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.
Poland gave birth to Israel
with Szewach Weiss
A portrait of Marshal Józef Piłsudski allegedly hung on the wall of the house. Was Józef Piłsudski an important figure for Polish Jews?
Two portraits hung on the wall at our home. One was Józef Piłsudski, and the other was the Emperor of Austria, Franz Jozef. I don’t know if it was the one and only house in Borysław and Galicja, where it looked like this. Before the war, Jews lived very differently. Some went to the synagogue every day, others every week, and the third only on important holidays. Some of these Galician Jews spoke Polish, some in Yiddish, but all of them prayed in Hebrew. So there were both tangent points and significant differences. My grandparents were, for example, very religious. The parents, however, didn’t exaggerate the observance of kosher principles. Nevertheless, our house was a typical Jewish, Galician house. So I think that in other houses Jews could have a positive attitude towards Piłsudski and Franz Jozef. For what reason? Until 1918, Galicja was under Austrian rule. Emperor Franz Jozef had a very good heart. He also approached Jews and Judaism with respect. He allowed them to study in Vienna and open Jewish cultural centers to the area. My father went to school in Drohobycz, where he was taught in Polish, but also in German. Hence, he was in some way related to German culture. As for Józef Piłsudski, he was popular among Jews, among others because he believed that Poland could be a multiethnic state. According to him, Polish citizenship included people who had them, to the Polish nation. This was also true of Ukrainians and Jews. Józef Piłsudski was a very open and positively disposed towards Jews. As my parents told me when Piłsudski died in 193. Jews were very sad for that. With the death of Józef Piłsudski, the anti-Semitic ND no longer had any restrictions on Jewish matters. Pitsudski was, in a way, a defender of the Jews.
Did Poland have a big influence on the creation of Israel?
Big. The Zionist movement was created by Teodor Herzl, a Jew, journalist and publicist, who was born in Budapest. In 1892, he began to organize the Zionist movement in the world. The masses that was kidnapped by the Zionist idea, however, were on the Polish territories that were then annexed. Although Galicja was under Austrian partition, it was always Poland for most Jews. The same was true of Wielkopolska with Poznań, which was under Prussian rule and Lublin, which was under the Russian partition. These were all parts of Poland. In the end, every Jew had a Pole here as his neighbor. In the birth certificate of Dawid Ben-Gurion, Płońsk is a place of his birth. This birth certificate is of course in Russian, because the administration in the Polish lands was then Russian. However, it was still Polish lands. Ben-Gurion spoke Polish and even studied at the University of Warsaw. In Palestine, to which David Ben-Gurion left in 1906, he sometimes referred to his Russian background. Among the creators of the State of Israel, however, such an origin was very popular at the time. They usually came from Russia, Ukraine or Belarus. Not coincidentally, our first president and two-time president of the World Zionist Organization Chaim Weizmann - who left the small town near Minsk to the University of Manchester in Great Britain, where he became a world-famous chemist - spoke in Russian. The second and fourth President of Israel came from Ukraine. The third president came from Belarus. The masses, however, were in Poland. The statehood of Israel undoubtedly has very strong ties with Poland.
After the war and extermination, the right atmosphere in the world developed and the consent that Jews should have their own state. According to unofficial statistics, around 600,000 Jew lived in Palestine under the British mandate. Jewish society was already there organized almost as in a normal state. There were trade unions, education, health insurance, etc. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem was established before the war, in 1925. The opening ceremony was present, among others Albert Einstein.
It is worth mentioning in the context of the Hebrew University about Dr. Józef Chazanowicz, who is considered to be a co-founder of the National and University Library of Israel.
