Are We Guilty of Gross Prejudice Towards Poland?

The ubiquitous ‘lucky Jew’ found all over Poland

by David Jacobson

In the ashes of Auschwitz we lost more than Jewish lives – we lost an integral part of our historical memory. If we truly want to ensure Jewish continuity for tomorrow’s Jews, then we have to reclaim the positive history of Polish Jewry today.

Mention Poland to most Jews and their immediate association is with Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek and the brutal murder of some 6 million Jews. I have recently returned from two weeks in Poland attending the 24th International Nahum Goldmann Fellowship with a group of 40 young Jews from around the globe and I witnessed personally the deep psychological wounds that are still alive today in today’s generation of Jews. Even though these Jews are two or three generations removed from the horror of the Holocaust, members of the group broke down at various stages during the week-long conference, weighed down by the living, haunting memory of their families’ stories. Whenever something went wrong, if a computer crashed or a meal was late, the standing response was: “It’s Poland.” And behind this jocular response lies a real pathology. Poland has assumed a uniquely nefarious status in the collective Jewish psyche – Poland represents death, destruction, hate and unbridled, brutal antisemitism. It is seen as Jewish black hole.

And until my recent visit, that was indeed the image I held in my mind and heart. Although I fully understand its genesis and there is a sane substantiation for it, everything I saw and heard convinced me that Poland has been unfairly portrayed by the global Jewish establishment. This has created dangerous prejudices and stereotypes (generalisations of an entire people); ironically these stereotypes are of the very same ilk that was the thought-generators of the rampant racism that laid the foundation for the genocide that took place during the Shoah. We brand the Polish people as ‘brutes’ and ‘eternal antisemites’ and we send tour after tour of young Jews to the death camps and they march defiantly through Poland, blinkered to the multitude of memorials to Jewish history and Jewish life and legacy that literally litter the streets of Warsaw and Krakow. By doing this, we are not only perpetuating a cruel bigotry, but we are also cheating these young Jews of a remarkable opportunity for Jewish growth and regeneration.

During my two weeks in Poland, I learned about and witnessed another side to this much maligned country – a side that should shine light on the shadow of the valley of death that is the perpetual Jungian mirror for most of us. I heard from Professor Moshe Rosman, an internationally distinguished Professor of Polish Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University, about the great Jewish civilisation in Poland and its legacy that was eradicated in the Holocaust and that has largely been forgotten, even by the descendants of Polish Jews who emigrated before World War II to the United States and Israel. Indeed, the children and grandchildren of those immigrants in the United States know more about the Native Americans than about their Jewish antecedents in Poland. I heard about 1000 years of uninterrupted Jewish history that is arguably unparalleled in the annals of our people – a history that produced the Lublin Yeshivot and Jewish greats like Rabbi Moshe Isserles and Rabbi Yosef Schneersohn, not to mention contemporary Jewish giants like David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin.

I also heard from Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Programme Director at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is being erected in Warsaw, who described with great passion the different historical periods of Polish Jewry and their rich cultural achievements. The historical scope and reach of Polish Jewry was gargantuan and cast an imposing shadow over the rest of the Jewish world.

But the reach of Polish Jewry is not only a matter of history. I had occasion to spend time with Magda Koralewska, the 29 year old co-founder and president of Beit Krakow – a newly created Reform community in a city that once had 64 000 Jews, but was reduced to 3000 in 1945. Her and other young Jews like her are doing remarkable work in recreating Jewish life out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the death-grip of communism. Magda is a “Jew by choice” – a voluntary convert to Judaism.

“Discovering Judaism made me feel Polish for the first time,” Magda explained.” I finally had something to be proud of as a Pole – the contribution of Polish Jews to the history of Poland and the world.” And Magda does not stand alone. There are a slew of young Jewish Poles who are reinventing their community, redefining their Jewishness and reinvigorating the proud legacy of Polish Jewry.

I also witnessed a remarkable attraction and affinity to Jewish culture in Poland. We forget that pre-WWII, one in every three Warsaw residents was Jewish. Thus in many ways, Jewish culture and Polish culture are inextricably linked. At the Krakow Jewish Festival, a festival now in its 22nd year, thousands of non-Jewish Poles stream to listen to Klezmer music and Chazonis, or to attend lectures on Jewish topics or to view art with a Jewish theme. Haunting reverberations of Yiddish songs fill the streets and restaurants.

