Making Holocaust memory 9781904113065, 9781904113058

Although the reconciliation of Jewish and Polish memories of the Holocaust is the central issue in contemporary Polish-J

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Making Holocaust memory
 9781904113065, 9781904113058

Table of contents :
Note on Place Names (page xvi)
Note on Transliteration (page xvii)
Introduction (GABRIEL N. FINDER, page 3)
Memento Mori: Photographs from the Grave (GABRIEL N. FINDER AND JUDITH R. COHEN, page 55)
The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, 1944-1947 (NATALIA ALEKSIUN, page 74)
Who Am I? Jewish Children's Search for Identity in Post-War Poland, 1945-1949 (JOANNA B. MICHLIC, page 98)
Jewish Collaborators on Trial in Poland, 1944-1956 (GABRIEL N. FINDER AND ALEXANDER V. PRUSIN, page 122)
Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom and Memory, 1945-1947 (JONATHAN HUENER, page 149)
A Library of Hope and Destruction: The Yiddish Book Series Dos poylishe yidntum (Polish Jewry), 1946-1966 (JAN SCHWARZ, page 173)
Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Israeli Holocaust Memory (BOAZ COHEN, page 197)
Holocuast Memorialization in Ukraine (REBECCA GOLBERT, page 222)
Jedwabne and Wizna: Monuments and Memory in the Łomża Region (MARTA KURKOWSKA, page 244)
So Many Questions: The Development of Holocaust Education in Post-Communist Poland (JOLANTA AMBROSEWIC-JACOBS, page 271)
From Silence to Recognition: The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989 (ROBERT SZUCHTA, page 305)
What Story to Tell? Shaping the Narrative of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (MICHAEL C. STEINLAUF, page 318)
Bearing Witness: Henryk Grynberg's Path from Child Survivor to Artist. An interview with Henryk Grynberg (JOANNA B. MICHLIC, page 324)
'On the Gallows': The 'Politics of Assimilation' in Turn-of-the-Century Warsaw (SCOTT URY, page 339)
Shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh: A Close Analysis of the First Line of Goldfadn's Song (SETH L. WOLITZ, page 354)
Józefa Singer: The Inspiration for Rachela in Stanisław Wyspiański's Wesele, 1901 (REGINA GROL, page 360)
Introducing Miss Judaea 1929: The Politics of Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland (EVA PLACH, page 368)
Shmerke Kaczerginski: The Partisan-Troubadour (BRET WERB, page 392)
You from Jedwabne (JOANNA TOKARSKA-BAKIR, page 413)
The Synagogues of Poznań (CAROL HERSELLE KRINSKY, page 431)
The Dedication of the New Synagogue in Poznań (Posen) (ANTONY POLONSKY, page 446)
A Selection from Part I of Lev Levanda's Seething Times (MAXIM D. SHRAYER, page 459)
Notes on the Contributors (page 473)
Index (page 479)

Citation preview

THE INSTITUTE FOR POLISH-JEWISH STUDIES The Institute for Polish—Jewish Studies in Oxford and its sister organization, the American Association for Polish—Jewish Studies, which publish Polin, are learned societies that were established in 1984, following the First International Conference on Polish—Jewish Studies, held in Oxford. The Institute is an associate institute of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and

Jewish Studies, and the American Association is linked with the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University.

Both the Institute and the American Association aim to promote understanding of the Polish Jewish past. They have no building or library of their own and no paid staff; they _ achieve their aims by encouraging scholarly research and facilitating its publication, and by creating forums for people with a scholarly interest in Polish Jewish topics, both past and present.

To this end the Institute and the American Association help organize lectures and international conferences. Venues for these activities have included Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Institute for the Study of Human Sciences in Vienna, King’s College in London, the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, the University of Lodz, University College London, and the Polish Cultural Centre and the Polish embassy in London. They have encouraged academic exchanges between Israel, Poland, the United States, and western Europe. In particular they seek to help train a new generation of scholars, in Poland and elsewhere, to study the culture and history of the Jews in Poland. Each year since 1987 the Institute has published a volume of scholarly papers in the series Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry under the general editorship of Professor Antony Polonsky of Brandeis University. Since 1994 the series has been published on its behalf by the Littman

Library of Jewish Civilization, and since 1998 the publication has been linked with the American Association as well. In March 2000 the entire series was honoured with a National Jewish Book Award from the Jewish Book Council in the United States. More than twenty other works on Polish Jewish topics have also been published with the Institute’s assistance.

For further information on the Institute for Polish—Jewish studies or the American Association for Polish—Jewish Studies, contact .


| JEWISH CIVILIZATION Dedicated to the memory of

Louis THOMAS SIDNEY LITTMAN who founded the Littman Library for the love of God and as an act of charity in memory of his father JOSEPH AARON LITTMAN

712 DID ND

‘Get wisdom, get understanding: Forsake her not and she shall preserve thee’ PROV. 4: 5

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization ts a registered UK charity Registered charity no. 1000784



Making Holocaust Memory Edited by


The Institute for Polish—Jewish Studies and The American Association for Polish—Jewish Studies

Oxford - Portland, Oregon

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization 2008

The Littman Library of Ffewish Civilization Chief Executive Officer: Ludo Craddock Managing Editor: Connie Webber PO Box 645, Oxford OX2 OUJ, UK

Published in the United States and Canada by The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization c/o ISBS, 920 NE 58th Avenue, Suite 300 Portland, Oregon 97213-3756 © Institute for Polish—fewish Studies 2008 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by

any means, without the prior permission in writing of | The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization.

The paperback edition of this book 1s sold subject to the condition that tt shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data applied for

ISSN 0268 1056 ISBN 978—1-904113-05-8 ISBN 978-1-904113-06—5 (pbk) Publishing co-ordinator: Janet Moth Production: John Saunders Copy-editing: Bonnie Blackburn Proof-reading: George Tulloch Index: Bonnie Blackburn Series Design: Pete Russell, Faringdon, Oxon. Typeset by Hope Services (Abingdon) Lid Printed in Great Britain on acid-free paper by Biddles Ltd., Kings Lynn. www.

Articles appearing in this publication are abstracted and indexed in Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life

This volume 1s dedicated to the memory of


Photographer |

Founder and Director of the Galicia Fewish Museum, Krakow Chris devoted the last years of his life to photographing the traces of Jewish life still to be seen in Polish Galicia and then creating a museum where they could be on permanent display in an exhibition entitled Traces of Memory. In this way he made many thousands of people aware not only of the Jewish world that was destroyed by the Holocaust but of the efforts being made to preserve the memory of it in present-day Poland. Through his creativity and openness to the world he brought people together and gave them a new understanding of history and of moral responsibility

This volume benefited from grants from



Editors and Advisers EDITORS Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Lublin Israel Bartal, Jerusalem Antony Polonsky (Chair), Waltham, Mass. Michael Steinlauf, Philadelphia Jerzy Tomaszewski, Warsaw

, EDITORIAL BOARD Chimen Abramsky, London Elchanan Reiner, 7e/ Aviv David Assaf, Tel Aviv Jehuda Reinharz, Waltham, Mass. Wladyslaw T. Bartoszewski, Warsaw Moshe Rosman, Te/ Aviv

Glen Dynner, Bronxville, NY Szymon Rudnicki, Warsaw David Engel, New York Henryk Samsonowicz, Warsaw David Fishman, New York Robert Shapiro, New York ChaeRan Freeze, Waltham, Mass. Adam Teller, Hazsfa

Jozef Gierowski, Krakow Daniel Tollet, Paris

Jacob Goldberg, ferusalem Piotr S. Wandycz, New Haven, Conn. Yisrael Gutman, Jerusalem Jonathan Webber, Birmingham, UK

Jerzy Ktoczowski, Lublin Joshua Zimmerman, New York Ezra Mendelsohn, ferusalem Steven Zipperstein, Stanford, Calif. Joanna Michlic, Bethlehem, Pa. ADVISORY BOARD

Wladyslav Bartoszewski, Warsaw Hillel Levine, Boston Jan Blonski, Krakow Lucjan Lewitter, Cambridge, Mass. Abraham Brumberg, Washington Stanislaw Litak, Lublin Andrzej Chojnowski, Warsaw Heinz-Dietrich Lowe, Heidelberg Tadeusz Chrzanowski, Krakéw Emanuel Meltzer, Ze/ Aviv Andrzej Ciechanowiecki, London Shlomo Netzer, Tel Aviv

Norman Davies, London Zbigniew Pelczynski, Oxford Victor Erlich, New Haven, Conn. Alexander Schenker, New Haven, Conn.

Frank Golczewski, Hamburg David Sorkin, Madison, Wis. Olga Goldberg, Jerusalem Edward Stankiewicz, New Haven, Conn.

Feliks Gross, New York Norman Stone, Ankara

Czeslaw Hernas, Wroctaw Shmuel Werses, Zerusalem Jerzy Jedlicki, Warsaw Jacek Wozniakowski, Lublin Andrzej Kamuiski, London Piotr Wroébel, Toronto

POLIN Studies in Polish Jewry VOLUME 1 Poles and Jews: Renewing the Dialogue (1986) VOLUME 2 Jews and the Emerging Polish State (1987) VOLUME 3. The Jews of Warsaw (1988) VOLUME 4 Poles and Jews: Perceptions and Misperceptions (1989) VOLUME 5 New Research, New Views (1990)

VOLUME 6 Jews in Lodz, 1820-1939 (1991) VOLUME 7 Jewish Life in Nazi-Occupied Warsaw (1992)

From Shtetl to Socialism (1993): selected articles from volumes 1-7 VOLUME 8 _ Jews in Independent Poland, 1918-1939 (1994)

VOLUME g_ fews, Poles, and Socialists: The Failure of an Ideal (1996)

VOLUME 10 Jews in Early Modern Poland (1997) VOLUME 11 _ Aspects and Experiences of Religion (1998)

VOLUME 12 Galicia: Fews, Poles, and Ukrainians, 1772-1918 (1999) Index to Volumes 1-12 (2000)

VOLUME 13. The Holocaust and its Aftermath (2000) VOLUME 14. Jews in the Polish Borderlands (2001)

VOLUME 15 Jewish Religious Life, 1500-1900 (2002) VOLUME 16 Jewish Popular Culture and its Afterlife (2003)

VOLUME 17 The Shtetl: Myth and Reality (2004) VOLUME 18 _ femish Women in Eastern Europe (2005) VOLUME 19 _ Polish—fFewish Relations in North America (2007)

VOLUME 20 Making Holocaust Memory (2008)

, VOLUME 21 1968: Forty Years After (2009) VOLUME 22 Early Modern Poland: Borders and Boundaries (2010)

VOLUME 23. jfewsin Krakow (2011) ,


Preface THIS volume of Polin is centred around a core of articles devoted to the way Jews and Poles have remembered, represented, and memorialized the Holocaust from the end of the Second World War up to the present. It seeks to explain why they have done so in divergent ways, and hopes in this way to assist the reconciliation of their divided memories of this tragic past. As in previous volumes of Po/in, in the New Views section substantial space is also given to new research into a variety of topics in Polish Jewish studies. ‘These

include a study by Scott Ury of the ‘politics of assimilation’ in turn-of-thecentury Warsaw, an analysis by Seth L. Wolitz of the first line of a Goldfadn song,

and an account by Regina Grol of the life of Jozefa Singer, the inspiration for Rachela in Stanislaw Wyspianski’s Wesele. Eva Plach examines the contest to select

Miss Judaea organized 1n 1929 by the Polish-language Jewish newspaper Nasz Przeglad, Bret Werb describes the importance of Shmerke Kaczerginski, the partisan poet from the Vilna ghetto, and Joanna Tokarska-Bakir analyses Anna Bikont’s important new book My z fedwabnego (‘We from Jedwabne’). We also print extracts from Lev Levanda’s Russian novel Seething Times, published in 1875 and dealing with the 1863 uprising in Lithuania. A special section is devoted to the history of the New Synagogue in Poznan built in 1907 and surviving only because it was converted by the Nazis into a swimming pool. Today, although it has reverted to the ownership of the Jewish community, it is still used in this wholly inappropriate way. As we explained in the last volume, reviews and review essays are now posted on

our website, which enables them to be published much more quickly. To read these, and other material posted there, go to . Polin is sponsored by the Institute for Polish—Jewish Studies, Oxford, an associ-

ated institute of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and by the American Association for Polish—Jewish Studies, which is linked with the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University. As with earlier issues, this volume could not have appeared without the untiring assistance

of many individuals. In particular, we should like to express our gratitude to Professor Jehuda Reinharz, President of Brandeis University; to Mrs Irene Pipes, President, American Association for Polish—Jewish Studies; and to Professor Jonathan Webber, treasurer of the Institute for Polish—Jewish Studies. These three institutions all made substantial contributions to the cost of producing the volume. The volume also benefited from grants from Robert and Rochelle Cherry and the

Lucius N. Littauer Foundation. As was the case with earlier volumes, this one could not have been published without the constant assistance and supervision of

x Preface Connie Webber, managing editor of the Littman Library, Janet Moth, publishing co-ordinator, and the tireless copy-editing of Bonnie Blackburn and Sarah Swartz. Plans for future volumes of Polin are well advanced. Volume 21 will deal with the crisis of 1968 in Poland, and volume 22 will be devoted to the Jews in premodern Poland—Lithuania, while volume 23 will examine the history of the Jews in Krakow. Further volumes are planned on Jewish—Ukrainian relations, on the

history of Jews in Lithuania, and on Jewish elites in the lands of the former Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth. We welcome articles for the themed sections of issues, as well as for Polin’s New Views section; we also welcome any suggestions or criticisms. In particular, we should be very grateful for assistance in extending the geographical range of our yearbook to Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, both

in the period in which these countries were part of the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth and subsequently. We note with sadness the death of Raul Hilberg, who perhaps more than anyone else established the investigation of the Holocaust ona scholarly basis, and of John

Klier, Sidney and Elizabeth Corob Professor of Modern Jewish History at University College London, an outstanding historian of the Jews of eastern Europe and a member of the Council of the Institute for Polish—Jewish Studies.

POLIN SO ROROROATS We did not know, but our fathers told us how the exiles of Israel came to the land of Polin (Poland).

When Israel saw how its sufferings were constantly renewed, oppressions increased, persecutions multiplied, and how the evil authorities piled decree on decree and followed expulsion with expulsion, so that there was no way to , escape the enemies of Israel, they went out on the road and sought an answer from the paths of the wide world: which is the correct road to traverse to find rest for their soul? Then a piece of paper fell from heaven, and on it the words: Go to Polantya (Poland)!

So they came to the land of Polin and they gave a mountain of gold to the king, and he received them with great honour. And God had mercy on them, so that they found favour from the king and the nobles. And the king gave them permission to reside in all the lands of his kingdom, to trade over its length and breadth, and to serve God according to the precepts of their religion. And the king protected them against every foe and enemy. And Israel lived in Polin in tranquillity for a long time. They devoted them-

selves to trade and handicrafts. And God sent a blessing on them so that they were blessed in the land, and their name was exalted among the peoples. And they traded with the surrounding countries and they also struck coins with inscriptions in the holy language and the language of the country. These are the coins which have on them a lion rampant from the right facing left. And on the coins are the words ‘Mieszko, King of Poland’ or ‘Mieszko, Krol of Poland’. The Poles call their king ‘Krol’. And those who delve into the Scriptures say: “This is why it is called Polin. For thus spoke Israel when they came to the land, “Here rest for the night [Po

lin|.” And this means that we shall rest here until we are all gathered into the Land of Israel.’ Since this is the tradition, we accept it as such. S. Y. AGNON, 1916



Note on Place Names XV1 Note on Transhteration XV1l | PART I



Memento Mori: Photographs from the Grave 55 GABRIEL N. FINDER AND JUDITH R. COHEN

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, 1944-1947 74 NATALIA ALEKSIUN

1945-1949 98

Who Am I? Jewish Children’s Search for Identity in Post-War Poland, JOANNA B. MICHLIC

Jewish Collaborators on ‘Trial in Poland, 1944-1956 122 GABRIEL N. FINDER AND ALEXANDER V. PRUSIN

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom and Memory, 1945-1947 149 JONATHAN HUENER

A Library of Hope and Destruction: The Yiddish Book Series

Dos poylishe yidntum (Polish Jewry), 1946-1966 173


Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Israeli Holocaust Memory 197 BOAZ COHEN

Holocaust Memorialization in Ukraine 222 REBECCA GOLBERT

xiv Contents

Lomza Region 244

Jedwabne and Wizna: Monuments and Memory in the MARTA KURKOWSKA

So Many Questions: The Development of Holocaust Education in

Post-Communist Poland 271


since 1989 305

From Silence to Recognition: The Holocaust in Polish Education ROBERT SZUCHTA

of Polish Jews 318

What Story to Tell? Shaping the Narrative of the Museum of the History MICHAEL C. STEINLAUF

Bearing Witness: Henryk Grynberg’s Path from Child Survivor to

Artist. An interview with Henryk Grynberg 324




Warsaw 339

‘On the Gallows’: The ‘Politics of Assimilation’ in Turn-of-the-Century SCOTT URY

Goldfadn’s Song 354

Shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh: A Close Analysis of the First Line of SETH L. WOLITZ

Wesele, 1901 360

J6ozefa Singer: The Inspiration for Rachela in Stanislaw Wyspianski’s REGINA GROL

in Inter-War Poland 368

Introducing Miss Judaea 1929: The Politics of Beauty, Race, and Zionism EVA PLACH

Contents XV Shmerke Kaczerginski: The Partisan-Troubadour 392 BRET WERB

You from Jedwabne 413 JOANNA TOKARSKA-BAKIR



The Synagogues of Poznan 431 CAROL HERSELLE KRINSKY

The Dedication of the New Synagogue in Poznan (Posen) 446 ANTONY POLONSKY



A Selection from Part 1 of Lev Levanda’s Seething Times 459


Notes on the Contributors 473

Note on Place Names POLITICAL connotations accrue to words, names, and spellings with an alacrity unfortunate for those who would like to maintain neutrality. It seems reasonable to honour the choices of a population on the name of its city or town, but what is one to do when the people have no consensus on their name, or when the town changes its name, and the name its spelling, again and again over time? The politician may always opt for the latest version,

but the hapless historian must reckon with them all. This note, then, will be our brief reckoning. There is no problem with places that have accepted English names, such as Warsaw. But every other place name in east-central Europe raises serious problems. A good example is Wilno, Vilna, Vilnius. There are clear objections to all of these. Until 1944 the majority of the population was Polish. The city is today in Lithuania. ‘Vilna’, though raising the fewest problems, is an artificial construct. In this volume we have adopted the following guidelines, although we are aware that they are not wholly consistent.

1. ‘Towns that have a form which is acceptable in English will be given in that form. Some examples are Warsaw, Kiev, Moscow, St Petersburg, Munich.

2. Towns that until 1939 were clearly part of a particular state and shared the majority nationality of that state will be given in a form which reflects that situation. Some examples are Breslau, Danzig, Rzeszow, Przemysl. In Polish, Krakow has always been spelled as such. In English it has more often appeared as Cracow, but the current trend of English follows the local language as much as possible. In keeping with this trend to local determination, then, we shall maintain the Polish spelling.

3. Towns that are in mixed areas should take the form in which they are known today and which reflects their present situation. Examples are Poznan, Torun, Kaunas, Lviv. This applies also to bibliographical references. We have made one major exception to this rule, using the common English form for Vilna until its first incorporation into Lithuania in October 1939 and using Vilnius thereafter. Galicia’s most diversely named city, and one of its most important, boasts four variants: the Polish Lwow, the German Lemberg, the Russian Lvov, and the Ukrainian Lviv. As this city currently lives under Ukrainian rule, and most of its current residents speak Ukrainian, we shall follow the Ukrainian spelling.

4. Some place names have different forms in Yiddish. Occasionally the subject matter dictates that the Yiddish place name should be the prime form, in which case the corresponding Polish (Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian) name is given in parentheses at first mention.

Note on Transhteration HEBREW An attempt has been made to achieve consistency in the transliteration of Hebrew words. The following are the key distinguishing features of the system that has been adopted: 1. No distinction is made between the a/eph and ayin; both are represented by an apostrophe, and only when they appear in an intervocalic position. 2. Veitis written v; het is written /; yod is written y when it functions as a consonant and 2 when it occurs as a vowel; khaf is written kh; tsadi is written ts; kof is written k. 3. The dagesh hazak, represented in some transliteration systems by doubling the letter, 1s not represented, except in words that have more or less acquired normative English spellings that include doublings, such as Hallel, kabbalah, Kaddish, rabbi, Sukkot, and Yom Kippur.

4. The sheva na is represented by an e.

5. Hebrew prefixes, prepositions, and conjunctions are not followed by a hyphen when they are transliterated; thus betoledot ha’am hayehudi.

6. Capital letters are not used in the transliteration of Hebrew except for the first word in the titles of books and the names of people, places, institutions, and generally as in the conventions of the English language.

7. The names of individuals are transliterated following the above rules unless the individual concerned followed a different usage.

YIDDISH Transliteration follows the YIVO system except for the names of people, where the spellings they themselves used have been retained.

RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN The system used is that of British Standard 2979:1958, without diacritics. Except in bibliographical and other strictly rendered matter, soft and hard signs are omitted and word-final

-U, -MU, -bIU, -iM in names are simplified to -y.



Making Holocaust Memory



Introduction GABRIEL N. FINDER UNDER THE TITLE ‘Making Holocaust Memory’ the chapters gathered in the first section of this issue of Po/in examine ways in which Jews and Poles, from the end of the Second World War up to the present, have remembered, represented, and memorialized the Holocaust. This is a salient topic for the twentieth volume of Polin for two related reasons, one originating in the past, the other contemporary: Polin was in the forefront of the effort twenty-odd years ago to renew dialogue between Jewish and Polish intellectuals, while the reconciliation of Jewish

and Polish memories of the Holocaust is the central issue in contemporary Polish—Jewish relations. As Stanistaw Krajewski, a leader of the current Jewish revival in Poland, observes, “True Polish—Jewish contacts belong to the past. With

the possible exception of the problem of the restitution of property, which involves nothing specifically Jewish, there are no longer any real Polish—Jewish

conflicts, only controversies over symbols and the interpretation of the past.’ Emblematic in this regard is the contested terrain of Auschwitz, the universal ‘symbol of the destruction of the Jews; in Poland, it is also a symbol of the suffering of the Poles’. In Krajewski’s view, the controversy to maintain a convent on the grounds of Auschwitz, which captured the world’s attention in the late 1980s and early 1990s, ‘represented an opportunity for the two sides to understand each other better. So far, however—apart from numerous exceptions on both sides—a lack

of understanding is dominant.’! This lack of understanding is symptomatic of what Antony Polonsky calls Poles’ and Jews’ ‘divided memory’ of the Holocaust in Poland, which has proved tenacious precisely because Poles and Jews alike place

a premium on the quest for a usable past; divided memory, therefore, has contributed its fair share to the polarization of Polish—Jewish relations since 1945.” From the termination of hostilities in 1944—5 to the end of communism in Poland in 1989, Jews were marginalized in and eventually banished from the Polish consciousness of the Second World War, which absorbed and submerged the destruction of Polish Jewry into a redemptive narrative of Polish martyrdom and heroism; 1S. Krajewski, Poland and the Jews: Reflections of a Polish Polish Jew (Krakéw, 2005), 94.

2 A. Polonsky, ‘Poles, Jews and the Problems of a Divided Memory’, Ab Imperio, 2 (2004), 125-47. In the same spirit, see P. Wrdbel, ‘Double Memory: Poles and Jews after the Holocaust’, East European Politics and Socteties, 11 (1997), 560-74.

4 Gabriel N. Finder post-war Jewish memory, cultivated overwhelmingly beyond Poland’s borders, was forged in the crucible of the Shoah, allowing for negligible, if any, appreciation for the plight of Poles under German occupation—this tension was the source of divisive memory in the communist era. The bifurcation of Jewish and Polish percep-

tions of the same cataclysmic event is the subject matter of the majority of the chapters in this section. Yet since the 1980s a substantial number of Jews and Poles have sought, with partial but increasing success, to identify a common ground for remembering their vexing, intertwined past; their efforts constitute Krajewski’s ‘numerous exceptions’. The more auspicious undertakings in this direction have integrated the history of Polish Jews into a civic and pluralistic vision of Poland, while honouring the distinctive character of the destruction of Polish and European Jewry; the less auspicious have exposed the tenacity of underlying conflicts between Polish and Jewish perceptions of the past. By the same token, it was predictable that the fall of communism would open a Pandora’s box of previously taboo subjects, particularly the issue of questionable or reproachable Polish behaviours during the Nazi genocide of the

Jews, which Poles had swept under the carpet for half a century. Intense public reckoning in Poland with this ‘dark past’ was provoked in 2000 by the publication of Jan Gross’s controversial book Sgsiedzi: Historia zaglady zydowskiego miasteczka (translated into English in 2001 under the title Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Ffedwabne, Poland), which describes the massacre of the Jewish

population of the hamlet of Jedwabne perpetrated by local Poles in July 1941. The retrieval of the Jewish dimension to the pre-war and wartime past on te one hand and of the dark side of the national past before, during, and after the war on the other has engendered both the rehabilitation and, in turn, condemnations of antisemitic sentiments. This fitful process of reconciling divided memory in postcommunist Poland is examined in the concluding chapters of this section.

Owing to constraints of space, the editors make no claim to a comprehensive treatment of the divisive memory of the Holocaust. Nonetheless, the chapters in the first section, both individually and in their entirety, chart new territory 1n their exploration of hitherto neglected topics whose importance to the overall understanding of the divorce and subsequent ongoing reconciliation of Jewish and Polish memory should become obvious to the reader. And in recovering lorig-lost

episodes in post-war Jewish and Polish memory from historical obscurity, these chapters perform a significant act of memorialization in and of itself. Nevertheless, their authors, acutely aware of the importance of memory to the collective self-validation of Poles and Jews, respectively, evince a healthy scepticism about memory’s claims. In this spirit, all the contributors to this section—-some more so, some less so—heed the counsel of ‘Thomas W. Laqueur, ‘excavating what is forgotten and scrupulously examining what is remembered’.” 3 'T. W. Laqueur, introduction to Representations, 69 (Winter 2000; special issue: ‘Grounds for Remembering’), 7.

Introduction 5 THE DIVISION OF MEMORY Nazi rule in Poland was brutal, violent, and devastating. According to figures that the Polish government made public in January 1947, the death toll from the war of Poland’s Jews was 3,200,000, of ethnic Poles 2,600,000. (A recent study by a Polish scholar reduces the number of Polish Jewish dead to 2,900,000 and the number of Polish dead to some two million; in addition, it fixes the number of victims of other ethnic groups in Poland in the tens of thousands.*) This rather rough parity in the number of dead Jews and Poles should not obscure a fundamental distinction in the fate of the Jewish and ethnic Polish communities under Nazism: in line with its racial programme, Nazi Germany pursued the systematic destruction of Poland’s Jewish population on the one hand, the harsh colonization of Poland and enslavement of ethnic Poles on the other. Along these lines, the Nazis targeted Polish Jewry for isolation, persecution, slave labour, and, beginning in the autumn of 1941, after the fateful decision to kill all European Jews had been taken, total physical annihilation, while subjecting ethnic Poles to a staggering loss of life, despoliation of property, incarceration, forced labour, and forced resettlement. To Jews this distinction is a given; with notable exceptions, Poles have generally been resistant to it, at least until very recently.

What psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton calls the ‘death imprint’—the close encounter with and massive exposure to violent death—entailing ‘prolonged humiliation and torture, and more generalized psychic and bodily assaults’, intensely affected how tens of thousands of Polish Jewish survivors remembered the Nazis’ assault on Polish Jewry. Describing both Hiroshima and Holocaust survivors, Lifton writes: The sense of having virtually entered the realm of death . . . and yet returned from it, gives the memory its lasting power. . . . Such memories become repeated re-enactments of . . . survival. They also reflect a continuous effort to absorb an encounter whose life-and-death absolutes cause it to be perceived as in every way more fundamental—more psychically devastating and illuminating—than any other.°

The imprint of death in the memories of Polish Jews was already perceptible in sur-

vivors’ written recollections of Jewish life 1m extremis while Poland was still under , German occupation. The account by Yankel Wiernik (1890—1972), a survivor of Treblinka, 1s a case in point. Some 870,000 Jews passed through the portals of this

notorious killing facility and perished there in its gas chambers. In Treblinka Wiernik’s life was spared because he was among the limited number of Jews who were selected for physical labour; since he was skilled in carpentry, he was assigned * C. Luczak, ‘Szanse i trudnosci bilansu demograficznego Polski w latach 1939-1945’, Dzieje Najnowsze, 26/2 (1994), 9-14. © On the ‘death imprint’, see R. J. Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (New York, 1967), 480-8; quotations at 480, 483.

6 Gabriel N. Finder to build additional gas chambers in which thousands of Jews would be killed. He became a key figure in the conspiracy to stage an uprising and escape from the camp in August 1943. A couple of hundred Jews survived the escape from the camp; Wiernik was one of them. He made his way to Warsaw, where representatives of the Jewish underground persuaded him to record what he had witnessed and experienced. From his hiding place outside Warsaw, he produced a vivid and painstakingly detailed account of the reign of terror in Treblinka. A slim volume was published underground in a small edition in May 1944 in Polish; it was subsequently smuggled to the West, and the first Yiddish and English editions of A Year in Treblinka were published in New York later in the same year. Of the 150—200

prisoners who succeeded in evading pursuit after the uprising in Treblinka, _ Wiernik was one of no more than seventy who remained alive at the end of the war.° He eventually settled in Israel, and in 1961 he testified at the Eichmann trial. David Roskies has perspicaciously described survivors’ ‘burden of memory’.’ A striking illustration of it pervades the opening paragraphs of Wiernik’s book: Dear Reader, Only for you do I prolong my miserable life. It has lost every attraction for me. . . .

... My life is toxic. ... I sacrificed all those closest to me. I myself led them to the slaughter. I myself built death chambers for them. ... 1 bear a hundred centuries on my shoulders. It’s heavy for me. So, so heavy! But, for

the time being I must bear this burden. [ want to and must do it. 1, who have seen the destruction of three generations, must live for the future. The whole world must learn of the barbarians’ vileness. Centuries and generations will vilify them; and I of all people must be the cause for this! In one’s boldest fantasy one could not imagine what I have witnessed and experienced. No pen is capable of describing this. I want to recount everything correctly and accurately. Let people know! . . . I suffered leading millions to their death; let people know of this. I live for this. This is my only goal. In loneliness and solitude I reconsider again everything that I saw and I tell it truthfully. Loneliness and solitude are my only friends. Only the chirping of birds accompanies me in my reflections and labour.®

It is debatable whether the intensely personal, traumatic memories of a Wiernik and tens of thousands of Polish (and other) Jews like him can be assimilated by nonsurvivors, be they fellow Jews, Poles, or others. Regardless, most Poles in communist Poland were unsympathetic to this Jewish ‘burden of memory’ and developed what Tadeusz Sobolewski, a well-known Polish journalist, concedes is a ‘mental block’ 6 On Treblinka, see Y. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Ind., 1987). ” See D. G. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1984), ch. 9. 8 'Y. Wiernik, A yor in treblinke [A Year in Treblinka] (New York, 1944), 7-8 (my translation from Yiddish; emphasis in original).

Introduction 7 when it came to Jewish perceptions of the war years.? This mental block had the effect of segregating Jewish memory, in all its searing intensity, from Polish remembrance of the war years. Thus when the majority of Jews who had resurfaced in or returned to Poland after the war subsequently left the country in the second half of the 1940s, in the mid-1950s, and in 1968, their departure effectively made no difference in how the German occupation was remembered in Poland, since Jewish Holocaust memory had been isolated from the early phases of the post-war period and superseded in Polish consciousness by Polish memory of the same period. The post-war bifurcation of Polish and Jewish memory has its origins in Poles’ and Jews’ wartime relationship. From 1939 to 1945, Jews were relegated beyond what sociologist Helen Fein would call the ‘universe of obligation’ of most Poles.’° That is to say, although the Nazi occupation of their country galvanized millions of Poles to undermine it and mount civil and military resistance to it, the majority of Poles felt no obligation to help Jews or to make the Germans pay for their indecent and inhuman treatment of Jews in Polish Jewry’s darkest hour. As Jan Gross contends, Poles could not plead ignorance of the Germans’ persecution, mistreatment, and even slaughter of the Jews because they saw these things with their own eyes. ‘Holocaust . . . was not confined to the pitch dark interiors of gas chambers and covered vans’, Gross writes. ‘It took place in full daylight and was witnessed by millions of Poles who... by and large did little to impede it, to slow it down, or to interfere with it.’* They intervened on a small scale, in his view, because, fundamentally, they were indifferent to the Jewish catastrophe.'? In his recent study of antisemitism and anti-Jewish violence in post-war Poland, Gross goes so far as to argue that Poles were in fundamental agreement with the Germans’ exploitation and murder of Polish Jews, and, therefore, wanted to be rid of the remnant of survivors who converged on Poland after the war and to have nothing to do with those who remained in the country.'° In any event, as

Antony Polonsky points out, the German occupation of Poland exacerbated an already mounting deterioration in relations between the country’s Polish and Jewish communities that by the late 1930s had led, in the context of Polish—Jewish relations, to the entrenchment of two separate societies in Poland, one Polish, and the other Jewish.'* As Barbara Engelking further observes, from the perspective of Poles, the ° Quoted in FE Tych, ‘The Image of the Holocaust in Polish Historical Consciousness’, Polin, 14 (2001), 315. 10H. Fein, Accounting for Genocide: National Responses and fewish Victimization during the Holocaust (Chicago, 1979), 33.

11 J. T. Gross, ‘A Tangled Web: Confronting Stereotypes Concerning Relations between Poles, Germans, Jews, and Communists’, in I. Deak, J. T: Gross, and T: Judt (eds.), The Politics of Retribution

in Europe: World War II and its Aftermath (Princeton, 2000), 91. . 12 Ibid. 76-92; see also id., Upiorna dekada: Trzy eseje 0 stereotypach na temat Zydéw, Polakon, Niemcow 1 komunstow 1939-1948 (Krakow, 1998), 25-60. 13 |. T. Gross, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz (New York, 2006), passim.

14 A. Polonsky, ‘Beyond Condemnation, Apologetics and Apologies: On the Complexity of Polish Behavior toward the Jews during the Second World War’, in J. Frankel (ed.), The Fate of the European

8 Gabriel N. Finder German occupation of Poland provoked a battle waged between Poles and Germans, while the fate of Jews was peripheral to Polish concerns partly because Poles did not need Jews in their struggle to oust the German occupier. From the point of view of Jews, however, the war encompassed not only German aggressors and their Jewish targets but also Polish bystanders, since in order to elude death the Jewish minority desperately depended on the assistance of Poles.!° Polish indifference to the fate of Jews magnified their isolation, making it easier for the Germans to persecute, seize, and deport them, and much harder for the small number of Poles, relatively speaking, who wished to extend a helping hand or hide them.'®

This rupture between Poles and Jews outlived the German occupation of the country. When Jews converged on Poland after the war, Poles on the whole made them feel unwelcome; anti-Jewish violence made them feel unsafe. If the Holocaust

had left Polish Jews scarred, the post-war environment in Poland, which was punctuated by antisemitic attitudes and violence, left them scared. ‘But’, writes Zygmunt Bauman in a striking observation, ‘the Poles were scarred too, and scared—of the crime committed on their soil, before their eyes.’ He continues: Reactions to the harrowing experience were as if drawn from a psychology textbook. Some

tried to talk themselves into believing that the Jews, after all, deserved what they got, brought the hatred upon themselves and hence no one ought to be castigated for not helping them. Some others tried to shift all the guilt onto the murderers: the odds were overwhelming, and nothing we could possibly have done would have balanced them out. Some sought consolation in remembering that they were also on the receiving end of the crime: we all suffered, we all have our dead to commemorate, and the Jewish claim that their victims should be treated differently is just another insidious attempt to cast aspersions on their Polish hosts. ... However different the reactions, they were all responses to the trauma of an unresolved moral problem and of suppressed guilt.

Jews, 1939-1945: Continuity or Contingency (Studies in Contemporary fewry: An Annual, 13) (New York and Oxford, 1997), 190-224.

1° B. Engelking, Holocaust and Memory, ed. G. S. Paulsson, trans. E. Harris (London and New York, 2001), esp. ch. 1.

16 In this regard, one should not ignore the admonition of Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, in 1995 to the delegates of a conference in Krakéw that was devoted to exploring Jewish and Polish memory: ‘Polish-Jewish memory. There is not one Jewish memory. . . . There is therefore no uniform national pattern showing what kind of relations Jews had with Poles. And so it is with Poles. Different is the relation of a [Jan] Karski and a [Wladyslaw] Bartoszewski. Different is the relation of those who saved Jews.’ M. Edelman, ‘Pamie¢—nie ma jednego schematu’, in R. Assuntino and W. Goldkorn (eds.), Straznik: Marek Edelman opowiada, trans. I. Kania (Krakow, 2000), 239. Karski was the remarkable Polish courier who during the war informed Western leaders— who generally disbelieved him—of the Germans’ annihilation of the Jews, Bartoszewski a member

of Zegota, the wartime Council for Aid to Jews. It goes without saying that there were not many Karskis or Bartoszewskis among Poles, not to mention Edelmans among Jews. They were of a rare breed and their memories clearly differed from those of the majority of their fellow Poles and Jews respectively.

Introduction 9 “The Holocaust’, adds Bauman, left millions dead; but it also left indelible scars on the memories and consciences of those who survived and those who were forced to witness it. Equality in suffering unites and heals; ‘singling out’ part of the sufferers for special treatment leaves hatred and moral terror in its wake. Far from dispersing the clouds of mutual suspicion and antipathy which hung over Polish—Jewish cohabitation, the Holocaust made the reconciliation more difficult

than ever before. 1!” ,

The scar on Polish memory and consciousness of the annihilation of Polish Jewry inclined Poles to minimize and, if possible, erase all traces of Jews, to put Jews out of mind, to forget. In a classic essay written in August 1945, Kazimierz Wyka drew

attention to the moral degeneration of Polish society under German occupation, which had enabled Poles, among other things, to take involuntarily abandoned Jewish property during the war and then without further ado to assert ownership of it after the war. From the point of view of Poles, argued Wyka, their displacement of Jews had changed nothing. Forgetting helped foster this attitude. Wyka wrote: This time, from under the sword of the German butcher perpetrating a crime unprecedented in history, the little Polish storekeeper sneaked the keys to his Jewish competitor’s cashbox, and believed that he had acted morally. To the Germans went the guilt and the crime; to us the keys and the cashbox. The storekeeper forgot that the ‘legal’ annihilation of an entire people is part of an undertaking so unparalleled that it was doubtless not staged by history for the purpose of changing the sign on someone’s shop.'®

In this spirit, in many towns where returning Jews dared to re-establish Jewish memory by raising modest memorials to the dead in reclaimed Jewish cemeteries, local Poles demolished them in short order.'? Countrywide, Poles paved roads, laid pavements, restored damaged buildings, and reconstructed bridges with tombstones from Jewish cemeteries that the Germans had desecrated—all apparently

without having second thoughts. According to the report of a survivor who returned to his home town of Zamosc¢, the mayor had bones from the Jewish cemetery incinerated, farmers cultivated potatoes in it, and townspeople sold marble gravestones and used them for a variety of purposes from pavement stones to knife and axe blades. They even converted them into gravestones suitable for use in the Catholic cemetery.”° The effect, either intended or unintended, of this assault on 17 Z. Bauman, review of Irena Hurwic-Nowakowska, 4 Social Analysis of Postwar Polish Jewry, Polin, 3 (1988), 438-42: 440-1. 18 K. Wyka, ‘The Excluded Economy’, in J. R. Wedel (ed.), The Unplanned Society: Poland during and after Communism (New York, 1992), 41 (emphasis mine). 19 For an example from Kutno, see A. Veykslfish, ‘Kutne in yanuar 1945’ [Kutno in January 1945], in D. Shtokfish (ed.), Sefer kutnah vehasevivah ({Tel Aviv], 1968), 402-5; id., ‘Bekutnah hameshuhreret’, ibid. 405-6; see also D. Kahane, Aharet hamabul: nisayon lehahayot et hakehilot hadatiyot bepolin shele’aha milhemet ha’olam hashentyah (1944-1949) (Jerusalem, 1981), 112-15. 20 B. Tsanin, ‘Bematsevoteikha ritsefu rehovoteikha’, in M. Tamari (ed.), Zamosh bege’onah uveshivrah (Tel Aviv, 1953), 183-4.

10 Gabriel N. Finder Jewish memory was to validate the Germans’ own campaign to erase Jewish memory from Poland and to help drive many returning Jews from post-war Poland.”! If the degradation of Polish—Jewish relations during the war and in its immediate aftermath impelled Poles to minimize and expel Jews from their memory of the war, the predominant interpretation of Poland’s national history bolstered this proclivity. Brian Porter has shown that in the wake of the defeat of the 1830 November uprising, Polish intellectuals, coping with its failure, justified the struggle for Polish

sovereignty in messianic terms. As Porter puts it, ‘the quest for independence became a Divine imperative and Poland became the “Christ of Nations” ’.27 Poles’ adherence to this Christian construction of their history was tenacious. It sustained

| them under German occupation and then in the difficult post-war period. In this vein, Jonathan Huener, a contributor to this volume, invokes ‘Poland’s martyrological culture’, with its origins in the nineteenth century, which, he notes, was effectively harnessed in the twentieth during the crisis of World War II and the years immediately thereafter. God may not have prevented Poland’s defeat, but there was a divine purpose in her demise: a Christlike historical mission to redeem the nations of Europe through suffering and example. Once resurrected, the Polish nation-state would be a bea~ con of tolerance, freedom, and political morality. ... For many in Poland’s wartime generation, this messianic vision of the nation’s destiny became an inspirational myth, and the

German occupation provided the perfect example of righteous suffering—whether at the front in 1939, in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, or in Auschwitz—at the hands of a foreign invader.?°

This historical archetype induced Poles, with the help of the apparent parity in Jewish and Polish victims, to draw parallels between them and then, with the endorsement of the regime in the political climate created by the so-called ‘antiZionist campaign’ in the spring of 1968, to equate the wartime fate of Jews and Poles. Equating the suffering of Jews and national victims of Nazism was not unique to Poland. Samuel Moyn argues that in France, the deportation and murder of a quar-

ter of the country’s Jewish population threatened to undermine the myth of widespread resistance, according to which all deportees were victims for a compelling collective cause. Accordingly, it was necessary to absorb Jewish victims of the Holocaust in France into a more general category of French martyrs, thus equating the victimhood of all deportees.*4 In Poland, the Holocaust posed a threat to the Polish national myth of heroism and martyrdom in a similar way, and the Polish response resembled the French one, but from the earliest stages of the post-war era 21 On the hostile attitude with which Poles viewed the return of Jews after the war and its frequent eruption into anti-Jewish violence, see Gross, Fear, esp. ch. 2. 22 B. Porter, When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland (New York and Oxford, 2000), 27. 23 J. Huener, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, 1945-1979 (Athens, Ohio, 2003), 49.

24S. Moyn, A Holocaust Controversy: The Treblinka Affair in Postwar France (Hanover, NH and London, 2005), 46-7.

Introduction Il in Poland, Poles did the French one better in the perverse competition over who suffered more by insistently accusing Jews of passivity in the face of the Nazi onslaught.*° The effect of this charge was twofold: to strengthen their own myth of heroism and martyrdom by way of contrast with putative Jewish behaviour and to insulate it from encroachment of the Holocaust. (The Jewish leadership in Poland in the immediate post-war period reacted to the charge of Jewish passivity by assiduously promoting its own myth of widespread Jewish armed resistance to Nazism.”°) Poles of this cast of mind felt aggrieved, then, when, from their point of view,

the installed communist regime distorted memory of the war years, in particular with its inflation of the role of the communist People’s Army (Armia Ludowa, AL) in liberating Poland and its vilification of the anti-ccommunist Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK). They especially resented the regime’s defamation of the Warsaw uprising of August—October 1944. In the course of this massive urban insurrection in the heart of German-occupied Europe, which was led by the Home Army, the Germans killed as many as 200,000 Poles, and, after quelling the uprising, they razed the city to the ground and evacuated its population in retaliation, while Soviet forces watched impassively from the right bank of the Vistula River. Poles were tenacious, however, in their refusal to forget the valour of their compatriots and the personal loss of relatives, friends, and comrades to the struggle, or, for that matter, the inaction of the Red Army. The effortless integration of the uprising into the Polish historical archetype, with its emphasis on martyrdom in the service of the Polish national struggle for freedom, only served to reinforce the memory of the uprising in the minds of most Poles. From the mid-1950s, when Stalinism ceded its grip in Poland and Wladyslaw Gomutka (1905-82) assumed leadership of the communist party, by then called the Polish United Workers’ Party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza, PZPR), and especially since 1968, when the ‘Partisan’ faction in the party led by Mieczyslaw Moczar (1913-86) vied for control of the party, the regime reintegrated the Home Army into the ranks of the defenders of Poland’s honour. (The other dimension to Moczar’s campaign to broaden the base of the party entailed intensifying Polish insistence on the equal fate of Poles and Jews under Nazi occupation and Jewish passivity, and, adding a

new wrinkle, on Jewish collaboration and ingratitude to Poles who assisted them.”’) But various initiatives explored under communist rule to establish a memorial to the Warsaw uprising came to naught owing to political objections. The regime allowed a memorial to the uprising to be raised in Warsaw’s military 25 A pertinent example from the rg80s comes from W. Sila-Nowicki, ‘A Reply to Jan Blonski’, in A. Polonsky (ed.), My Brother’s Keeper? Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust (London, 1990), 66—7.

26 On the post-war construction of the myth in Poland of active Jewish resistance to Nazism, see D. Engel, Bein shihrur leverthah: nitsolet hasho’ah bepolin vehama’avak al hanhagatam (Tel Aviv, 1996), ch. 2; A. Grabski, Zydowski ruch kombatancki w Polsce w latach 1944-1949 (Warsaw, 2002), passim.

27 See A. Polonksy and J. B. Michlic, introduction to A. Polonksy and J. B. Michlic (eds.), The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (Princeton and Oxford, 2004), 8—10.

12 Gabriel N. Finder cemetery and plaques to be erected in churches in late 1956, when the communist party elected Gomutka to the post of first secretary in October, but public commemoration of the uprising in the open was not tolerated. Thus, an appropriate monument to the Warsaw uprising was unveiled by an independent committee only in the summer of 1989, when the regime was on the verge of collapse.?° It was followed after the end of communism by a museum dedicated to the uprising.

THE APPROPRIATION OF MEMORY Quoting from the introduction to the third edition, published in 1959, of Walka 1 zaglada warszawskiego getta by Bernard (Ber) Mark (1908-66), the eminent Polish historian Jerzy Tomaszewski notes that post-war Polish collective memory of the fate of Jews was influenced significantly by the ‘spirit of the time’.*? Jan Gross argues that the spirit of the time was permeated by antisemitism and that the regime wanted no part of the Jewish community, which led it to relegate the issue of the Holocaust to the sidelines.*° In line with Soviet policy to deny Jews the status of a distinctive nationality and the communist reconstruction of the recent past, not to mention Soviet and home-grown antisemitism, from the end of the war to the mid1980s the appointed guardians of Polish collective memory effectively assimilated both the slaughter of Polish Jewry and the resistance of the Jewish underground into a Polish national myth underpinned by obligatory communist biases and in justification of communist rule; in turn, they pressed Jewish martyrdom and heroism into the service of the ‘anti-fascist’ struggle while marginalizing the specific features

of the Nazi genocide of the country’s Jews. In support of the regime’s political objectives, they embroidered remembrance of the Holocaust with what historian Krystyna Kersten aptly calls ‘half-truths’.*! The regime even conscripted Jewish communist leaders of what remained of Poland’s Jewish community and Jewish historians, most notably Ber Mark, the director of the Jewish Historical Institute from 1949 to 1966, in this effort to co-opt Jewish memory of the Holocaust.*? During the communist era Poles generally dealt with Jewish Holocaust memory

in two distinct ways: they either shoehorned it into a communist and Polish national narrative or submerged it in the national tragedies of the various peoples

of Europe. These approaches were not mutually exclusive and were often combined. An illustration of the first approach is the official commemoration 28 On the Warsaw uprising, see N. Davies, Rising ’44: ‘The Battle for Warsaw’ (London, 2003). On the erection of a memorial to the uprising, see ibid. 5g1—2, 602-3, and J. E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and their Meaning (New Haven and London, 1993), 176.

29 J. Tomaszewski, ‘Polish Historiography on the Holocaust’, in D. Bankier and I. Gutman (eds.),

Nazi Europe and the Final Solution (Jerusalem, 2003), 117. 30 Gross, Fear, passim. 31 K. Kersten, Polacy, Zydzi, Komunizm: Anatomia polprawd 1939-68 (Warsaw, 1992).

32, On the treatment of the Holocaust by Jewish historians in post-war Poland, see L. S. Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1981), 97-124.

Introduction 13 of the Warsaw ghetto uprising from 1949 to the 1980s. The uprising of a few hundred young Jewish fighters in April-May 1943 was the first significant urban rebellion in Nazi-occupied Europe. It inspired other Jewish resistance movements

to Nazism in Poland and in other countries and has been engraved in Jewish memory ever since because of its symbolic affirmation of Jewish heroism, which stood in stark contrast with the degrading antisemitic stereotype of Jewish passivity.

Survivors gathered after liberation on the ruins of the former ghetto to commemorate the second anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising on 19 April 1945. They were led by Yitzhak Zuckerman (1915-81), one of the leaders of the Jewish Fighting Organization (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, ZOB) in the Warsaw ghetto. For the next two years, they would gather on the anniversary of the uprising and lay modest memorial stones on the site of the last bunker of the command staff of the Jewish Fighting Organization, located at 18 Mita Street.?? Furthermore, in accordance with their political affiliations—from various shades of Zionism to the Jewish socialist Bund—Jewish activists held separate commemoration ceremonies 1n tribute to underground leaders from their particular movements. After the war, the Central Committee of Polish Jews (Centralny Komitet Zydéw w Polsce, CKZP), the principal body of Polish Jewry in the immediate post-war period, whose executive council comprised Zionists, Bundists, and Jewish communists, adopted a proposal to erect a monument to commemorate the uprising and commissioned the sculptor Nathan Rapoport (1911-87), a Polish Jew who escaped the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, to design it. His Warsaw ghetto monument, located in a public square near the headquarters of the underground command, consists of massive yet minimalist granite blocks offset by expressionist statuary on either side. In the spirit of epic realism, the front side, facing the square, is dominated by muscular, defiant figures wielding weapons of resistance and emerging from the flames of the burning ghetto in the background. Leading the fighters 1s a figure representing Mordechai Anielewicz (1919-43), the commander of the uprising. A fallen youth in the forefront is a reminder of the defeat of the rebellion.** These heroic figures reveal no discernible signs of Jewish identity. If anything, they suggest Rapoport’s own sensitivity to the era’s ideological expectations of epic art, which is underscored by James Young’s description of the Anielewicz figure: ‘In his bare chest, tattered clothes, and rolled-up sleeves, clutching his grenade almost like a hammer, Rapoport’s Anielewicz is unmistakably proletarian, marching forth as both a worker and partisan to lead his fighters.’*? The Jewish character of the monument is unmistakable nevertheless. It finds expression on the front side in the placement of a menorah, the candelabrum associated with the 33 'Y. Zuckerman (‘Antek’), A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, trans. and ed. B. Harshav (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford, 1993), 676—7. 34 On Rapoport and the design of the Warsaw ghetto monument, see Young, The Texture of Memory,

154-74. 3° Tbid. 174.

14 Gabriel N. Finder holiday of Hanukah and the revolt of the Maccabees in Jewish antiquity, at each corner of the base of the monument and in an inscription underneath the statuary in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew that reads “Che Jewish People—To Its Fighters

and Martyrs’. Martyrs are represented by the figures of twelve Jews being deported that appear in bas-relief on the reverse side that faces a side street. The helmets and bayonets of their Nazi guards are barely discernible as they trudge dejectedly and in resignation to their fate, with the exception of a prophetic figure clasping a Torah scroll in one hand and, with outstretched arm and eyes looking in the direction of heaven, imploring God. According to Young, it was Rapoport’s intention on the reverse side to evoke the archetypical image of Jews being led into exile.

The Warsaw ghetto monument was unveiled on 19 April 1948, the fifth anniver-

sary of the uprising, to full military honours before thousands of spectators, including Polish parliamentary officials and Jewish dignitaries from Israel and the Diaspora. They had assembled on the previous day to hear speeches by Jewish and Polish dignitaries. ‘The Jewish speakers included Adolf Berman (1906-79), chair-

man of the Central Committee of Polish Jews; Ber Mark, then the chairman of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in Poland; and representatives of the Jewish Fighting Organization, Chaika Grossman (1919-93), a leader of the ghetto uprising in Bialystok in August 1943, and Yitzhak Zuckerman, who returned from Palestine for the event. It is an indication of Jewish solidarity that Mark, a diehard communist, compared the ghetto fighters with the Maccabees. Prominent among Polish speakers who praised the ghetto fighters were the Deputy Minister of Defence General Marian Spychalski and General Witold (Franciszek Jozwiak), former chief of staff of the People’s Army under the German occupation. Throngs of Jews from throughout Poland, including Zionist groups, waving banners emblazoned with the Star of David, attended the unveiling of the monu-

ment, which was preceded by a religious service led by rabbis, who recited ‘El malei rahamim’ and Kaddish, the traditional prayers for the dead. One rabbi concluded the religious portion of the ceremony with the words ‘am yisroel khai’ (long live the people of Israel). When the monument was then unveiled, the crowd listened to dedication speeches by Jewish and Polish luminaries. Near the end of the ceremony several Jewish resistance fighters received military medals, including Mordechai Anielewicz posthumously. The ceremony concluded with the laying

of wreaths; the first to lay a wreath was the Polish Prime Minister Jozef Cyrankiewicz. The unveiling of the Warsaw ghetto monument, therefore, shone a spotlight on the Jewish character of the uprising, which appeared to garner the support at least of certain circles within the Polish civic and military establishment.°° 36 On the unveiling of the Warsaw ghetto monument, see ‘Varshe untern tsaykhn fun yidishn ufshtand-ondenk’ [Warsaw Under the Sign of the Jewish Uprising Memorial], Dos naje lebn, 23 Apr. 1948, pp. I-2; see also Young, The Texture of Memory, 170.

Introduction 15 The leadership of the communist party, then still called the Polish Workers’ Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza, PPR), was ostensibly in favour of the monument when it was proposed, but in reality party officials would have preferred to see the plans to erect it shelved. They were apprehensive that a monument in honour of Jewish resistance, erected with their acquiescence prior to the unveiling of a monument to commemorate Polish popular resistance, would arouse popular resentment and reinforce the popular association of the regime with Jews, the so-called ‘Judeo-communism’ (Zydokomuna).°’ After the unveiling of the monument, Polish communists expressed their displeasure with its inscription because it made no reference to Poles. Soviet officials, too, were of the opinion that a Jewish monument should not precede a Polish one.*® However, in line with the Stalinization of Poland beginning in 1948, the commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising would, only one year after the elabor-

ate unveiling of Rapoport’s monument, submerge its Jewish character into an ideologically approved version of the uprising. In his classic study of the place of the Holocaust in Polish historical consciousness, Michael Steinlauf skilfully characterizes the content of this official narrative: Until the mid-1960s, in contexts where references to Jews were unavoidable, their fate continued to be seen as something exceptional. ‘Genocide’, the term used to designate the fate of the Jews, was, however, incorporated into a suitably ideological narrative. Seen as a result of passivity in the face of fascism, it was counterposed to redeeming acts of resistance. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising became central to this narrative. It was seen, first of all, not only as the supreme but as the only act of Jewish armed resistance. Other cases of resistance,

in other ghettos, partisan groups, and concentration camps, were forgotten. Moreover, anniversaries of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising became the context for commemorating the Holocaust as a whole.*?

Accordingly, the main speaker on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, held at the foot of Rapoport’s monument in April 1949, was the Jewish communist Grzegorz (Hersh) Smolar (1905-93), who had more or less been installed by his fellow Jewish communists in the Central Committee of Polish Jews to replace the toppled previous chairman Adolf Berman, a left-wing Zionist. In his speech Smolar dutifully ascribed the uprising to the inspiration of communists and integrated the uprising into the battle for the liberation of Poland. He threatened, moreover, to purge the Jewish community of Jewish nationalists, promising to eliminate them in the same way in which the ghetto 37 M. Mirski and H. Smolar, ‘Commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Reminiscences’, Soviet Jewish Affairs, 3/1 (1973), 98-101; M. C. Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory

of the Holocaust (Syracuse, NY, 1997), 49; Young, The Texture of Memory, 176. On the mantra of Zydokomuna, see Gross, Fear, ch. 6.

38 Mirski and Smolar, ‘Commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’, 1too—1; see also J. Hoberman, Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film between Two Worlds (Philadelphia, 1995), 334-5. °° Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 70-1.

16 Gabnel N. Finder fighters had eliminated their internal enemies. He did not have to elaborate for

those in attendance, who were doubtless aware of the fate of these internal enemies: the Jewish underground had assassinated them. As Marci Shore observes, ‘By 1950, the ghetto uprising no longer had anything to do with Jews, nor did it have anything to do with either Zionists or Zionism. ... The history of anti-

Nazi resistance now belonged exclusively to the communists and so to People’s Poland.’*° When the political climate improved somewhat after the introduction of changes in the policies of the communist party and Gomutka’s return to power 1n it in 1956,

the Jewish character of the uprising was partially restored to the commemorations of the late 1950s, which were highlighted by speeches by Marek Edelman (b. 1921) and Zivia Lubetkin (1914-78), who numbered among the surviving leaders of the Jewish Fighting Organization. But by the early 1960s the authorities placed restrictions on the commemoration, removing it from the outdoor location of the monument to indoor premises closed to the general public. They further handed over responsibility for organizing the commemoration to the Union of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (Zwiazek Bojownikow o Wolnos¢ 1 Demokracje, - ZBoWiD), which was controlled by Mieczystaw Moczar, one of the architects of the ‘anti-Zionist campaign’ of 1968, in turn reducing the part played in the cere-

mony by the Social and Cultural Association of Polish Jews (Towarzystwo Spoleczno-Kulturalne Zydow, TSKZ)—the docile, officially approved successor to the Central Committee of Polish Jews—to almost nil. In the deteriorating political climate of 1967 and 1968, the authorities’ aversion to Jews, which was compounded by a resurgence of popular antisemitism, led to the further distortion of the historical record, including an exaggeration of Polish assistance to Jews in distress and of the role of the communist Polish Workers’ Party in the Jewish resistance movement.*? The commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1968 coincided with the high point of the party’s anti-Zionist campaign

in the spring of 1968; by that time even dyed-in-the-wool Jewish communists, including Smolar, were repulsed by the regime’s assault on memory. Polish Jews boycotted the event since even from their perspective it had become, in the words of Michal Mirski (1901-94), a leading Jewish communist in post-war Poland, ‘a profa-

nation of the memory of the martyrs and heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto’.*? For the next decade and a half, the government used the annual commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising to promote its own agenda. The internationalization of the Jewish catastrophe, which represented the other primary path leading to the upstaging of Jewish Holocaust memory, is illustrated 40 M. Shore, ‘Children of the Revolution: Communism, Zionism, and the Berman Brothers’, femish Social Studies, 10/3 (2004), 27; see also Anon., ‘Der lebendiker denkmol’ [The Living Monument], Dos naye lebn, 18 Apr. 1950, p. 1.

41 Tomaszewski, ‘Polish Historiography on the Holocaust’, 115-22. 42 Mirski and Smolar, ‘Commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’, 101-2: 102.

Introduction 17 in the conversion of Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oswiecim-Brzezinka in Polish) into a memorial site and state museum, the subject of Jonathan Huener’s chapter in this volume, ‘Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom and Memory, 1945-1947’. Huener describes how after the provisional government initiated the establishment of a memorial site and museum on the grounds of the former camp to commemorate Polish victims and victims from other countries in late 1945 and early 1946, a group of former Polish prisoners from Auschwitz took charge of the area in the

spring of 1946. Although they were close to the centre of political power in Warsaw, these former prisoners forged an independent path. In organizing the museum, they were inspired, Huener argues, by Poland’s martyrological culture, with its roots in Christian tradition and sensibilities. From early on, the organizers of the museum, like most Poles, equated the Germans’ treatment of Jews and Poles both under Nazi occupation and in this most notorious of concentration camps. In keeping with their intentions to turn the camp into a site of Polish national martyrdom, the museum’s organizers merged the fate of Jews into the toll of victims from individual countries. According to Huener, the reluctance of the former political prisoners to place special emphasis on Jewish suffering and death

in Auschwitz and their decision, in turn, to subsume the fate of Jews into the extermination of millions cannot be ascribed only to Polish antisemitism and the Polish public’s identification of Jews with the country’s unpopular communist government. To accord what would seem like a special privilege to Jews by elevat-

ing their suffering over the suffering of Poles or other groups of victims was, Huener argues, antithetical to the national martyrological idiom favoured by the museum’s planners and would have been out of tune with the standard practice of the time to identify victims according to the countries from which they came.*° The implication of Huener’s study is central to understanding the reworking of

Holocaust memory under communist rule: however repressive the rule of the communist party in Poland, the establishment of the memorial site at Auschwitz demonstrates the extent to which the communist appropriation of Jewish memory cannot be separated from Polish popular memory. As Steinlauf argues, communist and popular memory worked in tandem and were mutually reinforcing throughout the period of communist rule in Poland in shaping Polish historical consciousness of the Holocaust.** This internationalizing trend was accentuated in the Monument to the Victims of Fascism, which was dedicated in the presence of tens of thousands of visitors on the grounds of Birkenau in April 1967. The Birkenau monument was ushered to realization by the International Auschwitz Committee (IAC), a supervisory

body consisting of former prisoners from various countries that was close to Moczar’s Union of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy, and the administration 43 See also Huener, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, chs. 1-2.

44 Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 69-70, 73-4; see also J. Michlic-Coren, “The Troubling Past: The Polish Collective Memory of the Holocaust’, East European Jewish Affairs, 20/ 1-2 (1999), 82.

18 Gabriel N. Finder of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, with the blessing of the Polish Ministry of Culture and Art. Placed between the remains of two crematoria, the monument consists of a row of roughly hewn stone sarcophagi in various shapes suggestive of a railway line whose end point is an abstract tower composed of large rectangular stones. Emerging from the front side of the tower is a set of three abstract figures suggestive of Jewish victims because they seem to represent a family consisting of a man, woman, and child, and virtually all families murdered in the camp were Jewish. However, apparently only one week before the unveiling of the monument, the figures were removed from the focal point of the monument and replaced by a marble square dominated by a triangle, the insignia sewn to the uniforms of prisoners of various nationalities who were pressed into slave labour. In front of the monument there lay a row of nineteen (now twenty-one) memorial stone tablets, whose original explanatory text in nineteen languages, including

, Hebrew and Yiddish, read: ‘Four million people suffered and died here at the hands of the Nazi murderers between the years 1940 and 1945’. From the design of

the monument, therefore, the uninitiated observer would be incapable of determining the Jewish origin of the majority of Birkenau’s victims. The president of the IAC, Robert Waitz, wanted the memorial tablets to acknowledge the Jewish dead specifically, but to no avail; the tablets remained purposefully vague. So were

the dedication speeches of the Polish speakers, the Polish Prime Minister Jozef Cyrankiewicz and Kazimierz Rusinek, the vice-minister of culture who was also secretary-general of the Union of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy, on the occasion of the unveiling of the Birkenau monument. Cyrankiewicz’s speech included a veiled reference to the defenceless Jewish victims of Birkenau, but it did not mention that the majority of its victims were Jews. Rusinek invoked the spirit of Jewish fighters in the Warsaw ghetto uprising and drew a parallel between them and Polish heroes at Auschwitz I, the main base camp, but he did not identify the victims of Birkenau. Waitz was the sole speaker who acknowledged that the majority of those killed at Auschwitz were Jews. The Jewish contribution to the day’s

events was limited to private recitations of the Kaddish by Jewish groups from various countries at the Hebrew and Yiddish memorial tablets and the placement of flowers on the ruins of the crematoria in the vicinity of the monument. ‘Jews were the object not of explicit, but only implicit commemoration’, writes Huener. ‘Their memory, publicly assimilated into the memory of the non-Jewish dead at Auschwitz, could only be honored privately.’*° The figure of four million Auschwitz victims derived from a crude Soviet calcu-

lation published in May 1945. A Polish investigation in 1945-6 validated the Soviet estimate, after which the figure of four million became sacrosanct in Poland. The indictment of Rudolf Hoss in the Polish Supreme National Tribunal in 1947 accused him of taking part in the murder of ‘some 300,000 . . . officially registered 4° Huener, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, 145—69: 168; Young, The Texture of Memory, 133-42; Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 70.

Introduction 19 prisoners; of an indeterminate number [of victims], but certainly no less than 2,500,000, mostly Jews, brought in transports to the camp from various European countries for the purpose of immediate extermination . . . and of at least 12,000 Soviet prisoners of war’. One reason cited by the tribunal to justify imposition of

the death sentence on Hoss was the deaths of three to four million people at Auschwitz.*° In spite of the position of the Polish authorities, as reflected in the indictment of Hoss, that more than half the victims at Auschwitz were Jews, Poles habitually drew a rough equivalence between Jewish and Polish victims of the

camp. As the memorial plaques in front of the Monument to the Victims of Fascism attest, the communist government found it convenient not to disabuse the public of this misperception. This pertinacious adherence to the figure of four million illustrates the mutual reinforcement of communist and popular mem-

ory in minimizing the Jewish tragedy in Polish consciousness. As Steinlauf remarks, ‘In consigning the memory of the Jews to that of the “other nations” martyred by the Nazis. . . a narrative whose effect was to marginalize, “ghettoize,”

its subject, official Polish attempts to deal with the memory of the Holocaust doubtless reflected, after all, a popular need.’*’ In 1980 Franciszek Piper, an acknowledged authority on the camp’s history who is associated with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, revisited the figure of

| four million victims and revised it downwards. Piper estimates that about 1,100,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz and that around one million or go per cent of them perished at the camp. It is possible that as many as 300,000 of the Jewish victims were from Poland. The second largest group of the camp’s victims were Poles. According to Piper’s estimates, 140,000—150,000 Poles were interned at Auschwitz and 70,000—75,000 of them died there. He notes that the experiences of Poles and Jews at Auschwitz differed in two important respects. In the first place, there were two distinct time periods at Auschwitz: the Polish period from 1940 to mid-1942, when the majority of the prisoners killed were Polish, and the Jewish period from mid-1942 to 1945, when the vast majority of those killed were Jews. Moreover, as most Poles were interned in Auschwitz I, the administrative centre of

the camp, they did not experience Birkenau, the death camp where Jews were gassed.*® One would therefore expect Polish and Jewish memory of Auschwitz to be different, each valid but distinct. 46 F Piper, ‘The Number of Victims’, in Y. Gutman and M. Berenbaum (eds.), Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Ind., 1994), 65-6.

47 Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 74. :

48 Piper, “The Number of Victims’, 61-76; id., ‘Auschwitz Concentration Camp: How It Was

Used in the Nazi System of Terror and Genocide and in the Economy of the Third Reich’, in M. Berenbaum and A. J. Peck (eds.), The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Ind., 1998), 371-86; id., “Weryfikacja strat osobowych w obozie koncentracyjnym w Oswiecimiu’, Dzteye Najnowsze, 26/2 (1994), 15-31.

20 Gabriel N. Finder COUNTERMEMORY From the onset of the Stalinization of Poland in 1948 until the 1980s, Jews in Poland were compelled to adapt to post-war Polish conditions. With the exception of highly committed Jewish communists, both Jews who opted to stay in Poland

and those who returned temporarily with the intention of leaving the country eventually did not wish to see Jewish perceptions and remembrance subsumed into Polish collective memory. Jews of this frame of mind developed their own countermemory of the Holocaust, sidestepping Polish collective memory whenever they could. Yael Zerubavel defines countermemory in the following terms: The alternative commemorative narrative that directly opposes the master commemorative narrative, operating under and against its hegemony, thus constitutes a countermemory. As the term implies, countermemory is essentially oppositional and stands in hostile and subversive relation to collective memory. If the master commemorative narrative attempts to suppress alternative views of the past, the countermemory in turn denies the validity of the

narrative constructed by the collective memory and presents its own claim for a more accurate representation of history. This challenge not only addresses the symbolic realm, but obviously has direct political implications. The master narrative represents the political elite’s construction of the past, which serves its special interests and promotes its political agenda. Countermemory challenges this hegemony by offering a divergent commemorative narrative representing the views of marginalized individuals or groups within the society.*®

In this spirit, some Polish Jews manoeuvred within the interstices of heavy-handed communist rule or, when presented with the opportunity, took advantage of periodic thaws in the political climate to commemorate the Holocaust in an alternative and, from their perspective, authentic manner. Jewish countermemory during the communist period could assume both small private and large public dimensions. Jews who after the war wanted to climb the social ladder were under pressure, partly applied by Polish communists and partly in an attempt to avoid antisemitism, to adopt Polish names or Polonize their given names; many Jews simply retained the Polish aliases under which they had survived in hiding.°° Wishing to name their own children after murdered relatives in accordance with Ashkenazi tradition, many Jews adapted to these circumstances by using Polish versions of the Yiddish names of their loved ones who had perished in the Holocaust.*? In the immediate aftermath of the war, Poland was quite literally a vast Jewish cemetery. In fields, forests, by the side of roads, and in Jewish cemeteries throughout the country, the corpses of dead Jews were either buried helter-skelter in mass 49 Y. Zerubavel, Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (Chicago and London, 1995), 10-11 (emphasis in original). °° Engelking, Holocaust and Memory, 278-80. ©! 7. Hurwic-Nowakowska, A Social Analysis of Postwar Polish Jewry (Jerusalem, 1986), 205—6; the author conducted the survey research for this field study from 1947 to 1950.

Introduction 21 eraves, partially buried in an apparent rush, or even left unburied. Even Jews who

had no intentions of remaining in Poland after the war returned to their home towns resolved to fulfil a solemn duty to give the dead a proper burial, if possible in a Jewish cemetery. Many of them took pictures of the exhumation and reburial of

their relatives and friends. In our chapter in this section, ‘Memento Mort: Photographs from the Grave’, Judith Cohen and I analyse snapshots taken by Jews returning to Poland immediately after the war when they excavated and reburied the corpses of their loved ones and friends. ‘Their photographs show the determination of the returnees, under enormous emotional strain, to erect Jewish sites of memory to their loved ones. The photos also bring home the isolation of Jews in their performance of this most human of obligations, for the spaces in which they bury their dead are otherwise eerily empty; in one case there is now pasture where

a Jewish cemetery once stood. With the exception of Polish workers hired to exhume corpses or to dig graves for reburial, no Poles appear in these snapshots. Ironically, snapshots whose aim was to etch the final resting place of loved ones into the personal memory of Jews who must have harboured grave doubts whether they would ever visit this hallowed ground again actually cast the erasure of Jewish memory in Poland into sharp relief. Many Jews in and outside Poland chose to repress their memories. Countless survivors who strove to choose the path of repression would eventually feel compelled to excavate their memories, even if only many years later. Referring to Jews interviewed by her who opted to remain in Poland, Barbara Engelking writes: ‘Survivors often decide to talk about it when, despite all their efforts, they do not manage to forget. They cannot cut themselves off from their experiences of the past. Many of the people that I interviewed talked about unsuccessful attempts to forget, about the fact that their memories are too painful and that recalling brings too great suffering.’°? However, a significant number of Jews struggled in the immediate post-war environment to recover repressed memories. The reconstruction of personal identity and its ramifications for Jewish group identity is the subject of Joanna Michlic’s chapter in this volume, ‘Who Am I? Jewish Children’s Search for Identity in Post-War Poland, 1945-1949’. Michlic illustrates yust how problematical the recuperation of memory was in the case of Jewish children hidden during the war. The recovery of such children’s memory was stymied in part by actions of Polish rescuers who were reluctant to part from hidden children and impeded their return to a surviving parent, relative, or Jewish organization. Many young children, however, simply could not remember their parents. Surviving Jewish parents—and if they did not survive, then surviving relatives—and the Central Committee of Polish Jews were desperate to recover hidden children and often had to pay a huge sum to Polish underground foster-parents in order to

redeem the child or they had to press their case in court. After they returned 52 Engelking, Holocaust and Memory, 319.

22 Gabriel N. Finder to their biological parents or were placed in an orphanage, many children developed fractured personalities, remembering with fondness their upbringing in Polish homes, while becoming increasingly aware of the irreconcilability of these memories with their future lives in a Jewish milieu, which for many would be Jewish Palestine, later Israel. Jewish parents and organizations took pains to expunge the children’s happy memories of when they passed for Christians. These attempts were not always successful.

On the other hand, a number of Jewish institutional measures to recover the memory of Holocaust survivors bore fruit. Natalia Aleksiun’s chapter in this volume, “The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, 1944-1947’, highlights the ambitious mission of this prolific body, which operated under the aegis of the Central Committee of Polish Jews to document the martyrdom and heroism of Polish Jewry in its darkest hour. To this end, the commission mobilized

| scores of survivors to retrieve, organize, and reconstruct the memories of more than 7,000 Polish Jewish survivors. It also published some forty books of remarkably high quality on various aspects of the destruction of Polish Jewry. This pro-

digious undertaking, which was replicated by many similar Jewish historical commissions operating in liberated Europe, should dispel the impression of quiescent survivor communities preoccupied solely with resuming normal life in the

post-war world. If the decimated Jewish community in Poland appeared mute from 1949/50 to the 1980s, it was due largely to official suppression. Aleksiun draws attention to the prosecutorial dimension of the commission’s work. In a report on its activities over three years Yosef Kermish, one of the commission’s founders, wrote in this vein: “The main thought of all surviving Jews was to collect the entire documented record of incriminating materials in order to mete out punishment to all criminals, [and] in order to show the entire world what fascism is capable of.’°° In fact, members of the commission prepared evidence and

expert testimony for several trials of German war criminals who were tried in Poland after the war. In this effort the commission co-operated with the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland (Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce). To its credit, the Polish commission included among its founding members Filip Friedman, the first director of the Central Jewish Historical Commission, and investigated German crimes against Jews at Treblinka and other camps. But, as Aleksiun shows, the Jewish historical commission and the Polish state commission did not always see eye to eye. Thus a °3 Y. Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt fun Ts. Y. H. K. [Tsentraler Yidisher Historisher Komisye], un Yid[isher] Hist[orisher] Institut in Poyln (referat gehaltn oyf dem eyropeshn tsuzamenfor fun historishe

komisyes un dokumentatsiye tsenters)’ [Three Years of Activity of the Central Jewish Historical Commission and the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland: speech given at the European conference of historical commissions and documentation centres], no date [1947], Goldsten—Goren Diaspora Research Center, Tel Aviv University, P 66, f. 1217, p. 1.

Introduction 23 disaffected Friedman was unable to prevail upon his Polish colleagues to accord the

German slaughter of Polish Jewry a distinctive place on the Polish delegation’s agenda when it travelled to Nuremberg in order to present details of the Nazi occupation of Poland to the Allies in an effort to have them included in the prosecution’s case at the International Military Tribunal. Alexander Prusin and I, in our chapter in this volume, ‘Jewish Collaborators on Trial in Poland, 1944-1956’, pursue the interaction of law and Holocaust memory from a different angle. We examine the post-war trials of putative Jewish collaborators in both the Polish state judicial system and the Jewish citizens’ tribunal (sg¢d spoteczny or sgd obywatelski in Polish, birger-gerikht or gezelshafthkh gerikht in Yiddish) that the Central Committee of Polish Jews established in 1946 to investigate and, if the facts warranted, try fellow Jews suspected of co-operation with the German enemy. Survivors’ bitter memories of ‘collaboration’-—they themselves used the Polish terms kolaboracja and wspotpraca and the Yiddish terms kolaboratsye and mitarbet interchangeably in this context—on the part of a small fraction of Jews with the Germans bred a fair dose of inwardly directed anger within the postwar Jewish community. The presence of suspected collaborators also tarnished the memory of Jewish heroes and martyrs, which the Central Committee of Polish Jews worked so hard to promote partly in reaction to Polish accusations of Jewish passivity in the face of genocide. Whereas the Polish regime showed a minimal amount of interest in suspected Jewish collaborators, the Jewish community was deeply perturbed by their presence and wished to prevent them from assuming positions of importance in the administration of post-war Jewish life. (However, when Jews fingered putative Polish collaborators, resentful Poles took notice.) There were a handful of cases where Jews suspected of collaboration were cleared by Polish courts, only to be subsequently tried and convicted in the Jewish citizens’ tribunal. Prusin and I argue that a comparison of the trials of alleged Jewish collaborators that were conducted in state courts and the Jewish citizens’ tribunal shows that Jews exhibited a much larger stake in these trials than Poles. While Poles could afford to be indifferent to suspected Jewish collaborators, for Jews their trials represented the quasi-judicial exorcism of unflattering memories. A fascinating example of Jewish countermemory in the 1950s during the thaw in the political climate is the erection of a Holocaust monument by the Jewish community of Lodz. Shortly after the war, the reconstituted Jewish remnant in the city, where the majority of Jews assembled in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, launched an abortive attempt to erect a memorial to Lodz Jews killed during the war; city officials, however, turned a deaf ear to the request, which was also apparently undermined by the dissolution of Jewish political parties and institutional life

in the late 1940s. The failure to dedicate a monument to the dead Jews of Lédz embarrassed and vexed its Jewish inhabitants, but they were powerless to take action until 1956, with the rise of Gomultka to power. In the same year, a Jewish haberdasher in Lodz became aware of a mass grave containing the remains of eighty-four

24 Gabriel N. Finder Jewish women from the city whom the Germans had sent to the nearby former concentration camp of Stutthof. When the haberdasher visited the site, he discovered bones scattered far and wide. Since his wife had been killed in the camp, he suspected that her remains might have been buried in this mass grave. He had no peace of mind until he was able to persuade the Jewish committee in L6dz to exhume the skeletal remains in the mass grave and rebury them in the city’s Jewish cemetery in April 1958; a ceremony followed. One speaker invoked in Hebrew the question posed in the biblical book of the prophet Ezekiel: ‘Can these bones live again?’ (Ezekiel 37: 3). “Yes was the answer’, according to the speaker in his recollection of

the response of those in attendance. Although this exchange referred explicitly to the reburial of the Jewish women’s remains, implied in it was a defiant comment on the fate of the Jewish community of Lodz. Jewish leaders in the community now considered the time ripe to raise a monument to coincide with the reburial of the women’s bones. ‘This time the petition to erect a monument was successful, although Jewish representatives wrangled with officials over sundry details, from the site of the monument to the use of Hebrew in the inscriptions. The monument was finally unveiled in September 1959, by the entrance to the Jewish cemetery, before a large crowd of Jews not only from L6dz but from all over Poland.*4

Rebecca Golbert’s chapter in this volume, ‘Holocaust Memorialization in Ukraine’, which is based largely on anthropological fieldwork, offers a comparative

view of Jewish commemoration in eastern Europe, in this case of survivors in Ukraine. As Golbert illustrates, Ukrainian Jews have faced an uphill battle in their efforts to commemorate the devastation of their community during the Holocaust. Under Soviet rule Jews in Ukraine, like Jews in communist Poland, encountered official efforts to co-opt and neutralize their memorial undertakings; and like their counterparts in Poland, they undertook discreet memorial projects when they perceived thaws in the political environment. The 1950s witnessed a few individual initiatives by survivors in Ukraine to raise modest memorials to the victims, but in the prevailing climate of fear, many survivors would simply return annually to the site of

their community’s destruction and hold private ceremonies but erect no monuments. In the 1960s, when Jews across the Soviet Union were holding discreet public commemorations and erecting modest monuments next to mass graves, Holocaust memorials began to appear in the Ukrainian landscape. Soviet officials moved to coopt this process. In 1976 a Soviet monument was unveiled at the infamous Babi Yar (Babu lar), a ravine north-west of Kiev, where SS killing squads murdered 33,000 Jews from the city on 29/30 September 1941, but the monument made no mention

of the Jewish identity of the victims. In the same year, however, Ukrainian Jews

raised their own Holocaust monument in the village of Pechora, a former Romanian-administered camp located in Transnistria, the former Romanian zone of °4 See Engelking, Holocaust and Memory, 311; Ben-Yisroel, ‘Di geshikhte fun denkmol in Lodz’ [The History of the Monument in Lodz], in Yidish-lodz (yizker-bukh) [Jewish Lodz (Memorial Book)| (Melbourne, 1974), 198-200.

Introduction 25 occupation of Ukraine during the Second World War, where Jews from the surrounding regions were brought to perish. Since the fall of the USSR, survivors in Ukraine have become bolder and erected several memorials. The Kiev Jewish community unveiled its own memorial to the victims of Babi Yar in 1991, and the two largest Ukrainian survivor communities in Mogilev-Podolsk and Tulchin have been

active in raising Holocaust memorials throughout the region, including separate monuments to victims of Pechora from their respective towns at the site of the former camp. However valiant these attempts by survivors to pay tribute to Ukrainian Jewish victims, Holocaust commemoration in Ukraine, argues Golbert, faces a new kind of challenge: impermanence. The ravages of nature are overwhelming many

older monuments, which are decaying and overgrown by grass and weeds. Meanwhile, the activists have died or are ageing while the younger generation either emigrates or shows no interest in preserving the memory of the dead. For both these reasons, in spite of the concerted efforts of groups like the Jewish commemoration commission in Mogilev-Podolsk, the future of Holocaust memory and memorialization in Ukraine is uncertain. The fragility of Holocaust remembrance in Ukraine is underlined when compared with the much more extensive attention paid to the historiography and commemoration of the Holocaust in Poland, which overshadows efforts to document the Holocaust in Ukraine.

PORTABLE MEMORY Owing to the fact that many Jews did not return to Poland after the war and that the majority of those who did return eventually left, a distinctive feature of Jewish Holocaust memory from Poland has been its portability. Landsmanshafin, the associations of people from the same town or region in Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe that formed in Israel and in a number of Jewish centres in the Diaspora, became agents of the transmission of both pre-war and wartime Jewish memory. The crowning achievement of the /andsmanshafin was the publication of memorial books (jizker bikher) of several hundred destroyed Jewish communities. (More than six hundred have been published.) The first part of the typical memorial book contains a chronicle of a town’s (or region’s) history, a survey of its Jewish notables, civic associations, political parties, occupational structure, and educational system, and recollections of its folkways and colourful townspeople. The second part describes the destruction of the town’s Jewish population at the hands of the Germans and their allies and recounts the ordeal of several of the town’s survivors. Most memorial books include accounts of the return of survivors to the town after the war. In the words of Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin, ‘the memorial books came to be seen by [survivors] as substitute gravestones’.°° °° See J. Kugelmass and J. Boyarin, introduction to J. Kugelmass and J. Boyarin (ed. and trans.), From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry, 2nd expanded edn. (Bloomington, Ind., 1998), 1-48: 34.

26 Gabriel N. Finder Many memorial books of Jewish communities in Poland contain, furthermore, Polish Jews’ recollections not only of their deadly confrontation with the Germans

but also, with obvious bitterness, their negative—and, likewise, occasionally deadly—encounters with Poles. It was not uncommon for the same account to contrast such encounters with the courageous assistance of select righteous individuals in the Polish population, but, in the collective consciousness of survivors, the negative aspects of Polish behaviour outweighed the positive by far. To give but one example, the memorial book published in 1971 by survivors from the small towns of Miechow, Charsznica, and Ksiaz Wielki (Myekhov, Charshnitza, and Kshoynzh in Yiddish), to the north of Krakow, describes how several Polish families in villages in the vicinity risked their own lives to hide Jewish fugitives in bunkers and other hideouts. But after receiving a report from an informant that Jews were hiding in the area, a unit of fifty men from the popular anti-communist underground Home

Army conducted a manhunt for the hidden Jews and shot them; only a handful escaped. The Home Army then shot the families that sheltered Jews.°° Polish Jews who resettled in Tel Aviv, Paris, Montreal, New York, and scores of other cities erected monuments in Jewish cemeteries in commemoration of their individual communities. Following the Jewish tradition of reinterring bones of the dead from the Diaspora in Israel, Polish Jewish survivors in Israel had the ashes and bones of the dead transferred there from Poland. As early as 1947, a Jewish partisan from Poland brought ashes from Treblinka to what was then Palestine for reburial.°’ Buried in the municipal Old Cemetery in Tel Aviv under a monument

erected in 1950 in commemoration of the destroyed Jewish community from Zdunska Wola are ashes from the ovens of Chelmno that a native of the town brought to Israel.°® Since 1958 ashes have been interred at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national museum and memorial site dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.*° Jewish communities in the Diaspora arranged for the transfer of ashes from Poland as well. Survivors in Melbourne, of whom many were originally from Lodz, had ashes from Treblinka and Chelmno transferred there and buried in Melbourne’s Jewish cemetery beside a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.®° °6 M. Hershkovitsh and A. Matushinsky, “The Families in the Bunkers’, in Kugelmass and Boyarin (eds.), From a Ruined Garden, 200-2. From his study of testimonies of Polish Jews who were interned at

a factory slave labour camp in Poland, the historian Christopher R. Browning perceives that the ‘survivors tend to remember—with greater vividness, specificity, and outrage—the shattering and gratuitous acts of betrayal by their neighbors more than the systematic acts of anonymous Germans’. C. R. Browning, Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony (Madison, Wis., 2003), 43.