Undoubtedly. During the opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a delegate from the University of Warsaw, who was sent from Poland, also spoke. Also, support for the idea of building the state of Israel was very strong among the Jewish population living in Poland. Jewish society in Israel was very well organized in political terms, because apart from the National Council there were political parties there, most of which were established in Poland. The future Israeli left wing, center and right wing was established in Poland. There were general Zionists A who were the center and general Zionists B, who were similar to the Polish Freedom Union, and so they were such a radical center. The Social Democratic Workers' Party Poale Zion and Poale Zion-Left also operated in Poland. In Poland, the right-wing, revisionist political party Bejtar was exceptionally strong, at the head of which came from Brześć, a graduate from high school in Bialystok and the law faculty at the University of Warsaw Menachem Begin. Bejtar and Herut later became Likud, which now rules Israel. There were also religious and Zionist parties in Poland, such as Bnei Zion and Young Mizrachi, in which Chajjim Moshe Shapira was active. However, when talking about religious Zionism, it must be noted that the matter is complicated. Religious Jews are waiting for the Messiah. The Zionists either don’t wait for him or want to speed up his coming by returning Jews to Erec Israel and establishing Israeli statehood in Palestine. In the nineteenth century, one of the rabbis of Sarajevo together with Rabbi Cwi Hirsz Kaliszer from Toruń created a religious-Zionist party whose heir is now a party, “The Jewish House", which is now part of the coalition ruling Israel together with Likud.
How is the attitude of Poland after the WW2 to the formation of the Israeli state assessed from the Israeli perspective?
The Germans killed over three million Polish Jews during the war. In 1945, there were about 300,000 Jews in Poland. Some of them returned to Poland from Russia along with the Red Army and spoke and sang in Russian. Some of those 300,000 were Jews who were saved in Poland in barns or in double walls. For example, in my family three people returned to Poland from Russia, and two people returned to Borysław from the extermination camp at Mauthausen. We, however, were hiding with the Righteous Among the Nations. The fate of other Jews who survived the war also looked similar. After its end, those who were Zionists and wanted to renew the Third Temple, as Israeli statehood was called, immediately after the pogrom in Kielce left for Palestine. Some Polish Jews also left for the United States at that time. Anyway, who wouldn’t want to go to the United States then?! American citizenship is after all the surest citizenship in the world. The post-war years were, in any case, the years of the migration of peoples. There were refugees everywhere and the same discussions as today. That is, whether to open your gates and receive Jews or not. There were always political forces that cared for their net nationality and didn’t want to let anyone in. The United States refused for another reason. After all, it was and is the state and the nation of refugees. Everyone who came there had to get away first. As the candidate for the American president Bernie Sanders speaks at electoral rallies, he simply says that his parents come from Poland. However, he doesn’t add that he isn’t only from Poland, but also his parents are Jews from Poland. He doesn’t have any chance for the White House, because he carries three heavy backpacks on his back that bother him. He is a Jew, a Pole and, in addition, a socialist. This is too much, even for the United States.
Returning, however, to the assessment of post-war Poland's approach to the emergence of Israel, it must be said that the Polish communists approached Zionism very differently. It wasn’t one-sided. Some Polish Communists had a positive attitude towards the Zionist movement and Jews, and some on the contrary. In general, however, relations between the communist government in Poland and the Zionists weren’t the best. This was due to the fact that the policy of Polish communists depended primarily on the policy of the Soviet Union, and relations between communism itself and Zionism were inherently tense. Just as the communists said that the Church must be fought, because religion is opium for the masses, so too Judaism was treated by them as the same opium. The communists couldn’t allow the Church, the Synagogue or the Zionist movement to be strong, because communism is itself a religion that doesn’t tolerate competition. The Kremlin was then the cathedral of communism, and every center of the communist party its church. Stalin was a god and sun, maybe even a moon. All these songs and poems in honor of Stalin are in their form and content similar to prayers. In a sense, communism was a secular paganism that had the vitality and power of religion. The Communists and Stalin, however, initially supported the Zionist movement and the plan of the Israeli state. They thought that in this way they would overcome the domination of British colonialism in the Middle East. The ambassador of the Soviet Union to the United Nations Andrei Gromyko, who later became the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, and even the President of the Soviet Union, speaking at the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 29, 1947, said simply that Britain is a state that uses its colonies and depends on its only on oil pipes from Saudi Arabia. The pipes that Jewish blood was shed at didn’t interest her at all. This dramatic, pro-Jewish and pro-Israel speech had to be previously approved by Stalin himself. After the vote on the creation of Israel and winning 33 votes - from the point of view of international law - the Israeli state was officially born. At that time, Poland couldn’t yet vote, because there was a dispute over whether the delegate of Poland to the United Nations would be a delegate of the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile in London or a delegate of the Provisional Government of National Unity. Although it was only later that a delegate of the communist government in Poland was allowed to vote at the UN, Polish diplomacy was constantly supporting the creation of Israel. The USSR had three votes at the United Nations. One through Russia, the other through Ukraine and the third through Belarus. These were, of course, artificial voices, but the Communists thought that one vote at the UN wouldn’t be enough for them. After the UN resolution on recognizing Israel's independence, war began immediately. The Arab states attacked the Jews because they didn’t want them in Palestine. The war lasted over a year. At the end, the Israeli army won. Conflict, however, still exists.