I visited Kazimierz Dolny during the annual Klezmer festival, and was treated to a burst of Jewish culture unlike anything I have ever encountered in the streets of Cape Town or Johannesburg. The audience was filled with not Jews but ordinary Poles – Poles of all ages and all sizes, drawn to this Jewish culture that they feel is as much theirs as it is ours.

This is not to suggest that there is no antisemitism in Poland. There is. Pop into almost any curio shop in in Krakow or Kazimierz and you will find the ubiquitous “Lucky Jew” in both figurine and poster. This is a caricature of a Hassidic Jew in full garb, with a prominent nose, holding onto a coin. Poles buy them as they believe it will bring them good fortune. It is a somewhat bitter reminder of the deep and dangerous prejudice that still exists within Polish society.

But this ugly stereotyping is hardly unique to Poland. So while we should not disregard it, we should also not dismiss our Polish heritage because of it. For Poland is so much more than merely a Jewish nightmare. Professor David Shneer, an expert in post-Soviet Eastern European Jewish communities, explained: “The most important thing we can do is stop seeing Poland simply as a graveyard of the Holocaust and to start seeing it as a potential new site of Jewish life.”

My intention is in no way to demean the memory of the Shoah or trivialize the real pain of people for whom Poland does signify horror and destruction. The seething distaste for Poland and the deep wounds that exist are part of a collective post-traumatic stress disorder that is a natural and inevitable response to the greatest genocide every committed. And we must continue to teach our youth both the horrific facts of the Holocaust and its universal and eternal lessons, lest we ever forget.

But at the same time, we must be careful not to create an unhealthy cult of death and decay. We need to constantly make the prophetic choice of choosing life.

And I saw Jewish life aplenty in Poland – life that has given me great hope for the regeneration of Jewish culture and Jewish continuity, not only in Europe, but right here in South Africa.

David Jacobson is the executive director of the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies and is an advisor to the International Nahum Goldmann Fellowship that operates out of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture in New York. He is also an active member of The Jewish Diplomatic Corps and is passionate about Jewish continuity.

Print Friendly
Send to Kindle

Comments

  1. A very excellent piece! A direct result of this “bigotry” is that not many people know of the Polish Christian experience during the War – nearly 3 million of them in total were murdered by the Germans and Russians. If more of the plight of Polish Christians during the War were brought to light, along with other notable facts as well (such as Poland’s extensive underground resistance movement – a sector of which solely concentrated on rescuing Jews under the penalty of death), then I believe this bigotry and PTSD hatred would be cured.

  2. Very good piece until I read, “Discovering Judaism made me feel Polish for the first time,” Magda explained.” I finally had something to be proud of as a Pole ” I am Polish American of Roman Catholic faith and very proud to be Polish.

  3. Kudos to David Jacobson for his very poignant observations and comments. i have traveled to Poland now 21 times mostly leading youngsters on the March of the Living. Over these past 25 years of travel I have seen a major change in attitudes from Poles to our visits. I also feel that we are not adequately providing our youngsters with the incredible richness of what was Polish Jewry. I have also witnessed the incredible increase among young Poles to learn more about their country’s Jewish history which was subjugated under communism. I have had meetings with our young Jewish teens and Polish teens in Lodz and in Tykocin. Two very different communities, but in every case an opportunity for Jewish youngsters to hear from young Poles about their perception or understanding of the Holocaust and Poland’s role. It is an eye-opener. I have met with students at the Jugularian University in Krakow who are studying the Holocaust and who bring an incredible insight into the conversation.

    I have also witnessed the growth of Jewish culture, Jewish activities and a Jewish rebuilding in Poland, one of he most dramatic of which is the reestablishment of the Yeshiva Chochmei Lublin. That alone gives youngsters traveling through Poland a sense of what Jewish life was like pre-1939.

    Thank you David for your words and for putting this conversation on the front-burner.

