that geographically yes, but not the Poles but the Lithuanians who belonged to the SS units were responsible for the murder of her grandparents. It was still difficult to figure it out, so finally I gave an example that brightened her whole matter. I asked her this way: "We have 20 percent Arabs in Israel. If someone is murdered by an Arab, will you say that he murdered the Jew?". As you can see, for Jews in the third or fourth generation, it is often incomprehensible and they can’t distinguish between Lithuanian, Ukrainian or Belarusian from a Pole. However, Poles are shown as responsible for presenting as fascists and collaborators for years in Russian propaganda, which has been sharpened and even perfected during the communist period. Fighting for communist and pro-Soviet Poland, Moscow was able to advertise in the world Polish fascists and anti-Semites and fighting against their great and heroic Red Arm. Because in this propaganda directed to the world, the Polish fascists and the liberating Red Army were present for several decades, it is not surprising that this is how people look at Polish history and Poles. manipulation, however, you must be able to you should approach accordingly. However, one must be able to approach these vile manipulations today. Poland has its excellent reasons, which, however, it can’t sell and promote these reasons. Does anyone today in the world know, except of course the Poles themselves, that Polish airmen saved London?
As far as I know, in 2016, work began on the film about 303 Squadron. There are many topics worth filming and presenting to the world. One of them is even the decoding of Enigma codes by Polish cryptologists. Instead of pursuing a historical policy in the field of mass culture, which would effectively displace history and break the stereotypes that harm us. We lose on our own request. we even put on ourselves. For we create films like Pokłosie and Ida, in which not only almost no Germans are at all, but the theme is not German anti-Semitism, which led to the Holocaust, but is part of the German historical policy, exaggerated Polish anti-Semitism.
Poland doesn’t refer to the history of the WW2 in a completely open way. He can’t present his great and heroic activity during the war and events that clearly speak in favor of her, such as Żegota, Monte Casino or the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. After all, the Russians still claim that the WW2 began not on September 1, 1939, but on June 22, 1941. This Soviet concept strongly affects Israeli society through the Russians who finished Soviet schools and brought them to Israel to see the heroic Red Army.
However, also the Israeli authorities face the Soviet vision of the history of the WW2. In Israel, after all, an aid law was adopted for veterans of the Soviet Army, in which you even sent a protest letter to the Israeli government. In one of your texts, you wrote that it is hard to believe that "the Jewish state pays people who fought side by side with the Third Reich". As if that wasn’t enough, As if that was not enough, in June 2012, on the initiative of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a monument of gratitude to the Red Army financed by Israel was created in Netanya. In the official celebrations of the unveiling of this monument took part, inter alia, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
Yes, it is very sad. The problem is that in Israel, there is no systematic and active Polish historical propaganda that could oppose Russian propaganda, which affects the Israeli state and its policy. Of course, the Polish embassy in Israel has been staffed very efficiently so far. Here, however, there is a need for brainstorming and the creation of a concept that allows an effective propaganda attack.
How do you assess the idea of penalizing the use of the wording "Polish concentration camps" by the media?
This isn’t a good way. Nobody who has any oil in his head wouldn’t say that concentration camps are Polish. In Israel, such cases no longer happen. For sharpening the law can lead to the opposite effects.
Not only the term “Polish concentration camps" works on the Poles, like a cloth for a bull. It is also annoying in the context of the story of Nazis about the WW2, under which Poles sometimes also included.
As for the use of the term Nazi in the media, it was unfortunately invented by the Americans who wanted to divide the Germans into good and bad ones. Ultimately, this led to a division into Germans and Nazis. Poland, however, doesn’t bear the consequences of this distinction. Poland suffers only from the consequences of being ashamed or afraid to speak on the forum of the European Union that the Germans were criminals. Of course, it can’t be spoken in a crude, but balanced way, because Polish politics should be based today not on Russia, but on the European Union and Germany. For the moment when Poland weakened her position in the European Union, it would become an easy meal for Russia. Poland is in a particularly delicate and difficult situation today. After the war she got a territory from Germany and if she wants to fight openly with the Germans, they will claim their own. Everything must be done carefully and with reason. Demonstrative removal of the European Union's flags will certainly not help Poland. Here, we need a reflection on strategy and effective historical propaganda, which would also cover the education of European, American and Israeli youth.