57 1). Handelman and L. Shamgar-Handelman, “The Presence of Absence: The Memorialism of National Death in Israel’, in E. Ben-Ari and Y. Bilu (eds.), Grasping Land: Space and Place in Contemporary Israeh Discourse and Experience (Albany, NY, 1997), 122.

58 B. Mann, ‘Modernism and the Zionist Uncanny: Reading the Old Cemetery in Tel Aviv’, Representations, 69 (Winter 2000; special issue: “Grounds for Remembering’), 79. °9 Handelman and Shamgar-Handelman, ‘The Presence of Absence’, 122. 60 Anon., ‘Denkmol tsum ondenk fun di zeks milyon kdoyshim’ [Monument to the Memory of the

Six Million Martyrs], in Yidish-lodz, 205. ,

Introduction 27 Some survivors left Poland with their memories literally packed in their suitcases. Adolf Berman is but one example. In the Warsaw ghetto Berman was the head of Centos, an institution tending to the psychological needs of children; he then became a pivotal representative of the Jewish underground on the ‘Aryan’ side of Warsaw. After the war, he was chairman of the Central Committee of Polish Jews before immigrating to Israel in 1950. At the Eichmann trial in 1961, he testified to the brutality of the German assault on Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto. He concluded his testimony with a description of his tour of Treblinka shortly after liberation in 1945. His keepsake of this visit was a pair of children’s shoes, which he produced out of his briefcase on the witness stand. Berman’s testimony poignantly illustrates the residual sway of portable Holocaust memory on individual survivors: BERMAN: When I came there [Treblinka] it was some weeks after I had been liberated by the Soviet army, this was in January 1945. I saw a scene which I shall never forget: a tremendous expanse, extending over many kilometres, and on this area there were scattered skulls, bones, in tens of thousands, and very, very many shoes, amongst them tens of thousands of shoes of little children. PROSECUTOR GIDEON HAUSNER: Did you pick up one such pair which you have retained to this day?

BERMAN: Yes, I have brought it here. HAUSNER: You brought it here to show the Court? BERMAN: Yes, I wanted to show itt.

shoes. ,

HAUSNER: The pair of shoes of a child, you have retained to this day? BERMAN: [brought it as something very precious, for I knew that over a million shoes like these were spread over all the extermination fields of Europe. These are the

Thereupon Berman showed the judges the pair of children’s shoes, which concluded his direct examination.®! Lawrence Douglas analyses this episode in compelling terms: It was a stunning moment, in terms of the shoes’ power to conjure the single missing child and of the power of a single object to stand for the slaughter of innocents. Yet it was also Berman’s position in the story that explains why the sight of the shoes emerged as one of the most moving moments of the trial. For one felt that Berman had been carrying the shoes around in his briefcase since the day he discovered them at the ruins of Treblinka. Only now had he finally been supplied an occasion for placing his terrible memento on

display on a world stage. By permitting Berman to display his shoes in a manner that transformed this artefact of loss into evidence of criminality, the trial provided a degree of 61 State of Israel, Ministry of Justice, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Record of the Proceedings in the District Court in Jerusalem, i (Jerusalem, 1992), 427.

28 Gabriel N. Finder closure to the traumatic memories that Berman had been carrying around since the war’s end.©”

Two chapters in this volume examine the portability and migration of Holocaust

memory in Poland to Jewish survivor communities in Buenos Aires and Israel respectively. Jan Schwarz’s chapter, ‘A Library of Hope and Destruction: The Yiddish Book Series Dos poylishe yidntum (Polish Jewry), 1946-1966’, reconstructs

the publication history of a fascinating series of Yiddish books in Buenos Aires. Supported by the Central Union of Polish Jews in Argentina, Mark ‘Turkov, a Jewish journalist in inter-war Warsaw, published 175 volumes under this Yiddish imprint between 1946 and 1966. The series became one of the more remarkable literary memorials to the destroyed Polish Jewish community, but the aim of the series

was not merely to bear witness to the annihilation of Polish and east European Jewry but also to erect a literary memorial to Jewish life in pre-war Poland, part of what Eli Lederhendler calls the post-war Yiddish ‘culture of retrieval’.°° Schwarz’s comparison of Dos poylishe yidntum with memorial books is particularly illuminating. Most memorial books were grass-roots projects: the volumes were printed in small runs as they were intended primarily for the offspring of their editors and contributors, who themselves were mostly survivors of the town in question. The Central Union of Polish Jews in Argentina was associated with /andsmanshafin, but, as Schwarz shows, the books published under the imprint of Dos poylishe yidntum were printed in much larger runs than memorial books and were bought and read by the Yiddish-reading public worldwide. Yet, as Schwarz observes, in the back of their minds, both the authors who published in this series and their readers must have been painfully mindful of the fact that they represented, in line with the title of one of ‘Turkov’s own books, ‘the last of a great generation’, a poignant reminder of the urgency of this particular memorial project. Boaz Cohen’s chapter in this volume, ‘Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Israeli Holocaust Memory’, explores the painful obsession of Rachel Auerbach (1903-76) with preserving Holocaust memory after her immigration to Israel from Poland in 1950. Auerbach ran a soup kitchen in the Warsaw ghetto while contributing essays to the clandestine archive Oneg Shabes, whose leader was Emanuel Ringelblum.

In December 1942 and January 1943, she recorded the testimony of Avraham Krzepicki, one of the earliest escapees from Treblinka, which she then transcribed and edited for inclusion in Oneg Shabes. She fled the ghetto in March 1943 and hid on the ‘Aryan’ side of Warsaw. From there she joined a network of couriers who brought money to other hidden Jews while continuing to write essays for an underground archive organized after the destruction of the ghetto. In hiding she wrote ‘Yizkor 1943’, a remarkable elegy to the martyrdom of the Jewish masses in the 62 L. Douglas, The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (New

Haven and London, 2001), 162. 63 FE. Lederhendler, New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity, 1950-1970 (Syracuse, NY, 2001), 66.

Introduction 29 ghetto. Immediately after the war she became a pivotal member of the Central Jewish Historical Commission until her departure for Israel. In Israel Auerbach, together with a handful of other prominent survivor émigrés from Poland, was recruited by Yad Vashem, which the Knesset had just created to document and commemorate the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jews and the Jewish response to the catastrophe. Auerbach was put in charge of the department for collecting survivor testimony.

Her appointment should have heralded a match made in heaven, but, as Cohen shows, the honeymoon between her and Yad Vashem was short-lived and most of her twenty-year tenure there rocky. At the end of the 1950s she clashed with BenZion Dinur, Yad Vashem’s director, who was one of Israel’s pre-eminent historians. Supported by the institution’s professional historians, most of them graduates of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dinur worked to relegate Auerbach and her Polish Jewish colleagues to the sidelines on the grounds that they were not well suited to work at Yad Vashem because they were personally too involved and lacked the rigorous academic training required of serious researchers. Auerbach refused to take this assault on her credentials lying down and worked successfully both behind the scenes and in the press for Dinur’s ouster, arguing that only survivors could truly understand the Holocaust, rather than historians who had spent the war years in Israel and had been trained there, since they could know what occurred only in the abstract. Cohen shows further that Auerbach played a central role in the preparation of the Eichmann trial in that she helped persuade Gideon Hausner, the Israeli attorney general who led the prosecution, to build his case on survivor testimony. The reason for this was not evidentiary, since of the more than one hundred survivor witnesses who testified in court, only a few had actually had any direct contact with Eichmann during the war. Auerbach, however, believed that their testimony was essential to the proceedings, even if it did not go the issue of guilt or innocence, because it would bear witness to and memorialize Jewish suffering and loss. Hausner did, in fact, construct the prosecution on the basis of survivor testimony. But, as Cohen observes, Auerbach was bitterly disappointed as far as her own testimony at the trial was concerned because she felt that Hausner had drastically restricted its scope, curtailing her description of Ringelblum and Oneg Shabes as well as of the overall German assault on Polish Jewry. When she finally retired in the late 1960s, she was further disaffected because, from her perspective, the department for collecting testimonies, which was her bailiwick, was being neglected by Yad Vashem’s administration. She died lonely and bitter, a casualty of her own struggle to keep Holocaust memory alive in Israel in accordance with her own exacting standards. Auerbach’s case is suggestive of the fate of thousands of survivors from Poland and elsewhere: when they migrated to Israel or other countries in the Jewish Diaspora, they were intent on transmitting their memories of the Holocaust, but they gradually lost control of their memories to non-survivors,

which was itself a painful, and occasionally unbearable, experience.

30 Gabriel N. Finder In an ironic turn of events, since the 1970s thousands upon thousands of Jewish tourists from Israel, North America, and western Europe, of whom many are the offspring of survivors who took their memories with them when they left Poland, have visited that country in search of traces of pre-war Jewish life and the Jewish catastrophe of the war years. In the course of their visits to Poland, they generally make a practically obligatory commemorative pilgrimage to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. In the view of Jack Kugelmass, Jewish tourists at Auschwitz discharge ‘a secular ritual that confirms who they are as Jews’.® In performing this commemorative ritual they re-establish their group identity and distinctiveness. The visit to Auschwitz functions to remind Jews, especially Jews from America and other western countries, of the threat to collective Jewish survival and serves to solidify the boundary between Jews and other groups, which is susceptible of becoming ‘too permeable’ owing to assimilation and—ironically—‘lack of overt antisemitism’.°°

, THE RETURN OF MEMORY In isolated instances in communist Poland, there were Poles who were able to take advantage of the temporary thaw in the political climate in the late 1950s and early 1960 for memorial purposes. Perhaps the most noteworthy initiative to reconcile

Polish and Jewish memory undertaken by Poles under communist rule was the construction of the memorial on the former grounds of Treblinka. In February 1960 the Warsaw Regional Council approved a design by the sculptor Adam Haupt

and the architect Franciszek Duszenko, whose aim was, as described by James Young, ‘to suggest iconographically the greatest of all genocidal cemeteries’. ‘The Polish Ministry of Culture sponsored the memorial, which was dedicated in 1964. Large boulders stand guard on the perimeter of the site; each bears the name of a

country from which Jews were deported to Treblinka. In the centre of the site stands a tall, roughly hewn obelisk, marked by a crack in the middle, surrounded by 17,000 granite shards of varying shapes and heights that bring to mind gravestones in an immeasurable graveyard. Inscribed on some 200 of these stones are the names of communities whose Jews perished at Treblinka. Only one stone bears the name of an individual—the legendary Janusz Korczak—who would not abandon the children in his orphanage when it was their turn to be deported to Treblinka during the first wave of deportations from Warsaw in the summer of 1942. This stone was dedicated in 1978 and Korczak is memorialized there each year on the anniversary of his deportation to Treblinka. A menorah is engraved into the cap of the obelisk. Inscribed in a stone plaque at the base of the obelisk is the message ‘Never Again’ in Polish, Yiddish, Russian, English, French, and 64 J. Kugelmass, ‘The Rites of the Tribe: The Meaning of Poland for American Jewish Tourists’,

YIVO Annual, 21 (1993; special issue: ‘Going Home’), 419. 6° Tbid. 424.

Introduction 31 German. This funerary memorial is remarkable for its striking grasp of the dimensions of Polish Jewry’s destruction, its recognition of the meaning of the loss of Polish Jewry to Poland, and its sensitivity to the funerary, fragmentary, and traumatic nature of remembering the Jewish dead. It is a stunning example of a rare exception to the elision of Jewish memory in communist Poland. As Young writes, the memorial at Treblinka suggests that ‘the martyrdom of Poland’s three million Jews was to be regarded as an integral part of the nation’s martyrdom during the war’. However, when it was unveiled in May 1964, this exceptional memorial gesture to Polish Jewry was undercut by the regime’s evident ambivalence, perhaps the result of second thoughts in a fluid political environment. A leading newspaper of the heavily censored press linked the unveiling ceremony to a ‘great anti-war

gathering’ and elided the virtually exclusive Jewish identity of the victims of Treblinka, where, according to the account in the paper, ‘over 800,000 citizens of European countries lost their lives at the hands of the Nazi oppressors’.°° The Treblinka memorial marked a caesura. From the mid-1960s, especially in concert with the 1968 anti-Zionist campaign, to the latter part of the 1970s, Jewish memory of the Holocaust was, in Steinlauf’s words, ‘expelled’ from Polish public consciousness of the Second World War.®’ Polish and Jewish memory remained divorced until the end of the 1970s and the 1980s, when several developments associated with the end of the Cold War, in particular the decline of the communist regime in Poland and the rise of democratic forces in the country, augured change. There is a correlation between a mounting preoccupation with memory in Poland and the assumption by significant numbers of Poles since the mid-1g80s of responsibility for not only the post-communist future but also the communist post-war past. Intense and rising awareness in Poland of the annihilation of Polish Jewry under Nazi occupation of the country (and of the historical presence of Jews in the country) has ensued from this mental shift, which started on the grass-roots level. This mental shift was accelerated by a concatenation of events. One was the Polish premiere of Claude Lanzmann’s documentary film Shoah in April 1985. A large number of Poles considered the film anti-Polish because it highlighted the crude antisemitism of Polish peasants who had witnessed the destruction of Jewish communities and the deportation of Jews to their deaths in camps like Treblinka and omitted interviews with Poles who had saved or helped Jews or with Jews who had been on the receiving end of Polish assistance. Moreover, the film located the origins of Nazi antisemitism in Christian antisemitism, which offended many Polish viewers. With these caveats in mind, Poles who were unsettled by the film’s portrayal of the tenacity of antisemitism in the Polish countryside undertook introspection.® 66 Young, The Texture of Memory, 186-92, 363-4 n. 3, quotations at 186, 363-4; see also H. W. Smith (ed.), The Holocaust and Other Genocides: History, Representation, Ethics (Nashville, Tenn., 2002), 128-9. 67 Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 75-03.

68 On the Polish reaction to the film Shoah, see Wt. T. Bartoszewski, ‘Jews as a Polish Problem’, Polin, 2 (1987), 391-7; Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 110-12.

32 Gabriel N. Finder Equally if not more responsible for this mental shift was Jan Btonski’s essay ‘Biedni Polacy patrza na getto’ (“The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto’), which was published in T'ygodnik Powszechny, the highly regarded Catholic periodical, in January 1987. A respected literary critic, Blohski examined Poles’ lack of concern for Jews under Nazi occupation. It had ensued, in his view, from Polish disinterest in integrating Jews into the Polish national community in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Urging his fellow Poles to eschew apologetics in favour of accepting moral responsibility for their insufficient resistance to the Germans’ destruction of their Jewish neighbours, Blonski wrote that if only we had behaved more humanely in the past, had been wiser, more generous, then genocide would perhaps have been ‘less imaginable’, would probably have been considerably more difficult to carry out, and almost certainly would have met with much greater resistance than it did. To put it differently, it would not have met with the indifference and moral turpitude of the society in whose full view it took place.®

Most of the reactions to Blonski’s essay from fellow Poles were negative, but by the same measure it prompted critical self-examination among a significant number of Poles.”° Pope John Paul II (1920-2005), the former Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, archbishop

of Krakow, played an integral role in this process, beginning with his visit to Auschwitz in 1979. Celebration of the death and legacy of Maksymilian Kolbe dominated the pope’s visit. Imprisoned at Auschwitz I, Kolbe was a priest who had offered to substitute his own life for the life of a Polish prisoner sentenced to execution in 1941; from a Christian point of view, his sacrifice symbolically linked

the suffering and death of all Auschwitz victims to the sacrificial death of Christianity’s saviour. (Incidentally, before the war, Kolbe had been the publisher of a paper notorious for its antisemitic articles.) Notwithstanding the focus on

Kolbe, the celebration of mass in front of 300,000 people at the entrance to Birkenau afforded the pope the opportunity to make specific references to Jews, Russians, and Poles. His reference to Edith Stein, the convert to Catholicism who perished in the gas chambers with other racially classified Jews, displeased Jews, as

did his use of the metaphor ‘Golgotha of our age’ to refer to Auschwitz, since Golgotha is the place of Jesus’ crucifixion in the New Testament and therefore a site of redemption in Christian terms. On the other hand, the pope’s explicit identification of Jews with ‘that nation whose sons and daughters were marked for total extermination’ signalled a turning point in Catholic_Jewish and Polish—Jewish relations. In the same breath, he referred to the death of ‘six million Poles’ in the

Second World War, which represented ‘yet another stage in the centuries-old struggle of that nation, my nation, for its fundamental rights among the nations of 69 J. Btonski, “The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto’, in Polonsky (ed.), My Brother’s Keeper?, 46.

7 On Bionski’s article and the variety of Polish reactions to it, see A. Polonsky, introduction to id. (ed.), My Brother’s Keeper?, 1-34; Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 113-17.

Introduction 33 Europe’. The pope’s words cut both ways. His references to Jews patently distinguished them from other prisoners, including Poles, but his reference to ‘six million Poles’ seemed to reintegrate Jewish suffering at Auschwitz into Polish and even universal suffering, and his references to Edith Stein and Golgotha aroused suspicion of intent on his part to Christianize Auschwitz. John Paul [I’s remarks

should be read in the context of the subsequent course of his papacy, with its insistence on the validity of Christianity’s exclusive claim to the path to salvation and its unstinting support of Polish nationalism and the demise of communism on the one hand, its concerted efforts to improve Catholic—Jewish relations on the other. While Jews were clearly satisfied with the pope’s invocation of Jewish suffering alongside Polish (and Russian) suffering, the very act of celebrating mass, a

Christian ritual, in view of Birkenau, the symbol of the Holocaust for Jews, together with his emphasis on Christian martyrdom and the role of the camp in Polish post-war national identity, also highlighted Polish—Jewish points of friction and foreshadowed future Polish—Jewish conflicts over the memorial function of Auschwitz.” In 1998, the Vatican under John Paul II released We Remember: A Reflection on

the Shoah, in which it was conceded that Christians did not always act in ways expected of the ‘followers of Christ’ during the Holocaust, but the anti-Nazi sentiments of Christians receive special emphasis. Perhaps the most striking feature of the document is the use of the Jewish theological term teshuva, which signifies

repentance but was employed in the document to signal a reorientation in the Catholic Church to redouble efforts to improve Christian—Jewish relations and acknowledge Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.’* In 2000, John Paul II issued an

apology for the historical sins of the Catholic Church in a document entitled Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past. Vhe basis for the apology was a ‘purification of memory’. ‘Purifying the memory’, instructs the doc-

ument, ‘means eliminating from personal and collective conscience all forms of resentment or violence left by the inheritance of the past, on the basis of a new and rigorous historical-theological judgement, which becomes the foundation for a renewed moral way of acting’. This language is far from transparent or unambiguous. Indeed, the document seems to recommend a therapeutic resolution of past differences, even though it is unclear who exactly should eliminate holdover resentments and violence from the past: the Church or its victims. The areas designated by the document in which the history of the Catholic Church has been marked by

error and for which it offers an apology include Christian—Jewish relations “| Huener, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, 200~-25, quotations at 217-18; Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 95-6. 72 Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah

. For commentary from a Jewish perspective, see Krajewski, Poland and the Jews, 184-6.

34 Gabriel N. Finder (together with the division of Christianity since the Reformation and the use of force in compelling religious conformity, as in the Inquisition). Although the document abjures direct responsibility of the Church for the Holocaust, ascribing it to Nazism’s ‘pagan ideology’, it allows that ‘it may be asked whether the Nazi persecution of the Jews was not made easier by the anti-Jewish prejudices imbedded in some Christian minds and hearts’. What both the 1998 and 2000 texts are not, however, are historically empirical analyses of the degree of the Church’s responsibility for the isolation and persecution of Jews under German occupation in Poland and

elsewhere.’° That said, during his pontificate John Paul II made numerous unequivocal gestures in furtherance of Polish—Jewish relations, including historical visits to Rome’s synagogue in 1986 and to Israel in 2000. ‘4

The document Memory and Reconcthation was prepared under the editorial supervision of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who after being elected to the papacy in

2005 upon the death of Pope John Paul II took the name Benedict XVI. Born in Bavaria in 1927, he was conscripted unwillingly into the Hitler Youth and then, with the end of the Second World War in sight, into the German army; he was a member of an anti-aircraft unit at an aeroplane motor factory before he deserted and was captured by the Americans.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI visited Auschwitz during a trip to Poland in May 2006. In the course of his tour of the camp, he invoked the language of ‘purification of memory’; it was demanded by this camp, he said, from which ‘remembrances will foster resistance to evil and the triumph of love’. The pope referred twice to the ‘Shoah’, although he linked it with a desire to destroy Christianity: ‘By destroying Israel with the Shoah, they [the rulers of the Third Reich] ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man,

the rule of the powerful.’ His visit to Auschwitz concluded with an interfaith memorial service at Birkenau that was attended by several thousand guests, including survivors and representatives of Jewish organizations. During the service a cantor recited Kaddish and then the names of all Nazi concentration camps at which Jews were killed. In his remarks, the pope did not acknowledge collective guilt on

the part of ordinary Germans or any culpability by the Church during the war, which, together with his linkage of the Holocaust with a Nazi plan to uproot 73 Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past . For analyses of the ambiguities in the 2000 document from a Jewish perspective, see L. Wieseltier, ‘Sorry’, New Republic, 27 Mar. 2000, p. 6; Krajewski, Poland and the Jews, 188, 200. “4 For a positive assessment of the pope’s influence on Christian—Jewish relations, largely because of

his concern for Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, see R. S. Wistrich, ‘John Paul II on Jews and Judaism’, Polin, 14 (2001), 329-38. ” 'T. Wilkinson, ‘Pope Visits Nazi Death Camp’, Los Angeles Times, 29 May 2006 part A, p. I.

Introduction 35 Christianity, vexed some Jewish leaders. Yet the visit to Auschwitz of a German pope only sixty years after the war, following the visit to the camp of a Polish pope thirty-five years after the war, and their tributes to Jewish memory, even if not entirely satisfactory, bespeaks the readiness of the Catholic Church, whose moral authority in Poland is immense, to embark on a path to authentic reconciliation between Catholic and Jewish—and by extension, Polish and Jewish—memory. © Yet the path to reconciliation has not been spared its fair share of zigs and zags. To

illustrate this I return to the commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the contested memorial terrain of Auschwitz, this time since the 1980s. In December

1981 General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law in an attempt to quell swelling political opposition to communist rule. The opposition was spearheaded by the Solidarity trade union movement, which, led by Lech Walesa (b. 1943), emerged after strikes in 1980. Disbanded under martial law, Solidarity mutated into a network of clandestine unions and a social movement that were in the forefront of political opposition until the negotiated collapse of the communist regime in 1989. Desperate for international credibility and economic aid, in 1983 the Jaruzelski regime, in an apparent attempt to curry the favour of Jews in the West who, it apparently believed,

could use their putative influence in shaping world opinion to Poland’s benefit, planned a stately commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, inviting Jews and Jewish organizations from throughout the world. In response there ensued a series of initiatives whose common goal was to prevent the regime from monopolizing commemoration of the anniversary: Stanislaw Krajewski and a younger generation of Jews issued a statement calling for a simple independent commemoration; the Catholic Church held a special mass at St Augustine’s Church in Warsaw at which Cardinal Glemp delivered a homily devoted to the martyrdom of the Jews; former members of the Home Army gathered in front of the gate of the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw and laid a wreath there; and Solidarity planned an independent commemoration of the uprising. Refusing to lend his name to an effort to bolster the legitimacy of the regime, Marek Edelman, the last surviving commander of the Jewish Fighting Organization, publicly rejected an invitation from the authorities to participate in an honorary capacity on an official committee created to plan the commemoration. ‘Far from manipulated commemorations’, he contended, ‘in the silence of graves and hearts will survive the true memory of victims and heroes, of the eternal human impulse toward freedom and truth.’“” Edelman threw his support behind the Solidarity-led opposition and called for a Jewish boycott of the official commemoration ceremonies. *6 For additional reports on the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Auschwitz, see I. Fisher, ‘A German Pope Confronts the Nazi Past at Auschwitz’, New York Times, 29 May 2006, section A, p. 7, and S. Poggioli, ‘Auschwitz Address Ends Pope’s Visit to Poland’, NPR (National Public Radio), A// Things Considered, 28 May 2006 . 7 Edelman, in Straznik, 258, quoted in Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 107-8.

36 Gabriel N. Finder With Edelman’s blessing, Solidarity held its own independent ceremony, which was just one of several unofficial commemorations Solidarity organized to reclaim Polish history from the regime. On 17 April, a couple of days prior to the official commemo-

ration ceremonies, more than a thousand people gathered, in the presence of the police, to hear speeches by representatives of Solidarity on the site of the infamous Umschlagplatz, from which Warsaw’s Jews had been deported to Treblinka, and to lay flowers at the foot of Rapoport’s Warsaw ghetto monument before the police finally dispersed the crowd. Walesa was detained by the police and unable to attend. Edelman intended to attend but was put under house arrest; he was, however, able to send a message of support to those assembled in front of Rapoport’s monument, stressing the enduring validity of the values he and his fellow Jewish fighters had fought for forty years earlier. Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a spokesman for Solidarity, read a statement in which he stressed the common ideals of Solidarity and the ghetto fighters in their respective struggles for freedom and dignity. Although some Jews from abroad heeded Edelman’s call for a boycott, several thousand attended the ceremony. Many Jews later regretted their decision because the regime allowed the commemoration to be manipulated for political ends.’”® For the next five years Rapoport’s monument figured prominently in the Polish

political struggle between the regime and Solidarity, which gradually assumed ownership of the commemoration of the ghetto uprising at the foot of the monument. As Young writes, “The square surrounding the Ghetto Monument had... . become both a dangerous and a necessary memorial space for the state, whose best interest ironically was to preserve the memorial’s literal reference to the Jewish uprising while assiduously avoiding its symbolic reference to current resistance.’ Competition for the meaning of the Warsaw ghetto uprising reached a climax in 1988, the year of its forty-fifth anniversary. While the regime dedicated a series of commemorative markers in a memorial route from the vicinity of the ghetto mon-

ument to the Umschlagplatz, Solidarity, led by Lech Walesa and with Marek Edelman’s blessing, sponsored an unofficial unveiling in the nearby Jewish cemetery of a monument in memory of Victor Alter (1890-1941) and Henryk Ehrlich

(1882-1941), leaders of the Bund in Poland who were murdered in the Soviet Union after fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland. A letter from Walesa to Edelman published on the occasion of the ceremony paid the Warsaw ghetto uprising the ultimate compliment by situating it firmly in the national tradition of rebellions: ‘For in this land, the land of so many uprisings, the uprising of the Jewish fighters was

the most Polish of all Polish uprisings.’ To be sure, the ceremony directed by Solidarity was pressed primarily into the service of memory accruing to the advantage of the opposition, but it nevertheless marked a watershed in the reintegration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising into Polish history. Six weeks after the unofficial 78 Krajewski, Poland and the Jews, 154-8; Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 106-8; Young, The Texture of Memory, 176-7.

Introduction 37 commemoration there followed the famous strike at the Gdansk shipyards that augured the collapse of the regime. ”? Since the downfall of communism in Poland in 1989, the annual official commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising has increasingly accommodated Jewish

remembrance and perceptions of the Holocaust. The fiftieth-anniversary com- memoration ceremonies in 1993 saw Warsaw’s Nozyk Synagogue play host to an ecumenical service distinguished by the unprecedented attendance of Church officials; the commemoration culminated in an official wreath-laying ceremony at the foot of Rapoport’s monument in the presence of President Lech Walesa, Marek Edelman, the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the US Vice President Al Gore. Thousands of Jews from all over the world attended the commemoration, including Holocaust survivors and young Israelis hoisting Israeli flags. ‘The interest of the Polish media in the event was intense.®° On the occasion of the commemoration of the fifty-fifth anniversary in April 1998, President Aleksander Kwasniewski (b. 1954) bestowed the Order of the White Eagle, the highest state award, on Marek Edelman. Edelman’s speech used the opportunity to invoke the memory of Polish Jews who perished in the Holocaust and to stress how much Poland had suffered on account of their loss: This order is a reminder of the three million Jews who died in Poland and of the 350,000 Varsovians who died. . . . It is a reminder of those people who perished needlessly. It is an order for Poland, who was made an orphan, three million of its citizens dead. Citizens who had brought the beauty of Jewish culture to life, culture that had for centuries mingled with Polish literature, culture and customs. This is all gone now, and today we must remember it.°?

The programme for the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the uprising in April 2003 was the most extravagant to date. It was inaugurated in the evening of 19 April by a special programme at the Jewish Theatre, followed by a gathering at the monument, where Kaddish was recited and candles lit, and from there participants walked to the Umschlagplatz, stopping at the Jewish Fighting Organization’s bunker at Mita 18, where Mordechai Anielewicz and other Jewish

insurgents had committed suicide in May 1943. On 29 April the president of Israel, Moshe Katsav, and the president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, participated in the March of the Living, an annual highly organized international pilgrimage of Jewish youth that culminates in Israel. In the evening of 29 April, at the site of Treblinka, a race called ‘Run of Life’ began, following 1n reverse the route of Warsaw Jews’ last journey and ending at Rapoport’s monument. In the morning of 30 April, the Israeli and Polish presidents participated in an additional

commemoration of the uprising at the monument. In the afternoon of the same Young, The Texture of Memory, 177-8: 177; Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 108—9; quotation from

Walesa at 109. 80 Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 131. 8! Quoted in .

38 Gabriel N. Finder day religious services were held at the Nozyk Synagogue, along with a ceremony to award medals to the Righteous among the Nations. Finally, in the evening, there

was a memorial concert at the Grand Theatre and National Opera under the patronage of the prime minister of Poland, Leszek Miller.®* In addition to official commemorations of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, independent commemorations of it have become a tradition since 1983. One is organized by the civic organization Otwarta Rzeczpospolita (Open Republic). Marek Edelman plays a central role in this commemoration, paying homage to his fellow fallen fighters by laying flowers at Rapoport’s monument and at the Jewish Fight-

ing Organization’s command centre at 18 Mila Street. Until his death in 2004, Jacek Kuron, who inspired the dissident movement in Poland in the 1970s and 1980s, was a regular participant in this commemoration.®? Those who attend the commemoration sponsored by Otwarta Rzeczpospolita are primarily non-Jews. In addition, the Council of Christians and Jews, founded in 1991 by Krajewski and Father Waldemar Chrostowski, who has since left it, has since 1992 sponsored an annual ‘March of Prayer’ on the Sunday closest to 19 April. Following the memorial route from the Warsaw ghetto monument to the Umschlagplatz, the participants, who include Jewish leaders and Christian clergy from various denominations, say Jewish and Christian prayers separately and recite psalms in Polish.** In both the official and especially the independent commemorations of the Warsaw ghetto uprising since the early 1990s, one sees evidence of sincere and concerted efforts among Jews and certain Poles to reconcile the divided memory of Jews and Poles.

The extent to which the Polish and the Jewish memory of the Warsaw ghetto uprising have met in and been identified with one person—Marek Edelman—is intriguing. Representing the Bund in the Jewish Fighting Organization, Edelman was deputy commander of the uprising. He had written a finely detailed account of the uprising, Getto walczy (“The Ghetto Fights’), in 1945, but it never resonated, even among Jews, either in Poland or abroad, probably because at the time when it was highlighting the exploits of fellow Bund loyalists, the post-war stature of the Bund was already waning. Unlike most other surviving participants in the uprising, Edelman stayed in Poland and remained cool to Zionism. After the war he became a cardiologist in Lodz. He took part in the unveiling of Rapoport’s monument in 1948 and in the commemoration of the uprising in the late 1950s, but he generally stayed in the background until he was rediscovered in Hanna Krall’s intimate interview with him, which immediately became a bestselling book in Poland when it was published in 1977 under the title Zdgzyc przed Panem Bogiem (literally 82 For the programme of the sixtieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, see . 83 See the obituary by J. B. Michlic, ‘Jacek Kuron: The Last Great Romantic Committed to the Struggle for the Rights of Minorities (1934—2004)’, Polin, 19 (2006), 621-8. 84 Krajewski, Poland and the Jews, 230-1.

Introduction 39 “To Beat God to the Punch’; first translated into English in 1986 as Shielding the Flame). In Edelman Polish (and Polish Jewish) readers discovered a refreshing exception to the archetypal communist-era hero. Here was a reluctant, reflective, blunt, iconoclastic, humane—and Jewish—hero. Averse to mythic inflations of the uprising, his portrayal of it was realistic and unsentimental, while his description of his colleagues in the Jewish Fighting Organization was, in turn, charitable but discerning, a testament to not only their courage but also their vulnerability and foibles. The publication of the interview thrust Edelman into the limelight. By 1980 he was associated with Solidarity and became a heroic symbol not only of the Warsaw ghetto revolt but also of oppositional politics in Poland. His stature was cemented in 1983, when, as mentioned, he rejected the regime’s invitation to sit on a committee presiding over planning the official fortieth observance of the uprising, called for a boycott of the official commemoration, and gave his blessing to the

commemoration organized by Solidarity. But his legacy among Jews outside Poland is equivocal. Not all Jews, especially those who fought in the uprising, believed or believe that Edelman should be the contemporary public representative of the Jewish Fighting Organization because of his decision to rebuild his life in Poland after the war and his iconoclastic proclivity to deflate myths associated with the uprising that Jews hold dear.®° Commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising can afford to be conciliatory largely because the Polish stake in the uprising is limited: Poles did not fight or die in it. Auschwitz is a different story. It is still very much a contested site of memory because both Poles and Jews, on account of the central place of Auschwitz in both Polish and Jewish consciousness, demand a high price for compromise over it. A series of conflicts beginning with the controversy over the establishment of a Carmelite convent on the periphery of Auschwitz I in the late 1980s and early 1990s turned Auschwitz, to borrow from Stawomir Kapralski, into a ‘battlefield of memory’.®° As Michael Steinlauf observes, the fact that the controversy over the convent had been gestating since the early 1980s, when it was becoming increasingly evident that the communist regime was on its last legs, indicated an evolving change in Polish perceptions. Stemnlauf describes this change thus: [The dispute over the presence of a Carmelite convent at Auschwitz] was fueled, first of all, by transformations in Polish national perception, by the movement away from the bankrupt narrative of internationalism and toward the ‘patriotic-symbolic-religious language’ of reemerging ‘traditions’. What this entailed at Auschwitz—or as it known to Poles, Oswiecim . ..—was the emergence of a symbolic palimpsest: not the eradication of the old narrative with its marginalization of the memory of the Jews, but the development of a new narrative 85 On Jewish reservations about Edelman, see I. Zertal, Jsrael’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, trans. C. Galai (Cambridge, 2005), 34-8. 86 St. Kapralski, ‘Battlegrounds of Memory: Landscape and Identity in Polish—Jewish Relations’, EMistory and Memory, 13/2 (Fall 2001), 35-58.

40 Gabriel N. Finder layer that only partially covered the old. This new layer of meaning consisted of the proliferation of religiously sanctified sites of Polish martyrdom.®’

A small group of nuns moved into the convent in 1984 with the approval of Polish authorities and Catholic Church officials. In addition, a twenty-foot cross— the so-called ‘papal cross’ because it was used when Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at Birkenau in 1979—was later erected in the garden of the convent. In 1985

leaders of Jewish organizations embarked on a succession of meetings with representatives of the Polish government and the Catholic Church to protest the establishment of the convent, a Catholic place of worship, on the grounds of

Auschwitz, the site of the mass murder of Europe’s Jews and symbol of the Holocaust. Poles accused Jewish critics of the convent and the papal cross of insensitivity to the religious sensibilities of Christianity and of denigrating Polish and Christian martyrdom. Meeting in 1987, Jewish and Catholic leaders agreed that the nuns would vacate the convent within two years. After the deadline passed without the departure of the nuns from the convent, the controversy escalated in July 1989 when an American rabbi and his Jewish supporters scaled the wall of the

| convent and staged a loud protest in front of the convent until Polish workers on the scene manhandled and ejected them. The controversy lasted until April 1993, when Pope John Paul II specifically asked the nuns to leave, which averted a threat-

ened Jewish boycott of the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The convent was moved to a location two miles from the camp, but the cross remained.®®

The resolution of the dispute over the convent did not appreciably improve the atmosphere in time for the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1995, which highlighted the persistence of Poles’ and Jews’ divided memory by largely deteriorating into separate Jewish and Polish commemorations. In Krakow on 26 January, the first day of the two-day commemoration, President Walesa gave two speeches; in neither speech did he make specific references to Jews or mention the Holocaust. In an unofficial ceremony on the same day, a Jewish delegation travelled from Krakow to Birkenau in order to pray at the ruins of the crematorium and to hear speeches by Elie Wiesel, Shevah Weiss, the Speaker of the Knesset and an Auschwitz survivor, and Jean Kahn, president of the European Jewish Congress. In Auschwitz on the second day of the commemoration, Walesa, apparently after negotiations with Jewish leaders, amended his prepared remarks. After the phrase ‘the suffering of many nations’, he inserted the clause ‘especially the Jewish nation’. While this compromise was meant to appease Jewish delegates, it appalled many Poles, for whom Auschwitz was pri87 Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 117.

88 Ibid. 117-21; see also WI. T. Bartoszewski, The Convent at Auschwitz (New York, 1991), and C. Rittner and J. K. Roth (eds.), Memory Offended: The Auschwitz Convent Controversy (New York, Westport, Conn. and London, 1991).

, Introduction 41 marily a place of Polish martyrdom and of deep family tragedy. Moreover, former Polish inmates of Auschwitz resented and decried, from their vantage point, the

de-emphasis of Polish suffering in favour of Jewish victimhood. Jews accused Poles of wanting to ‘own’ Auschwitz; Poles charged Jews with wanting the ceremonies to have a ‘purely Jewish character’.°° In 1998 the so-called ‘crosses controversy’ reprised the conflict between Polish

and Jewish memory over Auschwitz. As Janine P. Hole remarks, ‘The “crosses action” became an explicit countermemorial to the Holocaust as a uniquely Jewish experience.” A nationalist activist, Kazimierz Switon, asserted the right to install a

cross on the grounds of the former Auschwitz I. He and his supporters justified this action on the grounds that the deaths of Polish Catholics were insufficiently memorialized at the site in part as a result of ‘Jewish influences’. In fact, crosses were already visible in the landscape of the memorial site. These included the papal cross on the patch of grass adjacent to Auschwitz I and small crosses and similarly sized Stars of David attached to crosses at Birkenau that had been left in 1995 by a group of Polish scouts. The staff of the Auschwitz museum paid no attention to the religious symbols, but Jewish visitors noticed them. The stage for the controversy was set in 1996 when Elie Wiesel and other Jewish visitors, invited to Poland to take part in the commemoration of the Jewish victims of the 1946 Kielce pogrom, pleaded publicly to have the crosses removed, since they considered it

offensive to have crosses in a Jewish cemetery, which is how they regarded Auschwitz on account of the staggering number of Jewish dead there. When, in response to Wiesel’s plea, the government and non-government groups tried to have Switon’s cross and the other religious symbols at Auschwitz removed, a number of individuals responded by raising numerous crosses around Switori’s cross. Wiesel’s comments generated vigorous reactions in Poland, including from Catholic clergy, who accused Jews of insensitivity to Christian suffering and of ignorance of the universal symbolism of the cross, which was not meant to offend Jews. Phrases such as ‘Jews want to take over Auschwitz-Birkenau’, and other stock antisemitic language, were deployed by the defenders of the cross. Encoded in the vigorous defence of the papal cross, Holc argues, was a larger cultural debate on the future of Polish identity

waged between supporters of civic pluralism who welcome globalization and Poland’s integration into Europe and ethnic nationalists who feel threatened by the encroachment of Western values, which they deem perilous to Christian values in Poland. While the controversy over the crosses opened the door for antisemites to give expression to their sentiments, associating Jews with the encroachment of the West in Polish life, it was also an occasion for discourse opposed to antisemitism, including that of the progressive clergy, led by the late Father Stanislaw Musial. 89 Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 135-44: 143. 90 J. P. Holc, ‘Memory Contested: Jewish and Catholic Views of Auschwitz in Present-Day Poland’, in R. Blobaum (ed.), Antisemitism and its Opponents in Modern Poland (Ithaca, NY and London, 2005), 301-25: 302.

42 Gabriel N. Finder Father Musial not only condemned the antisemitic rhetoric of the activists but also admonished the faithful to beware use of the cross for political purposes and asked why the activists, in the spirit of true Christianity, excluded the Jewish victims of Auschwitz from their commemoration. Polish Jewish intellectuals, led by Stanistaw Krajewski and Konstanty Gebert, also weighed in and represented the Jewish view of the cross. Gebert, for example, expressed, from the Jewish perspective, the inability of the cross to alleviate Jewish pain associated with Auschwitz, which for Jews is the ultimate symbol of the Holocaust. The cross, he added, was an insult to Jews, even if it was not erected for that purpose. The controversy was resolved when Switon’s announcement that he was in the possession of explosives gave the police

and the military cause to intervene and, in the course of a sweep of the area, to remove all the small crosses. They left the papal cross, however, in place. Many Poles, relieved to see the controversy end because they sensed that it harmed Poland’s image abroad, could live with this apparent compromise of the conflict, since the papal cross still stood. It goes without saying that the fact that a tall cross stands at Auschwitz still irritates most Jewish visitors to the site.” Although these recent controversies do not inspire confidence in the prospects of reconciling Polish and Jewish memory when it comes to Auschwitz, other contemporaneous initiatives under way there since the early 19ggos point in the oppo-

site direction. In response to Franciszek Piper’s dramatic readjustment of the estimate of the overall number of the camp’s victims from four million to one and a half million and of the relative figures of Jewish and Polish dead to roughly one million Jews and 75,000 Poles, the new post-communist Polish government had

the inscription on the Monument to the Victims of Fascism referring to four million victims removed. The new inscription, dating from 1992, admonishes humanity to remember Auschwitz and includes a revised estimate and appraisal of the victims. It reads: ‘For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women,

and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe. AuschwitzBirkenau[,] 1940-1945’. Nearby a new, larger tablet was added and inscribed with a verse from the book of Job (16: 18): ‘O Earth, hide not my blood | And let my cry never cease.’ The recent commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January 2005 drew more than 10,000 guests, including leaders

and representatives of forty-four countries as well as former camp prisoners. Among the speakers were President Kwasniewski and Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who spoke in his capacity as chairman of the Council for Preserving the Memory of Struggles and Martyrdom (Rada Ochrony Pamieci Walk 1 Meczenstwa) and

as member of the Council of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Bartoszewski cautioned that awareness of the Holocaust is fading and that the Nazis’ crimes are being pushed out of people’s consciousness. As part of an effort 91 Tn addition to Holc, ‘Memory Contested’, see St. Kapralski, ‘Auschwitz: Site of Memories’, Polin, 15 (2002), 395-400.

Introduction 43 to stem growing ignorance of the Holocaust, he announced the establishment of an International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, which, in his words, would be ‘a testament to the disappearing prisoners’.?” Moreover,

since the end of communism the curators of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum have undertaken to set the historical record of the camp straight by adding explanatory markers along the visitors’ route through Auschwitz I and Birkenau, renovating and revising exhibitions, and preserving physical structures that were central to the process of destruction. This undertaking reflects a concerted effort on the part of the museum’s personnel to reintegrate Jews into the narrative of Auschwitz and acknowledge the singularity of their suffering while affording Poles and, increasingly, other non-Jewish prisoners, including Soviet prisoners-of-war, Roma, and Jehovah’s Witnesses their due, evidence of what Jonathan Huener calls ‘the growing plurality of memory at Auschwitz’.?° Although the various Auschwitz controversies attracted a great deal of attention in Poland, a documentary film directed by Agnieszka Arnold and especially the subsequent publication in 2000 of Gross’s book Sgsiedzi (published in English as Neighbors, 2001) touched a raw nerve in Polish society, provoking the most vigorous, involved, and heated public discussion of memory in Poland since the end of communism. As Antony Polonsky and Joanna Michlic write, Indeed, the debate over Neighbors can be viewed as a battle over memory, a battle to establish a more accurate understanding of Polish—Jewish relations in the twentieth century and especially during the wartime period. This is a battle in which the ‘counter-memory’ of the

Holocaust has confronted the prevailing Polish orthodoxy in the most confident and sharpest way, exposing its distortion, omissions, and internal inconsistencies.**

Using survivor statements and trial transcripts, Gross described how, following Germany’s invasion of the USSR on 22 June 1941, local ethnic Poles, incited—but not forced—by a contingent of German troops, tormented, tortured, and killed virtually all the 1,600 Jews present in Jedwabne, a village in north-eastern Poland. (Subsequent investigations estimate the number of victims between 400 and 1,600.) Many sources confirm Gross’s historical reconstruction of events in Jedwabne, and while many historians and journalists, especially from Poland, have modified and added nuance to it, none has contradicted it. Of utmost significance is the basic confirmation of the details in Gross’s book provided by the extensive and multifaceted investigation conducted by the venerated Institute of National Memory (Instytut Pamieci Narodowej, IPN) in Warsaw, which in 2002 published 92 Newsletter of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, special edition, Summer 2005, 17 . 93 Huener, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, 240; see also Kapralski, ‘Auschwitz’,

386-95, and T. Swiebocka, “The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum: From Commemoration to Education’, Polin, 13 (2000), 294-8.

%4 A. Polonsky and J. B. Michlic, introduction to Polonsky and Michlic (eds.), The Neighbors Respond, 1-49: 30.

4A Gabriel N. Finder | the findings of the investigation in a two-volume study entitled Wokot Jedwabnego.

(The investigation concluded that several hundred Jews—probably four hundred—were killed in Jedwabne by their Polish neighbours.) One reason that Gross’s book provoked an emotionally charged national debate of such magnitude

between those who took his findings to heart and those who rejected them and their implications was that all Poles, themselves victims of the communist regime’s manipulation of Polish as well as Jewish history, were genuinely surprised, if not shocked, when they learnt about the massacres of Jews in 1941 both in Jedwabne

and in other towns in the northern Podlasie region. Polish collective memory, which endured the fall of communism, represented Poles as heroes and victims, and even if cracks began to appear in the myth of Polish solidarity with the country’s Jews after the publication of Btonski’s controversial article, Poles had not, up

to the point of the publication of Neighbors, been directly implicated in the destruction of the country’s Jews. Gross’s book pulled the rug from under this cherished myth. Although the controversy over Jedwabne evoked defensive apologetics and provided an opportunity for antisemites to give expression to their sentiments, a large chorus of voices in Polish society from the Polish intelligentsia, political leadership, and the clergy called for serious critical self-examination. Two public events epitomized the transformative potential of the controversy over Jedwabne. In May 2001 the Polish Episcopate offered a prayer at Warsaw’s Church of All Saints asking God to forgive Polish Catholics for sins committed against the Jewish people. ‘Then the government organized an official ceremony in Jedwabne on the sixtieth anniversary of the massacre of the town’s Jewish population. Polish President Kwasniewski took part in the ceremony, joined by prominent

representatives of his government, the parliament, the Institute of National Memory, Polish civil society, the Israeli ambassador, and leaders of Poland’s Jewish community. The ceremony was attended by a large number of Poles from all over the country and many foreign observers. Although the majority of Jedwabne’s residents boycotted the official commemoration of the massacre, the remarks of the mayor of

Jedwabne, Krzysztof Godlewski, opened the ceremony. The highlight of the day was President Kwasniewski’s impressive speech, with its remarkable apology in which he begged ‘the shadows of the dead and their families for forgiveness’.?° By comparison, the boycott by most of Jedwabne’s residents at the instigation of the local bishop, parish priest, and right-wing politicians was rather unfortunate. Their attitude is explored in Marta Kurkowska’s chapter in this volume, ‘Jedwabne and Wizna: Monuments and Memory in the Lomza Region’. Kurkowska compares the process of memorialization in both towns. Whereas Jedwabne is now infamous because of the massacre of the town’s Jews by their Polish neighbours in 1941, as described in Gross’s book, Wizna is known as the site of a battle in September 1939

in which, in the immediate wake of the German invasion of Poland, 650 Polish °° For a skilful and nuanced analysis of the debate on and commemoration of the carnage in Jedwabne, see Polonsky and Michlic, introduction to The Neighbors Respond.

Introduction 45 soldiers in a unit of 720 died defending the line of defence fortifications in the area.

As Kurkowska points out, there existed already well before the publication of Gross’s book a monument to the Jewish victims of the massacre in Jedwabne, which

official and popular mythology attributed solely to German forces; it consisted merely of a boulder lying in an open space, untended. According to local legend, this was the boulder that local Jews were forced to carry around the market square

before they were murdered. Other memorials were raised in the town from the 1960s on; the earlier ones commemorated a pantheon of Polish communist heroes,

the more recent ones the Polish martyrs of Soviet deportations and the Soviet occupation of the country. After the conflict over the site of a new memorial to the murdered Jews of Jedwabne broke out, a monument built a decade earlier to 180 local victims of Nazi and Soviet aggression attracted renewed local attention. One perceives in this deflection of attention a holdover of the untoward competition over who suffered more—Poles or Jews, which implicitly also connected the debate on Gross’s book on the one hand and the controversies over Auschwitz and to some extent the commemorations of the Warsaw ghetto uprising on the other. Since the first commemoration of the murdered Jews of Jedwabne in July 2001, neither local

officials nor townspeople attend annual ceremonies held at the monument on 10 July. Since the local government does not tend the monument, a local resident does. Local secondary school pupils, together with their teacher, light candles at the monument, not on 10 July but on All Saints’ Day, a Christian observance. By contrast, the residents of Wizna erected several memorials during the last twentyfive years of communist rule to the heroes of the battle for Wizna. After the fall of communism, commemoration ceremonies in Wizna subsided, although there was a momentary reawakening of commemorations in 1999 to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War, and in 2004 the town’s inhabitants, like those of Jedwabne, erected a memorial to Poles exiled by the Soviets to Siberia. But, in general, local interest in these sites of memory has waned. In the final analysis, Kurkowska’s chapter points to the fragility of commemoration in contemporary Poland. While collective memory of national bravery and honour is considered outdated by many Poles, especially members of the younger generation, memory of national ignominy and shame is hardly an edifying and attractive alternative and many Poles choose to ignore it.

For their part, Jews are of two minds when it comes to the Polish debate on Jedwabne: Jews living in Poland are generally more impressed by it and optimistic about its ramifications than Jews outside the country. An illustration of the reaction of Polish Jews is provided by Stanislaw Krajewski. In his words, “The Jedwabne debate is magnificent and I feel proud that such a deep discussion was possible at all.’ An article that appeared in Wprost in March 2001 that was written by Stanislaw

Janecki and Slawomir Mac, two journalists at the popular weekly, under the title ‘Nasza wina. Przepraszamy Zydow i prosimy o wybaczenie’ (‘Our guilt: we apologize to Jews and ask for forgiveness’), which was an apology that listed the

46 Gabriel N. Finder offences that Poles have committed against Jews and a plea for forgiveness, elicited Krajewski’s profound appreciation: The article, which cuts right through the Poles’ defensiveness on the issue, moved me deeply. It shows an understanding of the Jewish experience in Poland, and opens up human hearts. And it is at times that I want to shout out: yes, of course, I forgive you my brothers. I know you had nothing to do with this evil. Paradoxically, one may well ask how I know this. Well, I know because the authors feel responsible for it. In all, this article was like a balsam—a more straightforward rendering of the issue is, I believe, impossible.*°

Open discussion of deeply secreted taboos, however, does not blind Krajewski to the fact that Poles are schizophrenic when it comes to Jedwabne, ‘one side accepting the painful truth and attempting to make up for past wrongs, the other denying facts and rejecting all proof in order to protect its innocent image’. He notes that the moral challenge posed by Jedwabne is resisted especially at the local level. With these caveats in mind, Krajewski is clearly of the opinion that the controversy over Jedwabne has been a great boost for the forces for renewal in Poland and that they

are prevailing, as evidenced in the position of President Kwasniewski. “The Jedwabne debate’s deep impact’, he added, ‘is also visible in many Jewish experiences—aincluding mine.’ Although he did not elaborate on how the debate affected Polish Jews, one can presume from his overall approach to being a Jew choosing to live in Poland today that it has bolstered his conviction that there is a secure place in Polish society for, as he puts it, ‘Polish Polish Jews; Polish Jews who live in Poland, and who treat Poland as their homeland rather than just a place of origin’. ‘Yet’, he adds, speaking for many Jews like himself, ‘I also feel a bond with all Jews; I know that we are parts of the same faith and fate.’?” The reaction of Jews in Israel and in the West has been more guarded. Moreover, Jewish reactions from outside Poland are split along popular and scholarly lines. The - new generation of Jewish historians, who tend to stress the relatively peaceful and productive coexistence of Catholics and Jews on Polish soil for centuries up to the mid-1930s, regard Neighbors as discrediting the notion that the perpetrators of the massacre in Jedwabne were motivated by an innate hatred of Jews or that the vast majority of Poles were accomplices of the Nazis’ annihilation of Polish Jewry. They further welcome the fact that open discussion of the massacre in Jedwabne and other towns in the Podlasie region has prompted introspection among many Poles, but they are keenly aware that other Poles harbour reservations about or reject the findings and conclusions about the events in Jedwabne and elsewhere.?° The consensus among Jewish historians, as expressed by the pre-eminent Israeli historian of the Holocaust Israel Gutman, who was a very young member of the Jewish Fighting 96 Krajewski, Poland and the Jews, 104—6 (emphasis in original). 97 Tbid. 17-18 (emphasis in original).

%8 This view is expressed in D. Engel, ‘Introduction to the Hebrew Edition of Neighbors’, in Polonsky and Michlic (eds.), The Neighbors Respond, 408-13.

Introduction 47 Organization and took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, is that ‘the notion that Poles are an antisemitic people—an idea that has made some inroads among us [Jews |—ought to be rejected’.?? Nevertheless, the debate in Poland on Jedwabne barely resonated in Jewish public opinion outside Poland and was overshadowed by far by Gross’s account in Neighbors of the massacre in Jedwabne, which seems to have reinforced the intuitive perception of the majority of Jews that Poles have always been antisemites and they were complicit in the destruction of Polish Jewry during the Holocaust. In this regard, Leon Wieseltier, an American Jewish intellectual, is more representative of Jewish reactions outside Poland than the new generation of Jewish scholars when he writes that ‘Poland has many glories, but its history with the Jews is not one of them’.!°° How does one account for these differences in Jewish opinion about Jedwabne? I would suggest that the optimism of Polish Jews, as expressed by Krajewski, is partly generated by their strong desire to live in Poland free of guilt that they are surrounded by compatriots who are unreconstructed antisemites and to this day would like to be rid of Jews. The debate on Jedwabne inspires hope among Polish Jews that such Poles are now in the minority and that Poles of good will have taken

stock, are sympathetic to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, and want to embrace Jews as partners in a common effort to transform Polish society. Moreover, unlike the majority of Jews in Israel and the West, Polish Jews and the new generation of Jewish scholars have in common their deep familiarity with the variegated and rich legacy of Jewish life in Poland, while being mindful of the vicissitudes of Polish—Jewish relations before the Second World War. The image of Poland in the minds of Jews outside Poland is, however, predominantly negative,

in many cases transmitted through the memories of relatives and friends who encountered Polish hostility towards Jews both before and during the war. As a result, they remain deeply distrustful of Poles. One positive effect of the debate on Jedwabne has been to encourage the development of new paradigms for remembering the Holocaust in Poland’s education

system. ‘Iwo chapters in this volume deal with educational initiatives. Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs underscores the importance of these initiatives in ‘So Many Questions: The Development of Holocaust Education in Post-Communist Poland’ by pointing to the results of a national survey of Polish students in 1998 indicating that their knowledge about the Holocaust is characterized by high levels of ignorance, misperception, confusion, and defensiveness. Most students surveyed were loath to agree that Jews suffered more than Poles during the Second World War and they inflated the degree of Polish assistance to Jews. In response, many educators in post-communist Poland have undertaken a significant expansion of Holocaust °° T. Gutman, ‘Do the Poor Poles Really Look at the Ghetto? Introduction to the Hebrew Edition of Neighbors’, in Polonsky and Michlic (eds.), The Neighbors Respond, 419.

100 'L. Wieseltier, ‘Washington Diarist: Righteous (New Republic, 9 April 2001)’, in Polonsky and Michlic (eds.), The Neighbors Respond, 442.

48 Gabriel N. Finder education. Ambrosewicz-Jacobs presents abundant evidence of this promising development in schools, university departments, and manifold newly founded initiatives throughout Polish civil society. A hallmark of this effort is Poland’s collaboration with other countries, including Israel. In January 2000 the Polish government signed the Stockholm Declaration, which commits its signatories to teach

the Holocaust in schools. In the light of this development, two Polish educators, Robert Szuchta and Piotr Trojanski, published a curriculum guide for teachers of the Holocaust in the summer of 2000 and a textbook for schools 1n 2003; both publications have received the endorsement of the Ministry of National Education and Sport. Other textbooks are in the works. Robert Szuchta is the author of the second chapter on education, ‘From Silence

to Reconstruction: The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989’. It focuses on the implementation of educational reforms since 1989 to integrate the subject of the Holocaust into Polish schools. According to Szuchta, steady progress has been made in this area. For example, while textbooks from the first half of the 1ggos were still marred by common stereotypes, the most prevalent being Jewish ‘passivity’ in the face of German aggression, textbooks since the late 1990s have represented Jewish reactions to Nazism with more nuance and striven to situate the fate of Poland’s Jews in a larger historical context. In Szuchta’s view, there are, however, still serious obstacles. In many schools the subject of the Holocaust resides in the shadow of Polonocentrism and, as a result, is still treated like an appendage to the dominant history of Polish heroism and martyrdom under the German occupation. Moreover, a large proportion of teachers lack both substantive knowledge of the Holocaust and the training to teach it. Nevertheless, Szuchta is encouraged by what he sees as a positive shift in attitude in Polish schools. ‘Polish teachers’, he writes, ‘no longer ask if the Holocaust should be taught, but how to teach it.’ In this vein, one should mention the efforts of a younger generation of Polish scholars who, having taken Blonsk1’s appeal to heart, have re-examined and conse-

quently revised the communist interpretation of the war years in Poland. An imposing number of important publications on various aspects of the Holocaust have appeared in Poland since the 1990s, many sponsored by burgeoning university programmes. To mention but one example, in July 2003 the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research (Centrum Badan nad Zaglada Zydéw) was created in the

Philosophical and Sociological Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Instytut Filozofii 1 Socjologii Polskie Akademii Nauk), and in 2005 it inaugurated the publication of Zaglada Zydéw: Studia i materialy, a yearbook devoted to the study of various aspects of the Holocaust in Poland; the treatment of the subject there is scholarly, innovative, and unapologetic, integrating the scholarship of Jews from Israel and the Diaspora as well as Poles. Another positive sign is the reinvigoration since the 1990s of the Jewish Historical Institute, having freed itself from communist bias, and the acknowledgement by Polish scholars of the institute’s

essential contribution to the history of Jews in Poland and the Holocaust in

Introduction 49 Poland. This is not to discount the existence of roadblocks on the way, but these are hopeful signs that Polish academe now values the integration of the history of Polish Jews into Polish history while being mindful of its distinctive quality and the singularity of the Jewish catastrophe.!°! , Promising evidence of an increasing level of Polish—Jewish co-operation to commemorate the Jewish victims of the Holocaust is provided by the recent unveiling of a new memorial on the grounds of the former death camp Belzec, where some 600,000 Jews, mostly from Poland, were gassed in 1942. The authorities erected a memorial there shortly after the war, but it became a casualty of neglect under com-

munist rule. In the early 1ggos the Polish Council for Preserving the Memory of Struggles and Martyrdom and the United States Holocaust Memorial Council together assembled a jury to select the design of the new memorial, which thanks to

the support of the Polish government under President Kwasniewski and the American Jewish Committee was unveiled in June 2004. The memorial consists of one massive slab of rock, cleaved in half by a large crack through which visitors pass until they reach a wall exhibiting the names of victims who were killed there and an exhibition of the history of the camp.'?? The latest symbol of this process of reconciliation between Jewish and Polish

memory is the construction in Warsaw, on the site of the former ghetto, of the

Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is the subject of Michael C. Steinlauf’s chapter in this volume, ‘What Story to Tell? Shaping the Narrative of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews’. Steinlauf is the author of Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust (1997), the classic study of the place of the Holocaust in Polish historical consciousness. In his chapter in this volume, Steinlauf analyses the challenges confronting this pioneering museum from the unique vantage point of an American Jewish specialist in Polish Jewish history collaborating with Polish historians on the historical narrative of Jews in Poland to be exhibited to the museum’s visitors. Indeed, active collaboration of Poles and Jews from Poland, Israel, and Western countries has characterized every stage of this project since its inception. While assaults on Jews and the destruction of Jewish civilization will receive their due in the exhibition, the exhibition’s focus will be centuries of Jewish life. The museum’s organizers are pinning high hopes

on its potential to bring the narratives of Jews and Poles together. For his part, Steinlauf has been an advocate of actually widening the scope of the exhibition’s historical narrative in several respects. His broader vision would have the exhibition correspond to Jews’ own definition of poylishe yidn, which would also

encompass Jews from historic Polish lands whose borders were subsequently adjusted and Jews who migrated from Poland, with their Polish Jewish habitus, to 101 See Tomaszewski, ‘Polish Historiography on the Holocaust’, 124-35; see also D. Stola, ‘New Research on the Holocaust in Poland’, in J. M. Diefendorf (ed.), Lessons and Legacies: New Currents in Holocaust Research, 6 (Evanston, IIl., 2004), 259-84.

102 See .

50 Gabriel N. Finder the United States, Israel, and elsewhere. His vision would also have the historical narrative be more inclusive, highlighting not only Polish—Jewish relations but also the important triadic relationship in multi-ethnic pre-war Poland among Jews,

Poles, and Ukrainians, with due attention paid to relations with Lithuanians, Germans, and Belarusians. Furthermore, he would have the museum integrate the so-called dark corners of Polish—Jewish relations into a larger, coherent subplot of

Polish antisemitism. The ultimate challenge facing the museum’s organizers, Steinlauf observes, will be to prevent commemoration of the Holocaust from over-

powering the exhibition’s presentation of Polish Jewish life in all its richness. Although its organizers insist that the Museum of the History of Polish Jews not be a Holocaust museum and although its master plan commits only 15 per cent of exhibition space to the subject of the Holocaust, Steinlauf notes that this challenge

is formidable. After all, the museum will be located on the site of the former Warsaw ghetto and in close proximity to Rapoport’s Warsaw ghetto monument. Moreover, its architectural design features a dramatic tear in the smooth block of the museum that lends itself to a Holocaust-related interpretation, among others, and that creates a view of Rapoport’s monument through the structure. Asa result, the commemorative appeal of the museum is ineluctable. In view of the fate of other recent initiatives to resuscitate memory of Jewish life in Poland, Steinlauf expects ‘the aura of the Holocaust’ to hang over the Museum of the History of Polish Jews notwithstanding the intentions of its organizers, who hope to open the doors of the museum to its first visitors in the foreseeable future. The thematic section of this volume concludes with Joanna B. Michlic’s inter-

view with the author Henryk Grynberg entitled ‘Bearing Witness: Henryk Grynberg’s Path from Child Survivor to Artist’. Grynberg belongs to a group of contemporary Jewish authors writing in Polish who have in common being hidden children during the war and resuming life in Poland after it. Grynberg himself was born in Poland in 1936 and survived the war in hiding with his mother in the Polish countryside. Trained in journalism, he became an actor in the post-war Yiddish theatre and began to write. Chafing under official censorship of his work, he found refuge in the United States in 1967, where he continues to reside. He established his literary reputation with lightly fictionalized autobiography, written in Polish in the 1960s and 1970s, first of the perils of life in hiding under the German occupation and then of coming of age in the complex environment of post-war Poland. Since 1989 he has become a frequent visitor to Poland, where his books are published to great acclaim. Translation since the 1990s of both his early and more recent writings has brought his work to the attention of a wider reading public. He has devoted the last four decades to preserving memory of the Holocaust and, to a lesser extent, the attenuated resurrection of the war-shattered Jewish commun| ity in post-war Poland. He considers ‘bearing witness’, he tells Michlic, ‘[his] most important moral duty’. He bears witness not only to the murder of Jews who perished in the Holocaust but also to the burden of memory borne by survivors in

Introduction 51 post-war Poland (and in their new homes abroad), in which the attenuated recovery

of Jewish life, both personal and communal, was overshadowed by relentless reminders of loss. This is the subject of his poem ‘Drawing in Memory’, which 1s appended to the interview with two other poems of his. ‘Drawing in Memory’ 1s a reflection on the transmission of Holocaust memory, which overcomes the attempts of survivors like his mother who wish to forget, affecting the minutiae of ordinary life of those who come after them—in this case, of her grandson, Grynberg’s son. All three poems by Grynberg in this section are impressive examples of his translation of very personal Holocaust memory into an accessible and deeply moving

poetic idiom. The popularity of Grynberg and other Jewish writers like him in Poland is evidence of a large measure of renewal on the part of many Poles when it comes to the Holocaust.!°°

CONCLUSION ‘This divided memory is very difficult to overcome’, write Antony Polonsky and Joanna Michlic.'°* It is yet to be overcome despite valiant efforts by Poles of good will to resurrect memory of the Holocaust in their country after several decades of official repression, marginalization, and distortion, which were reinforced by popular misperceptions and self-delusion, and despite institutional Jewish recognition of the many righteous gentiles among Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust, the foremost being Yad Vashem’s bestowal of the designation ‘Righteous among the Nations’. These are preliminary steps. If Poles and Jews are ever to overcome their divided memory of the Holocaust to the satisfaction of both the Polish and Jewish peoples, they will have to process what they have already restored and will continue to restore to their collected memories. How they process it is the question. In this vein, Michael Steinlauf, reflecting on developments between 1989 and 1995,

concludes his ground-breaking study of Poles’ approach to memory of the Holocaust, which was published a decade ago, on a cautiously optimistic note. ‘What they will do with this memory’, writes Steinlauf, ‘how it will shape Polish history and consciousness, is unpredictable. One can only hope that it will be used

| in the service of renewal rather than repression.”’°? Writing in 2003 in the aftermath of the controversy over Jedwabne, Polonsky and Michlic respond to Steinlauf’s comment with the following observation: “The dynamics of the debate

over Neighbors suggest that renewal has definitely taken place, but that it is accompanied by repression. Time will tell whether this repression is a significant or 103 On Grynberg and contemporary Polish Jewish writers, see A. Polonsky and M. AdamczykGarbowska, introduction to A. Polonsky and M. Adamczyk-Garbowska (eds.), Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (Lincoln, Nebr. and London, 2001), pp. ix—1. 104 Polonsky and Michlic, introduction to The Neighbors Respond, 15.

105 Steinlauf, Bondage to the Dead, 144. |

52 Gabriel N. Finder a marginal phenomenon.”!°° What would then be required, one might ask, to ensure that renewal becomes the predominant tendency and sufficiently entrenched to withstand the challenge of residual repression and, thus, to enable Poles and Jews of good will to say with a clear conscience that they have indeed overcome their divided memory as much as one could reasonably expect? In conclusion, I would like to offer my view of what Poles and Jews ought to do at the very least to make reconciliation of their divided memory of the Holocaust possible. In the case of Poles, they would have to forswear defensive apologias and feel, in the sage words of Zygmunt Bauman, ‘moral shame’ when they remember the destruction of Polish Jewry. Contemporary Poles should feel ashamed not because Poles living under German occupation were guilty of the mass murder of Jews but because in making a perfectly rational decision to save themselves and their families and, thus, in turning their backs on Jews in desperate need of their assistance, they surrendered to the evil of tyranny and a staggering number of innocent Jews died. Zygmunt Bauman writes: It was the inhuman world created by a homicidal tyranny which dehumanised its victims, pressing them to use the logic of self-preservation as absolution for moral insensitivity and inaction. No one can be proclaimed guilty for the sheer fact of breaking down under such pressure. Yet no one can be excused from moral self-deprecation for such surrender. And only when feeling ashamed for one’s weakness, can one finally shatter the mental prison which has outlived its builders and guards until today.”

And only by allowing themselves to feel shame in this sense, I would submit, would the Polish people be able to mourn the deaths of Poland’s Jews. Admittedly, this would not be a simple matter if Jan Gross’s interpretation of the principal cause of post-war Polish antisemitism 1s correct: Poles’ fear of exposure and guilt for agree-

ing and colluding with the German persecution and murder of Jews to their own benefit.'°° One would, therefore, further expect Poles, on the basis of this feeling of shame, compounded by regret for the antisemitic terror of the immediate post-war years, to vigorously combat antisemitism in all of its manifestations, even when it may function only as a cultural code to express other sets of grievances, in furtherance of a democratic, pluralistic, and open society in Poland—a Poland in which Jews who live there today can feel they are full-fledged members of society by right and not by sufferance, a Poland in which, if it had existed even in only partial form in the 1930s, more Jews would have stood a chance of surviving the Nazi onslaught. Jews are not off the hook. In the case of Jews, one would expect them to concede that Poles were in dire straits between 1939 and 1945, to recognize that Germans were first and foremost responsible for the Holocaust (thus an end once and for all to references to ‘Polish concentration camps’ and the like), to acknowledge with 106 Polonsky and Michlic, introduction to The Neighbors Respond, 40. 107 Z. Bauman, ‘On Immoral Reason and Illogical Morality’, Polin, 3 (1988), 298. 108 Gross, ‘Conclusions’, in Fear, 245-61.

Introduction 53 humility that they would not be sure how they would react if a fugitive from 1mminent death knocked on their door in the middle of the night and asked them to risk their lives and the lives of their families to save his life, and to disavow negative stereotypes of Poles like those of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who averred that Polish children ‘imbibe antisemitism with their mothers’ milk’. Moreover, in order to overcome their divided memory Poles and Jews will have

to become reconciled, both respectively and jointly, to the high likelihood of episodic, if not permanent, conflict between them over certain aspects of Holocaust memory as well to the fact that Holocaust memory is now larger than both of them. Renewal can only occur if Poles and Jews view the limits to memory-conflict resolution as well as to their ‘ownership’ of Holocaust memory as an opportunity rather than as an insurmountable obstacle. Accordingly, as they accept the loss of exclu-

sive title to the memory of the Holocaust, they would embrace their mutual responsibility to transmit memory of the Holocaust for the sake of the future. In this vein, Bauman writes: Today, the Holocaust is no longer private property (if it ever was such property) . . . The present-day significance of the Holocaust is the lesson it contains for the whole of humanity. And whatever we say on the subject, we, Poles and Jews alike, together, insepar-

ably, have been cast in the role of guardians and the custodians and the apostles of this lesson. It is our duty to see to it that the lesson 1s not lost, that it is heard and listened to— and remembered.10%

One of these lessons is that ‘putting self-preservation above moral duty is in no way predetermined, inevitable or inescapable. It does not matter how many people

chose moral duty instead—what does matter is that some did. Evil is not allpowerful; it can be resisted.’'*° Who is better situated than Poles and Jews to be in the forefront of teaching this lesson to a world in desperate need of learning it? By the same token, it would be far preferable if Poles and Jews come to accept that there is a certain amount of irresolvable conflict between and because of their different memories of their mutual traumatic past than if they pit their memories

inexorably against one other. The papal cross is probably on the edges of Auschwitz I to stay. Antisemitism in Poland is unlikely to be totally eradicated any-

time soon. The March of the Living, the now annual pilgrimage of thousands of Jewish youth from all over the globe to Auschwitz and other sites of annihilation, has made progress in the last few years of acknowledging Polish suffering during the war, but it will always constitute, by dint of the fact that 1t culminates in Israel on Yom Hasho’ah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), an argument for Zionism and, in turn, a rejection of galut (exile), with its implications of homicidal aggression towards Jews, which in Jewish consciousness is symbolized not only by Germany but also by Poland. Rather than surrender to resentment and pique about these conflicts of memory, Poles and Jews would do well to accept that the reconciliation 109 Bauman, ‘On Immoral Reason and IIlogical Morality’, 299. 110 Tbid. 300.

54 Gabriel N. Finder of divisive memory has limits, even if they feel that the other side is wrong. In this regard, Polonsky and Michlic offer a sensible and humane alternative when conflicts over memory seem insurmountable—‘to strive for a “tragic acceptance” of those events which have united and, so often, divided them in the past century. That, at least, is owed to the millions of victims of the totalitarian systems of the

last century.’'!! |

If Poles and Jews can make these concessions—and that is a big ‘if’—they stand a reasonable chance of creating a climate conducive to renewal and overcoming their divided memory, a climate in which they would feel enabled, if they so wish, to borrow one last time from Zygmunt Bauman, ‘to remove, once and for all, the psychological blocks which obstruct the way to Polish—Jewish relations and free those relations from grievance and suspicion’ .1?” 441 Polonsky and Michlic, introduction to The Neighbors Respond, 42-3. 112 Bauman, ‘On Immoral Reason and Illogical Morality’, 300.


Memento Mor Photographs from the Grave GABRIEL N. FINDER and JUDITH R. COHEN Still, still, let us be still. Graves grow here. Planted by the enemy, They blossom to the sky.+ I don’t know where your grave is. All the earth is your grave. Under my feet—the waves made by every one of your limbs.”

A photograph of four men sitting in an open pit and contemplating the remains of

two human skeletons (Figure 1) was taken in 1946 in the Jewish cemetery of Sokolow Podlaski, east of Warsaw. The young man to the left is Hyman Kawer, the

other three men are unidentified; they are in all likelihood Polish labourers employed by Kawer to exhume and rebury the dead. The name of the photographer is unrecorded, but it was probably one of the remaining members of Kawer’s family who returned with him to their home town after the Second World War in search of

their relatives. They found, instead, desecrated graves in the Jewish cemetery, skulls and bones scattered in every direction. This photograph appears in the memoir of a survivor of Treblinka who returned to his home town of Sokolow Podlaski after the war. The caption reads: ‘The remains of dead Jews in desecrated graves in the new cemetery’.* Kawer, who must have given the author the print, is not identified in the caption, perhaps because, in the larger scheme of things, what matters is his symbolic significance, for he stands here for the post-war Jewish Everyman who 1 From the song ‘Shtiler, shtiler’, written and composed in the Vilna ghetto, Apr. 1943. Shmerke Kaczerginski wrote the words, Alek Volkovski the music. The translation is from The Literature of Destruction: Jewish Responses to Catastrophe, ed. D. G. Roskies (Philadelphia, New York, and Jerusalem, 1988), 479-80. The song appeared in print after the Second World War in a Yiddish anthology of songs

from the ghettos, concentration camps, and forests. For the original, see Lider fun di getos un lagern [Songs of the Ghettos and Camps], ed. S. Kaczerginski and H. Leivick (New York, 1948), 88-0. 2 From Abraham Sutzkever’s ‘Denkmol’ [Memorial], in Yidishe gas [The Jewish Street] (1948). The famous poet and partisan from Vilna wrote this poem in Paris in 1947, after his departure from Poland in 1946.

3S. Poliakiewicz, A tog in treblinke [A Day in Treblinka] (Buenos Aires, 1948), between pp. 128 and 129.

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Memento Mon 57 Here, too, the devastation [khurbn] is great. The surrounding wall is shattered in several places, there is no gate, it all feels abandoned, everywhere a grisly silence, not a living soul in sight. Wherever I turn, I see overturned tombstones, desecrated graves, and scattered near

them skulls, human skulls. Their open, black sockets bore into your innards, as if with a woeful complaint, ‘Why? Why has this befallen us?’ | Although you know that these are signs of the ghoulish handiwork of the so-called ‘dentists’-—Poles who were seeking gold teeth in the mouths of Jewish corpses—you feel somehow strangely guilty, deeply humiliated, ashamed that you, too, belong to the species called the ‘human race’. Yes, Jews were not even permitted to lie peacefully in the grave. Slowly, in order not to trample any skulls and not to slip into an open grave, we make our way through nightmarish paths to the spot where my father’s bones lie. I certainly know the spot well, I’m certain that it has to be here, yet I can’t find any trace of his grave. Everything all around is desolate, the earth contaminated, filled with markers and boards. We’re still at a loss. Near our feet lie scattered skull after skull. Maybe one of them is my father’s. But how would you ever recognize it?

Nothing. Nothing remains of my childhood, of my youth [in the ghetto], not even the grave of my late father.*

Vladke’s words, like Hyman Kawer’s snapshot, bring to mind Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones. But unlike the biblical narrative, they promise no hope of resurrection. Like many survivors, Kawer left no published words for posterity; perhaps they could not find words adequate to express, even now after years of torment and suffering, what their disbelieving eyes beheld. Instead, Kawer, along with so many other survivors, took a few snapshots upon their return to liberated Poland, and,

when they settled eventually in Israel, North America, or South America, put them in a drawer or closet. Although Kawer’s photograph was fortuitously included in a published memoir, the overwhelming majority of similar photographs never saw the light of day. Instead, they remained in private hands until survivors or their heirs donated them to museums dedicated to the memory of the

Holocaust. ‘These photographs were not the product of professional photographers who publish their photographs in newspapers or magazines. Instead, they were taken by amateurs with no intention to reproduce or circulate them. They are simple, unalloyed pictorial statements from a liminal moment in the lives of most survivors: the moment between survival and departure. The Jewish population of pre-war Poland numbered about three and a half million. But only a remnant of this largest Jewish population in Europe survived the depredation of the Holocaust. The total number of Polish Jewish survivors probably never exceeded 350,000 to 400,000. The rate of Jewish mortality was higher only in the Baltic states. The majority of Poland’s Jewish population died on Polish 4 ‘Vladke (F. P. Miedzyrzecki), Fun beyde zaytn geto-moyer [On Both Sides of the Ghetto Wall] (New York, 1948), 357-8 (our translation). English translation: V. Meed (F. Peltel-Miedzyrzecki), On Both Sides of the Wall, trans. M. Spiegel and S. Meed (Beit Lohamei Hagetaot, 1973). Our translation is assisted by, but differs somewhat from, that of Spiegel and Meed.

58 Gabriel N. Finder and Judith R. Cohen | soil. The Germans and their accomplices killed Poland’s Jews for the most part in death camps and concentration camps, gassing them and reducing their bodies to ashes in crematoria. But a sizeable proportion of the victims perished 1n ghettos, in hiding, in open fields, in the forests, by the side of roads, and in labour camps unequipped to burn large amounts of bodies. And since the rate of killing in death camps and concentration camps eventually exceeded their capacity to incinerate

their victims, by the end of the war these camps too were overrun by human remains. In other words, the Germans and their accomplices turned Poland into a boundless graveyard of their Jewish victims, while hundreds of Jewish cemeteries lay in ruins, their human remains manhandled, dismembered, and strewn helterskelter.

In the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, domicile in Poland proved to be untenable for the vast majority of returnees, whose numbers reached some 220,000 by June 1946. Although the resumption of normal life for Jewish victims of the Holocaust was difficult everywhere, the difficulty was exacerbated in Poland by a host of factors: antisemitism and anti-Jewish violence, private and public expropriation of Jewish property, and the desire to steer clear of communism. And, under these circumstances, most returnees, already traumatized, could not bear to remain in a vast Jewish cemetery of their murdered relatives and friends. Unable to locate their relatives and friends, let alone reclaim any property, they saw no reason to stay in their home towns and ultimately left Poland for ever.° However, before Polish Jewish survivors left their towns they deemed it their solemn responsibility to afford the dead a proper burial and to restore a measure of dignity to desecrated Jewish cemeteries, even if it was limited to the erection of a memorial headstone (matseyve in Yiddish) in the cemetery indicating the date of the community’s liquidation at the hands of the Germans and remembering its martyrs. Exhumations and reburials were the result of individual or communal initiative. They were very personal acts, undertaken by survivors of the town who were related to or knew the deceased. ° By contrast, the Polish sociologist Barbara Engelking identified Jews who remained in Poland ‘exactly because it was the cemetery of the Jewish race’. Many returnees, she avers on the basis of twenty-two interviews with survivors still living in Poland forty years after the Holocaust, stayed in the country because they felt it was their responsibility to bear witness to the victims, especially in Poland, where not only had millions been murdered, but also commemoration of the Jewish dead was severely limited. In her view, the natural inclination of many survivors was to rebuild war-torn Polish society, not to mention their own lives, and, only after this inclination to call Poland their native land was rudely and violently challenged after the war did they reluctantly make the decision to leave Poland. See B. Engelking, Holocaust and Memory, ed. G. S. Paulsson, trans. E. Harris (London, 2001), 271-4, quotation on p. 271. Cf. D. Blatman, ‘Strangers in their Own Land: Polish Jews from Lublin to Kielce’, Polin, 15 (2002), 335-58. Blatman argues that Polish society made the majority of survivors

who resurfaced in and converged on Poland in the aftermath of the Holocaust feel like ‘strangers in their own land’ and in the light of their anguish, compounded by antisemitic violence and economic insecurity, they considered it pointless to remain in the country.


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Figure 2. Joshua Kejles, facing the camera, and unidentified men exhume skeletal remains in preparation for reburial in the Jewish cemetery in Siemiatycze, ¢.1947/50 Photographer unknown United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sidney Zoltak

A photograph from Siemiatycze shows a man in a suit in the foreground staring into the camera; he stands next to an open, empty coffin (see Figure 2). Behind him three men are standing in an open grave while two others peer into it from higher ground. Human skulls and bones lie amassed by the edge of the grave. The man facing the camera is Joshua Kejles. According to his nephew Sidney Zoltak, after the war Kejles moved briefly to Warsaw before immigrating to Israel. But before leaving Poland he felt compelled to attend to unfinished business in his home town—namely, to locate the bones of his father, Efraim Kejles, who was killed in the Siemiatycze ghetto, and to bury them properly in a Jewish cemetery. He returned to Siemiatycze along with a couple of other survivors, who stand behind him in the photograph, and hired local labourers to dig a grave and place the scattered remains in it.® The photograph is remarkably understated. It portrays the face of man straining to contain his grief, driven by an elemental force to discharge an unenviable but ineluctable task. The identity of the photographer is unrecorded; in all likelihood, one of the other survivors took the picture. Perhaps he was able to capture Kejles’s mood so exquisitely because he himself felt the same way. Remarkable is the vastness of the landscape in the background. If not for the jumble of skeletal remains ® Interview with Sidney Zoltak, 15 Dec. 2004.

60 Gabriel N. Finder and Judith R. Cohen in the centre of the picture’s foreground, the scene would seem almost pastoral. This vast open space used to be, in fact, the Jewish cemetery. Now, after the war, it was, in the words of another returnee to the town, a ‘field’, all of its tombstones practically vanished.’ Thus the photograph’s veneer of tranquillity is belied by its exposure of the ravages of the Holocaust while, to borrow from the title of Susan Sontag’s penetrating book on war photography, ‘regarding the pain of others’.® The returnees in Siemiatycze and elsewhere in post-war Poland ran a high risk when they exhumed and reburied the dead, because the volatility of post-war antisemitic violence in the country placed their personal safety in constant jeopardy.® They took such pains because exhumation and reburial were not only for the sake

of the dead, but also for the sake of the living. In the words of Robert Pogue Harrison, a literary scholar who has written eloquently on the importance of the dead to the living, ‘To be human means above all to bury.’!° How much more is this assertion true in respect of the survivors, who had struggled mightily to preserve

their humanity in the face of the Germans’ colossal effort to dehumanize their Jewish victims before exterminating them. The anthropologists Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin agree. “The problem of exhumation and proper burial’, they write, ‘was not merely an obligation to the dead; it had critical implications for the living. How were the survivors to re-establish any connection with the memory of the martyrs? How were they to locate and communicate with the dead, to obtain the ancient comfort of mourning?’'! Or perhaps, like the survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Holocaust survivors in Poland felt driven to bury, in Robert Jay Lifton’s terminology, their own ‘homeless dead’—those for whose untimely deaths in ghettos and camps the survivors condemned themselves and whom they felt driven to speed on their journey to another world in an effort to console and propitiate them.'” Although the official representative body of post-war Polish Jewry, the Central Committee of Polish Jews (Centralny Komitet Zyd6éw w Polsce, CKZP), and the few surviving rabbis, led by David Kahane, a survivor from Lwow who became the chief rabbi of the Polish army and the head of the Association of Jewish Religious

Communities (Zydowskie Zrzeszenie Religijne, later Zydowskie Kongregacje Religijne) in Poland after the war, were acutely aware of the dispersion of victims’

remains and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, they lacked the resources to 7 Y. Giv’oni, ‘1948: igeret me’ir haharegah’, in E. Tash (Tur-Shalom) (ed.), Kehilat smi’atitsh (Tel

Aviv, 1965), 217. 8 S. Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York, 2003). 9 See J. T. Gross, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz (New York, 2006). For a contempo-

rary account of the acute sense of personal insecurity many Jews felt in immediate post-war Poland, see Y. Pat, Ash un fayer | Ashes and Fire] (New York, 1946) . 10 -R. P. Harrison, The Dominion of the Dead (Chicago and London, 2003), p. xi. 11 J. Kugelmass and J. Boyarin (eds.), From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry,

2nd edn. (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1998), 31. 12 R. J. Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (New York, 1967), 491-4.