  4. Agnieszka Gerwel says:

    A wonderful article, thank you for expressing your view of Poland and it’s people’s in a positive light. One comment which did strike me as inaccurate is: “This is not to suggest that there is no antisemitism in Poland. There is. Pop into almost any curio shop in in Krakow or Kazimierz and you will find the ubiquitous “Lucky Jew” in both figurine and poster. This is a caricature of a Hassidic Jew in full garb, with a prominent nose, holding onto a coin. Poles buy them as they believe it will bring them good fortune. It is a somewhat bitter reminder of the deep and dangerous prejudice that still exists within Polish society.” The ‘Lucky Jew’ figurines are by no means not anti-Jewish. Polish culture believes in ‘lucky charms’ of all kinds.. we also believe that seeing a nun passing on the street, will bring us a good luck, as seeing a…almost nonexistant…chimney sweeper, in other words, the more luck, the better :) Please do not misunderstand and misconstrue this local folkloric culture… There are all kinds of wooden figurines in Polish shops, and the Jewish ones, signifying luck, can hardly be called anti-semitic. Polish people have a lot of nostalgia (especially the older ones, born prior to the war) with regard to the Orthodox Jewish communities. My late grandmother was one of them…always bringing up the great, tragic and incomprehensible void of Jewish people in post WWII Lancut… Great part of my family perished in Holocaust, latest of whom, as I found out recently, was a Catholic priest, Father Antoni Gerwel, who perished in Dachau Concentration Camp, in 1942 along with thousands of other Polish priests. I wish there was more attention paid to the 3 million of non-Jewish, Catholic Poles ruthlessly murdered during WWII, and I wish we could mourn these two groups of Polish people together. Thank you, once again, for trying to lift the harmful, anti-Polish stereotypes. We truly appreciate this.

  5. errol anstey says:

    I always wonder why were all the death camps sited in Poland only and not any other country.Was it because the poles were less likely to oppose such a terror. even in germany I suspect hitler would not have got away with a death camp in his own backyard.

  6. Joy Zamoyski Koch says:

    It seems that Jews are not taught the historical truth of WWII. Please be respectful of the 6 million Polish citizens that were murdered by the German Nazi Regime on OCCUPIED Polish soil. The Germans are single handly responsible for the wholesale slaughter of six million souls…half were Christian and half were Jewish.

  7. Robert Czernkowski says:

    Errol, it’s not that we were less likely to oppose it. That assumes we had a voice; we were too busy being slaughtered as ‘sub-human’ Poles. No, the reason the extermination camps were in Poland is quite simple:- that’s where most of the Jews were, and the Germans are nothing if not efficient…

  8. SK Miklas says:

    ” Poland represents death, destruction, hate and unbridled, brutal antisemitism. It is seen as Jewish black hole.”

    The bigger picture has always been ignored. Just because the camps were located IN Poland, doesn’t mean the Polish people put them there – it is that easy to forget that the Germans did this? Why is it so easy to ignore the fact that Poland was taken over by the Nazis and became Germany’s General Gouvernment? The Polish people didn’t have a choice in this matter – they were being slaughtered as well as being deported. I think more time needs to be spend on re-education and less time holding on to incorrect historical “fact”.

    (@errol – ALL the camps located throughout Europe were death camps in one way or another. Just because there wasn’t a crematorium, didn’t mean people were not brutally shot, beaten and/or starved to death.)

    Poland has always been a country that embraced Judaism – and for a Roman Catholic country, that’s pretty darn impressive. Sure, there might have been some that were anti-Semitic, but for the most part, the Jews in Poland flourished.

    Food for thought: If you were assaulted in a parking lot by a thug, would you blame the parking lot, or the thug?

  9. Alec Bednarski says:

    Congratulations! A very thought provoking article, however, there is not one mention of the Nazi Germans being responsible for the construction and operation of the Nazi German Death Camps located on today’s Polish Territory!!

  10. Agnieszka Gerwel says:

    With reference to my comment above, I would like to correct myself and reinforce myself that The Lucky Jew figurines are by no means anti-Jewish.