One of my questions concerns Israeli youth education. Well, in February 2014, in the article entitled "We warmly welcome you to Auschwitz" in the Gazeta Wyborcza, its author, a Polish woman with Israeli citizenship, Ela Sidi, criticized the martyrological travels of young Jews to Poland, namely the visit by most of the only places connected with the extermination of Jews and skipping contacts with contemporary Poland and Poles. According to the report prepared for the Knesset, only 15,000 of the 300,000 young Jews who visited Poland were supposed to have such contacts until 2008. Of course, this is slowly changing. According to the Ministry of Education data from 2011, 49 percent. youth from secular schools and 4 percent young people from religious schools had a meeting with Polish youth in the program. Ela Sidi also pointed out in her article that these trips are nationalistic-Zionist goals and perpetuate anti-Polish stereotypes and prejudices. Examples are published in 2011 - at the request of the Israeli Ministry of Education - a summary of the 21-year trips of Israeli youth to Poland, according to which 92 percent of Israeli youth declared that under the influence of trips to Poland better understood the importance of the creation of the State of Israel for Jews and anti-Semitism being a threat to their lives (87%). Trips to Poland also resulted in an increase in the percentage of students who understood the necessity of the Israeli Defense Forces (83%) and strengthened their pride in being an Israeli (85%), and led to an increase in the sense of solidarity with other Jews (80%). Elsewhere, Ela Sidi states that according to a survey by prof. Moshe Zimmermann of the Hebrew University, who conducted a survey among Israeli high school students participating in "camp trips" to Poland, shows that some of the youth think that during the WW2, "Poles were the main criminals, and the Germans only delivered wagons" (newspaper "Haarec", 7 October 2008.) Eli Sidi's text met with harsh criticism of some Jewish communities, especially the right-wing and Zionist-national circles, but many people expressed their support, including Piotr Jassem from Toronto, president of the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada in Toronto. While others have indicated that at last someone has dared to raise this problem in public. What do you think?
There is no doubt that the trips of Israeli youth to Poland are in fact biased. However, this can be changed by forcing the Israeli side to make every such trip visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Israeli youth should also be obliged to meet with Polish youth, so that after their visit in Poland, they will not leave with the crematorium chimneys in their heads. Of course, Poland will not be able to easily change the program of these trips, because they perfectly fit into the Israeli right-wing policy of contemporary Israel. However, it is also one of its basic errors. It serves to constantly scaring of Israeli society a new Holocaust, which is why it lives under constant pressure from this great tragedy. The Holocaust is also interpreted by the Israeli right, in accordance with the current targets of their policy. This is undoubtedly destructive not only for the Israeli society, but also for the relations of Poles and Jews. Because of this historical and educational policy, Israeli youth looks at contemporary Poland and Poles not through the prism of the entire history of Polish-Jewish relations, but only through the prism of the Holocaust. t only through the prism of the Holocaust Even when talking about the Holocaust, it doesn’t emphasize what is very important when it comes to Polish-Jewish relations. Therefore, in Israel, speaking of the attitude of Poles towards Jews during the WW2, I often have to repeat that only in Poland, the death penalty was used on Poles who help Jews. They don’t know it at all here. This is a holy truth that must be repeated here. It is the decisive factor when it comes to formulating opinions on the behavior of Poles during the WW2. Another decisive factor in this matter is that Poles who wanted to conceal Jews were additionally hindered by the fact that many Jews didn’t know Polish at all. Contrary to what is believed, it was much more problematic than facial features and physiognomy. One of the people I volunteered at Yad Vashem was Marian Gołębiowski, who was the director of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw in the PRL. Once, when we were walking along the street during the war, he said to me: "You have to go with me more often because you save me with your Aryan appearance. I look like three Jews. As soon as they see my nose, they immediately think that I am a Jew". When he walked without me, the Nazis still grabbed him on the street during roundups and took off his trousers to see if he was circumcised, so I saved him as that Aryan. Jewish physiognomy is a Polish invention. These are Polish fantasies.
Why do you think that the issue of Jewish physiognomy is just a Polish invention?
The average German didn’t distinguish the Pole from Jew. I say this to you with full responsibility. Hitler looked like a Jew. Himmler also looked like Jew. Rosenberg looked like three Jews. This mania of searching for Jewish physiognomy in Poland, which is always a multinational state in which Armenians, Turks, Czechs, Tatars, Germans, Hungarians, Dutch, Jews, Lithuanians, Russians, Ukrainians and many other nations mingle, is something completely unreasonable. There is no Polish race.
Does it mean that we are a bit mongrel like that?
There is no doubt that yes. Polishness and being a Pole have nothing to do with race. This, however, makes the Polish civilization fantastic. When talking about Polish Jews, one must not forget that in the 18th century, Polish Jews understood that they didn’t have access to Polish society unless they converted into Catholic religion. The conversion was supposed to be for Jews who wanted to assimilate with the key to Polishness. It was in the 18th century that the false Messiah, Jakub Frank, started his activity, and he introduced the Polish nobility, not to the Polish peasants, but to the Polish nobility, almost 10,000 Jews. At that time, they received noble titles and entered Polish noble families. Perhaps the Jewish complex is even true among Poles, because today there is no Polish nobleman whose veins wouldn’t flow even one drop of Jewish blood. Looking at today's descendants of the Polish nobility. It must be said that it has even more of Jewish physiognomy than the average Jew.
Maybe there is something in it. Part of my family has such Semitic features - despite the descendants of the Polish nobility - that at first glance, no one would say that it is Poles. For sure we are all very mixed up. They can be testified by the study of the Polish anthropologist, Jan Czekanowski, from which it follows that there are many nordes among Poles and among Polish Jews.