Memento Mon 61 co-ordinate a concerted effort to exhume and rebury the dead and restore Jewish cemeteries.'? By necessity, in scores of towns not only individual returnees, but also communities of returnees, initiated the exhumation and reburial of violated and unclaimed corpses and erected matseyves; in a few communities ambitious survivors built monuments incorporating broken tombstones in Jewish cemeteries. ‘4

Joshua Kejles laid a memorial stone to mark the site of reburial; it is the only intact matseyve in what remains of Siemiatycze’s Jewish cemetery. Sidney Zoltak recently visited the home town of his ancestors and photographed the matseyve after placing two memorial (yortsayt) candles and a miniature Israeli flag on top of it (see Figure 3). It reads: ‘Here lie the corpses of innocent victims murdered by the Nazi assassins in 1942 in the town of Siemiatycze[,| children, women, men, and the aged numbering 70 individuals[;] among them Efraim Kejles[,] Abram Ekstrakt[,] Mejta Lew and others[.] Surviving in deep sorrow and undertaking the exhumation |is] Joshua Kejles|.] Peace to their memory]. ]’ In 1945, the returning remnant of the Jewish community of Stanislaw6w in east-

ern Galicia (incorporated after the Second World War into Soviet Ukraine and called today I[vano-Frankivsk) exhumed a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery and

then erected there a monument to the victims in the shape of a tombstone, inscribed in Hebrew and Russian. An unrecorded photographer photographed the monument shortly after its unveiling (see Figure 4). The photograph displays the monument off-centre, and for this reason it does not fill the entire picture space. It is enclosed within an unobtrusive metal fence. The viewer can see a couple of other tombstones behind it, and they all stand encased by large trees (weeping willows?) whose branches seem to create a canopy over them. The composition of the photograph thus places the memorial monument within the larger context of Jewish his-

tory, yet underscores its separation from the other markers; the atmosphere is studiously plaintive. The Hebrew inscription reads: ‘In everlasting memory. [They were] beloved and sweet in life and there was no disunity among them in death, [they were] innocent and righteous | people] who were murdered in sanctification of the divine name in the city of Stanislawow by the fascist and Hitlerite murderers in the Second World War in the years 5702-5705 [1941—1944].’ (The Russian text approximates the Hebrew text, omitting references to martyrdom in sanctification of the divine name, while specifying the victims’ Jewish origins.) This language is adapted from the first verse of the prayer ‘Av harahamim’ (Father of Mercy), which Jews recite in honour of Jewish martyrs. Unlike the unembellished, albeit poignant,

language inscribed on the monument erected by Joshua Kejles in Siemiatycze, the liturgical language of this monument underscores the Jewish particularity of the victims whom it commemorates. Omitted from the inscription, but implied, is 13D. Kahane, Aharei hamabul: nisayon lehahayot et hakehilot hadatiyot bepolin shele’ahar milhemet ha’olam hashentyah (1944-1949) (Jerusalem, 1981), 100-2. 14 J. E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven and London, 1993), 194-6.

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Mige: hahareigah, 81-2. Efrati,i,3Miget ~ hahareigah,

66 Gabriel N. Finder and Judith R. Cohen monument, while local communities raised their own monuments to the heroism of

local resistance fighters. In Bialystok, Chaika Grossman (1919-93), a Zionist activist and leader in the city’s Jewish underground, and fellow Jews from the city erected a monument in the Jewish cemetery over the final resting place of seventyone rebels who fell in the Bialystok ghetto revolt of 16-23 August 1943 (which the Jewish resistance unleashed during the ghetto’s liquidation) on the occasion of the revolt’s fifth anniversary (see Figure 7). In the words of the inscription in Polish, the monument marks the ‘grave of brethren, fighters in the Bialystok ghetto’, who fell for the ‘freedom and honour of the Jewish people’. Grossman, who immigrated to Israel in 1948 and later served in the Israeli Knesset, appears in the middle of the group of—it is safe to assume—fellow partisans standing in front of the tall obelisk topped by the Star of David. In the foreground one sees the toppled tombstones of the desecrated cemetery. The scene is dominated by a vast, clear sky. The monument to Jewish heroism seems to rise like a phoenix from the ruins of Jewish life. In Grossman’s words, the sight of the decomposed bodies of the fallen brought to Jewish burial was ‘frightful’. ‘But no one’, she notes defiantly in her memoir, originally published in 1965, ‘wept over their grave. Readers, do not weep either! But do not close your hearts and your ears. Listen to the voices rising from the grave. See and remember, but don’t weep .. .’.1? By contrast, a photograph of a group of survivors standing in an opened mass grave containing the exhumed bodies of the Jewish victims of mass shooting by Germans in Biala Podlaska in the district of Lublin and holding a sign suggests that the possibility of Jewish rebirth in post-war Poland is remote (see Figure 8). Although no one in the group has the outward appearance of an observant Jew,

their sign draws on the language of Jewish martyrology. Written in Yiddish, it reads, ‘Exhumation of the Jewish martyrs [kdoyshim| who were murdered by the bestial Hitlerite murderers, 25 April 1946’ (the photograph is dated 2 May 1946). The assembled pose for the camera but their collective gaze, with the exception of a couple of individuals, is drawn ineluctably to the mass of skeletal remains. These survivors are quite literally bearing witness, and one function of this photograph is

documentation, to set the record straight, to provide incontrovertible proof of what took place in this shtetl under Nazi occupation. But it has another function. The living have quite literally descended into the pit or Sheol, the biblical black region of the Jewish dead. Resurrection of the dead (thiyat hametim in Hebrew; tkhiyes hameystm in Yiddish) is a fundamental tenet in Judaism. From the depths of Sheol, however, there is no redemption.?° 19 C. Grossman, The Underground Army: Fighters of the Bialystok Ghetto, trans. S. Beeri (New York, 1987), 290-1. 20 See S.-A. Goldberg, Crossing the Jabbok: Illness and Death in Ashkenazi Judaism in Sixteenth-

through Nineteenth-Century Prague, trans. C. Cosman (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1996), 7-11.


Memento Mon 67


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Memento Mort 73 another important function: they draw attention to Polish Jews’ utter saturation with death during the Holocaust and the relentless taint of death in post-war Poland. As the photograph from Bialystok indicates, the myth of Jewish heroism found expression in monumental form in many Jewish cemeteries, not to mention through the famous Warsaw ghetto monument. But this myth was unable to dislodge, to borrow from the title of Robert Pogue Harrison’s book, the post-war ‘dominion of the dead’. In a poem ironically entitled ‘Resurrection’ (“Tkhiyes hameysim’), which Abraham Sutzkever wrote in 1945 after his return to his home town Vilna in the wake of its liberation by the Soviets, the poet pleads with the dead: Come to life, the world is now free. Leave your not-being in the graves And leap out with blessing. See how pure The stars are rocking for your sake!

But the dead stubbornly reject the poet’s supplication: But the earth—like a river— Flowed away with grass and stone,

, And human words I heard:

—We don’t want, go away, your earth is foul! —From the punishment of living we were once freed! —We don’t need your time, Your blind limping time, And not the stars— Our non-light glimmers brighter! —Reality, that’s us. Vanish, cursed dream! Gambled away, played out is your war.”°

This is the overwhelming pictorial message of these graveside snapshots. 26 A. Sutzkever, ‘Resurrection’, in his Selected Poetry and Prose, trans. B. and B. Harshav (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford, 1991), 201-2. The Yiddish original was published in Yidishe Gas, 170-1.


The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 1944-1947 NATALIA ALEKSIUN ON 29 AUGUST 1944, five Polish Jews who had just returned from camps and hiding gathered in Lublin to form a historical commission. Despite the dramatic conditions in the newly liberated city, these survivors felt driven to document what had happened to Polish Jewry and to their communities under the Nazi occupation. Noe Gruss, one of the leaders of the Central Jewish Historical Commission (Centralna

Zydowska Komisja Historyczna, CZKH, in Polish; Tsentrale Yidishe Historishe Komisye in Yiddish) in Poland, reporting on the commission’s activities in 1946, underlined the sense of urgency shared by Polish Jewish survivors of the Holocaust: Every Jew was aware of the fact that he had witnessed a horrible epoch in the history of his nation, and if he managed to survive, he is obligated to immortalize not only his personal experiences and suffering but, above all, [to document] the tragic fate and extermination of four million Jews who died as martyrs in Polish lands at the hands of the Nazi occupiers.

Such perceptions of moral imperative—both personal and communal—led to a concerted effort to rescue the memory of the Holocaust and reconstruct its history. Those Polish Jews who responded to the commission’s call prepared written testimonies and conducted research in the face of emotional debilitation, acute material hardship, and physical insecurity. The post-war activities of the CZKH and its approach to testimony and history should be analysed in the context of modern Jewish research before the Holocaust and Jewish underground attempts at documenting the fate of the Jews from the

time of the German occupation. Simultaneously, the commission constituted a new development in the ongoing attempt to document the Jewish past. Its activities formed a new chapter of—in David Roskies’s words—‘the literature of destruction’ of the twentieth century, when ‘[t]he immediate problem facing the survivors .. . was not how to mourn but simply how to preserve a record of the unfolding disaster. For it was now possible for the modern nation-state to wipe out

entire populations and hide the fact.’ Hence the Central Jewish Historical 1_N. Griiss, Rok pracy Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej (L6dzZ, 1946), 5.

2 D. Roskies, The Jewish Search for a Usable Past (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Ind., 1999), 17.

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 75 Commission engaged in research at a time when Polish Jewish survivors faced the threat of the unprecedented erasure of memory.

BIRTH OF THE COMMISSION In the aftermath of their liberation, several Jews who survived the Nazi occupation in Poland, though destitute and exhausted, both physically and mentally, resolved that laying the foundations for research on the fate of Polish Jews during the war was crucial to their future. In particular, the professional historians among the survivors shared a belief in the ability of the historical enterprise to rescue the memory of murdered Jewish communities. Philip Friedman, a well-respected historian

before the war, began gathering materials pertaining to the fate of the Jews of Lwow immediately following the liberation of the city in the summer of 1944.° Jewish survivors in Vilna founded a museum, where Abba Kovner and Abraham Sutzkever collected remnants of the materials from the Jewish Scientific Institute

(Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut, YIVO) and new materials dating from the Holocaust.* In Lublin on 29 August 1944, only one month after the liberation of the town, a

group of five Polish Jews gathered to form the Historishe Komisye, which was affiliated with the local Jewish Committee.°® At this initial meeting, they stressed the significance of their historical research, laid down an agenda for the commission’s future activities, and, in particular, discussed methods of collecting testimonies.° Four months later, on 28 December 1944, the Historical Commission became the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland under Friedman’s leadership.’ Other founding members included Ruven Feldschuh (Safrin), Leon Bauminger, Yosef Kermish,® Ben Efraim, Melech Bakalczuk, Noe Griiss, Marek 3 D. Kahane, Aharei hamabul: nisayon lehahayot et hakehilot hadatiyot bepolin shele’ahar milhemet ha’olam hasheniyah (1944-1949) (Jerusalem, 1981), 17. Friedman (1901—60) held a Ph.D. in philoso-

phy from the University of Vienna and taught at the Institute of Jewish Studies (Instytut Nauk Judaistycznych) in Warsaw. On Friedman, see D. Grunbaum, ‘Zbiory Centralne) Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej w Polsce’, in Griiss, Rok pracy, 53. On his wartime experiences in Lwow, see an unsigned letter written in Warsaw and dated 14 Aug. 1981, Yad Vashem, O.6, f. 419, pp. 1-2. See also R. Stauber, ‘Filip fridman vereshito shel heker hasho’ah’, Gad-Ed: On the History and Culture of Polish Jewry, 21

(2007). * Y. Bauer, Flight and Rescue: Brichah (New York, 1970), 12. . 5 Zydowski Instytut Historyczny (Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw), AZIH, Centralny Komitet Zydow w Polsce: Komisja Historyczna (CZKH), 336/11, 1, Protocols of the Historical Commission during 1939-44. Other participants included Marek Bitter, Menachem Ash, Yehuda Elberg, Eda Lintman, and Mieczystaw Shpent. ° Tbid. 1-4. They decided to demand contributions from the Jewish community in order to finance

the research. ” Griiss, Rok pracy, 7.

8 Yosef Kermish (1907—2005) received his doctorate in history from Warsaw University and belonged to the group of young Jewish historians, the Yunger Historiker Krayz (Young Historians Circle) in Warsaw, organized by Emanuel Ringelblum in 1923. After the war, he was among the

76 Nataha Aleksiun Bitter, Leon Shtchekatch, Abba Kovner, David Kupferberg, Shabse Klugman, and Marek Ash.? In March 1945 the CZKH moved from Lublin to Lodz, while work in Lublin

continued under the Regional Jewish Historical Commission led by Gershon Taffet.1° One of the CZKH’s early methodological publications marvelled at the rapid crystallization of its staff and the expansion of its activities in the first half of 1945: “The cadres of employees grow. From a modest office in Lublin, which employed only two people, in less then six months we built an apparatus of over a hundred people (over thirty in the central office and the remainder in the regional and local Commissions).’** This substantial increase in the number of people

involved with the CZKH in the first six months of its existence attests to the strong appeal to the survivors of documenting the Holocaust.’* Beginning in the spring and summer of 1945, numerous regional, district, and local historical commissions were created in Bedzin, Bialystok, Bytom, Krakow, Katowice, Przemysl, and Warsaw, among others.'* Moreover, correspondents sent materials from other localities, such as Czestochowa, Parczew, Peterswald (Piotrolesie in Lower Silesia), and Wroclaw.’* At the peak of its activities, the CZKH encompassed twenty-five branches, reduced to six in 1946 owing to budgetary constraints. Nevertheless, during the same year new local chapters, such as Walbrzych, opened.’? After founders of the Jewish Historical Commission and, following his immigration to Israel in 1950, he founded the Yad Vashem archives 1n 1953.

° At the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, the composition of the commission’s advisory board pointed to its dual academic and political character. It included Philip Friedman and Leon Bauminger (the commission’s secretary), together with four representatives from the sponsoring institutions, the Union of Jewish Writers and the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland. The rep-

resentatives of the Union of Jewish Writers were Jonas Turkow, J. Szlajen with the deputy J. Elberg, and Dr R. Feldschuh and Marek Bitter represented the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland. The second body included a larger group of the commission’s associates, correspondents, and recorders, as well as a more professional group composed of N. Griiss, Y. Kermish, R. Feldschuh, and

L. Bauminger. See Griiss, Rok pracy, 6-7. 10 Tbid. 8. 11 “Przedmowa’, in Instrukcje dla badania przesyé dziect &ydowskich w okresie okupacjt niemtecktey: Wydawnictwa Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej w Polsce (L6dzZ, 1945), 3.

12 Tbid. 13 Griiss, Rok pracy, 10-13.

14 Tbid. 11. The most active were the Regional Commission in Krakow, headed by Michal Borwicz,

Dr Nelly Rostow, and Jozef Wulf, and the Regional Commission in Warsaw, headed by Henryk (Hersh) Wasser. Mendel Turek headed the Regional Commission in Bialystok in co-operation with

Szymon Datner, and the Regional Commission in Upper Silesia was headed by Rita SobolMastowska; see ibid. 11-12. 15 Ibid. 34. The research carried out by the Central Jewish Historical Commission was divided into a number of thematic sections and co-ordinated by the Advisory Board (Rada Naukowa) led by Philip Friedman. Among the commission’s sections, there were Jewish resistance; the chronicle of events in individual towns; camps; and a card file of the Nazi war criminals; see ibid. 17-18. See also Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt fun Tz. Y. H. K. un Yid.[isher] Hist.[orisher] Institut in Poyln’, Diaspora Research Center, Tel Aviv University (DRD), P 66, f. 1217, 17.

The Central Jewish Mistorical Commission in Poland 77 Philip Friedman left Poland for Germany in the summer of 1946, Nachman Blumental became the new director of the CZKH.16 The commission’s leaders attempted to oversee and guide the activities in local branches by creating models for research to be implemented all over Poland, since ‘one should strive to achieve a situation in which regional commissions and correspondents scattered in all cities and [smaller] Jewish centres, and the commission’s friends and sympathizers would work according to a certain unified plan, so that

they do not waste their time and energy searching independently for their own ways and methods’.!7 In order to reach this goal, instructors from the CZKH travelled to the provinces, while directors of local branches visited the offices in Lodz to observe the work at the centre.1®> The commission organized seminars devoted

to various methodological approaches.’? Simultaneously, chapters of the Association of the Friends of the Commission (Towarzystwo Przyjaciol Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej) channelled popular support for its activities.7°

THE COMMISSION’S MISSION The formation of the Central Jewish Historical Commission represented one of the earliest communal initiatives undertaken by Polish Jewish survivors following the liberation of what became eastern Poland. The very creation of the CZKH at a time when the survivors experienced dire economic need, psychological distress, and physical insecurity serves as evidence of just how critical the task of documenting the Holocaust was in the eyes of community leaders. As such, collecting documentation of the Nazi crimes and of the fate of Jewish communities became a personal and national duty. Ada Eber—Philip Friedman’s second wife and a 16 Blumental participated in the World Conference on Holocaust Documentation in Jerusalem in the summer of 1947 as a representative of the commission, a list of guests invited to the conference is in Yad Vashem, AM.1, f. 420 I, 15-16. See ZAP (Zydowska Agencja Prasowa; Jewish Press Agency), no. 71/319, 1. 6, 28 July 1947. On Friedman’s decision to leave Poland, see Stauber, ‘Filip fridman vereshito shel heker hasho’ah’. 17 Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dzieci zydowskich, 3.

18 See an authorization issued in Lublin on 25 Jan. for Jakob F abrycki, who was a director of the Regional Historical Commission in Bialystok and who travelled to the CZKH in Lublin in Jan. 1945 to

hand over the collected historical documents and to discuss the commission’s work. AZIH, CZKH,

336/35, 10. 19 Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dzieci zydowskich, 3. 20 See e.g. AZIH, CZKH, 336/3, 1, Sprawozdania Towarzystwa Przyjaciot Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej (Reports of the Association of the Friends of the Jewish Historical Commission). One such chapter was organized at a meeting in Katowice on 11 July 1945 with the participation of the members of the Jewish Committee, the activists of the Historical Commission from the province, with N. Grtiss as a guest speaker, as well as the ‘members of the local intelligentsia’. On the grass-roots support see the introduction by the editors of the volume Dokumenty zbrodni i meczenstwa, ed. M. Borwicz, N. Rost, and J. Wulf (Krakow, 1945), p. vil.

78 Nataha Aleksiun survivor herself—remembered the passionate argument he made during their first, chance meeting in newly liberated Lwow: I have found a way to get even with Hitler and his criminal regime. . . . [ have already started to collect eyewitness reports and here I have something that might interest you—a memoir from the Janowska Concentration Camp... . It was written by a young boy . . . who went through hell in the camps and later in the ‘Death Brigade’.?!

The resolution announcing the establishment of the CZKH called for gathering ‘any kind of printed and handwritten materials, photographs, illustrations, documents, material proofs, as well as the documentation of any oral testimonies of victims and witnesses of the Nazi terror who remained [alive]’.22 The commission toiled to create a grass-roots movement to collect historical evidence of Nazi crimes. In the appeal to ‘All Jews in Poland’ the Association of the Friends of the Central Jewish Historical Commission called on them to ‘recover all materials in private

hands and to hand them over to the Archives of the Central Jewish Historical Commission, in order to rescue this historical treasure stained with blood. All documents, objects, photographs, anything at all should be collected into one place.’*° Similarly, the commission’s 1946 annual report listed ‘gathering archival materials and systematizing them’ among the most central aspects of its activities in Poland.”4 The commission’s work aimed at serving more than an ‘objective, academic goal’.2° It responded to the yearning for commemoration of the murdered communities. In one account, Icchak Schipper—one of the leading historians of interwar Poland—stressed in a conversation with Aleksander Donat while they were at the Majdanek concentration camp that [E]verything depends on who transmits our testament to future generations, on who writes the history of this period. History is usually written by the victor. What we know about murdered peoples is only what their murderers vaingloriously cared to say about them. Should our murderers be victorious, should they write the history of this war, our destruction will be presented as one of the most beautiful pages of world history, and future generations will pay tribute to them as dauntless crusaders. Their every word will be taken for 21 YIVO Archive in New York, Philip Friedman papers, 982, n.d. According to an unsigned letter written in Warsaw describing the Friedmans’ fate during the war, following the death of his wife and daughter ‘he recovered from the pain after several weeks and believed—as many others did—that he ought to do everything possible to survive and tell the whole truth about these terrible times’; 14 Aug. 1981, Yad Vashem, O.6, f. 419, 1.

22 Rezolucja przyjeta na zebraniu CKZP i Zwiazku Literatow, Dziennikarzy i Artystow Zydowskich Ww Sprawie powolania do zycia Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej (resolution adopted at the

meeting of the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland and the Association of Jewish Writers, Journalists, and Artists about the Founding of the Central Jewish Historical Commission), n.d.,

AZIH, CZKH, 336/2, 1. .

23 AZIH, CZKH, 336/31, 21-2, Sprawozdania Towarzystwa Przyjaciol Zydowskiej Komisji

Historycznej. 24 Griiss, Rok pracy, 9. 25 Tbid. ro.

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 79 gospel. Or they may wipe out our memory altogether, as if we had never existed, as if there had never been a Polish Jewry, a Ghetto in Warsaw, a Maidanek.”°

Indeed, people involved in the creation of the CZKH described the materials it collected as ‘crucial . . . in the very near future’.?’

The commission’s work had the potential of affecting future generations by documenting and commemorating the fate of the Jews. Therefore ‘[e]very Jew has a moral obligation to write down his experiences, because each living and conscious Jew went through his experiences differently. Whoever is unable to write by

himself should come to the branch of the Historical Commission close to him, where his experiences will be written down.’”° In the introduction to the volume of

children’s testimonies entitled Dziect oskarzajg (‘Children Accuse’) that the CZKH published in 1947, its editors hoped that the suffering of Jewish children would not be forgotten because ‘[t]he task of history is to stand above the laws of nature and above human weakness and pass on the truth to the future’.”° Noe Grtiss saw commemoration as essential to the struggle to preserve the collective memory of Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities living overseas. In the commission’s 1946 annual report, he expressed his conviction that the group’s work would fulfil a vitally important task for Jews abroad, especially those with

Polish roots:

They will never be able to visit the grave [kever avot] of their dear ones from across the ocean. For there are no graves here and the ashes from the crematoria were blown to the four corners

of the world. [But] they will not allow the eradication of their brothers . . . from people’s memory. They will erect a memorial for them—not one made of marble or stone, but the one in people’s hearts and memory. This memorial will be the history of their martyrdom.®°

Gruss identified two additional political agendas of the commission’s historical enterprise: confronting antisemitism and bringing war criminals to justice: [It would also amass] a knowledge monument for our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. We wanted to immortalize the memory of our murdered parents, brothers, children, 26 A. Donat, The Holocaust Kingdom: A Memoir (New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, 1965), 210-11. On the danger of such double death, see D. Roskies’s remarks: ‘Before all the historical evidence was in, myth had already displaced history and the survivors had involuntarily displaced the murdered millions. In effect, not the survivors but their civilization had died a double death. There was a twisted road to Auschwitz, but another twisted road led away from it—a posthumous victory for the murderers if there ever was one. . . . With rigorous planning and methodical execution, they left the world with only an enormous freak show of atrocity pictures—motion pictures even—by which to remember a civilization more than a millennium old’; D. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse: Responses to

Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1984), 7

27 AZIH, CZKH, 336/11, 1. 28 AZIH, CZKH, 336/31, 21-2.

22 Dziect oskarzajg, ed. M. Hochberg-Marianska and N. Griiss (Krakow, L6dzZ, and Warsaw, 1947), p. 1. Quoted from the English edition of the book, The Children Accuse, ed. M. Hochberg-Marianska

and N. Griiss (London and Portland, Ore., 1996), p. xv. °° Grtiss, Rok pracy, 35.

80 Nataha Aleksiun and our perished heroes. We wanted to denounce Nazism, racism and antisemitism, to combat [them and to demand] a just punishment for the crimes committed.**

One of the CZKH’s early publications—guidelines for groups collaborating with the organization—declared that awareness of the need to provide material necessary for the indictment of German fascism was the crucial moral qualification for those wishing to participate in the research.®* According to the appeal

issued by the Association of the Friends of the Central Jewish Historical Commission, ‘[a]ll these documents, written with the blood of millions of our brothers, and sisters, fathers, mothers, children, relatives, and friends, will constitute a powerful indictment against the cultured and educated German people’.®° On the pages of the Yiddish-language newspaper Dos naye lebn of the Central Committee of Polish Jews (Centralny Komitet Zydéw w Polsce, CKZP), Friedman argued that the CZKH should document the crimes committed against the Jews

and that the survivors should ‘take revenge’ on their tormenters by demanding that they be tried while providing testimony for such proceedings.**

FULFILLING ITS MISSION In a memorandum to Jewish organizations abroad the CZKH explained the initial stages of fulfilling its multifaceted agenda: Beginning in December 1944, when the victorious Red Army and the Polish Army liberated the Polish lands, and consequently returned to the Jewish survivors of the occupation their right to live, we began diligently to gather and secure all materials and historical documents that would enable [us] to reconstruct the most tragic page in the history of our nation.*°

The commission engaged in collecting documents, placing the testimonies at the very centre of its mission, as these eyewitness accounts were essential for docu-

menting the crimes and for future research on various aspects of the fate of 31 Griiss, Rok pracy, 10. Discussing the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland and the Central Commission of Jews in the American Zone in Munich, Boaz Cohen lists five goals and motives of their activities: commemoration, telling the Jewish story of the Holocaust, bringing war criminals to justice, confronting painful questions, and fighting the political battle; see B. Cohen, ‘Bound to Remember, Bound to Remind: Holocaust Survivors and the Genesis of Holocaust Research’, in J.-D. Steinert and I. Weber-Newth (eds.), Beyond Camps and Forced Labour: Current International Research on Survivors of Nazi Persecution (Osnabriick, 2005), 290-300. 32 Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dzieci Zydowskich, 4. “The final goal of the research is to provide

material for the indictment of German Nazism and convince the world that it is necessary to uproot the cells of fascism totally and mercilessly.’ N. Griiss, ‘Metodyczne wskazowki dla wypelniajacych

kwestionariusz o dzieciach zydowskich’, ibid. 33 AZIH, CZKH, 336/31, 21-2. 34 FE Friedman, ‘Undzer historishe oyfgabe’, Dos naye lebn, 10 Apr. 1945, p. 6.

35 Memorandum CZKH do zagranicznych organizacji (Memorandum of the Central Jewish Historical Commission to Organizations Abroad), AZIH, CZKH, 336/4, 15. The memorandum was signed by Philip Friedman, Rachel Auerbach, Nachman Blumental, Maks|ymilian] Boruchowicz, Ada Eber, Noe Griiss, Yosef Kermish, Nella Thon-Rostow, and Jozef Wulf.

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 81 Europe’s Jews during the Second World War. In fact, the participants at the commission’s founding meeting in the autumn of 1944 declared that their chief agenda would be the gathering of testimonies, and they prepared a questionnaire to be used in collecting them from survivors.°° The Jewish Committee in Lublin contributed to furthering the goals of the commission and considered imposing sanctions in order to persuade the survivors to give their testimonies.?’ The regional commission in Krakow used the Jewish committee’s premises in order to have access to “the human material that runs through the offices of the Jewish committee’.*® According to the editors of Dziect oskarZajg, the first interviews with children ‘were conducted at the beginning of 1945, almost immediately after the liberation, even before methods and attitudes towards such interviews were discussed at any length’.*? Developing such a methodology was at the centre of the commission’s efforts to educate those who lacked adequate knowledge of how to carry out historical research or collect testimony themselves. Special instructors travelling from one locality to another worked to prepare the commission’s allies for their tasks.*° Moreover, as early as 1945, the commission published instructions and questionnaires that would help the collectors (zamlers) to gather materials in four main fields: history, ethnography, medicine, and the fate of Jewish children.*! By the second half of 1945, the Historical Commission in Lublin planned to gather and publish about a hundred testimonies.** Less than a year later, in the annual report of 1946, Noe Gruss noted that the commission’s associates conducted 1,800 interviews in private homes, orphanages, and its offices.** Not all the CZKH?’s branches focused on the issue of testimonies to the same extent. The commission in Katowice concentrated on locating and recovering documents and

36 AZIH, CZKH, 336/11, 1-2. 37 Griiss, Rok pracy, 6. 38 Biuletyn Wojewédzkiej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej w Krakowie, Sept. 1945, 2, YIVO Archive

in New York, Philip Friedman papers. 39° The Children Accuse, ed. Hochberg-Mariariska and Griiss, p. i. Certain inaccuracies in the personal details of those testifying come from this period, when the methodological principles had not been worked out with the same precision as later on. 40 Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dzieci &ydowskich, 3. *) Tbid. See also Griiss, Rok pracy, 18-19; Kermish, /nstrukcje dla zbierania materialéw historycznych z okresu okupacyi memieckie] (Lodz, 1945); Blumental, Iustrukcje dla zhierania materialow etnograficznych z okresu okupacit niemieckiey (1.0dz, 1945); Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dziect &ydowskich. Moreover, in

1946 the commission organized two sessions devoted to the plans of research, Gruss, Rok pracy, 19. In 1947, at the invitation of the commission, Raphael Mahler came to Poland; ZAP, no. 85/333, k. 4, 28 Aug. 1947, no. 86/334, k. 3, 1 Sept. 1947. Raphael Mahler (1899-1977), a Jewish historian who belonged to the generation of young Jewish historians in inter-war Poland, spent the war years in the USA and

immigrated to Israel, where he taught Jewish history at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of the

monumental History of the Jews in Modern Times. 42 Gris, Rok pracy, 6. 43 Tbid. 16. The work of the section was managed by Diana Grunbaum, with Bluma Wasser among her associates; see ibid. 16-17. All in all the commission collected 7,000 testimonies, constituting Collection 301 at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

82 Nataha Aleksiun archival collections, while the Krakow branch distinguished itself by collecting over 1,300 testimonies within the first three years.*4 In the summer of 1945 the commission completed a provisional catalogue of its

archival collections.*? Until the autumn of 1946 German documents constituted the core of its archives.*¢ In the first months of its existence the CZKH searched for and attempted to recover a part of the Oneg Shabes (Joy of Sabbath) underground archives of the Warsaw ghetto.*’ The commission also collected photographs, press cuttings, diaries, and memoirs from the time of the war.*® In the latter category, the CZKH received three volumes of Calel Perechodnik’s journal, written while in hiding after he had lost his wife and daughter in the liquidation of the ghetto of his native town of Otwock near Warsaw.*? Perechodnik’s brother Pesach had survived the war in the Soviet Union, and in November 1946 ‘placed the memoirs of his late brother . . . at the disposal of the Central Jewish Historical Commission, granting it the right to publish them in the Polish language in an edition of 5,000 copies’.°? The importance attributed to collecting survivors’ testimonies of Nazi persecution and archival materials documenting various Jewish responses to it allowed the commission to lay the foundation of the Holocaust research that Friedman later described as ‘Judeo-centric’, as opposed to the prevalent ‘Nazi-centric’ one.°! The commission co-operated with other state-run institutions that were charged with the task of documenting Nazi crimes, especially the museum in Majdanek and the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes (Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich).°* Initially based in Lublin, the Main Commission *4 Y. Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 15-16. See the report by A.(?) Kupferberg concerning the branch in Krakow in Zichron Yacov, ‘Remarks on the activities of Yad Vashem in Europe’, dated 10 Apr. 1947. He stressed its fortunate location in close proximity to the liberated concentration camps,

which resulted in great numbers of survivors passing through the commission’s premises. Yad

Vashem Archives, AM. 1, f. 527, 121. 45 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 3. 46 [bid. 4. This situation changed after the discovery of the first part of the Ringelblum archives in Sept. 1946. Already in the initial months of the commission’s existence it took over the registration cards of Jewish soldiers—prisoners of war who had been imprisoned at Majdanek—and after the transfer to Lodz, it took over the documents of the Ghettoverwaltung of Warthegau and the archives of the Lodz ghetto. Among the materials found by the commission were the archives of the Jewish community of Breslau, which contained documents from the period 1744 to 1944. See ibid. 1-2, 6. 47 Griiss, Rok pracy, 11. See S. D. Kassow, Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Bloomington, Ind., 2007).

48 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 1-20. 49 David Engel has published a new scholarly edition of the journal; see C. Perechodnik, Spowiedé, ed. D. Engel (Warsaw, 2004).

50 D. Engel, ‘On the Bowdlerization of a Holocaust Testimony: The Wartime Journal of Calek Perechodnik’, Polin, 12 (1999), 316-29: 318.

51 P. Friedman, Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust, ed. A. J. Friedman (New York and Philadelphia, 1980), 561. 52 Rezolucja przyjeta na zebraniu CK ZP i Zwiazku Literatow, Dziennikarzy i Artystow Zydowskich W sprawie powolania do zycia Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historyczney, AZIH, CZKH, 336/2, 1,

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 83 was transferred to Warsaw, where it operated as the Historical Bureau at the Office

of Information and Propaganda from September/October 1944 onwards. In the summer and autumn of 1945 local branches were organized in all major Polish cities, such as Tarnow (June 1945), Poznan (July 1945), and Wroclaw (August 1945). It was formally recognized in November 1945, when the dire need for an institution that would co-operate with the Polish Ministries of Justice and of Foreign Affairs and that would supply the Polish delegation at Nuremberg with the necessary materials became an important factor.°® In a mode similar to the Central Jewish Historical Commission, the assignment of the newly formed Main Commission became ‘col-

lecting material and carrying out research into the policies of destruction [wyniszczente| of the Polish nation by the Nazi criminals with the broad participation of representatives of the community’.* In 1945-6 it depended on a degree of popular appeal and co-operation, and it also seems to have aimed at forming a grassroots movement.°° The Main Commission and the Central Jewish Historical Commission worked closely together. The head of the latter, Philip Friedman, was at the same time a

member of the Lodz branch of the Main Commission. The commission in Warsaw created a separate section for investigation of crimes against Jews with the

participation of a representative delegated by the Central Commission and exchanged relevant materials with it.5® The two commissions sent joint delegations to investigate at the sites of the death camps.°’ The first such expedition was dispatched to Chelmno on 25 May 1945. The Polish Commission became interested in investigating the area of the former death camp as a result of the initiative undated. According to Griiss, the commission initiated enquiries at the sites of the death camps at Cheimno and Treblinka; see Griiss, Rok pracy, 20-1. The adjective ‘Nazi’ replaced ‘German’ in the Main Commission’s official name in 1950.

°3- Archiwum Akt Nowych in Warsaw (AAN), Krajowa Rada Narodowa (KRN), f. 240, 29, published in Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce 1 jej oddziaty terenowe w 1945 roku: Wybor dokumentow, ed. M. Motas (Warsaw, 1995). On the following day, the director of the Bureau of

the Council, Jan Wasilewski, officially informed minister E. Zalewski that the council had decided at its last meeting to create the commission. See Gfowna Komiya Badania Zbrodm Hitlerowskich w Polsce 14e] oddziaty terenowe w 1945 roku, 11-12. A formal decree was issued on 10 Nov. 1945. Dz.U. 1945, no.

51, poz. 293. See also Ekspertyzy 1 orzeczenia przed Najwyzszym Trybunatem Narodowym, vol. i (Informacja wewnetrzna 59), ed. Cz. Pilichowski (Warsaw, 1979), 19. °4 A note dated 30 Mar. 1945, AAN, KRN, o1b, 2, published in Gléwna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce 1 jej oddziaty terenowe w 1945 roku, 12.

>> In one of the early discussions about the best operating mode of the commission, at its meeting in Warsaw in Dec. 1944 the commission granted special importance to the home citizen committees that -

would busy themselves with collecting incriminating evidence of German war crimes; see Protokol

posiedzenia Komisji dla Zbadania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Warszawie w dniu 12 grudnia 1944 (Protocol of the Commission for Investigation of the German Crimes, in Warsaw, 12 Dec. 1944), AGK, GK, 141, k. 34-5; excerpts published in Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce 1 je] oddziatly terenowe w 1945 roku, 121 N. 5.

56 Ekspertyzy 1 orzeczenia przed Najwyzszym Trybunatem Narodowym, 19.

57 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 15.

84 Nataha Aleksiun of Jakub Waldman of Turek and the Jewish Historical Commission.*® A similar delegation was sent to Treblinka on 5—7 November 1945.°” The Central Jewish Historical Commission strove to make the results of its efforts public.© It participated in preparing parts of the exhibitions in the muse-

ums that had been created on the sites of the former camps of Auschwitz and Majdanek.*! The CZKH published a wealth of materials in order to ‘allow the reader to learn about all aspects of Jewish history at the time of the Nazi occupation’.©” First, the Central Jewish Historical Commission brought out a number of sources crucial in the early stages of research. In 1945, Philip Friedman published a book on Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Michal Borwicz (Maksymilian Boruchowicz) wrote a book on the Janowska camp in Lwow entitled Uniwersytet zbiréw (“The University for Thugs’), while Rudolf Reder discussed the death camp in Belzec, based on his own experiences as one of a handful of escapees from the camp.°? The commission also prepared studies of the destruction of local Jewish communities.°* Among the earliest studies was Philip Friedman’s book on the destruction of the Jews of Lwow, published as early as 1945.°° Discussing his methodology, Friedman bemoaned the almost ‘absolute lack of original data and authentic official documents [both German and Jewish]’.°° The reconstruction of the stages in the Nazi destruction of Lw6w Jewry was thus ‘partially based on the experiences of the author himself, partially on the testimonies, memoirs, oral history, and testimonies given by other witnesses of the events. Last but not least [it relied on] literature in the form of books, booklets, and articles.’®” In 1946 the CZKH published Gershon Taffet’s book on the destruction of the Jews of Zotkiew.®8 Like Friedman’s study, it was also based on the author’s personal experiences and the testimonies of other survivors. Although aware of the inherent methodological problems of such a basis for a case study, in the foreword to the book Kermish praised it for ‘at times vividly reconstructing the history of the experiences of the Jewish community in Zotkiew. The author, who comes from Zétkiew . . . is very familiar with the surrounding and the environment. Therefore none of the important phenomena escaped his eye. He 58 See W. Bednarz, Obéz stracen w Chetmnie nad Nerem (Warsaw, 1946).

°° See ‘Afn grestn keyver fun poylishn yidntum: lokaler vizit in Treblinke’, Dos naye lebn, 1 Dec. 1945, p. 1. According to Dr A. Kupferberg the conditions in which the Polish Commission operated were by far superior to those of the CZKH; see Kupferberg’s report, ‘Remarks on the activities of Yad

Vashem in Europe’. 6° Gruss, Rok pracy, 9.

61 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 15. 62 Tbid. ro.

63 P. Friedman, Jo jest OSwigcim! (Warsaw, 1945); M. Borwicz, Uniwersytet zbiréw (Krakow, 1946); Rudolf Reder, Befzec (Krakow, 1946); see also R. Bauminger, Przy prkrynie t trytolu: Obéz pracy przymusowe) w Skarzysku-Kamienne (Krakow, 1946). On escapes from Belzec see Y. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Ind., 1987), 264-5. 64 M. Horn, ‘Dziatalnosé naukowa 1 wydawnicza Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historyczne; przy

CKZP i Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce w latach 1945-19 50°, Biuletyn ZIH, 1985,

nos. I—2 (133-4), 125. 6° P. Friedman, Zagtada Zydéw lwowskich (L6dz, 1945). 66 Tbid. 3. 67 Tbid. 68 G. Taffet, Zaglada Zydéw z6lkiewskich (LOdzZ, 1946).

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 85 did not forget a single significant event.’ In the same year, Natan E. Szternfinkiel published his monograph on Sosnowiec, ’° while Szymon Datner composed a study on the resistance and destruction of the Bialystok ghetto.’’ Others prepared primary sources for the benefit of future researchers studying such topics as German policies, the situation in various camps and ghettos, Jewish children, Jews in hiding

on the so-called Aryan side, armed resistance and partisan units, and artistic creativity in the ghettos.’ In 1946 and 1947 a number of essential diaries and memoirs were published, including those of Roza Bauminger, Gusta DawidsohnDraengerowa, and Noemi Szac-Wajnkranc. ”° The commission co-ordinated the gathering of materials for Yisker lekstkon, which was to contain short biographies of the murdered Jewish writers, scholars, and communal leaders. As a part of this enterprise Shmerke Kaczerginski composed the articles about the personalities of the Vilna Jewish community who had

lost their lives in the Holocaust.74 The CZKH co-operated with professional Jewish organizations and grass-roots associations of Jews stemming from one town or region (/andsmanshafin) in order to assemble materials on important Jewish personalities of a variety of pre-war communities. Thus the commission aspired ‘to transform the work on the lexicon into a broad social enterprise; the broad masses in the Jewish community ought to assist in gathering anew the 69 J. Kermish, foreword to Taffet, Zaglada Zydéw zétkiewskich, 5. In a similar vein, see Szymon Datner’s preface in his Walka 1 zagtada biatostockiego ghetta (Lodz, 1946), 9. Szymon Datner (1902-89) was a Jewish historian who worked as a teacher in a Jewish Hebrew gymnasium in Bialystok before the

war. He survived the war in the forests of eastern Poland, fighting with several partisan groups. Between 1944 and 1946 he was head of the Bialystok branch of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland. Afterwards he headed the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw and was one of the historians on the Main Commission to Investigate Nazi Crimes. Kermish, however, criticized Taffet for not utiliz-

ing the testimonies of the non-Jewish population of the town. He cautioned his readers that memory might fail him because of the passage of time since the events that were described in the book: foreword to Taffet, Zaglada Zydéw zébtkiewskich, 7. 70 N.E. Szternfinkiel, Zaglada Zydéw Sosnowca (Katowice, 1946). The book was conceived as the first

part of a series documenting the destruction of Jewish communities in Upper Silesia. For example, as early as the beginning of 1946, a report from the branch in Katowice gave information on the progress of a book about the fate of Jews in Silesia being researched by Natan Szternfinkiel with the help of four people of the commission ‘in order to complete the work quickly and have it published’. AZIH, CZKH, 336/161. The commission engaged in the preparation of a series that would portray the destruction of individual Jewish communities entitled Pinkes poyln. Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 11. “1 Datner, Walka i zagtada bialostockiego ghetta. Deieci oskarzajg; see also Dokumenty zbrodni i meczenstwa, ed. Borwicz, Rost, and Wulf; Dekumenty 1 materialy z% czasow okupacjt niemieckiej w Polsce, i: Obozy, ed. N. Blumental (L6dz, 1946); Dokumenty 1 materialy do dziejow okupacyi nemieckiej w Polsce, 11: Wysiedlenia 1 akcje, ed. J. Kermish (Warsaw, LO6dz, and Krakéw, 1946); Dokumenty t materialy do dziejow okupacpt niemieckies w Polsce, it: Getto todzkie, ed. A. Eisenbach (Warsaw, Krakow, and L6dz, 1946); Podziemny ruch oporu w ghettach 1 obozach: Materiatly1

dokumenty, ed. B. Ajzensztejn (Warsaw, Lodz, and Krakow, 1946). *3 G, Draengerowa, Pamigtnik Justyny (Krakow, 1946); L. Weliczker, Brygada smierci (L6dzZ, 1946); see also Janka H., Oczyma dwunastoletniej dziewczyny (Krakow, 1946).

“4 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 10-11.

86 Nataha Aleksiun materials for the biographies’.”° In line with the two aspects of the CZKH’s mission—to both document and memorialize—Kermish compared the future lexicon and the series of community monographs to a ‘joint tombstone [kolektive matseyve| on the big mass grave of the Polish [Jewish] community’.’® Finally,

the CZKH gathered and published literature written under the German occupation. ’”

The Central Jewish Historical Commission played a crucial role in representing Polish Jews at the trials of war criminals both in Poland and abroad.’° It created a list of Nazi war criminals that in 1947 encompassed 7,000 names.” In its efforts to seek justice for the crimes perpetrated against Polish Jews, the CZKH co-operated with the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes, the Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Poland’s Military Mission in London,

and a variety of Jewish organizations abroad.®° Members of the commission’s Advisory Council participated in the trials of Nazi war criminals in Poland.®' The CZKH made their archives available in preparation for the trials and dispatched ” Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 11. 76 Tbid. 11-12. The CZKH too evoked the motive of the matseyve. For example, G. Taffet ends his introduction, dated 20 July 1946, to his book on the destruction of the Jewish community of Zétkiew:

‘May the history of the martyrdom and the destruction of Zétkiew Jewry be a gravestone on its unknown grave’; Taffet, Zaglada Zydéw zotkiewskich, 10. 7 See M. Gebirtig, S’brent 1939-1942, ed. J. Wulf (Krakéw, 1946); M. Borwicz, Literatura w obozie (Krakow, 1946); S. Szajewicz, Lech L’cha, ed. N. Blumental (Krakow, 1946). See Griiss, Rok pracy, 20.

The commission also published the documentary album Zagtada zydostwa polskiego, ed. G. ‘Taffet (.6dz, 1945). It was conceived as the first of a number of publications presenting photographic material, with ‘the agenda to give the view of the entire process of destruction of Polish Jews’, in the words of Philip Friedman’s foreword. The overwhelming majority of publications under the auspices of the CZKH were published in Polish; the small number of Yiddish publications was ‘due to the technical difficulties’. Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 10. See Roni Stauber’s characterization of the early publications of the commission in ‘Filip fridman vereshito shel heker hasho’ah’, 1o—12, 14.

78 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 12-13. 73 Tbid. 13.

80 See ibid. 13-14. Polish authorities created an official governmental institution charged with the parallel responsibilities of researching and documenting Nazi war crimes in Poland. The idea resulted from discussions at the meeting of the Presidium of the National Council in late Mar. 1945. ‘The Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes at the Presidium of the Polish National Council

(Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce przy Prezydium Krajowej Rady Narodowej) was modelled after a special commission for the investigation of the crimes committed in

Auschwitz, 29 Mar. 1945. Excerpt from the protocol of a session of the presidium of the National Council, in Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce, 11. See the document at AAN, KRN, f. 94, 13-14. Those chosen to serve on the commission concerning the crimes committed at Auschwitz included minister Zalewski as its chair, minister Rzymowski, and Zofia Natkowska.

81 See Griiss, Rok pracy, 21-2. Friedman’s efforts met with only partial success and he was disappointed with the nature of the indictment and the overall approach, which stressed Polish martyrdom. See N. Aleksiun, ‘Organizing for Justice: Jewish Leadership in Poland and the Trial of Nazi War Criminals in Nuremberg’, in J.-D. Steinert and I. Weber-Newth (eds), Beyond Camps and Forced Labour: Current International Research on Survivors of Nazi Persecution—6o Years On (Osnabruck, forthcoming).

The Central Fewish Historical Commission in Poland 87 experts who testified at the trials of Amon Goeth, Ludwig Fischer, Rudolf Hoss, and Hans Biebow, among others.®* At times the commission initiated and prepared the necessary documentation for Polish demands for extradition of a Nazi criminal who had fallen into the Allies’ hands abroad.®° Many efforts focused on the trial of the Nazi leadership in Nuremberg, both in terms of preparing material that might be relevant to the judicial proceedings and in organizing Polish Jewish survivors. The Central Jewish Historical Commission’s leaders hoped to assist the indictment of the Nazi criminals at the International Military Tribunal with the materials that they had gathered and published.®* In the

autumn of 1945 the CZKH lobbied for a public campaign to be organized by the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland to create a forum for Polish Jews to raise their voices. The commission initiated a general assembly of Polish Jews in Warsaw to discuss the trial and choose a delegation to go to Nuremberg.®° It also co-

operated with the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes, particularly in preparing the Polish indictment to be presented at Nuremberg. The Main Commission received materials from its Jewish counterpart, which were in turn given to the Ministry of Justice to be presented at Nuremberg. They included testimonies of survivors and materials pertaining to death camps in Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor. Although the general goal of collecting documentation for the

trials and preserving the memory of the suffering which took place under the German occupation may seem identical in the Polish and Jewish cases, there is one striking difference. The Central Jewish Historical Commission was an ethnic insti-

tution whereas the Main Commission was a state-sponsored one. Yet the Main Commission used the term ‘Polish nation’ rather than ‘Polish society’ to define those

victims whose fate was to be documented and vindicated. The use of the term ‘Polish nation’ might have indicated to the Jews in post-Second World War Poland that despite official declarations of the new government, Polish identity was rooted in ethnicity and thus ethnic minorities were marginalized.

82 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 12~13. See e.g. ‘Blumental zeznaje na procesie Hossa na temat etapow martyrologii zydowskiej’, Zycie Warszawy, 27 Mar. 1946, p. 2. 83 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 13-14. 84 See the introduction to Friedman’s book, dated Dec. 1945: ‘It is necessary at this very moment to give a systematic overview of the Lwow events. It is a necessity that overrides the requirement of sci-

entific exactness. .. . It is a necessity now, when before the tribunal of the free nations of the world, the criminals sit on the bench in order to receive their just punishment.’ Friedman, Zaglada Zydow lwows-

kich, 4. . 85 AZIH, CZKH, 336/15, 1, protocol of the meeting on the premises of the Central Jewish Historical

Commission, Lodz, 23 Nov. 1945, with the participation of the representatives of the Jewish Committee, the Central Jewish Historical Commission, the Association of the Friends of the Historical Commission, representatives of the Jewish political parties, and social and cultural organizations.

88 Nataha Aleksiun AREAS OF SPECIAL INTEREST Polish—Jewish relations under the German occupation constituted a significant part of the Central Jewish Historical Commission’s research, despite the potentially controversial nature of the topic.2° The commission gathered testimonies dealing with the attitudes of Polish society towards Jewish suffering during the Second World War. The instructions for collecting survivors’ testimonies listed among crucial agendas ‘Finding out about the stance of Polish society vis-a-vis the Jews by establishing both positive and negative facts and establishing the scope of the influence that the Nazi propaganda had in Poland’, an agenda that was also reflected in the questionnaire itself.°’ Similarly, in monographs on the destruction of Jewish communities, the question of the attitudes of the local non-Jewish population was often raised.22> Michat Borwicz, in his Organizowanie wscieklosci (Organizing Fury’), devoted a chapter to the influence of Nazi propaganda on the stance taken by Poles who witnessed the mass murder of Jews.®’ Similarly, Friedman analysed the deliberate Nazi policies against the Jews as a process which allowed the non-Jewish population of Lwow to grow accustomed to humiliating and persecuting the Jews.°° The commission characterized the acts of the righteous among the nations as exceptional. Although the attitudes of Polish society could not have changed the fate of the Jews, ‘there was no chance for a mass rescue operation of the Jewish population in Poland. However, the percentage of the rescued Jews would have undoubtedly been higher, had psychological factors encour-

aged [such assistance]. These were missing.’?! The commission presented and praised various forms of assistance given to the Jews. Noe Griiss described a Pole who saved a number of Jews as a rare ‘beam of light through the clouds’™* and 86 Public discussion of Polish—Jewish relations under the Nazi occupation took place in Poland in the immediate post-war period. As Pawel Szapiro noted: ‘it dealt exclusively with the moral aspects of the phenomenon. Writers and scholars such as Jerzy Andrzejewski, Tadeusz Breza, Mieczyslaw Jastrun,

Stanislaw Ossowski, Stefan Otwinowski, Kazimierz Wyka, and Stefan Zolkiewski participated in it, publishing on the issue in the journals Kugnica and Tygodnik Powszechny.’ P. Szapiro, ‘Wstep’, in Wojna zydowsko-niemiecka: Polska prasa konspiracyjna 1943-1944 0 powstaniu w getcie Warszawy (London, 1992), 6. See also J. Michlic, “The Holocaust and its Aftermath as Perceived in Poland: Voices of Polish Intellectuals, 1945-1947’, in D. Bankier (ed.), The Jews are Coming Back: The Return of the Jews to their Countries of Origin after WW IT (Jerusalem and New York, 2005), 206—30. 87 In Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dzieci zydowskich, 4; see also ibid. 10-16. 88 Taffet, Zaglada Zydéw zotkiewskich, 61-2.

89 _M. M. Borwicz, Organizowanie wscieklosci (Warsaw, 1947). This book was published by the Ogolnopolska Liga do Walki z Rasizmem w Warszawie. 90 Friedman, Zaglada Zydéw lwowskich, 10-1.

°! Datner, Walka i zagtada biatostockiego ghetta, 22. Datner pointed to the responsibility of the Polish authorities of the Second Polish Republic, who implemented anti-Jewish policies in the second

half of the 1930s. He also pointed to groups particularly involved in helping the Jews: the liberal Polish intelligentsia and the peasants. Ibid. 22—3. 2 Griiss, ‘Dokumenty wrodzonej szlachetnosci’, AZIH, CZKH, 336/7, 44—5.

The Central fewish Historical Commission in Poland 89 another who, ‘instead of robbing and looting Jewish property . . . preserved about 5,000 photographs, records, and lists of camps’ and brought them to the commission’s office.?°

The fate of Jewish children during the Holocaust received exceptional scrutiny in the works of the CZKH. Jewish children were the ‘principal enemy of German power and the first to be condemned’. It collected the very first children’s testimonies as early as 1945, almost immediately following the liberation, before the methodology had been clearly established.”° In the first three years of its existence, the commission gathered over 400 children’s testimonies, as well as children’s songs, games, and aphorisms from the time of the occupation, and pictures and stories composed after the liberation.%° Instructions for Research on the Experiences

of fewish Children discussed the objectives of collecting these testimonies extensively. The aims of the questionnaire were: to give as multifaceted a picture as possible of the criminal Nazi actions which aimed at the physical and moral destruction of the young generation of Jews; to show the bravery and resourcefulness of Jewish youth and to portray its resistance, its heroic stance, and its struggles, which paralysed the Nazi plans to some extent. Jewish child survivors are a proof of it, and they are a subject of our research: To establish the psychological and physical stance of Jewish youth after the years of existing under the conditions of the Nazi regime.?’

The distinctive value of children’s testimonies stemmed from that fact that ‘[t]he children give their testimonies simply and frankly. In their recollections, mostly gathered as early as 1945, there is a tone of freshly experienced pain or hope.’”® Children’s testimonies had the potential of deeply affecting those who read them: ‘The truth contained in this book about children is naked and terrible. It will open many a wound, deliver many a sudden blow, fill the reader with bitterness, and arouse

mixed feelings.’°? Therefore, while describing their wartime sufferings and the destruction of their families, Jewish children spoke in the name of the entire murdered community: “This accusation will not be made before an international court of law, recorded in hundreds of volumes, roundly phrased in accordance with the regulations, following the letter of the law in its lifeless clauses. This will be a judgment among people. Sentence will be passed by Jewish children and their mothers.’!°° %3 bid. °* Dokumenty zbrodni 1 mgczernstwa, ed. Borwicz, Rost, and Wulf, p. xiv. See also Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 14. % See The Children Accuse, ed. Hochberg-Mariariska and Griiss, p. xxi. 26 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 14. %” Gruss, ‘Metodyczne wskazowki dla wypelniajacych kwestionariusz o dzieciach zydowskich’, in Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dziect Zydowskich, 4.

98 The Children Accuse, ed. Hochberg-Marianska and Griiss, p. xxix. °9 Tbid., p. xv. See B. Cohen, ‘The Collection of Testimonies from Children Holocaust Survivors

in the Post-War World’, paper presented at the the USHMM workshop on DPs, ‘Survival, Displacement, Struggle: Jewish DPs in the Wake of the Holocaust’, 18-29 July 2005. Griiss, ‘Metodyczne

wskazowki’, 5. 109 The Children Accuse, ed. Hochberg-Marianska and Griiss, p. xv.

go Natalia Aleksiun The question of the definition and the scale of Jewish resistance in the face of the Nazi onslaught constituted another issue that enjoyed particular attention in the CZKH’s debates and publications.!°! According to Kermish’s undated report on its activities, from the very outset the commission planned to research ‘the history of the destruction and the struggle of the murdered powerful Polish Jewish community’.’°? It sought to analyse the fate of the Jews in various camps and ghettos in material, psychological, and generational contexts.'°° The place which

the subject of resistance ought to take in writing the history of the Jewish responses to the Holocaust generated stormy debates. While discussing the commission’s publishing plans for 1947, Hersh (Grzegorz) Smolar complained to the CZKH’s representative, Yosef Kermish, that ‘the issue of the Jewish resistance should be reflected in the works of the Historical Commission. There is so much on Jewish suffering and so little on their heroism.’!°* Kermish defended his posi-

tion, pointing out that there was a documentary study devoted to the Warsaw ghetto uprising.!°° Thus the question of resistance presented a challenge to fulfilling the two aspects of the commission’s agenda. Jewish historians aspired to present a balanced account of the fate of the Jews under the Nazi occupation but also responded to the internal and external discussion about the degree to which Jews had resisted the destruction.

WHOSE TRAGEDY TO DOCUMENT AND TO RESEARCH? The work of the CZKH focused on the fate of Polish Jews and strove to gather materials pertaining to the fate of those in camps outside Polish territory.’°° The commission laid the foundations for research on the Holocaust from both Jewish and universal perspectives, as its mandate was to ‘sponsor and carry out research on the history of Polish Jewry under German occupation and to publish materials 101 See Instrukcje dla badania przezyé dziect &ydowskich, 4.

102 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 1. 103 See Friedman, Zaglada Zydéw lwowskich, 24; Szternfinkiel, Zaglada Zydéw Sosnowca, 40-5; Friedman, foreword to Datner, Walka 1 zaglada hiatostockiego ghetta, 5; Datner, ibid. 15-19, 34-44.

104 AZIH, Centralny Komitet Zyd6éw w Polsce (CKZP), Prezydium, 303/4, 100: Protocol 108 of

the presidium’s session, 19 Dec. 1946. 105 Tbid. 106 See Memorandum CZKH do zagranicznych organizacji (Memorandum of the Central Jewish Historical Commission to Organizations Abroad), AZIH, CZKH, 336/4, 15-16. According to the programmatic publications of the commission, the research was to focus on the victims. The statute declared its agenda: ‘Research on Jewish history in Poland under the [Nazi] occupation and in particu| lar documentation of the bestial crimes committed on the Jewish nation by Nazi Germany, reflection of the process of the annihilation of the Jews, of the [ Jewish] nation’s fight against the hateful enemy, of the moral standing of Jewish society, its cultural life, literary and folk creativity at the time of the occupation, the influence of various groups and individuals on the bulk of the Jewish life of that period’; Statut Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej w Polsce przy Centralnym Komitecie Zydow Polskich (Statute of the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland), AZIH, CZKH, 336/4, I.

The Central fewish Historical Commission in Poland gi and historical study in order to educate both the Jews and the larger Polish society on the history of German crimes against Polish Jewry’ .'°’ In regard to the commission’s agenda, however, one observes a recurrent internal conflict. On the one hand, its mission encompassed documenting the fate of the Jews under the German occupation and therefore stressed the particular char-

acter of the Jewish tragedy. In “The Resolution on the Establishment of the Central Jewish Historical Commission’ it promised to ‘underline . . . and bring to the light of day the sophisticated Nazi sadism and barbarity which accompanied

this historically unprecedented campaign [against the Jews]’.!°° The CZKH emphasized the uniqueness of the Jewish fate as being essentially different from that of other victims of the Nazi regime. On the other hand, in numerous political declarations, members of the commission emphasized the universal character of Jewish suffering. In the protocol of the press conference organized by the commission in the spring of 1945, Friedman reflected on its goals, stressing the common

context of Holocaust research: ‘in contrast to the previous periods, when one could discuss the Jewish problem in isolation, now it is closely connected with the question of existence of other nations, because fascism attempted to destroy all the nations of Europe’.?°? In his study on the Holocaust of Polish Jews, published in Munich after leaving Poland in 1947, Friedman asserted: [The] murder of millions of Jews in Poland distinguishes itself from other German crimes committed during the last world war because of its mass character and the character of the crime [itself]. We stand here before the crime of which all Jews were to fall a victim—or to be more precise—all people in Europe who were not labelled ‘Aryan’ by the Nazi doctrine.11°

At the same time, Friedman expressed his conviction that the destruction of the Jews in Poland was for the Nazis only the first attempt at their radical solutions to the issues of the German imperialistic policies. . .. The Jews opened the list of the victims; this attempt proved successful and would have been followed without doubt by a mass destruction of Poles and Russians, as the ethnic element that was seen as detrimental to the German expansion in the east.'1!

Such duality may have resulted from the commission’s objective of popularizing its findings among Jews and non-Jews alike. For the latter, stressing the particular 107 Gris, Rok pracy, 8. 108 Rezolucja przyjeta na zebraniu CKZP i Zwiazku Literatow, Dziennikarzy i Artystow Zydowskich W sprawie powolania do zycia Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej, undated, AZIH, CZKH, 336/2, 1. 109 AZIH, CZKH, 336/15, 1-2, Protocol of the press conference, 21 Mar. 1945. 110 P Friedman, Zaglada Zydéw polskich w okresie okupacji niemieckiej 1939-1945 (Munich, 1947), 8.

That is precisely historian Yehuda Bauer’s main message, expressed years later: the unprecedented character of the Holocaust—1in its essence a Jewish tragedy, but with universal meaning. See Y. Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven and London, 2001), 39-67.

111 Friedman, Zaglada Zydéw polskich, 9. He repeated the same argument in his article on Lublin and Madagascar; see Friedman, Roads to Extinction, 34-5.

92 Nataha Aleksiun Jewish fate during the war might have seemed politically risky.'!* In a discussion of a report prepared by Nachman Blumental for the trial of Rudolf Hoss in the spring of 1947, one of the commission’s collaborators reminded the author that ‘[h]e should make a distinction between the situation of the Jews in the camps and the inmates of

other nationalities’.1° In response, Blumental insisted ‘it is not desirable to stress ... the difference between the status of a Polish and a Jewish inmate. At this moment this should not be emphasized; rather we should combat our common enemy.’!*4 Polish Jews who organized the CZKH reflected on the question of the uniqueness of the Holocaust in the context of earlier Jewish catastrophes. How did they see the most recent disaster in comparison with previous tragedies in Jewish history? Did the commission see itself as a new phenomenon or rather as tied together with other tragedies and thus with other attempts at documentation? It seems that the commission defined the most recent events as essentially different from any others. In their appeal to international Jewish organizations for support, the commission’s activists declared: ‘We want to co-ordinate our work with your work in the field of historical research of the period which is like no other period in the

past centuries and in history—from the period of the fascist-German occupation.’!!° Another recurring dilemma of those involved in the commission’s activities was the question of scientific objectivity. The appeal to ‘All Jews in Poland’ pleaded with all survivors to get involved with the commission’s activities. In the course of the CZKH’s work, ‘these historical documents ought to be collected, sorted out, and academically elaborated in depth. This can only be done by specialist researchers.”!!© These researchers faced difficulties stemming from psychological and emotional burdens and confronted complex questions about Jewish responses to the Holocaust.'*’ At a press conference organized in L6dz on 21 March 1945, 112 See Statut Centralne Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej w Polsce przy Centralnym Komitecie Zydow Polskich, AZIH, CZKH, 336/4, 1. 113 Posiedzenie pracownikow CZKH z dnia 21, III, 1947, ekspertyza kol. Blumentala na proces Hoessa (protocol of the session of the Central Jewish Historical Commission on 21 Mar. 1947, expert opinion of [N.] Blumental for the trial of Héss), AZTH, CZKH, 336/20, 18. See also AZIH, CKZP, Prezydium 303/ 6, protocol 19, ro Feb. 1947, 124.

114 AZIH, CZKH, 336/20, 19-20, Protocol of the session of the Central Jewish Historical Commission on 21 Mar. 1947.

He Memorandum Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej do zagranicznych organizacji, AZIH, CZKH, 336/7, 15. At the previously cited press conference, however, Friedman expressed another perspective: “There have been analogous catastrophes in the past, even worse [than the one under the German occupation] since they led to a degree of destruction of the Jewish national substance.’ See AZIH, CZKH, 336/15, 1-2, Protocol of the press conference, 21 Mar. 1945. 116 AZTH, CZKH, 336/31, 21-2. 117 Researchers who were themselves Holocaust survivors and who joined the Yad Vashem Institute

in Jerusalem faced similar dilemmas. See B. Cohen, ‘The Birth Pangs of Holocaust Research in Israel’, Yad Vashem Studies, 33 (2005), 206-8.

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 93 Friedman asserted that the researcher’s attitude ‘should not be sentimental or | emotional since the only right approach is insightful and sharp analysis’.‘*® The members of the CZKH struggled with the desire to remain detached from the subject matter. In the 1946 annual report of the Central Jewish Historical Commission, Noe Griiss admitted that ‘we set out to do our work not only as “objective” researchers. Apart from academic and theoretical interests, other motives were at

work.’!!? He used terms such as ‘graveyard’ and ‘deathly mood’ to describe the atmosphere in which the commission operated.'*° Friedman praised Szymon Datner for trying to draw a line between his emotions and the subjective perspective on the events described in the book on the Bialystok ghetto, while the ‘descriptive part [is] written down as objectively and thoroughly as possible’. Nevertheless he

was aware of the inherent difficulty: ‘It is not an easy task for a historian of that epoch. This is a history still fresh and warm, a story written down with the blood of those most dear who had been murdered in a most cruel way by the merciless hands.’!2?

The CZKH struggled with the tension between objectivity and the national mission it strove to carry out. In this context, Yosef Kermish’s Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto was criticized for its lack of clarity in taking sides and undue rev-

erence for Stroop’s report as a historical document. A member of the CZKH called Jasny insisted that Kermish should have ‘refuted Stroop’s report[s|], which he failed to do. . . . He should have proved their falsehood on an equal footing

with other German reports. The author should have clearly sided with Jewish reports. At the moment one should not publish documents that weaken the value or the strength of the Jewish resistance.’!2” 118 AZIH, CZKH, 336/15, 2. In his later essay devoted to the early Holocaust research, Friedman asserted that there was a degree of failure in the extent to which such a sentimental approach was in fact unavoidable in the immediate post-war period: “The appearance of the Jewish historical institutes opens a new chapter in the study of the Holocaust. The aim now is historical documentation per se, documentation to embrace all historical features during the Nazi regime, including the internal life of the Jewish community at that time, its social, cultural, religious, artistic, and literary activities. Yet, here, too, the spirit of contemporary events influenced the work and its character. During the first post-war years, the employees of these historical institutes were unable to restrain their feelings, to suppress the memories of pain and injury sustained during the Nazi outrage. The first reaction of the survivors after their liberation was a passionate desire to dramatize the impact of the past experience. This was done by producing memoirs, diaries, testimonies, stories, poetry, and emotional accounts of what happened during the Nazi horror period. The description of the suffering and acts of cruelty inflicted by the Nazis ranked first and foremost in the literature. Nor were the people working on

behalf of historical institutes unimpressed by the strong tide of this emotional trend.’ Friedman, Roads to Extinction, 556. 119 Griiss, Rok pracy, 10.

120 Griiss, ‘Dokumenty wrodzonej szlachetnosci’, AZIH, CZKH, 336/7, 44. , 121 Friedman, foreword to Datner, Walka i zagtada hiatostockiego ghetia, 7. 122 ‘Y. Kermish, Powstanie w getcie warszawskim, 19.10.-16.0.1943 (L6dz, 1946). Protoko! posie-

dzenia naukowego pracownikow CZKH dnia 28 pazdziernika 1946 r. (Protocol of the academic session of the employees of the Commission, 28 Oct. 1946), AZIH, CZKH, 336/20, 32.

94 Nataha Aleksiun The commission compared its activities to those of the underground archives of Oneg Shabes in the Warsaw ghetto. In the case of the Warsaw Regional Commission, the link was particularly evident since Hersz (Henryk) Wasser, formerly Emanuel Ringelblum’s secretary, ran it.'** Kermish praised the Warsaw chapter of the CZKH for collecting the testimonies ‘in accordance with the instructions prepared by the CZKH and Ringelblum’s traditions of research’.'*+ The Central Jewish Historical Commission was less explicit about its reliance on the methods and organizational ideas of the Vilna YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Particularly close to the YIVO model of Jewish research were the work of the zamlers (collectors) and the visions of the commission’s literary and ethnographic collections.'“° Another example of utilizing the YIVO models was the establishment of the Society of the Friends of the Central Jewish Historical Commission, whose members were involved with collecting documents and work on selected topics, such as Jewish schools and teachers under the German occupation. 1*°

Simultaneously, the CZKH operated with a sense of its own uniqueness. Kermish described the commission’s work as ‘pioneering in all [its] aspects’.1?” As

Gruss explained, ‘We set to our work with a different approach. Neither we nor anyone else in the world has had any experience in [this type of ] research. . . . In the course of our work we educated ourselves.’!2° The commission faced various difficulties stemming from the novelty of its work and the fact that only a short time had passed since the events under investigation. In a discussion of Kermish’s Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto held by the CZKH in the autumn of 1946, Jasny defended the concept of the book:

123 See Y. Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw, 1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt (Brighton, 1982),

144-6. In fact, three people who were members of the Oneg Shabes became active in the CZKH: Hersh Wasser, his wife Bluma, and Rachel Auerbach. The latter saw in the creation of the commission and its activities a continuation of the underground efforts in the Warsaw ghetto archives. See her testimony on Philip Friedman, ‘Doktor Philip Friedman, dermonung un gezegenung’, Yad Vashem, O. 33, f. 1168, 1-2.

124 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 16. This tradition meant that the testimonies not only described the events themselves, but also illuminated psychological processes taking place at the time. 125 Griiss, Rok pracy, 13-15. They included poems by Mordecai Gebirtig and Wladyslaw Szlengel, novels, memoirs, academic studies, folk songs from ghettos, camps, and partisan units; descriptions of children’s games, collections of anecdotes; proverbs; legends and gossip that circulated among the Jews in the years of the German occupation. Moreover, the commission collected artefacts for future museum exhibits: ghetto stamps and currency, urns with human ashes and bones, Jewish paintings, and ritual objects. The commission also sponsored seminars, lectures, discussions, exhibits, and con-

ferences. The Folkloristic and Literary Department was headed by Nachman Blumental. Statut Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej w Polsce przy Centralnym Komitecie Zydow Polskich, AZIH, CZKH, 336/4, 2. See also Griiss, Rok pracy, 24-5 and D. Griinbaum, ‘Zbiory Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej w Polsce’, ibid. 46~7, 49. 126 See Griiss, Rok pracy, 25-6.

127 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 18. 128 Griiss, Rok pracy, 9-10.

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 95 Usually one writes historical works about events that took place relatively long ago, from a certain historical perspective. As far as our work is concerned, it deals with recent events, witnesses of which are still alive, [but] at the same time, documents are usually lacking. This is the case with Dr Kermish’s work. There are no documents. There are memoirs,

testimonies, and reports of organizations. . . . There is no other way of conducting research.!2°

THE COMMISSION’S DEMISE AND ITS TRANSFORMATION INTO THE JEWISH HISTORICAL INSTITUTE The entrenchment of Jewish communists in the Jewish community grew and their growing dominance found expression within the commission, which they tried to influence in accordance with the party line. In 1947 the CKZP decided to close

down the regional branches of the Historical Commission. In the autumn the branches of the Central Jewish Historical Commission were gradually closed down in Krakow, Lodz, Katowice, Szczecin, and Walbrzych as a result of the commis-

sion’s transformation into the Jewish Historical Institute (Zydowski Instytut Historyczny, ZIH), with Nachman Blumental as its first director.!2° The institute was officially created on 1 October 1947 and operated under the umbrella of the CKZP.1*! In 1948 the institute launched the publication of the scholarly journal Bleter far geshikhte, in Yiddish, and in 1949-50 Biuletyn Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, first in Yiddish and then in Polish. The central branch of the CKZP closed down in 1949, coinciding with the liquidation of the majority of other independent Jewish cultural, educational, and political institutions in Poland. According to the ZIH’s constitution, it was to ‘research the history of the Jews in Poland from the earliest times until this very moment, with particular attention

to the period of the occupation by documenting the bestial crimes committed against the Jewish people by Nazi Germany’.'®* Kermish explained the rationale

for the transformation as stemming from the desire to broaden the scope of research from the six years of the Nazi occupation to ‘the thousand-year-long field of the history of the Jews in Poland’, although he supposed that ‘for many years to come studying the occupation will occupy almost exclusively the energy of our academic staff’.1°° The institute continued the work of the CZKH in the context we Protok6! posiedzenia naukowego pracownikéw CZKH dnia 28 pazdziernika 1946, AZIH, CZKH, 336/20, 32. 130 AZIH, CZKH, 33610, 4, letter of 23 Oct. 1947 to the presidium of the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland. 131 ZAP. no. 103/351, k. 5, 17 Oct. 1947.

132 See Statut Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego (Statute of the Jewish Historical Institute), DRI, P 66, f. 1216, 1. 183 Kermish, ‘Dray yor tetikeyt’, 18. M. Horn, ‘Dziatalnos¢ Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce w latach 1944-1979’, 1n 35 lat dziatalnosci Zydowsktego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce Ludowej (Warsaw, 1980), 5—46.

96 Natalia Aleksiun of more discernible political pressures and its publications adopted some of the language of propaganda reflecting the politics of the communist party, a symptom of a larger general historiographical trend to harmonize and co-ordinate historical writing with the ideological direction of the regime.'**

CONCLUSION The achievements of the Central Jewish Historical Commission are striking when compared with the research on the Holocaust that was carried out in Poland in the years following the commission’s liquidation. According to Ewa Kozminska-Frejlak, materials on the Holocaust published in Poland between 1945 and 1947 constituted over 25 per cent of all published scholarly materials on the topic between 1945 and 1989. Most of these books were published under the auspices of the Central Jewish Historical Commission.'*° The activities and achievements of the commission disprove the belief that any adequate response to the Holocaust emerged only one generation after the event and that the survivors focused on rebuilding their lives and sought integration rather than preservation of the memory of the Holocaust. As Dan Michman points out, while one of the major dilemmas historians of the | Holocaust face is the issue of defining and conceptualizing the event, “Explanation is only the last stage to evolve in the historian’s process of “understanding” and “comprehending” ’.1°° The historical awareness of the scope of the Holocaust and a sense of Jewish identity among several key figures of the commission shifted within the first years after liberation. At the peak of its activities, the commission paid particular attention to the suffering and heroism of Polish Jewry, but as its members became aware of the fate of the Jews in countries other than Poland, their sense of Polish Jewish identity became less distinct while their sense of a common, transnational Jewish identity strengthened.

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland did not operate in a vacuum. It was part of a Europe-wide network of Jewish historical commissions in the immediate post-war period devoted to Holocaust documentation, research, and commemoration, as Friedman emphasized: 134 See B. Mark, ‘Rola i zadanie Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego’, Biuletyn ZIH, Mar. 1950, 3-4; A. Eisenbach, ‘O naukowe podejscie do badan nad ostatnim okresem dziejow Zydow’, Biuletyn ZIH, Nov. 1950, 4-7. 185 See E. Kozminska-Frejlak, ‘Polsko-zydowskie rozrachunki: Wyzwania Holocaustu. Analiza listow do redakcji “Tygodnika Powszechnego” nadestanych w odpowiedzi na dyskusj¢ Blonski—Sila-

Nowicki? (MA thesis, Warsaw University, 1992). According to Kozminska-Frejlak, in the years 1945-7, thirty-five books were published (twenty-nine under the auspices of Jewish institutions); in the years 1950—4, six titles; in 1955-9, only one to two titles per year (with none published in 1956 and 1959); in 1960-9, one to five titles per year (five published in 1960 and 1968); in 1970-4, four publica-

, tions; in 1971—8o, one to two titles per year (none in 1972, 1976). 1386 See D. Michman, Holocaust Historiography: A Jewish Perspective. Conceptualizations, Terminology, Approaches and Fundamental Issues (London and Portland, Ore., 2003), 31.

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland 97 Simultaneously with the activities of the war crimes tribunals, the Jewish historical committees in various countries began their work. Within a short time, institutes, centres, and commissions for the study of the Holocaust were established in France, Hungary, Slovakia,

Bohemia, Italy, Austria, Germany, and in neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland. Some of these carried out activities initiated by the underground during the Nazi occupation, as was the case in France, for instance.'?"

In fact, one should understand the commission’s activities in the context of the earlier historical endeavours of east Europeans and particularly the underground efforts to document Nazi crimes and the fate of Polish Jews that were undertaken in numerous ghettos, among the most celebrated results of which are the Oneg Shabes archives in Warsaw and the archives of the Bialystok ghetto.1°® As David Roskies argues: ‘Oyneg Shabes and other archives like it drew on forty years of organized

and politicized activity to make the chronicling of events a tool of Jewish selfemancipation. Questionnaires, contests, and collectors made the act of memorializ-

ing a grassroots phenomenon.’!*? Ultimately, the efforts of the Central Jewish Historical Commission proved instrumental in informing much of subsequent research on the Holocaust.'4° The group that constituted the core of the commission’s activities subsequently dispersed to the far reaches of the Jewish Diaspora as well as Israel, continuing their initiative in Jerusalem, New York, Paris, Buenos Aires, and other cities. It thus followed in the footsteps of Oneg Shabes while blazing a new direction in Holocaust research. 137 Friedman, Roads to Extinction, 555. 138 Cohen, ‘Bound to Remember, Bound to Remind’. 139 Roskies, The Jewish Search for a Usable Past, 24.

140 As pointed out in Stauber, ‘Filip fridman vereshito shel heker hasho’ah’, 8-9.



Fewtsh Children’s Search for Identity in Post-War Poland

1945-1949 JOANNA B. MICHLIC Prudently, the Orlowskys and I decided not to mention my being Jewish. And so it was that I became an orphaned relative, surnamed Orlowsky, charitably taken in by the family. I was not apprehensive that Polish people who had known me five or six years before would recognize me. In 1944 I was a fourteen-year-old with long braids who spoke fluent, unaccented Polish. Now, in 1944, my new identity was perhaps not yet entirely comfortable. But as months wore on, being a Polish Catholic orphan felt increasingly natural, like a well-worn pair of shoes gradually molded to one’s


The Choice: Poland, 1939-1945

THE IMPACT of the Second World War on children in general and the Holocaust on Jewish children and their families in particular has been discussed in a variety of ways in the scholarly literature. I shall sketch in a preliminary manner how the war, I wish to thank the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture for its generous financial support of this study. This article is dedicated to H.M.

1 Among the first works on the impact of the Second World War on children were A. Freud and D. T. Burlingham, War and Children (New York, 1943) and D. Macardle, A Study of the Children of Liberated Countries: Their War-time Experiences, their Reactions and their Needs, with a Note on Germany (Boston, 1951). Psychologists and psychiatrists have researched this subject for a longer time than historians. In contrast to historians, they focus on a set of different methodological questions per-

taining to the impact of the war on the adults who were then children, and to the impact of the Holocaust on the adulthood of child survivors and even the second and third generation. The American historian Deborah Dwork wrote the pioneering historical study of the social experience of Jewish children in the Second World War, Children with a Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe (New Haven, 1991). The Israeli historian Nachum Bogner, himself a child survivor from Poland, wrote the

pioneering history of the social experiences of Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Poland. See N. Bogner, Behasdet zarim: hatsalat yeladim bezehut she’ulah bepolin (Jerusalem, 2000). For a comprehensive history of childhood in the Second World War, see N. Stargardt, Witnesses of War: Children’s

Lives under the Nazis (London, 2005). For a recent collection of papers presenting interdisciplinary approaches to children in the Holocaust, see Holocaust Studies: A fournal of Culture and History, ed. A. Reiter (2005; special issue: ‘Children of the Holocaust’).

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 99 genocidal conditions, and the physical destruction of biological families influenced the way Jewish children who survived the war in hiding, sheltered by individual Polish families in German-occupied Poland, saw themselves in the early post-war period of 1945-9.” I examine how their wartime self-presentation as ‘being someone else’, which entailed concealing their Jewish identity, influenced the ways in which they approached their identity after the war and, in the case of children who were infants and toddlers during the war, how their ignorance of their Jewish identity influenced their perceptions of identity.

I approach the subject from the perspective of the child survivor who in the immediate post-war period was still chronologically a child, and treat the child sur-

vivor as a historical subject. This approach, as the British historian Nicholas Stargardt has noted, has been marginal in the historiography of childhood, which has tended to concentrate on attitudes and policies towards children and to convey their experiences through the eyes of adult witnesses.* Although this chapter does not directly discuss the problem of memory, the material under analysis provides insight into the ‘raw’ or ‘fresh’ memory of children’s wartime experiences and the impact of these experiences on their identity at the moment of their emergence from war and genocide. There is an impressive body of literature about the memory of the Holocaust discussed from the perspective of the child survivor as an adult; _ however, little discussion has been carried out on the ‘raw memory’ of the war and genocide.* Furthermore, there is a glaring lack of a comparative examination of the early and the late post-war memories of the Holocaust—an examination that might be useful in historical enquiries. The early post-war period, to use the term of Henry Greenspan, a psychologist, constituted a ‘fragile moment’ for the children under consideration in terms of 2 T concentrate on the discussion of children’s social identity, which in scholarly literature is also referred to as cultural, social, or collective identity, and touch only briefly on the problem of individual

identity. I differentiate between the individual and social (cultural, collective) levels of identity and

, treat them separately. Regarding the notion of social (cultural, collective) identity, I accept the position that asserts that people have multiple identities. At the same time, I follow the position that asserts

that ethnic, religious, and national identities are forms of cultural identities which have exerted a strong power over modern societies. On the subject of various approaches to social identity in scholarly literature, see H. Harris, /dentity (Oxford, 1995). 8 See N. Stargardt, ‘Children’s Arts of the Holocaust’, Past and Present, 161 (1998), 191-235. For a discussion of historiographical approaches to the child, see ‘German Childhoods: The Making of a Historiography’, German History, 16/1 (1998), 1-15. For a seminal social history of childhood, see P. Ariés, Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life (New York, 1962). On the problem of the

representation of children’s perspective in the Holocaust canon, see the brief and sketchy essay by I. Buruma, “The Innocent Eye: Childlike, Childish, and Children’s Perspectives on the Holocaust’, in J. M. Diefendorf (ed.), Lessons and Legacies: New Currents in Holocaust Research, 6 (Evanston, Ill., 2004),

449-56. * See e.g. the classic literary and historical studies about the memory of the Holocaust and personal

testimonies, L. L. Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (New Haven, 1991) and D. LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore, 2001). See also the work by the psychologist Robert N. Kraft, Memory Perceived: Recalling the Holocaust (Westport, Conn., 2002).

100 Joanna B. Michhic their regaining a clear, coherent identity.° Many children emerged from the war with a confused or split self-image of who they were, both as individuals and as members of a certain social (cultural) group. Four major factors were responsible. The first was the impact of Nazi propaganda and the exposure to the murders of their families and of their local Jewish communities by the Germans. The second factor was the impact of the long-term performance of “being someone else’, of posing as an ethnic Polish child. The third factor was their lack of contact with their biological Jewish family while they lived on the ‘Aryan side’ (clandestinely outside the ghetto). And the fourth factor was the impact of anti-Jewish prejudices as expressed by some sections of the ethnic Polish community. The process of regaining Jewish identity in the early post-war period was diffi-

cult and painful for many children. Three factors were decisive for regaining Jewish identity: the reappearance of surviving members of their biological family;

the activities of various Jewish organizations involved in the search for Jewish children; and the Polish foster-family’s attitudes towards the child and rescue activities.° Subsequent permanent residence in Palestine or later in Israel and the West—mainly the United Kingdom or the United States—also played a salient role in this process. In the case of older children, the decision to remain with the acquired (ethnic) Polish identity, with its moral-cultural code, depended on two major factors: the death of biological parents and other close family members, and close emotional ties with the foster-family. When the foster-family had treated the child as its own, any departure entailed a challenging experience which the child was reluctant to undertake. Older Jewish children who decided to remain in postwar Poland had generally lived with a ‘hidden Jewish identity’ for a long period.’

SOURCES Children’s testimonies from the early post-war period constitute the main material for this analysis. Members of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland (Centralny Komitet Zydéw w Polsce or CKZP) who were engaged in the care and education

of children collected these testimonies. The CKZP, a secular Jewish umbrella © See H. Greenspan, The Awakening of Memory: Survivor Testimony in the First Years after the Holocaust, and Today, Monna and Otto Weinmann Lecture Series (Washington, DC, 2000), 6-9.

© On the search for Jewish children by Jewish organizations, see E. Nachmany-Gafny, Levavot hatzuyim: hotsaot yeladim yehudim mibatet notserim bepolin le’ahar hasho’ah (Jerusalem, 2005). A brief discussion of this problem is in N. Aleksiun, Dokgd dalej? Ruch syjonistyczny w Polsce (1944-1950) (Warsaw, 2002), 159—60, 268.

” There is no separate scholarly literature dedicated to the discussion of Jewish child survivors who lived with an acquired Polish Catholic identity in the post-war period. On the issue of acquiring and living with (ethnic) cultural Polish identity in the group of adult Jewish survivors, and also in the sroup of Polish Jews born after the Second World War, see the important studies by the Polish sociologist Malgorzata Melchior, Spoleczna tozsamos¢ jednostki (Warsaw, 1990) and Zaglada a tozsamosc: Polscy Zydzi ocalent na ‘aryjskich papierach’. Analiza doswiadczenia biograficznego (Warsaw, 2004).