  11. A few points about Mr. Jacobson’s excellent article and the follow-on commentators.

    Jewish life is in a process of renewal not only in Warsaw but in every city where Beit Polska’ s meager means allows it to reach out and inspire people to develop Havurot and congregations — Bialystok, Gdansk, Lublin, and Lodz. We could do more if we had more.

    Unfortunately, on balance, too much effort (money) goes toward projects that are memorial projects and not to living congregations. This is a legacy of attitudes addressed in Jacobson’s central thesis. The wonderful and affirming expression that is Jewish renewal teaches us that Poland is more than a memorial site. There are real Poles — Catholic, Jewish, etc.

    Every one in the Jewish world is surprised by the interest in living Jewish expression — Shabbat, holidays, study and that is where the focus should be now. The surprise must now turn in to a long-range plan for Jewish life in all its diversity in Poland. Beit Polska and its flag ship congregation is an expression of Progressive Jewish commitment but it is under attack from the Jewish “Orthodox” establishment.

    As nice as the klezmer and music festivals are they are tourist attractions not communities.

    In the future, I hope that when the March of the Living groups come to Poland they will take the time to meet with young Jews and people seeking out their Jewish roots all over Poland. These are not likely to be large numbers but their influence Jewish visitors is very powerful.

    Poland’s highly educated and ambitious young population is by and large forthrightly facing the complex history of Polish Jewish and Polish Catholic relations. Its willingness to do so is aided by the Polish government, important elements of emerging civic society, and by many Jewish people/foundations sponsoring the Museum of Polish Jewish History. This effort is supported by a Polish national culture that combines a new courage, curiosity, and confidence. Those qualities in Poland’s youth also mark Jewish young people from most parts of the world. This is a basis for a meeting of informed equals.

    Those young people will have to sort out the history of clashing victim narratives that is alluded to by Jacobson.

    Finally, the area where I see the most public expression of anti-semitism is in the Polish sports culture, calling the opposing side: Jews. This is a more serious legacy of real anti-semitic attitudes that find their equivalent in American culture of the teams names (Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins) and attitudes (Chop, Chop). And yes, the dolls are not benign.

    Haim Dov Beliak
    Executive Director of Beit Polska

  12. “Lucky Jew” figures are antisemitic ?

    I am sorry, but seeing them as antisemitic is just an other sign of Jewish insecurity and post traumatic stress disorder, once they cross the Polish borders.

    Dear Jews, it was Goebbels and Hitler who told the world that an “Hassidic Jew in full garb, with a prominent nose, holding onto a coin” is a bad person. And why the hell should we Poles or YOU agree on that ? Think about it.

    Jews in Poland were financial advisors to Kings and Noble families for centuries, they often wore hasidic clothes and (yes) had prominent noses. This is how Poles remember them. And Hitler and Goebbels won’t succeed. Poles will NOT buy into their propaganda and see a “prominent nose” as a sign of “Untermensch”.

  13. Excellent provoking article, bravo! And yes, it also should be mention of the Nazi Germans being responsible for the construction and operation of the Nazi German Death Camps located in Poland.

  14. Leon Weissberg says:

    The commentary is enlightening and certainly worth the read…
    However, i do question SK Miklas’ comment: If you were assaulted in a parking lot by a thug, would you blame the parking lot, or the thug? Yes, i would blame the parking lot (or at least the landlord) for perhaps not having enough lighting, or attracting thugs, or not having any security or not having anything to anticipate the possibility of a lone person going to his/her car.

    Yes, as much as I’m for enlightening future Marchers to the reality of contemporary Polish life and the positive relationships between Poles & Jews for centuries (my father played on the Polish soccer team). There is a culpability of “bystanders” that cannot be dismissed. Although Yad Vashem points out that at least 10,000 Poles saved Jewish lives, we’re talking about 30,000,000 who stood by. That cannot be ignored. There is still a discussion about what a people does in light of persecution in their own country of a minority population (USA included)… . let’s not “whitewash” the history.