Did Poland help Israel then?
At that time, Poland supported the Zionist movement and helped us in many different fields. Together with Czechoslovakia, she sent weapons to Israel. She also trained in Wroclaw Jewish airmen who, straight after the training, left for Palestine to fight against the Arab states. German planes, Messerschmitts, were also provided to Jews. What surrealism it was! Jews fighting for their state on fascist planes! At that time, Israel had very good relations with Poland. It can even be said that in the context of the creation of the Israeli state, these relations began to be quite romantic. At the same time, however, there was a pogrom in Kielce and nearly a hundred thousand Jews fled from Poland. Probably the Polish government didn’t organize it. I was maybe ten years old then. Through Wałbrzych and Duszniki we got to Czechoslovakia at night. A Polish officer led us across the border. I don’t know if he did it because he supported Zionism, or because he wanted to get rid of us from Poland. In any case, he was a very nice man and didn’t look like an anti-Semite. Besides, not every Pole is anti-Semite. Yes, not every Jew is a polonophobe. Everything is happening. In Czechoslovakia, this officer spent a few hours with us during which we talked. Maybe he was a philosemit?
The help of the Polish state for Zionism and the Israeli state, however, didn’t last too long?
Zionist could leave Poland for Israel until 1950. It wasn’t easy, of course, because he often lost Polish citizenship in this way, but he could still do so. In 1953, a right-wing Zionist-nationalist grouping protesting in front of the Soviet Union embassy in Tel Aviv against the Iron Curtain being held by the Kremlin for two and a half million Jews threw a bomb at the embassy. At that time, the Russians didn’t allow any Jew to leave for Israel. Although the capital of Israel is in Jerusalem, the embassy of the Soviet Union was in Tel Aviv. If today someone uses the wording government in Tel Aviv, I know that he has had a communist education behind him. It bothers me and I correct them. The same is true when someone tells me that Israel is a Jewish state. These are words from the communist dictionary. Indeed, it is quite Jewish indeed, but it isn’t officially Jewish. For example, we have Arabs who, being citizens of Israel, not only have the same rights as Jews, but at the same time have fewer duties than they do. Arabs don’t have to serve in the army. Why not? Not to have a conflict of conscience if they were to fight the Palestinians. This is a moral way out in this complicated situation. In any case, after this attack on the Soviet embassy, Moscow and Warsaw decided to break off diplomatic relations with Israel. They were re-established after Stalin's death. In 1956 Władysław Gomułka became the head of the Communist Party in Poland. At that time, the process of de-Stalinization connected with getting into the public secret of Nikita Khrushchev's "On the Cult of the Unit and its Consequences", in which during the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU, Khrushchev called Stalin a bandit and a cad. This speech was revealed to the world in a very interesting way. Well, one of the Jews, who had a friend working as a secretary at the Russian embassy in Warsaw, received a secret message from her, with a speech by Khrushchev. It was then immediately sent to Israel, which in turn during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, handed it over to the United States. In this way, the world learned the truth about Stalin. This speech had a huge impact on all communist parties scattered throughout the world. Their several ten percent political support in French and Italian society rapidly melted. In Israel, not very much, because the Communists always had our support in the order of two or three percent. Not more. For us, all socialist power has been focused in social-democratic parties with a Zionist profile, such as the Labor Party or Mapam. These parties have ruled Israel for many years. Of course, they ruled in the coalition, because no party alone was able to win the majority. We have a proportional electoral system. Now the electoral threshold is 3.5 percent, but it used to be 2 percent, and at the beginning of our state there was no threshold at all, and the 120-member Knesset party could have even one deputy.