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 101 organization, was set up in late November 1944.° It included Bundist and - Communist representatives and almost all the factions of the Zionist movement, except for the revisionists. The new Polish Communist government recognized CKZP as the official representative of Polish Jewry until its disbandment in 1949. The children’s testimonies under analysis come from two major archival collections of the CKZP: a large collection of 7,000 early post-war testimonies and a collection assembled by the CKZP’s Department of Education (Wydziat Oswiaty).° Additionally, this chapter refers to children’s testimonies collected by Franciszka Oliwa, an educator at the first Jewish children’s orphanage set up in March 1945 in Otwock, a small town near Warsaw, in central Poland. Between 100 and 130 children lived in this orphanage, which was officially named after the distinguished late nineteenth-century Polish positivist writer Boleslaw Prus and also known as the home of Dawid Guzik, a popular Jewish activist from the CKZP and a Holocaust survivor.’° The orphanage existed until late 1949. Generally, children’s testimonies were taken at orphanages, dormitories, and places of daily care that were set up under the patronage of CKZP. According to the minutes of the meeting of the leadership of the presidium of the CKZP with members of the local committees of the CKZP held on 13 and 14 July 1946, eleven Jewish orphanages, thirty dormitories (pdfinternaty), and seventeen Jewish schools functioned in Poland at the time.'! One large body of these testimonies relates to wartime experiences in the area of Warsaw and Warsaw province; another large group relates to wartime experiences in the former territories of eastern Poland. The age of their authors varies between 6 and 18 years. The majority of the testimonies are written in Polish, with a smaller selection written by older children in Yiddish.

The purpose of collecting these testimonies was to register each individual wartime story of each child who survived czas pogardy (the era of contempt)—a term commonly used in the early post-war period to describe the impact of the war on children in general and on Jewish children in particular. In the first and only publication of a small body of early post-war children’s testimonies entitled Dzseci 8 Jewish religious parties and movements had a separate organization, Kongregacja Religijna (Religious Congregation), headed by three rabbis: David Kahane, Abraham Krawiec, and Moshe Steinberg. On the history of the re-emergence of Jewish organizations in the early post-war period, see L. Dobroszycki, ‘Re-emergence and Decline of a Community: The Numerical Size of the Jewish Population in Poland, 1944-47’, YIVO Annual, 21 (1993), 3-32. See also Aleksiun, Dokgd dalej? and A. Grabski, Dztalalnosé komunistow wsréd Lydow w Polsce (1944-1949) (Warsaw, 2004).

9 Originals of the early post-war Jewish testimonies are deposited at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, ZIH.

10 Franciszka Oliwa’s memoirs about her work at the Jewish Orphanage in Otwock are part of her private collection of children’s testimonies, deposited at the Yad Vashem Archives (YVA) under the record group number 037/378. Some children’s testimonies from Oliwa’s collection can also be found in the CKZP collection of testimonies deposited at ZIH.

11 See the minutes of the meeting of the members of the Executive Committee of CKZP with members of local committees of CKZP on 13 and 14 July 1946, CKZP, Department of Education, 303/1X/64, 9, ZIH.

102 Joanna B. Michlic oskarzajg (‘The Children Accuse’), the editor Maria Hochberg-Marianska expressed the wish for this material to ‘go out to the world’ as a document that would ‘bear witness to the destruction of children in the war’.'” Most of these testimonies were composed as basic, non-literary descriptive reports. A minority, written by children of 10 years and older, includes more elaborate self-reflective statements. The testimonies reveal different emotional and mental states, various levels of cognitive abilities, and also various social backgrounds. They illustrate the children’s perceptions of different chronological periods and various

environments such as the home, the ghetto, the Aryan side, and hiding places. However, the testimonies do not as a rule contain much detailed information about time and environment. Time, for example, is divided as follows: before the war; in the ghetto until its liquidation, or the deportation of the family; when the parents _ were killed and the child was left on his or her own; on the Aryan side up to the moment when the Red Army appeared in the area; and, finally, the present time in the orphanage. Can we use these testimonies as a historical source? Until recently, with few exceptions, leading historians specializing in the Holocaust have avoided using personal testimonies in historical investigations. They have rejected the validity of personal testimonies on the grounds of their subjective and unrepresentative nature and, instead, have considered official documents as the only ‘legitimate’ type of valid primary historical source.'® Yet in the last decade, with the emergence of research on the Holocaust in eastern Europe and on the social history of local communities, a growing recognition has emerged of the importance of personal testimonies as a valid source for the historical reconstruction of events.'* Sophisticated discussions on the limitations and weaknesses of the use of personal testimonies in historical enquiry have accompanied this recognition.!° However, this new trend—the ‘dis12 See her introduction in M. Hochberg-Marianska and N. Griiss (eds.), Dzieci oskarZajg (Krakow, Lodz, and Warsaw, 1947). (The English translation of the book, The Children Accuse, was published in London in 1996.) See also Hochberg-Marianska’s literary essay about the life of Jewish children in the Second World War, entitled ‘Dzieci’ [Children] in M. Borwicz, N. Rost, and J. Wulf (eds.), W 3-cig rocenice zaglady ghetta w Krakomie (13.11T.1943-13.111.1946), published by the Jewish Historical Commission in Krakow in 1946. See also published early post-war testimonies recorded in displaced persons camps by D. P. Boder in D. L. Niewyk (ed.), Fresh Wounds: Early Narratives of Holocaust Survival (Chapel Hill, NC and London, 1998). This volume contains some testimonies of Jewish children from Poland. 13 A classic illustration of this position is presented in R. Hilberg’s Sources of Holocaust Research: An Analysis (Chicago, 2001).

14 A good illustration of a positive re-evaluation of testimonies for historical enquiry is C. R. Browning, Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony (Madison, 2003).

1° In a discussion of his current project on the ‘Multi-Ethnic History of Buczacz’, the historian Omer Bartov provides discerning reflections about the limitations on the use of testimonies and the integration of the picture that emerges from a critical analysis of the testimonies into a wider historical context. See O. Bartov, From the Holocaust in Galicia to Contemporary Genocide: Common Ground—

Historical Differences, Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecture, 17 Dec. 2002 (Washington, DC, 2003), 17-18.

Fewish Children’s Search for Identity 103 covery of personal testimonies for historical reconstruction—does not address the particular problems of the use of the testimonies of children. ‘The current position of psychologists, who in the last two decades have rapidly advanced the empirical study of the subject of children’s eyewitness memory and its strengths and weaknesses in judicial enquiry, may provide help regarding the usefulness of children’s testimonies in historical reconstruction.’®° In a recent study, two psychologists, Gail S. Goodman and Jennifer M. Schaff, conclude that despite great scepticism regarding accounts of child eyewitnesses in court, it is important not to dismiss these accounts but to acknowledge the strengths, as well as the shortcomings, of the evidence provided by children.’ My position regarding the use of children’s testimonies in historical reconstruction is similar to that of Goodman and Schaff’s stance on the use of children’s testimony in courts. Despite clear shortcomings in their use of language and the lack of precise references to time, space, and social actors, children’s testimonies constitute indispensable primary material for the investigation of those aspects of the Holocaust that have been under-researched and neglected. They play an important part in mapping out social relations with families, rescuers, and other adults in wartime and early post-war Poland. Furthermore, such testimonies provide rich material for a socio-historical analysis of identity in young individuals emerging from the conditions of war, genocide, and long-term posing as ‘someone else’. Without this analysis, it is impossible to answer questions pertaining to the problems of ‘broken identity’ and the formation and reconstruction of identity under the circumstances of war and genocide. They also provide evidence for a more nuanced picture of the social life of the Jewish community, as well as important insights into the nature and content of the raw memory of the Holocaust.

THE CHILD SURVIVOR In this study, a child survivor is defined as someone who was born in or after the late 1920s. The psychiatrist Robert Krell categorizes the child survivor as a special subcategory of survivor—different from the adult survivor: The older survivor possesses a memory of family and tradition, daily life and habits, smells

and sounds of a past. Child survivors may have no such memories or only fragments of them—disrupted, broken, frightening bits and pieces of an existential puzzle. Too young to have secured a life’s foundation, too traumatized to experience childhood, too preoccupied with survival to reflect on its impact.'® 16 See the special issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology, 11 (1997) dedicated to the debate on the reliability and suggestibility of child witnesses.

17 See G. S. Goodman and J. M. Schaff, ‘Over a Decade of Research on Children’s Eyewitness Testimony: What Have We Learned? Where Do We Go from Here?’, Applied Cognitive Psychology, 11 (1997), 5-20. 18 R. Krell, Psychological Reverberations of the Holocaust in the Lives of Child Survivors (Washington, DG, 1997), 5.

104 Joanna B. Michlic Krell’s perceptive observations concerning the difference between the child and the adult survivor hold truth with regard to very young children, whereas in the case of older children, the memory of pre-war and wartime experiences, even when fragmented, 1s astonishingly clear. How many Jewish children in Poland survived the war? It is impossible to determine the exact number, and speculation is rather difficult and unhelpful. There are a number of reasons for the lack of exact numbers. A certain group of Jewish toddlers and infants, born just before the outbreak of the war and during the war, were cared for by Polish foster-families. ‘Those families, for various complex social and psychological reasons, brought them up as their own children, without informing them of their biological origins.'? Some of these children came to discover only as adults that they came from a different family background.”° In post-communist Poland, the Stowarzyszenie Dzieci Holocaustu (Association of the Children of the Holocaust in

Poland), established in 1991, numbering approximately 800 members, includes many such examples. Another reason for the lack of exact data is that some of the older children who were looked after by Polish foster-families during the war and subsequently remained in Poland themselves chose to live with a ‘hidden Jewish identity’.7?

On the eve of the Second World War, the number of Jewish children in Poland was estimated at several hundred thousand. Pre-war Polish Jewry was a young community in demographic terms. The great majority of these children did not 19 The Association of the Children of the Holocaust has published two volumes of children’s memoirs. See W. Sliwowska (ed.), Dzzect Holocaustu méwig, vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1993); English translation by Julian and Fay Bussgang, The Last Eyewitnesses: Children of the Holocaust Speak (Evanston, Ill., 1997), and J. Gutenbaum and A. Latala (eds.), Dztect Holocaustu mowig, vol. 11 (Warsaw, 2001); translated by

Julian and Fay Bussgang and Simon Cygielski as The Last Eyewitnesses: Children of the Holocaust Speak, vol. ii (Evanston, IIl., 2005). See also other collections of recent memoirs and testimonies: M. Turski (ed.), Losy zydowskie: Swiadectwo zywych, 2 vols. (Warsaw, 1996-9), and W. Sliwowska, Czarny

rok... Czarne lata... (Warsaw, 1996). 20 For a problematic approach to the rediscovery of Jewish identity by former child survivors living in Poland, displaying a lack of understanding of the complexities of social identities and insensitivity to the social situation of Jews in pre-1939 Poland, see the article by the Polish historian Ewa Kurek, ‘Ratunek 1 balwochwalstwo: Dlaczego nie ujawniam nazwisk ludzi, uratowanych jako dzieci z Holocaustu’, Tygodnik Powszechny, 37, 16 Sept. 2001, p. 10. Kurek is the author of Dzieci Zydowsktie w klasztorach (Lublin, 2001).

21 Tn the last decade, a number of these children have begun to speak out publicly for the first time about their Jewish identity. They became members of the Association of the Children of the Holocaust. For an interesting recent account by a Jewish child survivor who was saved in the convent in Turkowice

in north-eastern Poland, see the personal story of the distinguished Polish literary critic Michal Glowinski in ‘Zapisy Zaglady’, Tygodnik Powszechny: Kontrapunkt, 1/2, 25 Mar. 2001, pp. 14-15. Glowinski is the author of a number of recently published personal accounts of his wartime experiences and his recent ‘re-discovery’ of his Jewishness. See e.g. M. Glowinski, Carne sezony (Warsaw, 1999); English translation by M. Shore as The Black Seasons (Evanston, IIl., 2005). See also an interview conducted by T. Toranska, ‘Polskie gadanie’, Gazeta Wyborcza, 23 May 2005, .

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 105 survive the war. According to early post-war data, the number of Jewish children registered by CKZP in the summer of 1945 was estimated at 5,000.22 By the summer of 1946, the number of registered children increased to 30,000. This number included children who survived the war in Nazi-occupied Poland and Jewish children repatriated from the Soviet Union. Of the total figure of 136,000 repatriates who arrived in Poland between February and July 1946, children below the age of 14 constituted 20 per cent.?° Although not the main subject of discussion here, it is important to note that Jewish children who survived the war in the Soviet Union had at least one parent or other member of the family with them throughout the war.”4 This was not the com-

mon experience of children who survived the war on the Aryan side in Nazioccupied Poland. Despite the efforts of the underground Jewish National Committee to place children in hiding with their parents, many children left the ghettos on their own, as in many cases their parents had already been killed or had perished of hunger and disease. In the case of children who moved to the Aryan side with their parents, separation often occurred because of security reasons or because of a parent’s sudden death. Only in a few cases were the biological parents able to visit children sheltered by Polish families or to remain with them in the same hiding place.

‘SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAS HAPPENED TO US’: CHILDREN’S IDENTITY AFTER THE WAR How did the children who survived the war in Nazi-occupied Poland perceive their lives in the immediate post-war years? Children’s testimonies reveal that loneliness and physical and emotional degradation were the main features of their perspective on life. Children often uttered a similar statement: ‘I am now completely on my own in the world.’*° Nevertheless, just as during the war, many older

children after the war took active measures regarding life.2° Some children returned to their pre-war homes in search of close and distant relatives. However, 22. Dobroszycki, ‘Re-emergence’, 17. 23 See Zarys dziatalnosci Centralnego Komitetu Zydéw w Polsce (Warsaw, 1947), 26. For a discussion

of literature on the demographic structure and social life of the Jewish community in the post-war period, see H. Datner-Spiewak, “Instytucje opieki nad dzieckiem 1 szkoly powszechne Centralnego Komitetu Zydow Polskich w latach 1945-1946’, Biuletyn Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 3 (1981), 37-51.

24 For some observations about the differences between the situation of child survivors in Nazioccupied Poland and in the Soviet Union, see I. Kowalska, ‘Kartoteka TOZ z lat 1946-1947 (Zydowskie dzieci uratowane z Holocaustu)’, Biuletyn Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 6/7 (1995), 97-106. This topic deserves a separate historical analysis. 25 Testimony of Jankiel Cieszynski, CKZP, file no. 301/5514, ZIH. 26 Nechama Tec, a sociologist and Holocaust survivor from Poland, was the first scholar to discuss the issue of the child’s active role in his or her process of survival in the war. See N. Tec, ‘Between Two Worlds’, Literature and Belief, 18/1 (1998), 15-26.

106 Joanna B. Michlic only some were reunited with close relatives and, in these instances, usually with

, one parent. During the early post-war period, many children went through a stage of expecting to be reunited with close relatives and sometimes even with unknown relatives from abroad. Witold Jakubowicz’s testimony conveys this expectation. Witold was born on 24 November 1928 in Krakow. After the Germans left the city in the middle of January 1945, he returned with his younger brother to his pre-war home: ‘My younger brother and I reached Krakow on 4 February [1945]. We went to our old apartment and later to our uncle’s apartment. We found nobody. Now we are waiting for our family which lives in Germany—they are supposed to come to take us with them.’*’ Some older children and youth displayed an awareness

, that something unusual and horrible had happened to their childhood. For example, in the testimony of Hinda Dowicz, born on 15 May 1928 in Tarnow, one reads: ‘We are young old women. Now I am an orphan.’”® A strong desire for home and family was reflected in the testimonies of children who were placed in the orphanages. For them the orphanage was their ‘new home’. They viewed teachers, educators, and other orphaned children as their new family. For example, Jankiel Cieszynski, who stayed in the orphanage in Otwock, the town of his birth and of his parents’ deaths in the Otwock ghetto, stated: “Now I am ina

terrible situation, because I am completely on my own in the world. I am like a stone, but I thank God that I am alive. I am just fine. After all, I am at home with

other orphaned children and hope that I may “return” to my homeland in Palestine.’2° Similar is the testimony of Chana Grynberg, born in Glowaczow in the district of Radom: ‘I have been living here in the orphanage in Otwock since 7 April 1945. I have been fairly treated, equal with other children. I have become a child again and have now “recovered my home”.’°° These statements reveal that children

had internalized the CKZP’s principles concerning rearing and upbringing. For the CKZP, the institution which aimed at the revival of Polish Jewry, the issue of individual and social identities of the surviving children was of great importance. Children were viewed as the social group on which the future of post-1945 Polish Jewry—its ‘successful rebirth’—would depend.*! As early as July 1945, at the general executive meeting of the CKZP, directives

were issued on how to improve a child’s individual well-being and how to strengthen his or her sense of Jewish identity.** To a certain degree, the language

of official communist ideology coloured the ways in which these goals were

YVA. . 27 Testimony of Witold Jakubowicz, CKZP, file no. 301/ 3656, ZIH.

28 Testimony of Hinda Dowicz, CKZP, file no. 301/1328, ZH. 29 ‘Testimony of Cieszynski, 2.

30 Testimony of Chana Grynberg, in the collection of Franciszka Oliwa, 037/378, vol. 2, pp. 79-82,

31 For a short discussion of various attitudes of the leaders of the CKZP towards children see

Grabski, Dziatalnosé, 154-8. 32 See Datner-Spiewak, ‘Instytucje opieki’, 40-51.

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 107 expressed in some official CKZP documents. One of the CKZP’s main goals was to develop in each child a sense of a ‘regained home’. The orphanage was to be viewed as a new, welcoming, ‘warm home’. Therefore the educators discussed how this ideal home was to be created. For example, at the Conference of the Heads of Jewish Orphanages under the patronage of CKZP, which took place on 12 and 13 December 1947 in Krakow, one of the speakers recommended that the same educators should be allocated to an individual child throughout his or her entire stay in the orphanage.®® The educators were also expected to be compassionate towards children in order for them to gain a sense of emotional stability and fair treatment. Thus, despite the new communist reality, with its ensuing Soviet-style pedagogical model, Janusz Korczak’s pre-war nurturing pedagogical model was still prevalent among some Jewish educators.°* The same speaker at the conference in Krakow also recommended that an orphanage should optimally number no more than forty children for them to ‘feel truly at home’. However, lack of funds only allowed the opening of larger orphanages, numbering between 100 and 130 children. These large orphanages were typical of that time.°° Educators also argued that children who had reached the age of 16 should not necessarily be transferred to boarding schools for young people, since such a transfer might undermine a child’s sense of stability. This argument applied especially

to those who had younger siblings in the same orphanage. Separation of the siblings was generally viewed as an undesirable action. As one speaker stated, ‘We cannot place newcomers at our “homes”—boys and girls of 16 and 18 years of age. However, at the same time, we cannot agree to boys of 15 or 16 years of age leaving the orphanage merely because their place should be in boarding schools for youths. No “family” displaces 16-year-old children from their home and separates them from their younger sisters and brothers.’”® Other main CKZP goals were for the children to regain their ‘lost childhood’ and humanity. The CKZP also intended to bring up happy, assertive, and secure individuals who were not afraid of life’s future challenges. CKZP records show that the implementation of these goals was often difficult. For example, at the previously noted Conference of the Heads of Jewish Orphanages, participants spoke about various difficulties they were encountering in instilling notions of happiness, assertiveness, and security, owing to the terrible emotional and physical injuries °° Minutes of the Conference of the Heads of Jewish Orphanages under the patronage of the CKZP, 12 and 13 Dec. 1947, Krakow (second day of the conference), CKZP, Department of Education, file no. 303/TX/ 67, 22-3 (3—4), ZIH. 34 For the collection of Janusz Korczak’s writings on pedagogy in Polish, see J. Korczak, Wybér pism

pedagogicznych (Warsaw, 1957), esp. Prawo dziecka do szacunku, which has been translated into English: see J. Korczak, The Child’s Right to Respect (Lanham, Md., 1991). For a general discussion of

the changing educational and pedagogical models in post-war communist Poland, see D. Jarosz, *‘Panistwo a wychowanie dziecka 1948—1956’, in Polacy a stalinizm (Warsaw, 2000).

35 Minutes of the Conference of the Heads of Jewish Orphanages (second day), CKZP,

Department of Education, file no. 303/IX/ 67, 21, ZIH. 36 Tbid. 22.

108 Joanna B. Michlic that the children had suffered in the war. One of the speakers reported that she came across children who were not familiar with human bonding, who had no recollections of being cuddled and kissed by their parents, and who in fact did not know what kissing meant.“ Children’s newspapers, produced by the children themselves in the orphanages,

also spoke about the gap between the goals of the educators and the children’s mental and emotional state. We find examples of these reflections in the most highly praised and well-known inter-orphanage children’s newspaper called Gazeta Migdzyzaktadowa (“The Inter-Orphanage Newspaper’), run by children 13 years of age and older. In an article published in 1947 in Gazeta Migdzyzaktadowa, Ida Kelberg, a child in the Zatrzebie Orphanage, stated: “The aim of every head

and educator of our Children’s Home is to mould us into individuals of high morale, optimism, and hope, people who are able to take control of their lives in the most difficult circumstances. However, the fulfilment of these goals is not easily realized. One must have much courage and persistence and must be prepared to fight against many obstacles.’*> Similar reflections appeared in the essay of Ewa Goldberg of Otwock Orphanage, published in the same issue: ‘Could one have expected that these children would become regular good kids? Their experiences stood against their becoming regular good kids.’°?

THE PROBLEMS OF SOCIAL IDENTITY EXPERIENCED BY CHILDREN With regard to the process of regaining and strengthening the sense of Jewish identity in children, the CKZP advocated the realization of a certain set of goals as early as the summer of 1945. Educators were expected to instil national pride in children; to disseminate both intellectual interest in and emotional attachment to Jewish language, literature, and history; and to foster ‘emotional attachment’ to ‘the Jewish people as a whole’. These goals were emphasized at various conferences and meetings under the auspices of the CKZP. However, as in the case of the implementation of the goals concerning a child’s individual well-being, the realization of the goals concerning collectivity was not always successful and was in fact ridden with various social and psychological problems. — Children’s testimonies reveal that many suffered from a visible confusion about their Jewish identity: they feared to be perceived as Jews or to be associated with a 37 Minutes of the Conference of the Heads of Jewish Orphanages (second day), CKZP, Department of Education, file no. 303/TX/ 67, 24, ZIH. 38 T. Kelberg, ‘O atmosferze kulturalnej i wychowawczej w Domu Dziecka’, Gazeta Migdzyzaktadowa, no. 7/8 (Mar./ Apr. 1947), file no. 037/378, vol. 5, YVA. This was Kelberg’s presentation at the Union of Correspondents of Gazeta Migdzyzaktadowa in Jan. 1947.

39 E. Goldberg, ‘Dom naszych marzen’, ibid. This was her presentation at the Union of Correspondents of Gazeta Migdzyzaktadowa in Jan. 1947.

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 109 Jewish community. What were the reasons for this ambivalent and negative attitude towards their Jewish identity? First, these children had a recent memory of the war and of the Holocaust. ‘This memory was the most salient factor in their evaluation of Jewish identity in the first year, or in some cases even in the first two years, after the war. For many children, this memory led them to associate the

Jewish community and identity with living in a state of permanent danger. Being Jewish was also associated with a possibility of encountering hostile and negative attitudes in some segments of the Polish community, with whom the children had come in contact on the Aryan side during the war. Children often did not have the intellectual tools to comprehend these attitudes—to differentiate between what Nechama Tec calls ‘the foe’ and ‘a friend’—and to cope with the negative messages about Jewish identity.*° Thus, in the early post-war period, these children had difficulty viewing Jewish identity as a positive identity. Rather, they viewed it as a ‘stigmatized identity’, an identity with discredited attributes.*! This interpretation was expressed in the children’s testimonies and other works. In an essay, ‘Moje prace: Wspomnienia’ (‘My Writings: Memoirs’), written in June 1946, Karol Muszkat describes the reason why, in his wartime diary which he kept in the shelter provided by his Polish rescuers, he did not write the word ‘Jew’. ‘The only word that I was not allowed to write in my memoirs was the word “Jew”.

This word meant death and the end of everything.’** A year earlier, 7-year-old Jan Debinski, who, like Karol Muszkat, was a member of Otwock Orphanage, describes his early post-war fears of learning Yiddish as the result of his wartime experience: Until the uprising [the Warsaw Uprising of 1 August 1944] my mother and I remained in the same place. During the evacuation, we moved to another home. Unfortunately, the Germans caught us and took us to prison [/ager]. After a few days, I was separated from my mother and went ahead on my own. . . . Once again, I wandered around and slept in the fields, wherever I could find a place. Being a wanderer was my fate. Next, I was sent to one Christian orphanage for boys, but this orphanage was overcrowded and therefore I was sent to another orphanage in Krakow where I stayed for a few weeks. ... Finally .. . I went back to Warsaw to search for my mother. I was so thrilled and happy that I found her. All the experiences described above influenced me in such a way that even today when the danger is gone I am still afraid to learn Yiddish.**

The two-page testimony of the 17-year-old Chana Perlmuter describes perhaps the most extreme case of dissociation out of fear for one’s own life: pretending to 40 _N. Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland (New York, 1986), 40. 41 On stigma, see the classic study of Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1963). “2 Karol Muszkat, ‘Moje prace: Wspomnienia’, June 1946, in the collection of Franciszka Oliwa, file no. 037/378, vol. 3, YVA.

48 Testimony of Jan Debiriski, in the collection of Franciszka Oliwa, 037/378, vol. 2, YVA.

IIO Joanna B. Michhic be a German girl during the war. Born in the small village Lokacze near Horochéw

in the pre-1939 eastern Polish territories, Perlmuter describes in her testimony how, having witnessed violence directed against her family and the local Jewish community, she began to immerse herself in the German language. At some point,

in unknown circumstances, two Germans stationed in the region took her with | them to their house. She presented herself as a German girl named Charlotta: [After] witnessing the orgy of violence which took place in our town in the course of the first few weeks of the occupation, with the beating of Jews, plundering, raping, shooting, I cut myself off from my friends and stopped speaking with people. With a boundless enthusiasm I threw myself into studying the German language. All day and night I read, wrote, recited poems and spoke to myself in German.**

In the Srédborowianka Orphanage in Srédboréw, 9-year-old Aleksander Jakobson, born in Warsaw, recollects his wartime fears of disclosing his Jewish identity to members of Polish society in the apartment building in Warsaw where he and his aunt lived during the last months of the war: ‘We moved in with other Poles at Wilenska Street, which was located in the suburb of Praga in Warsaw. There we spent the time between the Warsaw Uprising and the liberation. I was very quiet and did not want to say a word about our Jewish identity to anybody. I knew that they might kill us because of that.’*° In her testimony of 28 January 1946, Rena Kant, born on 6 January 1932 in the village of Brzana in the district of Bobowa in Malopolska, describes how even after the war she was afraid of disclosing her identity: ‘When the Soviets moved in I had

to go to the countryside because I did not want to hide any longer. I took care of cows in the pastures but did not tell the farmers that I was a Jew. I was afraid to do so. Only in the summer [of this year, 1945] was I told about the existence of the Jewish Committee and the Children’s Home in Krakow. I went to the local committee and they sent me here.’*° In a two-page testimony of 13 March 1948, given in the Jewish orphanage in Piotrolesie in Dolny Slask (Lower Silesia), Lena Atlas, born on 30 October 1937, describes similar fears of being perceived as a Jewish girl during the war and the impact of this fear on her first post-war encounters with members of the Jewish community: I do not remember the day when the war started. I only remember events from the moment my mother took me to some Poles in a village located near Lublin. She told me that my name was not Atlas, but Laskowska, and that I should not disclose to anyone that I was a Jew because they might kill me. I was obedient since I wanted to live and was afraid of the Germans. . . . Children sometimes called me a Jewess [Zydéwka], but I did not respond out of fear. I was terribly ashamed of my being Jewish and envied the other children that they 44 Testimony of C. Perlmuter, CKZP, file no. 301/ 2862 (in Yiddish, no dates provided), ZIH. 4) ‘Testimony of Aleksander (Oles) Jakobson, CKZP, file no. 301/3004 (no dates provided, testi-

mony signed by Janina Sobol Maslowska), ZIH. . 46 Testimony of Rena Kant, CKZP, file no. 301/1373, ZIH.

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity III were not Jewish. I felt in my heart some kind of grudge towards someone for making me a Jew. .. . They took me to one lady in Lublin. . . . I went to the church and prayed wholeheartedly and felt at peace in my heart. After the liberation, children sometimes told me that I should stop saying Christian prayers because I was a Jew. I stayed with my Polish lady for a few more months until a certain man from a Jewish organization came and gave me a pair of shoes—my own pair was so very old and well worn. He told me that he was going to take me to Jews. However, I did not want to go with him because I was ashamed. I cried and refused to go, but this man took me by force. At first, I did not feel happy at the orphanage. ... Lcould not go to church and missed it. I also missed my Polish lady.*’

Lena Atlas’s testimony takes us to the second major factor that contributed to a split or confusion in identity: the effect of long-term passing as an (ethnic) Polish Roman Catholic child. For Lena, as for other children, the learning of a new Polish Catholic identity with its moral cultural code began with memorizing a new personal Christian name and a new birthday. Instruction in this newly acquired identity also involved the learning of a new faith—Roman Catholicism and its rituals and customs. In order to pass as a Catholic, Jewish children had to learn the traditional daily Christian prayers, the Our Father (Ojcze Nasz) and Hail Mary (Zdrowas Mario), which constitute what is called in Polish pacierz. Some children also memorized the Angelus (Aniot Panski) and the popular Christian greeting ‘Praise be the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Niech bedzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus), all of which might help them escape a dangerous situation in rural areas. It was also important to know how

to behave inside a church and during the Christian festivals: when and how to exchange religious greetings or when to recite a certain prayer. For some children this complex learning activity had begun in the ghetto, with their parents and other close relatives, their first teachers of their new identity. For example, in her six-page testimony, Irena Grundland, born on 30 September 1933 in Warsaw, states: “The last night before my departure from the ghetto, the whole family was fully awake. My mother carefully prepared my clothes . . . and examined my knowledge of Catechism and all Catholic prayers.’*® In other cases, it was Polish helpers and rescuers who were the first instructors of the new Polish identity. For example, in her testimony from the later post-war period, Ewa Feuerstain,

born in 1929 in Tarczyn near Warsaw, recollects that her rescuer Mr M., who smuggled her out of the Warsaw ghetto, was the first teacher of her new name. On the way to the shelter, they stopped in some secluded place and Mr M. ordered her to repeat her new name many times over.*” The ongoing daily performance of being a Polish Catholic child inevitably led to the internalization, to varying degrees, of the Roman Catholic moral cultural

code, rituals, and traditions. The Catholic religion was the aspect of children’s 47 Testimony of Lena Atlas, CKZP, file no. 301/3364, ZIH. 48 Testimony of Irena Grundland, CKZP, file no. 301/5543, ZIH. (This testimony was written in 1955 on the eve of Grundland’s departure from Poland with her family for Israel.) 49 Testimony of Ewa Feuerstain, CKZP, file no. 301/6199 (dated Dec. 1965), ZIH.

112 Joanna B. Michhic performance in which they seemed to find a ‘certain emotional refuge’ during the war. This social phenomenon has been well observed not only in Nazi-occupied Poland but also in other Nazi-occupied countries. The universal aspect of this phenomenon is confirmed in various personal accounts of survivors in their adulthood.°° The post-war personal narrative of the distinguished Israeli historian and

child Holocaust survivor Saul Friedlander, born in 1932, is one of the most poignant examples of this phenomenon.?? In the process of developing strong emotional ties with the Roman Catholic faith in wartime Poland, children simultaneously developed ambivalent attitudes towards their Jewish identity. This is revealed in some early post-war testimonies in which strong ties with the Roman Catholic faith can be found, even in cases in which children had an awareness of being Jewish and defined themselves as Jewish. In such cases, an individualistic, voluntaristic attitude towards religion—with strong elements of ambiguity about belonging to a certain social group—was manifested. Various factors caused this phenomenon, including a child’s promise to close relatives at the time of departure from the ghetto not to reveal his or her Jewish identity to anyone.

Exposure to certain social conditions and events in the battle for survival was also occasionally accompanied by the internalization of certain negative perceptions about Jews. For example, the testimony of Jadwiga Bekier reveals the depth of ambiguity in this young girl between the concept of the ‘true faith’ and belonging to the Jewish community. Jadwiga, born in November 1931, lost her parents and three older brothers in the war. She survived because of a caring Polish peasant woman, a widow in a small village in the Mazovia region: My mother gave us [me and my siblings] to some acquaintances in the village of Mostki, the district of Sochaczew [Mazowsze, Mazovia]. When it became illegal to keep Jews, they told us to leave. We moved from one place to another and my brothers were killed. One day I went to one woman to ask for bread and at her place was another woman who took me to her home. I was covered in lice and she thoroughly cleaned my body. . . . I started to go to school when the Russians came. The woman wanted to baptize me, but I refused to undergo conversion. Perhaps they would not have accepted me here [in the orphanage] if I had done so. However, I did attend church sermons. I know how to say Christian prayers and I say them because my grandmother ordered me to do so. There are Jews who say that the Polish faith [Roman Catholicism] is better than the Jewish one. After all, it is prettier inside churches— nice music is played there. I have not yet visited the ‘Jewish Church’ [Zydowsk: kosciot |. Yes, I do believe in God. But I did not want to be baptized because then Jews would be angry with me and would not have accepted me in this place.°? 50 See e.g. the documentary film about Jewish child survivors from Belgium, Years of Darkness (1983).

51 §, Friedlander, When Memory Comes (New York, 1979). The memoirs were first published in French under the title Quand vient le souvenir and one year later appeared in Hebrew, /m bo hazikaron

(Jerusalem, 1980). . .

52 Testimony of Jadwiga Bekier, CKZP, Ministry of Education, file no. 303/09/179, ZIH.

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 113 In some cases, a strong insistence on continuing to practise Catholicism in the early post-war period was also related to the children’s close ties to their Polish res-

cuers. In such cases, children frequently did not wish to be separated from their former family. Perhaps the most complex examples of the fusions of Roman Catholic religion and Jewish identity understood in an ethnic and cultural sense are manifested in two testimonies given in 1948 by two older girls (young women) in the Jewish orphanage at 18 Narutowicza Street in L6dz. Each of the testimonies is a good illustration of an individualist, voluntaristic attitude towards religion and social identity. Each also reveals the girls’ loyalty and closeness to her rescuers. In her three-page testimony of 15 April 1948, Lola Lustgarten (Christian name

Elzbieta), born on g March 1931 in Krakow, describes the path that led her to strong ties to Catholicism: I escaped from there and went back to Hansk and later went into hiding in different places. ... I started to attend church services in Kulczyn because I did not want to be perceived as a Jew. I liked church and this is why after my return to Hansk I continued to attend services in the local church. In April 1945 I was baptized at my own request. I knew that there were Jews who survived the war, but at the time I did not want to return to them. I cannot explain why I felt that way. In 1947 Mr Geyer, a Jew from Wiodawa, came with thirty policemen to ‘take me to the Jews’. On that occasion I managed to run away. I was stubborn and did not want to go with them and began to hide, out of fear of being taken away by the Jews. My rescuers wanted me to stay with them, but at the end they left the decision to me. They wanted me to be happy and they too had had to struggle with hardship. In November Mr Geyer came again with the militia commander from our village. They took me by force to Wlodawa. For a while, I stayed with the militia commander and his wife because I did not want to enter a Jewish home. Now things are different. I am happy that I am among Jews and I have been learning the Hebrew language and corset-making in the orphanage.°*

In a statement attached to Lola’s testimony, the interviewer B. Mosieznik states that the girl was unable to identify the sources of her negative attitudes towards the Jewish community: I aimed at establishing the source of ambivalent attitudes toward Jews displayed by Lola: if they were the result of an imagined persecution, or if their source lay in the attitudes displayed in the social environment. What is interesting is that the girl claims that in conversations with some Poles in which they accused the Jews of various alleged crimes such as using Christian blood, she always defended Jews. At present, the girl is unable to explain her ambivalent attitudes towards Jews.°*

Similarly in her three-page testimony of 13 April 1948, Marysia Szpigiel (real name Elzbieta Haberger), born on 20 June 1930 in Pasieczna in the province of Stanislawow in Podolia, describes her split identity without being aware of its 3 Testimony of Lola Lustgarten, file no. 301/3350, ZIH. The information that a Jew named Geyer came with policemen to take her away is unconfirmed in other documents. °4 Note of the interviewer B. Mosieznik, ibid. (cover page attached to the testimony).

114 Joanna B. Michhic social complexities. She stresses her strong ties with the Roman Catholic religion, manifested in her commitment to daily prayer and in her strict observance of the Friday fast. At the same time, she insists on defining herself as Jewish and wishes to emigrate to Palestine, where she wants to join the military group Hagana that

fought for the independence of the State of Israel. Her idea of ‘the return to Palestine’, a common theme in many testimonies, is a manifestation of the strong Zionist influence in the Jewish orphanages:°° The names of the Polish couple that took me in were Michal and Maria Izykowie. .. . In the village, I was registered as Irena Szpigiel of Polish nationality and Catholic denomination. I

remained with the Izyks until June 1945. During the war, I used to go to church in Wybranowka. In January 1945 I decided that I would convert to Catholicism. No one encouraged me to do so; I myself wanted to convert. On 20 June 1945 we were repatriated to Maciejowice in the district of Prudnik in Silesia. Then the Izyk family moved somewhere else and I moved to Glucholazy in the Tyszki district. I wanted to be independent and found a job as a housekeeper. Many people cannot understand that religion is one thing and nationality is another. I still strongly identify with the Roman Catholic faith, but, at the same time, I also define myself as a Jew. When in 1947 the chairman of one of the local factories, himself a Jew, suggested that I should return to live among Jews, I was not ready to do so, because of my religious convictions. A member of the Committee brought me to the orphanage just a month ago. .. . Now I do not regret that Iam among Jews.°®

The interviewer B. Mosieznik provides additional details about Marysia’s personal practice of the Roman Catholic religion in the Jewish orphanage and her complex sense of identity: Marysia Szpigiel still continues to say Catholic prayers. She prays in the evenings and lis-

: tens to Catholic mass on Sunday, which is played on the radio. She wears a chain with a cross on her neck and does not eat meat on Friday. Under her pillow we find two books: one Hebrew [not identified] and the other a Roman Catholic prayer book. Marysia insists that her nationality is Jewish and wants to go to Israel to join the Hagana movement.°’

Some children’s testimonies reveal the opposite picture to fluidity of identity.

In such cases, these children did not develop the individualistic, voluntaristic approach to religion in the wartime. Instead they showed a more traditional, con-

ventional and thus a more socially acceptable way of understanding the links between religion and identity in the Jewish community. Although these children also had to pass as Polish Catholic children in the war, they refused to be baptized when they were asked to do so by their rescuers. They also seemed to be able to dif-

ferentiate between the necessity of performing the role of the Roman Catholic child for an audience—their rescuers and others in the surroundings of the war— and their Jewish identity. This is expressed in testimonies written in Yiddish, indi°° T do not deal here with the battle over children conducted by different ideological groups within the Jewish community. 586 Testimony of Maria Irena [Marysia] Szpigiel, CKZP, file no. 301/3345, ZIH. °? Statement of B. Mosieznik, ibid. (signed on the cover page attached to the testimony).

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 115 cating that children who maintained the use of the Yiddish language during the war sustained a traditional sense of Jewish identity. For example, the 1945 threepage testimony of Sara Lajbowicz, born in Warsaw in 1935, 1s a good illustration of

a clear differentiation between her wartime performance as a Catholic child and the maintainance of her Jewish identity. Sara displays clarity about her identity.°® At an unknown date, on the initiative of her mother, a Christian woman took Sara out of the camp where they were confined and sheltered her in her house. In her testimony, Sara speaks with appreciation about her rescuer’s actions. At the same time, she discusses her rescuer’s attempts to convert her to Christianity and her own subtle, albeit persistent, resistance to that project. Sara makes it clear that baptism as a Roman Catholic was outside her desires. She also does not seem to display any close bonds with her former rescuer; she does not miss her. The latter can also be attributed to the fact that Sara was reunited with her relatives almost immediately after the war. In fact, Sara’s testimony was given in her relatives’ home in Lublin sometime in 1945. Hers was an atypical case. The Christian brings me food in the cellar, but it is sad. I want to be with my mother. I go out from the cellar only in the evening through the side door with the Christian. She leads me into a room where the picture of the Virgin Mary [Matka Boska] is hanging and orders me to recite the pacierz. I already know it all and say it on my own. She is happy, kisses me on the forehead, and says that I will remain with them for ever. She will take me to the church and make [me] their child. A longing for my mother pains me, gnaws at me. But I am silent, I do not say anything to her; I know I am not allowed to say that I do not want to. Where would I go? The Germans would catch me again and kill me; Germans, as you know, hate Jewish children.”

Acute problems of confusion about identity occurred in the two groups of children who were totally unaware that they were Jewish: namely toddlers born one or two years before the outbreak of the war and babies born during the war, those who were almost immediately taken care of by their rescuers, the foster-parents. These children could not remember their Jewish names, parents, or any traits of Jewish cultural identity such as language, customs, and traditions. Children who were born in 1937 and 1938 were prone to forget their Jewish identity during the war.

Furthermore, they naturally absorbed the traits of an (ethnic) Polish cultural identity since for various reasons, including both their safety and the safety of their rescuers, they were treated as Polish Catholic children. As a result of this necessary process, these children later went through a stage of shock, accompanied by fear for their future, when they were told, usually by unfamiliar individuals—members of their biological families who were unknown to them or unknown members of

the Jewish organizations specializing in the recovery of Jewish children—that °8 In her testimony written in Yiddish, Dora Chazan, a 17-year-old girl from Luck in eastern Poland, conveys the same sense of a clear differentiation between the performance as a Catholic child and her maintenance of a Jewish identity in the war. See her testimony, CK ZP, file no. 301/2g900, ZIH. 59 Testimony of Sara Lajbowicz, CKZP, file no. 301/3630, ZIH.

116 Joanna B. Michhic there were Jewish. For them being Jewish represented a strange, alien, and uncertain world. They also sometimes viewed this world prejudicially, a perspective acquired through some rescuers and other members of Polish society during and after the war. Confusion in these groups of children about belonging to a Jewish community reveals the importance of the role of family in shaping a sense of social identity. The family is the first unit in which individuals start life and acquire a conception of self and of others.©° Thus family is the first unit in which the specific moral and cultural code of a particular ethnic, religious, and national group or mixed ethnic, religious, and national group is transmitted. Not growing up within one’s own family is likely to result in a fluid identity and may lead to traumatic experiences

when one’s original identity is discovered. This was a common phenomenon among very young Jewish children at the time of their emergence from the war and genocide in early post-war Poland. The testimony of 22 February 1948 by Henryk Weinmann gives us an insight

into this kind of traumatic experience. Henryk was born on 23 March 1941 in Skarzysko-Kamienna in central Poland. He was the youngest son of ‘Tomasz Mieczystaw Weinmann and Ewa Federow and had two older siblings, Witold and Danuta. During the liquidation of the ghetto in Skarzysko-Kamienna in late October 1942, his parents perished and he escaped to the Aryan side with his two siblings. This was the beginning of their lives in hiding. In January 1943 his older brother Witold took Henryk to Krakow. In a desperate move, Witold decided to leave Henryk at the entrance to the building at Krakowska 45 in the city. The caretaker of that building took Henryk to a nearby Catholic orphanage, where the boy remained until 1945. In that year, a childless Polish couple, the Janowskis, visited the orphanage and decided to adopt him. As an adopted child under the name of Stanislaw Janowski, Henryk lived with his new parents without any awareness of his biological family’s background until 1946, when his brother Witold found him. Witold wished to take his brother away from the Janowskis, but the couple did not agree to it. Therefore Witold took the matter to a Polish court. After a long legal

procedure lasting almost two years, the court granted Witold custody over his younger brother. In the autumn of 1947 Witold placed Henryk in the Jewish orphanage in Czestochowa. Meantime, he also found his sister Danuta in Warsaw. She was placed in the same Jewish orphanage in Czestochowa as Henryk.

In his testimony, the 7-year-old Henryk presents the story of his emergence from the war from his own perspective. For him, the forced departure from the Janowskis, the only parents he knew, was the most painful and challenging experience: 60 In the literature on ethnicity, a relatively small body of works deals with the role of family in shaping one’s concept of identity. For an interesting study of family as an important component of ethnicity in Caribbean and Asian societies, see T. Modood, S. Beishon, and S. Virdee, Changing Ethnic Identities (London, 1994), 16—35.

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 117 ! was not aware that I was a Jew. I recall that when I was in the orphanage [the Christian orphanage in Krakow], I heard that being Jewish was something bad—that the Jews were ‘an ugly nation’... . I was taken to a different orphanage and mother and father came. They gave me a nice pair of shoes and new clothes. They told me that from now on I would be their child and that they would take me home with them. I went with them without crying. I was very happy. .. . She [mother] later told me that a certain man wanted to take me away and that he was a Jew. “He says that he is your brother but that is not true; you are a Pole.’ I told mother that | would never leave her. Many times she repeated: ‘Do not return to the Jews.’ [At one point] Witek arrived [at our home] and wanted to take me away. He told me that

I would be his brother. I cried out so much and shouted that I would not go with him. Mother and father cried a lot too. All three of us cried, except for Witold. He took me by force into his car. . . !asked him where he was taking me. I told him that I wanted to go back to my mother, but he did not listen to me. At night, he took me to the train station and we

, travelled to Czestochowa. In Czestochowa we went to the [ Jewish] orphanage. . . . I did not like Witek. After all, to have a mother is more important than to have a brother. Witek told me that it was better for me to be with him and ordered me to forget about my mother. But I shall never forget her because I love her very much. . . . 1am happy here [at the orphanage], but I would like to go back to her because I love her.*!

In Henryk’s case it 1s most likely that the adopting couple, the Janowskis, were unaware that their adopted son, whom they found in a Christian orphanage, was in fact Jewish. From Henryk’s testimony, one also infers that the painful private drama

of their forced alienation from their adopted son was coloured with some antiJewish tensions. These tensions were not atypical of the time. In fact, they also coloured the encounters between returning Jewish relatives and a particular group of rescuers who, in contrast to the Janowskis, were totally aware of the child’s Jewish

background. In such cases, the rescuers’ strong emotional attachment to the child constituted the obstacle to the return of the child to its relatives. This phenomenon was not uncommon, among both childless couples and couples with children. This also occurred among mature women—single rescuers. In this group of rescuers, when it came to the issue of the attachment to the child as an individual, the ethnicity of the children did not matter. Through the long-term process of looking after the child, sometimes lasting up to three years, they began to view the rescued child as a natural member of their family, who would remain with them after the war. In this specific group of rescuers, rescue actions were not driven by a moral obligation to return the child to his or her remaining biological family or to a Jewish community. Conversely, in a group of rescuers in which a strong emotional attachment to the child was intertwined with a moral obligation to return the child to his or her remaining biological family or to a Jewish organization, the child was usually prepared for departure for the ‘Jewish world’ and was surrounded by love, care, and support in this difficult ‘journey’. 61 Testimony of Henryk Weinmann, CKZP, file no. 301/3362, ZIH. In the attached statement, the interviewer Janina Mastowska stated that Henryk was a nervous boy who was unwilling to talk except about his foster-mother, Mrs Janowska.

118 Joanna B. Michhc Many cases of battles over children were discussed in the reports and correspondence of the section of the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDQC), active in early post-war Poland. For example, in a letter dated 2 December 1947,

Jozef Gitler-Barski, a key figure in the Children’s Search Committee at AJDC, stated that rescuers did not generally agree to return the rescued children to Jewish organizations and that the recovery of the rescued children was marred by many difficulties.°* In some individual complicated cases, the rescuer, who had legal custody over a child, would agree to return the child only to one specified

member of the child’s Jewish family.

Official documents issued by the Ministry of Education, the main controlling body over all children’s institutions and organizations in the Polish state, confirm that not only private individuals but also state-run orphanages were involved in ‘battles over the children’. According to the directive of 2 July 1946 issued by the

Ministry of Education, state orphanages tended on occasions not to register the information about a child’s Jewish identity. Jewish children who were placed in these orphanages were registered only under their Polish (Christian) names and as Catholics. This made it extremely difficult for their relatives and Jewish organizations to trace them. The Ministry of Education considered these practices unacceptable and prohibited them. As a ministerial directive put it: The ministry wishes to inform that it is unacceptable to change the children’s religion even if the child himself/herself requests this change. Jewish children located in state orphanages need to be treated properly. The Jewish child has the right to its ethnicity and religion on equal terms with the Polish child. It is also unacceptable to change the names of Jewish children into Polish [spolszczenie] . . . In the records, both Jewish and Polish names of the children have to be registered.°*

Available information about the location of the child—not always easy to obtain because the rescuer sometimes changed his or her address—the attitudes of the judicial system and militia involved in disputes over children, and the level of emotional attachment between the child and the rescuer/foster-family were the decisive factors in the child’s successful return to his relatives or to Jewish organizations. From the point of view of the child, the aspect of emotional attachment was the 62 Letter of 2 Dec. 1947 of AJDC, signed by Jozef Gitler-Barski, AJDC, 1945-9, Collection Emigration (file no. 1889), ZIH. (This particular collection is in the process of being catalogued in Z1H.) The history of the relationship between children, rescuers, and the Jewish organizations still awaits historical research. 63 This was the case of the child Liwsza Fuchsberg. Her rescuer, Mr Grzegorczyk, agreed to return

her to Mina Fuchsberg, who had also been sheltered by him in the war and had already moved to Palestine. Grzegorczyk did not agree to return the child to her other aunt, Ida Fuchsberg, who at the time lived in Walbrzych in south-western Poland. See the letter of Komisja koordynacyjna do spraw dzieci zydowskich w Polsce (Coordinating committee in charge of matters concerning Jewish children in Poland) of 8 Oct. 1947, signed by Keilowa, AJDC 1945-9, child file no. 169, ZIH. 64 Directive issued by the Ministry of Education on 2 July 1946. CKZP, file no. 303/09/70 (signed by Z. Niemcowa), ZIH.

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 11g most important one. It played a salient role in his or her readiness to enter ‘the Jewish world’. When strong emotional ties between the child and his or her rescuers were present, and when the rescuer was the only close remaining person the child knew, the

child found it extremely difficult to leave. This situation is exemplified in children’s testimonies. The testimony of 3 April 1948 by Jurek Adin, born on 22 June 1933 in Warsaw, is just such an example. It speaks of his preference to stay in Poland in close contact with his private tutor from the pre-1939 period, the Polish woman who saved his life on many occasions during the war, to a reunion with unknown members of his Jewish family from the United States: I sometimes went to the Aryan side and many times wanted to remain there but no opportunities arrived. .. . I asked one boy to take me to my private tutor. I could not stay there because she worked as a nurse for the Germans and lived in a Krankenstube. She "placed me with her friend who was already hiding one Jewish boy called Borenstein. ... My tutor arranged for me to be taken home by Ms Adela. She told me to go to a particular shop at Belwederska Street from where I would be taken home by Ms Adela. Ms Adela arranged a Christian birth certificate for me and registered me as Marian Podbielski. My tutor paid from her pocket to buy my false birth certificate. I spent some time at Ms Adela’s home. She used to go to work in the morning and I was left on my own. In the summer of 1942, I went to a holiday place called Zielonka [a small place in the vicinity of Warsaw] and in August I returned to Warsaw. The priest who baptized me was very good to me and placed me in the children’s home of St Anthony in Swider. . . . I stayed there until 1945, when my tutor came and took me with her to Roszalin. Again I felt so good. My family was found in the United States. They asked my tutor many times to place me in a Jewish orphanage. I am supposed to leave for the United States, but I would rather stay in Poland.®

A similar personal drama is revealed in the testimony of Barbara Blecher, who was born on 13 August 1931. Before the war her family lived in Lviv (Lwow), where her father was a merchant. In the war, she lost her parents and three older sisters, but she herself was saved by her rescuers Mr and Mrs Bocian. In the aftermath of the liquidation of the Lviv ghetto, Mrs Bocian brought her to Warsaw, where she stayed with the Bocian family. During the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944, she was separated from her foster-family. At the end of the war, Barbara returned to Warsaw to find the Bocian family. She wished to remain with them. However, in the end she reconciled herself to the idea that she would depart for Palestine. According to the report based on an interview conducted with Barbara in the Jewish orphanage: She did not wish to leave Mr and Mrs Bocian and enrol in the Jewish children’s home. She - was convinced that she had a family and she wished to remain with them. However, the relationship between her and Mrs and Mr Bocian did not work out in the end. They did not have the means to provide her with an education. Therefore, as of this time, the girl has decided to leave for Palestine.®® 65 Testimony of Jurek Adin, CKZP, file no. 301/3695, ZIH. 66 Report about Barbara Blecher, ‘Historia dziecka’ (The History of the Child), CKZP, Wydzial Oswiaty, 303/09/188, ZTH.

120 JFoanna B. Michhic By contrast, when there was no strong emotional attachment between the chil-

dren and the rescuers, no presence of family-like ties, children were ready to depart with unfamiliar members of their Jewish families or unknown members of Jewish organizations specializing in the recovery of children. This was particularly common in cases when the rescuers had physically or emotionally abused the child. In her testimony of 2 February 1947, given in the Jewish orphanage in Krakow, Maria Straucher, born in Bochnia on 4 May 1938, describes how happy she was to be reunited with her mother’s sister, who found her in her rescuers’ home. What can be deciphered from her testimony is that her rescuers (opiekunomie) treated her more like a servant for carrying out various heavy tasks unsuitable for a child, rather than as a child who needed to be looked after. Furthermore, the rescuer Tadeusz Polowiec was a violent man. He physically abused his own baby and also Maria. Maria was also exposed to antisemitic verbal abuse at his place. Her testimony, which reveals a drastic case of abuse, lacks any expression of sorrow over

leaving her rescuers: :

Mr Polowiec appeared again and placed me with one young woman who had just given birth to a child. I washed nappies, cleaned the house, and brought water from the cellar. I worked very hard. All the neighbours knew how hard I worked and could not understand how I coped with all that work and the constant beatings. My rescuer, Mr Polowiec, married this woman. They very often beat me up. When he was angry, he even used to beat the little 8-month-old baby. Once the mother had to call for the doctor to assist with the baby’s wound caused by Mr Polowiec. Once in anger he kicked me so hard that I fell over and broke a bone in my face. I lost consciousness and they threw cold water over me. After a while, when I finally woke up, Mr Polowiec ordered me to clean the floor. I liked the baby very, very much. They constantly called me ‘Zydowica’ [negative term for a Jewish woman], but I did not know what this meant—no one explained it to me. Polowiec never called me by my first name, but only ‘you little beetle’ [ty bgku]. He never cuddled me. The first time I was cuddled and kissed was by my auntie whom I now call my mother. She found me at Polowiec’s house and came to visit me. She kissed me and began to cry. I did not know why she cried so much. She told me that she was my real aunt. The day she visited me I worked as usual and did not stop for a moment. Only in the evening, I slept with auntie, who spent the night with us. My aunt explained to me that she was the sister of my mother and that she finally found me after a long search in Bochnia. She promised to take me away to Krakow. I was not afraid of anything and immediately agreed to go with her. My rescuer asked me if I was going to file a complaint against him. Later they took me to a judge who asked me if I wanted to go with my aunt. I went with my aunt to Krakow where

she placed me in this Jewish orphanage. I have been here for the entire month since October. I call my aunt my mother and feel so happy here.®’

67 Testimony of Maria Straucher, CKZP, file no. 301/3292, ZIH (the interviewer Janina Mastowska signed the testimony).

Jewish Children’s Search for Identity 121 CONCLUSION The regaining of their Jewish identity on the part of many children was a complex process, neither smooth nor painless from the perspective of the child. The first phase of this process involved the departure from a non-Jewish environment and a first encounter with members of the Jewish community. The second phase involved moulding the child into a member of the Jewish community, also a complicated process, given the diversity of ideological positions and secular and religious divisions within the Jewish community in the post-war period. The first stage was the most crucial from the perspective of the child, whose wartime experiences had left him or her with a fear of the unknown, a sense of apprehension, and a strong need for security. Critical to this phase was information about the location of the child, the position taken by Polish courts, the attitudes of rescuers towards the rescued child, and the type and intensity of the relationship between the child and his or her rescuers. These two latter aspects were most important in terms of the child’s own willingness to enter the Jewish world. Under conditions of strong emotional ties between children and their rescuers, children found it extremely difficult to leave

their foster-parents for what appeared to them an unknown and strange Jewish world.

On the other hand, when children were exposed to physical or emotional abuse in the foster-home, they were eager to leave, even with unfamiliar members of their Jewish families or unknown members of Jewish organizations. For these children in particular, the Jewish orphanage would constitute home, the place in which they would find refuge and a sense of ‘normalcy’. This was the place that would also provide them with a positive image of Jewish identity. Many Jewish children who survived the war in Nazi-occupied Poland, but had lost contact with their families or whose families perished, emerged from the war with a confused sense of identity. Their perspective about belonging to any community was fragile, fluid, and easily modifiable.


Jewish Collaborators on Trial in Poland 1944-1956 GABRIEL N. FINDER and ALEXANDER V. PRUSIN DuRING the Second World War, the German military and civil administration in occupied Europe relied heavily on certain elements in local occupied populations— sympathizers, careerists, opportunists, pragmatists, and confused and terrorized people, not to mention antisemites—to advance German objectives. The character of a local population’s compromised relation with the German occupiers—the term ‘collaboration’ emerged only in the immediate aftermath of the war—varied from country to country and region to region, ranging from compliance and cooperation to collusion and complicity.! Post-war European governments, east and west alike, pursued headlong, though only briefly, policies of retributive justice, seeking to punish not only Germans who had wrought mayhem within their borders—if only they could lay their hands on them—but also their own countrymen whose behaviour was severely compromised by German occupation. Post-war retribution, in both east and west, purported to ‘cleanse’ or ‘purify’ European countries

of their ‘traitors to the nation’. The fairness of the proceedings in post-war national tribunals was uneven across Europe and even within given countries, depending quite often on the identity of a particular defendant in question and the date of the trial. The closer the proceedings to the end of the war, when emotions ran high, the less fair generally the trial. Post-war leaders, in particular but not only communists, often took advantage of this process to settle scores with and suppress actual and potential political opponents. Historians, let alone the innocent victims of political justice, have described and justifiably condemned the abuses of judicial retribution. Notwithstanding these abuses, not every proceeding in the post-war European national tribunals, even in communist countries, was contaminated. Each trial must be judged on its merits. “Those who were punished for good reason’, submits the pre-eminent historian Istvan Deak with the national tribunal in post1 See J. Gross, ‘Themes for a Social History of War Experience and Collaboration’, in I. Deak, J. T. Gross, and T: Judt (eds.), The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and tts Aftermath (Princeton, 2000), 15-35.

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 123 war communist Hungary in mind, ‘far outnumbered those who were punished unjustly.” To distinguish itself from countries with significant collaborationist movements from France and Norway in the west to Slovakia and Yugoslavia in the east, wartime Poland cultivated a durable stereotype of its defiant relation with the German occupier and, by the same token, its national rejection of collaboration. Under the terms of this stereotype, which burgeoned into a national myth in post-war Poland under communist rule, the Polish nation heroically resisted the German occupation, and

Polish resistance was spearheaded by the organized Polish underground army, which enjoyed active mass popular support. By extension, collaboration in Poland was deemed incompatible with the prevailing national sentiment and thus a remote and fringe phenomenon. Thus the slogan ‘Poland brought forth no Quisling’, born under German occupation, developed with celerity into an axiom of Polish national life. The national myth of wholesale Polish resistance to Nazism and absence of collaboration drove Polish post-war historiography. At most, Polish historians conceded instances of individual collaboration, while accentuating that Polish society was not susceptible to mass collaboration with the enemy.® Moreover, the Polish national myth posited that Poles took pains and ran a considerable risk in trying to

protect Polish Jews from the Nazis. It took Jan Gross’s account in 2000 of the Jedwabne massacre to lay bare the painful issue of collaboration and to demonstrate that Polish society did not lack individuals who eagerly participated in the murder of their Jewish neighbours.* To be sure, Hitler’s plans for Poland stipulated the complete destruction and dismemberment of the Polish state, the annihilation of the Polish intellectual and polit-

ical elite, and, in turn, the colonialization of the Polish population. Accordingly, Nazi policies were inclined to discourage, and for the most part effectively discouraged, potential collaboration even by radical groups, from the extreme right-wing antisemitic Oboz Narodowo-Radykalny (National Radical Camp) to the fascist Falanga to the anti-communist Narodowa Organizacja Radykalna (National Radical 2 I. Deak, introduction, ibid. 12. 3 A stalwart defender of this position is the respected Polish historian Czeslaw Madajczyk. See his ‘Kann man in Polen 1939—1945 von Kollaboration sprechen?’’, in Werner Rohr (ed.), Okkupation und

Kollaboration (1938-1945): Bettrage zu Konzepten und Praxis der Kollaboration in der deutschen Okkupationspohtik (Berlin and Heidelberg, 1994). References to the studies of other Polish historians who adopt this view can be consulted in K.-P. Friedrich, ‘Zusammenarbeit und Mittaterschaft in Polen 1939-1945’, in C. Dieckmann, B. Quinkert, and T: Tonsmeyer (eds.), Kooperation und Verbrechen: Formen der ‘Kollaboration’ im ostlichen Europa 1939-1945 = Beitrage zur Geschichte des Nationalsozitalismus, 19 (2003), 113-14. 4 J. T. Gross, Sgsiedzi: Historia zagtady zydowskiego miasteczka (Sejny, 2000), trans. into English as Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton, 2001). An excel-

lent introduction to the intense and controversial national debate unleashed in Poland by Gross’s book is A. Polonsky and J. B. Michlic (eds.), The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (Princeton and Oxford, 2004).

124 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin Organization). Yet if the idea of a Polish Quisling movement, even in its most embryonic form, did not materialize, the occupation did compromise the behaviour of certain Polish individuals and groups. In a memorandum drafted in Lisbon in July 1940, in the wake of Germany’s defeat of France, a group of influential Polish émigreés whose political orientation was authoritarian and anti-Soviet suggested that the Polish government-in-exile reach an accommodation with the Nazi regime.° There was participation in local civil administration and economic co-ordination

with the occupation authorities.° Polish scholars were employed by the Nazis’ Institute for German Research in the East (Institut fiir Deutsche Ostarbeit in German, Instytut Niemieckiey Pracy Wschodniej in Polish), and in this capacity

aided its pseudo-academic research in support of the occupation regime’s Germanization policy in the General Government.’ On another level, the Germans preserved certain Polish pre-war law enforcement agencies, including the State Police (Policja Panstwowa), often called the ‘Dark Blue Police’ (Policja Granatowa)

because of the colour of their uniforms, and the criminal police, and integrated them into their police system under occupation. Blue Police units guarded ghettos together with Germans and were assisted by the Jewish police force inside ghettos (Stuzba Porzadkowa in Polish, Ordnungsdienst in German, or Order Service). A significant number of Poles served in the local German police (Schutzmannschaft) in what had been the eastern territories of Poland, present-day Belarus and Ukraine, and killed Jews in German-directed operations.® Some right-wing groups such as Zwiazek Jaszczurczy (Lizard’s Union) and Miecz 1 Plug (Sword and Plough) worked with the Germans against the communist underground, while the Gestapo and the

SD employed a wide network of informants and agents who penetrated Polish - underground organizations. Finally, a number of Poles, inflamed by the antisemitic rhetoric of radical right-wing groups and encouraged by German occupation forces, plundered, attacked, and killed Jews.° ° See B. Wiaderny, ‘Nie chciana kolaboracja: Polscy politycy i nazistowskie Niemcy w lipcu 1940’, Leszyty AMistoryczne, 142 (2002), 131-40; for the debate provoked by this article and the author’s reply, see Zeszyty Historyczne, 143 (2003), 215-34.

6 See Friedrich, ‘Zusammenarbeit und Mittaterschaft’, 122—31. 7 See A. Rybicka, Instytut Niemieckiej Pracy Wschodniej: Krakéw, 1940-1945 (Warsaw, 2002), 139-54. The publication of this book provoked a heated debate on the definition of collaboration in the pages of the respected Catholic journal Tygodnik Powszechny; see the issues of 25 May 2003 (no. 21), 8 June 2003 (no. 23), and 6 July 2003 (no. 27), .

8 See M. Dean, ‘Poles in the German Local Police in Eastern Poland and their Role in the Holocaust’, Polin, 18 (2005), 353-66.

° See Friedrich, ‘Zusammenarbeit und Mittaterschaft’, 131-49. In the course of their investigation into the Jedwabne massacre, researchers from the Institute of National Memory (Instytut Pamieci Narodowej, IPN) identified the files of sixty-one additional trials from the Bialystok region alone of ninety-three Polish citizens accused under the Aug. 1944 decree of participating in killing local Jews; seventeen of the defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two and a half years to life and even to death. One death sentence was carried out; other convicted defendants received shorter prison terms. There may very well have been more such trials whose files are waiting to be discovered

Jewish Collaborators on Tnal 125 Poles validated their own national myth by contrasting their behaviour not only with the behaviour of the French, Norwegians, Slovaks, and others, but also with the behaviour of Polish Jews. If, according to this myth, all Poles heroically resisted the Nazis, the destruction of the Jews in Poland was not due to Polish attitudes but because Jews went like sheep to the slaughter. Sensitive to this claim, the post-war Jewish leadership—Zionists, communists, and Bundists—with the co-operation of Jewish writers and actors, cultivated a countervailing Jewish stereotype, ‘in part the product of dismay at the absence of large-scale resistance’, as Antony Polonsky and Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska put it, ‘that all Jews exhibited high moral standards in their darkest hour’.’° Jewish survivors and Jews returning to Poland from the Soviet Union demonstrated their solidarity and identification with this myth of Jewish valour by censuring, with the encouragement of post-war Jewish leaders, the questionable conduct of a small fraction of Jews from Jewish council (Judenrat) officials to Jewish policemen and Jewish kapos suspected of collaboration with the Nazi regime. Although Jewish collaboration with the Nazis is an extremely sensitive and vexing topic, largely because it defies a simple bifurcation into the categories of perpetrators and victims, many Jews in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust did not recoil from confronting it.

During the war, the Polish underground condemned and eliminated Polish collaborators and the Jewish underground, in turn, did the same to Jewish collaborators.1/ After liberation first the provisional and then the permanent Polish govern-

ment proceeded to try thousands of alleged collaborators on criminal charges in state courts. To be sure, a substantial number of these proceedings were patently show trials, designed by the Polish authorities to purge political opponents.'* But a fair share of the defendants in these trials were arguably bona fide collaborators by most reasonable standards, and the trials of such defendants must be judged on their merits. Among the thousands of trials of alleged Polish collaborators (and German in the archives. See P. Machcewicz, ‘Woko! Jedwabnego’, in P. Machcewicz and K. Persak (eds.), Wokot Fedwabnego (Warsaw, 2002), 1. 20-3. Jan T. Gross argues that in all these trials, including the Jedwabne trial, the murder of Jews ‘was often treated as a tangential matter, disposed of en passant, with the main accusation and investigation focusing on some other transgression’. J. T. Gross, ‘After Auschwitz: The Reality and Meaning of Post-War Antisemitism in Poland’, in J. Frankel and D. Diner (eds.), Dark Times, Dire Decisions: Jews and Communism = Studies in Contemporary Jewry: An Annual, 20 (New York, 2004), 211.

10 A. Polonsky and M. Adamczyk-Garbowska, introduction to Polonsky and Adamczyk-Garbowska (eds.), Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (Lincoln, Nebr. and London, 2001), p. xxvi; see also D. Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator? The Trials of Michal Weichert’, in S. Kapralski (ed.), The Fews in Poland, 2 vols. (Krakow, 1999), ii. 370.

‘1 On the efforts of the Polish underground in this respect, see Friedrich, ‘Zusammenarbeit und Mittaterschaft’, 121; on those of the Jewish underground in Warsaw, see I. Gutman, Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (Boston and New York, 1994), 155, 169-71.

12 See J. Micgiel, ‘“Bandits and Reactionaries”: The Suppression of the Opposition in Poland, 1944-1946’, in N. Naimark and L. Gibiansku (eds.), The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949 (Boulder, Colo., 1997).

126 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander Ve Prusin war criminals) in Polish state courts, some fifty Jews were tried for collaboration in Polish state courts. By the same token, with the approval of the Polish authorities, the Central Committee of Polish Jews (Centralny Komitet Zydéw w Polsce, CKZP), the representative body of post-war Polish Jewry in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, established a Jewish honour court or citizens’ tribunal (sgd spofeczny or sad obywatelski in Polish, gezelshafthkh gerikht or birger-gerikht in Yiddish) charged with investigating Polish Jews whose behaviour under Nazi occupation was called

into question, and with condemning and punishing those whose actions were deemed reproachable. ‘Twenty-five Jews eventually stood trial in the Jewish citizens’ tribunal on charges of collaboration. This essay examines and compares the prosecution of putative Jewish collaborators in Poland in Polish state courts and the Jewish citizens’ tribunal. As we shall

attempt to show, Polish courts and the Jewish tribunal respectively applied differ-

ent legal and moral standards when judging Jewish defendants accused of collaboration. Whereas Polish state courts, at least as far as Jewish defendants were concerned, hewed more or less to the conventional interpretation of penal liability, the yardstick used by the Jewish tribunal reflected a community standard, of recent vintage, of what constituted acceptable and, in turn, unacceptable behaviour by Jews under German occupation. Polish courts and the Jewish tribunal used differing criteria because what was at stake for the Polish authorities in the prosecution of alleged Jewish collaborators differed from what was at stake for Jewish leaders in post-war Poland.

POLISH TRIALS During the Second World War, both the Polish government-in-exile, based in

London, and the Soviet-sponsored communist-dominated Committee for National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PK WN) stressed the inevitability of punishment for German war criminals and their accomplices. Between September 1939 and July 1944 the Polish government-in-exile protested against crimes committed by the Germans in Poland, and in several declarations it announced its intentions to prosecute all individuals guilty of war crimes after the cessation of hostilities. On 17 December 1942 Poland joined the declaration of the Allied Nations on prosecuting German criminals guilty of the extermination of the Jews.!° With the end of the war in sight, on 31 August 1944 the PK WN issued a decree providing for the punishment of war criminals. (Trials held under the colour of this decree were dubbed the sterpniowki, the ‘August cases’, by Polish defendants.) The decree authorized Polish courts to prosecute and punish ‘anyone who, assisting the German occupation authorities, took part or 1s taking part in killing civilians or pris13-7. Gorynski, Zbrodnie wojenne: Szkic prawny (Jerusalem, 1944), 15-19, 22-3.

Jewstsh Collaborators on Trial 127 oners of war, mistreating them, or persecuting them’ or ‘acted or is acting to the detriment of individuals located in the territory of Poland, in particular by seizing or removing individuals sought or persecuted by the occupation authorities for any reason’. Both offences were punishable by death, and the plea of a superior order could not be considered a mitigating circumstance.'* (The decree was based primarily on

the 1932 Polish criminal code, which penalized the commission of high treason, espionage, provocation, and mistreatment of the Polish people, subjecting those convicted of these crimes to the death penalty. The decree was later amended to emulate the Nuremberg Charter.) To prosecute these offences, on 12 September 1944 the PK WN decreed the formation of special penal courts (sgdy specjalne karne),

which were directly subordinated to the chairman of the PKWN’s department of justice.'° One of the first trials conducted by a special penal court was held in October 1944 1n Lublin, where a kapo and five SS guards were sentenced to death for war crimes committed at the Majdanek concentration camp. In November 1946 the Polish provisional government abolished the special penal courts and authorized state district courts to assume all cases associated with war crimes.!®

On 22 January 1946 the PKWN established the Supreme National Tribunal (Najywyzszy ‘Trybunal Narodowy, NTN), which was designed to prosecute major Nazi war criminals and other individuals responsible for the defeat in September 1939 and the so-called ‘fascistization’ of the country. Although the Polish government intended to turn the NTN into a major instrument for the oppression of political opponents, in its two-year existence it heard only seven cases, in which all the

defendants were top Nazi officials and commandants of concentration camps. Among high Nazi functionaries who sat in the dock were Josef Buhler, the state sec-

retary of the General Government; Arthur Greiser, the governor of the western Polish territories that had been integrated into the ‘Third Reich; and Ludwig Fischer,

, the governor of the Warsaw district. The former commandants of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Hoss and Arthur Liebehenschel, and the commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp, Amon Goeth, were the most prominent defendants who were charged with direct supervision and implementation of the Nazi genocide. Since the NTN also functioned as the court of highest instance—parallel to the existing Supreme Court—1ts rulings set precedents for other Polish war crimes trials. 14 Dekret Polskiego Komitetu Wyzwolenia Narodowego z dnia 31 sierpnia 1944 r[oku] o wymiarze kary dla faszystowsko-hitlerowskich zbrodniarzy winnych zabojstw i zne¢cania sie nad ludnoscia ciwilna 1 jencami oraz dla zdrajcow Narodu Polskiego’, Dziennik Ustaw Rezeczypospolite; Polskie; (DzURP), Lublin, 13 Sept. 1944, no. 4, pp. 17-18. 1° Dekret Polskiego Komitetu Wyzwolenia Narodowego z dnia 12 wrzesnia 1944 r[oku] 0 specjalnych sadach karnych dla spraw zbrodniarzy faszystowsko-hitlerowskich’, Dz URP, Lublin, 13 Sept. 1944, no.

4, pp. 25-6. See also C. Pilichowski, ‘Slowo wstepne’, in id. (ed.), Ekspertyzy 1 orzeczenia przed Najwyzszym Trybunatem Narodowym (Warsaw, 1979), 1. 11-19.

16 L.. Kubicki, ‘Najwyzszy Trybunat Narodowy: Préba bilansu orzecznictwa’, in W czterdziestolecie powotama Najwyészego Trybunatu Narodowego: Materiaty z posiedzenia naukowego w dniu 20 stycznia 1986 r. (Warsaw, 1986), to—11; T. Cyprian, J. Sawicki, and M. Siewerski, Gtos ma prokurator (Warsaw,

1962), I-12.

128 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander Vi Prusin During the trial of Arthur Greiser, the NTN ruled that Germany’s violation of the Briand—Kellogg Pact of 1929 constituted an illegal act of aggressive war. Hence the German occupation of Poland was found illegal, and, as a result, all German defendants were tried for having participated in illegal activities. The NTN also expanded the scope of the criminal charges considered by the Nuremberg tribunal to include participating in selections at concentration camps, collecting and escorting victims to gas chambers, administering gas chambers and crematoria, and directing forced labour that led to the exhaustion and death of prisoners. Unlike the London Charter of 8 August 1945, which governed the proceedings at Nuremberg, the NT'N ruled out the plea of superior orders as a mitigating circumstance. *’

It is estimated that Polish courts sentenced about 20,000 individuals for war crimes between 1944 and 1985, although the number of cases under investigation may have reached 80,000. The bulk of the trials took place between 1944 and 1950, when the special penal courts and then the district courts convicted and sentenced 16,428 defendants. German nationals constituted about one-third of this number,

while the rest were either Polish citizens or residents tried for collaboration with the Germans. During the first decade after the war, all the defendants were tried under the Polish Criminal Code of 1932, which provided for punishment for common crimes from rape and murder to robbery and spoliation of property, as well as the decree of 31 August 1944.78 Close to 1,800 of these defendants were charged with crimes committed in concentration, labour, and death camps as well as in Jewish ghettos. The majority of the convicted were Germans—887 individuals—followed by 489 Volksdeutsche (of whom 198 came from Poland), 282 Poles, fifty-nine Ukrainians, and thirty representatives of other ethnic groups. At least forty-four defendants who stood trial

in Polish state courts on charges of collaboration were Jews. They were charged with assisting the Germans in the murder and mistreatment of their fellow Jews in ghettos and camps. Thirty of the Jewish defendants were convicted, with ten sentenced to death (two death sentences were commuted); ten were acquitted. +? 17 Kubicki, ‘Najwyzszy Trybunat Narodowy’, 10-14; M. R. Bombicki (ed.), Zbrodnie prawa: Wyroki sadéw wojskowych w latach 1944-1954, 2 vols. (Poznan, 1993), 1. 9; Pilichowski, ‘Sltowo wstepne’, 19-30; C. Pilichowski, ‘Udzial Polski w badaniu i Sciganiu zbrodni hitlerowskich’, in id. (ed.), Zbrodnie 1 sprawcy: Ludobojstwo hitlerowskie przed sadem ludzkosct 1 histori (Warsaw, 1980), 68-9.

18 E. Kobierska-Motas, ‘Sciganie sprawcow zbrodni hitlerowskich przez polski aparat wymiaru sprawiedliwosci w latach 1944-1950’, in W czterdziestolecte powotlania, 34-5.

19 E. Kobierska-Motas, ‘Cztonkowie zalég i wiezniowie funkcyjni niemieckich obozow, wiezien i gett skazani przez sady polskie’, unpublished manuscript, Warsaw, 1992. Kobierska-Motas identified the trials of twenty-nine Jews accused of collaboration in Polish state courts. For our part, we, with the assistance of Alina Skibinska of Warsaw, identified the trials of forty-four putative Jewish collaborators in the archives of the IPN in Warsaw. Even this figure may be low, since, given the large number of case files from the investigations and trials of all putative collaborators in the archives of the IPN, the

files of additional Jews suspected of collaboration may have escaped our attention. From what we know, however, it stands to reason that the total number of Jewish defendants charged with collaboration in Polish state courts between 1944 and 1956 did not exceed fifty.

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 129 JEWISH CO-OPERATION WITH JUDICIAL OFFICIALS In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War until the liquidation of independent Jewish political parties and institutions in 1949—50, Jewish leaders in Poland were inclined to co-operate with the Polish authorities. Although real control of the provisional government was in the hands of communists installed by — Moscow in 1944, it attracted many supporters, Poles and Jews alike, because it presented itself in 1944-6 as a popular front. After the communists had consolidated their hold on power in the elections of January 1947, not only Jewish communists, who had been primed in Moscow to assume leadership in the Jewish community after the war and were committed to the establishment of communism in Poland, but also the leaders of Zionist groups lent their support to the regime, the latter for

both ideological and pragmatic reasons. While left-wing Zionists saw in the communists political allies who would help them implement their programme of large-scale migration of Polish Jews to a democratic socialist state in Palestine, non-communist Zionist parties were allowed, after 1947 and until 1949, to moti-

vate Jewish youth and pave the way for mass Jewish emigration to Palestine. Zionist support for the communist regime translated into tangible benefits for the Jewish minority. The government guaranteed full political rights to the Jewish minority, sanctioned the creation of the CKZP, which became the principal representative body of Polish Jewry responsible for the welfare of the returning rem-

nant, permitted Jewish political parties to form, helped secure material aid, allowed the Joint Distribution Committee to function in Poland, consented to the large-scale repatriation of Jews from the USSR, condemned antisemitism, and turned a blind eye to the brihah, the clandestine Jewish emigration of more than 100,000 Jews organized by Zionists and emissaries from Palestine after the Kielce pogrom in July 1946. For its part, the new Polish government was interested in gaining the favour of the Jewish minority in the country, because survivors represented natural allies in the struggle with fascism and Jewish organizations around the world represented potential allies in the international sphere, where Poland was hoping to secure diplomatic and financial support.”° Co-operation between the Polish authorities and the post-war Jewish leadership found further expression in a meeting of minds on judicial punishment. A major

objective of the Central Jewish Historical Commission (Centralna Zydowska Komisja Historyczna, CZKH in Polish; Tsentrale Yidishe Historishe Komisye in Yiddish), supported by the CKZP to document the fate of Polish Jewry under German occupation, was to help bring German war criminals to justice. In the first issue of Dos naye lebn, the Yiddish-language organ of the CKZP, Philip Friedman, 20 See N. Aleksiun, “The Vicious Circle: Jews in Communist Poland, 1944—1956’, in E. Mendelsohn (ed.), Jews and the State: Dangerous Alhances and the Perils of Privilege = Studies in Contemporary Jewry: An Annual, tg (New York, 2003), 162-5.

130 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander . Prusin the CZKH’s first director, counselled the survivors to ‘take revenge’ by demanding the trials of the murderers and urged them to discharge their ‘historical duty’ in

part by providing testimony for possible use in judicial proceedings.7) As Noé Gruss, who joined the CZKH in its infancy in December 1944, put it: We launched an enterprise [to disseminate] knowledge [of what happened] not merely for [the sake of] knowledge but [in the interest of erecting] a memorial [whose foundation is] knowledge to our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. We wanted to immortalize the memory of our annihilated parents, brothers and children, our fallen heroes. We wished to unmask Nazism, racism, and antisemitism and challenge [them] to a fight and [demand]

just punishment for the crimes committed. This was the credo of the creators and coworkers of the CZKH, a credo that gave us strength in our work.22

The CZKH actively assisted the Polish judicial authorities and the Polish Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes (Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce), supervised by the ministry of justice, 1n investigating and prosecuting German war criminals. Friedman was appointed to the commission, and representatives of the CZKH were part of two delegations sent in 1945 by the commission to investigate Chelmno (Kulmhof) and Treblinka, where the Nazis killed approximately 300,000 and 870,000 Jews respectively. The first issue of the commission’s annual journal Biuletyn Glowne; Komisji Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce, published in 1946, included articles on Chelmno and Treblinka, written as a result of the official visits to those former camps, as well as an article by Friedman on the destruction of Polish Jewry. Historians from the

CZKH prepared reports for the Polish delegation to the Nuremberg Trial and the prosecution before the NTN in several trials, including the trial of Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz, who was executed for his crimes in 1947.”°

Yet the CZKH’s co-operation with Polish judicial authorities in prosecuting German war criminals did not always satisfy all its members. In particular, Polish insistence on subsuming the Germans’ oppression and annihilation of Polish Jewry under their persecution and intended destruction of the entire ‘Polish nation’ upset the majority of the CZKH’s staff, not to mention many Jewish leaders and the average Jewish man and woman on the street. The government’s attitude was reflected in Polish drafts of the indictment prepared in 1945 by the Polish Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes for the Polish delega21 F Friedman, ‘Undzer historishe oyfgabe’, Dos naye lebn, 10 Apr. 1945, p. 6. 22 N\. Griiss, Rok pracy Centralnej Zydowskiej Komisji Historycznej (L6dZ, 1946), 10.

, 23 Ibid. 20-2. The CZKH’s reports for the NTN are available in Pilichowski (ed.), Ekspertyzy 1 orzeczenia, vol. viii. See also N. Aleksiun, ‘Organizing for Justice: Jewish Leadership in Poland and the

Trial of Nazi War Criminals in Nuremberg’, in J.-D. Steinert and I. Weber-Newth (eds), Beyond Camps and Forced Labour: Current International Research on Survivors of Nazi Persecution—6o0 Years On (Osnabriick, forthcoming); M. C. Steinlauf, ‘Poland’, in D. S. Wyman (ed.), The World Reacts to the

Holocaust (Baltimore and London, 1996), 110. |

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 131 tion to the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg. It is clear that the commission and the delegation were mindful of calling the IMT’s attention to the persecution and murder of Poland’s Jews.** Yet despite that fact that the CZKH had co-operated with the commission in preparing materials for the IMT, especially in collecting documentation, the commission ignored changes Friedman proposed to the draft of the indictment that would have underscored the specific

fate of Jews in Poland.?° However, in the interest of fairness it must be stated that, although in the international arena the official Polish attitude resembled the IMT’s approach to Jewish suffering—which received marginal treatment at the Nuremberg Trial—in Poland several German defendants were specifically charged with the mass murder of Jews. The NTN defined the activities of Amon Goeth at Plaszow, the concentration and labour camp on the outskirts of Krakow where thousands of Jews were murdered, as ‘genocide’ (/udobojstwo) and sentenced Jiirgen Stroop to death for the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw.”°

For its part, the CKZP’s legal department (Wydziat Prawny) assisted Polish judicial authorities in investigating and prosecuting not only Germans but also Polish collaborators accused of persecuting and killing Jews. According to Alina Cala, the CKZP’s lawyers occasionally intimidated witnesses or manipulated an investigation in their zeal to incriminate Polish defendants, while the acquittal of putative collaborators targeted by the CKZP’s lawyers served to intensify antisemitic sentiments.2” So, on occasion, did the co-operation and testimony of Jewish survivors. In one case of a German gendarme claiming Polish roots who was accused of killing Jews in the Sandomierz ghetto, survivors summoned to testify for the prosecution felt isolated by the local Polish population’s support for the

defendant and hostility when they incriminated him in court. Townspeople rejoiced when the defendant received a sentence of only three years in prison with two deducted for time already spent in incarceration while awaiting trial.2° And at the request of the Central Special Commission (Centralna Komisja Specjyalna,

, CKS), which Zionists in the CKZP formed after the Kielce massacre in July 1946 for the purpose of Jewish self-defence, local Jewish committees compiled extensive 24 M. Motas, ‘Delegacja polska w Norymberdze 1945-1946 (1947), Pamigé i sprawiedliwos: Buletyn Gtéwneg Komisji Badania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu—Instytut Pamiget Narodowe], 40 (1997-8), 68, 77. 25 Aleksiun, ‘Organizing for Justice’.