  15. Leon Weissberg says:

    BTW – on my last trip to Poland i bought one of the “lucky Jews” after a Polish friend of mine indicated what it represents to him and why he has one in his house… no hint of antisemitism…but actually looking for good fortune… so now I have one in my house in Florida and one in my office (for fund raising purposes)

  16. Agnieszka Gerwel says:

    Dear Mr. Weissberg, I would like to comment on your quote:…’Yes, i would blame the parking lot (or at least the landlord) for perhaps not having enough lighting, or attracting thugs, or not having any security or not having anything to anticipate the possibility of a lone person going to his/her car….” this is, regretfully, easier said than done during peaceful times….so I would like to juxtopose… As were are all well aware, during the WWII, there was a death penalty in Poland for providing any aid to a Jewish person, even such aid, as throwing a piece of bread over the ghetto walls….Polish people did not attract the thugs (Nazi Germans), they were invaded by the Germans who murdered 3 million of Polish Catholics as well, which is often ommitted from the general discourse…As far as security is concerned, Polish did fight and were destroyed on both fronts, Soviet and German, yet, they did create the largest underground state, which fought until the end of the WWII. The Home Army instituted a death penalty for those ‘shmalcovniks’ who were giving out Jewish persons.

    …”There is a culpability of “bystanders” that cannot be dismissed”….the term ‘bystanders’ is not fair if used towards the Polish Catholic population during the war. To be a bystander may mean to be able to do something instead of doing nothing. The ruthless German occupation created such terror of the society, and such punishments (hanging or killing in other ways of not only a person, but his, her entire family for any aid given to a Jewish person). I wonder, under such risk, can we call Poles ‘bystanders’? also, how about the situation in the ghettos? There were very poor Jewish people, virtually dying on the streets, while the wealthy ones had much more to live on… do you judge them as harshly as well? I would refrain from most judgements, given the cruelty and terror and the occupation in Poland. What would we do in such situation? How would we behave? Do we know? Can we comprehend what really happen? Do you know of a person whose name is: Stella Goldschlag? a Jewish woman who collaborated with Gestapo and who was responsible for denouncing of several hundred innocent Jewish people to the Germans during the WWII? Why do we seldom hear about her and constantly hear about the ‘awful Polish bystanders’? My family was in the Home Army, grandfather smuggled anti-typhus vaccinations to the Warsaw Ghetto, his cousins were killed in combat by the Germans. Ever since I came to the US, I hear constant anti-Polish accusations, which I truly find unjust, untrue and unfair. There were awful people in Poland,yes, of course, but this did NOT represent the majority, as is now constantly being insinuated.

  17. Agnieszka Gerwel says:

    I would also like to add a comment regarding the Lucky Jewish figurines. I understand how these figurines may offend a modern Jewish person, who does not identify with the Orthodox movement. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to issue an open letter to the producers of the figurines, explaining why and how they might reinforce stereotypes of Jewish people. I think in every polarized situation an explanation is necessary, so the other side can understand and feel the concern, a grievance or a different view point. This is different however than a strictly (and an unjust) accusatory statement and a detailed explanation is usually more effective in addressing a complex problem. Regarding my above posted commentary concerning both the bystanders and Stella Goldschlag, I would like to add my own concern, how easily people who live in the time of peace, judge others…from what I’ve read about Ms. Goldschlag, Germans threatened deportation of her entire family to concentration camps if she did not cooperate, and in case she did cooperate, her family were to be safe…in effect the Germans, of course, lied, and most of her family did perish. From my readings people during the war were placed in similar, horrific situations….How about Sophie’s choice of having to chose between her children, which one will live or die? Germans so often played incredibly sadistic mind games with the Polish Jewish and Polish Catholic populations…they found this highly amusing. I do realize I am writing to a sophisticated audience who is far more knowledgable about the subject than I am and most likely is familiar with everything I’ve mentioned thus far. In the end instead of Polish Jews and Polish Catholics constantly accusing each other, they ought to build a truly pluralistic, open and tolerant to all, society. I would, once again, like to thank the author for the above article trying to address painful situation of the gross misconceptions of Poland.

  18. Joy Zamoyski Koch says:

    @Leon Weissberg

    Poland was attacked and occupied by both Hitler and Stalin’s armies in September of 1939.