Until 1956, several hundred Jews, or even more, held important state positions in communist Poland. Jakub Berman was, for example, the vice-president of the Council of Ministers and a member of the Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PZPR for Public Security. From the Berman family comes Marek Borowski, who isn’t ashamed that his uncle was just Jakub Berman. In any case, in 1956 many Stalinists were being driven from the Polish Communist Party, including several hundred Jews. Some of them went to Israel then. Among them were directors, lawyers and journalists, such as Aleksander Klugman and doctors. And we waited in Israel for doctors, as for the Messiah. We greeted them with open hands. Among the people who came to Israel at the time were also politicians. Some of them got involved with the Israeli parties, and some didn’t. Jakub Berman's brother, Adolf was in the Zionist party. His name wasn’t very popular after the war. My father, Adolf Meir Weiss, used only the name Meir since the war. Mom, however, sometimes referred to him "Dolciu". We knew then what "Dolcia" he was in. In any case, Jakub Berman's brother, Adolf Berman, was an insurgent from the Warsaw Ghetto and a leftist Zionist who later made a parliamentary career in Israel, for he was elected to the Knesset at least three times. On the other hand, they were our brothers, and Israel is for all Jews in the world, communists too. Less for them, but still.
However, the Polish-Jewish relations mostly broken in 1968?
In June 1967, the war for the Sinai Peninsula, called the Six-Day War, began. President Nasser decided to close the Suez Canal and block the Red Sea. Israel destroyed more than four hundred aircraft at that time. The Egyptian and Syrian armies were thus completely deprived of aviation. Israel's victory here was incredible. Israel became an empire then. The Sinai Peninsula, three times the size of our country, was then under Israeli occupation. Since then we have been withdrawing all the time and we can’t finish it. This war, however, caused another crisis in Israeli-Soviet relations, and thus a crisis with the entire communist world to which Poland belonged at that time. The Kremlin has broken diplomatic relations with Israel. From that time until 1990, we didn’t have any official diplomatic relations with Poland. In March 1968, Władysław Gomułka drove out the rest of the Jews who lived in Poland. He accused them of double loyalty and said that they should decide whether their country is Poland or Israel, because you can have only one homeland. Twenty, thirty thousand Jews left Poland. Most of them didn’t choose Israel as their destination, although we waited for them. They were so connected with Poland that they decided to settle in its vicinity. They settled in Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Only some of them, no more than five or six thousand, went to Israel. It was an amazing intellectual elite. Journalists, professors, directors, doctors and writers. It was the cream de la cream of society. The peak itself. Their Polish language and knowledge of Polish culture were at the highest level. They were super-citizens of Poland and had a very strong relationship with Poland. From the point of view of the history of the presence of Jews in Polish lands, without a doubt their departure meant a kind of end. Today, of course, we also have Jews in Poland. We don’t know exactly how many, but there are few of them and there are others.
How did the Israeli-Polish relations look since then?
They practically didn’t exist. It was abnormal that for so many years Poland and Israel didn’t maintain diplomatic relations with each other. I remember personally, as in January 1985, we organized celebrations in Israel related to the fortieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Several deputies of the Knesset with the vice minister and myself, as the vice-chairman of the Knesset at the head, and also with the Stefan Grajek decided to go to Poland. All of them are dead, by the way. Maybe soon I will be also dead. In any case, when we went to Poland, we bought a visa at the President of Romania, Nicolae Ceauşescu, for a thousand dollars each. For the Jews couldn’t then enter Poland to visit the graves of their families. Since Romania belonged to the Warsaw Pact at that time and it was possible to do various businesses with it, we could have come to Poland as if we had come to it not from Israel, but from Romania. I visited Warsaw for the first time. There was a terrible cold. I will never forget it. Warsaw was empty, gray and sad. Wide beautiful roads and no problem with parking. Today, you can’t even find a place for Smart or a bike. Already in three years after our visit everything changed. In 1989, during the Round Table talks, young people from Israel came to Poland for the first March of the Living.
What was the renewal of diplomatic relations between Poland and Israel?