26 N. Blumental et al. (eds.), Proces ludobéjcy Amona Leopolda Goetha przed Najwyzszym Trybunatem Narodowym (Warsaw, 1947), 11; Proces Jurgena Stroopa (Trial of Jiirgen Stroop), 1951-5,

Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce, Warsaw (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives, Washington, DC [USHMM], Accession No. 1998.A.0255, reel 1, p. 2). 27 A. Cala, ‘Mniejszosé zydowska’, in P. Madajczyk (ed.), Mniejszosci narodowe w Polsce: Panstwo 1 spoteczenstwo polskie a mniejszosci narodowe w okresach przetomow politycznych (1944-1989) (Warsaw, 1998), 259—60.

28 Et ezekerah: sefer kehilat tsoizmir (Sandomierz), ed. E.. Feldenkreiz-Grinbal (Tel Aviv, 1993), 457, 459.

132 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin lists of Poles who collaborated with the Germans in persecuting Jews.?? These denunciations were not, strictly speaking, essential to self-defence and probably represented a measure of revenge for Polish antisemitism during and after the war.

Of course, not only prosecutors but also the Public Security Office (Urzad Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego, UBP), the repressive state security apparatus, would have been interested in many of these cases.°° Nor did the CKZP recoil from co-operating with the Polish judicial authorities to prosecute alleged Jewish collaborators, for whom most Jewish leaders, not to mention a fair share of survivors from what remained after the war of ‘the Jewish street’, felt deep antipathy. To this end, the CKZP and its regional offices, both on

their own initiative and in response to official requests, frequently conveyed information on putative Jewish collaborators to state prosecutors and provided Jewish witnesses for the prosecution.*! By the same token, after the CKZP’s establishment of its own citizens’ tribunal in 1946, the latter received assistance from Polish prosecutors in its own proceedings.®* And the Jewish tribunal would transfer cases of Jewish collaborators to state courts when their alleged offences seemed to be in violation of penal law and thus exceeded the jurisdiction of the tribunal. The degree of co-operation between the CKZP and Polish judicial officials was especially close and intense in the case of Michal Weichert. Weichert, a pre-war Yiddish theatrical director and public intellectual accused of conspiring with the Germans, was the most prominent Jew to be charged after the war with collaboration by the Polish authorities. He was accused of helping the German occupying forces deceive world public opinion and expropriate supplies intended for Jews for their own use by agreeing to direct relief efforts under the auspices of the Jewish Aid Office (Judische Unterstutzungstelle, JUS) for Jews in Krakow, under close German supervision—even after the overwhelming majority of the city’s Jewish population had been liquidated. The Polish authorities indicted him not only on 29 See e.g. correspondence between local Jewish committees in the Krakéw region and the office of the Special Commission in the regional office of Krakow’s Jewish committee in [Powiatowy Komitet Zydowski w Nowym Saczu]| to Wojewodzki Komitet Zydowski w Krakowie, 10 Jan. 1947, Archiwum Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Warsaw (AZIH), 303/XVIII/16, fo. 89; Komitet Zydowski w Mielcu to Wojewodzki Komitet Zydowski w Krakowie, no date [1946 or 1947], AZIH, 303/X VIII/ 16, fos. 103-5 (= USHMM, RG 15.087M, reel 1). 30 See J. Gross, ‘Stereotypes of Polish—Jewish Relations after the War: The Special Commission of the Central Committee of Polish Jews’, in Polin, 13 (2000), 203-5.

31 See e.g. Wojew6dzki Komitet Zydowski w Bialymstoku to Prokurator Sadu Specialnego w Bialymstoku, 18 Oct. 1945 [signed by Szymon Datner], IPN, Specjalny Sad Karny Warszawa w Lodzi

(SSKW-L) 317, Samuel Weintraub [Wajntraub] file, fos. 13-14; Prokurator Sadu Okregowego w Wadowicach to Sad Obywatelski przy CKZP, 4 May 1948, IPN, Sad Okregowy Plocku (SOP) 246, Henryk Klayman file, fo. 181.

32 See e.g. Arnold Gubiriski to Obywatel Prokurator Sadu Okregowego w Wadowicach, 22 May 1948, IPN, SOP! 246, Henryk Klajman file, fos. 182-97. Gubinski, a Jew, was the official in charge of the division in the Ministry of Justice assigned to pursue individuals suspected of collaboration with the Nazis.

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 133 charges of collaboration with the Germans ‘to the detriment of the interests of the Polish state’, but also of disobeying orders issued by the ‘supreme Jewish underground organization’, the Jewish Fighting Organization (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, ZOB), to desist from assisting the Germans by liquidating the JUS.*8 Indeed, Weichert’s main detractors were post-war Jewish leaders in the CKZP who had been active in the Jewish underground, including Yitzhak Zuckerman, the leader of the ZOB after the Warsaw ghetto uprising (testifying under his alias Stanislaw Bagniewski), and Adolf Berman, a leftist Zionist who became chairman of the CKZP.*4 They and other members of the post-war Jewish leadership testified against Weichert at his trial in 1945 in a special penal court in Krakow. To the chagrin of Jewish leaders, the court acquitted Weichert in January 1946. The prosecution’s appeal of the verdict, like the original indictment, emphasized Weichert’s refusal to obey the ‘Jewish supreme underground authorities’ in spite of the fact that he ‘was obliged to conform to their instructions’.®° Nevertheless, the

acquittal was upheld on appeal. As David Engel explains, the trial court and the appellate court were disinclined to accept the prosecution’s argument that Weichert’s refusal to obey the instructions of the Jewish underground was a ground for conviction because the underground’s claim to be the only legitimate authority of all Polish Jews ‘rested primarily upon its connection to the underground delegacy of the London-based Polish government-in-exile—a regime which the authorities in post-war Poland had disavowed’.*° Thus the large degree of judicial co-operation between Jewish leaders and Polish authorities was not limitless. If until 1946 the CKZP was content to allow the Polish judicial system to try alleged Jewish collabor-

ators, it was, as Engel argues, Weichert’s acquittal that prompted its leaders to 33 Quoted in Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 358. The original indictment (akt oskarzenia), dated 1 Oct. 1945, which was issued by the prosecutor attached to the special penal court in Krakow, can be consulted in IPN, Sad Specjalny Karny w Krakowie (SSKKr) 240, Michal Weichert file, fos. 138-9. A copy of the indictment is available in the archival collection of the citizens’ tribunal of the Central Committee of Polish Jews (Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP), AZIH 313/137, Michat Weichert file, fos. 16-17 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 7). 34 Although the ZOB, with Zuckerman’s backing, ordered Weichert’s assassination in 1944 (to no avail), Zuckerman, in his memoir, claims that he testified at Weichert’s trial in state court only because he was subpoenaed and threatened with contempt of court if he failed to appear. He adds that he was opposed to the trial in principle. “To his dying day, he [Weichert] didn’t know’, Zuckerman asserts, ‘that I was against the trial, since I was opposed to trials against Jews in Poland after the war. Not for opportunistic reasons, but because the Poles murdered us there morning and night and antisemitism flourished. True, the members of the Polish government weren’t antisemites; but the trial raised all kinds of episodes which didn’t have to be brought up.’ Yitzhak Zuckerman (‘Antek’), 4 Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, trans. and ed. B. Harshav (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford, 1993), 452. 35 Quoted in Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 360. For the original appeal to the NTN, see IPN, SSKKr 240, Michal Weichert file, fos. 260—4. A copy of the appeal can be consulted in Sad Spoleczny

przy CKZP, AZIH 313/137, Michal Weichert file, fos. 50-3 (= USHMM, Accession No.

1996.A.0223, reel 7). 36 Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 361.

134 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin reassess their policy to leave punishment of Jewish collaborators to the Polish legal system and to initiate the establishment of a Jewish tribunal.°’

JEWISH COLLABORATORS IN POLISH COURTS While the trials of high-profile German war criminals were conducted according to international and internal judicial norms, those of alleged local collaborators were often accelerated and abbreviated. Given the magnitude of the destruction

wrought upon Poland by Nazi aggression, a broad swath of Polish society, in agreement with the authorities, wanted to see their own ‘traitors to the nation’ punished. In addition, communists were eager to use trials of collaborators to suppress political opposition and establish their authority. The August 1944 decree allowed prosecutors to issue an indictment a mere forty-eight hours before trial, thus severely limiting a defendant’s ability to defend himself, and authorized the special penal courts to base their sentences entirely on eyewitness testimony; in practice, documentary evidence was a rarity.°° But while the Polish authorities and the UBP were eager to place both bona fide collaborators and political opponents in the dock, allegations of collaboration by Jews were always initiated by complaints from either Jewish individuals, especially former ghetto inhabitants and camp inmates, or Jewish institutions—most often the CKZP and sometimes in the name of the former ZOB by its wartime leaders.®9 Most of the Jewish defendants in Polish courts were accused of collaborating with the Germans in their mistreatment of fellow Jews. Like all other defendants

charged under the August 1944 decree, if found guilty they were subject to the death penalty or prison terms of various lengths. But if the verdicts and their attached opinions, which provided the grounds for the ruling and sentence, are any guide, pressure from above, in comparison with highly politicized trials of alleged

and real anti-communists, does not seem to have affected judges’ decisions in ‘Jewish’ cases. Instead, the verdicts in these trials seem to have been driven by the facts of the case. A couple of examples from trials in Polish courts of putative Jewish collaborators

may illustrate these points. After surviving inmates from Plaszow had identified 37 Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 361.

38 Dekret Polskiego Komitetu Wyzwolenia Narodowego z dnia 31 sierpnia 1944 r[oku]’, 17-18; ‘Dekret Polskiego Komitetu Wyzwolenia Narodowego z dnia 12 wrzesnia 1944 r[oku]’, 25-6. See also Article 8 of the ‘Charter of the International Military Tribunal’, in Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10 (Washington, DC, 1951), xvi. 12. 3° See e.g. the letter from Bajla Engel-Dtuznonska to Jewish Committee in Wloctawek, no date [ Jan.

1949], IPN, Sad Okregowy w Toruniu-Wloclawek (SOT-W), 148, Henryk Gnat file, fos. 41-2; the statement of Eugeniusz Owczarek to police, 22 Feb. 1945, IPN, SSK W-L 1200a, Pinkus Grynszpan file, fo. 1; the letter of Dawid Kestenbaum to police (militia) headquarters in Lublin, IPN, Specjalny Sad Karny w Lublinie (SSKL) 226, Maks Heimberg file, fo. 2; the statement of Chana Kornblit to police, 26 June 1954, IPN, Sad Wojew6dzki w Katowicach (SWKt) 194, Chana Lender file, fo. 1.

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 135 Leon Gross, a physician, as an active participant in the selection process and accused him of administering lethal injections, he was put on trial from June to August 1946. Before trial Gross admitted that he had been appointed to his position by the camp commandant, SS-Hauptsturmfthrer Amon Goeth, and that, although he had indeed helped select emaciated and sick inmates to be killed, in his position he had no choice. On the other hand, Gross told the court that he had frequently helped sick and infirm

inmates by taking their names off the selection lists.4° Several former Plaszow inmates made pre-trial statements on Gross’s behalf. Tadeusz Aptowin recalled that Gross had managed to obtain for him and his 9-year-old son jobs in a camp workshop, where they were able to survive the war.*! Another witness asserted that, during a typhus epidemic in the camp in 1943, the defendant had lied to the camp authorities

and thus saved the entire population of the camp. If Gross had admitted to the existence of the epidemic, the SS would have burnt the camp to the ground, killing all the inmates.*? Another inmate, Josef Gertner, however, accused Gross of having accepted bribes in exchange for prisoners’ lives and given lethal injections to those who had been unable to pay. Since he had occupied the highest position a Jew could attain in the camp hierarchy, several former German camp officials were called to testify in court. The most unusual testimony came from Amon Goeth himself, who on 12 August 1946 told the court that Gross could not have participated in selections because he was Jewish. Only the SS exercised such powers. Goeth added, however, that Gross ‘had cared about the inmates’ and had tried to expand hospital facilities and obtain medications for the benefit of inmates.** Given his notoriety and former degree of authority, the testimony of Goeth, who was later hanged for his own crimes at Plaszow, actually undermined Gross’s claims that he had been merely a small cog in the camp’s deadly machinery. The court found Gross guilty of collaboration and sentenced him to death. He was executed on 22 December 1946.** In August 1947, Mendel Griinszpan stood trial in the district court in Rzeszow accused of having beaten fellow Jewish inmates while serving as a foreman at a labour camp in Rzeszow. Jewish eyewitnesses for the prosecution testified that Griinszpan had manhandled inmates who had been unable to maintain the pace of work. ‘hey added that he had reported prisoners’ transgressions to the Gestapo,

which in return for his denunciations of them allowed him to appropriate their food rations and garments for himself.4° Five former Polish inmates of the camp called by the defence painted a vastly different picture of the defendant. According 40 Pre-trial investigation, 2 June 1945, IPN, SSKKr 518, Leon Gross file, fo. 1. 41 Pre-trial investigation, 22 May 1945, IPN, SSKKr 517, Leon Gross file, fos. 3-4; see also 12-13. *2 Pre-trial investigation, 2 June 1945, IPN, SSKKr 518, Leon Gross file, fos. 5—6. 43 Proceedings, 12 Aug. 1946, ibid., fos. 294-6.

44 Verdict, 26 Aug. 1946, IPN, ibid., fos. 311, 325; Gross’s appeal, no date, and the president’s refusal to grant a pardon, 7 Oct. 1946, ibid., fos. 362-3.

45 Pre-trial investigation, 6 July 1945, IPN, Sad Okregowy w Rzeszowie (SOR) 20, Mendel Grunszpan file, fos. 1-2.

136 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander Vi Prusin to their testimony, Griinszpan had never mistreated anyone but had, on the contrary, assigned sick prisoners less strenuous work and passed radio news to his fellow inmates—which in itself could have cost him his life had he been reported. The court viewed the competing assertions of prosecution and defence witnesses alike with scepticism. While it disregarded the testimony of the Polish witnesses as ‘biased in favour of the defendant’, it viewed the allegation that he had collaborated with the Gestapo as ‘lacking evidence’. On 29 August 1947 the court convicted Griinszpan for having beaten his fellow inmates but sentenced him to only

one year in prison. Since his pre-trial detention was counted as time served, Griinszpan was released in September of the same year.*© As far as one can tell from the available evidence, gender does not appear to have been a variable in court decisions. Chana (Hanna) Lender, a fudenalteste (Jewish

elder) in the labour camp at Parschnitz (Polish Parszowice) in the Sudetenland, was indicted in 1954 for the mistreatment and selection of inmates to be transported to Auschwitz.*” Witnesses testified that the SS had appointed Lender because she was fluent in German and had performed her duty with such zeal that on one occasion the Lagerfihrer allegedly reprimanded her for being unnecessarily

harsh. Lender’s willingness to co-operate with the Germans earned her special privileges, including separate living accommodations and larger food rations.*® At

her trial in February 1955, Lender denied the allegations. Her job, she told the court, had been to organize work details and to ensure that the barracks were clean.

While she admitted that she had been required to report cases of illness to the Lagerfthrer, it had been the sole prerogative of the SS to select prisoners for transports.4? Lender’s attorney called on two defence witnesses who corroborated her testimony. Nevertheless, on 5 April 1955, Lender was found guilty of collaboration with the Germans, although the charge of ‘assisting in selections for transports’ was dropped. Lender was sentenced to prison for five years. She appealed the sentence, and inexplicably the Supreme Court increased the term to eight years for having beaten a Hungarian Jewish woman, who died soon after the incident. (The court, however, could not prove the direct cause of death.) Because of poor health and good behaviour in prison, Lender was released on parole in January 1958, after serving less than three years of her sentence.°°

THE JEWISH CITIZENS’ TRIBUNAL In the language of the CKZP’s second annual report, the aim of its citizens’ tribunal was ‘cleansing Jewish society of people who for one reason or another collabo46 Verdict, 29 Aug. 1947, IPN, SOR 20, Mendel Griinszpan file, fo. 43. 47 Tndictment, 26 June 1954, IPN, SWKt 194, file of Chana Lender, fo. 113.

48 Proceedings, 28 Feb. 1955, ibid., fos. 2-5. 49 Proceedings, ibid., fos. 3-4. °° Verdict, 4 Apr. 1955, ibid., fo. 270; notification of Lender’s release, 4 Jan. 1958, ibid., no page

number. |

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 137 rated with the Nazi authorities during the occupation’ and ‘unmasking traitors to the Jewish nation, who have tens and hundreds of victims on their conscience and still pass or want to pass for respectable people, or want to play a certain role in the life of our society’.°* The tribunal’s charter authorized it to determine ‘whether during the occupation a member of the [Jewish] community behaved in a manner befitting a Jewish citizen’. Punishment of defendants convicted under the terms of the charter included censure in the Jewish press, ineligibility for material assistance, disqualification from occupying leadership roles in the Polish Jewish community for a period of up to three years, and, in extremely grievous instances, banishment from the Jewish community.°? In effect, the charter codified an openended moral obligation, to be distinguished from a penal standard, under which a broad range of behaviours was liable to censure. The language of Weichert’s indictment in the CKZP’s citizens’ tribunal epitomizes the moral yardstick by which defendants standing trial in the citizens’ tribunal were to be judged. The CKZP’s lawyer who drafted the indictment urged the tribunal not to regard Weichert’s acquittal in the state’s special penal court as an ‘obstacle’ because the standard applied there had been whether there had been a ‘violation by

the defendant of legal regulations, namely the commission of a crime’ under the PKWN’s decree of 31 August 1944. By contrast, the lawyer argued, the standard to be applied in the citizens’ tribunal was ‘merely ethical, that is, the behaviour by the defendant in a manner not befitting a Jewish citizen’.°® Although the tribunal’s decisions were not legally binding in a strict sense, they carried great moral weight, and they were honoured by the Polish government.

The number of Jews suspected by the Jewish committee was small but not insignificant. The Central Jewish Historical Commission looked into allegations of collaboration by Jews and compiled a list of a couple of thousand suspected collaborators.°* The lawyers from the Jewish committee opened 175 files against suspected collaborators. Of the twenty-five alleged collaborators who ultimately stood trial in the tribunal, eighteen were convicted and seven acquitted. Of significance is the fact that upon motions of the Jewish committee’s lawyers, the tribunal dismissed some

fifty cases on the grounds that there was insufficient incriminating evidence to 51 Sprawozdanie z 2-letniej dzialalnosci C.K.Z.P., prepared by J. Lazebnik, no date [1947], Archiwum Akt Nowych, Warsaw (AAN), PPR 295/IX/408, fo. 61 (Polish version); Barikht-referat vegn tsvey yor tetikeyt fun Tsentral-Komitet fun di Yidn in Poyln, prepared by Y. Lazebnik, no date [1947], AZIH, 303/1/27, fos. 12-13 (Yiddish version) (= USHMM, RG 15.088M, reel 4). 52 Regulamin Sadu przy Centralnym Komitecie Zydow Polskich, adopted by the Presidium of the CKZP on 12 Sept. 1948, AZIH, 303/1/3, fo. 120 (= USHMM, RG 15.088M, reel 1). The document _ isalso available at AZITH, 313/150, fo. 8 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 8). 53 Indictment, no date [Nov. 1949], Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/137, Michat Weichert

file, fo. 380 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 7); quoted in Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 368-9 (our translation varies slightly from Engel’s). 54 The CZKH’s undated lists of putative Jewish collaborators are available at AZIH, 313/152 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 9).

138 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander Ve Prusin proceed to trial. It 1s thus fair to say that the tribunal was not a kangaroo court and that it operated with a significant degree of fairness and integrity. Defendants who stood trial in the tribunal were accused of co-operating with

the Germans in various capacities. They were accused of having served in a Judenrat, in a ghetto police force, or in camps as kapos. But the tribunal did not consider membership in a Judenrat, the Jewish police, or the ranks of kapos culpable per se. It mattered what a defendant actually did under occupation. Many of the defendants were well-known figures in the pre-war Jewish community. In November 1946, Sheps! Rotholc (1913-96), a celebrated Jewish boxer in the 1930s, was the first defendant to stand trial in the tribunal. His trial riveted the attention of the community not only because it was the first conducted by the tribunal but also because his phenomenal success in the boxing ring had been a tremendous source of Jewish pride on the street. Under the occupation Rotholc had served with the Jewish police in the Warsaw ghetto until the beginning of 1943. He had exploited his service in the ranks of the ghetto police to offer protection to Jewish smugglers from meddlesome German and Polish sentries in exchange for a generous cut of their proceeds. After the war several survivors accused him of beating them. By Rotholc’s own account, while he profited from his service in the Jewish police to provide for his family, he never mistreated fellow Jews and even managed to take advantage of his uniform to rescue a couple of relatives and friends from deportation and to smuggle them over to the Aryan side. The tribunal convicted Rotholc. It condemned his service in the Jewish police, which in its opinion was a contemptible organization, but it did not convict him for his service in the Jewish police per se. In the final analysis, the reason for his conviction was his continued service in its ranks after the Germans had concluded the first wave of deportations from Warsaw in September 1942, by which time the Germans’ true intentions not to resettle but systematically to murder the Jews of Poland had become transparent. In enumerating the aggravating circumstances in the case, the tribunal unfavourably contrasted Rotholc’s

behaviour with that of his fellow Jewish sportsmen; whereas he went to the Jewish police, they followed a different path.®° Although the tribunal did not say explicitly what that path was, the implication was clear: the armed Jewish underground. The Rotholc trial thus consolidated the standard by which most future defendants would be judged. This standard was deontological—that 1s, after 22 July 1942, the day on which the Germans began their sweep and first massive deportation from the Warsaw ghetto, the only legitimate authority in the Jewish community under siege was the Jewish underground and all Jews were morally obligated to obey its orders. To comport oneself in a manner befitting a Jewish citizen required °° For an extensive analysis of Rotholc’s trial in the citizens’ tribunal, see Gabriel N. Finder, ‘The Trial of Shepsl Rotholc and the Politics of Retribution after the Holocaust’, Gal-Ed: On the History and Culture of Polish Jewry, 20 (2006), 63-89 (English section).

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 139 Jews to obey this highest Jewish authority in the country with no right after this fateful date to repudiate it.

DEFENDANTS IN BOTH COURTS To the best of our knowledge, five putative Jewish collaborators—Klajman, Gnat, Kon, Widawski, and Weichert—stood trial on charges of collaboration in both a Polish state court and the Jewish citizens’ tribunal. Klajman and Gnat were convicted in both; Kon, Widawski, and Weichert were acquitted in a Polish court but convicted in the Jewish tribunal.°© A comparison of the verdicts in the trials of these defendants is instructive, for it highlights rather different approaches to the vexing issue of Jewish collaboration. In June 1948 the CKZP’s lawyers, on the basis of several witness statements, indicted Henoch (Henryk, Chaim) Klajman on charges of violating the citizens’ tribunal’s charter. According to the indictment, Klayman had served from 1940 to 1942 in the Jewish police in the ghetto of his home town of Plonsk, and in this capacity he had mistreated fellow Jews and had been, moreover, a confidant of the German authorities, divulging the whereabouts of hidden Jews. Furthermore, from 1942 to 1945 he had been a kapo in Auschwitz and then Stutthof, mistreating his fellow prisoners by severely beating them.°’ His trial in the tribunal took place on 11-12 June 1948. In his defence Klajman testified that he had never served in the Jewish police. He added that at Auschwitz he had been inducted into the camp’s underground and had helped other prisoners escape and hide. He had stepped into the role of kapo in °6 The Jewish citizens’ tribunal notified Polish judicial authorities of a dozen or so defendants investigated and indicted by the Jewish committee’s lawyers but whose offences the lawyers found penal in character and, therefore, beyond the tribunal’s limited administrative jurisdiction. Several of these suspects eventually stood trial in Polish state courts. An unusual case was that of Szymon Tob. In Jan. 1946 he stood trial in the district court for collaborating with the Germans in the ghetto of Miedzyrzec Podlaski in the Siedlce district. According to eyewitnesses, he denounced his fellow Jews to the Gestapo and participated in the liquidation of the ghetto, leading gendarmes to Jewish hideouts. The majority of Siedlce’s Jews perished in death camps. He vehemently denied all the accusations and accused the witnesses of scheming to eliminate him from competition in local trade. Forty-two Jews signed a petition on Tob’s behalf, stating that he was ‘decisively against the Germans’ and that he enjoyed the trust of his countrymen. The police in Miedzyrzec Podlaski, moreover, characterized him as a loyal citizen. Before the court reached its verdict, in Feb. 1946 unknown assailants attacked the police station where Tob was detained and kidnapped him along with three policemen. The trial resumed in July 1946 and Tob was tried in absentia. No verdict was reached at the time, but in Jan. 1949 the same court, disregarding the testimonies of defence witnesses, convicted Tob and sentenced him to death based exclusively on the statements proffered by Tob’s accusers. The verdict from g Apr. 1949 is in IPN, Sad Okregowy w Siedlcach-Biala Podlaska (SOS-BP) 15, fo. 59. The CKZP’s lawyers were also interested in Tob, but they had to move the citizens’ tribunal to suspend his case when they discovered that he had apparently fled to the United States. 57 Indictment, no date, Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/57, Henoch Klajnman (sic) file, fo. 20 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 3).

140 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin Auschwitz at the suggestion of the underground and post-war premier Cyrankiewicz, who had himself been a prisoner at Auschwitz, after the current kapo had been sent to another part of the camp, and his duties were restricted to distributing rations to fellow prisoners. Moreover, his kapo status had not protected him when

he ran foul of the German authorities in the camp. He had not been a kapo at Stutthof. (From there he was transferred to Gdansk, but he escaped to a unit of the

Red Army. He was demobilized in July 1945 and returned to his home town of Plonsk.) A dozen witnesses, however, painted a radically different picture of Klajman’s actions under occupation. They testified that he had served in the ghetto police in Plonsk, had denounced Jews in hiding to the German authorities, and had beaten Jews in the ghetto. At Auschwitz he had been so brutal to his fellow inmates that he had earned the nickname ‘Chamek capo’. They denied that he had been a part of the camp’s underground. By the same token, an equal number of witnesses, many of them Poles who had been incarcerated at Auschwitz, testified in Klajman’s defence that he had not mistreated fellow prisoners and that he had even helped hide Soviet prisoners at Auschwitz in a bunker and provided medication to sick prisoners.?® On 12 June 1948, the citizens’ tribunal found Klayman guilty of violating its

charter on grounds that as a ghetto policeman in Plonsk he had mistreated and looted fellow Jews and had divulged the hiding places of Jews to the German authorities. In addition, he had served as a kapo in Auschwitz and other camps and

in this capacity had brutally mistreated fellow prisoners for his own material advantage. Whereas the tribunal found prosecution witnesses truthful and reliable, it dismissed the testimony in favour of the defendant first on the basis of general knowledge gleaned from post-war trials and literature about the relations of kapos and other inmates in the camps, and second because none of the exculpatory wit-

nesses had been in Klajman’s commando and thus never had an opportunity to observe him carefully. Moreover, the tribunal did not believe Klajman’s testimony,

including his induction into the underground. In the final analysis, the tribunal found the defendant despicable. As the tribunal put it, ‘For the entire time of the occupation, not excluding the camp period, he held this or that function that afforded him the possibility of lording it over others and exploiting it for personal goals. And he took advantage of them [these functions] without scruples, without taking into account the harm inflicted on his brethren, without taking into account the dignity [expected] of a citizen of the [Polish] Republic and a son of the Jewish

people.’ As a result, the tribunal banned Klajman from the Jewish community, depriving him of all rights accruing to its members, and ordered the branch of the CKZP in Plonsk to publicize the verdict for a period of seven days.”9 58 Proceedings, 11-12 June 1948, Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/57, Henoch Klajnman file, fos. 21-39 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 3). >? Verdict, 12 June 1948, ibid., fos. 40-1; and opinion, 12 June 1948, ibid., fos. 42-6, quotation on 45 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 3).

Jewish Collaborators on Trial IAI The tribunal then referred Klajman’s case to Arnold Gubinski, the official in the ministry of justice responsible for investigating collaborators; Gubinski was Jewish. Tried in the regional district court in Plock, Klajman was charged with the mistreatment of his fellow Jews in Plonsk and then Auschwitz.®° While several witnesses testified to Klajman’s brutality both as a Jewish policeman and as a kapo,

several former inmates of Auschwitz stressed that he had been a member of a resistance group and had helped several prisoners escape. Klajman justified his actions, pointing out that had he failed to follow the orders of the SS, he and the others would have faced dire consequences. Some prosecution witnesses identified Klajman as a Gestapo agent, but they also admitted that they had quarrelled with him over post-war business dealings. Despite conflicting evidence, on 14 July 1949 the court ruled that Klajman was a ‘morally corrupt’ individual even before the war. Although the court conceded that the defendant ‘may at times have demon-

strated pity towards the inmates, and may have helped some in distress, such deeds, however, do not exonerate him from all the brutalities he had committed’. Hence, the court found Klajman guilty of collaboration, specifically in the mistreatment of the Auschwitz inmates, denouncing Jews to the Germans in Pionsk,

and appropriating his victims’ goods and money. Klajman was sentenced to death.°' Klajman appealed his conviction, and in 1950 the court suspended the sentence and concluded that instead of ‘assisting the German occupation author-

ities’, the defendant had actually ‘deceived the Germans to the benefit of the [Auschwitz | inmates’. A month later the President of Poland commuted Klajman’s

sentence to life in prison.®* Following his ideologically attuned appeal to the Supreme Court, in which he requested the opportunity to redeem himself for his past transgressions by ‘hard work and participation in the progressive building of Polish society’, Klajman was released from prison in September 1958 for being ‘an exemplary prisoner and hard worker’.® The CKZP received several unsolicited denunciations of Henryk Gnat (alias

Dobrowolski) accusing him, as a block elder, of mistreating fellow Jews at the Skarzysko-Kamienna labour camp by beating them, physically abusing them, and stealing their rations. Numerous witness statements supported the charges against him. In November 1947 and again in October 1948, Gnat asked the citizens’ tribunal to investigate his case and issue him a clean bill of political health, as he was a member of the communist Polish Workers’ Party (Polska Partia Robotnicza, PPR). In November 1948 the CK ZP’s lawyers indicted Gnat, charging him with mistreating fellow inmates as a block elder, including beatings and other physical torments and stealing their bread rations.®* At his trial on 29 November 1948, Gnat admitted 6° Indictment, April 1949, IPN, SOP! 249, Henryk Klajman file, fos. 2-5. °! Verdict, 14 July 1949, IPN, SOP! 249, Henryk Klajman file, fo. 48. 2 Judgment of appellate court, 18 Feb. 1950, SOP! 249, Henryk Klajman file, pp. iv, 5. 63 Kobierska-Motas, ‘Czlonkowie zalég i wiezniowie funkcyjni’, 97.

64 Indictment, 12 Nov. 1948, Sad Spoteczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/29, Henryk Gnat (Henryk Dobrowolski) file, fo. 52 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 1).

142 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin that he had hit inmates of the camp, but only under pressure of his superior to maintain the pace of work, and he claimed that he never tortured the inmates or stole their food. A number of prosecution witnesses contradicted the defendant’s testimony, accusing him of beating and tormenting male and female inmates.°° Giving credence to prosecution witnesses, the tribunal’s verdict, issued on the same day, convicted Gnat of having beaten and otherwise physically abused the camp’s inmates, and it banned him from the Jewish community, while the verdict was to be published in the Jewish press.° After his conviction in the Jewish citizens’ tribunal, he was tried by the district court in Wroclaw. As a block elder in the Skarzysko-Kamienna labour camp, Gnat was accused of beating and mistreating camp prisoners. The two key witnesses who brought charges against Gnat were his partners in trade after the war. Gnat justified his actions by the presence of the SS, who would have reacted immediately if he did not show off his zeal. He, therefore, had had to push and at times kick those inmates who were slowing down the labour details. In his letter to the district court, Gnat wrote that ‘it was my mistake not to have a defence lawyer’, thus indicating yet another feature of procedure in the special penal courts—if the defendant waived the presence of the defence attorney, it was not mandatory. The court based its sentence on the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and on the evidence from the edited collection titled Documents and Materials from the Time of the German Occupation of Poland. Published in 1946, the collection contained an article by a former camp inmate, Regina Finger, who wrote that ‘we work sixteen hours a day. . . . From the hell in the factory we come back to the jaws of the camp. I have no hope that German hirelings and bandits such as Teperman, Krzepicki, Gnat, and the others would treat us better than the Germans.’ In July 1949 Gnat was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1952 his sentence was reduced to twelve years due to ‘impeccable behaviour. ‘The prisoner is positively inclined towards the People’s Republic of Poland, admits his guilt, and repents his crimes.’ Gnat was released from prison in 1955.°" On 2 July 1948 a commission of Jewish former prisoners of the labour camp at Gorlitz, a filial of Gross-Rosen, convened to discuss the camp’s Jewish functionaries and agreed to refer the cases of Abram Kon and Zygmunt Widawski (along with Mieczystaw Jakobson) to the Jewish citizens’ tribunal. Pre-trial witness statements were split; whereas several witnesses condemned Kon and Widawski, as kapos, for brutally mistreating fellow Jewish prisoners in the camp, others credited them for alleviating the gruesome conditions in the camp. The indictment drafted by the CKZP’s lawyers accused Kon and Widawski (co-defendants together with Jakobson) of mistreating fellow prisoners at Gorlitz in 1944. Kon was also charged 65 Proceedings, 29 Nov. 1948, Sad Spoteczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/29, Henryk Gnat file, fos. 62-87 (= USHMM,, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 1). 66 Verdict, 29 Nov. 1948, ibid. fos. 88-90 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 1).

67 Verdict, 29 July 1949, IPN, SOT-W 148, Henryk Gnat file, fos. 117, 122-4; verdict, Sad Wojewédzki w Bydgoszczy, 23 Dec. 1952, ibid., fo. 207; release order, 30 Apr. 1955, ibid., fos. 217, 244.

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 143 with mistreating Jewish labourers as head of a garment facility in the Lodz ghetto in 1941—2.°° Their trial began on 30 January 1949 and ended on 6 February 1949.

Both Kon and Widawski maintained their innocence. The testimony cut both ways. Kon and Widawski were condemned by a number of former prisoners for their brutality; in the view of other prisoners, Kon essentially went through the motions 1n an effort to maintain discipline and spared them potentially worse beatings, while Widawski actually managed to come to the aid of some prisoners.°? On 7 February 1949 the tribunal found Kon guilty of the physical mistreatment

of Jewish labourers in the Lodz ghetto and fellow Jewish inmates at the labour camp in Gorlitz, and Widawski guilty of beating, occasionally savagely, inmates at Gorlitz and stealing their food rations in violation of the tribunal’s charter. (Their co-defendant, Jakobson, was also convicted.) The tribunal, however, found attenuating circumstances in Kon’s case, for it had not been proved, as far as the tribunal was concerned, that he had stolen from fellow inmates or that he had denounced anyone to the German authorities, and it was impressed that his moral degradation did not seem to go so far as to prevent him from demonstrating remorse for his actions. Hence the tribunal banished Kon temporarily from the Jewish community for three years, disqualifying him from holding any position in the community. By contrast, the tribunal had nothing positive to say about Widawski. In its condemnation of him, the tribunal recited his beating of fellow inmates, his humiliation of them, his physical and mental abuse of them, his informing on them to the

Germans, his utter disregard of their suffering, and his systematic theft of their rations. On account of the ‘extensive degree of his evil will, the degree of his moral degradation’, the tribunal decided to ban Widawski from the Jewish community

permanently. At the end of its verdict, the tribunal explicitly contrasted the reproachable behaviour of Widawski, and implicitly of Kon (and Jakobson), with the noble actions of the majority of Jewish inmates, who despite their physical debilitation, illness, and deprivation maintained an atmosphere of mutual assistance and support at great peril to themselves. In the words of the tribunal, the vast majority of inmates proved ‘that despite everything, despite the dreadful conditions of camp life, humanity was not extinguished there’.”°

In May 1949 the district court in Lodz heard the trial of Abram Kon and Zygmunt Widawski (along with Marian Borenstein), charged with the mistreatment and murder of their fellow inmates at Gorlitz.’1 Several witnesses testified 68 Indictment, 4 Jan. 1949, Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/51, file of Mieczystaw Jakobson, Abram Kon, and Zygmunt Widawski, fos. 55-8 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 3). °° Proceedings, 30 Jan. 1949-7 Feb. 1949, ibid., fos. 87-139 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 3).

7 Verdict, 7 Feb. 1949, ibid. fos. 152-6; and opinion, 7 Feb. 1949, ibid. fos. 158g, quotations on 158 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 3). ™ Indictment, 21 Feb. 1949, IPN, Sad Okregowy w Lodzi (SOLdz) 436, file of Marian Borenstein, Abram Kon, and Zygmunt Widawski, fos. 1-2.

144 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin that Kon and Widawski—the first as a kapo and the second as a barrack and block

elder—had assisted the camp Lagerftihrer Wilfried Zunker and a professional criminal, the camp elder Hermann Czech, in murdering camp inmates. Sometimes Kon and Widawski had initiated the beating of prisoners without the orders of the Germans. After savage beating, several inmates had lost their lives. ‘The defendants denied the accusations. Kon argued that as a kapo he had had to hit prisoners when the SS was around; once he had beaten up a prisoner who had stolen a package of food delivered by Polish workers. One witness admitted that he had violated the camp regulations by having left his stockings on the bunk. Such a transgression

could have resulted in the punishment of the entire barrack, and, as a result, Widawski, as the barrack elder, had punched him. Some witnesses recalled that Kon had helped prisoners obtain easier jobs and extra food rations. ’* The court decided that Kon had had to punish prisoners in order to spare them from the SS, while Widawski had helped prisoners by providing them with food and finding easier assignments for sick and emaciated inmates. On 14 May 1949 both defendants were acquitted. ’° After his acquittal in the Polish state court, Kon petitioned the Jewish citizens’ tribunal to reconsider his conviction there. In February 1950 the tribunal commuted Kon’s sentence of banishment from the Jewish community to one year. Although it offered no reason for its decision, the tribunal seems to have been swayed by Kon’s acquittal in the state court. There is no evidence in Kon’s file that the Polish authorities placed pressure on the tribunal to change its mind. One possible explanation is

that since the tribunal had already been inclined to acknowledge the existence of extenuating circumstances in Kon’s case, the verdict in the state court nudged the tribunal to give him the benefit of the doubt and thus shorten his sentence without acquitting him altogether, as he had requested after his trial in the state court. The state court’s definition of collaboration played a decisive role in the acquittal of Michal Weichert. Weichert, it will be recalled, was a prominent Jewish intellectual between the wars. Under the German occupation Weichert served in several Jewish self-help organizations, the most prominent being the Jiidische Soziale Selbsthilfe (JSS), reconstituted in October 1942 into the Jiidische Unterstiitzungstelle (JUS), which continued to operate with the permission of the German occupation authorities after the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto. These agencies were responsible for the reception and distribution of aid to Jews from abroad. However, the underground 7 Proceedings, 12-14 May 1949, IPN, SOLdz 436, file of Marian Borenstein, Abram Kon, and | Zygmunt Widawski, fos. 1o8—30. Zunker and Czech were tried in Lodz and executed for their crimes in Gross-Rosen. Kobierska-Motas, ‘Czlonkowie zalog 1 wiezniowie funkcyjn1’, 20, 169.

73 Verdict, 14 May 1949, IPN, SOLdz 436, file of Marian Borenstein, Abram Kon, and Zygmunt Widawski, fos. 139—40; opinion, ibid. 140-1. Their co-defendant, Marian Borenstein, accused of beating fellow inmates, was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison. In 1953 a provincial court in L.6dz granted Borenstein amnesty on the grounds that it had been proved at his trial that his offence

had not risen to the level of a collaborative relationship with the German authorities. Decision of the Provincial Court in L6dz, 13 Oct. 1953, ibid. 201.

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 145 Jewish Co-ordinating Committee, the joint political supervisory body of the Jewish National Committee (Zydowski Komitet Narodowy, ZKN), representing Zionist parties in the armed underground, and the Bund decisively opposed the operations of the JUS, since the new lease on life of an organization ostensibly permitted to aid Polish Jews just when the Germans were completing their liquidation of Polish Jewry seemed to be playing right into the enemy’s hands. From the perspective of the Coordinating Committee, the ongoing operation of the JUS was tantamount to collaboration with the enemy because it would allow the Germans to deceive the world that they were not killing Jews and that Jews were being treated humanely, while enabling them to appropriate for themselves foodstuffs and medical supplies intended for their victims. Emissaries of the Co-ordinating Committee demanded that Weichert liquidate the JUS and offered him and his family full protection and shelter. Weichert, however, refused to comply, and consequently the ZOB sentenced him to death in the spring of 1944. But before the death sentence could be implemented, Weichert dissolved the JUS and went into hiding.”* In court Weichert defended his actions. He pointed out that he had managed to collect substantial amounts of foodstuffs and medical supplies that were distributed among Jews in the camps of Plaszow and Skarzysko-Kamienna as well as in various Jewish ghettos in the Krakow region. Since he had not, he said, had any

contact with the ZOB, he had been unaware, when he was approached to shut down the JUS, that the Co-ordinating Committee was regarded as the supreme Jewish authority in Poland and that he was expected to obey its orders.’° Indeed, a substantial number of witnesses confirmed that this help had been crucial for the survival of many Jews, and that Weichert’s selflessness and dedication could have

cost him his life.

The special penal court in Krakow concluded that Weichert’s activities ‘undermined the united front of the Polish people in its striving for national liberation, dis-

oriented Jews and undermined their resolve and will to resistance, and thus was definitely detrimental to their struggle’. At the same time, however, the court had to decide whether Weichert’s actions constituted a crime. After all, the verdict pointed out, ‘the Council to Aid Jews [Rada Pomocy Zydom, RPZ] carried out similar activities though by different methods. The defendant did not act out of selfish opportunism, but out of human and ideological considerations albeit based on mistaken convictions.’ The court also ruled that the defendant was ‘a worthy human being whose past and present activities in Poland and abroad attest to his high human quality’. In the final analysis, the court found it difficult to accept the charge of collaboration against Weichert because, although his actions might have been misguided, he 74 See Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator’?, 344-55.

® Proceedings, 27 Nov. 1945, IPN, SSKKr 240, Michal Weichert file, fo. 195. The transcript from the proceedings in the Polish special penal court is available in Weichert’s file in the Jewish citizens’ tribunal, Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/137, fos. 18-47 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 7).

146 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander Vi Prusin lacked the requisite criminal mens rea when he was directing the efforts of the Jewish welfare organizations. On these grounds, the court acquitted him.”

After his acquittal, the CKZP desperately wanted to bring Weichert to trial in its citizens’ tribunal. Since the tribunal was bereft of authority to compel defendants to stand trial before it, the Jewish committee’s supporters blackened his name both in Poland and abroad until Weichert finally felt that he had no choice but

to clear his name in the Jewish community and stand trial in the tribunal in November and December 1949. As David Engel shows, although the state court had acquitted him of criminal liability, the Jewish tribunal found him guilty of collaboration because ‘no matter how much the JUS might actually have assisted [Jews in] the camps . . . it must be asserted that the JUS was a collaborationist

organization by virtue of its very existence’.’” The tribunal implied that by October 1942, when Weichert assumed leadership of the JSS, he ‘should have realized’, as Engel puts it, ‘that the Germans would have permitted an organization like [his] to exist only for their own purposes and that he was being called upon to advance them’.’® Critical to the tribunal’s verdict was Weichert’s dismissal of the authority of the ZOB, whose orders to abandon the JSS he had disobeyed. In this vein, the tribunal compared Weichert unfavourably with his contemporaries in the Jewish community under siege in the autumn of 1942. ‘Weichert’s behaviour must be censured all the more severely’, the tribunal held, ‘because it deviated so greatly from the behaviour of the community in arms.’’? As Engel concludes: For his Jewish accusers, Weichert . . . [by] not work[ing] actively to foil Nazi ambitions (at the minimum, after the onset of mass killing, by hiding from them or by assuming a false identity, if not by taking up arms against them) was helping [the Nazis] de facto, whether he intended to do so or not, and had in the end to be counted a traitor.®°

CONCLUSION In the first place, it must be repeated that as far as both Jews and Poles were concerned, it was Germans who were first and foremost responsible for the destruction of Poland’s Jewish community and the devastation of Poland and its entire population. As a result, it was imperative in the eyes of both Jews and Poles to place major German war criminals on trial. Furthermore, as far as collaborators were concerned, the Polish authorities focused their energies on Poles, not Jews. In 7 Verdict, 7 Jan. 1946, IPN, SSK Kr 240, Michal Weichert file, fos. 231-3. A copy of the verdict is available in Weichert’s file in Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/137, fos. 48-9 and 54-68 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 7.) See also Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 358—60.

™ Verdict, 28 Dec. 1949, Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/137, Michat Weichert file, fo. 860 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 7); quoted in Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 366.

* Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 367. . . Verdict, 28 Dec. 1949, Sad Spoleczny przy CKZP, AZIH 313/137, Michal Weichert file, fo. 861 (= USHMM, Accession No. 1996.A.0223, reel 7); quoted in Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 367. 80 Engel, ‘Who is a Collaborator?’, 368.

Jewish Collaborators on Trial 147 their pursuit of Polish collaborators, the Polish authorities received vigorous assistance from Jewish officials, not to mention individual Jewish men or women who were tormented and betrayed by certain Poles in the cities, camps, and forests. That said, what can we learn from the trials of the five putative Jewish collaborators adjudged in the Polish judicial system on the one hand and the Jewish citizens’ tribunal on the other? We suggest that they reflect differing understandings

of Jewish life under German occupation. The trials in the Jewish tribunal reinforced the tendency within the post-war Jewish leadership and community to view Jewish behaviour under Nazi occupation in Manichaean terms: Jews were either good or bad. Asa result, as Engel notes, “The Jewish definition . . . did not allow for ...amiddle ground.’ “That a middle ground was absent from Jewish discussions of collaboration in post-war Poland was’, as he adds, ‘of course, largely a reflection of the fact that, in Polish Jewish society under occupation, the occupiers had in all

but a few cases not permitted it to exist.’’ In its own way, by stigmatizing and ostracizing the small fraction of Jews with dirty hands, the post-war Jewish leadership in Poland sanctified the memory of the vast majority of Jews who perished,

even if this form of memorialization was much more unidimensional than the reality it purported to remember. By contrast, Polish state courts faced a daunting challenge in judging the actions of individuals who were more or less forced to assume their positions of power in camps and ghettos. As Engel suggests, the fact that Jewish defendants accused in Polish state courts of collaboration were, like non-Jewish defendants, ‘indicted under an open-ended statute, one which left room for a judge so inclined to convict almost anyone whose wartime behaviour could be construed as detrimental in some way to any non-German living in Poland during the occupation’ should have stacked the deck against almost all of them.®* Nevertheless, in ‘Jewish’ cases, the Polish courts seem to have been guided by the facts and—given the scope of the genocide in Poland and the small number of Jewish defendants accused of collaboration—to have taken into account on some level the extenuating circum-

stances in which the Jewish defendants had found themselves. This was epitomized by Primo Levi’s later analysis of the moral ‘grey zone’, the ‘ill-defined sphere of ambiguity and compromise’ in which a fair share of Jewish victims of Nazism’s ‘frightful power of corruption’ were driven to ‘both great and small complicities’.°° As the former prisoner and witness for the defence Chaim Wilk put it _

in court: ‘Upon reflection J can say it now that we were then all, functionary prisoners and regular inmates, deviant creatures, for the fear of death, which could come to each of us at any moment, generated instincts that would have never surfaced in normal, peaceful conditions.’** It is noteworthy that the standard that

81 Tbid. 360. 82 Tbid. 357. 83 P. Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (New York, 1988), 67-8.

84 Proceedings, 2 Jan. 1948, IPN, Sad Okregowy w Swidnicy (SOSw) 142, Heinrich Seidband (Zaydband) file, fo. 167.

148 Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin Polish courts adopted in judging putative Jewish collaborators did not seem to be contaminated by the post-war Polish stereotype of Jewish behaviour under Nazi occupation that all Jews ‘went like sheep to the slaughter’ and were implicated in their own destruction. Fully to appreciate the dynamics and meanings of these trials in the Polish state

courts, one has to take into account the situation in post-war Poland. Lack of financial resources—some trial records were written on the backs of wartime German public announcements—was compounded by the inadequate training of judges and lawyers since many professionals perished during the war. Even if the trials were conducted by well-trained specialists, political pressures—generated by the struggle for power in Poland—popular emotions, expectations for swift retri-

bution, and the overwhelming numbers of defendants forced the courts to dispense an approximation of justice, which was bound to be imperfect. The Jewish citizens’ tribunal operated under a different kind of political pressure. In the collective memory of post-war Polish Jewry, all Polish Jews had exhibited high moral standards in their struggle for their very existence, a substantial proportion of them had taken steps to thwart the Nazis’ anti-Jewish initiatives, and a large number of them had fought the German enemy in the armed Jewish revolt. The refashioning of Jewish reality in Poland after the Holocaust on the basis of this myth could not, however, be completely insulated from the perplexing challenge of Jewish accommodation and even collaboration under Nazi occupation. Although so-called ‘traitors to the nation’ comprised only a tiny fraction of the Jewish population, their presence was a source of consternation and embarrassment to Jewish

leaders in post-war Poland precisely because they threatened to undermine the myth of Jewish martyrdom and heroism in which so much effort was invested. By casting blame for the Jewish community’s destruction, however partially, on these few traitors, the citizens’ tribunal allowed the silent majority of the surviving remnant of Polish Jews to identify with the minority of current leaders now in control

of Jewish life who had taken up arms against the Nazi regime. In this way, the sacralization of Jewish heroism on the one hand and the repudiation of Jewish collaboration on the other were flip sides of the same coin. For Jews, then, Jewish collaborators were major criminals. For Poles, they were a minuscule fraction of all collaborators tried by Polish courts and, as a result, they were not vilified or singled out. The fact that so much more was at stake in the Jewish

citizens’ tribunal than in Polish state courts that heard the cases of putative Jewish collaborators meant that, in these cases as opposed to those of ethnic Poles, the Polish courts could afford to accommodate a middle ground, while such a possibility barely existed in the Jewish tribunal. As a result, the standard that Polish courts applied in these cases was narrowly legal as opposed to the broad ethical criteria that the Jewish tribunal employed in its determination of who was a Jewish collaborator.


Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom and Memory 1945-1947 JONATHAN HUENER MoRrE THAN sixty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, in an era replete with public ceremony, observance, and written recollection, the need for a memorial at the site of Nazi Germany’s largest concentration camp and extermination centre appears obvious. To Poles in 1945, the need was obvious as well, for it was clear in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War that the Auschwitz complex had to be preserved in some fashion and to serve as a memorial to those who had suffered and perished there at the hands of the German invaders. Decisions about the future of the site were driven to a great extent by politics, and the future of the Auschwitz site was at times the subject of a vigorous public conversation. ‘That conversation reflected both the political demands of the time and the dilemmas facing the site’s organizers. Moreover, it set the stage for the pedagogy, iconography, and public reception of Auschwitz in subsequent years and decades. In this essay I analyse the genesis of the State Museum at Auschwitz from 1945 until the dedication of the museum and memorial grounds in 1947.' Any attempt to understand the history of Auschwitz in the post-war era must confront these early years after the liberation, for it was this period that witnessed the further development of Poland’s culture of national martyrdom and the rise of Auschwitz to prominence as Poland’s primary memorial site of sacrificial patriotism. My analysis will begin with a brief discussion of the notion of ‘martyrdom’ in the

post-war Polish context, and then offer a description of some of the difficult Earlier versions of portions of this chapter have appeared in chs. 1 and 2 of my book Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, 1945-1979, Polish and Polish-American Studies Series (Athens, Ohio, 2003), used by permission of Ohio University Press. 1 Although the Auschwitz museum was not officially opened until June 1947, this analysis will use the term ‘museum’ to describe the entire memorial site as of 1946, that is, when former prisoners of the camp began their conservation work there. The site after June 1947 may be referred to as the museum, State Museum at Auschwitz, Auschwitz site, or in archival citations by its common Polish abbreviation, PMO (Panstwowe Muzeum w Oswecimiu). The museum’s official name is now Panstwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oswiecimiu, or State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim.

150 Jonathan Huener material, economic, and political conditions to which the site and its workers were subjected in the first two years after the camp’s liberation. Finally, with an eye to the controversial issue of representation of Jewish genocide at Auschwitz, I will comment on the resulting product or ‘museum’ that was officially opened in June 1947. By that date, the historical and cultural parameters of the memorial site were largely set, so that only two and a half years after the liberation of Auschwitz a framework of memory was already in place there. This framework had three main elements: first, Auschwitz was understood and commemorated as a site of Polish

national martyrdom; secondly, while the treatment of Jewish deportees to Auschwitz and the death of approximately one million Jews there was not denied,

it was marginalized in the site’s exhibitions and commemorative events; and, thirdly, the Polish state instrumentalized the memorial site for political gain.

MARTYRDOM The term ‘martyrdom’ (meczenstwo), a constituent element of Poland’s post-war

commemorative vocabulary, is a useful indicator of Polish considerations of Auschwitz and the place of the camp in the country’s culture. ‘Martyr’ (meczennik, meczennica), ‘martyrdom’, and ‘martyrology’ (martyrologia) were consistently used to describe Auschwitz victims, their fate, and their memory. Designating the victims of Nazi persecution ‘martyrs’ was a practice not unique to Poland, but com-

mon in other cultures in the early post-war years. For Poles, however, the specifically Polish and Christian overtones in these terms—natural to Polish Roman Catholic discourse—were obvious, and lent the Auschwitz inmate a quality of virtue and sacrifice for a higher good, such as patriotism or socialism.” Polish prisoners or ‘martyrs’ at Auschwitz were not simply suffering, but suffering and dying because of their Catholic faith, their political convictions, or their love of the

fatherland. ‘There were, of course, tens of thousands of Poles condemned to Auschwitz who were neither soldiers, resistance fighters, members of the intelligentsia, nor in any way a threat to the Nazi occupation regime. In the broad outlines of the Polish commemorative mantra, however, they too were included in the heroic martyrs’ narrative simply by virtue of being Polish. Jews and Gypsies, representing the overwhelming majority of victims at Auschwitz, were generally not dying in the service of any higher belief or cause, but were victims of genocide. Thus to designate the Auschwitz victim as a martyr was, depending on one’s perspective, either broadly inclusive, or ahistorically exclusive. In any case, to desig? For the sake of clarity, throughout this essay I will differentiate between ‘Poles’ and ‘Jews’. Of course, both ethnic Polish Christians (who were overwhelmingly Roman Catholic) and Polish Jews were Polish citizens. But, in the inter-war period, most Jews were not regarded and did not regard themselves as Poles. During the war, as the Nazis proceeded to target and destroy Poland’s Jews, the distinction between Poles and Jews was observed by most Christian Poles (who were also persecuted by the Nazi regime) and was rigorously enforced by the Nazis on the basis of their racial ideology.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 151 nate all Polish and non-Polish victims ‘martyrs’ was to keep Auschwitz in a conventional trope of nineteenth-century romantic nationalism and to undermine the historical uniqueness of the camp and the diversity of experience there.

The origins of Poland’s ‘martyrological’ culture are found in nineteenthcentury Polish nationalist thought. After Poland’s partitions (1772, 1793, and 1795) by Prussia, Russia, and Austria, it disappeared from the map of Europe, living on as a nation only in the minds of its patriots. In the course of and following

the 1830 November uprising, there emerged in Poland what Brian Porter has labelled a ‘rhetorical framework’ that ‘gave Polish intellectuals a vocabulary with which to talk about their nation as they tried to cope with the failure of 1830’. “The struggle for Poland,’ Porter argues, ‘already joined with the welfare of humanity, was further justified through use of a heterodox religious terminology: the quest for independence became a divine imperative and Poland became the “Christ of Nations”.’® Thus nationally minded philosophers and poets, many in exile, successfully cultivated and propagated a mystical doctrine of Polish sacrifice and messianism. This approach to and justification of the Polish national cause motivated Polish patriots through much of the nineteenth century and was effectively harnessed in the twentieth century, especially during the national crisis of the Second World War and the years immediately thereafter. God may not have prevented Poland’s defeat, but there was a divine purpose in her demise: a Christlike historical mission to redeem the nations of Europe through suffering and example. Once resurrected, the Polish nation state would be a beacon of tolerance, freedom, and political morality.* In the words of Adam Mickiewicz, Poland’s most revered romantic poet: ‘For the Polish Nation did not die. Its body lieth in the grave, but its spirit has descended into the abyss, that is into the private lives of people who suffer slavery in their country. .. . But on the third day the soul shall return again to the body, and the Nation shall arise, and free all the peoples of Europe from slav-

ery.’ For many in Poland’s wartime generation, this messianic vision of the nation’s destiny became an inspirational myth, and the German occupation provided the perfect example of righteous suffering—whether at the front in 1939, in the Warsaw uprising of 1944, or in Auschwitz—at the hands of a foreign invader. In the years 1939-45 Poland lost nearly 20 per cent of its pre-war citizens (more than half of whom were Jews who perished in the Holocaust), and two million were sent to the Reich for labour. Between September 1939 and February 1940, more than

200,000 Poles were forcibly expelled from the annexed Warthegau region, and already in the first months of the occupation more than 50,000 Poles were killed. There were, to be sure, Poles who collaborated with the Nazi regime—with its > B. Porter, When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland (New York, 2000), 27. On the origins of and transformations in Polish romantic messianism, see also pt. 3 of A. Walicki, Philosophy and Romantic Nationalism: The Case of Poland (Oxford, 1982), 237-333. * L. Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians (Cambridge, 1982), 89-90. > Quoted in N. Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland (New York, 1982), ii. 9.

152 Jonathan Huener bureaucracy, military, and agencies of terror and destruction—and the regime certainly inspired collaborationist behaviour on an individual basis. ‘The German occupiers were not, however, interested in establishing a collaborationist government, as in France, or a collaborationist administration, as in the Netherlands. Instead, they colonized and enslaved the Polish lands, decimating the country’s infrastructure and human resources. More than 38 per cent of physicians, 28 per cent of university and college professors, 56 per cent of lawyers, and 27 per cent of Catholic priests did not survive the occupation.°

Despite this destruction, the Germans met fierce resistance. Poland had the most extensive underground network and army in Nazi-occupied Europe, and the Germans did not hesitate to use collective reprisals in retaliation for acts of resistance. For good reason, Poles have commemorated and mourned these tragic years in the history of their country, years that seemed to confirm the romantic perception of Poland as the eternal victim of injustice and exploitation. Likewise, the efforts of underground resistance movements were evidence of a redemptive tradition of Polish sacrifice for a higher good. Poland’s responsibility to the world did not end, however, in 1945, for it also had a post-war mission: to investigate and prosecute Germany’s crimes, to cultivate and maintain the memory of the occupation, and to be a beacon of warning, alerting other nations to the dangers of Hitlerite fascism and racism. Auschwitz and its

history therefore had, in this respect, a tremendous commemorative value and were symbolic of the suffering of Poles and their responsibility to future generations. In the words of the Polish premier Jozef Cyrankiewicz on the occasion of the State Museum’s dedication: One of the concrete manifestations of that battle [against the danger of a new Auschwitz] will be the museum that we open today in Oswi¢cim, not for reminiscences but as a warning and demonstration to the entire world that the tragedy of millions murdered in the concentration camps must not vanish into thin air with the smoke of crematoria chimneys. For all those who survived this great tragedy, may the museum in Oswiecim become the great battle cry ‘Never again Auschwitz!”’

Emphasizing the German menace was one way for Poles to articulate their common suffering and common cause, and this served the political exigencies of the fledgling Warsaw government. The threat was not a temporary, exceptional phenomenon, but an ever present danger in a long historical continuum of Teutonic aggression towards the Slavs, and more specifically, German aggression towards

the Poles. This was, for example, the theme of a 1946 Warsaw exhibition on German crimes, the purpose of which was ‘to show that the Hitlerite crimes in Poland do not constitute an abstract episode in German history, but are a culminating point—the crowning of eternal German annexationism in the East’.® By 6 A. Symonowicz, ‘Nazi Kampaign Polish Culture’, in R. Nurowski (ed.), 1939-1945 War Losses in

Poland (Poznan, 1960), 83. ” Mosty, 17 July 1947. 8 Zycie Warszawy, 1 June 1946.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 153 recalling German crimes and emphasizing the continuing German threat, the regime was able to posit national identity, national unity, and nationalist fears against a common enemy in the service of its larger political goals, such as international recognition of the Oder—Neisse line as Poland’s western frontier or the highly symbolic prosecution of Nazi criminals. As the nation that had suffered the most under the Germans, Poland had not only a right, but also a responsibility to annex German territory, to punish German criminals, and to inform the world of the horrors of Auschwitz and other camps. The moral duty was clear. As one Polish publicist wrote in May 1945: The Polish press has written and continues to write much and often about Auschwitz. But it is all still too little, even for the development of the most superficial view of the immensity of German atrocities. It is necessary to write about Auschwitz again and again. It 1s necessary to write just now as we have arrived at the day of judgement for the perpetrators of those inhuman crimes. It is necessary to write lest the crimes fall into the shadow of oblivion, so that a false sense of compassion does not become the cause of impunity or easy treatment of the criminals. It is necessary to write in order to rouse the conscience and eradicate the indifference and dullness that has overcome the world after six years of war. We must avenge these crimes—those four million innocent victims of Auschwitz call for it.®

Writing and rewriting meant italicizing Polish suffering, underscoring Nazi atrocities, and even deleting references to Jewish mass death, while emphasizing throughout the call to witness to and avenge German crimes. Vengeance could take many forms: territorial ‘reclamation’, reparations, or the expulsion of Germans from Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia. Such were the early post-war goals of Warsaw’s policy towards a defeated Germany, and Poles had little patience for German cries of post-war injustices inflicted upon them or for voices in Britain and the United States that were sympathetic to the Germans’ plight or calling for Germany’s rehabilitation.

It was Auschwitz, more than any other wartime site of destruction, that pointed to the naivety, danger, and insult of a conciliatory policy towards Germany. As an editorial columnist wrote on the occasion of the Auschwitz museum’s dedication in 1947: We are a nation that has suffered the greatest wrongdoing at the hands of the followers of the [German] system. We are not repeating the Auschwitz story in order to spread an unnecessary and harmful self-pity. We are reiterating this doubtless truth because we are a

state that is sentenced for all time to be the neighbour of Germans—the nation that invented and carried out ‘genocide’. That is why we, above all else, should be alert to what transpires beyond our western border. And we, above all, have to remind other nations that what was yesterday our lot could befall other nations tomorrow.'°

Auschwitz memory was to bea catalyst for anti-German attitudes and policy, a pillar of support for a consistent policy on the Oder—Neisse issue, and a general caution to , the rest of the world. This admonitory role was an appropriate complement to the symbolic role of Auschwitz as the ‘Golgotha’ of the ‘Christ among nations’, for a 9 Zycie Warszawy, 15 May 1945. 10 Zycie Warszawy, 14 June 1947.

154 Jonathan Huener martyrological idiom that emphasized the suffering and sacrifice of the Polish nation

also gave that nation a unique responsibility, or even mission, to the rest of the world. The martyrological idiom offered Poles an identity based in common suffering, left room for the sacrificial and messianic traditions in Polish commemorative culture, and at the same time provided a model of national solidarity that could be projected onto the challenges of reconstructing the Polish state and building socialism. Not least, it provided a clear justification for Poland’s expansion westwards at the expense of a depraved and vanquished Germany. In sum, it was possible to cultivate this notion of martyrdom by combining both national tradition and current political goals.

Despite its appeal and effectiveness, this Polish-national martyrological paradigm was limiting, as it was difficult to reconcile with the element of Auschwitz history that would, in the years to follow, define the site in the collective memory of

most of the world: the Holocaust. Although the mass extermination of Jews was not denied in the public presentation of Auschwitz in the early post-war years, Jewish genocide was seldom upheld as a unique phenomenon. Rather, the paradigm either marginalized the mass murder of Jews or, as was often the case, implied that Poles had shared in that fate, not only as the first victims of Nazi aggression and occupation, but also as certain victims of Nazi extermination policy in the future. Nazi policy in Poland was the basis for this perception, especially during the first two years of the occupation. Jews remained in Poland, but the Nazis deported Poles by the hundreds of thousands to Germany for slave labour; Jews had their own governmental institutions or councils, subject as they were to the Nazis, but Poles had no political or cultural representation; Jews were clearly the victims of Nazi violence and murder, but Poles were also randomly and systematically rounded up, incarcerated, and tortured as political prisoners.! Polish historians and publicists also pointed to evidence suggesting that Poles, in the course of time, would have been marked for extermination as well. Citing a stenograph of a November 1942 speech by Himmler, representatives of a District Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland concluded at a June 1946 meeting that the Nazi invaders had, in fact, planned for the mass extermination of Poles. The expulsion of Polish peasants from the Zamosc¢ region in late 1942 and early 1943, their report stated, was only a preliminary step leading to the goal of mass extermination for the purpose of providing more Lebensraum for the German people.’” Describing the goals of Nazi ideology, the 1946 report of the Central Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland stated: ‘It 11 J. T. Gross, Polish Society under German Occupation: The Generalgouvernement, 1939-1944 (Princeton, 1979), 185-6; R. Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933-1945 (New York, 1992), 204.

12 Zycie Warszawy, 8 June 1946. See also Z. Klukowski, ‘How the Eviction of the Poles by the Germans from the Area of Zamos¢é was Carried Out’, in Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce, German Crimes in Poland, 2 vols. (Warsaw, 1946-7), ii. 67-85.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 155 aimed at the wholesale exploitation of the forces of the conquered nations for the benefit of Germany, and afterwards at their extirpation. The Jews were to be completely extirpated before the end of the war; while the Poles were intended to do slave labor for the Germans before sharing their fate.’!? Similarly, the report concluded that ‘the camps in Poland were one of the principal instruments for achieving the criminal aims of Himmler, Greiser and Frank: the complete extermination of the Poles after a short period of exploitation’.** Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz echoed this theme in his testimony at the trial of former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss. According to the Polish premier, the German invaders were undertaking ‘an unmerciful, nihilistic plan to exterminate

nations, especially Slavonic nations, and first and foremost the Polish nation, which was to follow the praeludium of eradicating the Jewish nation’.’° And at the

April 1945 ceremonies commemorating the second anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, the Minister of Education Skrzeszewski reminded his audience that ‘not only Jews had to pass through the death factories, but also a great number

of our nation and other nations. The unleashing through Hitlerism of antisemitism and the consequent eradication of 3,200,000 Jews in Poland had in view only the invitation to further victims and beyond that the liquidation of those easily determined victims: us and the Jews.’'® Or, in the words of one publicist,

‘The Germans prepared for Jews and Poles a common fate on Polish soil. The differences consisted only in time.’ This is why, according to the author, Jews and Poles were brothers in blood and defence in ‘struggle for your freedom and ours’.? There was some validity to speculations and fears that the Nazis were planning to annihilate the Poles. On 1 May 1942, Arthur Greiser, Gauleiter of the Wartheland, proposed the ‘special treatment’ of 35,000 tubercular Poles. In December of that year, Wilhelm Hagen, from Warsaw’s Nazi administration, claimed in a letter to Hitler that there were secret discussions about the extermination of one-third of the 200,000 Poles to be resettled in the General Government, the central region of occupied Poland under the authority of Hans Frank.'® Raul Hilberg, although in no way

equating the genocide of Jews with the treatment of other victim groups, has nonetheless noted: The Germans . . . did not draw the line with the destruction of Jewry. They attacked still other victims, some of whom were thought to be like Jews, some of whom were quite unlike Jews, and some of whom were Germans. The Nazi destruction process was, in short, not

13 Glowna Komisja, German Crimes in Poland, i. 14. 14 Thid. 23.

19 Zycie Warszawy, 22 Mar. 1947. 16 Dezienntk Polski, 21 Apr. 1945. 17 J. A. Szczpanski, ‘Prawo narodu zydowskiego’, Dzienntk Polski, 19 Apr. 1947. The time factor has

also been cited by J. T. Gross, who has claimed that ‘[t]here is little doubt that the Poles would have become victims of genocide, in turn, if time had allowed’. See Gross, Polish Soctety, 49. 18 R. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York, 1985), ii. 520—1, iii. 1001-2. See also Gross, Polish Society, 42-91.

156 Jonathan Huener aimed at institutions; it was targeted at people. The Jews were only the first victims of the German bureaucracy; they were only the first caught in its path.?9

Polish fears of becoming the ‘next victims’ were real, and there is evidence to suggest that even if the course of events during the occupation did not appear to justify these fears, leading Nazis did consider the possibility of undertaking mass killings of Poles.2° At Auschwitz, approximately 10,000 unregistered Polish deportees were murdered, and approximately 137,000 registered Poles were subjected to enslavement, torture, starvation, and mass execution. Moreover, Poles had only a 50 per cent chance of survival at Auschwitz.

The validity of this claim notwithstanding, the fact remains that Poles were never subjected to a systematic and comprehensive policy of genocide, and to equate the German treatment of Poles with the treatment of Jews was an oversimplification and distortion of the historical record. Nonetheless, the notion of Jews and Poles subjected to a common fate—whether under the occupation as a whole or in the Auschwitz camp—remained an enduring myth that could, in subsequent decades, be politically exploited in a variety of ways, especially during the so-called ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign of the late 1960s.”!

As inspiring and politically serviceable as the Polish martyrological narrative may have been, it left little room for historical specificity and nuance of interpretation. It emphasized, in the first place, the Nazi goal of enslaving the Poles and destroying their state and nation. Auschwitz was, arguably, the most memorable and visible symbol of this, and it represented for many Poles their own exterminationist fate, or at least what would have become so had the Nazis had the opportunity to follow through with their plans. Secondly, the narrative emphasized the sacrificial suffering of the Polish nation and, at the same time, the resistance and resolve of the prisoners. Neither element of the story could easily accommodate the unregistered deportee, Jewish or otherwise; both elements offered post-war Polish society a locus of common identity and the post-war Polish state a degree of much-needed legitimacy. As Jonathan Webber has noted, ‘in the post-war Polish construction of the symbolic meaning of Auschwitz, to identify Jews as the principal victims would have been to clutter, if not to obfuscate, the cultural and political 19 Hilberg, Destruction, 111. 999.

_ 20 Tn addition to evidence cited by Hilberg and others, entries in Hans Frank’s diary also reveal a certain tension in the Nazi leadership between the desire to annihilate the Poles on the one hand and, on the other, the need to exploit them for labour. Moreover, SS and Police Leader Friedrich Wilhelm Kriiger is recorded as noting that it would be in the interests of the Third Reich to keep in the Zamos¢ region those Poles positively disposed towards the Nazi regime and those of a certain ‘racial value’. See H. Frank, Das Diensttagebuch des deutschen Generalgouverneurs in Polen 1939-1945, Quellen und

; Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte 20 (Stuttgart, 1975), 590-1, 603. See also in this regard C. Madajezyk, ‘Was Generalplan Ost Synchronous with the Final Solution?’, in A. Cohen, Y. Cochavi, and Y. Gelber (eds.), The Holocaust and the War (New York, 1992), 145-59. 21 On the uses of Auschwitz in the context of the ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign, see Huener, Auschwitz, ch. 5.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 157 message; it was an inconvenient irrelevance best left to one side’.2* Webber’s insight is accurate, especially when applied to the early post-war development of the Auschwitz site and museum, for a Polish-national martyrological idiom required the concurrent marginalization or assimilation of other victim groups. It would be convenient to claim aggressive antisemitism as the main author of this narrative, or to dismiss it as the product of communist machinations at the state level. Antisemitism was a tragic and obvious problem in post-war Poland, and a new communist regime was consolidating its power in the years 1945-7. But neither of these influences was decisive on its own. One also has to allow for the possibility that the stewards of Auschwitz memory in these early years were drawing

upon broader, non-ethnic and assimilationist, notions of ‘Pole’ and ‘victim’— notions that eschewed Nazi racial categorizations—even as they inappropriately blurred the historical distinctions so important to the process of accurate memorialization. In short, the Polish-national martyrological narrative was more complex than is apparent at first glance, and designating the Auschwitz site and museum as its principal illustration was a natural stage in the process of constructing a viable framework of memory in the post-war era.

THE SITE The grounds of the Auschwitz complex were well suited to the development of a memorial site and museum. The camp represented the apex of German racism and was a locus of Polish national suffering and heroic Polish resistance. As the

| stage for the largest mass crime in history, the site would provide both documentary commemoration in the form of its museum and artistic commemoration in the form of the monuments and memorials to be erected there. Moreover, in addition to its historical significance and symbolism, the site’s tangibility, artefacts, and commemorative spaces made it an appropriate location for the physical objectification of memory, the synthesis and institutionalization of memorial symbols, and the use of memorial space for repetitive commemorative ritual. In short, post-war

Auschwitz was an ideal focal point for the intersection of various vectors of , wartime memory—vectors that could point to the diversity of prisoners there and the diversity of their experiences. It is therefore important to remember in this

context that Auschwitz was not a single camp, but a complex of camps that included the base camp or Stammlager (designated in 1943 as Auschwitz I), initially intended for the incarceration of Polish political prisoners and located on the outskirts of the annexed Polish town of Oswiecim; the enormous camp at Brzezinka (renamed Birkenau by the Germans and designated in 1943 as Auschwitz IT) with its four gas chambers and crematoria, where more Jews died in the Holocaust than anywhere else; Monowitz (also named Auschwitz III), which 22 J. Webber, The Future of Auschwitz: Some Personal Reflections (Oxford, 1992), 10.

158 Jonathan Huener functioned primarily as a labour camp for the IG Farben chemical factory; and some forty auxiliary camps of various sizes that were established throughout the region between 1940 and 1944. The first initiatives for creating a memorial site at Auschwitz arose among prisoners of the camp while it was still in operation. As Kazimierz Smolen, a former prisoner and former director of the State Museum, recalls: We did not know if we would survive, but one did speak of a memorial site. . . . some kind of

institution, a monument, or something of that sort... . These were not, of course, open meetings or anything like that. One simply could not speak openly of such things or discuss such things .. . we only knew that it would be impossible for mankind to forget the crimes that were committed in Auschwitz. Certainly the idea of somehow creating a sacrum out of this place existed already in the camp. One just did not know what form it would take.?

Prisoners could not be certain of their fate while still behind the wires of the camp,

but after the liberation they were, not surprisingly, at the forefront of efforts to establish a ‘sacred space’ at Auschwitz. Such an initiative was not a simple matter, for conditions at Auschwitz were chaotic in the first months after the war: there was a lack of consensus over the topographic and spatial definition of the memorial site, staffing was inadequate, and the structures of the camp were steadily falling _

into ruin. Not least, there remained the problem of how to document and commemorate the crimes at Auschwitz. The first concrete legislative initiative for the protection and memorialization of

Auschwitz came from a former Birkenau prisoner and delegate to the National Homeland Council (Krajowa Rada Narodowa, KRN), Alfred Fiderkiewicz, on 31 December 1945. Fiderkiewicz’s recommendation called for the establishment in Oswiecim and Brzezinka of a site commemorating Polish and international martyrdom. A government commission for culture and art approved the recommendation unanimously on 1 February 1946,74 and named Tadeusz Wasowicz, a former

prisoner, director of the site.2° The provisional government’s Council of Ministers (Rada Ministrow) also provided a rough and ambitious blueprint for the future of the site: the Ministry of Culture would organize a museum, with Blocks ro and 11 of Auschwitz I preserved as ‘mausolea’; in addition, one block would

serve as a hostel for visitors, one block would be set aside for the research of German crimes, and one block was to house a so-called ‘People’s University’ for post-secondary vocational education. Furthermore, these provisional plans set aside twenty blocks in Birkenau for exhibits dedicated to the wartime suffering of 23 K. Smolen, interview by the author, audio recording, Oswiecim, 11 Apr. 1994. 24 K. Smolen, ‘Sprawozdanie z X-letniej dziatalnosci Muzeum w Oswiecimiu-Brzezince’, 10 Oct. 1956, Archiwum Panstwowego Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oswi¢cimiu (Archive of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, hereafter cited as APMO), syg. Ref/63. 25 Polksi Zwiazek byltych Wieznidw Politycznych (hereafter cited as PZbWP), ‘Protoko! z pierwszego posiedzenia Zarzadu Glownego odbytego dn. 6.I1.1946 r.’, Archiwum Akt Nowych (Archive of New Documents, Warsaw, hereafter cited as AAN), zespol 415, syg. 5.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 150 various nationalities and to the history of other camps. Finally, the blueprint called for the erection of a monument near Birkenau’s four gas chambers and crematoria

as a symbol of international martyrdom.”° It is significant that in these earliest plans for the museum so much attention and space appeared to be devoted to ‘international’ martyrdom. In the months and years that followed, however, practi-

cal concerns, lack of funds, and an awareness of the centrality of Auschwitz in Poland’s emerging commemorative culture de-emphasized the martyrdom of non-Polish victims in favour of a focus on Polish victimization. By April 1946 a group of former prisoners had assumed de facto control of the grounds. Jozef Cyrankiewicz, serving then as head of the Polish Union of Former

Political Prisoners (Polski Zwiazek byltych Wiezniow Politycznych, PZbWP), requested from the Minister of Defence that employees of the Ministry of Culture take control of the Auschwitz site from the Polish regiment stationed there. Although the Polish army was still holding German POWs at Auschwitz, the military force protecting the site was, according to Cyrankiewicz, no longer needed. Protection of the site, he (mistakenly) believed, could be provided by former prisoners employed as guards. Moreover, the number of visitors to Auschwitz required that the memorial site be staffed by former prisoners familiar with the camp’s history and competent as tour guides.?‘

It was more than fifteen months after the liberation before the staff of the memorial site could begin their work. Their reports and correspondence suggest that their highest priorities were to salvage the ruins of the camp, protect remaining evidence, and maintain control over—to use Cyrankiewicz’s words—the ‘wild conditions’”® prevailing on the camp grounds. The general state of disorder on the camp grounds certainly impeded the efforts of the former prisoners who began working at the site in early 1946. Their first priority was the conservation and maintenance of buildings, structures, artefacts, and ash pits?*—a new and unique challenge for those responsible for developing a museum. Despite the chaos and decay of the site, the structures of Auschwitz I were relatively intact, and Birkenau, if considerably more dilapidated, nonetheless showed clear traces of the camp and the extermination process there. Reports indicate that in addition to the masonry barracks, guard towers, ruins of crematoria, and other durable structures, many of the wooden barracks were still standing. Investigators also located mugs, bowls, and plates near the site of Birkenau’s massive storehouses; personal 26 PZbWP, ok6lnik nr. 5, 7 July 1946, AAN, zespot 415, syg. 12.

27 Cyrankiewicz to Michal Rola-Zymierski, 30 Apr. 1946, AAN, zespol 415, syg. 52; A. Zlobnicki, ‘Relacja b. wieznia KL Auschwitz Adama Zlobnickiego Nr. 165010 odnosnie pracy w Muzeum a w szcegolnosci dziejow niekt6rych obiekt6w poobozowych na terenie KL Auschwitz Ii TD’, 18 Nov. 1981,

APMO, syg. Osw./tom 96; K. Smolen, interview by the author, audio recording, OSwiecim, 8 Dec. 1993; ‘Oboz w Oswiecimiu pod ochrona wladz’, Dztenntk Polski, 16 Apr. 1946. 28 Cyrankiewicz to Rola~Zymierski. 29 Smolen, interviews by the author, OSwiecim, 8 Dec. 1993, 24 Aug. 1994.

160 Jonathan Huener effects and money of Jews on the railway platform or ‘ramp’; singed prayer books near Crematorium V; and at the entrance to Crematorium II, numbered changingroom tags used to deceive prisoners entering the gas chamber.°° Visitors to the Auschwitz grounds today are often critical of the small number of original structures remaining there, especially in Birkenau. The lack of original ‘evidence’ perhaps cannot be excused entirely; it can, however, be explained in part

by the inability of the museum staff, despite their efforts, to prevent decay and destruction on the grounds. In short, the site was undergoing a process of steady ruin, and it was all but impossible to maintain the grounds 1n a state resembling that of January 1945. One need only consider the sheer size of the grounds, the disastrous material conditions in war-torn Poland, the lack of funds for preservation work, and the inability—despite the presence of armed guards—to protect

Birkenau from looters. :

The necessity of creating a protective guard to keep people out of Auschwitz is

a particularly disturbing aspect of the memorial site’s early post-war history. Immediately after the liberation, looters (or ‘hyenas’, as the Polish press referred to them) began seeking riches at the camp. These were frequently individuals from the local population who salvaged goods from the grounds or made a practice of sifting through ash pits in search of valuables, and especially gold. There were a number of arrests and even an incident in which a former prisoner serving as a guard shot and wounded an intruder.*! The presence of looters at Auschwitz was alarming and was widely condemned in the Polish press. It was also a cause for alarm among Polish exprisoners, who justifiably feared that reports of such plundering would find their way into the foreign press and portray Poland in a negative light.*? The lack of funds for the Auschwitz site was a chronic problem throughout the post-war decades and was especially acute in the first two years after liberation,

resulting in a state of affairs that was, according to one journalist, a national embarrassment. ‘One must therefore fear’, he wrote in 1946, “that in the future, should the subsidies continue to arrive in the current modest sums, visitors could

get the impression that the Polish government and Polish society do not give enough attention to national historical sites that bring glory not only to our martyrdom, but to our heroism as well.’?? Subsidies for the museum were initially 30 Ztobnicki, ‘Relacja’; T. Szymanski, ‘Relacja b. wieznia KL Auschwitz Tadeusza Szymanskiego odnosnie poczatkow swojej pracy w PMO-B oraz przedmiotow znalezionych po wyzwoleniu na terenie bylego KL Auschwitz’, 7 Nov. 1985, APMO, syg. OSw/Szymanski/2621. 31 Smolen, interview, 24 Aug. 1994. According to Smolen, victims arriving in transports often had

hidden valuables that were not always extracted by members of the Sonderkommando (prisoners charged with operating the crematoria), who had no interest in adding to the coffers of the SS. 32 “Memorial bytych wieznidw obozu oswiecimskiego w sprawie wziecia pod opieka terenu obozu w

Oswiecimiu’, AAN, zespol Ministerstwo Kultury 1 Sztuki. Centralny Zarzad Muzeow. Wydziat Muzeow i Pomnikow Walki z Faszyzmem, syg. 19b; ‘Muzeum oswiecimskie otrzymuje dotacje’, Echo Chetmna, 16 Sept. 1946; Irena Wozniakowska, “Tam bylo wiecej Smierci niz chleba’, Dzzennik Polski,

4 Mar. 1947. 33 Express Wieczorny, 5 Nov. 1946.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 161 informal; when the money ran out, the director Tadeusz Wasowicz would simply return to Warsaw and request more.** By 1947, the site was allotted a monthly subsidy of 500,000 zlotys.*° The sum was woefully inadequate, and it is worth noting that for decades the Ministry of Culture and Art remained the site’s only source of funding. The museum may have received a consistent, if inadequate, influx of funds, but its financial dependence on central authority allowed Warsaw to shape more effectively the landscape of the site.*© Not surprisingly, there was a variety of proposals and methods for financing the

museum from within: requests for donations, sale of materials, admission fees for visitors, and economic utilization of the grounds, to name only a few. One proposal suggested the near-total economic exploitation of the terrain of the camp com-

plex, using the industrial and agricultural infrastructure left behind by the Germans. This maximalist plan called for the museum to manage five hundred hectares of land, which would have included such diverse enterprises as the vegetable gardens and fisheries of nearby auxiliary camps.?” This plan never materialized, but members of the museum staff were nonetheless industrious in their use of the grounds. They grew potatoes in sector BITA of the Birkenau site, bred and stabled horses in two blocks of Auschwitz I, kept chickens in the guardhouse adjacent to the commandant’s villa, and grazed sheep in Birkenau.*® Was economic utilization of the Auschwitz site inappropriate, or were workers at the site to be commended for their resourcefulness in a time of extreme material want? It was certainly impossible to maintain the grounds of the entire Auschwitz {—Birkenau—Monowitz complex, not to mention the grounds of the auxiliary camps in the area, in their January 1945 state. Far too much had been confiscated by Soviet and Polish authorities, stolen by looters, and ruined by the natural elements. Moreover, there is no indication that the museum or its staff reaped any profit from such undertakings; rather, they probably saw such small-scale efforts as aiding in the work of the museum and easing their day-to-day financial and material needs. Yet the exploitation of the Auschwitz site, as necessary as it may have seemed at the time, points to the larger problem of the status of the former camp. On the one hand, the Polish government had, already in January 1946, designated Auschwitz and Birkenau (but not Monowitz) as memorial sites—sites too important to neglect totally or to exploit simply for agricultural or industrial purposes. On the other hand, despite repeated emphasis on the significance of the grounds as a locus of national heroism and martyrdom, the Polish state was either unable or unwilling to provide the site with suitable protection from looters, a satisfactory budget, and an adequate work force.

34 Szymanski, ‘Relacja’. 35 E’cho Chetmna, 16 Sept. 1946. 36 L. Motyka, interview by the author, audio recording, Warsaw, 1 Dec. 1994. 37 W. Hein, ‘Relacja b. wieznia KL Auschwitz Hein Wincenty nr ?, odnosnie pobytu w kl Auschwitz

...anastepnie historii Panstwowego Muzeum w OB’, 20 Sept. 1973, APMO, syg. OSw/Hein/2083. 38 Smolen, interview, 24 Aug. 1994; Szymariski, ‘Relacja’.