    I’d like to use Auschwitz, the German Nazi concentration camp or parking lot, as an example. This German run parking lot murdered hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens for several years before the Final Solution was dreamt up. Many do not realize that it was situated on a part of Occupied Poland. It was annexed, which means it was incorporated to Germany proper and was not Poland at all. All Polish citizens living within a 20-mile radius were expelled, except for those who were kept for slave labour. The houses of the Poles in this area were destroyed to create a no-man’s land — the better to patrol it and watch for escapees. Auschwitz was built ON HIMMLER’S ORDER IN 1940 BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T ENOUGH PRISONS IN ALL OF OCCUPIED POLAND TO HOLD THE POLISH PRISONERS, MAINLY BECAUSE POLISH RESISTANCE WAS SO FIERCE. JEWS WERE NOT SENT THERE UNTIL 1942. This is very well documented and included in every authoritative book about this, including the book about Auschwitz published by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. By 1942 the German and Soviet armies had total and absolute control of the parking lot, so to blame the victim is either an uneducated opinion (which is easily rectified if one is open to the pursuit of knowledge) or a politically movitated agenda.

    As for neighbors knowing but doing nothing, one always has to ask just exactly what unarmed
    civilians are supposed to do against an army and in this case two armies. This is often said about Majdanek, where tens of thousands of Poles were imprisoned. If Poles could have, they certainly would have got their own out. The civilian population was defenseless against the most powerful army of the time.

    It is worth noting that it took the combined power of Britain, the US and the USSR (once it
    changed sides) to defeat Hitler, but for some reason a lot of people, including Jews as well, think that unarmed Polish civilians should have stopped the German army by themselves. I am committed to pointing out this kind of feeble reasoning politely and confidently in honor of those 6 million Polish citizens murdered by the German Nazi regime.

    To repeat: People accuse Poles of not doing enough. It is overlooked that it took the combined
    might of the USA, the UK, and the USSR (when it finally changed sides), plus the Polish forces
    fighting with Britain in the West, plus the armies of the various British Commonwealth countries
    (Canada, Australia, NZ, India etc., etc.) to defeat Nazi Germany. NOT ONE of these forces ever
    came to the assistance of occupied Poland. And yet people unthinkingly assume that unarmed
    civilians should have stopped the German atrocities. Also, very few people here know that for
    almost two years Poles were invaded by and subjected to occupation by both the Wehrmacht and
    the Red Army. This whitewashed history was taught according to the dictates of Moscow during the
    entire 50-year period of its occupation of Central and Eastern Europe.

    In addition, once Hitler and the Germans were defeated, the governments of the USA and the UK, without permission gave Stalin an expanded parking lot (all of Central and Eastern Europe) to subjugate.

    Now that Poland has freed itself from this road to nowhere the education on what the historical truth of the era is available. A book by Dr. Timothy Snyder’s called Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin is a good place to start.

  19. Valerie P. says:

    I find it ridiculous that the Poles were blamed for not doing enough to prevent the horrors of the Second World War. It’s almost like blaming the Americans for not doing enough to prevent the horror that was September 11th.

  20. Excellent article and comments; thank you. Wish more people had open mind, knowledge of history and understanding of humanity in its best. But: right now just around the corner (Syria) atrocities of war are being repeated. It looks we all did not move on very far. Judgements and opinions on daily TV news and papers seem to be empty for those who suffer. Eternal struggle: who is right? power of arms? power of mind? seems to be ever lasting and painful. The wounds of history are not cured and the wounds of tomorrow are being inflicted today. Glad to read balanced voices, thanks again.