Looking at Poles and Jews from the perspective of a specific physiognomy is, as you can see, completely stereotypical.
In Poland, these Poles were often taken for Jews who were not Jews and vice versa. Poles who were in fact Jews were considered to be Poles. For example, here in Palestine, before Israel was created, young Palestinians of European descent were mobilized, whose Aryan appearance allowed them to operate easily in Europe in British sabotage units.
Professor Shlomo Sand claims in a book titled when and how the Jewish Nation was invented that David Ben Gurion before the uprising of Israel believed that the Palestinians were essentially the looted Jews who once adopted Islam.
Ben Gurion was right in many points of his political programs. This is a truth and an undeniable fact. As I know with DNA research, most likely the Galilean Arabs are in fact Jews who have accepted Islam. It was madness not to include them in the Israeli society. Returning, however, to the Polish mania for watching Jewish physiognomy. Let you go through the Old Town in Warsaw. You will see many Jews there, none of whom are really Jewish. For example, Armenian priests have Jewish noses. Armenians and Tatars were Polish nobles. Everything, however, focused on those unfortunate Jews.
As Stanisław Jerzy Lec once wrote: "Jews are guilty of everything. Their God created us all".
I must tell you that even without getting into anthropological research, you can only historically distinguish two societies in the world and nations that have in their germ a large percentage of the Jewish minority. They are Spaniards and Poles. Spain and Poland are two countries that in a certain period of their existence had a large Jewish minority, which suddenly ceased to exist. In Spain, it was caused by the Inquisition, which forced the Jews either to baptism and the transition to Catholicism or to emigration. In Poland, as part of the Holocaust carried out by the Germans, most Jews were murdered. Those who survived the war either had to hide or escape. I don’t compare the scale of the tragedy in any way, because Jews were much easier to escape from Spain during the Inquisition than from Poland, in which the Germans burned Jews in concentration camps and where the Poles were punished with death for helping Jews. From the demographic point of view and presence in the societies of people with Jewish roots, there is a crazy similarity between Poles and Spaniards. Despite this, only in Poland is paying so much attention to this unfortunate "Jewish physiognomy".
An exceptionally important event for many Jews, which confirmed them in the conviction that the stereotype of the Pole's anti-Semite is real and in Poland there is no place for Jews, it was a pogrom in Kielce in 1946. Do you take into account the possibility of a communist provocation there when assessing these tragic events?
I don’t accept it at all, as an argument. For as there is no ground, no provocation will help. If there was no hay, it couldn’t be set on fire. Only because there was an atmosphere susceptible to such actions, it was possible to lead to pogroms. I talked about this with brother of Czesław Miłosz, a filmmaker Andrzej Miłosz, who made a film about the Kielce pogrom. He told me that the drama wasn’t only about the fact that it could happen, but also about the fact that it happened at such a terrible moment. People who fled before the Holocaust were murdered. After all, the Jews returned to their homes and the Poles didn’t want to see them. It creates drama. So it doesn’t matter if it was a provocation or not. It is important that this has happened at all. This tragedy cast a shadow over the whole Polish society and therefore it must be properly illuminated. There are voices saying that there were such cases when the Polish partisans didn’t receive Jews into their party. Jews often chose to flee to Soviet partisans because they were afraid that Polish partisans might turn out to be anti-Semites.
However, this isn’t a 0-1 situation. Jews also fought in the force of the Polish partisans. Many Jews also owe their salvation to the soldiers of the Polish underground. The fear of Jews against Polish partisans was often related to the fact that in 1939, Jewish communists helped Soviet invaders send Poles to Siberia. This often intensified the mutual reluctance of prejudice and also led to hatred.
Naturally, yes. Therefore, the whole story should be explained and accurately described. An argument is argued for an argument, but a comprehensive view of Polish-Jewish history can’t be seen. I am an example of this. I wouldn’t talk to you now if there were no Poles who saved me and enabled me to survive the war. There were, however, completely different cases.
It is true. On the one hand, we are accused of Communist crimes against humanity of Solomon Morel, whose extradition, unfortunately, Israel refused Poland, and on the other hand, we have Jerzy Kluger, a soldier of the Anders Army marked with a Cross for the Battle of Monte Cassino, who helped establish diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican and led to Pope John Paul II visiting the synagogue in Rome. As you can see, it is very difficult to arrive at such diverse, complex and rich events and figures as Polish-Jewish relations to a comprehensive approach to this matter, into one cohesive whole. The question is: it is possible at all?
You have to take it seriously, shift it and not close yourself in the stereotypes and mutual prejudices that make up the crooked mirror.
I would like such serious, stripped of stereotypes, but also falsely understood political correctness debate to lead to true Polish-Jewish reconciliation, and it wasn’t just - as it was the case before - a shell.
It is slowly happening. The last twenty-five years are full of optimism. May modern Poland didn’t disappoint.