This came about in 1990, when the foreign minister of Israel was a Jew from Riga, prof. Moshe Arens. He then came to me - then I was in opposition to the government of Yitzhak Shamir - and said he wanted to send me to Poland as an ambassador. I told him that first I wanted to be the chairman of the Knesset, and then I would gladly go to Poland. And it was good that I didn’t go then, because for one and a half years the unofficial ambassador of Israel in Poland and later the first official ambassador was Mordechaj Palcur. An amazing diplomat who was able to deal with various very secret and difficult matters. He was a Jew who came from Poland, who in the Soviet Union joined with his dad to the Anders Army and in 1942 through Iran came to Palestine. Some of the Jews from the Anders Army were then in Palestine. Among others, Menachem Begin, later Prime Minister of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whom he received for negotiating with the President of Egypt, Anwar as Sadat, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, concluded in 1979. What did the Anders Army Jews say about Anders himself? They spoke differently. They said that although he was an anti-Semite, he was a nice and decent man. I guess you can’t talk about him, because his daughter was elected to the Senate.
The well-known Polish traveler and journalist, Wojciech Cejrowski, after the attack on the daughter of General Władysław Anders during the exhibition about him in the State Archives in Suwałki, said: "General Anders brought thousands of people out of the Soviet death camps. He saved families, saved orphans and created the Polish army in the West. He also saved thousands of Jews, and then, despite the war, he let them legally leave the Polish Army when it reached Palestine. If General Anders weren’t there, today there would be no State of Israel"33. In his opinion, the environment with which the people who attacked the daughter of General Anders is associated isn’t only anti-Polish, but also anti-Semitic.
OK. He wasn’t an anti-Semite. In any case, he saved many thousands of Jews and that's the most important thing. Man can be an anti-Semite, but at the same time be a decent man and not to kill. Not everyone likes Jews. And what, every Jew likes Poles? And does every Pole like Poles? And does every Jew like Jews? It looks different. The basic value is human life. You must not murder. Jews can’t be killed. This is unacceptable.
Finally, you have been nominated as the Israeli ambassador in Poland. How did this happen?
I remember when I accompanied Pope John Paul II and Prime Minister Ehud Barak, whose parents come from Poland. Suddenly, Ehud Barak asked the Pope about how he judges my Polish, because he plans to send me to Poland as an ambassador. John Paul II said that my Polish is good, but it will be even better. Shortly after this event, I received a nomination for the Israeli ambassador in Poland. In fact, my Polish wasn’t at the highest level at the time. However, it is better now. John Paul II was right. Being an Israeli ambassador to Poland isn’t simply diplomatic work. This is a mission. Our relations are not ordinary. These are not just issues of common historical memory. We have so many issues that Israel has always tried to send to Poland someone associated with Poland and speaking Polish. We currently have very good mutual political and economic relations. Even in very sensitive security matters, about which I will not say anything, and I know everything, cooperation works very well between us.
I remember the first visit to Israel by prof. Władysław Bartoszewski, the Righteous Among the Nations and the Honorary Citizen of Israel who, even in communist times, was always associated with Jewish matters. He provided us with, inter alia, historical documents from the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute, which we couldn’t get before. I remember his visit to the Knesset. At that time I told other Jews about Żegota and about the beloved Mrs. Sendlerowa. Most of them heard about it for the first time because it was the second or third generation of Polish Jews who not only didn’t speak Polish but also didn’t know the history of Polish-Jewish relations. I remember that I said then that our renewed relations with Poland can’t be normal and either they will be very good or they will be very bad. Today at every level of cooperation, our relations are extremely good and should remain so. Maybe this is the March of the Living?!
You mentioned earlier that Israel isn’t a Jewish state. However, it is undoubtedly the only country in the world directed to accept any Jew who would like to come in.
Yes, Israel belongs potentially to every Jew. There is a citizenship law of 1950 and a right to return in 1952. According to the right of return, every Jew is a potential citizen of Israel. He may, however, acquire Israeli citizenship if he didn’t cooperate with Nazism, for example being a camp kapo. The second condition is that he isn’t a carrier of a disease threatening society. Thirdly, he can’t receive Israeli citizenship if he has been spying against Israel. Perhaps out of this million two hundred thousand people who came to Israel from the former USSR area, a few people had contact with Russian intelligence or the intelligence of another country. If this is proved to them, then such a person may not receive Israeli citizenship. He who isn’t a Jew doesn’t have the right to Israeli citizenship, unless he lives in Israel legally for five years, three years under a permanent address. It can be, for example, an entrepreneur or a scientist. Another condition that must be met by such a person is knowledge of Hebrew. I think you can learn it in five years. Polish never. Hebrew is difficult, but the Polish language is so high that I don’t know how a man can deal with it. It lasts a minimum of one hundred years.