  21. Mitchell Spakowski says:

    I find this article mildly depressing:

    - some of the discussion appears “somewhat” self-centered and it is difficult to know whether this is because of the author’s actual views regarding “locals” or whether this is because of his views (correct?) regarding his audience?;

    - is there even any hint here of Jews visiting Poland to see Polish culture (or is that what the author thinks is being proposed above?) and meet Poles? Or is this a just a choice b/t Jewish graveyard and [part of] Jewish future?;

    - does the fact that some of these individuals have some Jewish roots make them Jews in the author’s eyes? if so, what of the remainder (majority in many cases) of their ancestors? do they count? how much?;

    - isn’t all of this basically a thinly veiled mission of proselytization a la Latter Saints albeit with more of a target audience?;

    - is Magda – an obviously confused individual that seemingly craves a sense of belonging – a model for the author? if so, what is the author’s position on attempts by Catholics to convert Jews?; what is his view of the ever popular Jews for Jesus?;

    - does the author endorse this quote from Ms. Koralewska: ““Discovering Judaism made me feel Polish for the first time,” Magda explained.” I finally had something to be proud of as a Pole.” ?; first sentence, second sentence, both?; if yes, please elaborate; if not, why cite it?;

    - what is a “non-Jewish Pole”? can the author find one noun to describe such a person, or is a hyphenated version always necessary in the eyes of the author?; are the Arab denizens of Israel, Arab-Jews in the eyes of the author? If not, what are Jewish Israelis who are atheists or agnostics? can they be described in one word without hyphenation?; if yes, how come Poles cannot be (or can they, at least, when talked about in disparaging tones?)?;

    - while, Poland should be welcoming to tourists/visitors of all stripes and those people who want to become Poles and live as Poles (particularly if they have some past connection to Poland), I find it bizzarre to hear someone describe the country “as a potential new ‘site’ of Jewish life.” Can/should Israel also be a “potential new site” for ["non-Jewish"] Poles that want to trade their weather for that of Mediterranean beaches?; If yes, must they also believe that whole thing about Abraham, etc.? In the author’s opinion, to the extent he agrees with the person who said this, should Poland also become a “potential new site” for other peoples? Arabs/Muslims? Tatars? Germans? Russians? Aborigenes?;

    - as far as the comments about “not having done more”; posing the discussion that way, i.e., in an accusatory way, obviously condemns the other “side” to arguing that no, they (really their ancestors) were “not murderers;” Good luck to all the persons getting defensive;

    - however, one may bite a little bit and say this much:

    - a well endowed sense of self importance is obviously present in someone who can demand that others put their lives at risk (and those of their families’) to help strangers (of whatever group); did the commenter ask himself whether Poles would have acted the same way towards each other were they similarly threatened?; was it Poles who ignored the please of Kitty Genovese or are we talking about something more fundamental?; does that question matter to the commenter? if not, why not?;

    - as far as the numbers are concerned, it was more like 24m not 30m (unless the commenter thinks that Ukrainians, Belarussians, etc. are all the same as Poles (or at least, non-Jewish Poles…….)) but, more to the point, simple math will tell you that saving even one life over a period of years, under those circumstances, takes a heck of a lot more people and organization than betraying that same life – for the latter, presumably one “phone call” only is necessary;

    - one other thing, re: numbers at Yad Vashem; it is nice that the institution rewards individuals who were rescuers; however, does the commenter not think that at least “a” purpose of it is not really to reward anyone but to show the “locals” how few deserve the reward?; if not why not?; if yes, what does the commenter think of that?;

  22. Beata Lobodziec says:

    Don`t forget the German Concentration camps were established when Poland was occupied by the Germans.
    Very useful portal: http://www.en.truthaboutcamps.eu

    “German death camps and concentration camps in Nazi occupied Poland 1939-45.
    The educational portal of the Institute of National Remembrance presents basic information on the death and concentration camps established by the Third German Reich in occupied Poland during World War II. While in international media appear harmful terms that ascribe the establishment of these camps to nations under occupation, we demonstrate that the sole and full responsibility for the creation of „death factories” lies with Germany. It is our intention that the tragedy of the victims be a perpetual warning against an inhuman system of totalitarian dictatorships.”

Trackbacks

  1. [...] artyku? Davida Jacobsona oraz dyskusj?, znajduj?c? si? pod tekstem http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/are-we-guilty-of-gross-prejudice-towards-poland/| We recommend the full article by David Jacobson and the discussion it provoked below the text [...]

More in Opinion / Letters
Using Quantitative Data to Lead Qualitative Conversations

by Dan Hazony Beginning with Rabbi Drew Kaplan’s excellent article, “Qualitative metrics for the Jewish Community?»” on Aug. 7th, there...

Close