162 Jonathan Huener THE STEWARDS OF MEMORY Workers at the memorial site were recruited from the ranks of former prisoners,

and their story is a particularly interesting aspect of the early history of the museum. Their presence at the Auschwitz site was, to some extent, an expression of the solidarity they had felt as prisoners. It was also a mark of their commitment

to preserving the memory of their experiences and carrying that memory into post-war society at large. As one visitor to the site commented in spring 1947, ‘We look with astonishment at those people who dared to remain here for good—the director of the museum Wasowicz, the custodian Targosz, and the administrative director Podziemski. Often the artist Brandhuber travels here from Krakow. He even has his guest room. They cannot separate themselves from Auschwitz.’°° Whether Wasowicz and his staff were psychologically unable to ‘separate themselves from Auschwitz’ is not clear, but former inmates, housed in the base camp, undoubtedly experienced disturbing reactions to their environment. Despite the challenging circumstances, former employees have recalled the early years at the museum with nostalgia. Wages were low, and one often worked long hours seven days a week, but there was also a high level of enthusiasm, co-operation, and collegiality among members of the cadre. As Tadeusz Szymanski has recalled: Everything was important. Everything was urgent. Rescue everything that needed to be rescued. The days were filled with work. .. . But to us it seemed so little, for we had nothing to compare it to. Each did what he could in spite of insufficient time and strength, for even the everyday necessities of life cost more than a little time and energy. No one complained

of the low pay or the lack of provisions. There was something more important than the trifles of day-to-day existence, and the ‘collective’ understood this perfectly, thanks to Baca [Wasowicz] and his close associates.*°

Concerned with the intellectual development of the workers, the museum administration also provided educational programmes for the workers, many of whom had not had the opportunity to obtain a high-school diploma before the war. Employees were also offered lectures for the purpose of training them as guides, for even those working as guards were required to accompany visitors around the site.** As odd as it may sound, it appears that workers at the memorial site were doing their best to establish some degree of order and normalcy in their lives at the former camp. From the perspective of sixty years, at a time when the contours and future of the memorial site are often the locus of international controversy, this may seem peculiar. The staff at the site, however, was composed primarily of survivors who were willing to return to their nightmares and participate in the documentation and 39 S. Peters, ‘Oswiecim’, Dziennik Polski, 4 Apr. 1947.

40 'T. Szymanski, ‘Wzmianki 0 poczatkach Muzeum w Oéswiecimiu i 0 odnajdywaniu na terenie bylego KL Auschwitz r6znych dokumentow i rzeczy wozonych przez wieznidw’, Nov. 1985, APMO,

syg. OSw/Szymanski/2659. 41 Tbid.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 163 preservation of Auschwitz. The war years, and specifically the time spent in Auschwitz, were undoubtedly a defining element in the lives of those working at the

memorial site, but it is hardly surprising that they needed to escape from their memories into the mundane aspects of everyday life. The efforts of these workers to slow the process of destruction at the site also represented a process—although at times a seemingly irreverent one—of coming to terms with their own Auschwitz past, reflecting both the need to remember and commemorate the camp’s dead and the need to retreat from the painful memories of the war and occupation. Perhaps such self-examination was beyond the ken of many of these former prisoners at that time. Faced with collapsing buildings, looters, and disastrous material circumstances, they were understandably most concerned with the practical matters of documentation and preservation of artefacts. In this they enjoyed some success, to the extent that they were able to slow the steady ruin of the former complex in the

face of tremendous practical limitations. Most importantly, their work laid the groundwork for the museum’s early exhibitions.

THE STATE MUSEUM AT AUSCHWITZ When former prisoners began planning the first large-scale public exhibit at the Auschwitz site, they faced a task without pattern or precedent.** As the former prisoner Kazimierz Smolen relates, ‘Of course it was very difficult to organize anything because . . . we unfortunately (and thank God!) had no model, since there was, at that time, no such museum. . .. And a museum was, historically speaking, not even the right concept. .. . at least that which one normally understands by the concept museum. This was anti-culture and not culture.’*? Using more direct language, the former prisoner and early associate of the museum Wincenty Hein described the confusion and lack of direction in the early stages of planning the museum’s exhibits. ‘After all,’ he stated, ‘not one of us had a precise idea how to shape the activities of the newly opened institution.’** Prior to the museum’s official opening in June 1947, the only public exhibits at the site were in Blocks 11 and 4a*° of the base camp. Already organized in the sum-

mer of 1945,*° this brief visitor’s route was rather devotional in character.*” It included a visit to the ‘Block of Death’ (Block 11) and displayed, in the basement of Block 4, artefacts testifying to the extermination process.*® A visitor to the site in November 1946 captured the votive images of this memorial: #2 “Scenariusz filmu Muzeum w 25-leciw’, APMO, syg. S/Iwaszko, Szymaniski/ 64.

43 Smolen, interview, 11 Apr. 1994. 44 Hein, ‘Relacja’. 4) This block was subsequently designated Block 4, and remains so today. For the purpose of clarity, this analysis will always refer to it as Block 4. 46 E. Iwaszko, ‘Wystawy Paristwowego Muzeum w O$wiecimiu w latach 1945-1973’, Muzea Walki, 8 (1975), 215.

47 Smolen, interview, 8 Dec. 1993. 48 APMO, Dzial [IX /z—Wystawa przed 1955 r.

164 Jonathan Huener We proceed further, recalling the many who prematurely left this world, murdered by the German executioners. So we enter Block 4a. The entrance is gloomy in the deeply subdued reflections of red lights. We enter the room and are turned to stone. The basement of the block mirrors the entire magnitude of the crimes committed in Auschwitz. In numerous alcoves are revealed the symbols of various strata of society that here found their deaths. Thus, a peasant’s coat next to a mountaineer’s costume; liturgical vestments of all faiths. In another niche children’s slippers speak for themselves, and next to them the hair of murdered women induces a shudder of horror. For a long time we are unable to depart from this Sanctuary of Martyrology—we are moved to the depths of our emotions.*?

Surrounded by barbed wire, the displays in the basement of Block 4 simply presented ‘evidence’ in the form of items plundered from deportees to Auschwitz: clothing, prostheses, shoes, and human hair. Lacking explanatory inscriptions, the exhibit was intended to evoke a devotional mood—a mood accented by the presence of an illuminated cross at the end of the hall. An obvious appeal to Christian religiosity and the sensibilities of Polish national, and therefore Roman Catholic mar-

tyrdom, the cross and these reliquary objects also testified to the circumscribed Polish character of the exhibit. Subject neither to the anti-religious constraints of subsequent regimes, nor to an international and therefore ‘ecumenical’ commemorative agenda, the creators of this temporary exhibit were making use of the objects and referents available to them: artefacts of destruction and symbols of virtuous sacrifice. There is no evidence that the early creators of this exhibit were consciously using the cross to shroud or supersede the story of Jewish suffering at Auschwitz, but it was hardly a neutral symbol. Depending on the point of view of the visitor to the exhibition, a cross could be understood as a mark of death, mourning, sacrifice, redemption, or victory. Perhaps it was a mild expression of resistance to a regime that, although not communist, was clearly leftist and supported by the Soviets. In any case, it is clear that this early exhibition in Block 4 was constructed and viewed

within a Roman Catholic cultural idiom that contributed to the perception of the early ‘museum’ as a site of Polish national martyrdom. The reliquary atmosphere of this exhibit may have been effective in evoking an

emotional or votive response, but the artefacts and symbols in Block 4, in and of

themselves, had limited didactic value. Consequently, planners of the State Museum to be opened in June 1947 were intent on representing Auschwitz’s history in a more vivid and explanatory manner. This required, in the first place, significant restoration work at the site, and, second, extensive planning for the new exhibition. Restoration work began in the early months of 1947. Prisoner Blocks 15 and 16 were renovated, the confinement cells (Stehzellen) in the cellar of Block 11 were

restored to their prior condition, and the chimney and Zyklon-B chutes of Crematorium I were reconstructed.” It is significant that the Ministry of Culture undertook this restoration work on the grounds of Auschwitz I at the same time 49 Express Wieczorny, 5 Nov. 1946. 50 Hein, ‘Relacja’; Zlobnicki, ‘Relacja’.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 165 that the Birkenau site was being plundered and its barracks dismantled. ‘There were, of course, practical reasons for locating the ‘museum’ portion of the site (its exhibition space) in the base camp: the structures of Auschwitz I were more or less

intact, it covered a smaller and more manageable area in comparison with the expanse of Birkenau, it was closer to the centre of Oswiecim, and the staff’s administrative offices and many of the workers’ apartments were located there. Yet

the decision to locate the exhibition only on the grounds of Auschwitz I also reflected the emphasis on the experience of the Polish political prisoner and on the base camp as the primary locus of Polish national martyrdom.

For the purpose of planning the new exhibition, the Ministry of Culture and Art convened, in December 1946, a conference that brought to OsSwiecim some thirty participants: scholars, journalists, artists, representatives of the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, the Jewish Historical Institute, and the PZbWP. The wide diversity of participants at the meeting reflected broad interest in the museum project. Moreover, it showed that the Auschwitz memorial site and museum were, at this early stage, very much a public project open to a diversity of influences and commemorative agendas, and not solely the result of calculated state directives. In fact, throughout 1946 and 1947, the PZbWP and its press organ Wolni Ludzie had led a public conversation on the future of the site. More than any other organization, the PZbWP—with its membership drawn from the ranks of former prisoners?'—endeavoured to invest the site with a Polish-national commemorative emphasis. Its populist appeals, in combination with its close proximity to centres of power in Warsaw,” helped make the PZbWP a visible and effective champion of the museum’s cause. The protocol of the conference indicates that several sections of the large exhibition were already complete in December 1946. Plans for additional exhibition blocks were ambitious, utilizing nearly all the available space in the base camp. Block 15, as the entrance to the museum, was to provide a general history of German—Polish relations. Blocks 16, 17, and 18 would outline the duties and com-

position of the SS at Auschwitz, life and work inside the camp, and slave labour outside the camp confines respectively. Blocks 1-3, 12-14, and 22-4 were set aside for the exhibitions of other nations whose citizens had perished in Auschwitz, 5! The PZbWP was the largest organization of former prisoners and, by the spring of 1947, counted 177,000 members. On the work of the PZbWP see C. Leski, ‘Jak pracuje nasz Zwiazek’, Wolni

Ludzie, 1 May 1947; M. Wrodblewski, ‘Wstep do inventarza’ (1977), Polski Zwiazek b. Wiezniow

Politycznych Hitlerowskich Wiezien 1 Obozow Koncentracyjnych, Zarzad Glowny, Zarzady Wojewédzkie, Kola /1940/1946—49/—1952, AAN, zespol 415.

52 Among the PZbWP’s most prominent members were Jozef Cyrankiewicz, who was named prime minister after the January 1947 election, Minister of Justice Henryk Swiatkowski, Vice Minister of Justice Tadeusz Rek, and Ludwik Rajewski, director of the Ministry of Culture’s Department of Museums and Monuments of Polish Martyrology. ‘Apel do b. wiezniow politycznych w sprawie Muzeum w Oswecimiu’, PZbWP, okolnik no. 5/47, AAN, zespot 415, syg. 13; Leski, ‘Jak pracuje nasz Zwiazek’.

166 | Jonathan Huener while Blocks 19—21 and 25-7 would house artefacts and documents depicting the history of other major camps.°?

These exhibits were to give a thorough presentation of German aggression throughout history, especially during the recent occupation, highlighting the pris-

oners’ experience in Auschwitz I. Moreover, in setting aside nine blocks for ‘national’ exhibitions, the conference’s recommendations foresaw the participation of various countries in the further development of the site. This goal, however, remained merely a hypothetical abstraction until the first national exhibits were opened in the late 1950s and 1960s. It is possible, at this early stage in the site’s development, that other countries and their organizations of former prisoners were less than forthcoming with plans for the ‘international’ development of the museum. It also appears, however, that the museum and its supervising ministry in Warsaw did not place the international

element of Auschwitz history or the international make-up of deportees to the camp—both Jews and non-Jews—at the forefront of their efforts. In April 1947 the Ministry of Culture and Art commissioned Wincenty Hein with the task of developing a ‘foreign office’ at the museum to co-ordinate subsequent co-operation in the development of additional exhibitions. Hein, however, was prevented from

travelling to the international congress of the Federation Internationale des Anciens Prisonniers Politiques in Paris later that month. Delegates to the congress passed a resolution calling for co-operation with the State Museum at Auschwitz in

the construction of various national exhibits,°* but plans for an ‘international office’ at the State Museum never materialized.°? A more extensive ‘internationalization’ of the site’s exhibits would certainly have been appropriate at this early stage, but this important aspect of the camp’s history remained limited to official pronouncements and the information provided by museum guides. Although there appeared to be general consensus on plans for the base camp, the future of the Birkenau site was a more difficult and controversial issue for the

participants in the December 1946 conference. As Alfred Woycicki, author of the conference’s protocol, stated: Far more difficult is the issue of the Birkenau camp, which will receive further elaboration and analysis. ‘Today, in its raw state from January 1945, it makes a nightmarish impression and shocks one to the depths—particularly the women’s camp. The human imagination is not ina state to comprehend that tens of thousands of women from all of Europe were forced to live in

such monstrous brutalization and degradation, sentenced to extermination by the ‘master race’. It is necessary to give the most serious consideration to this problem and its solution.

The grounds of the destroyed crematoria and the ditches in which corpses were burnt are also among the most difficult issues. The entirety of those grounds permeated with °3 A. Woycicki, ‘Glos ma Naréd’ [protocol of the December 1946 conference], AAN, zespot 415, syg. 52.

°4 Wolni Ludzie, 1 May 1947; Alfred Woycicki, ‘OSwiecim, 14.VI.1940—14.V1.1947’, Dziennik

Polski, 11 June 1947. °° Hein, ‘Relacja’.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 167 human remains must be secured and commemorated in a manner worthy of the majesty of a martyr’s death. May the voice of society be decisive in this matter.*©

Lacking the self-explanatory structures of the base camp, the topography of the Birkenau site was capable of evoking an emotional reaction on the part of the visitor, but appeared to have limited didactic value because of its ‘raw state’. It is also significant that the protocol singled out the former women’s camp as the most disturbing element at Birkenau. Many, if not all the masonry barracks in the Frauenkonzentrationslager were still standing, unlike the hundreds of wooden barracks that had already been torn down in the other sectors of Birkenau. Perhaps the women’s camp was, like the blocks of the base camp, a more accessible locus of memory. Poles had survived it, and many associated it with the writings of prisoners such as Krystyna Zywulska, Zofia Kossak, and Seweryna Szmaglewska, all of

whom, shortly after liberation, had published accounts of their experiences there.°’ In any case, it is clear that the conferees were at a loss as to what to make of the site. Birkenau, of course, had changed significantly in the course of less than two years and was certainly not, as the protocol claims, in the same condition as in January 1945.°° The most notorious of all Nazi killing centres, in effect, had lost

much of its iconographic and pedagogical value precisely because it had not, as Woycicki had stated, been ‘secured and commemorated in a manner worthy of the majesty of a martyr’s death’. The plans set out at the December 1946 conference, ambitious as they were, met with revision in the following months, for the exhibition that opened in June 1947 had a simplified structure and was limited to Blocks 4-6 and 8—11.°” Although museum documents do not allow a block-by-block analysis, they do reveal an important characteristic of the exhibition: its division of the camp’s history into two periods. To quote Professor Ludwik Rajewski, director of the Department of Museums and Monuments of Polish Martyrology, the first phase in the history of Auschwitz was ‘the period of the biological destruction of the Poles, and especially the Polish intelligentsia’, while the second marked the ‘period of the biological ruin of the Jews, [when]... conditions and life in the camp were easier, but the 56 Woycicki, ‘Glos ma Naréd’. °? K. Zywulska, Przes’ylam OSwigcim (Warsaw, 1946); Z. Kossak, Z otchtani: Wspomnienia z lagru (Czestochowa, 1946); S. Szmaglewska, Dymy nad Birkenau (Warsaw, 1946). Szmaglewska’s memoir quickly became one of the most widely read accounts of life and death in Auschwitz and has been pub-

lished in at least six Polish editions. See A. Pawelczynska, Values and Violence in Auschwitz: A Sociological Analysis (Berkeley, 1979), 25, and the Zycie Warszawy article of 17 June 1947, which credits Szmaglewska with acquainting the public with the concept of ‘Birkenau’. °8 A 1955 memorandum of the Department of Museums and Monuments of the Struggle against

Fascism indicates that by the end of 1946, 60 per cent of the structures on the grounds of the Auschwitz memorial site had been destroyed. Most of the structures were in Birkenau. ‘Notatka Stuzbowa’, AAN, zespol Ministerstwo Kultury i Sztuki. Centralny Zarzad Muzeéw. Wydziat Muzeow 1 Pomnikow Walki z Faszyzmem, syg. 21. 59 Zycie Warszawy, 22 Apr. 1947; Napradd Dolnoslgski, 31 May 1947.

168 Jonathan Huener victims were in the millions, eight times as many as in the first period’.®° Rajewski’s

periodization was appropriate to the extent that it testified to the lack of uniformity in the experiences of prisoners in the camp over time. In addition, it helped to distinguish, if only in small measure, between the treatment of non-Jewish registered prisoners and unregistered Jewish deportees. Yet such a periodization was also misleading, for in its reference to the ‘biological destruction of the Poles’ it attributed to non-Jewish Poles a smaller number of victims, but a comparable level of suffering in the camp—the implication being that Jews were left to languish in the camp, resulting in millions of deaths, and that non-Jewish Poles were also the victims of systematic genocide. The available evidence suggests that the fate of the Jews at Auschwitz, as a category of historical representation, was marginalized at the museum already in its earliest phase of development. A comparison of planning documents for the exhibition illustrates this claim. The first version of a set of guidelines located in the State Museum’s administrative archives, entitled ‘Principles for the Planning of the Museum in the Former Concentration Camp Auschwitz’, proposed treatment of the annihilation of the Jews at Auschwitz in the following manner: From 1942 (summer) until the autumn of 1944 was the period of biological annihilation of Jews. With respect to life in the camp, this period was undoubtedly easier, but with respect to the number of victims, the numbers were much higher. They were transported from all countries of Europe, and if they were not immediately needed they were 100 per cent annihilated. This period was undoubtedly more horrific, as it has to do with the extermination of millions, and if one were concerned only with numerical comparison, this was an eightfold increase.

The document continues: we must discuss the most important issue in the Auschwitz camp, that is, the Jewish question. The State Museum at Auschwitz will contact the Central Jewish Commission in Lodz and request its co-operation. Because Jews had, under the circumstances, suffered the greatest loss, they should provide materials for the purpose of depicting the magnitude of their destruction, as well as the possible methods of that destruction. . . . In all statistical data the number of Jewish victims must be given. . . . Jews are to be divided into groups according to the states from which they came. The proportion of Jewish artefacts depends on the contributions of the Central Jewish Commission, but should not give the impression that Auschwitz is a place of exclusively Jewish torment.°!

Although subscribing to Rajewski’s periodization, the ‘planning principles’ quoted

here are clear and accurate in their brief description of the Jewish fate at 6° Quoted in ‘Najstraszliwsze muzeum Swiata na miejscu martyrologii milionow ludzi. Rozmowa z prof. Rajewskim o planach organizacji muzeum’, Express Wieczorny, 24 Feb. 1947.

61 “Zasady rozplanowania Muzeum w bylym obozie koncentracyjnym w Oswiecimiu’, Skladnice Akt Paristwowego Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oswi¢cimiu (Administrative Archives of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim), teczka: Projekty ekspozycji w blokach wystawowych 1947-1949.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 169 Auschwitz; they leave no room for doubt that the greatest number of victims at the camp were Jews, and they designate the Jews’ destruction as ‘the most important issue in the Auschwitz camp’. But a revision of the guidelines from the files of the PZbWP radically abbreviates the ‘Jewish question’ at the museum, stating only: ‘The issue of the extermination of the Jews demands special treatment. In agreement with the Central Jewish Historical Commission, Jewish victims must be designated, to the extent possible, as citizens of particular states.’"°? The final and publicized version of this document appeared in the PZbWP organ Wolni Ludzie on 15 June 1947, the day after the museum’s opening ceremonies, and its discussion of how the extermination of the Jews would be treated in the exhibitions was identical to that of the abbreviated second version.©? Given the PZbWP’s proximity to power in Warsaw, it is possible that this revision, subsuming rather than highlighting the crimes against Jews at Auschwitz,

reflected the wishes of the regime and the political exigencies of the period. Although available documents and exhibition photographs do not allow us to measure with absolute precision the treatment of the Jewish genocide in the museum’s new exhibition, it appears that the annihilation of the Jews, as an object of historical research or as a phenomenon standing alone among the criminal policies of National Socialism, remained at the margins. As late as April 1947 there had been plans to place Blocks 4 and 11 at the disposal of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland, reflecting at least the goal of developing a Jewish exhibition at the site;°* but at the museum’s opening, the only space marked for the commemoration of Jewish victims was a single room in Block 4.°° The museum’s director and staff had certainly expressed the intent to address in some fashion the extermination of Jews at Auschwitz, but the issue remained on the periphery as simply one more example of German barbarism. The State Museum at Auschwitz, it must be emphasized, never denied or effaced the Jewish genocide from its exhibitions. It did, however, marginalize this history or subsume it in the broader treatment of the ‘Extermination of Millions’, as the title of the exhibit in Block 4 suggested. Jews were to be remembered for their suffering and death at Auschwitz, but that suffering and death was neither given unique emphasis, nor adequately set apart from the dominant Polish-national martyrological idiom cultivated at the site. Kazimierz Smolen and former Minister of Culture Lucjan Motyka, both early associates of the museum, have suggested that political considerations were instrumental in this abbreviation of the historical record.©° Not only would an accurate

representation of Jewish suffering and death at Auschwitz have overshadowed

the martyrdom of non-Jewish Poles, it could also have stimulated existing 6? ‘Zasady rozplanowania Muzeum w bylym obozie koncentracyjnym w Oswiecimiu’, AAN, zespot

415, SYZ. 13. 63 Wolni Ludzi, 15 June 1947. °4 Opinia, 16 June 1947. ° Deziennik Ludowy, 17 June 1947. The first large exhibit on the Holocaust and fate of the Jews at Auschwitz was not opened until 1968. 66 Smolen, interview, 11 Apr. 1994; Motyka, interview, 1 Dec. 1994.

170 Jonathan Huener anti-communist and anti-Jewish sentiment in this period of political instability and anti-Jewish violence in Poland, undermining the credibility of the museum and the state that supported it.’ In other words, Poles visiting or reading about a museum and memorial site giving the annihilation of the Jews its proper emphasis might have felt that their monument to national martyrdom had somehow been appropriated by Jews, and an emphasis on and valorization of Jewish victimization

at the camp could have alienated the visiting public and have undermined the regime’s effort to uphold Auschwitz as a site of Polish martyrdom. The failure to identify Jewish victims as such was inappropriate and misleading.

Often simply and exclusively ascribed to antisemitic traditions in Poland, this practice was, in fact, more complex than is frequently assumed. Although it may have reflected an ahistorical and politically expedient concern over the Polish public’s identification of the post-war Auschwitz site with a perceived zydokomuna

(the widely held stereotype of a Jewish-inspired communist conspiracy) and unpopular government in Warsaw, the museum’s planners were, in fact, subscribing to methods of identifying victims and the losses suffered by various nations (for example, ‘six million citizens of Poland’) that were standard for the time. And there is an additional irony: those responsible for the planning of the Auschwitz site wished to avoid accusations of racism, were they to designate victims specifically as Jews. On this point, Lucjan Motyka explains: There is a further problem in the portrayal of the museum. In 1947, when the museum was organized . . . in Germany and in Poland and in other camps one considered how many citizens of those countries perished, and one did not speak of Jews, Poles—only six million citizens of Poland. At that time there was no Jewish state, and in the discussions then, we did not want to subscribe to Rosenberg’s principles®® that a man or citizen of a given country is counted only on a racial basis. ... So the use of Hitlerite principles—that he was a Jew because his grandfather was a Jew——seemed to us to be an acceptance of Rosenberg’s racial laws.°?

At stake here are a number of issues crucial to the future of the Auschwitz museum

and Polish perceptions of Auschwitz history in the post-war era: the relative 67 Noteworthy in this context is also Cie¢wierz’s contention that press censorship in the early postwar years, especially after a reorganization of press and propaganda institutions in the spring of 1947, made a clear effort to understate or delete important ‘Jewish issues’, such as the participation of Polish citizens of Jewish background in the regime’s administrative elite or Polish complicity in the murder

of Jews by the Germans during the occupation. See M. Cie¢wierz, Polityka prasowa 1944-1948 (Warsaw, 1989), 178, 289—g0. On transformations in the provisional government’s policies towards the press, see also J. Perkal, ‘Polityczna historia prasy w Polsce w latach 1944-1984’, in I. Lasota (ed.), 40 lat wladzy komunistycznej w Polsce (London, 1986), 151-8.

68 Alfred Rosenberg was a leading racial theorist of the Nazi Party who wrote on the alleged Jewish world conspiracy and the evils of Bolshevism and Zionism. After the invasion of the Soviet Union in

June 1941, he was appointed Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Motyka is using Rosenberg simply as a metaphor for Nazi racial principles in general. 69 Motyka, interview, 1 Dec. 1994.

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom 171 emphasis of one victim group over another; the breadth of ‘martyrdom’ as a commemorative mantra; the extent to which Jews should be designated as the largest

victim group at Auschwitz; and, finally, whether or not it was appropriate for the custodians of Auschwitz memory to use, in their public representation of the camp’s history, categories employed by the perpetrators of the Auschwitz crime.

Motyka’s statements illustrate the complex and sensitive issues faced when attempting to designate and categorize Auschwitz victims. They are not intended as an exculpation of the understated presentation of the annihilation of the Jews at the memorial site, but are descriptive of the dilemmas faced by the museum’s planners and point to the inability or unwillingness to confront the Jewish issue there. This failure was not simply and exclusively a manifestation of antisemitism or the result of malicious design, but appears to have been the product of a studied ignorance, a collective memory of a Polish Auschwitz, and a degree of political control that would intensify in the years to come. By the time of the opening ceremonies of the State Museum in June 1947, the Auschwitz site had undergone a remarkable transformation. In the course of only two and a half years, a site of carnage and destruction had become the central locus of institutionalized public memory, martyrology, and wartime history in early post-war Poland. The historical exhibitions at the museum—as well as the failure to maintain and develop the Birkenau site—reflected the currents of Auschwitz memory in Poland as they developed in the early post-war years. Polish national martyrdom and the perpetual German threat were the outstanding features of official Auschwitz memory and its physical manifestations, while the extermination of Jews at Auschwitz would remain, for decades to come, a fact acknowledged but inadequately expressed at the memorial site. In effect, Poland had retained the more complete landscape of the concentration camp Auschwitz I in which Poles had languished and where many had met a brutal death, but had abbreviated the extermination camp in which European Jews had perished. In 1948, a British publicist, after a visit to Auschwitz, reflected on his experience there: To know evil is to enter into it, to become it in some sort; and there is no knowledge of good without knowledge of evil. The realisation of the evil of Birkenau sets one at the core of the moral struggle of our world, in a flash of absolutes. And this difficult moment is, after all,

what one came here to meet . . . one feels that there is a moral difference between the nations for whom Birkenau or its like is a simple fact, confronted, set aside, unforgotten, and those who have never known or discovered it. . .. How soon the green comes, and the plough goes over. ’°

Whether the author knew it or not, he had hit upon a central problem of Auschwitz memory in Poland. Auschwitz was unforgotten and the construction of the camp’s commemorative framework was far from complete, but by 1947 notions of Polish 70 J. L. Lindsay, ‘It wasn’t like this ...’, New Statesman and Natton, 36 (1948), 459.

172 Jonathan Huener martyrdom and the marginalization of the destruction of the Jews had become cultural and ideological fixtures of its memory. Poland had, in fact, simplified Auschwitz, routinized its meaning, and set it aside for the next generation to honour, instrumentalize, and even exploit for its own political ends.



The Yiddish Book Series Dos poylishe yidntum’ (Polish fewry )

1946-1966 JAN SCHWARZ Just as the survivors return to life, so does the Yiddish book. To collect the disposed holy documents, to redeem the homeless letters, that is the demand of the hour. ASHER PEN

‘Naye yidishe bikher in argentine’, Jewish Book Annual (1946-7)

[T]he series presents us with one of the most important efforts ever undertaken anywhere in the world to perpetuate and chronicle the history, the lifestyle, the spiritual creativity, and the ultimate destruction of Polish Jewry. AVROM NOWERSHTERN

‘Dos poylishe yidntum’, The Book Peddler: Magazine of the National Yiddish Book Centre (1991)

IN A 1955 article, the Yiddish critic Shmuel Niger mentioned ‘a series of more than one hundred books which the youngest, most active and productive Yiddish publishing house has published in the last years . . . entitled Dos poylishe yidntum’.' The series, initiated in 1946 in Buenos Aires by Mark Turkovy, a Jewish journalist and political activist in inter-war Warsaw, came to an end in 1966 with the publication of its 175th volume (for a complete list see the Appendix).? With an average 1 S. Niger, “Tendentsn in der nayster yidisher literatur’, Jewish Book Annual (1955-6), 7. 2 Mark Turkov was born in Warsaw in 1904. During the inter-war period he worked as a journalist for the Polish and Yiddish press in Poland, first covering sports and later the political debates in the Sejm. He was the author of three books in Polish in the 1930s. He also published books in Yiddish: Roosevelt’s America: Travel Impressions from the United States (1937) and In fewish Fields: A Fourney through the Jewish Colonies in Argentina (1939). During 1933-8 he was the general director of the Anti-

Hitler Committee. He immigrated to Buenos Aires in 1939. His three brothers Jonas (1898-1988), Zygmunt (1896-1970), and Yitskhok (1906-70) were actors and directors on the Yiddish stage in Warsaw. They survived the war and continued their Yiddish acting and writing careers. During 1946-54 Mark Turkov was director of HIAS in South America and, from 1954, the Argentine

174 Jan Schwarz publication rate of almost ten books per year, Dos poylishe yidntum became one of the most remarkable memorials to the destroyed Polish Jewish community. The books were published in attractive formats replete with drawings and photographs that reflected the series’ ‘modern approach, youthful touch, and innovative character combined with a rich imagination’.® An estimated quarter-million books of Dos poylishe yidntum had been printed and sold by 1954, which saw the publication of the hundredth volume, Mark Turkov’s Di letste fun a groysn dor (“The Last of a Great Generation’). In 1947 the books were distributed in twenty-two countries and reached survivors of the Holocaust in Poland and displaced persons camps.*

The speed with which the books were published in the early years was quite remarkable. An average of two books per month was published in 3,000 copies per run, increased to 5,000 copies in some cases, a high number for a Yiddish book.°

Many of them were boldly marked oysfarkoyft (sold out) on the list that was inserted at the end of each book. The Buenos Aires-born Yiddish scholar Avrom Nowershtern recalls: ‘In hundreds of Jewish homes throughout Argentina one could immediately recognize the shelves of volumes standing back to back in their distinctive black bindings, a modern Zeykher L’khurbm [Holocaust Memorial]. One can therefore say without exaggeration that the series “Polish Jewry” is also a milestone which helped to establish Argentina as a central point on the Jewish world map.”° In the introduction to the first volume of the series, Malke ovshyani dertseylt (‘Malke Ovshyani Tells her Tale, 1946), one of the first Holocaust testimonies by a woman, the objective of the series was first presented: Under the name ‘Polish Jewry’ the Central Union of Polish Jews in Argentina has decided to publish a series of books and pamphlets whose aim is to bring the Jewish mass readership and the world at large closer to the problems related to the destroyed Jewish life in Poland.

Conscious of the great responsibility in implementing this task, the Central Union of Polish Jews in Argentina intends to ensure that Polish Jewry will receive a multifaceted and strictly non-partisan coverage in the books, in all its aspects and in every area of its social, political, and cultural creativity . . . Cities and towns where once a colourful vibrant Jewish

life existed and which was eradicated from the face of the earth by the Nazi destroyers, episodes and events characteristic of the history of the destroyed Jewish community in Poland, memoirs of famous Jewish personalities whose life and creativity were an intrinsic part of Polish Jewry will be the main themes of the published books and pamphlets.’ representative of the World Jewish Congress. He was also president of the South American Federation of Polish Jews and vice-president of the World Union of Polish Jews. He died in 1983 in Buenos Aires. See M. Ravits, ‘Di fir brider turkov’, Mayn leksikon, ii (Montreal, 1947), 230—2 and Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur.

A. Pen, ‘Naye yidishe bikher in argentine’, Jewish Book Annual (1946-7) (ayen khes, Yiddish section). * A. Mitlberg, ‘Hilf durkh kultur’, Spetsyele oysgabe gevidmet der bikher serye dos poylishe yidntum,

XXV (Buenos Aires, 1947), 11. > Tbid. © Avrom Nowershtern, ‘Dos poylishe yidntum’, The Book Peddler: Magazine of the National Yiddish Book Centre (1991), 14. ’ M. Turkov, Malke ovshyani dertseylt: khronik fun undzer tsayt (Buenos Aires, 1946), 5—6. DPY 1.

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176 Jan Schwarz

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A Library of Hope and Destruction 177 The sponsor of the series, the Central Union of Polish Jews, was associated with most of the /andsmanshaftn—associations of Jews from the same towns in eastern Europe—in Argentina and was not prone to the political partisanship that otherwise characterized Yiddish publishing houses, such as those associated with the Bund, right- and left-wing Poalei Zion, anarchists, and communists. Like yizker books published by the /andsmanshafin, the goal was to offer broad, non-partisan coverage of all aspects of Jewish life in Poland prior to and during the Holocaust. Moreover, a note on the title page of the first volume reads: “The profits from this book will be donated to the relief work for the benefit of surviving Jewish children who are hospitalized in sanatoriums in Sweden.’ Thus was born the practice during the first years of Dos poylishe yidntum to donate the profits from the sales of books to relief work among the Jewish survivors in Europe, among them Yiddish writers. The Jewish community in Buenos Aires was dominated by the second wave of Polish Jewish immigrants that arrived after the First World War. The first wave, mostly Bessarabian Jews who came to Argentina in the 18gos sponsored by Baron Hirsh Ginzburg, settled primarily on farms in small towns in the provinces. This early immigration was the topic of Mark Turkov’s Oyf yidishe felder (‘In Jewish Fields’, 1939), in which he depicted his impressions from a journey through the Argentine provinces in the late 1930s. After visits to Argentina in the late 1940s, the Jewish historian Yankev Shatski stressed that Yiddish language and culture

remained central to the Argentine-born children of Polish Jewish immigrants (arriving in the 1920s) who had become successful professionals in Buenos Aires: This generation, born in Argentina, reads Yiddish newspapers, visits Yiddish lectures, goes to the Yiddish theatre, although they speak Spanish among themselves. Despite limited Jewish religious knowledge, these people are Jews of the national-secular type. In Argentina, Jewish clergy have generally not played the same role as they have in the United States. One does not find orthodox or reform rabbis among community leaders. Their Jewishness consists of ... the Yiddish language and everything connected to it: theatre, books, lectures, etc. Because they are strongly secular they fully understand language nationalism.°®

Shatski emphasized the central role played by Polish Jews who brought a secular Yiddish ideal of Jewish nationalism to Buenos Aires: “Their vision was to continue,

on the banks of La Plata, the cultural treasures which they had absorbed on the banks of the Vistula. Bundists, Poale1 Zion, Communists, general Zionists—one ideal united them all: Yiddish culture.’? Shatski praises the newly created branch of YIVO in Buenos Aires under the leadership of Shmuel Rozhanski, who turned the YIVO library into a repository ‘for living books which are read so diligently that each book is constantly in circulation’. He concludes that the cultural presence of Polish Jews in Argentina was a necessary requirement for the implementation of Dos poylishe yidntum.’®

1958), 319. 9 Ibid. 320. 10 Tbid. 8 Y. Shatski, ‘Yidish lebn in argentine’, in Shatski-bukh, ed. Y. Lifshits (New York and Buenos Aires,

178 Jan Schwarz Only one and a half years after the series had begun, the publication of the twenty-fifth volume was celebrated with a booklet including brief articles by leading Yiddish cultural figures and writers all over the world. In his article “The Idea of the Book Series’, ‘Turkov emphasized that the Central Union of Polish Jews both supported relief work among the survivors of the Holocaust, the main obligation of the /andsmanshafin, and contributed to the writing of Polish Jewish history. This broader goal of the book series as contributor to economic relief work and cultural revival grew out of a concept of Polish Jewry as a national body: The initiators of the project had the privilege of heading the organization that represents

| organized Polish Jewry in Argentina. They understood that this organization with more than thirty years’ experience of social activity cannot be limited to functioning as a local landsmanshaft. It cannot limit itself to relief work—regardless of its importance—but must develop into a broader level of activity that... can contribute to the thousand-year history of Polish Jewry. Clearly we were more than a Jewish community. We were a Jewish people on Polish lands—as the well-known Jewish historian Dr Yankev Shatski correctly has characterized Polish Jewry."?

The series included a variety of genres that exemplified the richness and complexity of Jewish life in Poland. A significant number of books were Holocaust memoirs, diaries, and testimonies from the ghettos, camps, and aftermath of the war, such as Hillel Seidman’s Togbukh fun varshever geto (“Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto’, vol. 15), Shmerke Katczerginski’s Partizaner geyen! (‘Partisans March!’, vol. 18), Yosef Kermish’s Der oyfshtand in varshever geto (“The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’, vol. 30), and Jonas Turkov’s Azoy tz es geven: khurbn varshe (‘So It Was:

The Destruction of Warsaw’, vol. 27). As the series progressed, an increasingly large number of the books were cultural historical studies and memoirs about Polish Jewish life, such as Yankev Shatsk1’s /n shotn fun over (‘In the Shadow of the

Past’, vol. 13) and sociologist Jacob Lestschinsky’s articles from the inter-war Polish Yiddish press, Oyfn rand fun opgrunt (‘On the Edge of the Abyss’, vol. 21) and Erev khurbn (‘On the Eve of Destruction’, vol. 77). The series featured poetry by young Yiddish writers such as Rokhl Korn, Heym un heymlozikeyt (“Home and Homelessness’, vol. 39); Chaim Grade, Pleytim (‘Refugees’, vol. 17) and Sheyn fun

farloshene shtern (‘Reflection of Extinguished Stars’, vol. 66); and Zysman Segalovitsh, Gebrente trit ‘Burned Steps’, vol. 22). It included reprints of classical Yiddish works related to Polish Jewry such as Jacob Glatshteyn’s Ven yash 1z geforn (‘When Yash Set Out’, vol. 128), Yehoshua Perle’s Yidn fun a gants yor (‘Ordinary Jews’, vol. 76), and Sholem Asch’s Dray shtet (“Three Cities’, vols. 56-8). Several books about Y. L. Peretz and memoirs about the Yiddish PEN Club in Warsaw, Tlomatske Street 13—the main address of Polish Yiddish culture—emphasized the series’ secular Yiddish orientation. 11 Turkov, introduction to Spetsyele oysgabe, 2.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 179 While many of the featured authors had perished in the Holocaust, a talented group of surviving young Yiddish writers published their first work in the series. Among them were Rokhl Korn, Yehuda Elberg, Mordechai Strigler, and Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel, all born in the 1910s and 1920s. Strigler’s output in Dos poylishe yidntum was breathtaking. Between 1947 and 1955 he published six memoirs about his experiences in German labour and extermination camps as well as two historical novels: Maydanek (vol. 20, 1947), [n di fabrikn fun toyt (‘In the Factories of Death’, vol. 32, 1948), Verk ‘ce’ (‘Factory “C”’, vols. 64-5), Goyroles (‘Destinies’, vols. 85-6), and Georemt mitn vint (“Embraced by the Wind’, vols. 108—9). In an introduc-

tion to the memoir Maydanek, dated May 1946, one of the first works about an extermination camp, Strigler presented his programme for Yiddish literature: ‘What has been written about our historical period has only touched the surface. The essence has not yet been disclosed. And something must be told about the internal pain, the deep psychological struggle, and essential human sadness of a generation’s terrifying death. ... The world, even the Jewish world, doesn’t know

what really happened! And they must know! To the last detail.’!” Eliezer Wiesel published his first Holocaust memoir Un di velt hot geshvign (‘And the World Was Silent’, vol. 117), which was later reworked in French and English as Night.'° The series imparted a sense of Yiddish cultural renaissance that paralleled Abraham Sutzkever’s editorship of the literary journal Di goldene keyt (“The Golden Chain’, 141 volumes, 1947-95) in Tel Aviv. Dos poylishe yidntum recreated the idea of a secular Yiddish culture following the destruction of its heartland in Poland. It signalled a

Yiddish cultural rebirth through its consistent output over two decades, coupled

with its enthusiastic reception by a worldwide readership. , Yiddish publishing after 1945 did ‘continue to exert an incontrovertible force and vitality’; however, the irreversible demographic trend of ageing writers and readers, and the lack of replenishing by a new generation, led to the creation of several Yiddish publication centres ‘that functioned on a far more limited scale compared to what came before, centres that emerged suddenly, flourished for a decade or two, and then rapidly declined’.'* Dos poylishe yidntum was a typical example of Yiddish publishing after the Holocaust in terms of its prolific output during twenty years and its implementation by one individual that took full advantage of beneficial cultural and economic conditions for Yiddish book publishing. The cost of printing, binding, and paper was, as Zachary Baker points out, ‘a critical factor determining the emergence or demise of a centre’.!° Like Abraham Sutzkever, who succeeded in obtaining financial support from Histadrut (the Israeli Labor Union) to publish his literary journal Di goldene keyt, 12M. Strigler, Maydanek (Buenos Aires, 1947), 8 (bold in original).

13 See my article, “The Original Text and Context of Night’, in A. Rosen (ed.), Approaches to Teaching World Literature: Elie Wiesel’s Night (New York, forthcoming). 14 7. Baker, ‘Yiddish Publishing after 1945’, in J. Sherman (ed.), Yiddish after the Holocaust (Oxford,

2004), 60, 62. 15 Thid. 63.

180 Jan Schwarz Turkov established a partnership with the Central Union of Polish Jews at a time when it was relatively easy to raise money for Yiddish publications. In a 1947 letter to Turkov, Moshe Unger, a Yiddish writer at the New York daily Der tog, described the altered circumstances for the /andsmanshafin in the USA in the aftermath of the Holocaust: The name of the publishing house [Dos poylishe yidntum] is very popular here. People brag about you and your publishing house and you should utilize this sentiment. I don’t need to tell you what the /andsmanshaftn have become in America. They have tons of money. They

don’t know what to do with it. The towns in whose names they were created have been eradicated and made Judenrein. Every landsmanshaft wants to erect a monument to their home shtetl, to publish a book by a writer from their home shtetl.'©

However, as Jewish historians such as Yankev Shatski pointed out, the populous and wealthy American Jewish community was not able to pull off a project like Dos poylishe yidntum. The strong commitment to commemoration and Yiddish cultural renewal that Turkov combined in Dos poylishe y1dntum did not find a place in the much larger and more politically fragmented Yiddish world in New York.*’ Moreover, the strong financial support of Yiddish culture among Jewish business people in Buenos Aires was a precondition for the implementation of Turkov’s project. In a letter, printed in the twenty-fifth jubilee pamphlet, the directors of Banco Israelita del Rio de la Plata pledged their support to publish volume 26, Leo Finkelstein’s Megiles poyln (‘Scrolls of Poland’). They emphasized the book series’ broader goals to sponsor relief work in Europe and to initiate Yiddish literary renewal: “Che twenty-five volumes published so far are not only a monument to the great history of Polish Jewry, its martyrology, and heroic resistance; they are also an important contribution to Yiddish literature and a documentary source for the future scholar of this tragic era in the history of our people.’ In 1957 the head of the Argentine YIVO, the Yiddish cultural leader Shmuel Rozhanski, launched the Musterverk (‘Masterpieces’) series which ran until 1984, after the publication of its one hundredth volume. This series featured the most important works of Yiddish literature from pre-modern times through the first

half of the twentieth century. They were introduced by Rozhanski, providing modern Yiddish reprints of classical and contemporary works, including glossaries and critical articles that could be used by scholars, study groups, and those training

to teach in Yiddish-speaking schools. The South African businessman Joseph 16 M. Turkov Archive, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (hereafter YIVO), New York. Letter of Mar. 1947. 17 Yankev Shatski was critical of the American Jewish community’s indifference to commemorating Polish Jewry. In ‘D1 landsmanshaftnliteratur in di fareynikte shtatn far di letste 10 yor’, Jewish Book Annual (1951-2) (fey alef, Yiddish section), Shatski states: ‘It is relevant to note that this series [Dos

poylishe yidntum| found only one subscriber in the United States and the purchase of books only reached fifty copies. The books are being sold in Argentina and a significant part of them in Israel, Europe, and South America.’ Shatski, ‘Yidish lebn in argentine’, 321.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 181 Lifshitz supported the publication of this impressive Argentine book series, which remains an important tool for Yiddish education and literary studies.*® Following the purges of Yiddish cultural life in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s, the dominant Yiddish publication centres were New York and Tel Aviv, with minor centres in Melbourne, Montreal, Warsaw, and Buenos Aires. During the same period as Dos poylishe yidntum, the state-sponsored Yidish-bukh publishing house in Warsaw

issued over 300 Yiddish books, including new and classical works.‘ In an article of 1947 Abraham Mitlberg, secretary and co-editor of the book series, discussed the close co-operation between Dos poylishe yidntum and the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland. This led to the shipment of hundreds of books to survivors in Poland and the displaced persons camps. In some cases, titles were simultaneously published in Yiddish and in Polish: “The books are published in Polish in Poland and here in Argentina in Yiddish.’“° The international scope of the book series was a significant departure from pre-Holocaust Yiddish publishing in Argentina, which had an almost entirely local character. The ascendance of Buenos Aires as an international centre for Yiddish publishing was made possible by a convergence of circumstances: the strong leadership of Turkov and Mitlberg; the worldwide need for Yiddish books about the literature, history, and destruction of Polish Jewry; and, most importantly, sufficient funds to support the endeavour. Mitlberg summarized: ‘We feel deeply that we are implementing a historical mission in the Yiddish publishing industry, by elevating the importance of the Yiddish book; by creating an address for Yiddish writers and familiarizing a worldwide Yiddish readership with the tragically terminated chapter of the martyrological history of Polish Jewry.’*? After a five-week trip to several South American countries, Turkov wrote to Yankev Shatski in 1949: ‘I must answer approximately 100 letters which arrived while I was away. Most contain suggestions for new books. Even the widow of Leon Kobrin suggests that I publish her husband’s plays. She has no other possibility of publishing the plays. Unfortunately I can’t take on every request. By the way, Friedman’s Oshvientshim is now being sent to the printer.’?? Dos poylishe ytdntum became a magnet for Yiddish writers and acquired a reputation as a commercial success. The reality was very different, as is evident from Turkov’s letters

to contributors in the series. A typical example: ‘We have—as usual—limited funds, but we work hard and make plans for the future. The truth is, in the foreseeable future, the whole thing could go down the drain. Basically, we have no more energy to toil and to dupe the printer and the binder. Such is our destiny.’2° In a 1952 letter, Mitlberg complains that it is not financially viable to ship books abroad, but the publishing house will nevertheless publish ten books in ‘this bad 18 For an overview of the series, see E. Schulman, ‘Siyem fun tsikl “Musterverk fun der yidisher literatur”’, Jewish Book Annual, 43 (1985-6), 132-40.

19 Baker, ‘Yiddish Publishing after 1945’, 63. 20 Spetsyele oysgabe, 11. 21 Thid. 12. 22 Yankev Shatski Archive, YIVO, New York. Letter of 21 Sept. 1949. 23 Tbid. Letter of 19 Dec. 1950.

182 Jan Schwarz year’.24 Despite repeated complaints about financial worries, the publishers adhered to the highest standards. Books were printed on excellent paper; they were

printed with the best typography; they included illustrations, photographs, and indexes. Most of the books contained introductions by Yiddish writers and cultural figures, as well as reviews of previous books in the series, an invaluable source

for the critical reception of the books. The introductions and reviews turned the series into a portable library for a community of readers that de facto functioned as subscribers. This impression was further emphasized by the books’ characteristic black binding and cover illustrations. Although the series included a few books by Jewish historians such as Mayer Balaban, Emanuel Ringelblum, Yankev Shatsk1, and Max Weinreich, the bulk of the books were memoirs and autobiographical accounts about Polish Jewish life before and during the Holocaust, and fiction. Shmuel Niger characterized the Yiddish book market in the decade after the Holocaust: The destruction of the old home has reawakened among us the wish to mourn its passing, to tell its history, to erect a gravestone and memorialize. Since the Holocaust, a sorrowful call has resounded through Yiddish literature: the tree of Jewish life in Europe has been pulled up by its roots. May its genealogical tree live on in literature! Writers cannot stop writing about their family origins. They write in different forms: novels and stories, history

and biography, and personal memoirs, ghetto chronicles, and more than ever yizker books.?°

The origins of families became a popular genre in Yiddish literature, as evidenced in the many books about Polish Jewish families included in the series. ‘These include Elkhonon Zeitlin’s [n a literarisher shtub (‘In a Literary Home’), about his

father Hillel Zeitlin’s literary salon in Warsaw prior to the First World War, and Mark Turkov’s Di letste fun a groysn dor, personal memoirs and historical episodes

about eight prominent Polish Jewish families. Niger used the concept of kinus (gathering) to describe the Yiddish book market as a means of ‘collecting and preserving anything of worth in the literary past’.*° Central to this effort was the huge amount of life writing—memoirs and autobiographical accounts—that flooded the Yiddish book market in the aftermath of the Holocaust.*’ In some respects, the

series embodied the dominant trend in post-Holocaust Yiddish culture that the historian Eli Lederhendler characterizes as ‘a culture of retrieval’: ‘a culture that was losing its proximity to its Yiddish roots was also losing the possibility of using those roots for cultural innovation. It was, instead, thrown back on mimicry of the past.’*° Although this backward-looking trend in some cases resulted in 24 Yankev Shatski Archive, YIVO, New York. Letter of 28 Apr. 1952.

2° Niger, “Tendentsn in der nayster yidisher literatur’, 6. 26 Tbid. 7. 27 For an overview of post-Holocaust Yiddish life writing, see my Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers (Madison, Wis., 2005), ch. 5. 28 FE. Lederhendler, New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity 1950-1970 (Syracuse, 2001), 66.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 183 nostalgia, Dos poylishe yidntum mostly adhered to the highest literary quality and

included some of the best and worthiest works from the Polish Jewish past and present. The series actually went beyond kinus in its effort to publish young Yiddish literary talent, indicating a renewal of Yiddish literature. Approximately 80 per cent of the books in the series can be more or less evenly divided into three categories: the Holocaust, life writing, and fiction. The majority of Holocaust books (forty-eight) were memoirs and personal accounts, many of them based on original documents (diaries and testimonies). Books drawing on life writing (forty-eight) consisted mostly of Jewish writers’ recollections of Polish Jewish life, particularly genealogical accounts of the writer’s family background and chronicles of important family lineages. Holocaust and life writing were evenly distributed from the beginning to the end of the series. The fiction section (thirty-seven) overlapped with the Holocaust category in such cases as the works of Mordechai Strigler, Yehuda Elberg, and Eliezer Wiesel, who wrote literary memoirs based on their Holocaust experiences. However, inclusion of fiction (novels and short stories) began in earnest with Y. Y. Trunk’s Di yidishe proze in poyln (Yiddish Prose in Poland’, vol. 52), after which fiction regularly appeared in the series. Folklore (thirteen) consisted mostly of hasidic customs and stories, and humour; historical works (eight) included yizker-style books as well as scholarly writing (Shatski and Ringelblum). Three collections of first-rate poetry featured Chaim Grade (two volumes) and Rokhl Korn. Other small categories were literary criticism (two), journalistic essays (three), and two works about Jewish life beyond Poland: the history of the Lithuanian Haskalah (vol. 70) and a biography of a Russian Jewish intellectual figure (vol. 116).

The Holocaust was the primary theme of the series, both quantitatively and qualitatively, as exemplified by literary memoirs and fiction about ghetto life and extermination camps. Although the demand for popular stories and nostalgic accounts of the ‘old country’ was strong and commercially tempting, Mark Turkov held on to his original vision for the series. In a letter to Y. Hirshhoyt in the late 1940s, Turkov wrote: ‘People require that we stop printing books about the

Holocaust. They don’t want to read them any more; that’s the sentiment I encounter from all sides. I am afraid that we won’t have funds for our continued work. In that case, I would rather terminate the project because without Holocaust literature I have absolutely no interest in it whatsoever.’2° Turkov’s brother, the Yiddish actor Jonas Turkov, had five books in the series. These are emblematic of the Holocaust category. In three volumes, Jonas Turkov depicted his incarceration in the Warsaw ghetto, the ghetto uprising, and the aftermath of the war until his emigration to the USA. In two other volumes, Farloshene shtern (“Extinguished Stars’, vols. g5—6) he gave mini-portraits of a large number of Yiddish actors in Poland before and during the Holocaust. Remarkable were the meticulously compiled indexes to these books, making them vital scholarly sources 29 C. Grade, Sheyn fun farloshene shtern (1950), vol. 66, 188 (review section).

184 Jan Schwarz for anyone studying the histories of Yiddish theatre and of the Warsaw ghetto. Based on diaries and original documents from the Warsaw ghetto that Jonas Turkov managed to hide and retrieve after the war, his books were rightly praised for their objectivity and richness of detail. In his review of one book, Noekh Gris related Jonas Turkov’s methodology to the spirit of collecting (zamler gayst) that Emanuel Ringelblum had inspired through his Oneg Shabes archive in the Warsaw ghetto: “Turkov, the artist, demonstrated a good deal of historical professionalism in preparing and editing his material. Particularly important is the inclusion of an index of approximately [a] thousand names of people mentioned in the book. This is important both from a historical and a personal perspective (for the relatives of people listed in the index).’ Gris concluded his review by praising the memoir’s objectivity and high publishing standards: ‘It is a book of high documentary value, published with unique reverence reflected in the many details, from the cover to the index, from the high paper quality to the careful assemblage of tens of pictures in the text.’°° Yankev Shatski, a leading figure of the New York YIVO and the author of a threevolume history of the Jewish community in Warsaw, published several volumes in the book series.*! He belonged to a generation of Polish Jewish historians who viewed their work as serving the Jewish nation-building in eastern Europe. ‘The

emphasis on utility for the Jewish masses placed Shatski’s historical work in the camp of such YIVO historians as Emanuel Ringelblum, whose selected writings were featured in the series introduced by Shatski. The new circumstances for Polish Jewish historiography in the aftermath of the Holocaust were reflected in statements by Shatski that encapsulated the volatile zeitgeist among Jewish historians which swayed from despondence to hope. In a lecture titled “The Confessions of a Jewish Historian’ held at the New School for Social Research in New York, 1954, Shatski said: Instead of national history, history is transformed into a national symbol, a myth. For this you don’t need archival material, and obviously not hard facts. For this kind of history, it is perhaps enough to create a grand epic, a poetic convulsion of a gigantic imaginary mind. .. . The eastern European sector lives on because of the remnants of the great [Polish] Jews whose weekdays were more Jewish than the holidays of American Jews.*?

The overall composition of the book series’ 175 volumes expressed this epic dimension of the everyday life of ordinary Polish Jews, from its early history through its destruction. Most of the books were personal accounts, written 1n an intimate manner without scholarly pretension. The books were perfectly attuned to the needs of the Yiddish readership. They breathed new life into the bones of a 30 N. Gris, review of J. Turkov, Azoy iz es geven: khurbn varshe, in R. Korn, Heym un heymloztkeyt (1948), vol. 39, p. 250 (review section).

31 See Philip Friedman’s informative scholarly biography of Shatski, ‘Yankev shatskis ort in der

mizrekheyropeisher yidisher geshikteshraybung’, in Shatski-bukh, 11-28. 32 Tbid. 127.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 185 bygone era by restoring the Polish Jewish mentalité in its primary language, Yiddish.*° Shatski fully understood the post-Holocaust Jewish demand for ‘emotional history’ and ‘history written cum ira et cum studio’ (with anger and with bias).°* At the same time he warned that this tendency could undermine the professional historian’s objectivity: ‘Never before has the question of a scientific

approach in studying Jewish history been more urgent. The horrific years of Nazism and the catastrophic result of the Hitler era have resulted in a frightening accusatory mindset . . . some Jewish intellectuals have begun to demonstrate their pathological antipathy to historical realism.’*° For Shatski, it was crucial to maintain the distinction between the current popular demand—lamentation, commemoration, and kinus—and the requirements of historical scholarship. Reviewers of the book series constantly reminded the reader that the historical works would be written later and to a large extent build on the testimonies and memoirs that were being published in such overwhelming numbers. Max Weinreich echoed this sentiment: ‘Mark Turkov has... compiled a series of books that will remain part of our literature for future generations. Despite the fact that the books are not scientific

writing, but information, we can rest assured that the scholar must turn to the books in researching the years of destruction.’*© This hybrid type of writing represented one of the dominant genres in the book

series. In a brief introduction, Leibush Lehrer summarized the content of Bibliography of Yiddish Books about Destruction and Heroism published by Yad Vashem in 1962. Of the 1,900 titles included in the bibliography, 83 per cent consisted of, in equal parts, documents and descriptions, and fiction and other art forms. Only 274 titles dealt with the Holocaust in an analytical and scholarly manner.?’ Like Dos poylishe yidntum, it was the books’ ‘emotional history’ that made them a unique and authentic Jewish response to the catastrophe: “The importance of the Holocaust literature in Yiddish is not predicated on its literary qualities, but 33 For the meaning of mentalité in an east European Jewish context, see Gershon Hundert, Jems in Poland and Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century: A Genealogy of Modernity (Berkeley, 2004), 234-5: “This positive sense of Jewish identity, the central ingredient of the eastern European Jewish mentalité, was tied to the theological idea of chosenness. It constituted a kind of social psychological trans-

lation, or transmutation, of that concept. My suggestion is that despite ideological, geographical, economical, political, and even linguistic and cultural change, and despite the fact that the so-called western European template was far from unknown in eastern Europe, the vast majority of eastern European Jews and their descendants carried this core with them.’ 34 Y. Shatski, ‘Problemen fun yidisher historiografye’ (lecture held at a YIVO conference, 15 Jan. 1955), in Shatski-bukh, 248. The expression is derived from the final section of the lecture: ‘What has happened to Jews is for a Jew not an objective material that exists outside him. The history of his people is his history. A piece of his own existence. The Jew responds to history as a personal matter. As a result, the contemporary Jew is against scholarship. Therefore he is either a believer in apologetics or an antischolar. The Jew is scientifically antihistorical. A Jew can only write history “with anger and with bias”’ (p. 248).

3° Shatski-bukh, quoted in Friedman, ‘Yankev shatskis ort’, 26. 36 Spetsyele oysgabe, 14. 37 L,, Lehrer, ‘Vegn der yidisher khurbn-bibliografye’, in J. Gar and P. Friedman (eds.), Bibliografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un guure (New York, 1962), p. xv.

186 Jan Schwarz on its unmediated depiction of personal experiences.’®® As Philip Friedman made

clear, the importance of the Holocaust literature in Yiddish was further highlighted by the fact that very little archival and periodical material was available during this period: True, it is not easy to write a historical monograph when all archival sources, both the national ones and those belonging to Jewish communities, have been destroyed or remain behind the ‘Iron Curtain’. Even the local periodicals which are so important for the history of the last decade are almost unavailable. As a result, it is necessary to reconstruct the historical past from random pieces, built on oral evidence, and from memorr literature. Jewish historians and editors of yizker books have more than once mentioned these difficulties. °°

The yizker books were published by /andsmanshafin in limited editions of fewer than one thousand copies and primarily addressed to the inner circle of landslayt and their families. In contrast, Dos poylishe yidntum reached a significant readership, and thereby helped to invigorate the Yiddish book market during a time of cultural decline and fragmentation. The book series as a whole can be viewed as a composite of the different parts of the yizker book: history, folklore, literature, life writing, genealogy, and the Holocaust. The editorial choices in the creation of the two book projects were identical. The goal was to commemorate the destruction of Jewish communities in eastern Europe by enlisting all classes and strata of the surviving Jews to provide testimonies and recollections of the ‘old country’: They [the /andsmanshaftn| felt very deeply that professional historians in their analytic and synthetic research would not be able to encompass the problem in its enormity; meanwhile their contemporaries whose own memory was an invaluable source of rich information would gradually pass away. As a result of this project of commemoration, approximately 400 memorial books for different European communities (mainly in eastern Europe) were published between 1945 and 1972.*°

Despite the often questionable historical methodology in compiling yizker books,

they ‘contain a greater amount of information and data on the life of east European Jewish communities than all other publications in this field that have so far been published’.*! To sift through this material and sort out historical fact from fiction and folklore, however, it is important to delineate the context in which the yizker books were financed, edited, and published.** The significance of the 38 'Y, Robinson, ‘Bibliography of Yiddish Books about Destruction and Heroism’ ibid., p. xii. 39 P Friedman, ‘Di landmanshaftnliteratur in di fareynikte shtatn far die letste 10 yor’, Jewish Book Annual, 10 (1951-2) (pey beys [p. 82], Yiddish section). 40 A. Wein, ‘Memorial Books as a Source for Research into the History of Jewish Communities in Europe’, Yad Vashem Studies, 9 (1973), 256. It is estimated that approximately 1,200 yizker books have

been published so far. 41 Thid. 266.

42 ‘Until we document the historical, social, and political context in which the memorial books were created, we will never be able to distinguish between folk history and history.’ J. Kugelmass and J. Boyarin, ‘ Yizker bikher and the Problem of Historical Veracity: An Anthropological Approach’, in Y. Gutman, E. Mendelsohn, J. Reinharz, and C. Shmeruk (eds.), The Fews of Poland between the Two World Wars (Hanover, NH, 1989), 536.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 187 approximately 1,200 yizker books for anthropologists, folklorists, literary scholars, and historians is obvious. Although Antony Polonsky correctly points to yizker

books’ particular documentary value for research on the destruction of Polish Jewry, and often as the only sources available about the war years, the books are also important sources for Polish Jewish life before 1939, particularly Jewish folk customs, local Jewish history of cities and towns, genealogy, and Yiddish linguistics.*° As Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin point out, yizker books can be viewed as ‘substitute gravestones’, a replacement for the non-existent monuments to which survivors could pay their respects. The books in the series are repeatedly referred to as sforim (sacred books) in contemporary correspondence and reviews. However, to ensure that these two monumental book projects are not to be buried in a historical ‘tomb’ as ‘sacred’ icons of Polish Jewry, they must be read in the same context in which they were conceived, studied in Yiddish, and made available in translation.

Only to per cent of the books in Dos poylishe yidntum have been translated into Polish, English, Hebrew, or French; most of them are only available in Yiddish, which reduces their usability almost entirely to the scholarly community.** The books’ raison d’étre as vehicles of commemoration, kinus, and nostalgic entertainment was closely tied to their Yiddish cultural context during the two decades following the Holocaust. They belong to the internal discourse about Polish Jewry and its destruction which was continued in Yiddish in the first twenty to twenty-five years after the Holocaust. Moreover, these works significantly revise the enshrined notion about the survivors’ silence until the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961. Instead, Dos poylishe yidntum reveals the existence of a vibrant Yiddish book market that empowered Jewish survivors to share their experiences about life before, during,

and in the aftermath of the Holocaust. The surrounding world, both Jewish and non-Jewish, was almost entirely unaware of the voluminous Yiddish cultural creativity that took place in New York, Tel Aviv, Warsaw, and Buenos Aires from the

late 1940s through the 1960s. The issue was not that of ‘silence’ of the surviving remnants of Polish Jewry; rather, it was the contemporary world’s ignorance of and, in the case of Israeli and American Jewry, indifference and even hostility to the existence of a vibrant Yiddish cultural world in their midst.*° In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Turkov was confronted with the urgent task of shaping a textual corpus and creating a mini-library that would provide a symbolic lifeline to his destroyed community. Dos poylishe yidntum was an impressive

achievement starkly highlighting that what remained of the largest and most 43 Polonsky based his remark about the yizker books’ ‘little value in describing the history of the Jewish small town until 1939’ on one literary historical study by D. G. Roskies, “The Shtetl in Jewish Collective Memory’, in his The Jewish Search for a Usable Past (Bloomington, Ind., 1999). What is needed is a thorough examination of this multi-volume genre that takes into account the specific context in which the books were created, published, and received. A. Polonsky, ‘Introduction. The Shtetl: Myth and Reality’, Polin 17 (2004), 12.

44 See Appendix. 45 See my book, Imagining Lives, ch. 5.

188 Jan Schwarz vibrant Jewish community in Europe was a library of Yiddish books. This senti-

ment was summed up by Shloyme Ashkenazi: | It is tragic that this type of book series must be published in memory of such a horrific catastrophe. Recalling this catastrophe, it is difficult to be joyful about the series’ success. But such is our destiny . . . we continue to build, and draw upon the old ‘golden chain’. That is a great comfort. Yes, it is a comfort, even though it is impossible to be comforted. In the memorial period for Polish Jewry, there remains only this shelf with a little over eighty books.*°

The massive effort to write down and collect eyewitness accounts in order to bear witness to unspeakable crimes perpetrated against Jews was the driving force behind Dos poylishe yidntum. However, such testimony was always framed in the broader cultural context of Jewish continuity and renewal. By placing accounts about the destruction of Polish Jewry in the context of a revival of Yiddish book publishing, Turkov and Mitlberg went beyond commemoration and kinus. Dos poylishe yidntum became a venue of hope for the continued creativity of Yiddish literature as well as a cultural anchor for survivors in displaced persons camps, their relatives, and the Yiddish reading public worldwide. Eastern European Jews

had always defined their communities in mythological and religious terms as Jerusalem shel malah (heavenly Jerusalem), a kehilah kedosha (a holy community), and the people of portable books. The name Dos poylishe yidntum expressed the sheer khutspe with which Turkov and Mitlberg insisted that a Yiddish library of 175 secular books could symbolically replace the ‘real’ Polish Jewry. Despite clear indications that they belonged to the last great generation of Polish Jews (di letste fun a groysn dor), the publishers’ titanic effort signalled a return to a semblance of normality for survivors and their relatives. Der driter khurbn (the Holocaust) began with book burnings as a prelude to the burning of people. Dos poylishe yidntum proudly announced that the surviving remnant of Polish Jewry—once again publishing, reading, and discussing Yiddish books in their new Diaspora in Buenos Aires, New York, Tel Aviv and Warsaw—was returning to life.

APPENDIX Publications in the series Dos poylishe yidntum (‘Polish Jewry’), 1946—1966 1. Mark Turkov (1904—83), Malke ovshyani dertseylt ... khronik fun undzer tsayt |Malke Ovshyani Tells her Tale: Chronicle of our Time] (1946); 172 pp.

2. Hersh-Dovid Nomberg (1876-1927), Y. L. Perets (1946); 115 pp. 46 M. Turkov, Di letse fun a groysn dor (1954), vol. 100, p. 350.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 189 3. Vasili Grosman (1905-64) and Y[ankel] Vyernik (1890-1972), Treblinke (1946); 124 pp.

4. Perets Granatshteyn (1907—?), Mayn khorev shtetl sokolov: shilderungen, bilder un portretn fun a shtot umgekumene yidn [My Destroyed Shtetl Sokolov: Descriptions, Pictures and Portraits of a Town’s Perished Jews] (1946); 188 pp.

5. Israel Tabaksblat (1891-1950), Khurbn-lodzsh: 6 yor natsi-gehenem [The Destruction , of Lodz: 6 Years of Nazi Hell] (1946); 203 pp.

6. Jacob Zerubavel (1886-1967), Barg khurbn: kapitlen poyln |Mountainous Destruction: Polish Chapters] (1946); 220 pp. 7. Elkhonon Zeitlin (1g00—42), In a literarisher shtub: bilder, bagegenishn, eptzodn [In a Literary Home: Pictures, Encounters, Episodes]. Introduction by S. Niger and Mark Turkov; Afterword by Aaron Tsaytlin (1946); 238 pp.

8. Henry Shoskes (1891-1964), Poyln—1946: ayndrukn fun a rayze [Poland—1946: Impressions from a Journey] (1946); 189 pp.

g. Zysman Segalovitsh (1884-1949), Tlomatske 13: fun farbrentn nekhin |'Tlomatske 13: From an Extinguished Past] (1946); 255 pp. to. M. Nudelman (1905-67), Gelekhter durkh trern: zamlung fun humoristish-satirishe shafungen funem nokh-milkhomedikn lebn fun poylishe yidn [Laughter through Tears: Collection of Humorous Satirical Creations of Post-War Life of Polish Jews] (1947); 238 pp.

11. Majer Balaban (1877-1943), Di yidn-shtot lublin [The Jewish City Lublin]. Introduction and translation by A. L. Shushaym (1947); 191 pp. 12. Israel Efros (1891-1981), Heymloze yidn: a bazukh in di yidishe lagern in daytshland [Homeless Jews: A Visit to the Jewish Camps in Germany| (1947); 249 pp. 13. Yankev Shatski (1893-1956), Jn shotn fun over [In the Shadow of the Past] (1947); 239 Pp.

14. David Flinker, A hoyz oyf gzshibov: roman [A House on Gzhibov: A Novel]. Introduction by Z. Segalovitsh (1947); 356 pp.

15. Hillel Seidman, 7ogbukh fun varshever geto [Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto] (1947); 335 PP.

16. Noah Gris (ed.), Kinder-martirologye: zamlung fun dokumentn [Children’s Martyrology: Collection of Documents] (1947); 286 pp.

17. Chaim Grade (1910-82), Pleytim: lider un poemen geshribn in ratn-farband in 1941-1945 [Refugees: Songs and Poems Written in the Soviet Union 1941—1945| (1947); 188 pp.

18. Shmerke Katczerginski (1908-54), Partizaner geyen! Fartseykhenungen fun vilner geto [Partisans March! Notes from the Vilna Ghetto] (1947); 176 pp.

19. Fryda Zerubavel, Na’ ve-nad: fartseykhenungen fun a pleyte [Homeless: Notes of a Refugee] (1947); 174 pp.

20. Mordechai Strigler (1921-98), Maydanek. Oysgebrente hkht |Extinguished Lights— first volume of a four-volume cycle—see nos. 32, 64—5, 85-6] (1947), introduction by H. Leyvik; 248 pp.

190 ——— Jan Schwarz 21. Jacob Lestschinsky (1876-1966), Oyfn rand fun opgrunt: fun yidishn lebn in poyln, 1927-1933 [On the Edge of the Abyss: From Jewish Life in Poland, 1927-1933] (1947); 247 pp.

22. Zysman Segalovitsh (1884-1949), Gebrente trit: ayndrukn un tberlebungen fun a pleytim-vanderung [Burnt Steps: Impressions and Experiences from Refugee Wanderings] (1947); 255 pp.

23. Abraham Teitelbaum (1889-1947), Varshever heyf: mentshn un gesheenishn {Warsaw Courtyards: People and Events] (1947); 207 pp.

24. Tania Fuks, A vanderung iber okupirte gebitn [Wanderings through Occupied Territories] (1947); 271 pp.

25. S.L.Shnayderman, Tsvishn shrek un hofnung: a rayze ther dem nayem poyln [Between Fear and Hope: A Journey in the New Poland] (1947); 367 pp. 26. Leo Finkelstein (1895-1950), Megiles poyln: toyre, khsides un shteyger-kultur in yidishn

poyln [Scrolls of Poland: Torah, Hasidism, and Cultural Ways of Jewish Poland] (1947); 346 pp.

27. Jonas Turkov (1898-1988), Azoy iz es geven: khurbn varshe [So It Was: The Destruction of Warsaw] (1948); 543 pp. 28. Shmuel Izban, Umlegale yidn shpalten yamen: di geshikhte fun an umlegaler rayze keyn erets yisroel [Illegal Jews Split the Sea: The Story of an Illegal Journey to the Land of Israel]. Introduction by Ruth Kliger (1948); 335 pp.

29. Jacob Pat (1890-1966), Henekh: a yidish kind vos 1z aroys fun geto [Henekh: A Jewish Child Who Left the Ghetto] (1948); 159 pp.

30. Yosef Kermish (1907-2005), Der oyfshtand in varshever geto: 19-ter april—16-ter mai 1943 |The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: 19 April—-16 May 1943] (1948); 159 pp. 31. Simkhe Polakiewicz, A tog in treblinke: khrontk fun a yidish lebn [A Day in Treblinka: Chronicle from a Jewish Life] (1948); 143 pp.

32. Mordechai Strigler (1921-98), In di fabrikn fun toyt [In the Factories of Death— second volume of the cycle Extinguished Lights] (1948); 429 pp.

33. Abraham Nahtomi (1900-78), Jn shotn fun doyres: kindheyt [In the Shadow of Generations: Childhood] (1948); 191 pp.

34. Yekhiel Lerer (1910-43), Mayn heym [My Home] (1948); 174 pp. 35. Yosef Wolf, Leyenendtk peretsn [Reading Peretz] (1948); 111 pp.

36. Tsipora Katsenelson-Nakhumov, Yitskhok katsenelson: zayn lebn un shafn (Isaac Katznelson: His Life and Work] (1948); 223 pp. 37. Julien Hirshaut (1908-83), Fintstere nekht in povyak: zikhroynes, geshtaltn, bilder (Dark Nights in Pawiak: Memoirs, Characters, Pictures] (1948); 239 pp.

38. Nahum Sokolow (1859-1936), Perzenlekhkeytn [Personalities] (1948); 254 pp.

39. Rokhl Korn (1898-1982), Heym un heymlozikeyt [Home and Homelessness] (1948); 256 pp.

40. A. Almi (1892-1963), Momentn fun a lebn: zikhroynes, bilder un epizodn [Events from a Life: Memoirs, Pictures and Episodes] (1948); 253 pp.

A Library of Hope and Destruction IgI 41. Menashe Unger (1899-1969), Pshiskhe un kotsk [Pshiskhe and Kotsk] (1949); 301 pp.

42. M. Burshtin (1897-1945), [ber di khurves fun ployne [Over the Ruins of Ployne] (1949); 222 pp.

43. M. Kipnis (1872~1942) (ed.), Hundert folks-lder: fun zemirah zeligfelds un m. kipnises kontsert-repertuar [A Hundred Folk Songs: From Zemirah Zeligfelds and M. Kipnis’s Concert Repertoire]. Introduction by Mark Turkov (1949); pp. 269 44. Zysman Segalovitsh (1884-1949), Mayne ztbhn yor in tel-aviv [My Seven Years in Tel Aviv]. Introduction by B. Shefner (1949); 237 pp. 45. Henry Shoskes (1891-1964), A velt vos iz farbay: kapitlen zikhroynes |A World That Is Over: Chapters of Memoirs] (1949); 368 pp.

46. Shloyme Waga (1g00—?), Khurbn tshenstokhov |The Destruction of Tshenstokhov] (1949); 231 pp.

47. Abraham Zak (1891—?), Yorn in vander: lider un poemen | Years of Wanderings: Songs and Poems] (1949); 244 pp.

48-9. Shmuel Izban, Familye karp: roman |The Family Karp: A Novel], 2 vols. (1949). 50. A. Mukdoni (1877-1958), Mayne bagegenishn: yidishe geshtaltn vos tkh hob bagegent in mayn lebn [My Encounters: Jewish Figures that I Have Met in my Life]. (1949); 303 PP.

51. Ruzhe Shoshano Kahan, I/n fayer un flamen: togbukh fun a yidisher shoyshpilerin [In Fire and Flames: Diary of a Yiddish Actress] (1949); 406 pp.

52. Y. Y. Trunk (1887-1961), Di yidishe proze in poyln: in der tskufe tsvishn beyde velt milkhomes [Yiddish Prose in Poland: In the Period between the Two World Wars] (1949); 159 pp.

53. Jonas Turkov (1898-1988), In kamf farn lebn [In Struggle for Life] (1949); 431 pp. 54. Yitskhok Perlov (1911-80), Di mentshn fun ‘Eksodus 1947’: roman |People from Exodus 1947: A Novel] (1949); 430 pp. 55. Pinkhes Bizberg, Shabes-yontivdike yidn: dos gezang fun a dor [Sabbath Holiday Jews: The Song of a Generation] (1949); 190 pp.

56-8. Sholem Asch (1880-1957), Peterburg: roman—ershter bukh fun farn mabl [St Petersburg: A Novel—first volume of Before the Deluge| (1949); 366 pp.

Varshe: roman—tsveyter bukh fun farn mabl |Warsaw: A Novel—second volume of Before the Deluge] (1949); 380 pp.

Moskve: roman—driter teyl fun bukh ‘Farn mabl’ |Moscow: A Novel—third volume of Before the Deluge| (1949); 451 pp. 59. Philip Friedman (1901-1960), Oshvientshim | Auschwitz] (1950); 223 pp.

60. Ber I. Rozen (1899-1954), Tlomatske 13 (1950); 142 pp. 61—2. David Flinker, Jn shturem: Roman [In the Storm: A Novel], 2 vols. (1950).

63. Janusz Korczak (1878-1942), Moyshelekh, yoselekh, ytsroeliklekh, trans. Yehoshua Perle. Introduction by Shalom Ash, Yitshak Grinboym, and Mark Turkov (1950); 189 PP.

192 Jan Schwarz 64—5. Mordechai Strigler (1921-98), Verk ‘ce’ [Factory ‘C’—third volume of the cycle Extinguished Lights], 2 vols. (1950).

66. Chaim Grade (1910-82), Sheyn fun farloshene shtern: lider un poemen [Reflection of Extinguished Stars: Songs and Poems] (1950); 192 pp. 67. Rifke Kwiatkowski-Pinchasik, Fun lager in lager [From Camp to Camp] (1950); 301p. 68. Joel Mastboym (1884-1957), Mayne shturmishe yorn [My Stormy Years] (1950); 175 pp.

69. Ila N. Trotski, Goles daytshland: ayndrukn fun a rayze [Diaspora Germany: Impressions from a Journey] (1950); 207 pp.

70. Yankev Shatski, Kultur-geshikhte fun der haskole in lite [Cultural History of the Enlightenment in Lithuania] (1950); 231 pp.

71. Nachman Mayzel (1887-1966), Geven amol a lebn: Dos yidishe kultur-lebn in poyln tvishn beyde velt-milkhomes |There Was Once a Life: Yiddish Cultural Life in Poland between the Two World Wars] (1951); 399 pp.

72. Y. Y. Trunk (1887-1961), Simkhe plakhte fun narkove, oder, der yidisher don kikhot [Simkhe Plakhte from Narkove, or, the Yiddish Don Quixote] (1951); 383 pp. 73. Yehuda Elberg, Unter kuperne himlen: dertseylungen |Under Copper Skies: Stories] (1951); 252 pp. —

74. A. Mukdoni (1877-1958), Oysland: mayne bagegenishn |Abroad: My Encounters] (1951); 340 pp.

75. Zygmunt Turkov (1896-1970), Fragmentn fun mayn lebn: zikhroynes [Fragments of My Life: Memoirs] (1951); 303 pp. 76. Yehoshua Perle (1888—1943), Yidn fun a gants yor [Ordinary Jews] (1951); 421 pp.

77. Jacob Lestschinsky (1876-1966), Evev khurbn: fun yidishn lebn in poyln, 1935-1937 [On the Eve of Destruction: From Jewish Life in Poland 1935—1937] (1951); 255 pp.

78. Daniel Charney (1888-1959), Vilne: memuarn [ Vilna: Memoirs] (1951); 319 pp.

79. Zysman Segalovitsh (1884-1949), Der letster lodzsher roman [The Last Lodz Novel] (1951); 398 pp.

80. Belkhatov: Yizker-bukh—gevidmet dem ondenk fun a farshoundn yidish shtetl in poyln

[Belkhatov: Memorial Book—Dedicated to the Remembrance of a Disappeared Jewish Shtetl in Poland] (1951); 511 pp.

81. Moshe Yudl Shelubsky (1893-1974), Oyfa fuler vokh: dertseylungen {In a Full Week: Stories] (1951); 376 pp.

82-3. Isaac Perlov (1911-80), Der tsurtkgekumener: roman [The Returning Person: A Novel], 2 vols. (1952).

84. Joesef Okrutny (1906—?), Dos bukh fun di elnte |The Book of the Lonely] (1952); 228 Pp.

85—6. Mordechai Strigler (1921-98), Goyroles [Destinies—fourth volume of the cycle Extinguished Lights], 2 vols. (1952).

87. Joseph Tenenbaum (1887-1961), Galitsye, mayn alte heym [Galicia, My Old Home] (1952); 319 pp.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 193 88. Zalman Shazar (1889—1974), Shiern fartog: zikhroynes, dertseylungen {Stars at Dawn: Memoirs, Stories] (1952); 270 pp.

89. Moses David Giser (1893-1952), Dos gezang fun a lebn [The Song of a Life] (1953); 302 pp.

go. Zalman Yitskhok Anokhi (1876-1947), R. aba un andere ksovim [Mr Aba and Other Writings] (1953); 301 pp. gi—2. Emanuel Ringelblum (1900-44), Kapitlen geshikhte fun amolikn yidishn lebn in poyln

[Chapters of History from a Bygone Jewish Life in Poland], 2 vols. Introduction by Yankev Shatski (1953); 589 pp.

93. Shimen Horontshik (1889-1939), In geroysh fun mashinen: roman [In the Noise of Machines: A Novel] (1953); 318 pp.

94. Gershom Bader (1868-1953), Mayne ztkhroynes |My Memoirs| (1953); 429 pp.

95-6. Jonas Turkov (1898-1988), Farloshene shtern [Extinguished Stars], 2 vols. (1953); 714 Ppp.

97-8. Alter Katsizne (1885-1941), Shtarke un shvakhe: roman in fir teyln [The Strong and the Weak: A Novel in Four Parts], 2 vols. Introduction by Melekh Ravitsh (1954). g9. Puah Rakovski (1865-1955), Zikhroynes fun a yidisher revolutsyonerin [Memoirs of a Jewish Revolutionary Woman] (1954); 318 pp.

too. Mark Turkov (1904-81), Di letste fun a groysn dor |The Last of a Great Generation| (1954); 350 pp.

tor. Y. Hirshoyt, Yidishe naft-magnatn | Jewish Oil Magnates]| (1954); 397 pp. 102. Moses Zonshayn, Yidish-varshe | Jewish Warsaw] (1954); 221 pp.

103. P. Mints (Aleksander) (1895-1962), Di geshikhte fun a falsher iluzye: zikhroynes [|The History of a False Illusion: Memoirs] (1954); 381 pp.

to4. Y. Y. Trunk (1887-1961), Di velt iz ful mit nisim |The World Is Full of Wonders] (1955); 333 PP.

105-7. Mikhal Borvitsh, Arishe papirn [Arian Papers], 3 vols. Introduction by Yankev Pat (1955).

108-9. Mordechai Strigler (1921-98), Georemt mitn vint: historisher roman fun yidishn lebn in poyln [Embraced by the Wind: A Historical Novel of Jewish Life in Poland], 2 vols. (1955). r1o—11. A. Mukdoni (1878-1958), In varshe un in lodzsh: mayne bagegenishn |In Warsaw and Lodz: My Encounters], 2 vols. (1955).

112. Barukh Hager (1895-1963), Malkhes khsides [In the Kingdom of Hasidim] (1955); 283 pp.

113. B. Shefner, Novolipye 7: zikhroynes un eseyen [Novolipye 7: Memoirs and Essays] (1955); 318 pp.

114. Pinhas Shtaynvaks (1905-77), Yidn tsum gedenken [In Remembrance of Jews] (1955); 340 pp. 115. K. Tsetnik [concentration camp inmate] 135633 (1917-2001), Dos hoyz fun di lyalkes [The House of Dolls] (1955); 382 pp.

194 fan Schwarz 116. Max Weinreich (1894-1969), Fun beyde zaytn ployt: dos shturemdike lebn fun uri kovnern [From Both Sides of the Fence: The Stormy Life of Uri Kovner] (1955); 254 PP.

117. Eliezer Wiesel (b. 1928), Un di velt hot geshvign [And the World Was Silent] (1956); 253 PP.

118. Shloyme Berlinski (1900-59), Yerushe: dertseylungen [Heritage: Stories] (1956); 205 pp.

119. Joseph Tenenbaum (1887-1961), Tsvishn milkhome un sholem: yidn oyf der sholemkon-

Jerents nokh der ershter velt-milkhome [Between War and Peace: Jews at the Peace Conference after the First World War] (1956); 264 pp.

120. Joseph Okrutny (1906—-?), Sof kapitl: roman |The End of the Chapter: A Novel] (1956); 445 pp.

121. Zygmunt Turkov (1896-1970), Teater-zikhroynes fun a shturmisher tsayt: fragmentn fun mayn lebn [Theatre Memoirs from a Stormy Time: Fragments of my Life] (1956); 374 Pp.

122. Ber I. Rozen (1899-1954), Portretn [Portraits] (1956); 238 pp. 123. A. Tenenbaum (1883-?), Lodzsh un ire yidn [L_0dz and its Jews] (1956); 393 pp.

124-5. Moyshe Kaganovitsh, Di milkhome fun di yidishe partizaner in mizrekh-eyrope [The War of Jewish Partisans in Eastern Europe], 2 vols. (1956). 126-7. Abraham Zak (1891-—?), Knekht zenen mir geven [We Were Slaves], 2 vols. (1956).