The question remains, who is Jewish? Well, according to religious law, being a Jew follows the mother's blood. For example, Adam Michnik isn’t a Jew. His father, who left Poland for the United States, was a Jew, but his mother was already Polish. For this reason, from the point of view of the Jewish religion, he isn’t a Jew. For sure he is Polish. Not only because he was born in Poland, but also because he is very strongly connected with Polish culture. Anyway, if he isn’t a Pole, who is he? Former Foreign Minister Stefan Meller, in turn, had a Jewish mother, so he was a Jew himself. However, his wife and the mother of the editor Marcin Meller was a Polish woman and from the point of view of the Jewish religion, Marcin Meller is no longer a Jew. The wife of Gomułka, who was responsible for expelling Jews from Poland in 1968, was Jewish. So if they had any children, they are Jews. Also from the point of view of Jewish religion, children of Bronisław Komorowski are Jews, because their mother is a Jewess. They are Jewish if they want to be, of course, because at the age of eighteen they can decide that they want to change their religion. The Jewish nation, however, never give up Jews and they continue to remain Jews, although the issue of obtaining Israeli citizenship is sometimes difficult in such cases, but this is a topic for a longer conversation. I don’t want to convince anyone to be a Jew, however. Tewje The Milkman from the Fiddler on the Roof addresses God: "My God, we are a chosen nation. Could you choose a different nation for a few years?" It isn’t easy to be a Jew in the world, it is necessary to be aware of the whole history of the Jewish nation. World it isn’t so open and nice. Liberalism exists, but it develops once and goes back once.
In one of the interviews, you said that "the whole of Europe, the whole Judaeo-Christian world, sheds its sins and its guilt on Poland." Why is this happening?
It's easy. If they have such a nation or state, who can easily blame all their sins and sins, they take advantage of it. Germany is an example of such an activity. In the German series Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, Germany is blaming its guilt and responsibility for the extermination of Jews into Poles. There are various reasons for doing so. One of them is that the Germans killed Jews in Poland and created Auschwitz there. This is why it is easy to impose on others that it wasn’t because of the geographical presence of Jewish masses in Poland that the Jews were exterminated, but that the Holocaust happened in Poland because the Germans found a state full of anti-Semites, in which they could implement their criminal plan.
You once said that the March of the Living should begin under the Reichstag, because it isn’t in Poland, but it is where everything began. Does this mean that we should emphasize German responsibility for the Holocaust each time?
Poles must emphasize that the Germans killed Jews in Poland because it was precisely the Jews living on Polish soil. Post-war Poland is also a pogrom in Kielce, 1956 and the expulsion of Jews in March 1968. It was through the actions of Polish governments towards Jews that impositions on all Poles were associated with anti-Semitism.
Certainly, Uri Huppert would agree with you about the troubles of Poles with practicing an effective policy of historical memory on the international arena.
Uri Huppert makes Poland a very good PR. And he is right that, as far as relations with Jews are concerned, Poland doesn’t have any effective propaganda. It can be seen even after Polish foreign policy looks like. It is a pity that such a capable nation as Poles are not able to operate efficiently on the international arena. This Polish policy, of course, looked better in the times of Lech Wałęsa, because he was then perceived in the world as a symbol of European values. Lech Wałęsa was a living monument of freedom. At that time, Poland was perceived very well. And I don’t come here to the question of whether Walesa was Bolek or not. Who cares about the world?! Now Poland is destroying its monument itself and spoiling its image.
How is Poland perceived in Israel and the changes taking place in it?
In Israel, we are dealing less and less with Poland because we have fewer Polish Jews living each year. We care more about the increasing influence of Russian Jews on Israel's social and political life. Sometimes, "Haaretz" will write about what is currently happening in Poland, but in other dailies, however, Poland is only written when some sort of anti-Semitism is revealed, even though there is hardly any anti-Semitism in Poland. Recently, no one didn’t demolish any Jewish monument here, nor destroy the matzeva, but when a Jewish dummy was burnt down in Wrocław, information about it could be found in all dailies: "Well, surely, that's Poles!" This isn’t the case of the French, though French anti-Semitism was much more horrible than Polish anti-Semitism.