128. Jacob Glatshteyn (1896-1971), Ven yash 1z geforn [When Yash Set Out] (1957); 278 pp.

129-30. David Flinker, Naye tsaytn: Roman fun amolikn yidishn lebn in poyln [New Times: A Novel about Bygone Jewish Life in Poland], 2 vols. (1957). 131. Moyshe Y. Shleyuvski (1893-1974), Jn der velt arayn: dertseylungen [Into the World: Stories] (1957); 350 pp. 132. Isaac I. Schwarzbart, Tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes: zikhroynes vegn dem yidishn lebn in

kroke in der tkufe 1919-1935 [Between the Two World Wars: Memoirs about Jewish Life in Krakow in the Period 1919—1935] (1958); 385 pp. 133. Leon Leneman (1909—?), Der kheshbm blaybt ofn—: vegn di batsiungen fun polyakn tsu

yidn beys der hitler tkufe [The Accounting Remains Open: About the Relationship between Poles and Jews during Hitler’s Times] (1958); 238 pp. 134. Salomon Frank, 7ogbukh fun lodzsher geto [Diary of the Lodz Ghetto] (1958); 350 pp. 135. Melekh Bakaltshuk-Felin (1896-1960), Zikhroynes fun a yidishn partizan [Memoirs of a Jewish Partisan] (1958); 310 pp. 136. Pinches Welner, Jn yene teg [In Those Days] (1958); 223 pp.

137. Eleimelekh Rak, Zikhroynes fun a yidishn hantverker tuer [Memoirs of a Jewish Craftsman] (1958); 234 pp.

138. Hirsh Abramovitsh (1881-1960), Farshvundene geshtaltn: zikhroynes un siluetn [Lost Figures: Memoirs and Silhouettes] (1958); 480 pp. 139. B. Terkel (1909-61), Tsvishn shakaln: shive medorey ‘ganeydn’ {Between Jackals: The Seven Circles of Paradise] (1959); 361 pp.

A Library of Hope and Destruction 195 140. I. L. Wohlman (1880-1955), Poylishe yidn: roman fun yidishn lebn in amolikn poyln [Polish Jews: A Novel of Jewish Life in the Old Poland] (1959); 284 pp. 141-2. N. Shemen, Dos gezang fun khsides: di rol fun khasidizm in undzere doyres |The Song of Hasidism: The Role of Hasidism in our Generations], 2 vols. (1959).

143-4. Tsvi Kahn, Shturmishe doyres: historisher roman |Stormy Generations: A Historical Novel], 2 vols. (1959).

145. Jonas Turkow (1898-1988), Nokh der bafrayung: zikhroynes {After Liberation: Memoirs] (1959); 328 pp.

146. Helena Szereszewska, Tsvishn tseylem un mezuze [Between Cross and Mezuzah] (1959); 397 PP.

147. Pinhas Shtainvaks (1905-77), Yidishe mames tsum gedenken [In Remembrance of Jewish Mothers] (1959); 202 pp. 148. Volf Merkur, Di velt iz khelem [The World Is Chelm] (1960); 278 pp. 149. Reuven Ben-Shem, Poy/n brent [Poland Burns] (1960); 366 pp. 150. Isaac ‘Turkow-Grudberg (1906-70), Penimer un maskes: dertseylungen un skitsn [Faces and Masks: Stories and Sketches] (1960); 184 pp.

151. Shloyme Prizament (1889-1973), Broder zinger |The Broder Singers] (1960); 238 pp.

152. David Lederman, Fun yener zayt forhang [From the Other Side of the Curtain] (1960); 397 Pp.

153. Sh. M. Broderzon, Mayn laydns-veg mit moyshe broderzon: di milkhome hot gedoyert far undz zibetsn yor—zikhroynes |My Path of Suffering with Moshe Broderzon: For Us the War Lasted Seventeen Years—Memoirs] (1960); 182 pp.

154. P. Apenshlak, Yanush kortshak: biyografisher roman [Janusz Korczak: A Biographical Novel] (1961); 361 pp.

155. Shloyme Brainski (1902-55), Mentshn fun zshelekhov [People from Zshelekhov] | (1961); 201 pp.

156. Zygmunt Turkow (1896-1970), Di ibergerisene tkufe: fragmentn fun mayn lebn [The Interrupted Period: Fragments from my Life] (1961); 478 pp. 157-8. David Davidovitsh, Shuln in poyln [Schools in Poland] (1961); 533 pp. 159. Abraham Zak (1891-?), A. almi bukh: lekoved a. almis vern a ben-shiv’im. mit a biblyografye tsuzamengeshtelt fun yefim yeshurin [A. Almi Book: In Honour of A. Almi’s Seventieth Birthday with a Bibliography by Yefim Yeshurin] (1962); 222 pp.

160. Isaac Lewin (1906—?), Yidn in altn poyln: historishe eseyen [Jews in Old Poland: Historical Essays] (1962); 184 pp.

161. Melekh Ravitsh (1893-1976), Dos mayse-bukh fun mayn lebn, bd. 1 [The Storybook of my Life], vol. 1 (1962). 162. Israel Emiot, Fardekte shpiglen: dertseylungen un skitsn [Covered Mirrors: Stories and Sketches] (1962); 201 pp.

163-4. Hershl H. Vayenroykh (1903—?), Komuisarn: roman [Commissars: A Novel], 2 vols. (1962).

196 Jan Schwarz 165. Isaiah Trunk (1905-81), Geshtaltn un gesheenishn: historishe eseyen [Figures and Events: Historical Essays] (1962); 286 pp.

166. Abraham Zak (1891-?), In onheyb fun a friling: kapitlekh zikhroynes [In the Beginning

of Spring: Chapters of Memoirs] (1962); 329 pp. , 167. Shloyme Shapiro, Zikhroynes fun a maran: in der tkufe fun der natsi-katastrofe [Memoirs of a Marrano: During the Period of the Nazi Catastrophe] (1963); 237 pp. 168. Bedtsalel Terkel (1909-61), Di zun fargeyt baym amu-darya: funem pleytim-lebn in ratnfarband |The Sun Disappears at the Amu-Darya: From Refugee Life in the Soviet

Union] (1963); 379 pp. |

169. David Zakalik (1905—?), In shturem [In the Storm] (1963); 235 pp.

170. N. Kantorovitsh (1897-1977), Farshvundene yidishe yishuvim [Disappeared Jewish Settlements] (1963); 353 pp. 171. Melekh Ravitsh (1893-1976), Dos mayse-bukh fun mayn lebn, bd. 2 [The Storybook of My Life], vol. 2 (1964). 172. Kehos Kliger (1904-85), Di sheyne royz: teg un nekht fun a meydl |The Beautiful Rose: Day and Night of a Girl] (1964); 205 pp. 173. Isaac Turkov-Grudberg (1906-70), Oyf mayn veg: shrayber un kinstler—dermonungen un opshatsungen [On My Way: Writer and Artist—Recollections and Appreciations] (1964); 343 Pp.

174. Abraham Zak (1891-?), Oyf vegn fun goyrl: dertseylungen [On the Road of Destiny: Stories] (1964); 220 pp. 175. Nachman Blumental, Shmuesn vegn der yidisher literatur: unter der daytsher okupatsye [Conversations about Yiddish Literature: During the German Occupation] (1966); 189 pp.


Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Israeli Holocaust Memory BOAZ COHEN RACHEL AUERBACH (1903-76), an author and publicist of articles and reviews published in a wide range of Yiddish and Polish newspapers, was a central figure in Jewish literary circles in inter-war Poland. After the German invasion of Poland, Auerbach directed one of several soup kitchens in the Warsaw ghetto under the auspices of the Aleynhilf (Self-Help), the large network of Jewish relief organizations, and became a member of the Oneg Shabes archive established and directed by the historian Emanuel Ringelblum. Her writings for Oneg Shabes included an essay about her soup kitchen and some of its regular patrons. At the end of 1942,

Ringelblum asked Auerbach to transcribe the testimony of Abraham Krzepicki, , who had escaped from Treblinka, which she edited into the most extensive description of the death camp to date. She fled the ghetto in March 1943, a few weeks before the uprising, and hid on the ‘Aryan’ side for the duration of the war. She dedicated herself to aiding Jews in hiding and to writing; her essays and her famous poem ‘Yizkor, 1943’ describe both Jewish life in the ghetto and its destruction. Auerbach did not retreat to a life of peace and quiet after the war. After the liberation of Warsaw, she began to pressure leaders of what remained of the Jewish community to search for the hidden Ringelblum archive. In her estimation, it was a national treasure. ‘I will not rest and I will not let you rest’, she told Jewish leaders, ‘until you find it.’ Her efforts bore fruit and led to the discovery of a large number of the archive’s documents. An active member of the regional Jewish historical commission in L6dz, and later in Warsaw, she embarked on her life’s work—documenting and perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust—in which she was engaged until her death. Yosef Kermish and Nachman Blumental, who immigrated with her to Israel, were her colleagues in the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Warsaw, I first studied Rachel Auerbach for my doctoral thesis, ‘Hamehkar hahistori hayisra’eli shel hasho’ah 1945-1980: me’afyenim, megamot vekivunim’ [Holocaust Research in Israel: Trends, Characteristics,

Developments, 1945-1980], Bar Ilan University, 2004, written under the supervision of Professor Dan Michman. * M. Mann, ‘Rokhl oyerbakh tsu ir bazukh in pariz’, Undzer vort, 6 Aug. 1966, in S. D. Kassow, Who

Will Write Our Flistory? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Bloomington, Ind., 2007).

198 Boaz Cohen together with Philip Friedman and Isaiah Trunk, who later immigrated to the United States. While she was on the commission, she threw herself headlong into writing, editing, and collecting testimonies. But when Jewish communists started to assert their control over the commission—consolidated by the appointment of Ber Mark as director in 1949—Auerbach and her close associates on the commission saw no future for Holocaust research in Poland, and they decided to immigrate to Israel. Auerbach left Poland determined to dedicate her life to perpetuating the memory of the Jewish people who perished at the hands of the Nazis. Although her American relatives arranged a visa for Auerbach to immigrate to the United States, she chose to settle in Israel instead. ‘We, here, are most anxious to help

her forget and will do our utmost to help her forget’, they wrote to the American consul in Warsaw.® But she was determined to remember. ‘In bearing witness to the crime, in the indictment of the murderers, I see the sole reason for my survival’, she had written already in 1943. En route to Israel, she carried her written contributions to the Ringelblum archive, including her diary of daily life in the Warsaw ghetto. Her emotional attachment to these writings was intense. “These manuscripts’, she later

wrote, ‘have endured much hardship. They were buried in the ground and I, by myself, agonized and suffered to bring them once again to the light of day. I succeeded in getting them out of Poland and they came to Israel with me. I brought them in a special box; I never parted from them, either on the train or on the boat.”

Auerbach, who wrote in Yiddish and Polish, had difficulty mastering Hebrew. Although she spent six months, shortly after her arrival in 1950, 1n an intense Hebrew-language course and lived in Israel for the rest of her life, Yiddish and Polish remained her primary languages. Despite this limitation, Auerbach was a

familiar figure in Israeli cultural circles. The author (later Israeli president) Zalman Shazar and the literary scholar Dov Sedan supported the Hebrew publication of her book Behutsot varshah (‘In the Courtyards of Warsaw’, 1954), a compi-

lation of her wartime observations, both journalistic and literary, and her immediate post-war writings under the aegis of the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Warsaw. ‘If I wrote these things anew today, they would undoubtedly be different’, she wrote in the book’s introduction. ‘However, 1t was difficult for me to tamper with things that I wrote so long ago.’ Nonetheless, it was important to her to see her work published: ‘It was my fervent wish that the writings in this book should reach readers as they were written. I have compassion for these

writings of my pen. I “worry” about them as a mother worries about her children.’® She dedicated the book ‘to the Jewish survivor in his country, [the site of] his redemption’. ’ 2 See R. Auerbach, ‘Mivtsah yudenrein (4): aherit haheker hahistori hayehudi bepolin’, Davar, 28 Oct. 1968. 3 N. and E. Magil to the American Consul General in Warsaw, 7 Jan. 1947; Yad Vashem Archives,

> Ibid. 7. 6 Tbid. T Tbid. 8.

Jerusalem (Y VA), P16/1. 4 R. Auerbach, Behutsot varshah 1939-1943 (Tel Aviv, 1953), 8.

Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Holocaust Memory 199 While Kermish, Blumental, and ‘Trunk, upon arriving in Israel, joined the Ghetto Fighters’ House (Beit Lohamei Hagetaot), a commemoration centre established by ex-fighters from the Warsaw ghetto, Auerbach settled in Tel Aviv, where she wrote journalistic pieces and prepared her book for publication. During the public controversy over the German reparations payments in the early 1950s, Auerbach supported the struggle to repudiate the agreement. Her pamphlet, written in Yiddish, entitled ‘Our Reckoning with the German People’, was one of the tools used by those opposing the agreement to explain their viewpoint.®

COLLECTING TESTIMONY FOR YAD VASHEM In 1953 the Israeli parliament (Knesset) passed a law providing for the establishment of a national remembrance authority in Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. Although the institution had first been established in 1946 by the national council (Va’ad Le’um1) on the initiative of Mordechai Shanhabi, it had ceased to function in the early 1950s; the 1953 law gave it a new lease on life. Its new director was the wellknown historian and minister of education and culture, Ben-Zion Dinur. One of Dinur’s first tasks was to assemble a staff with appropriate skills to research and commemorate the Holocaust. The natural reservoir of such a staff was the group of Holocaust survivors who had taken part in various historical

commissions in Europe, among them Rachel Auerbach. She and her friends followed the passage of the law with great interest and went to Jerusalem to be

present during discussion of the law in the Knesset.? When the law passed, Auerbach, together with Kermish, met with Shanhabi, the bill’s sponsor, to discuss the possibility of joining the institution. On 1 March 1954, Auerbach was appointed director of the department responsible for collecting testimonies of survivors; she was joined by three other Polish Jews—Kermish and Blumental, who left the Ghetto Fighters’ House for Yad Vashem, and Natan Eck. Yisrael Halperin from the Hebrew University, together with his students Daniel Cohen and Arieh

Segal, and later Shaul Esh, also joined the staff. The appointment of Auerbach to direct testimony collection seemed apt in view of her commitment to the task. She considered survivor testimony one of the central pillars in the evolving historiography of the Holocaust for three principal reasons, which she stated in the mid-1950s. The first reason was the Jewish history of the Holocaust. The accepted picture of the Holocaust was distorted in her opinion because it relied on ‘a large number of official documents, the majority of which

originated from German sources’. These documents told only the story of the murderers, but not of the murdered. A Jewish researcher wanting to describe 8 R. Auerbach, Undzer kheshbn mitn daytshn folk (Tel Aviv, 1952).

° Yosef Kermish to Yisrael Halperin, 15 May 1953, Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP), Jerusalem, P127/27.

200 Boaz Cohen Jewish life during the Holocaust, wrote Auerbach, ought not ‘to disregard the material of remembrance that constitutes the majority of the documents of Jewish origin’. These Jewish sources ‘give us a picture of reality, which it is possible to use to fill in the already built framework based on official sources’. The second reason was the psychological role of the testimonies. Auerbach called giving testimony a ‘popular psycho-hygienic enterprise’. “I am convinced’,

she stated, ‘that the confessions, called giving testimony, from the era of the Holocaust have a calming and healing influence and help free them [the survivors] from the horrors.’ ‘According to the opinions and the experiences of psychologists’, Auerbach noted, ‘the healing is painful—to the recorder no less than the

teller—but, nonetheless, it is known to us that denial and the stifling of sorrow cause much greater damage’. She added: ‘We know that psychological complexes are diminished by exposure and divulgence and sharing with other people.’

However, this meant not only relief but also a measure of overcoming ‘the destruction and the death’ and building for the future ‘with the help of the spiritual effort’ required in giving testimony. The creative catharsis giving birth to testimonies allowed survivors to find the strength to ‘rise above the mass graves’.*° Therefore, claimed Auerbach, the taking of testimony is not only a historical project, but also a mission of ‘societal and national healing’. ‘The therapeutic aspect of taking testimony necessitated, according to her, ‘including the maximum number of survivors’. The third reason was the preparation of historical materials for a future period in which the Jewish voice could be heard on the stage of history. ‘In no trial [of war criminals] has it been permitted us, the Jewish people, who are the most oppressed, to be present as an interested party’, she wrote, while Jews’ participation as witnesses at trials had been ‘weak and incomplete’. Moreover, the testimonies col-

lected to that point had been presented and put together for publication in an ‘impoverished, minimized, and sometimes also distorted’ fashion. It was imperative to ‘prepare Jewish testimony that will give voice to our sorrow and our fury also at the hour when we will no longer be in the world’, before what she called ‘the court of history’. Thus, already in the mid-1950s, Auerbach prepared the ground, unknowingly, for the inclusion of survivor testimonies in the Eichmann trial, for which she fought vigorously a few years later."* It must be emphasized that Auerbach regarded giving testimony as an expression

of a broad popular movement. This was the history ‘of the people and for the people’. The roots of this movement were already seen in the Holocaust itself: ‘An entire people clutching pens, in ghettos, in hiding places, in the face of gas chambers and machine gun muzzles, found the strength to write—for the sole reason that at some time the world should know. So that these things should be known to 10 R. Auerbach, ‘Nekudot lehartsa’ah bemo’adon “eliyahu” ’, Haifa, 24 June 1960; YVA, P16/41.

11-R. Auerbach, ‘Eduyot: beshulei shitat hape’ulah shel yad vashem’; YVA, P16/69 (published in Davar in 1955).

Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Holocaust Memory 201 their brothers.’'* Auerbach drew parallels between giving testimony and the publication of community memorial books (jzzkor books). Although Auerbach’s depart-

ment was not involved in publishing them, the grass-roots nature of memorial books appealed to her, for this ‘great, wonderful, and significant movement of publishing memorial books’ was an expression of a ‘collective, spontaneous effort, stemming from the depths of the spirit of the people’.’° She saw the role of Yad Vashem as contributing support and tools to this popular movement: ‘All of our

organized activity is nothing but an instrument for this movement; everyone involved needs to understand this. In this lies the secret of our existence.’!4 There was a special place in this national testimonial enterprise for those who recorded the testimonies. In Auerbach’s view, they had to be survivors themselves, because if the witness did not feel ‘the full involvement and sharing of his experi-

ences on the part of the person taking the testimony, he would not open up his heart and would not tell the whole truth that was still eating at his body and soul’.?° The survivors who took this mission upon themselves paid, in Auerbach’s opinion, a highly personal price: Woe to the man who is deeply involved in this experience, and in particular if he is a bereaved and solitary man who lost dear ones in this great tragedy, and whose memory recalls over and over again pictures of what his eyes have seen in those days. And with all this he feels that the work must be done specifically by those who understand and feel—and he knows that this work must be done now and cannot be put off because the witnesses are dying and in a little while those taking their testimony and researchers who belong to the generation of destruction will also die.®

To a large extent we can see in these words an autobiographical description of Auerbach’s own feelings. At another point, addressing the apprehension of many as the Eichmann trial approached and the public responses to it, she said that ‘for us

in the department assigned to take testimony, the whole year is Eichmann’.*’ Regarding the personal price she herself paid, she wrote: ‘For them [witnesses and their testimonies], I suffered all the time and received with love the suffering and the pain bound up in them; for them, I neglected my literary work because I saw in this a mission and an obligation and a justification of the fact that I remained alive.’?® 12 R. Auerbach, ‘Al mah natush hama’avak beyad vashem? Yesh lehahzir et hamifal leyiudo uletafkidim shelema’anam notsar’, Davar, 7 Oct. 1958 13 R. Auerbach, ‘Sifrei yizkor-tenuah amamit’, Davar, 4 Apr. 1958; see also ead., ‘Sifrei zikaron’, Davar, 12 Jan. 1958. 14 Auerbach, ‘Nekudot lehartsa’ah bemo’adon “eliyahu” ’. 15 “My personal experience has taught me that between the witness and the interviewer, who is also, in many cases, one of the survivors of the Holocaust, an emotional connection will easily be formed, based on the experience of fate in the past.’ R. Auerbach, ‘Irgun hape’ulah shel geviyat eduyot vehoraot le’oskim bah’; YVA, P16/59. 16 R. Auerbach, ‘Edut bifnei hava’adah hamatmedet shel mo’etset yad vashem’, 13 July 1958; YVA,

P16/77. 17 Auerbach, ‘Nekudot’. 18 Auerbach, ‘Edut’.

202 Boaz Cohen Although the offices of the new Yad Vashem were established in Jerusalem, the department assigned to collect testimony, headed by Auerbach, was established in Tel Aviv, where the greatest concentration of Holocaust survivors lived. At the beginning, Auerbach worked in space offered to her by various organizations in Tel Aviv. For almost a year (until February 1955), she was not only the director of the department, but also its only employee. During this period, she began to collect testimonies from her neighbours and acquaintances and to locate names and addresses of other survivors. By September 1955, Yad Vashem rented an apartment in the centre of Tel Aviv for her department’s use. At this time, Auerbach organized a team of interviewers, the majority of whom were survivors from the east European intelligentsia, who worked in the department on a part-time basis. After accepting her assignment for Yad Vashem, Auerbach published her own personal ‘Ani Ma’amin’, her personal statement of principles about the proper way to take testimony. Auerbach, who had been a central activist in taking testimonies for the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, claimed now that it was necessary to ‘change the system that was used by the historical commissions in Poland and other countries’. According to her, 1t was customary ‘that the witness would tell a part of his experiences and the one writing it down would sometimes

formulate in his own words the things that he heard, would shorten them, and write them down! In this way’, she claimed, ‘a large part of the story... would be lost, and, further, a number of unique characteristics of style and linguistic description and other types of description and narration would disappear to a large extent.’ This system of recording forced the interviewers periodically to stop the witness in order to write down all the things that they heard. These interruptions

led to ‘wasting and weakening . . . the tension and emotion, the drama and the excitement, and the literary energy’. She related that more than once she felt that interviewers’ breaks resembled ‘an act of vandalism’. What could be done to improve the taking of testimony? Although she first tried to use shorthand, she came to the conclusion ‘that the most complete and useful means for writing down

testimony is the “tape recorder” ’.'? She recalled that she suggested this to the administration of Yad Vashem in 1954, but that the response was lukewarm. The department for taking testimony operated, to a large extent, as a stepchild of the institution. It was difficult to find appropriate offices and Auerbach con-

stantly complained about the limited budget at her disposal. Replies to her requests for recording devices were slow. In 1967, when Auerbach totalled up the department’s achievements, recorded testimonies comprised less than 20 per cent of the total number of testimonies taken. While locating survivors Auerbach made connections with restitution offices involved in claims against Germany (not the Claims Conference), with survivor organizations and landsmanshafin, and with the immigrant absorption depart19 R. Auerbach, ‘Mekorot vederakhim hadashim ligviyat “eduyot”’, Yediot yad vashem, 2, 29 July 1954.

Rachel Auerbach, Yad Vashem, and Holocaust Memory 203 ments of the Jewish Agency. She recruited interviewers from among survivors and formulated guidelines with detailed instructions for their use. Auerbach feared an information explosion in the field of Holocaust research. ‘The issue was ‘what to insist on and what to skip in order not to broaden the discussion about known events and superfluous interpretations’. In her own words, the interviewers ‘had to concentrate on things less well known, original, and interesting from one aspect or another’ and not repeat already known facts.”° She suggested utilizing multiple testimonies in order to compile ‘complete sets of testimonies’ describing the fate of communities or camps. She often identified subjects she and her interviewers were hoping to locate testimonies about, such as Jewish doctors during the Holocaust, Jews and Poles against Ukrainians, Jews among the partisans, and the

experiences of children during the Holocaust. Often a group of witnesses were interviewed together about a certain subject; this she called ‘collective testimony’. By 1965 Auerbach had gathered a collection of ‘3,000 testimonies, comprising 82,000 folio pages and 600 tapes’ in fifteen different languages. The department’s team now numbered five permanent staff members and about thirty outside workers, including interviewers, cataloguers, and copiers.*! However, before she was able to attain any significant achievements, Auerbach had to overcome many difficulties in her dealings with Yad Vashem’s directorate. From the beginning, there

was a Strained relationship between her and the institution’s directorate, and the physical distance between the department in Tel Aviv and the main offices of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem contributed to their growing alienation. By 1957 relations between Auerbach and Yad Vashem’s directorate had reached a crisis.

Before describing the conflict it is important to understand the structure of Yad Vashem. The institution was headed by a chairman under whom there was a director-general and a directorate. The directorate was made up of the chairman,

the director-general and representatives of several government ministers, the Jewish Agency, the Claims Conference, and several other public institutions. The day-to-day decisions of the directorate were made by a more compact forum

of the chairman, director-general, and two or three other members. An international council (known as the Yad Vashem Council), comprising scores of representatives of the public chosen for their involvement in public life, culture, and Holocaust issues, was established as well. ‘The council was in principle a supervisory body and had the mandate to authorize Yad Vashem’s budget and policies.

CONFLICT WITHIN YAD VASHEM Yad Vashem had been a great disappointment to Auerbach. From the beginning, differences of opinion between Dinur and his students from the Hebrew University and the group of survivor historians, of which Auerbach was a part, were evident. 20 Auerbach, ‘Irgun hape’ulah’. 21 a Ve , || A Saree , Pi a ’ ar iesage oe o£2!) Lé v ah . e 2 ‘7 heihecet

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A Ne OIC 3 eee ie mem ai (0.2areees °°— |— Oe : sf ee =———~— Eee NRTF Se oe oo Pe oe ee ao eee ee Ll Oe AOo ears oo ._ee | a-/ oe ——,r—“— eee oo . . _ hhh ao SEs co tee oe oe CO * ee ere et ly a... oo lle ee °°} | . es ee -—. a _.. i_-7»oo2ssoeBe 2. | a ee es ss rt _-.. oe So |. — ee ER es Ss _— oC ee ee : CS . — -_ . . = a ee Se a oo _— ee oe re oH a :a= De SG :Bee Seta :poaeeee|... ie.oa ;0ve ;ee—— isoorSeieee ee >. hr — OO z##=F Rs a 2ee ee :ee Le inet ES ee ee aUSS ss. oe .Shes [ae Ss. :—rt—~—“‘“‘™OSON .oFaa . Dl =Aee i- oS Mee .=—=— oe Oe ee ok oe ee eeeae ipee See Cn 8aeee — A: :C oe eee ee a Saye “ ee SRE a a 2 oo CUS ee fs 2 oF . : FF oe . ee rr 8eee ae a7eeOGRE iiSes. ok =os eeeee)i..2ot ae eo ..—. oe gee spi ee oe Rae. IN US saer eee ms oe oe eG oa .aSo fe ie 4 M. Kula, ‘Uwagi 0 nauczaniu historii Zydow na uniwersytetach daleko od Jerozolimy’, Uparta sprawa: Zydowska? Polska? Ludzka? (Krakow, 2004), 298-315.

© Program Liceum Ogélnoksztatcacego: Historia. Klasy I-IV, Ministerstwo Edukacji Narodowe;j

(Warsaw, 1990), 3-4. This curriculum was obligatory till the end of the 1990s. T Tbid. 19. 5 See E. Tretowska and S. Wyrozumska (eds.), Materialy pomocnicze dla nauczycieli historti w liceum ogolnoksztatcacym. Rozklad materiatu dla klas I-IV 1 rejestr umiejetnosci ki. IT, Wojewodzki Osrodek Metodyczny w Warszawie (Warsaw, 1990). Another writer suggested studying the following issues: creation of the Polish government-in-exile; the Sikorski—Majski pact; the creation of the Polish Army in the USSR; the severing of diplomatic relations with the USSR; the creation of the PPR, KRN, PKWN, Council for National Unity, and the National Unity Government; the Warsaw uprising; and relations

between Poland and the USSR. There is no mention of the Jews or the Holocaust. See M. Bondaruk (ed.), Minimum programowe z histori w liceum ogélnoksztatcgcym: Préba okreslenia norm wymagan 1 form

reahzacit tresci nauczania, Wojewodzki Osrodek Metodyczny w Warszawie (Warsaw, 1990), 49. .

308 Robert Szuchta the analyses of thirty-nine textbooks published between 1993 and 1997 and the ways in which Jewish subjects, including the Holocaust, were represented in these textbooks. Historians from the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw who reviewed the books noted significant progress in comparison with the communist period; however, their overall conclusions were not optimistic.’ In particular, they stressed the fact that the data about the fate of the Jews during the war were sporadic and the

comprehensive picture was often incoherent. The treatment of the Holocaust in Polish textbooks remained too general and was still based on stereotypes, not conducive to facilitating the intended deeper understanding of ‘what had happened and why’.'? Moreover, most textbooks still presented the Holocaust as a part of German policy towards Poland, without mentioning its wider geographical and cultural aspects. Accordingly, the Holocaust was still marginalized and presented as a peripheral event in Polish history, rather than as a large-scale phenomenon. The fate of Jews in German-occupied countries other than Poland went unmentioned. Most of the textbooks ignored the fundamental difference between the collective fates of Jews and ethnic Poles and their individual chances for survival during the Second World War. Moreover, these new textbooks presented the attitudes of Polish society to the Holocaust in a simplistic way. Authors who discussed Polish assistance to the Jews during the war often exaggerated its scope. Though they did mention cases of blackmail and of reporting hidden Jews to the police, they usually

| attributed these cases to those from the ‘social margin’ and ‘criminal environment’. They pointed to the condemnation of such behaviour by the Polish underground authorities and emphasized that the death sentence was imposed on collaborators and blackmailers. In some textbooks, a false connection was drawn between Polish collaborators and cases of Jewish collaboration.'! This created an impression that, in general, the Poles saved Jews, and only lone, often criminal, individuals did not participate in this noble endeavour. It seems that by exaggerating the assistance offered to Jews by Poles, the authors of school textbooks were attempting to provide arguments against charges of Polish antisemitism and that Poles tacitly 9 ‘Tematyka zydowska w podrecznikach szkolnych’, Biuletyn ZIH, 3-4 (1997), 133-110. Among other discussions of school textbooks in Poland, see F. Tych, ‘Co polskie podreczniki méwia o Holokauscie: Cien zwirowiska’, Polityka, 47, 21 Nov. 1998, pp. 85-6; id., ‘Problematyka Zaglady w polskich podrecznikach szkolnych do nauczania histori’, in Dlugi cien Zaglady: Szkice historyczne (Warsaw, 1999), 97-117; A. F riszke, ‘Zydzi w szkolnych podrecznikach’, WigZ, 7 (489) (1999), 23-36;

H. Wegrzynek, Nauczanie 0 Zydach w polskich szkotach (New York, n.d.); K. Ruchniewicz, ‘Die Darstellung des Holocausts in polnischen Schulbiichern fur die Oberschulen in den goer Jahren’, a conference paper delivered at the “Teaching Experiences and Teaching Material on the Holocaust’ conference, Buchenwald, 24-6 Sept. 2000. 10 FE. Kozminska-Frejlak, ‘Swiadkowie Zaglady—Holokaust jako zbiorowe doswiadczenie Polakow’, Przeglad Socjologiczny, 2 (2000), 182.

"1 'T. Siergiejczyk, Historia: Dzieje najnowsze 1939-1945. Podrecentk dla szkot srednich klasy IV liceum ogélnoksztatcacego oraz dla klasy LIT technikum 1 liceum zawodowego (Warsaw, 1995), 135-7-

The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989 309 approved of the Germans’ policy to exterminate the Jews. The demographic consequences of the Holocaust in Polish and European contexts were not discussed in depth.'* The textbooks failed to mention the moral ramifications of the destruction of the Jewish communities for many European societies, including Poland. Although the demoralization caused by witnessing the Holocaust had significant consequences for the attitude of Poles to the Jews immediately after the war, none of the textbooks attempted to address this issue.*” Strong stereotypes were evident in many of the textbooks examined by the reviewers from the Jewish Historical Institute. Among others, the issue of alleged Jewish ‘passivity’ during the war seems to have influenced the content of the textbooks. Sections devoted to Jewish resistance usually identified only the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943. Other uprisings, as well as revolts in concentration camps, were mentioned at best in passing, or, more often, were completely ignored. In contrast, the civil resistance among Poles (encompassing such issues as underground teaching, culture, art, and mutual help) was widely discussed and given a Polish national character, without any reference to Jews. One textbook concluded that ‘Jews were completely passive during the occupation’.'* In another publication, the same author stated: The majority of the Jews were completely passive during the early stages of the occupation. Armed units were not formed; Jews allowed themselves to be closed in ghettos and sent to concentration camps. When the Polish resistance movement, incurring heavy casualties, 12 In a school textbook chapter entitled ‘The Balance of the War’, Stanislaw Sierpowski wrote: ‘It is

extremely difficult to sum up the consequences of the Second World War. The best way to do it, though often questioned and used to support contradictory claims, is through statistics. .. . The highest casualty ratio was sustained by the USSR (20-30 million people), Germany (13.5 million), China (approximately 10 million), Poland (approx. 6 million), Japan (2.5 million), Yugoslavia (1.7 mil-

lion), Great Britain (350,000), and the USA (300,000).’ As for Poland, he wrote: ‘Polish territories remained under occupation for almost six years. 650,000 people were killed during the fighting; 3.5 million died in executions, pacifications, and death camps; 2 million died in other forms of the struggle against Polishness.’ See Historia najnowsza (1918-1997): Podrecznik dla szkoty srednie? (n.p., n.d.),

214, 218. This textbook was published in a series sponsored by the Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan. A similar conclusion can be found in a supplementary textbook written by Andrzej Leszek Szczesniak: ‘As a result of the extermination policy of the occupiers, in 1939-45 almost six million Polish citizens were killed (5.3 million as a direct result of the Nazi terror). About 220 (22%) out of 1,000 people were killed. In Warsaw alone, 800,000 citizens were killed.’ A. L. Szczesniak, Historia w szkole Sredniej: Repetytorium, pytania egzaminacyjne, analiza tekstéw Zrodtowych, 4th edn. (Warsaw, 1998), 252.

13 Tt is commonly held in Poland that the idea of Jewish passivity is an antisemitic stereotype that appeared after the war. However, the idea was current earlier during the war and was often voiced by Jews themselves. On 15 Oct. 1942, after the conclusion of the major round-up in the Warsaw ghetto, Emanuel Ringelblum noted: ‘Why? Why did no resistance occur when they were deporting 300,000 Jews from Warsaw? Why did they allow themselves to be led as sheep for slaughter? Why was it so easy,

so unproblematic? Why didn’t the butchers take a single casualty?’ E. Ringelblum, Kronika getta warszawskiego: Wrzesien 1939—styczen 1943 (Warsaw, 1983), 409-10. 4A. L. Szcezesniak, Historia 1914-1989: Polska i Swiat naszego wieku (Warsaw, 1997), 226.

310 Robert Szuchta | attacked the transports, Jews did not want to escape from them. Under the circumstances, the Poles decided not to attack the transports any more.!°

Yet another textbook author asserted: ‘A special form of armed struggle of the Polish resistance movement was the struggle of the Polish Jews in the ghettos in 1943. Given the passivity of the majority of the Jews, the resistance movement was not particularly numerous and active in this environment.’*® Thus the image of the Holocaust as taught in Polish schools in the 1ggos was still remote from historical reality. In all discussions of Polish—Jewish relations, the authors of textbooks set out to defend the core of Polish collective memory against

possible accusations that might challenge the deeply ingrained concepts of the heroism, integrity, and honesty of Poles under the German occupation. Textbooks tended to build a monument to Polish martyrology and to create a heroic image of history.'” Thus reconstruction of Jewish Holocaust memory came very slowly and the path was full of obstacles and difficulties.

REFORM IN THE LATE IQ9QOS Towards the end of the 1990s, another long-discussed reform of the educational system was introduced. An important part of this reform entailed the modification of the history curriculum. Asa part of tackling the so-called ‘blank spots’ of history, closer attention was paid to the history of ethnic minorities, including the Jews. The ‘Polonocentric’ vision of history was also abandoned. Currently, the Holocaust ts a mandatory topic in all Polish schools. The obligation to teach the Holocaust became part of the ‘basic curriculum’, a ministry-level document giving a framework for Holocaust instruction. The document defines the educational aims for each subject, 15 A. L. Szczeéniak, Nauczante historii w klasie 8: Poradnik metodyczny (Warsaw, 1993), 193.

16 Siergiejczyk, Historia: Dzieje najnowsze 1939-1945 (1995), 172. The same was repeated in another textbook by this author published in 1998. See T. Siergiejczyk, Historia: Dzteje najnowsze 1939-1945. Podreczntk dla szkot Srednich klasy IV lhceum ogélnoksztatcgcego oraz klasy LIT technikum 1 liceum zawodowego (Warsaw, 1998), 176.

17 Historical publications abounding in xenophobic or antisemitic elements also appeared. , However, they encountered a critical reception by scholars, teachers, and students. In Mar. 1999, Anna Bikont and Maria Kruczkowska published an article analysing textbooks written by Andrzej Leszek Szcezesniak, accusing the author of antisemitism and spreading racial hatred. See A. Bikont and M. Kruczkowska, ‘Nadal reprezentuje opcje polska’, Gazeta Wyborcza, 6-7 (Mar. 1999), 10, 12-13. | After the publication of the article, a group of Polish intellectuals wrote a letter to the Minister of , Education in which they stated: ‘Having read Anna Bikont and Maria Kruczkowska’s article, we call upon the Ministry to withdraw support given to Andrzej Leszek Szczesniak’s textbooks for the seventh and eighth grades of the primary school, as well as for the secondary schools. These textbooks and the accompanying methodological books for the teachers propagate antisemitism, spread hatred, falsify historical reality, and are detrimental to the Polish system of education. They are based on anti-

semitic stereotypes and directly continue the accusations of the communist propaganda of March 1968.’ See ‘Nie chcemy podrecznikow Szczesniaka’, Gazeta Wyborcza, 15 Mar. 1999, p. 7. More than 200 people signed this letter.

The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989 311 specifies the desired effects of education, and describes general ideas that must be covered in each subject. The basic history curriculum for the lower-level secondary schools (gimnazium) obliges the teacher to acquaint 13- to 15-year-old students with the following topics: the Second World War; the Ribbentrop—Molotov Pact and its implementation; crucial moments in the war; the anti-Nazi coalition; mass murder in occupied territories; concentration camps and the gulag; and the Holocaust. The

basic curriculum for the higher-level secondary schools (4iceum) for students between the ages of 16 and 18 makes the following subjects obligatory: ‘Progress and Crises of Civilisation; Social Conflicts; andWar, Genocide, the Holocaust’.'®

The most recent history textbooks discuss the Holocaust extensively. The history of the Holocaust that emerges from these new publications is more nuanced and more complete, and the authors do not eschew difficult issues. Generally, separate chapters are devoted to the Holocaust, with titles such as “The Destruction of European Jewry: The Holocaust’; ‘Shoah: ‘The Holocaust’; “The Holocaust means Destruction’; or simply ‘The Holocaust’.'? The origins and development of the Holocaust are discussed in depth. The account of the Holocaust is usually preceded by a discussion of the history and culture of the Jews in Poland and other European countries before the Second World War. The authors of the new textbooks discuss antisemitic, racist, and Nazi ideologies. Commentaries and questions for the students encourage deeper reflection. Especially important, but also especially difficult, is the issue of the attitude of European societies, including Polish society, to the Holocaust. Students learn about collaborators, blackmailers, and informers, but also about Zegota (Council for Aid to Jews) and the fruitless

efforts of the Polish government-in-exile to make the free world aware of the unprecedented genocide of the Jews that was taking place in Poland. They also learn about the murder of the Jews in Jedwabne, carried out by Poles acting under German instigation on 10 July 1941.7° 18 The basic history curricula have been published in the Rozporzadzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej i Sportu z dnia 26 II 2002 r., Dz. U. z 2002 r., Nr 51, poz. 458. 19 Specific issues are signalled by the subheadings of the Holocaust chapter in one of the textbooks: ‘Signs of the Holocaust’; ‘Closed Districts’; ‘Ghettos’; ‘Endl6sung—the Final Solution of the Jewish

Question’; ‘Factories of Death’; ‘Proud Struggle to the Death: The Jewish Resistance Movement’; ‘Forgotten Holocaust—Other Victims of the Genocide’; “The Allies and the Murder’; ‘Examination of Humanity: Attitudes to the Genocide’; ‘News about the Genocide’; ‘In the Murderous Net’; ‘He is from my Homeland: Poles and the Holocaust’. See G. Szymanowski and P. Trojanski, Ludzte 1 epokt: Fistoria z Pegazem. Podreczntk dla klasy 3 liceum ogélnoksztatcgcego, liceum profilowanego 1 technikum (Krakow, 2003), 181-92.

20 R. Tusiewicz, Historia III. Podreczmk dla III klasy gimnazjum (Warsaw, 2001), 116; K. Starczewska et al., Swiat wspotczesny: Od wybuchu IT wojny swiatowe. Podrecznik dla gimnazjum, klasa ITI, czes¢ IT (Warsaw, 2002), 41; T. Matkowski and J. Rzesniowiecki, Historia IIT: Podrecznth dla

gimnazjum (Gdansk, 2002), 202; J. Wrobel, Odnalezé przesztosé: Od 1815 roku do wspotczesnoset. Podreczmk dla liceum ogoélnoksztatcacego, liceum profilowanego i technikum (Warsaw, 2003), 276; G. Szelagowska, Ludzie, spoteczenstwa, cywilizacje: Historia XIX 1 XX wieku, czes¢ IT. Podreczntk dla hceum ogdlnoksztatcgcego, liceum profilowanego 1 technikum (Warsaw, 2003), 296.

312 Robert Szuchta Since 2000, the Ministry of Education has published a proposed curriculum that includes elements of Jewish history as well as the Holocaust in the secondary education humanities programme.*! The decision whether to implement this curriculum is made by individual teachers or school boards. ‘The curriculum specifies which issues concerning the Holocaust should be covered and recommends appropriate methods and didactic aids. The curriculum is supplemented by a teacher’s manual that describes the genesis, history, and consequences of the Holocaust.?” Apart from a synthesis of the history of the Holocaust, the manual also has chapters on Jewish history, religion, and tradition. It includes a new didactic framework that introduces rich iconographic material, several maps, numerous and diverse historical sources, a bibliography, a chronology of events, and indexes. Both publications, the first of their kind in Poland, are highly commended by teachers and students.

OTHER RESOURCES FOR JEWISH AND HOLOCAUST EDUCATION Many teachers who cover the difficult issue of the Holocaust in their classes take advantage of outside resources. They attend workshops devoted to Jewish culture,

ghetto uprisings, and concentration camps. Ethnic Poles who witnessed the Holocaust and Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust, including members of the Association of the Children of the Holocaust in Poland, participate in history lessons and meet students. Since 1993 the Shalom Foundation, the Jewish Historical Institute, the Ministry of Education, the University of Warsaw, and the Institute for National Remem-

brance have jointly organized country-wide competitions entitled ‘History and Culture of Polish Jews’. Over the course of ten years, more than 10,000 secondary school students have participated in this competition. In the school year 2001/2, a competition for primary school students entitled ‘Sharing the Land’ was organized for the first time. The aim of this competition was to acquaint the participants with the Jewish heritage of their region. In one of the schools more than 130 students took part; the youngest participant was 9 years old. Other educational institutions have also organized countrywide or regional competitions devoted to the history of the Jews and the Holocaust. These recently include the Jewish Centre in Oswiecim (Auschwitz), which organized two competitions entitled “The Jews: How I See

Them’ and ‘The Neighbours’;?* the local branch of the Institute for National 21 R. Szuchta and P. Trojanski, Holokaust: Program nauczania o historii i zagladzie Zydéw na lekcjach przedmiotow humanistycznych w szkole ponadpodstawowe (Warsaw, 2000).

22 R. Szuchta and P. Trojanski, Holokaust: Zrozumieé dlaczego. Ksigzka pomocnicza do nauki historii

w szkotach ponadpodstawowych (Warsaw, 2003). 23 .

The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989 313 Remembrance in L6dz, which organized the competition ‘Destruction of Jewish Towns: The Fate of the Polish Jews during the Second World War’;?* and the Association of the Children of the Holocaust, which organized—in co-operation with the Central Institute for the Continuing Education of Teachers—the competition ‘Memory for the Future’.?° Two exhibitions designed for schools play a special role in advancing under-

standing of the Holocaust throughout Poland. One is entitled ‘The Jews in Poland: Fellows or Aliens’ and the other ‘Anne Frank: History for Our Times.’ The exhibitions are accompanied by seminars for teachers and lessons for students. Both exhibitions, together with educational materials for both students and teachers, are also available on the first educational website in Poland devoted to Jewish history and culture.*° Many organizations and associations support the efforts of teachers devoted to the topic of Jews in Poland. Educational institutions, universities, museums, and research institutes (especially the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw) organize

workshops for teachers, enabling them to fill gaps in their knowledge, develop methodologies, and exchange experiences.”" Various non-textbook publications, whose number has significantly increased during the past ten years, also play a very important role in advancing understand-

ing of the Holocaust. Teachers who discuss the Holocaust now have at their disposal more sourcebooks,”° encyclopedias, lexicons,?* and monographs devoted

to Jewish culture and tradition in general and the Holocaust in particular. Also 24 .

2°. . .

26 . See also P. Trojariski, ‘Wirtualna historia Zydow’, Szkolne Mowig Wieki, 1/7 (2003), 4—5. 27 R. Szuchta, ‘Cudze chwalicie, swego nie znacie’, Kwartalnik Historii Zydéw, 3 (2003), 482-4.

“8 Among the recently published sourcebooks, the following should be mentioned: R. Sakowska (ed.), Archiwum Ringelbluma: Dzieci—tajne nauczanie w getcie warszawskim, ii (Warsaw, 2000); A. Zbikowski (ed.), Archiwum Ringelbluma: Relage z Kresow, iii (Warsaw, 2000); A. Cala and H. Datner-Spiewak (eds.), Dzieje Zydéw w Polsce 1944-1968: Teksty Zrédlowe (Warsaw, 1997); K. Friedrich, Rozwigzanie kwestii zydowskie] w Dystrykcie Galicja (Warsaw, 2001); A. K. Kunert (ed.),

Poles—fews 1939-1945: Selection of Documents (Warsaw, 2001); M. M. Drozdowski (ed.), Polska Walczaca wobec powstania w getcie parszawskim: Antologia tekstow historycznych 1 lterackich (Warsaw, 2003); A. K. Kunert (ed.), Zegota: Rada Pomocy Zydom 1942-1945: Wybér dokumentéw poprzedzony

wywiadem Andrzeja Friszke z Wladyslawem Bartoszewskim (Warsaw, 2002); P. Machcewicz and K. Persak (eds.), Wokot fJedwabnego: Dokumenty, 11 (Warsaw, 2002).

29 A. Cala, H. Wegrzynek, and G. Zalewska, Historia i kultura Zydéw polskich: Stownik (Warsaw, 2000); M. Gilbert, Atlas of Fewish Fistory, rev. edn. (New York, 1993); id., Atlas of the Holocaust (New York, 1993); Z. Borzyminska and R. Zebrowski (eds.), Polski slownik judaistyczny: Dzieje, kultura, rehgia, ludzte (Warsaw, 2003); S. P. De Vries, Obrzgdy i symbole Zydéw (Krakow, 2001); A. Unterman, Encyklopedia tradycji 1 legend Zydowskich (Warsaw, 1994); G. Wigoder, Sfownik hiograficzeny Zydéw (Warsaw, 1998); J. Tomaszewski and A. Zbikowski (eds.), Zydzi w Polsce: Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon (Warsaw, 2001).

314 Robert Szuchta available are educational packages,®° lesson templates,** and other methodological aids. The increased array of offerings has not only facilitated the professionalism and refinement of teaching methodology but has also encouraged the development of didactic reflection.

REMAINING OBSTACLES Still, there remain numerous obstacles to improving education on the Holocaust. Antisemitic and xenophobic attitudes, relatively common in Polish society, create

an atmosphere that does not facilitate this kind of education. Widespread ‘Polonocentrism’ still reigns and dictates that Polish schools should mainly teach the heroic and martyrological past of the Polish nation and only subsequently discuss ethnic minorities. In this view, the current trend towards an introduction of Jewish history into the Polish school system is an attempt at indoctrinating Polish youth. A universal obstacle in teaching the Holocaust not only in Poland and not only to Polish students is the difficulty in comprehending its scope. As Byron L. Sherwin has pointed out, ‘The didactic challenge consists in explaining the inexplicable to people, who .. . most likely don’t understand what they hear.’°*? For example, students trying 30 Auschwitz: Pamigé dla przysztosci: Teki edukacyjne IPN (Warsaw, 2003); Funkcje KL Auschwitz: Warsztaty metodyczne dla nauczycieli szkot podstawowych (Oswiecim, 1996); A. Bialecka, A. Cyra, and Emeryka Iwaszko (eds.), Los Polakéw i los Zydéw w KL Auschwitz: Materialy historyczne dla nauczycieli (Oswiecim, 1999); Muzeum bytego hitlerowskiego obozu zaglady w Sobiborze: CD-Rom, Program multimedialny zawterajgcy szczegolowe informacje na temat Nazizmu, Holokaustu, Akcpi Reinhard, obozu w Sobiborze, oprawcéw, ofiar (Chelm, 2000); Opera dziecigca Brundibar. Hans Krasa. Teczka informa-

cyjna Brundibér, Materiaty do pracy nad projektem kulturalnym dla dztect 1 mlodztezy. Inicjatywa Jeunesses Musicales Deutschland we wspolpracy z Migdzynarodowym Domem Spotkan Mtlodziezy w Osmiecimiu (n.d, n.p.). 31 W. Krolikowska, ‘Wycieczka Ssladami warszawskiego getta’, Szkolne Mowig mieki, 4 (10) (2003),

5—7; E. Lorkowska, ‘Holocaust—kryzys cywilizacji europejskiej?’, in Scenariusze lekcji do seru podrecznikow A. Radziwitt 1 W. Roszkowskiego—Historia 1759-1997 (Warsaw, 2000), 67—73; B. Los, D. Sinulingga, and S. J. Zurek, ‘W drodze do gazu . . . Czy i jak méwié dzis o Holocauscie na lekcjach jezyka polskiego?’, Jezyk polski w szkole sredniej: Kwartalnik, Rocznik XV (Kielce, 2000-1), 1, 44-8; R. Szuchta, ‘Polacy i Zydzi—plaszczyzny nieporozumien i porozumienia—Konspekt lekcji biezacej z

historii w klasie III lub IV’, in M. Sobanska-Bondaruk and S. B. Lenard (eds.), Praca nad Zrédlami: Konspekty i scenariusze lekcji dla nauczycieli (Warsaw, 1999), 206—7; id., ‘Problematyka stosunkow polsko-zydowskich w szkole’, Wiadomosci Historyczne, 1 (1995), 31-3; M. Tracz, ‘Moja wizja lekcji’, Pro

memoria, 9 (1998), 26-7; P. Trojanski, ‘Konspekt lekcji historii przeprowadzonej metoda dramy: Polacy i Zydzi—razem ale obok siebie’, Wiadomosci Historyczne, 5 (1997), 301-4; H. Wesotowska,

‘Niemcy pod rzadami nazistow (1933-1939), Materialy edukacyjne programu KREATOR: Scenariusze lekcji (Warsaw, 1999), 61-72; ead., ‘Panstwo i spoleczenstwo nazistowskich Niemiec w

latach trzydziestych XX wieku’, in Scenariusze lekcji do seru podreczmkow A. Radziwitt 1 W. Roszkowskiego, 58-61.

32 B. L. Sherwin, ‘Nauczanie o Holocauscie’, in his Duchowe dziedzictwo Zydéw polskich (Warsaw, 1995), 256.

The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989 315 to understand life in the Warsaw ghetto cannot find any reference in their own life experiences to enable them to comprehend what they are learning about. Another obstacle is that schoolteachers themselves are not always sufficiently experienced to deal with the topic of the Holocaust, both in terms of their methodological training and empirical knowledge. Sociological research conducted in May 2000 by Marek Kucia of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow revealed that many schoolteachers still do not give an appropriate account of the Holocaust. As a

result, only 24 per cent of students correctly understood the term ‘Holocaust’, while 50 per cent could not define the term or answered ‘I don’t remember’, and 26 per cent gave a completely wrong definition. Some students said they had never heard about the Holocaust and the term had not been introduced during their history classes.°°

A contemporary issue that influences students’ attitudes towards the study of the Holocaust is their ignorance about the current Israeli—Palestinian conflict. A relatively common opinion in Poland, often portrayed in the Polish media, is that

this conflict amounts to genocide perpetrated by the Israelis against the Palestinians. For example, a leaflet calling on the citizens of Warsaw to participate in a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy on 25 May 2004 featured a large photograph of three Israeli soldiers tormenting a Palestinian boy and bore the caption ‘Don’t ignore the butchering of the Palestinians!’ A photograph of the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was captioned ‘Stop Sharon, the murderer’. ‘Teachers in Polish schools are being asked by their students about the connection between the events taking place in the state of Israel and the past experience of the Jews during the Holocaust. Many teachers are unprepared to deal with this issue.

METHODOLOGICAL CONCERNS The debate concerning methodologies of teaching the Holocaust centres on the following issues:

¢ Definition of the aims, which would clearly and precisely place the Holocaust in the context of the Polish educational system.

¢ Selection of the content, which would address the topical, geographical, and chronological scope of the phenomenon, while at the same time taking into account the abilities of the students to absorb the content. ¢ Teaching methods adjusted to the importance and character of the issues discussed during lessons, conditions of the teacher’s and students’ work, and ability to conceptualize the historical material.

While learning about the Holocaust, Polish teachers and students should look for answers to the following three questions: 33M. Kucia, ‘Auschwitz w percepcji polskich uczniéw’, Pro memoria, 16 (2002), 17-26.

316 Robert Szuchta ¢ How was it possible? This question deals with the widely understood background

and origins of the Holocaust and the nature of ethnic, religious, and social stereotypes and prejudices, as well as with the reasons, character, and consequences of anti-Judaism and antisemitism. An analysis of these elements can facilitate understanding of how some people came to think that other people are not human and do not deserve to live, and why the Jews in particular were

nesses. | singled out for death.

¢ How did tt happen? This question addresses the decision-making process of the Final Solution from the advent of Nazism to the end of the Second World War, the circumstances and conditions of the Holocaust, and the attitudes of its wit-

¢ What can we do to make sure it won’t happen again? This question is directed to the future. It should provoke reflection about human nature and interpersonal relationships currently and in the future. It should inspire tolerance, openness, and caring for others.

In order to stimulate the search for answers to these questions, schools should acquaint students with the basic chronology of the Holocaust and its wider social, political, cultural, and philosophical contexts. This approach allows for consideration of the Holocaust in the context of many different subjects: Polish, history, geography, religion, ethics, civil education, and philosophy.** Polish teachers no longer ask if the Holocaust should be taught, but how to teach it. The teaching should be individualized as much as possible and based on the student’s degree of empathy.®° Previous experiences of teaching about Nazi crimes, including the Holocaust, suggest that education based on empathy with the victims of these events will help students better appreciate the motivations

behind the actions and attitudes of the past. The best methods stimulate the - student’s own activity. They stimulate his or her imagination and allow for a close

and unmediated contact with the historical reality, for instance with historical personalities. The student will better understand motivations behind actions and attitudes of the past. Learning is accompanied by emotional commitment, which not only stimulates acquiring knowledge but also shapes a student’s values and personality.

CONCLUSION Teaching history to young people shapes their civil, national, and human identities. It helps to educate them to be open, tolerant, sensitive to other people’s suffering, and respectful of the life and dignity of another human being. For this reason’ 34 R. Szuchta and Piotr Trojanski, ‘Pomoc uczniom, byé ludzmi . . .’, Pro memoria, 16 (2002), 31-6. 3° A. Suchonski, ‘Rola empatii w szkolnej edukacji historycznej na przykladzie Holokaustu’, Edukacja - fustorycznat obywatelska w szkolnictwie ponadgimnazjalnym (Torun, 2003), 26-31.

The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989 317 it is very important to teach young people in Poland about the vexing character of Polish—Jewish relations before the Second World War, as well as about the murder of three million Polish Jews. The Holocaust is a part of Polish history and students | should learn about it and understand its legacy. ‘To achieve this aim, it is necessary systematically to reconstruct the memory of the Holocaust and give it back to Polish society. Education plays an especially important role in this process. Thanks to the open discussion of Polish—Jewish relations and the efforts of educated, responsible teachers, ignoring the Holocaust or falsifying its history is no longer

_ possible in contemporary Polish schools. In turn, the young people of Poland today are demonstrating that they can learn from this great tragedy of the past. It is said that a sin starts with words but it can also start with silence, which means

tacit consent and collaboration. Protesting against the Holocaust in 1942, the Polish writer Zofia Kossak-Szczucka wrote: “The world looks at this crime, more horrible than anything that history had known before—and is silent. . .. One who is silent in the face of a crime becomes the accomplice of the murderer. Who does not condemn—allows it.’°° I am convinced that these words remain valid today. Despite the conservative character of education at the secondary school level and the question of the inclusiveness of Polish collective memory, knowledge about the Holocaust should become available to the young generation of Polish students. Translated from the Polish by Pawet Maciejko 36 Zofia Kossak, ‘Protest!’, a proclamation of the underground Front for the Rebirth of Poland, in Kunert, Poles—Jews 1939-1945, 215-16.


What Story to Tell? Shaping the Narrative of the Museum of the History of Polish fews MICHAEL C. STEINLAUF For a number of years, I have had the privilege to be involved in the process of planning the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is scheduled to open in Warsaw in several years’ time. The museum will be dedicated to teaching and commemorating the nearly one-thousand-year-old history of Jewish civilization in the Polish lands. While it is the destruction of this civilization that has come to loom largest in popular consciousness, chronicling this destruction will constitute only a

small part of the museum’s mission. Its focus will be on centuries of life rather than on the intervals of catastrophe. The museum was first envisaged by Jeshayahu Weinberg, who was responsible for

creating the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv and subsequently the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The planning of the Warsaw museum was directed by Weinberg from 1996 until his death in 2000, when Jerzy Halbersztadt assumed direction. Halbersztadt had directed the museum of the University of Warsaw and represented the Holocaust Museum in Poland for a decade. In 1997 Warsaw City Council donated some 145,000 square feet of land in front

of the memorial to the Warsaw ghetto uprising as a site for the museum. Since 1948, when Nathan Rapoport’s monument was installed at this site, it has become

the primary locus of Polish and international Jewish commemorations of the uprising and of the Holocaust itself. The importance of this site 1s historical as well as symbolic. This was the heart of the Jewish quarter in pre-war Warsaw; in 1943, the underground headquarters of the Jewish Fighting Organization were located nearby. In 1998, excavations at this site uncovered a collection of documents from the Warsaw ghetto.

Since 2000 Event Communications, a London-based design team, has been planning the museum’s core exhibition. The current version of the document An earlier version of this article was presented at the Conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Pittsburgh, November 2002.

The Museum of the History of Polish Fews 319 known as the ‘Masterplan’ envisages nine main galleries, ranging in size from 2,000 to 6,500 square feet. For purposes of comparison, the total area of the exhibition, over 40,000 square feet, would be approximately the same size as the core exhibition of the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Another document, the ‘Outline of the Historical Program’ of the museum, provides the historiographical backbone for the Masterplan. With these two documents nearing provisionally usable forms, an international competition was announced to select an architectural firm to design the museum’s building. This way of proceeding was intended to prioritize the core exhibition rather than the architecture, thereby avoiding the sort of situation encountered in Berlin’s Jewish Museum, where Daniel Libeskind’s extraordinary but problematic structure overshadows the exhibition within. In January 2005 the governments of Poland and the city of Warsaw agreed to contribute $26 million towards the museum’s construction and to cover 97 per cent of its subsequent operating costs. Five months later, the Finnish firm of Rainer Mahlamaki and Ilmari Lahdelma was selected to design the museum’s building. In 1998 the museum planners initiated a Judaica database that currently documents 60,000 objects from more than a thousand repositories in eastern Europe,

Israel, and the United States. While some of these objects, particularly those housed at the Jewish Historical Institute (Zydowski Instytut Historyczny, ZIH), will find a place in the museum, the core exhibit as a whole will be story-driven

rather than artefact-driven. In other words, as in the Holocaust Memorial Museum, actual artefacts will be used sparingly. Rather, extensive use of multimedia displays—slide and video projection, sound, light, special effects, graphics, three-dimensional re-creations of varying scale, and digital technology—will construct a historical narrative as well as create environments encouraging various kinds of interaction by visitors. The narrative will begin with the earliest traces of Jewish presence in Poland. It will document the rooting and flourishing of Ashkenazi Jewish civilization during Poland’s so-called Golden Age. This part of the exhibit will focus on a scale model of early modern Krakow and its Jewish quarter, along with a virtual Jewish library that will enable visitors to learn about classical Jewish texts. The era of Jewish life in

the small towns of the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries will unfold under a model of the roof of a wooden synagogue, characteristic of this period. Over half the exhibition will concern the modern era. Among the organizing elements of this part of the exhibition will be urban Warsaw and Lodz streets of the early twentieth century that will provide glimpses into the homes of industrialists, shopkeepers, and workers, as well as Yiddish theatres, newspaper offices, political party headquarters, and Y. L. Peretz’s study. The inter-war period will unfold around a virtual Nalewki Street, the major commercial avenue in pre-war Jewish Warsaw. The Holocaust period will be explored in the context of Jewish life and death in the Warsaw ghetto. This gallery will open onto a final space documenting the post-war era until 2000.

320 Michael C. Steinlauf How does one shape the thousand-year-old story of the Jewish presence in the

Polish lands to the requirements of such an exhibition? The question posed _ within this context raises issues of academic historiography, but also of experience design, information space, and interactivity. Unlike the case with academic history, here thinking about the audience plays the major role. How does one tell a story that will speak to Poles, but also to the many Jews who are expected to

visit the museum annually, as well as to visitors who are neither Polish nor Jewish—who will be drawn, if by nothing else, then by the aura of a world-class historical museum in eastern Europe? How does one make such a museum useful

to the small but vitally important contemporary community of Polish Jews as well? How does one approach audiences that will stay for an average of two to four hours and manifest varying degrees of willingness to interact with whatever one chooses to present to them? Does one lead such audiences by the hand from exhibit to exhibit, offering a clear and explicit storyline, or does one involve them as interpreters of the material, indeed as collaborators, in shaping the museum experience? While such considerations form the most general context for thinking about the museum, my own concerns in the remainder of this article are somewhat narrower. For several years, along with a number of Polish historians, [ have been working on the historical narrative of the exhibition, the document called the Outline of the Historical Program, that has served as a historiographical resource for the exhibi-

tion designers and the museum architects. It is worth examining a number of issues that have arisen in the course of its development. Some twenty years ago, a handful of Poles began to insist that the history of the Jews in the Polish lands was an integral part of Polish history. At the time, this represented a profound breakthrough in Polish consciousness. It coincided, of course, with the Solidarity movement, which attempted to develop a pluralist and inclusive vision of the Polish past. Today, there are corners of Poland where this vision

continues to bear creative fruit, as in the work of the Fundacja Pogranicze (Borderlands Foundation) in Sejny and Brama Grodzka (Grodzka Gate) in Lublin. In Polish society as a whole, however, this vision seems to have lost ground to a more rigid notion of Polish identity. Concomitantly, affirming the importance of Jewish history for Poles has tended to shade into exaggeration and a kind of selfrighteousness, as when, in an article published in the American Jewish press about the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Wiadyslaw Bartoszewski argued that to write the history of Poland without the Jews was like writing the history of France without Paris or Germany without Berlin.* As a Jewish historian collaborating with Polish historians on a narrative of the

Jews in Poland, I often found myself arguing in favour of setting limits on the appropriation (przywfaszczenie) of that history in the name of Polish history. 1 Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, “The Museum of the History of Polish Jews’, Midstream, 38/4 (May/ June 2002), 11-12.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews 321 There were large areas of this history, I insisted, in which what went on in Polish society was essentially irrelevant. For a diaspora civilization, borders were crucial.

The borders were permeable, to be sure, but they were borders nonetheless, beyond which a world that was often oblivious to Poles lived its life. The subject of Polish—Jewish relations in all their complexity—-moments both bright and dark as well as shades of grey—would find a significant place in the evolving narrative. But the narrative itself far transcended issues of Polish—Jewish relations. Furthermore, Poles were not the only non-Jews with whom Jews came into contact in the Polish lands. I often found myself contesting the popular Polish bipolar narrative of ‘two peoples sharing a single land’. In this model, the Poles are the masters of the land, but develop a relationship with the Jewish nation. This relationship, frequently romanticized as purely positive, is also, sometimes grudgingly, admitted to have its negative sides. The Jews thereby become a kind of exceptional ‘Other’ for the Poles. But this model renders important areas of both Jewish and

Polish history invisible. What was the medieval Polish city about? Weren’t Germans, to cite only the most obvious example, some of its key inhabitants? And what was the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth? Should the museum ignore the centuries of relations between Jews and Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Lithuanians

in the eastern borderlands, important in their own right but also important for understanding Polish—Jewish relations? Not to mention Jewish interchanges with

Gypsies, Huculs, Turks, and Tatars. How can one reduce the Rzeczpospolita’s multiplicity, its celebrated wielobarwnosc, to the co-existence of Poles and Jews? And in the modern period, should the Jewish presence in inter-war Poland, for example, not be situated amidst the larger nationality issues of the period? Poles, after all, constituted only two-thirds of the inter-war population of the Polish state. Should one not locate the 250,000 Jews of Lodz, the second-largest urban Jewish population, amidst a fully tri-cultural (Polish-German—Jewish) environment? Such perspectives are increasingly included in recent versions of the Outline. Developing them, some of my Polish colleagues admit, will amount to educating Poles not only about Jewish history but about Polish history as well. ‘The

museum, in other words, could help Poles re-embark on the project begun in the 1980s of reconfiguring their own identity as something hybrid rather than integral

and thereby more suited to the complexities of twenty-first-century Europe. Related to this is what we can term a space-time problem, or actually a series of problems. As we know, the boundaries of the Polish state expanded, contracted,

disappeared, then reappeared in the course of centuries. But a modern Polish national identity is little more than a century old. How, therefore, to define the geographical-temporal boundaries of our historical narrative? No one argued, for example, against including the Jews of Vilna in the exhibits devoted to the pre-First World War period, and this despite the growing Russification of these Jews. But initially there was resistance to including other centres of the region that Jews called Lite, for example Minsk. But about 1900, the so-called Polish Jews

322 Michael C. Steinlauf living in Vilna and Minsk were collectively indistinguishable from one another. So why include the former but not the latter? Because Vilna was to become part of the new Polish state during the inter-war years, while Minsk would become the capital of Soviet Belarus? But can one exclude the past because of its future? Moreover, what to do about emigration? Did the three million Yiddish-speaking Jews who left the Polish lands from the 1880s to the 1920s instantly stop being Polish Jews? Are Polish Jews abroad only those acquainted with the works of Adam Mickiewicz and Julian Tuwim? This would limit them to being a small subset of Holocaust survivors. My consistent response to such issues was to take what I called a maximalist approach. I defined Polish Jews as those Jews who settled and lived for centuries in the lands of the Polish—Lithuanian Empire and Commonwealth. This definition corresponded, I argued, to the terms yehudei polin and poylishe.yidn used by these Jews to refer to themselves. The character of the Jewish culture that emerged was

rooted in its centuries-old presence in the Polish lands. It was the task of the museum, I argued, to recount the history of these Jews throughout their world dis-

persion and the redrawn borders of the last century, in the United States, Palestine, and the Soviet Union. These discussions have resulted in broadening the scope of what the notion of Polish Jews will include. The final galleries, it is now agreed, will not only tell the story of the Jews of the Polish nation state, but also, briefly to be sure, the story of the millions of Jews from the Polish lands who settled in western Europe and the Americas and created the State of Israel over the past century and a quarter. There has been consensus from the start among the historians working on the

narrative that the museum must not avoid the so-called dark corners in Polish—Jewish relations. In practice, this meant that specific events, such as the antiJewish violence of the inter-war period and following both world wars, the massacre at Jedwabne in 1942 (including the momentous controversy about these events in

recent years), and the so-called anti-Zionist campaign of 1968-70, were assured inclusion in the narrative. But the museum, I argued, must do more: it must present not just haphazard dark corners, but link them in a narrative about Jew hatred and antisemitism, a sub-narrative of the larger story of the Jews in Poland. This is particularly important because we still lack a single history of Polish antisemitism; indeed the very term continues to make many Polish historians uneasy.” There con-

tinues to be a widespread apologetic tendency in Polish historiography on Jew hatred that emphasizes, for example, the role of the Vatican in the early modern period and of Russian antisemitism in the late nineteenth century, while neglecting developments particular to Poland. Certainly, any account of Jew hatred in Poland should include the larger European context. But the narrative must also include the 2 Joanna B. Michlic’s book Poland’s Threatening Other: The Image of the few from 188o to the Present (Lincoln, Nebr., 2006), ably recounts the last part of this story.

The Museum of the History of Polish fews 323 anti-Jewish polemics of the early modern period and the primarily hostile views expressed in the debates of the Four Year Seym. Most importantly, it needs to focus

on the intimate connection beween modern Polish antisemitism and the rise of Polish nationalism at the end of the nineteenth century and trace how this liaison poisoned Polish attitudes towards Jews into the inter-war era, the German occupation, and the post-war period, including the years 1968-70. Recent plans for the exhibition make these connections clearly. Increasingly, issues of gender have also been introduced into the museum narrative. Such issues will be addressed, it is now agreed, not through separate women’s exhibits or by highlighting the careers of famous women, but by weaving social history and the history of daily life continuously into the exhibition. This will be a particularly challenging task because the historiography of east European Jews has, until very recently, devoted little attention to such perspectives. Finally, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is intended to be, and will

doubtless function as, a site of Holocaust commemoration. Its location assures this. Yet the creators of the museum are determined that it not be a museum of the Holocaust. The Masterplan calls for only one gallery, constituting no more than 15 per cent of the exhibition space as a whole, to be devoted to the Holocaust era. The challenge confronting the museum in this respect is therefore clear. Can one prevent the 85 per cent of the museum that will not concern the Holocaust from nevertheless radiating its aura? In truth, this is already the case with all existing

Jewish memory initiatives in Poland. The aura of the Holocaust hangs over the Krakow Jewish culture festival and the Warsaw Yiddish theatre alike. Indeed, it is probably inescapable for Jewish initiatives in early twenty-first-century Poland.

Perhaps a better question for the museum is how to configure the relationship between learning and commemoration in such a way that the latter does not devour the former. Of course, it is in the details of the exhibition, the manner in which each gallery is shaped and integrated into the whole, that these concerns as well as the other issues we have encountered will be ultimately resolved.


Bearing Witness Henryk Grynberg’s Path from Child Survivor to Artist JOANNA B. MICHLIC HENRYK GRYNBERG was born in Warsaw in 1936 into an Orthodox Jewish family, and raised in the village of Radoszyna near Minsk Mazowiecki in central Poland. He

survived the Holocaust in hiding with his mother. He left for the United States in 1967 in protest at the Polish government’s antisemitic practices and the censorship of his writing. He is the author of some thirty books of prose, poetry, drama, and essays, and his work has been translated from Polish into many languages. Titles translated into English include Zydowska wojna (1965; first published in English translation as Child of the Shadows, 1969; subsequently as The Jewish War, 2001); Zwyciestwo (1969; published in English as The Victory, 1993); Dztect Syjonu (1994;

published in English as Children of Zion, 1997); and Drohobycz, Drohobycz (1997; published in English as Drohobycz, Drohobycz and Other Stories, 2002). In one way or another, the Holocaust inhabits the core of all his writings, whether it is represented in the Jewish struggle to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland, in the vagaries

of Jewish life in post-war Poland, or in confronting one’s memories of the Holocaust. He is the recipient of several prestigious literary prizes, including the Tadeusz Borowski Award (1966), the Award of the Koscielski Foundation (1966), the Jan Karski Award (1996), and the Koret Jewish Book Award (2002). In 1992 he visited Poland for the first time in twenty-four years to receive the Stanislaw Vincenz Prize. In 2001 an international panel convened by the National Yiddish Book Center included 7he Victory among the hundred greatest books of modern Jewish literature. He writes in Polish, the language he calls ‘his homeland’. Despite his initial literary success in the mid-1960s, the communist government in Poland banned the publication of his writing in 1968 in the midst of its so-called antiZionist campaign. He was rediscovered in Poland in the 1980s and interest in his writings has been flourishing ever since, especially among the younger generation of students of literature and the literary milieu. He has frequently published in the Polish periodicals ResPublica Nowa (formerly ResPublica) and Tygodnik Powszechny.

In his writing Grynberg explores the complexity and paradoxes of the life of a Jewish survivor with particular sensitivity to the ‘banality of evil’. His literary

An Interview with Henryk Grynberg 325 protagonist is a survivor for whom destruction has become part of his inner existence. He turns his pain and despair into the only tools he possesses in his battle against the destructive powers of history. He clings to every trace of his Jewishness and hopes against hope that he may bring his humiliated forebears to life. For Grynberg, the Holocaust is not only the most important and dreadful experience of his own life, but also that of the history of mankind. Its remembrance is understood to be an absolute imperative. Grynberg is a master at revealing the various grim paradoxes of Polish—Jewish relations in the Second World War and in the post-1945 period. In his writings, he succeeds in uncovering the raw nerve of the Polish—Jewish encounter. His literary protagonist has an awareness of being an unwelcome alien in society, and feelings of betrayal and rejection never leave him. Judging by the interest in Grynberg’s

work in contemporary Poland, he has succeeded in inducing segments of the younger generation in Poland to re-examine critically the history of Poles’ attitudes and behaviour towards the Polish Jewish community and to understand the experience of the Holocaust survivor.

INTERVIEW WITH HENRYK GRYNBERG MICHLIC: Henryk, the memory of the Holocaust has played a salient role in almost all your writings throughout four decades. Both your prose and poetry convey a powerful message—the fundamental necessity of remembering. How do you view the relationship between memory and ‘bearing witness’? GRYNBERG: As a survivor of the Holocaust, I consider bearing witness my most

important moral duty. Almost every survivor remembers someone who begged, ‘If you survive, tell the world what they have done!’ I was a young child at that time and so nobody spoke to me like that, but in my imagination I hear the members of my murdered family—of whom only my mother and I survived—saying, ‘Don’t forget us, tell everybody you can what they have done to us!’ Besides, Iam unable to forget what has been done to them as well as to me and to my entire life—because a survivor of the Holocaust is also a victim. Thus, even if I were not a writer and a poet, I would remember and bear witness one way or another. I wouldn’t be able to live any other way. My memory seems independent of me: I am its subordinate and not the other way round. I have to fulfil my duty if I want to sleep those few hours every night and to go on with my life.

MICHLIC: In Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, Giorgio Agamben describes Primo Levi as ‘someone who did not consider himself a writer; he became a writer so that he could bear witness’. Do you think that this description is relevant to your experience of writing? Would you define ‘bearing witness’ as your literary credo?

326 Joanna B. Michlic GRYNBERG: Yes and no. In my case, I would have become a writer and a poet under

any circumstances because it is part of my personality and nature. A talent is also something that doesn’t leave you alone until you ‘fulfil your duty’. Yet, as I have emphasized on other occasions in my writing, I don’t use Holocaust material to create a piece of literature. On the contrary, literature is for me a tool for telling about the Holocaust, as in Primo Levi’s case. Besides, the Holocaust is only a part—although the most important one—of my writing. My main subject is antisemitism, the Holocaust being its most horrendous consequence.

MICHLIC: Would you agree with the statement that the underlying purpose of memory in your writings is to bear witness? GRYNBERG: In the most general terms, yes.

MICHLIC: Do you think that the treatment of the Holocaust in your writing, both in poetry and prose, has evolved over time? And if so, what stages would you yourself differentiate in these writings? GRYNBERG: My first short stories published in Poland in the years 1959—63 were improvised attempts by an inexperienced young writer searching for his own voice, as was probably my first collection of poems which followed in 1964—

although the post-Holocaust Jewish leitmotif could obviously be heard from the very beginning. Much more original and spontaneous was my short novel

| Zydowska wojna and its sequel Zwycigstwo, based solely on my own memories and those of the few survivors from my tragic past. After I settled in America came more research and experience, a bigger picture, and a wider vision. | became more and more interested in the documents made available to me. My prose became more carefully documented, as in Drohobycz, Drohobycz, a collection of stories based on the experiences of my fellow child survivors. But the trend had started earlier with my Krontka [1987], which 1s entirely based on the Lodz ghetto chronicles, and it has continued in Pamigtnik Maru Koper [‘Diary of Maria Koper’, 1993], based on an actual diary; Dziedzictwo [“The

Inheritance’, 1993], a companion book to the documentary film Muejsce urodzenia |‘Birthplace’, directed by Pawel Lozinski, 1992]; Dziect Syjonu, based on protocols taken from Polish Jewish children who got out of Russia in 1942 and came to what was then Palestine. My Memorbuch |2000]| is an epic based on the biographical material of a well-known Polish Jewish publisher, Adam Brumberg, and his family. Also my latest prose work, the autobiographical novel Uchodzcy ['Refugees’, 2004], is thoroughly documented. Whereas initially my ambition was to write fiction, with time I have realized that I had more than enough writing material from the actual events—in fact, more than I could possibly handle—with no need to invent anything. I could say that I have created my own genre, which is something in between, now often called ‘faction’. My stories read like fiction, although they contain hardly anything fictitious. I call them fiction without fiction.

An Interview with Henryk Grynberg 327 MICHLIC: Do you see any difference between the role of memory in poetry and the role of memory in prose? GRYNBERG: As much difference as there is between poetry and prose in general. Poetry is a rather abstract medium which allows for a quick reaction, as was used during the Holocaust period. Thus memory in poetry is fresh and spontaneous. Poetry gives immediate signals, shows important signposts for the prose to follow. But only prose can preserve and convey the concrete and most precious realities of the past. MICHLIC: Are there any Jewish writers and poets of your generation in Poland and abroad with whom you feel literary and perhaps also personal affinity? GRYNBERG: | am one of the very few child survivors of the Holocaust; we simply had no chance, and my generation has a very limited representation. I feel the closest affinity with the late Polish prose writer Bogdan Wojdowski, who survived in the Warsaw ghetto and later on the ‘Aryan side’. I have called him ‘my

brother’ in my preface to the first American edition of his Bread for the Departed |1997]|, but even he was six years my senior, a significant difference for childhood experiences. I also have two older ‘sisters’, both in Israel: the novelist Miriam Akavia, and the poet and short-story writer Irit Amiel. Of my own age is Hanna Krall, a Polish reporter who turned to the Holocaust subject rather late, in her forties, and has maintained the journalistic, distant approach of an outsider, which is quite different from mine. I feel much more affinity

with Ida Fink, the Israeli Polish prose writer, although technically she survived as an adult young woman, not a child. My work has sometimes been juxtaposed with that of Imre Kertész, who is six years my senior and had a significantly different Holocaust experience. The same can be said about Aaron Appelfeld, whose views I often share. MICHLIC: In your published lecture The Holocaust as a Literary Experience |pub-

lished by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, in 2004| you describe the crucial moment of becoming a writer: the writing of your first page inspired by a comment made by your teacher Miss Pola Barenholc, who in April 1946 in the Jewish children’s home in Helenowek near Lodz took your class out ‘for a field trip into a flowering meadow and suddenly said something about those who did not live to see this beautiful spring day’.

When, after the trip, Miss Pola requested that the children write about their impressions of the trip, you wrote a one-page essay ‘about those who did not make it’. Did your other teachers and educators in the Jewish day school in

Lodz or elsewhere in the early post-war period raise the subject of the Holocaust? Would you say that you learnt the value of reminiscing in your Jewish school at the time? Or were you encouraged not to dwell on the past but instead focus on the ‘optimist future’? Was Miss Pola Barenholc your favourite

328 Joanna B. Michlic teacher, with whom you shared your experiences and dreams? Was she someone with whom you stayed in close contact after you completed school?

GRYNBERG: As far as I remember, it was the only instance of encouragement of that kind. Commemoration ceremonies concentrated on the heroism of the fighters, not on the suffering of defenceless victims. We were presented as victims of the war or victims of Fascism like many others. There were no such terms as ‘Shoah’ or ‘the Holocaust’. Only outside the school, in public lectures in the Yiddish language, did we hear a specifically Jewish term khurbn, from the Hebrew hurban, which is traditionally applied to the historic destructions of Jerusalem. I participated in a Yiddish-language film, a docudrama called Undzere kinder [‘Our Children’, produced in 1947 and directed on location at Helenowek. It showed children in an orphanage waking up at night and telling each other their nightmarish events from their past. But that was fiction. First of all, in no orphanage—and I knew several of them—did the children speak Yiddish. And neither in school nor in the orphanage did we talk about our worst experiences. If we ever mentioned events from the Holocaust, it would be optimistic anecdotes about fooling the persecutors, winning food, cheating one’s way out of trouble. There was a very popular teenager at Helenowek, a leader in sporting events, and only after he died in his sixties did we learn from his obituary that he had jumped off the train for Treblinka together with his mother and younger sister, neither of whom survived the jump. In the early

post-war period, most of our discussions concentrated on the fighting in Palestine and on our future homeland there. After 1948, when the true com-

: munist dictatorship began, we were taught to focus on the ‘optimistic’ utopia of ultimate social justice which would solve all the international, ethnic, and racial conflicts of the past. Miss Pola was one of the few of my teachers on whom I could always count. In most other cases, I experienced ‘political pedophilia and rape’—as I called it in my essay ‘We, the Jews of Dobre’ [in Monolog polsko-zydowski (2003) and in

Judaism (Winter 2003/Spring 2004)|—and personal betrayal to the point of persecution as described in Zycie ideologiczne [‘The Ideological Life’, 1975]. Just a few years ago, I uncovered my dossier from Warsaw University containing my entry application form to the university, with a biased low rating by the school principal presenting me as a student without special talents (as mentioned in my latest autobiographical prose work, UchodZcy).

MICHLIC: Early post-war Lodz was the most vibrant urban centre for the surviving and returning Jews; the majority of the remnants of Polish Jewry passed through the city at the time. As a child, did you notice or sense the importance of the city for those Jews who arrived there and departed from it? What social and cultural events in the life of the Jewish community in early post-war Lodz have remained in your memory? With whom among the well-known members

An Interview with Henryk Grynberg 329 of the remaining Jewish cultural elite who lived in Lodz in the early post-war period did you meet? GRYNBERG: LOdz of 1945 to 1948 had two Jewish elementary and middle schools:

in one the language of instruction was Hebrew, in the other Yiddish. There were several Yiddish newspapers and periodicals, and a Yiddish repertory theatre. Every Sunday morning some kind of cultural or political event took place in one of the numerous stage or film theatres with excellent orators who delivered hours-long speeches, never reading from their scripts. There were concerts by exquisite musicians, singers, and actors, and shows by the famous pre-war comedians Dzigan and Schumacher. Yes, laughter was very much in demand. But sometimes a pre-war Jewish film was shown, such as Shtetele belz, when the public would cry from the beginning to end of the show (as I have described it in Zwycigstwo). The two Jewish schools were filled with a rainbow of competing Zionist youth organizations, each wearing differently

| coloured shirts and ties, but all of them united against the Bundists, dressed in red and white, who wanted to build a Jewish future in Poland. As a young child, I would not personally meet members of the Jewish elite, but I regularly attended the Yiddish theatre, featuring the famous actress Ida Kaminska, the Dzigan and Schumacher shows, and dramatic recitals by the prominent stage director Jakub Rotbaum. I performed in a children’s dance group directed by the ballet dancer Sylwia Swen, who became Rotbaum’s wife. MICHLIC: Did belonging to a group of Holocaust child survivors mean being allocated a special place in the re-emerging Jewish community?

GRYNBERG: The answer is definitely no. It seemed as if the community paid no special attention to us at all, with the exception of such propaganda as the film Undzere kinder, which was obviously created for the consumption of American Jews who sponsored most Jewish charitable institutions in post-war Poland. The philosophy of the time seemed to be that forgetting rather than remembering was the remedy, especially for children. We were taught to look

forward to our future, whether in Poland or Palestine or anywhere else. Besides, our small group of child survivors was soon overwhelmed by much larger groups of Jewish children repatriated from the Soviet Union who had different survival experiences. MICHLIC: In Zmyciestwo, where you describe early post-war Lodz and its Jewish newcomers, your depiction of the Jewish community is characterized by two contrasting images: on the one hand the community and on the other hand its destruction. These two contrasting and, at the same time, strongly intertwined images are present in all your writings about the fate of Polish Jews in the postHolocaust era. Would you agree that these images are the core pillars of your

interpretation of the social, cultural, and existential conditions of post-war Polish Jews both on a personal and on a collective level?

330 Joanna B. Michlic GRYNBERG: Yes. It was a process of revival from the ashes, literally, and so it had

to have those two inseparable qualities, and it still remains so. Except these were not equal ‘pillars’: the destruction was much greater than the revival could ever be both on a personal and collective level. Besides, the process of destruction continued for various social, political, cultural, and psychological reasons, as I have described in detail in one of the key chapters, ‘Zycie jako dezintegracja’ [“Life as Disintegration’], in Pramwda nieartystyczna [‘NonArtistic Truth’, 1984].