You once said: "When in the world I am asked about Jedwabne, I remind you that in the same Poland there were also other barns. The barns where Poles exposed Jews to life at risk. I am a man from a barn myself". At other times, you said that the behavior of Poles who saved Jews during the WW2 was "the peak of morality in the ocean of blood and injustice". Your words seem to be obvious. Very rarely, however, similar phrases fall from the mouths of other Jews influencing the opinion of Poland in the world. Often it is quite the opposite. Understandably, you are therefore considered a friend of Poland and Poles. How many, however, are Jews so positive towards Poles, like you?
It isn’t known. Certainly there are several hundred Jews from Poland who have a fair approach towards Poland and Poles. They know exactly who was anti-Semite and szmalcownik and who doesn’t and don’t accuse stereotypically All Poles for anti-Semitism. There are so many Jews who sympathize with the Poles, but this number during the year is less and less. The attitude of the second and third generation of Jews from Poland to the country of origin of their grandparents most often no longer contains sympathy. Tales of parents about what happened in Poland after the war did their own. We have lost a whole generation of dialogue. This is a great wound in Polish-Jewish relations.
How do you assess the attitude of the Polish Church towards Jews during the WW2?
These were different attitudes and behaviors. It all depends on where it was exactly and when it happened. I was helped by a deeply religious Catholic, Mrs. Anna Góralowa, who hid me along with my sister and mother in the chapel in the shadow of the arms of the Crucified One. We were there for two or three days. So if this chapel is a symbol of the Polish Church, it saved our lives. As a rule, Jews were helped by very religious people who kept the commandments "Don’t kill." John Paul II, while still Karol Wojtyla saved a Jewish girl from starvation. He met her as an elderly woman during her pilgrimage to Israel. It was a nice and touching meeting. I also heard that priests hid many Jews in the All Saints' Church in Warsaw. Some of them went to Christianity and some of them remained Jews. There are more similar stories. Generally, however, I don’t judge the Church's attitude towards Jews during the WW2 in the best way.
In his statements, prof. Szewach Weiss was inspired by m.in. a book by Dr. Elżbieta Kossewska, “ She still speaks Polish but laughs in Hebrew”.
January 17, 2017
The President of Poland Andrzej Duda awarded in Jerusalem the former chairman of the Knesset and former Israeli ambassador to Poland, Szewach Weiss, Order of the White Eagle.
- Thank you very much for all the years that can be said, they began in the Second Polish Republic when the professor was born on Polish soil. When I was thinking today what words I should say, I thought that you were a son of the Jewish nation and Polish land, and maybe this best illustrates who you are - thanked Szewach Weiss, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda.
- You were, and you are, to Poland and Poles, the righteous before the nations of the world. On behalf of the Republic of Poland, thank you. You always spoke the truth, also difficult, but you spoke the truth in such a way as to tell the truth and not hurt anyone, said President Duda.
- The fact that we are here in Jerusalem, that the president decided to give me this very important decoration here, it is very touching and symbolic - Weiss stated during the ceremony of giving him the Order by President Duda.
As Weiss pointed out for Jews, Israel and Jerusalem were the same. "Praying all over the world, they prayed to our eternal capital, even in the last seconds of their lives, even in the gas chambers, in the shadow of death, at the graves they were forced to dig for themselves and their families, praying to God help", Weiss said. As he noted, the award granted to him is in fact due to all Israeli ambassadors in Poland.
March 30, 2017
Sometimes I think: "Maybe I have too good approach to Poles because they saved me? And what about those who not only didn’t save them, but whom they spent to death, what about the victims of szmalcownicy?" And then I take it easy, I try to be objective. But then I turn on the TV and watch a documentary about the war and remember how great a tragedy it was for the Poles. And then I read the names of Jewish judges, prosecutors and whores who murdered Poles in Stalinist times. I think then: "Do I have the right to criticize Poles? And how did the Jews behave towards them? " These relations were also dramatic, not only beautiful and full of anecdotes - said Szewach Weiss in an interview conducted by Robert Mazurek for the newspaper "Dziennik".