MICHLIC: In 1959, after the completion of your MA degree in journalism at Warsaw University, you became an actor in the State Jewish Theatre in Warsaw. On many occasions in your writings and also in your lectures, you refer to this theatre as an artistic institution with a special and challenging mission, namely bringing the dead back to life or at least making them ‘less dead’. Were your audiences also aware of this extraordinary mission? How did that theatre function in communist Poland? GRYNBERG: Its existence was artificial and surreal, but, at the same time, it was an

oasis of Jewish culture for which I longed and an opportunity for my artistic development as I have depicted it in Zycie ideologiczne, and even more so in Uchodécy.

MICHLIC: In 1963 you made your debut on the Polish literary scene with the collection of stories Ekipa Antygona (“The Antigone Crew’ ]. In this collection, we

find only one story dedicated to Jewish life in the pre-Holocaust period. In ‘Sielanka-Siay’ [“The Idyllic World of Siaj’] the protagonist, a small Jewish boy, lives a happy and innocent life in the countryside surrounded by his loving family. At the same time, he is also fascinated by the surrounding nonJewish world. Siaj’s idyllic life comes to an abrupt end when the country boys, for no obvious reasons, destroy his favourite toy horse. Does the fact that you wrote only one story about pre-Holocaust life indicate that you did not wish to

write about events from that period, since you could not vividly remember them because of your age? GRYNBERG: Yes, and it’s consistent with the self-imposed duty of bearing witness. And perhaps I instinctively didn’t want to become a writer of ‘fiction’, but of

actual and most precious memories. Besides, too much has happened since those days and the pressure of true stories wouldn’t leave me time for writing anything else.

MICHLIC: In 1939 you were 3 years old. Does your memory of your wartime experience possess any intriguing incompleteness? What are the events from your wartime experiences that constitute the ‘core memory’ that never changes and never leaves you?

An Interview with Henryk Grynberg 331 GRYNBERG: There is no meaningful incompleteness in my wartime memory. There is, however, a huge blank space of a different kind: I was deprived of the time to really know my close blood relatives, whom I miss very much to this day. In most cases, I don’t even know the dates of their birth and death, as I have emphasized

in Kadisz [1987]. I know nothing about my great-grandparents. The core experiences of my wartime memory are: becoming homeless, the disappearance

of loved ones, change of identity, loss of identity, hiding true feelings and thoughts, mistrust, and keeping distance in personal relations.

MICHLIC: Most of your writings from the 1960s and 1970s are deeply personal, autobiographical, but at the same time can be interpreted as a reflection of the wartime and post-war experiences of Polish Jews in microcosm. How do you yourself view the connection between the personal and collective representations of Jewish life in your writings? GRYNBERG: My personal stories are only a pretext for the bigger, historical pic-

ture. And history is my ‘hobby’. The narrator of The Jewish War and Zwyciestwo is a child, but the main protagonists are his parents and other adults overwhelmed by destructive historical events. In the two sequels, Zycie ideologiczne and Zycie osobiste [‘Private Life’, 1979], though also written in the

first person, the pronoun is ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, starting with the opening statements in both books. [For details, see ‘Szkola opowiadania’, in Prawda meartystyczna, 295—6|.

MICHLIC: As an artist, you have been guided by two intertwined principles of bearing witness and speaking the truth, which for a long time was suppressed

and distorted. In contrast to the literary protagonist in Czestaw Milosz’s poem ‘In Warsaw’, in your poems the dilemmas and conflicts between writing in the service of truth and justice and creating freely in the name of aesthetic beauty do not seem to exist. Your position, no doubt, was born out of the special political and social conditions in communist Poland, where the histories of Polish Jews and Polish—Jewish relations were continually presented in a distorted, one-sided, and biased manner. Can an artist free himself from the position of being a judge speaking in the name of truth and justice? And, if so, under what circumstances can this literary transformation take place?

GRYNBERG: As a writer I try never to be a judge. As I have emphasized in my essay ‘Szkola opowiadania’ [Pramda nieartystyczna, 314], my intention is only to be a witness, a witness for the prosecution and for the defence—simultane-

ously. I try to present the evidence and let the reader be the judge. I even agree with Marek Hlasko, for whom the writer is an informer, but never the judge.

332 Joanna B. Michhic MICHLIC: Can your most recent book, Uchodécy, an autobiographical novel about the post-war Polish artistic milieu, be interpreted as a departure from the main

purpose of your literary works? Does it indicate a transformation of Henryk Grynberg as an artist? GRYNBERG: It 1s in no sense either a departure or a transformation. The theme of

Jewish persecution and martyrology is clear throughout the book from the description in the first chapter of Tel Aviv’s new quarters built with ‘blood money’ from Germany; to surveys of past persecutions in Naples, Rome, Milan, Venice in chapter 2; to symptoms of antisemitism in chapters 3 and 4; to recollections of it in New York in chapters 7 and 11, and even more so in Buenos Aires in chapter 8; to the revival of direct persecution in chapters 10 [“‘Blad’—‘The Mistake’], 11 [‘Ucieczka’—‘Escape’], 12 [‘Wojna_ polskozydowska’—‘“The Polish—Jewish War’], and in the episodes from the Holocaust that are recalled in chapters on Hollywood; up to reverberations in the epilogue. The difference is only its satirical tone and a generally optimistic youthful humour.

MICHLIC: Your books were banned in communist Poland in 1968. Yet since the 1980s there has been a revival of interest in your writings in that country. Students of Polish literature write MA and Ph.D. dissertations about your literary works (myself included), your works from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are reprinted, while your recent writings are published in prestigious literary and cultural journals. Do you think that your writings have contributed to the changes in the perceptions of the history of Polish—Jewish relations and of Polish Jewry among young generations of Poles? GRYNBERG: Judging by the reception and feedback, including academic dissertations and reprints in handbooks for secondary schools, my writings have had some impact, and I hope they have helped at least to undermine, if not eliminate, some antisemitic myths and misconceptions about the Jews and their role

| in Poland’s past and present that have prevailed in Polish culture. , MICHLIC: What 1s your opinion about the ways in which the Holocaust and Polish Jews are being remembered and memorialized in contemporary Poland? GRYNBERG: Since the fall of communism much has been achieved in explaining the true history of the Holocaust and correcting major misrepresentations of communist propaganda. At least the elites have taken steps in the right direction educating (and re-educating) large segments of society. Of course, antisemitic views and feelings remain as a kind of psychological defence mechanism, but do not appear in the mainstream. As time goes by, the Holocaust and the Jews are receiving their proper place in Polish history. I believe that—as ironic as it may sound—time in Poland is on the Jewish side.

An Interview with Henryk Grynberg 333 POEMS BY HENRYK GRYNBERG The Poplars They stand in a row like chimneys the asphyxiated black poplars pointing to heaven tall as the silence here they were growing the whole time in spite of and above everything and still they grow the air here is dense with absence clouds of absence in the air and the nothing called oblivion flies up to the sky like a cloud

trampled by millions of feet the great fields of Auschwitz the Auschwitz fields of Treblinka Sobibor and Belzec the Auschwitz fields of all this on which we stand and which moves with us wherever we try to go so there’s nowhere you can go from here nor can you leave having stopped in a row of poplars I try to grow with them and like them gaze upward with green eyes

I don’t try to understand anything or say anything what else could there be that needed to be said here I just come to add my own to the growing silence?

1 From Antynostalgia (London: Oficyna Poetéw i Malarzy, 1971). Translated by Richard Lourie; printed with the permission of Richard Lourie.

334 Joanna B. Michhic Monument on the Potomac TO MAREK ZAMDMER

Banished a lifetime ago born where it wasn’t desired we travel the lands and the seas with eyes and ears fixed at the silence and with the error of birth on our shoulders a thousand desolated towns and bottomless oblivion of rivers we charge with a naked pen and a fast-shooting camera— our point of reference will be a tall and memorable chimney of the obelisk we were given an empty lot for the forsaken home of our dead town a monument of absence on the Potomac under the eye of America in the very pupil of law we shall lay the ashes of crime and the defenceless memory in asylum we've emerged from the past at dawn but the sun sets continuously with a bloody glow So we stake out a position amidst those most fallen of the Arlington cemetery with a view of the dome of democracy and the smoke that is veiling its outlines the smoke following us from our past we Shall raise the emptiness high enclosed by an Auschwitz bond with smoke hanging on it and face to face with the worthy deaths of Lincoln and Jefferson we shall lay this least deserved least deserving and least expected in the drawing room of humankind? 2 From Pomnik nad Potomakiem (London: Oficyna Poetéw i Malarzy, 1989). Translated by Judith Michalski and Henryk Grynberg; printed with the permission of Henryk Grynberg.

An Interview with Henryk Grynberg 335 Drawing in Memory I am drawing in my memory a table at the window and a little boy at the table it’s the first table in his life the mother serves a plate the food is not quite kosher so the boy looks out the window to see if the father is coming because the father shouldn’t know the table is gray and so is the window even the plate is filled with grayness there’s no color or light in this recollection

the father did not come he remained outside the window murdered and buried near the house the mother had served everything and left for the other edge of the world to die on her own independent as always I can’t make her look at the window I draw and draw but to no avail stubbornly she turns always her face barely visible in the gray shade but I feel her eyes at the table when I serve the favorite dish to her grandson® ° From Rysuje w pamigci (Poznan: Biblioteka Poetycka, 1995). Translated by Henryk Grynberg;

printed with the permission of Henryk Grynberg. This translation first appeared in A. Polonsky and | M. Adamczyk-Garbowska (eds.), Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (Lincoln, Nebr. and London, 2001), 300; reprinted with the permission of Nebraska University Press.



New Views



‘On the Gallows’


The ‘Politics of Assimilation’ in

Turn-of-the-Century Warsaw SCOTT URY THE questions, dilemmas, challenges, and nuances associated with the phenomenon often referred to as Jewish assimilation have been integral components of both Jewish society and historiography for centuries. Thus intellectual figures as diverse

as Hannah Arendt and Jacob Katz have gone to great lengths to clarify these and associated phenomena in different historical and political contexts.’ Most of the historiographical literature, however, has approached the question of Jewish This essay is part of a larger project on Jewish society and politics in early 2oth-c. Warsaw, and is

based on my doctoral dissertation written at the Hebrew University under the supervision of Jonathan Frankel and Ezra Mendelsohn. In addition to my advisers, I would also like to thank Israel Bartal, ‘Theodore Friedgut, Brian Porter, Shaul Stampfer, Theodore Weeks, and Marcin Wodzinski for their critical readings of various drafts. Conference papers based on this material were delivered

in both Krakow and Haifa, and an earlier version appeared in Polish in Michat Galas (ed.), Duchowos¢ &ydowska w Polsce (Krakow, 2000). I would like to thank all those who responded to these

earlier versions by posing difficult questions and offering sound advice that encouraged me to reevaluate much of what I had presented. Research for this essay was supported, in part, by an East European Studies Doctoral Dissertation Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and a Ray D. Wolfe Fellowship at the University of Toronto. * See J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation: Studies in Modern Jewish History (Farnborough, 1973). Arendt’s sweeping analysis of totalitarian ideologies includes repeated references to Jewish attempts to integrate into European society. See H. Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, 1951). For

further examples from another of her works, see Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a fewess (London, 1957), 199. A lucid overview of Arendt’s treatment of these and other issues can be found in S. E. Aschheim, ‘Hannah Arendt and the Discourse of Evil’, New German Critique, 70 (Winter 1997), 117-41. For further discussions regarding the relationship between acculturation, integration, assimilation, and community, see T: Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society (Philadelphia, 1979); A. Funkenstein, ‘The Dialectics of Assimilation’, Jewish Social Studies, 1/2 (Winter 1995), 1-14; and P. Hyman, Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish story: The Roles and Representations of Women (Seattle, 1995). See also D. Biale, “Towards a Cultural History of the Jews’, in Cultures of the Jews, ed. D. Biale (New York, 2002), pp. xvii—xxxiii; and

340 Scott Ury assimilation as an issue not only restricted to the ‘modern era’, but as one whose very presence and essence defines and divides key historiographical categories: traditional from modern, rural from urban, and East from West.” Indeed, despite the high degree of integration and cultural adaptation amongst Jews in cities as far east as Prague, Budapest, and St Petersburg,* assimilation is, more often than not, considered a phenomenon encountered exclusively in western centres such as Berlin, Paris, London, and New York.* Much of this almost automatic association of assimilation with the West, west-

ernization, and modernization is rooted in the assumption that many of the factors considered to be necessary preconditions for the creation of societies in which Jewish integration was, in fact, a realistic possibility—such as legal and political equality—came late, if ever, to both the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian empires.” Lowe, for one, contends that, in addition to legal factors, Russian society lacked the appropriate social and economic classes into which Jews could integrate. In his opinion, Jews in the Russian empire were, simply said, too modern for their surrounding society.° Bartal and Opalski would seem to support this geoM. Rosman, ‘Innovative Tradition: Jewish Culture in the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth’, ibid. 519-70. 2 Much has been written over the past two decades regarding the origins and uses of such loaded terms as ‘East’ and ‘West’ as well as the academic and political attempts to define and divide Europe. Some of the more influential works on this question include: L. Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford, 1994); C. Mitosz, ‘About Our Europe’, in R. Kostrzewa (ed.), Between East and West: Writings from Kultura (New York, 1990), 99—108; M. Kundera, “The Tragedy of Central Europe’, New York Review of Books, 31/7 (26 Apr. 1984), 33-8; M. Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (New York, 1997); and T. Judt, 4 Grand Illusion? An Essay on Europe (New York, 1996).

3 Hillel Kieval’s study of the Jews of Bohemian lands is one of the few English works on this attempted balancing act between rising Czech national aspirations and the allure of German culture. H. Kieval, The Making of Czech fewry: National Conflict and Jewish Society in Bohemia, 1870-1918 (New York, 1988). For a perceptive analysis of the Jews of St Petersburg, see B. Nathans, Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia (Berkeley, 2002).

* Note Mendelsohn’s comment: ‘One has only to compare modern Jewish history in the neighboring lands of Poland, where there was comparatively little Jewish integration, and Germany, where integration was thought by some to be a great success.’ E. Mendelsohn, On Modern Jewish Politics (New York, 1993), 39. Also note Mendelsohn’s comparison of assimilation to integration as well as his

analysis of Jewish nationalism in eastern Europe, ibid. 7-17 and 37-55. In a 1924 essay, Emanuel Ringelblum underscores this image of eastern Europe as an area that is not traditionally associated with Jewish integration. While he does not specifically differentiate between eastern and western Europe, he does describe Poland as a land where Jewish assimilation was, historically speaking, a virtual impossibility. See Ringelblum, ‘Farvos hot zikh dos yidishe folk nisht asimilirt?’ in id., Kapitlen geshikhte fun amolikn yidishn lebn in poyln, ed. Y. Shatzky (Buenos Aires, 1953), 465. See also D. Rechter, The Jews of Vienna and the First World War (London, 2001). > On this issue, see Eli Lederhendler’s thought-provoking essay, ‘Modernity without Emancipation

or Assimilation? The Case of Russian Jewry’, in J. Frankel and S. J. Zipperstein (eds.), Assimilation and Community: The Jews in 19th-Century Europe (Cambridge, 1992), 324—43. I am grateful to David Sorkin for his comments on this and related questions.

° ‘The preconditions that had prevailed in the West and made assimilation possible, industrialization and expanding economy, were lacking in Russia. Russian Jewry could only integrate into a social

The Politics of Assimilation in Warsaw 341 graphically influenced approach to Jewish assimilation. In their analysis of Polish—Jewish relations, A Failed Brotherhood, the authors point to the January uprising of 1863 as the apex of failed Jewish attempts to integrate into Polish society (or, alternatively, failed Polish attempts to create a space for Jews in Polish society).’ Furthermore, many of the works which do analyse Jewish assimilation or integration in the Russian empire consciously concentrate on select and limited sections of the Jewish population.® Despite his rather positive interpretation, Eisenbach repeatedly claims that emancipation was a slower, less complete process

in Polish lands.? In his influential study of the reception and perception of Ostjuden in German lands, Aschheim echoes this division of eastern and western Jews. Indeed, his entire work revolves around a division between ‘emancipation and enlightenment in the west’ and ‘the continuation of political disenfranchise-

ment and traditional Jewish culture in eastern Europe’.’° Thus much of the historiographical canon would seem to support an almost automatic assumption regarding the mutually exclusive nature of Jewish assimilation on the one hand, and the geographical area referred to as ‘Eastern Europe’ on the other. Ultimately, assumptions reinforce the image that the Jews of eastern Europe were, like the rest of eastern Europe, culturally and politically backward, if not actually frozen, as it were, in time. Despite these rather binding definitions and interpretations, or perhaps because of them, I will use this essay as an opportunity to address the question of whether or not assimilation did exist—either as a reality, a design, or a fantasy—amongst Jews in eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, and 1n a city, Warsaw,

that is usually not associated with integration during a period that 1s also rarely connected with assimilationist politics—the revolution of 1905. This analysis, I hope, will not only offer an opportunity to reflect upon the state of Jewish political activity in turn-of-the-century Warsaw, but also problematize and re-evaluate such fundamental and loaded historiographical terms as ‘East European Jewry’, ‘assimilation’, and ‘modernity’. Throughout this essay I will focus on a circle of individuals that I define as the ‘integrationist camp’ of Warsaw Jewry.'! By ‘integrationists’, I mean those Jews void.” H.-D. Lowe, The Tsars and the fews: Reform, Reaction and Anti-Semitism in Imperial Russia, 1772-1917 (New York, 1992), 39. See also pp. 4, 147, 370, 409, and 411. ” M. Opalski and I. Bartal, Poles and Jews: A Failed Brotherhood (London, 1992). 8 See A. Cala, Emancypacja Zydéw w Krélestwie Polskim (Warsaw, 1989) and C. Gassenschmidt, Jewish Liberal Pohtics in Tsarist Russia, 1g00—1914 (New York, 1995).

° See A. Eisenbach, The Emancipation of the Fews in Poland, 1780-1870, ed. A. Polonsky, trans. J. Dorosz (Oxford, 1991), 230, 233, 260, and 370. 10'S. E. Aschheim, Brothers and Strangers: The East European Jew in German and German Jewish Consciousness (Madison, 1982), 4.

11 For more on these circles, see Marcin Wodzinski, ‘Good Maskilim, Bad Assimilationists: Toward a New Historiography of the Haskalah in Poland’, Jewish Social Studies, 10/3 (2004), 87-122; id.,

‘Neither Hatred nor Solidarity: Integrationists and Hasidim in Congress Poland in Light of

342 Scott Ury who by the early twentieth century had already achieved a significant level of comfort within Polish culture and society via linguistic and cultural adaptation, as well as financial and professional interactions. While cognizant and wary of the dangers involved in retroactively creating groups by bestowing titles and identities upon

them, such a description helps describe this collection of insiders. Moreover, through different academic studies and the primary sources, a composite image emerges of a relatively exclusive group who still controlled Warsaw’s central

Jewish communal institution, the Gmina. It was centred around the Great Synagogue on Tlomackie Street, and used the Polish-language paper [zraelita to advocate their distinct vision of self and place.'* What, exactly, that vision was and how they intended to achieve their goals will guide this article. As it was for the rest of the Russian empire’s western provinces, 1904—7 was a time of political, economic, and social turmoil in the Congress Kingdom’s largest city, Warsaw.!? The combination of the unpopular Russo-Japanese War and the widespread political unrest that swept the empire throughout 1905 produced an exceptionally volatile atmosphere throughout the Congress Kingdom.'* Hopes for a widespread restructuring of the entire society, local autonomy for Polish lands, and the implementation of a constitutional government rose and fell with each passing crisis. These emotions became particularly acute in areas where urban, industrial, and rural unrest was further exacerbated by issues of national autonomy and inter-ethnic tensions. Despite the chaos, violence, and fear which swept the empire, the October Manifesto of 1905, the parliamentary institutions which it proposed, and the seemingly redemptive changes that they promised offered the hope that salvation would soon be delivered out of the disorder that reigned. This optimism was par“Jutrzenka” and its Circles’, Journal of Jewish Studies, 56/1 (2005), 120-37; and A. Jagodzinska, ‘Between Iwo Worlds: The Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw as a Cultural Text (1850—1900)’, Ab Imperio, 4 (2004), 133-54.

12 Guterman’s monograph on the liberal synagogue in Warsaw takes a sympathetic view of these circles. Note his comment that ‘the part of the community that was called progressive or enlightened and that carried in its heart the vision of rapprochement between Poles and Jews was not, at the same

time, prepared to surrender the uniqueness and continuity of their Jewishness’. A. Guterman, Mehitbolelut lele’umiyut: perakim betoledot beit hakeneset hagadol hasinagogah bevarshah, 1806-1943 (Tel Aviv, 1993), 91. Cala presents a thorough summary of /zraelita and the individuals involved in the

paper’s production in the years immediately preceding the period in question. See Cala, Emancypacja Zydow, 42—86. For additional information on these circles, see Y. Shatzky, Geshikhte fun yidn in varshe, 11 (New York, 1953), 68—94 and 406-23.

‘8 Ascher’s two-volume set is considered the most comprehensive analysis of the revolution of 1905 available in English. See A. Ascher, The Revolution of 1905: Russia in Disarray (Stanford, 1988), and Ascher, The Revolution of 1905: Authority Restored (Stanford, 1992).

‘4 Blobaum’s book is one of the few English accounts of the events of 1905 in the Polish provinces. See R. Blobaum, Rewolucja: Russtan Poland, 1g04—1907 (Ithaca and London, 1995). Polish works on 1905 are many and varied. See e.g. EF Tych and S. Kalabinski, Czwarte powstanie czy pierwsza rewolucja (Warsaw, 1976), as well as H. Kiepurska, Warszawa w rewolucj1, 1905-1907 (Warsaw, 1974).

The Politics of Assimilation in Warsaw 343 ticularly strong amongst liberal groups within the empire.’° A cursory glance at the liberal press during the period reveals an almost messianic fervour: the time for a brave new world had arrived. Not unlike their non-Jewish contemporaries, the editors of and contributors to the Warsaw-based Polish-language Jewish weekly [zraelita expressed much enthu-

siasm regarding the imminent arrival of this new era. A lead article from midOctober 1905 typifies the mood which swept through much of the Jewish and non-Jewish liberal press: ‘Jews, together with our fellow countrymen of another faith, we stand today at the opening of a new era in our political life, one that will mark a radical change in our social relations .. . One marked by the triumph of the idea of equality for all people before the law.’!© Like the elite circle of integrationists centred around /zraelita, those involved in the production of the Russianlanguage St Petersburg-based Jewish weekly Voskhod also hoped that the imminent transformation of society would usher in an era in which religious or national ori-

gin would make little difference.‘’ While opinions regarding the exact nature of this ‘new era’ varied, Jewish integrationists in both Warsaw and St Petersburg shared a euphoric optimism regarding the revolution’s potential. This consensus between the Jewish elites of Warsaw and St Petersburg ended once the discussion passed from the theoretical plane to practical matters. Indeed, soon after the creation of the Union for the Attainment of Full Civil Rights for Jews in Russia in February 1905, Jewish liberals in Warsaw began publicly to distance themselves from the Union and its pro-empire position.'® As one of the few public representatives of the Warsaw elite, /zraelita bitterly criticized the Union’s call for the creation of a permanent, inter-communal, empire-wide Jewish organization. Although ostensibly a Jewish communal institution, the prospect of creating empire-wide Jewish institutions struck a raw nerve among the Jewish elite in Warsaw. In a December 1905 lead article, the paper publicly distanced itself and its audience from the St Petersburg-dominated union with the following condemnation and warning: ‘S Emmons’s sweeping study on the Duma elections and the parties that they engendered stands as one of the more exhaustive analyses of the attempt to implement participatory politics on an empirewide basis. See T. Emmons, The Formation of Political Parties and the First National Elections in Russia (Cambridge, 1983). 6 “Policzmy sity’, [zraelita, no. 41/20 (7), Oct. 1905, pp. 477—8. See also ‘Rok 1905’, [zraelita, no. 1,

5 Jan. 1906, pp. 2-3. 17 Voskhod, no. 3, 22 Jan. 1905.

‘8 Tn a report on the elections to the First Duma, Yitzhak Gruenbaum comments that ‘committees of the Union for the Attainment of Equal Rights that were established throughout Russia didn’t exist in Poland’. Y. Gruenbaum, ‘Habehirot el shelosh “hadumot” harusiyot’, in id., Milhamot yehudei polin, 1905-1912 (Warsaw, 1922), 133. For more information on the union, see Gassenschmidt, Jewish

Ltberal Politics in Tsarist Russia, 1g00-1914, 20-32; B. Mizenmacher, ‘Haberit lehasegat meluah hazekhuyot le’am hayehudi berusiyah’ (MA thesis, Hebrew University, 1973); and G. Barshop, ‘The Birth and Development of Russian-Jewish Liberalism’ (MA thesis, Columbia University, 1974).

344 Scott Ury We cannot, as long as we still have scruples, join our co-religionists in the Russian empire in their struggle for civil rights for Jews. . . . We cannot enclose ourselves within a narrowly defined nationality, we cannot limit our entire work to the improvement of rights for Jews when, at the same time, the issue of general rights remains unresolved. . . . Jewish people cannot enclose themselves in a ghetto. !*

Time and again, the Union’s creation, its very existence, and its subsequent attempts to shape, direct, and represent political opinions amongst Jews throughout the entire empire forced the Warsaw integrationist camp publicly to delineate and defend its own position. Through this process of defining itself in opposition to the St Petersburg-led union, the Warsaw camp began further to develop and advocate its own particular sense of community and place, one that was simultaneously Polish and Jewish. However, even though the Warsaw integrationists may have rigorously opposed the Union’s organizational designs and ideological positions, their very participation in a public debate with the Union and its other Jewish opponents (the Bund, the Zionist-Socialists, the Po’alei Tsion, and later mainstream Zionists) placed [zraelita and the Warsaw liberals on the same platform of Jewish politics as the Union and other Jewish groups—the Jewish press. Indeed, as a result of a relaxation of censor- , ship restrictions, this forum quickly rose to a pre-eminent position in the Jewish world. By late 1905, no party or organization could afford to ignore the press’s newfound role as the central stage of Jewish politics. In the end, both the Warsaw inte-

grationists and those within the Union were simultaneously using the press to engage in a public discussion through which the active players, the passive audience, and even the habitual naysayers were forced continually to re-evaluate their individual and collective positions. This role as the in-house outsider of Jewish political discourse would come to characterize /zraelita throughout the revolution and beyond. The tenuous relationship between the Warsaw and St Petersburg elites became

further exacerbated throughout the elections to the First National Duma in the early months of 1906. Like most other liberal groups in the empire, Jewish integrationists in Warsaw advocated full participation in the electoral process. A February 1906 piece by Dr I. Frenkiel typified this position. Frenkiel urged readers to organize new political frameworks and not to miss the historic opportunity. ‘If, at this point in time, we don’t organize on an equal plane with other unions in the election battle and prepare for our call—then it will be too late.’2° Like many non-socialist

voices, [zraelita remained convinced that the electoral process and the semidemocratic institutions that it represented would prove to be both the harbingers and the guarantors of a new era. This faith in liberal ideals, democratic institutions,

| and the historically predetermined forces of progress would remain a constant theme throughout the period and a definitive factor which would repeatedly divide parties in the Jewish and the non-Jewish spheres alike. 19 “Zwiazek Polakéw wyznania mojzeszowego’, [zraelita, no. 45, 1 Dec. 1905, pp. 517-19. 20 “Na kogo mamy glosowac?’, [zraelita, no. 8, 23 Feb. 1906, pp. 86-7.

The Politics of Assimilation in Warsaw 345 However, this optimism was soon challenged by the contentious nature of pub-

lic debate regarding the prospects for Polish autonomy and questions regarding the Jewish community’s loyalty to this ideal. Rapid industrialization had sent a series of shock waves through Polish society (both urban and rural) in the last | quarter of the nineteenth century and many (on both the left and the right) responded to the social, economic, and political turmoil by embracing of progressively more radical political agendas.** By late 1905 politics throughout the western provinces of the Russian empire and in the former Congress Kingdom had, in many senses, become the politics of self-determination. Thus, while other parties remained active and popular, national agendas and divisions became the dominant, reigning themes by late 1906.7° As the demands for home rule and Polish autonomy became particularly acute, the position and allegiance of local Jews (who comprised anywhere between onethird and three-fifths of most urban areas in the Congress Kingdom) became the subject of much discussion in the Polish and Jewish press. Accused by nationally oriented Polish groups of subverting Polish designs for autonomy and independ-

ence by joining either internationally leaning socialist groups like the Social

Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) or Russian-led liberal parties like the Constitutional Democrats (Kadets), Jews of large cities, such as Warsaw and 106dz, and smaller centres, such as Bialystok and Siedlce, were constantly pressed to prove their loyalty to the Polish nation. The advent of participatory politics and the accompanying relaxation of censorship restrictions set the stage for a new style of politics in which these tensions,

charges, and rumours fermented and crystallized.2* With the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) and the SDKPiL honouring the Russian Social Democratic Party’s call for an active boycott of the Duma elections, nationally oriented groups were able to champion participation in a public political process by advocating national rights for the residents of the Congress Kingdom. Thus the nationally oriented Polish groups were able to move the centre of public debate from social and economic issues (which were in part designed to transcend ethnic and national differences) to those of national representation. Despite early gains by socialist and revolutionary parties, the demand for a national revolution reigned supreme. 21 On the inchoate sense of Polish nationalism, see B. Porter, ‘Who Is a Pole and Where Is Poland? Territory and Nation in the Rhetoric of Polish National Democracy before 1905’, Slavic Review, 51 (1992), 639—54, as well as B. Porter, ‘Democracy and Discipline in Late Nineteenth-Century Poland’, Journal of Modern History, 71 (1999), 346-94.

22 On these developments, see B. Porter, When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland (Oxford, 2000). 23 See H. Seton-Watson, Nations and States: An Enquiry into the Origins of Nations and the Politics of

Nationalism (Boulder, Colo., 1977), 87. For an account of national sentiment in Polish lands, see Blobaum, Rewolucja, 189.

24 On the new style of politics that came to characterize this era, see C. Schorske, Fin-de-Siécle Vienna (New York, 1980).

346 Scott Ury As a result of this movement from class war to calls for national liberation, national and ethnic rifts became far more acute and crucial to generating public sup-

port. The political system—which divided the different curiae by economic and social class that often corresponded directly to ethnicity as well—also did much to turn the elections into direct conflicts between national and liberal candidates. ‘The liberals, who were represented by the Progressive-Democratic Union, bore the double burden of being openly aligned with the Russian-dominated Kadets and backed by many in the Jewish community.*° Throughout the election campaign, groups associated with the National Democrats (Endeks) implemented a simple, bitter, and crude policy of competing directly with the Progressives and their supporters (Jews and the Jewish community) for representation.*° Repeatedly, nationally oriented parties rallied their public around the fear that the Progressives were little more than a Russian-leaning, Jewish-dominated, anti-Polish force designed to subvert Polish plans for self-determination. The nascent Endek style of Polish nationalism left little room for compromise.

Despite this increasingly hostile atmosphere and accompanying threats, the Warsaw integrationist camp remained politically active and stridently optimistic. Undeterred by the spectre of conflict, they repeatedly called on Jewish voters and electors to place their support behind progressive electors.”“ Thus in February 1906 Dr I. Frenkiel urged readers to throw their support behind the two liberal, ‘philo-semitic’ Polish candidates. Only through this strategy of co-operation could the Jewish community protect its interests, while countering the increasingly hostile National Democratic rhetoric.?°

This strategy to join with progressive Poles against the National camp was accompanied by a series of articles declaring the Jewish community’s loyalty to the Polish people and nation. Like their co-religionists in Paris or Berlin, the integrationist camp began to move away from a traditional Jewish allegiance to the throne towards a more subtle, nuanced view in which the local nation became the ultimate 25 On the Progressive-Democratic Union, see T: Stegner, Liberalowie Krélestwa Polskiego 1904-1914 (Gdansk, 1990).

26 See Israel Oppenheim’s analysis of the National Democrats’ rhetoric during the revolution: ‘Haktsenat hakav ha’anti-yehudi shel ha’endetsiyah biyemei hamehapakhah 1905-1907 vebeikroteiha’, Gal-Ed, 15-16 (1997), 87-119. See also Y. Gruenbaum, ‘Hapogromim bepolin’, in id., Milhamot yehudei polin, 39-40 and 46—7, as well as id., ‘Habahirot el shelosh “hadumot” harusiyot’, ibid. 133—4. For examinations of the public debate surrounding ‘the Jewish question’ in the contemporary Polish-language press, see T. R. Weeks, ‘Fanning the Flames: Jews in the Warsaw Press’, East

European Jewish Affairs, 28/2 (1998-9), 63-81 and id., ‘Polish “Progressive Anti-Semitism’, 1905-1917’, East European Fewish Affairs, 25/2 (1995), 49-68. 27 For English summaries of the Warsaw elections, see S. Corrsin, ‘Polish—Jewish Relations before

the First World War: The Case of the State Elections in Warsaw’, Gal-Ed, 11 (1989), 34-41 and P. Wrdbel, ‘Jewish Warsaw before the First World War’, Polin, 3 (1988), 172-9. 28 ‘Nia kogo mamy glosowa¢?’, Izraelita, no. 8, 23 Feb. 1906, pp. 86-7. See also ‘Epilog’, [zraelita,

no. 17, 4 May 1906, pp. 197-9; ‘Refleksje powyborcze’, Izraelita, no. 17, 4 May 1906, pp. 197-9, and ‘Wybory w Lodzi’, [zraelita, no. 17, 4 May 1906, pp. 203—4.

The Politics of Assimilation in Warsaw 347 object of political loyalty.2? Throughout the better part of early 1906, [zraelita went to great lengths to refute Polish charges of the Jewish community’s proRussian sentiments by repeatedly expressing its allegiance to the Polish nation and people. In another testimony to the growing importance of national solidarity, on the one hand, and the propensity of minority groups to internalize the discourse of the wider society, on the other, many Jews in Warsaw were proud to proclaim that they, too, were Polish patriots. Thus an April article reassures readers—apparently not only Jews, but also Poles—that ‘we Jews are just like you Poles; our interests are your interests’. The article continues by invoking one of the central mantras of the Polish national movement: ‘We will strive to work with you shoulder to shoulder for your freedom and ours.’°° Another response—which alludes to the ‘golden age’ of Polish—Jewish relations during the revolution of 1861-3°'— leaves little doubt where their loyalty lay: ‘And wherever the demand might arise, again one can find Jews and Poles in a brotherly embrace . . . in the debating halls, in the prisons, and on the gallows . . . always going arm and arm with the people.’*” Although some may claim that such public pledges of loyalty were staged performances of patriotism, these pledges should, in fact, be seen as honest, heart-felt reflections of an agenda that mirrored the political strategy of western Jews. ‘The

reigning political discourse mandated a clear statement regarding the paper’s interpretation of self and community, and /zraelita responded accordingly. However, in direct opposition to Jewish nationalist demands for the primacy of Jewish communal concerns and the need for organizational discipline amongst Jews, the Warsaw integrationists openly declared their loyalty to another nation, the Polish one. In many cases, these declarations of loyalty referred to hostile charges made in

the Polish press. Thus these repeated vows on the part of the Warsaw integrationists can be read as direct responses to attempts by the National Democrats and 29 On the ‘royal alliance’ between the Jewish community and the monarch, see Y. Yerushalmi, The Lisbon Massacre of 1506 and the Royal Image in Shebat Yehudah (Cincinnati, 1976), p. xii. Biale discusses the legacy of the royal alliance at length: see D. Biale, Power and Powerlessness in fewish History (New York, 1986), 37. For examples of how this alliance continued well into the tsarist era, see

M. Stanislawski, Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews: The Transformation of Fewish Society in Russia (Philadelphia, 1983), 118-20, and D. Assaf, Derekh hamalkut: rahi yisra’el miruzhin umekomo betoledot hahasidut (Jerusalem, 1997), 272-90. 3° “Okolo wyboréw’, [zraelita, no. 16, 27 Apr. 1906, pp. 186~7. 31 Another example comparing the events of 1905 to the January Uprising of 1863 can be found in Bernard Singer’s memoirs: B. Singer, Moje Nalewki (Warsaw, 1993), 95. For a discussion of the narrative development of the myth of Polish—Jewish relations, see Opalski and Bartal, A Fatled Brotherhood, 44-8, as well as F. Kupfer, Ber Meisels 1 jego udzial w walkach wyzwolenczych narodu polskiego (1846, 1848, 1563-1564) (Warsaw, 1953). Also note Yitzhak Gruenbaum’s comment: “Those Poles who were

influenced by Polish positivism treated Jews with love after the Revolution’ (Gruenbaum, ‘Hapogromim bepolin’, 9).

32 “Po wyborach’, Jzraelita, no. 19, 18 May 1906, pp. 225-6. See also ‘Patriotyzm i polityka’, [zraelita, no. 16, 27 Apr. 1906, p. 188, and ‘Epilog’, /zraelita, no. 17, 4 May 1906, pp. 197-8.

348 Scott Ury others to delegitimize the Jewish community’s role in the political process and divide the Progressive bloc. Regardless of their actual motives, the very act of publicly declaring their loyalty to the Polish people and nation served as a vehicle for a simultaneous reconstruction and reconfiguration of the Warsaw integrationists’ sense of self and community.

In other Jewish communities throughout the Russian empire, questions of national identity and allegiance also dominated the political debate and forced local Jewish communities to define further their relationship to surrounding ethnic and

national groups. However, different Jewish communities responded to similar demands with a variety of political strategies. In Vilna, for example, representatives of the Jewish community had to find a balance between Lithuanian yearnings for

national representation, pressure from within the Jewish community to remain autonomous, and Polish demands for undivided loyalty. Unlike in Warsaw, however, the political realities at hand led to a coalition between urban Jewish electors and

rural Lithuanian representatives in an electoral bloc against Polish forces.*° As opposed to this story of co-operation, discussions surrounding the nomination of a Duma representative in Odessa degenerated into a public divide between Jewish and (Russian) Kadet electors. To many Jewish observers, the negotiations over the nomination of Odessa’s lone representative validated earlier Zionist warnings regarding the exorbitant and at times humiliating price of political coalitions. Thus a series of articles in the Hebrew paper Hazeman argued that representatives of the Odessa Jewish community had naively allowed themselves to be manipulated by the Kadets.** While the actual response in Odessa varied from that in Vilna or Warsaw, the similar nature of all three situations highlights the predominant role that national divisions began to play in the political debate throughout the empire.

No issue divided the electorate in the western provinces and the Congress Kingdom as much as the issue of national autonomy and communal loyalty. The question of allegiance to the collective body politic continued to dominate both the Jewish and non-Jewish spheres after the April elections. The majority of

the representatives at the Fourth Conference of the Union for the Attainment 33 See Hazeman, no. 48, 26 Feb. (11 Mar.) 1906. 34 The following excerpt from Hazeman is particularly revealing: ‘and the diaspora Jews of Odessa

who tried their utmost to ensure that the Jewish Electoral bloc would remain influential and that the Jews of Odessa... would follow the Kadets and do whatever the Kadets demanded of them without requesting a thing for themselves; these diaspora Jews of Odessa . . . would have been the obedient slaves and indentured servants of the Kadets. . . . Now even the Diaspora Jews of Odessa admit that the Jewish electoral bloc should have stood on its own and should have chosen only Jews instead of Jew-hating “Kadets”.’ Z. Izik, ‘Habehirot be’ohdesah’, Hazeman, no. 85, 18 Apr. (1 May) 1906. See also ‘Lifnei habehirot be’ohdesah’, Hazeman, no. 74/2 (15) Apr. 1906; Hazeman, no. 78/11 (24) Apr. 1906; and Hazeman, no. 83, 20 Apr. (3 May) 1906. Yitzhak Gruenbaum made similar charges regarding the Jewish electors in Warsaw. ‘As always, the official Jews remained slaves and errand-boys. .. .

They were afraid to protect Jewish interests’ (Gruenbaum, ‘Habehirot el shelosh “hadumot” harusiyot’, 136).

The Politics of Assimilation in Warsaw 349 of Full Civil Rights for Jews in May 1906 voted to form a separate Jewish Duma bloc. However, due to ardent liberal opposition within the union, this resolution was replaced by a more moderate version which granted Jewish Duma deputies the right to dissent from collective decisions and still remain within the bloc.®° Despite these compromises, /zraelita again opposed the creation of a specifically Jewish political body. The image of an independent Jewish bloc in the Duma still violated the paper’s better senses. The paper took the opportunity to highlight the differences between its position and that of the ‘Russian Zionists’. Noting the specific concerns of Polish Jewry and challenging what it saw as the Russian Jewish community’s efforts to achieve institutional (as well as cultural and political) hegemony over Jews throughout the empire, the paper denounced the idea of forming a Jewish bloc as ‘utopian’ and ‘absurd’.*° The July 1906 article concluded that ‘we cannot unite all of the Jews who live in Poland in one organization with Jews from Russia’.°” Once again, the political realities forced the Warsaw integrationist camp to declare its political position and, in the process, further define and refine its particular concept of self, community, and place. Few comments could have been more pointed than this reaffirmation of the differences between ‘Jews who live in Poland’ and ‘Jews from Russia’. In many ways, this advocacy of a clear division between those Jews in traditionally Polish lands and those in other parts of the Russian empire reflects the influence of Polish calls for self-determination and autonomy on Jewish integrationists of Warsaw. In direct contradistinction to the position of Zionists and pro-empire and pro-Russian Jewish liberals, the Warsaw integrationist weekly maintained that the bond connecting the two Jewish communities was, in fact, quite tenuous. The call for Jewish unity (kelal yisra’el) had been replaced by an equally spirited vow to another nation. However, at the same time that they were trying to distance themselves from

other Jews throughout the empire, the paper’s editors felt that they could not ignore the issue of the Jewish Duma bloc. Apparently, they were concerned that part of their reading public had not only heard of but also entertained and was inclined towards the idea. Again, they continued their role as the in-house outsider by using the Jewish public arena to argue for the division of Jews in the Russian empire into regional communities aligned with local nations. This dialectical relationship between the desire to reconfigure the ties between Jews in Polish lands and those in other parts of the Russian empire and their simultaneous dependence

on a distinctly Jewish forum highlights both the ambivalent and the inherently 8° Jabotinsky’s memoirs and published letters provide first-hand perspectives on these negotiations. See Z. Jabotinsky, Autobiografiyah (Jerusalem, 1948), 65-6, and id., Igerot, ed. D. Karpi (Jerusalem, 1992), 32, 34-5, 36. A historian’s account of these events can be found in S. Harcave, ‘The Jewish Question in the First Russian Duma’, Femish Social Studies, 6/2 (Apr. 1944), 157-8. 36 ‘Q autonomii kulturalnej’, [zraelita, no. 26, 6 July 1906, pp. 306—7. See also ‘Kronika’, [zraelita, no. 19, 18 May 1906, p. 228, and ‘Lekcja pogladowa’, /zraelita, no. 21, 1 June 1906, pp. 245-6. 87 “O autonomii kulturalnej’, [zraelita, no. 26, 6 July 1906, pp. 306-7.

350 Scott Ury contradictory nature of the Warsaw integrationists’ position. Ironically, the act of - using the Jewish press to argue for a division between different Jewish communities may actually have helped reinforce the sense that Jews throughout the empire had common interests and concerns as well as a separate public forum, an accompanying set of political concepts, and a distinct political discourse.*®

Moreover, the position taken by the Warsaw integrationists reflects what Michael Marrus has so poignantly styled ‘the politics of assimilation’. On many levels, the response of the Warsaw integrationists is quite similar to the response of Parisian Jewry to similar charges aired throughout another political crisis that characterized the fin de siécle—the Dreyfus affair.*? Hence Marrus’s observation that ‘patriotism and devotion to the fatherland were the constant themes of Jewish rhetoric of the time’ could just as easily apply to many of the passages cited from the pages of [zraelita.*® Like their French contemporaries, the Warsaw integrationists attempted to construct an identity that would allow them to be both Jews and Poles. Indeed, from their perspective, Polish and Jewish interests were wholly compatible.

Furthermore, as much as this stance appears to contradict the dominant role which issues of national identity and Jewish solidarity played in Jewish communities

throughout the Russian empire, it can also be read as further proof of the central place of such issues in the general, non-Jewish political discourse—a discourse which had much impact on the tempo and direction of public debate amongst Jews. Thus while /zraelita distanced itself from the growing demand for Jewish unity, it did so in an effort to pre-empt and respond to parallel charges of betraying another nation. Furthermore, it responded to these charges by proclaiming its undivided allegiance and dedication—at times unto death—to that nation. The only difference was that the object of their devotion had been transposed.** This spectre of a vocal call for a synthesis of both Polish and Jewish identities and an elevation of the Polish nation to the ultimate object of devotion, as well as

personal and communal self-sacrifice, raises several fundamental questions. At 38 Here I am relying on Anderson’s argument regarding the central role which the printed word and the advent of a daily press play in the creation of a national consciousness. See B. Anderson, /[magined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1991), esp. 36—43.

39 For an analysis of the influence which the Dreyfus affair had on politics in the Polish lands, see A. Polonsky, ‘The Dreyfus Affair and Polish—Jewish Interaction’, Jewish History, 11/2 (1997), 21-40. 40M. Marrus, The Politics of Assimilation: A Study of the French fewish Community at the Time of the Dreyfus Affair (Oxford, 1971), 200; see also pp. 196, 228. Marrus recalls the degree to which Arendt’s

work influenced his own study. He comments that, ‘[flor many, The Origins of Totalitarianism and Arendt’s other writings posed new ways of thinking about Jewish history, Nazism, Stalinism and

: modernity itself’. Marrus, ‘Hannah Arendt and the Dreyfus Affair’, New German Critique, 66 (Fall 1995), 147. For further discussion regarding ‘the politics of assimilation’ in eastern Europe, see S. J.

Zipperstein, ‘Ahad Ha’am and the Politics of Assimilation’, in Frankel and Zipperstein (eds.), Assimilation and Community, 344-05.

41 See the quotation cited earlier from /zraelita: ‘Po wyborach’, [zraelita, no. 19, 18 May 1906, pp. 225-6.

The Politics of Assimilation in Warsaw 351 first glance, this search for political assimilation in eastern Europe would appear clearly to debunk the commonly held assumption that integration and assimilation were not only purely Western phenomena, but phenomena that actually embodied and defined westernization and modernization. Indeed, here we have an apparent

aberration in Jewish history: a group of Jews in eastern Europe (the Russian empire) who demanded and fought in Polish for integration via cultural adaptation and collective reconfiguration. However, dominant historiographical preconceptions may lead some to question the veracity of this interpretation as well as the relative importance of this group, if not its very existence. Assimilation and integration in eastern Europe? Such a statement sounds so odd that many assume that it must be the result of a contemporary agenda or a typographical error. However our preconceptions regarding assimilation and integration may not be nearly as restrictive and misleading as accompanying assumptions regarding other historiographical terms, such as ‘East’ and ‘West’. Indeed, if assimilation was a goal and an

option for part of the Jewish community of Warsaw, then perhaps East wasn’t

always that far east and the West wasn’t always that elusive or exclusive? | Ultimately, the question remains: can we, somehow, get beyond the East—West trap and construct a new, less entangled paradigm for researching and interpreting Jewish history and society across the European continent? If so, how? In addition to these questions about some of the more fundamental assumptions regarding European Jewry and its division into East and West, the case of the

integrationist camp of Warsaw also helps illustrate the constant influence of the immediate, non-Jewish environment on Jewish society and politics. Perpetually accused of divided loyalties, subversive behaviour, and anti-Polish sentiments, Jewish integrationists in Warsaw rejected Jewish demands for a united, empirewide Jewish collective under the leadership of the St Petersburg elite, and placed their support and faith behind a new saviour, the newly adopted collective polity known as the Polish nation. In an effort to convince both their Jewish and nonJewish audiences of their sincerity, these calls for political allegiance were joined by spirited reconfigurations and redefinitions of Warsaw and Polish Jewry as an integral part of the Polish body politic and nation. While similar designs for the political integration of Jews into the Polish collective may periodically have failed—from 1791 to 1863—the by-product of these repeated attempts, namely the construction of a distinctly Polish Jewish identity, not only eventually took root, but, 1n many senses, remains to this day. By late 1905 many Jews in Warsaw were beginning openly to define themselves as Polish Jews in

direct opposition to other Jews and their concepts of an empire-wide Russian Jewish community and identity.*? Clearly, this concept of a distinctly ‘Polish’ 42 See Eli Lederhendler’s engaging article, ‘Did Russian Jewry Exist prior to 1917?’, in Y. Ro’i (ed.), Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and the Soviet Union (Ilford, Essex, 1995), 15-27. At times, the first volume of Yehiel Hopper’s two-volume memoir of late 19th- and early zoth-c. Warsaw seems to revolve

around these divisions between veteran ‘Polish’ Jews and newly arrived ‘Litvaks’. Such divisions

352 Scott Ury Jewish body existed long before the revolution of 1905 and would later gain much momentum during the inter-war period of Polish independence. However, after

over a hundred years of confusion, neglect, and atrophy throughout the bulk of the Partition period, this sense of a uniquely ‘Polish’ Jewish community experienced a renaissance of sorts among certain circles in Warsaw during the revolution

of 1905. Hence I have argued that specific political exigencies engendered the redefinition and reconstruction of a collective Jewish body that was neither distinctly Russian nor exclusively Jewish, but, in fact, Polish—Jewish. As the once great Russian empire began to crumble, so, too, did the once noble dream of kelal yisra’el. Lastly, the repeated failures successfully to advocate such a political synthesis on the popular level did not preclude the eventual construction, internalization, and serialization of such a concept. Ultimately, many of the same Jews who were not yet ready to endorse and adopt such a hybrid identity in 1905 were ready to do so during the inter-war era. Perhaps words and ideas often have more resonance than actions and achievement.

This entire discussion, of course, raises questions about methodological relations between ‘elites’ and ‘masses’. Some critics will charge that this group of integrationists is limited and exclusive and that their political visions were not reflective of the zeitgeist in ‘the Jewish street’ (whatever that term does and does not mean). However, most of history is based on inherently elitist groups that purposely left written artefacts in their wake. Indeed, those who either left no records or failed to take measures to ensure the preservation of those remnants often slip into the silent area of history—a space that may very well lie beyond our reach and therefore beyond our ability to recapture, reconstruct, or represent.*? Moreover, while numerically limited, this group may not be any less representative or influen-

tial than rabbinic scholars, political activists, or maskilic belletrists of the Yiddishist or Hebraist persuasion. Finally, like many other periods, the events of 1904-7 were nothing but a series of crises and redemptions. Several themes and processes—democracy and confrontation, violence and co-operation, despair and deliverance—competed (both then and now) to dominate the reality at hand and its post-factum representations. Regrettably, the highlighting of any one factor often precludes the inclusion of another theme, whether contradictory or simply competing. Thus the question arises whether the story of the Warsaw integrationists is one of a betrayal of tradi-

tional concepts of Jewish solidarity in a time of crises, or, alternatively, one of inter-ethnic co-operation. Should these developments be interpreted as the last reflect not only a conscious differentiation between veteran Jewish residents of Warsaw and ‘in-migrants’, but also the role which one’s geographical origin played in determining the images used to construct these differences. See Y. Hopper, Hatser bepokorna, trans. D. Sedan (Jerusalem, 1968). 43 For an in-depth discussion of many of these questions, see P. J. Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance: Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millennium (Princeton, 1996). I would like to thank Rachel Greenblatt for bringing this work to my attention.

The Politics of Assimilation in Warsaw 353 hurrah of a ‘failed brotherhood’? Or should they be viewed as yet another milestone in the troubled, yet resilient, saga of ‘Polish—Jewish relations’? These historiographical dilemmas are further complicated by the fact that different contemporary socio-political agendas have much to gain by the concentra-

tion on, or neglect of, any one phenomenon or another.** Thus while some historians might prefer to highlight the Jewish-progressive bloc as a symbol of cooperation, others might be inclined to concentrate on the National Democrats and antisemitic excesses.*? Much like other forms of beauty, the interpretation and construction of a historical narrative may very well lie in the eye of the beholder. And yet what is this particular beholder to do if the medium at hand does not allow for a complete representation of the multifaceted, interdependent array of forces at play?*® 44 For more on these issues and their influence on the representation of Jewish history in traditionally Polish lands, see E. Mendelsohn, ‘Interwar Poland: Good for the Jews or Bad for the Jews?’, in C. Abramsky, M. Jachimczyk, and A. Polonsky (eds.), The Jews in Poland (Oxford, 1986), 130-9; 1d., ‘Jewish Historiography on Polish Jewry in the Interwar Period’, Polin, 8 (1994), 3-13; and P. Wrobel, ‘Double Memory: Poles and Jews after the Holocaust’, East European Politics and Societies, 11 (1997), 560-74. See also S. Ury, ‘Who, What, When, Where and Why is Polish Jewry?’, Jewish Social Studies, 6 (2000), 205-8.

45 Compare e.g. Stegner’s article on Polish liberals with Oppenheim’s piece on the Endecja: T. Stegner, ‘Liberalowie Krolestwa Polskiego wobec kwestii zydowskiej na poczatku XX wieku’, Przeglgd Historyczny, 80 (1989), 69-88, and I. Oppenheim, ‘Yahasah shel “hademokratiyah hale’umit” hapolanit (“ha’endetsiyah”) leshe’elah hayehudit beshalhei hame’ah ha-1g vereshit hame’ah ha20’, Gal-Ed, 10 (1987), 87-1109.

46 For further discussion of these dilemmas, see L. Gossman, Between History and Literature (Cambridge, 1990), and H. White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and H1storical Representation (Baltimore, 1987). Note White’s comment that ‘[t]he historically real is never given by naked “experience” ’; it is always worked up and fashioned by a specific organization of experience, the praxis of the society from within which the picture of reality is conceptualized’ (p. 98). I would like to thank Gabriel Motzkin for discussing these and related questions with me.

Shabes, yontefun rosh-khoydesh A Close Analysis of the First Line of ’ Goldfadn’s Song SETH L. WOLITZ IN HIS WRITINGS Abraham Goldfadn often mused about creating a theatre ex nthilo.’ He says explicitly that he would have liked to write and perform dramas equal to the world’s great plays, but throughout his short autobiographical writings he stresses that when a secular theatre starts at zero, it can’t go to 100 immediately. And so he was forced to write musical dramas when his heart was in poetic tragedies.” First and foremost, he considered himself a poet. And perhaps he was not entirely wrong. The best of his songs reveal lyrics that are quintessentially yidishlekh, like reading Shteynbarg.? There is more to Goldfadn than meets the eye. His old-fashioned melodramas, with their music and exaggerations, have petered out to the memory of his songs—just like Gilbert and Sullivan. But what Englishman doesn’t identify with the words of songs with refrains like ‘for he is an Englishman’? The operetta was the format par excellence to enable one to join the West and yet instil and valorize one’s eygns (particularity).* Goldfadn’s skill in honouring Jewish traditions and yet moving the people along into the new world of secularism can be studied in microcosm. 1 A. Goldfadn, ‘Fun “Shmendrik” biz “Ben-Ami”: 30-yoriker epokhe-gang fun der antviklung fun mayn yidishn teater-kind’, rst published in Der Amerikaner (New York), 29 Mar. 1907 and repr. in Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater, i (Vilna, 1930); in M. Shtarkman, ‘Materialn far avrom goldfadns bibliografye’, in Y. Shatsky (ed.), Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater un drame, i (Vilna, 1930), 265-70. The text I have used comes from A. Goldfadn, Oysgeklibene shriftn, shulames un barkokhba, ed. Shmuel Rollansky, Musterverk fun der yidisher literatur 18 (Buenos Aires, 1963), 244—5.

2 Goldfadn, Oysgeklibene shriftn, 246. ‘Un ikh hob mikh gemuzt a vorf ton kegn mayn viln, oyf muzikalishe melodrames un operetes’ (‘And I had to turn—against my will—to musical melodramas and operettas’). 3 A. Goldfadn, ‘Di muzik fun mayne gezangshpiln’, appeared first in German in the context of a debate on the originality of his music in which he defended his musical creations and explained how he created verse and music as an ensemble: Die Welt, 40 (Vienna, 1899), as part of a longer article by F. Adler, ‘Opera in 4 Akten von Isidor Goldfaden, Musik von Emmanuel Davidson’. The debate was later translated into Yiddish and published in Literarishe bleter, 464 (1933). The text I have used is in

Oysgeklibene shrifin, ed. Rollansky, 255—61. * Ibid. 256.

Goldfadn’s Song 355 To illustrate the point, it is worth examining the opening of the following song from the beginning of Act III of Shulames, the first stanza of which reads as follows: Shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh Davn 1kh mir aleyn far zikh; Ikh hob mir aleyn mayn oren koydesh, es bet nit keyner in im-nor ikh! Sabbath, holiday and First Day of Month Festival, I pray all by myself for myself alone: I have within me my own Holy Ark, And no one else is bidden but myself alone.°

The lyrics are remarkable, for they move from the intense religiosity of the first stanza and turn into a critique if not a mockery of prayer without action in the last stanza: Genug gedavnt, genug geklogt, Genug geveynt, es 1z tsu fil! Ikh hob kadesh oykh shoyn opgezogt. . . Aheym! Farshlosn iz shoyn di shul.

Enough praying, enough lamenting, Enough crying, it is too much! I have already even recited Kaddish... Time to return home! The prayer house is locked.

The first stanza appears distinctly yidishlekh, no less than the last stanza. But what

Goldfadn has done is to rework the secular Western Romantic conceit that the individual’s heart, body, and soul are a chapel in which to pray: ‘Mayn shver harts is dort der omed’ (‘My suffering heart serves as the pulpit’; second stanza, line 1). He has ‘faryidished’ (Yiddishized) the conceit by turning the chapel into a shul

(prayer house)—and at the same time secularized the event in the Western Romantic tradition by personalizing a sacral Jewish communal institution. While evoking the most sacred images of yidishkeyt traditions, Goldfadn moves his lis-

tener into a new realm, keeping and honouring the traditional images but in a totally secular context of Western Romantic love.

The well-known first line truly is the genius line: ‘Shabes, yontef un roshkhoydesh’ contains and holds suspended a whole and sacral Yiddish world-view. The powerful evocation of the Jewish year based on the holidays carries the emotional freight. The line is merely a string of nouns with absolutely no explanation of their syntactical or grammatical function. They remain in suspension outside ° Shulames, in Act III, Bild 6, scene i, 60—1.The musical notation of the lyrics is found on p. 60. The song is in the ‘fregish’ (Phrygian) mode.

356 Seth L. Woltz time and space, holiday names in eternity, a lapidary cartouche that sets the dimensions of the Jewish year with its sacral power and communal identity. By just enunciating these particular holiday nouns, they are automatically an evocation, a sort of motto of Jewish cultural identity. But are the listed holiday nouns just an evocation? In enunciating them the poet has created both an intellectual and an emotional acknowledgement of identity with a distinct culture, but in the suspension he has created a poetic tension. What more is there to the evocation? Whither goes the syntax and grammar? Are the holiday nouns the subject or direct object of a sentence or merely an evocation? Goldfadn exploits the suspension by his masterful use of enjambment (the continuation of a sentence or idea into the next line). Even the next word of the following line, davn, reinforces the power of tradition and reveals the verb which delays the subject, kh, and thereby removes the evocation as a subject but still leaves it as a possible object or predicate or merely a suspended clause while increasing the poetic tension caused by Goldfadn’s desired grammatical and syntactical indeterminateness. Only with the dava ikh, the centring on the first-person pronoun of the heroine, Shulames, does the first line sud-

denly become a prepositional clause and complement of the subject. But the tension is not released until we learn the astounding news that the direct object and

indirect object are none other than the heroine herself: ‘Davn ikh mir aleyn far zikh’ (‘I pray all by myself for myself alone’)! Her position is horrific in traditional Jewish terms: to be left alone on Jewish sacral communal events. By the brilliant use of enjambment, in the first line Goldfadn builds a whole Jewish universe, an integrated one, for all Jews in which to partake communally in its beauty and security of wholeness, into which the personalized second line, davn ikh, should absorb Shulames; but suddenly the universe is arrested, if not destroyed, by the bombshell that the heroine is exempted, removed, and isolated from all that gives meaning to being Jewish on such sacral occasions, community. In the play, her isolation is caused by her feigned madness to avoid suitors while awaiting her true love, Avshalom—her personal love choice, that symbol of Westernization! The song, then, is her lament for the price she must pay for being faithful to the oath and that her hope will be realized. Significantly, in these two lines, Goldfadn has moved the heroine and his audience into the modern Western setting of personal interiority and isolation while maintaining a strictly Jewish perspective which has absorbed Western secularist conditions. By cleverly not using the preposition af or the adjective ‘yede shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh’, the poetic power of evocation is intensified by focusing strictly on these iconic nouns. Note too that Goldfadn uses the nouns in their singular rather than plural form. This too is a conscious poetic strategy to individualize and intensify the emotive freight of each lexeme by concentrating its known repetitive function in the Jewish year and calendar. Their very repetition adds to her affliction that she is removed from participating with the community as she plays the mad Shulames while awaiting her betrothed.

Goldfadn’s Song 357 It is in the sound system of the first line where Goldfadn’s poetic talent and tech-

nique can best be studied. The line contains at least one variety of the five basic vowel sounds in the Yiddish sound system: a—sha; e—desh, bes; i—tif; o—yon, rosh; and u—uwun. This rich variety of vowel sounds reinforces and echoes the panoply of the enunciated holidays of the Jewish calendar. Consider, too, the consonantal system. The beginning s/zn is repeated at the end of the line with an echoing shin. ‘The phoneme carries all the aura of the menukhe of shabes (comfort of sabbath) and the sacral across the verse with the three shins integrated in their vocabulary. (The final

line of the song also concludes with three shins, giving the song a circular sound unity and parallelism.) Nor should we forget that the letter or grapheme s/n in Hebrew is traditionally the abbreviation for Hashem or God (the Name), which carries an added potent emotive evocation for the Yiddish speaker. The presence of the Jewish sacral dominates and hovers 1n and over this line of verse.

The first line appears seemingly as a tetrameter (four feet) of four trochees (a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable, /—, as in SHA-bes, YON-tef, UN rosh KHOY-desh). The strong accent of the first two trochees on the two holidays, SHAbes and YONtef, dramatically foregrounds and rhythmically insists on the latent power of these holidays. But I believe the un in UN rosh, which is normally trochaic in the tetrametric line, really is a secondary accent and should be interpreted as either a pyrrhic, two unstressed syllables (maintaining the tetrameter) or a virtual anapaest un rosh KHOY-desh, with the last syllables, KHOY-desh, sounding as a repeated trochee. The rhythm of the music Goldfadn created for this verse follows the anapaestic effect: the un rosh are treated as quavers and the KHOY, the highest—and most affecting—note of the melody, receives significantly more time as well, as a full crotchet split between a dotted quaver and a semiquaver (see Example 1). The unstressed syllables, un rosh, then dramatically lead up to yet another holiday.

Sha-bes, yon - tefunrosh- khoy-deshdavnikh mir a-leyn far zikh Ex. 1. The beginning of Goldfadn’s ‘Shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh’

Not Rosh Hashanah but Rosh Khoydesh comes as a poetic surprise. By choosing Rosh Khoydesh, Goldfadn fuses the world and nature with the eternal return,

circularity, the monthly return of the moon. Rosh Khoydesh, the first of each month, is ironically the last allusion enunciated in the line, whereas in nature, in its natural register, it holds first place. This reversal of placement is the source of the poetic irony and the added poetic tension desired by the poet. But in this line, one must also note, it is the least important khag or yontef. Shabes takes precedence even in the yomim norayim (high holidays). ‘Thus this unexpected poetic ordering follows the correct talmudic legal and theological ordering, fused with the poetic

358 | Seth L. Wolitz intention. These special days, shabes, yontef, and rosh khoydesh, were carefully chosen by Goldfadn to be reinforced with their repetitive presence. All the words are of Hebrew origin and are completely faryidished, with accentual changes according to Yiddish linguistics. Thus we see continuity and change

and the distinctiveness that is Yiddish culture. The sound system is the same if read in Ashkenazi accentuation, but changes radically in the Sephardi. Note too that the sound system places and accentuates the KHOY, with OY being one of the distinctive diphthongizations that carries both phonic and morphic significance. The joy of the holidays and the hint of sadness of the ‘oy’, as the child is born in joy and pain! Note too that the unaccented syllables, bes (sha-bes), tef, un rosh, desh, are in a very narrow range of the sound system, sibilants, plosives, and fricatives, voiced and unvoiced, with the last phoneme usually unvoiced. Thus a softness reinforces the aura of the images. Meaning here is multiple recall of the happiest moments of Jewish traditional life, the power of these days, and their quintessential Jewishness—eygns—that no one else can share! This is ours, and no one else’s. Folk! Unity! And the scansion, whether trochaic tetrameter or in the music trimetric (three feet: — /— — — /-), throws into relief that the three shins are accentually varied, either stressed syllables or non-stressed. They form the circle of the Jewish holiday continuity which 1s always to be celebrated, so that the line on the level of sound is circular (sh = sh) and the lexical listing of holidays is both general and particular: of shades, there are fiftytwo in a year; of yonteyvim there are many; rosh khoydesh is particular, and there are twelve in a year. In short, there is a fusion of the general with the particular, giving the effect of continuity and celebration, menukhe and happiness, but pain to lonely Shulames! The line brilliantly fuses sound system, rhythm, and semantics with the semiotic intention to cry out eygns (our particularity). Is it any wonder that the perfect melody follows the rhythmic structure, so that the melodic arch reaches its highest note on rosh KHOY and holds it for almost a crotchet length, as if a fermata, for the intense affect? With this line, the ensjambment, and sudden emotional peripeteia in the second

line of the first stanza, Goldfadn tightly controls his poetic techniques, his dramatic knowledge, psychological insight, and maskilic intentions as he constructs the verse for his personage to sing and interpret her hopes and distress for the empathizing Yiddish public. This is why Goldfadn stirred the Jewish masses. They found in his musical plays their sense of community, celebrated in a new modern way that valorized the tradition at the same time as the expression was changed from sacral to secular participation. Only to enunciate ‘shabes, yontef, un rosh-khoydesh’ seemed like an “Open Sesame’ to all that the Yiddish-speaking folk

loved and held dear, even if one was no longer observant. This is the power of poetry and Goldfadn’s genius—he restores and creates a refurbished Israel via art. This line of verse is one of Goldfadn’s finest moments: it is impossible to quote a line off the top of one’s head in Yiddish that is more yidishlekh.

Goldfadn’s Song 359 And when the song was sung in Goldfadn’s muzikalishe melodrame Shulames, the entire audience swooned and sang along, for here was a true national anthem! What is more yidishlekh than shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh? Even in today’s mod-

ern state of Israel, nothing—not even the word aretz (land)—contains the emotional pull of shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh. Vhis shows that the power of the Jewish Diaspora was built on its national allegiance to religious/cultural holidays. The poetics and dramaturgy in this microscopic analysis of one line of verse underscore that Goldfadn was more than a mere talent: he had genius and was a skilled professional who knew his multiple métiers as poet, dramatist, composer, metteur-en-scene, and head of the troupe. Above all, he knew his audience, and that is why he was the first successful commercial playwright and truly the ‘Father’ of Yiddish theatre.



Jozefa Singer The Inspiration for Rachela in Stanistaw - 7 7s Wyspranski’s ‘Wesele’, rg01 REGINA GROL

WEDDINGS are happy occasions, and perhaps it is our need to be reassured of the potential for harmony and love that makes us attracted to such communal events and public expressions of commitment. According to Northrop Frye, literary renditions of marriages or weddings are associated with the archetype of summer; they are expressions of ‘the triumph phase’ in both human lives and nature.’ Some weddings create a resonance for years to come, not only in the memory of

the bride and groom, but in the collective memory. Many of us still recall with amazement the wedding of Jacqueline Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, or the wedding of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles, which also captivated millions all over the world. A wedding of similar sensational character, on a smaller scale to be sure,

took place in Krakow on 21 November 1goo. ‘The groom was the poet Lucjan Rydel; the bride was Jadwiga Mikolajczyk, a peasant girl. They exchanged vows at St Mary’s Church in Krakow and then proceeded to the bride’s native village of Bronowice, today part of the city of Krakow. The colourful procession, consisting of the wedding party and other guests, travelling from Krakow to Bronowice on horse-drawn carts, certainly attracted attention, but the event was sensational for another reason. The marriage was a transgressive act; it violated established conventions. An artist, a patrician, a member of the intelligentsia, was marrying a simple, uneducated peasant girl. This misalliance was not only the talk of the town. Just four months after the nuptials, one of the guests at the wedding, the painter and playwright Stanislaw Wyspianski, wrote a play about it. He entitled it, appropriately enough, Wesele (“The Wedding’) and based most of his characters on participants in the ceremony, including some prominent citizens of Krakow. The manuscript was completed in February Igo1. The premiere of the play at the Teatr Miejski (Municipal Theatre in Krakow) on 16 March 1g9o1 created an uproar, partly because of the gossip and curiosity 1 N. Frye, Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology (New York, 1963), 16.

Jozefa Singer 361 about the characters, partly because of the innovative dramatic form and inclusion of phantasmagoric figures, but also because of the political messages and implications of the play. At the time, Poland was still partitioned among the ‘satanic trinity’, to use Adam Mickiewicz’s phrase for Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and the play was a condemnation of both the peasants and the gentry for ineffectiveness and malaise in the cause of regaining national independence.” The play touched a vulnerable national nerve. Reflecting a microcosm of Polish society, with representatives of peasants, gentry, intelligentsia, Jews, and clergy, Wyspianski’s The Wedding became a monument of Polish literature. It has been staged repeatedly in Poland, and despite its deep mooring in Polish history and Polish realities and its ostensible incomprehensibility outside Poland, the play has made inroads into the canon of world drama and has been produced in Austria, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, and the United States, among other places.? Andrzej Wajda’s film version (1973) brought The Wedding to audiences all over the world. A great deal of scholarly attention has been paid not only to the interpretation of the play, but to the demystification of characters in this drama 4 clef, that is, to

identifying the actual people ‘behind’ the dramatis personae. More than two decades after the opening night, the distinguished critic Tadeusz Boy Zelenski felt compelled to fix the identity of the wedding guests and published his essay entitled ‘Gossip about The Wedding’ .* The persistent discussion about directors, stagings,

actors who performed in the various productions, as well as the characters and their ‘prototypes’, continues to this day. The intent of this essay is to join in this discourse by focusing on the prototype for one of Wyspianski’s intriguing female characters—Rachela, the daughter of a Jewish innkeeper. For several generations now, Wyspianski’s The Wedding has been required reading in schools all over Poland. Practically every Polish child knows the play and Rachela 1s, if not the best-known Jewish character in Polish literature (that honour may go to Jankiel in Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz), certainly the best-known female Jewish character. Wyspianski’s Rachela is a young woman given to musings and

ecstatic appreciation of nature. Though essentially a minor character, from her very first appearance she is distinct. Her first words upon entering the stage are not a Polish greeting. She says ‘bonsoir’, in French, and subsequently, shifting to beautiful and literate Polish, proclaims that she came to the party attracted by a vision. She compares the illuminated cottage where the wedding is taking place to Noah’s ark in the midst of darkness. The biblical image she draws as well as her poetic language, her sensibility, and her penchant for the mysterious, which are evident in 2 In Ksiggi narodu polskiego 1 pielgrzymstwa [Books of the Polish Nation and Pilgrimage].

3 For a review of recent productions, see A. Komaromi, ‘Wesele: Poised on the Border’, Theatre Journal, 54 (2002), 187-202. * 'T. Boy Zelenski, ‘Plotka 0 Weselu Wyspianskiego’, in H. Markiewicz (ed.), Boy 0 Krakowie

(Krakow, 1973), 379-95. This and subsequent translations are my own. ,

362 Regina Grol the few other scenes in which she appears, make her unique in the context of the play. Mentally, she appears to soar above the other guests. One can view her as a detached aesthete, neither part of the peasant society nor a Krakow bohemian. She is the outsider, ‘the other’. More sophisticated and lofty than the remaining female characters in the play, she stands out both intellectually and visually. While the bride and other female characters wear colourful peasant costumes, Rachela is featured in a stark, long black dress and is wrapped in a striking red shawl. She

triggers and precipitates, moreover, the events that give the play its symbolic significance.

The focus of this essay, however, is Jozefa (Perel) Singer, the real woman who inspired the character of Rachela. The youngest daughter of Hersz Singer, the Jewish innkeeper in Bronowice, she was born in 1881 and was known in the village by her nickname Pepa. She attended Lucjan Rydel’s wedding, invited as a friend of the bride, and Wyspianski did, in fact, talk to her. Yet the playwright created a character distinctly different from the real person. To begin with, she did not wear anything as ostentatious as Wyspianski’s character, but merely a black skirt and a_ white blouse.° And while she liked reading, most of the people who knew Pepa remembered her as shy, modest, and much less affected than Rachela. Still a teenager during the nuptials, Pepa’s life changed drastically as a result of the ‘buzz’ following the wedding. The attention she was getting from the many inhabitants of Krakow, primarily the artists and journalists who began descending on the inn in Bronowice after Wyspianski’s play opened, made her a public persona. According to the critic Tadeusz Boy Zeleriski, the fame went to her head.® Indeed, she befriended the visitors from Krakow, received and borrowed books from them, offered them free drinks, and started emulating them by venturing to the Krakow nightclubs and cafés, drinking and smoking. In short, she was adopted by the bohemians and seemed to prefer living up to her literary image of a sophisticated young woman rather than serving drinks in her father’s inn. It was a strik-

ing case of life imitating art. |

Being featured in the play had a powerful impact on her father as well, but of a very different kind. Hersz Singer, a traditional Jew, was devastated by his own and his daughter’s celebrity status. Unlike Pepa, he did not appreciate this “entrance into literature’. He was dismayed by the way Wyspianski presented him in the play (as basically an aloof and materialistic man), but the inkeeper was even more disturbed by his daughter’s conduct. In his eyes, she was becoming less Jewish and more Polish. He accused his wife of condoning Pepa’s behaviour and contributing to his financial losses, which kept growing (partially due to Pepa’s generosity in treating her newly acquired friends to drinks), and he was alarmed by his daugh-

ter’s talk of conversion to Catholicism. Unable to accept ‘modernity’, Hersz > ‘Testimonies regarding apparel from Joanna Mrozewska (her mother’s account), Maria Rydel, and a letter from L. z Turowskich Noskowska, dated 27 Nov. 1932 and addressed to the editor of Swzat. 6 Zelenski, ‘Plotka o Weselu Wyspianskiego’, 390.

Fozefa Singer 363 Singer took a very radical step. Despite his advanced age (he was in his seventies at the time), he divorced his wife, left all his worldly possessions to her and their five children, and moved to a Jewish nursing home (Asyfas Skenim, at 57 Krakowska

Street in the Kazimierz neighbourhood of Krakow), taking with him only his Bible. He died a few years later on 6 August 1916.’ Hersz Singer’s fears were not unfounded. The financial losses were so great that bankruptcy had to be declared and the inn was sold to a local peasant. Pepa, who

vowed to the poet Lucjan Rydel that she would convert to Christianity when Poland became independent, kept her promise. On 5 October 1919, shortly after Poland regained its independence, she converted to Catholicism in the presence of her godfather, the painter Wlodzimierz Tetmajer.® We shall never know for sure whether Pepa’s conversion was an act of national solidarity, the result of seduction by the culture of the dominant majority, an expression of genuine religious preference, or just an attempt to fit in, to be accepted. Karol Estreicher, the professor of art history at the Jagiellonian University, who knew her well, noted in his diary: ‘She converted to get along with the Poles, more so than out of conviction. She was never devout.””

The drama of the disintegration of the Singer family, the real-life drama behind Wyspiansk1’s stage drama, can be attributed, partially at least, to the impact of the play on the family members. But Jozefa Singer’s life is intriguing for other reasons as well. Her story reveals a still larger drama of the Polish Jewish women’s emancipation, of the costs of assimilation, and ultimately of the Holocaust. While Pepa survived the Second World War under an assumed identity, her entire family—her mother, all her siblings (brothers Roman, Leon, Adolf; sister R6za), and their children—perished. Jozefa Singer is one of the few women of her generation whose life we can trace fairly closely. Doing research in Poland in the academic year 2001/2, I was thrilled to discover that some of her correspondence has been preserved, and significant documents pertaining to her life still exist. Considering that 70 per cent of documents in Polish archives and libraries were lost or destroyed during the Second World War, this was little short of miraculous. I was also delighted to encounter people who knew her personally. Two interviews I conducted were particularly informative. I am truly indebted to Maria Rydlowa, a native of Bronowice, who knew Jozefa Singer well. Rydlowa, the widow of the poet Lucjan Rydel’s grandson, is the curator of Rydlowka, the museum in Bronowice dedicated to the Young Poland Movement. The museum is housed in the very cottage where the wedding 7 For an account of Hersz Singer’s final years see Roman Brandstaetter’s literary rendition in Ja jestem Zyd z Wesela (Poznan, 1981).

® I am quoting the precise date based on R. Wegrzyniak’s entry (‘Singer, Perel’) in Polski stownik bwgraficzny, vii (Warsaw and Krakow, 1996—7), 543.

9 ‘Przechrzcila sie—wiecej dla wspdlzycia z Polakami, niz z przekonania. Nabozna nigdy nie byla.’ K. Estreicher, Dzzenntk wypadkow, xxi (Krakow, 2002), 397.

364 Regina Grol described by Wyspianski took place. My other interviewee was the daughter of the distinguished actor Zdzistaw Mrozewski, Joanna Mrozewska-Poplonska, who as a child was Jézefa Singer’s pupilka (a favourite or special friend).'° Jozefa Singer’s story is fascinating beyond the scope and time frame of her role as a literary inspiration. The wedding took place in the year 1g00, and Wyspiansk1’s play was written in 1901, but one can trace her life through the period of Poland’s regained independence, to the Second World War and all the way to the decade following the war. In 1945, when the war ended, the stir surrounding Wyspiansk1’s The Wedding had long subsided. Poland was devastated during the war, and most people

presumed Pepa was dead. Maria Rydlowa recalled a lecture at the Jagiellonian University, during which she had to get up and correct Professor Kazimierz Wyka, who referred to Jozefa Singer as a deceased person. Indeed, Jozefa Singer survived the war and lived till the age of 74. She was buried in the Raclawicki cemetery in Krakow. Her death certificate is dated 8 June 1955. Among the documents I examined were letters verifying that Jozefa Singer com-

pleted a nursing course (kurs samarytanski) and a practicum in the School for Professional Nurses (Szkola Pielegniarek Zawodowych PP. Ekonomek) in Krakow in 1914. Her subsequent career as a nurse was documented by assorted certificates from the various hospitals where she worked.'* One letter, written by a Dr S. Gozdziecki,

head of a military hospital (Szpital Wojskowy Inwalidow w Bronowicach), on 24 December 1921, attests to her superior performance as supervisor of nurses. Part of the letter bears quoting: Throughout my tenure as head of the hospital, that is, from 1o March 1921 till 25 December 1921, she fulfilled her duties tenaciously, thoroughly, and with much dedication. In addition to being a supervisor of nurses, she worked with understanding and often with great sacrifice as an education officer. A strong ambition to perform well, righteousness, a sense of duty, and an honest, pure character are the main features of this employee.’”

There are other testimonials to Jozefa Singer’s superior performance, sensitivity to the needs of others, and overall tendency to lend a helping hand. Among them was the Nobel Prize laureate Wislawa Szymborska’s reminiscence about Jozefa’s house calls to administer injections to her ailing mother.*” 10 See my interview with Joanna Mrozewska-Poplonska: ‘Rachela z Wesela i Joasia’, Midrasz, no. 11 (67) (Nov. 2002), 16-18.

11 Among the documents I examined at the Rydlowka museum are: (a) a certificate in German issued on 15 Oct. 1917, confirming that she worked as a nurse from 5 Sept. 1914 to 30 Apr. 1917 at the

reserve hospital in Krakow (K.u.k. Reservespital Nr. 4); (b) a certificate that she was a supervisor of nurses in the same hospital from 1 May to 15 Oct. 1917; (c) a certificate issued by another hospital in Krakéw (Szpital rezerwowy Nr. 1) on 23 June 1918 that she worked as a surgical nurse from 15 Oct. 1917 to 23 June 1918; (d) a certificate issued on 7 Nov. 1918 in Zloczow, confirming that for five

months she was a nurse at field hospital no. 1306. 12 My translation. 13 Confirmed by Wislawa Szymborska in a fleeting conversation at a party in Wydawnictwo Literackie in Krakow, 26 Oct. 2001.

Fozefa Singer 365 While the Jewish and Polish communities have often been perceived as separate and the patriotism of Polish Jews has been questioned, Jozefa Singer was undeniably a Polish patriot. One of the documents confirming it powerfully was her nom-

ination for an Independence Medal. The nomination for this special honour, submitted by Professor Marcin Zielinski of the Jagiellonian University on 16 October 1937, reads in part:

| Among individuals who by their actions contributed indirectly to the cause of Poland’s regained independence is Jozefa Singer, a person known to me personally, who deserves recognition. . . . [A]nimated by the spirit of national independence, she provided real heart, and solid honest and dedicated work in Krakow during the war, in her capacity as a nurse, a member of the Women’s League [cztonkini Ligi Kobiet], especially at a time when, given the political crisis of the legions, help offered to the legionnaires required self-sacrifice and was likely to lead to repercussions from the occupiers. ‘4

A review of Jozefa Singer’s letters and postcards revealed that while she paid attention to nature, and would occasionally ‘wax poetic’, she was definitely nothing like Wyspianski’s Rachela. In a letter dated 24 April 1914, for example, she wrote: ‘It’s lovely in the countryside. The pear trees will bloom any day now.’ While these observations show sensitivity to nature, they are a far cry from Rachela’s lofty, even

affected, poetic expressions. For the most part, Jozefa observed nature from a farmer’s point of view. She would notice drought, or mention that it was time to plant or to harvest. She comes across in her letters, particularly in her correspondence with Lucjan Rydel, as a very caring but pragmatic and practical person. Occasionally a glimmer of humour surfaces in her writing. Jozefa’s postcard to Lucjan Rydel dated 9 October 1914 contains this fragment: ‘We drank Bruderschaft

[brotherhood] with Hanka, but—horror of horrors!—we raised the toast with water. I’ve sunk low, haven’t I?’

Although Jozefa Singer assumed her conversion to Catholicism would shield her from the fate of other Jews during the Nazi occupation, and she never reported to the Krakdéw ghetto, her friends persuaded her that she was risking her life: in

some people’s eyes, once a Jew, always a Jew. In 1942 the actor Zdzislaw Mrozewski, employed in the Krakow City Hall at the time, obtained for her an identification card (Kennkarte) issued in the name of Eugenia Jadwiga Gawlik. It was based on a deceased girl’s birth certificate.!° Using her ‘Aryan’ papers, Jozefa Singer moved to Warsaw and lived there under

her assumed identity. The well-known writer Jozef Wittlin met her in the Mokotow neighbourhood of war-torn Warsaw. In the Museum of Literature in Warsaw I found Wittlin’s handwritten notes about Jozefa. He saw her as ‘an 14 My translation. 15 Mrozewski, who had a distinguished career as an actor, died at the age of 93 on 5 July 2002. One of his famous roles was that of President Narutowicz in Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s film Death of a President (‘Smier¢ prezydenta’).

366 Regina Grol interesting, simple human prototype of a grand dame wrapped in shawls’ and declared her ‘a heroine of the poetry of the simple, difficult life of a single woman,

and a Jew’. Indeed, her war years were not easy. Threatened by a blackmailer (szmalcownik), she had to escape from Mokotow. In 1944, after the Warsaw uprising, she was briefly in the camp in Pruszkow, and subsequently had to hide in the village of Moczydlto near Miechow. After the war she returned to Krakéw and

shared an apartment with the Mrozewski family. While she appears to have had friends, and her correspondence with the Rydel

and Mrozewski families certainly reflects close relationships, in the memoirs of others (for example, Professor Estreicher) she is presented as essentially a lonely woman, who never found a life partner. In several reminiscences of others,

there are comments about her gruff manner and penchant for male apparel (trousers, men’s hats, ties). One wonders whether this was a defensive wall to protect her ‘otherness’, or whether it was a ploy to distance herself from femininity, or from men, or from a hostile world. In her youth, according to Maria Rydlowa, Jozefa fell in love with a peasant from Bronowice, Antek Dzieza, who apparently reciprocated her feelings but ended up marrying a local peasant girl. The religious divide was too great an obstacle for their union. (Interestingly, in Wyspianski’s play there are lines in Rachela’s dialogue with the Poet that imply the romance.)

An unsubstantiated rumour I encountered in a sketch written in 1981 by the now deceased historian Professor Witold Kula concerned J6zefa Singer’s affair with Marshal Pilsudski.'® Out of this union a child is alleged to have been born, a son who perished in the Warsaw uprising of 1944. He in turn, according to Witold Kula’s text, fathered a son who grew up in Poland but emigrated to France in the aftermath of the antisemitic campaign of 1968. I contacted Professor Kula’s son, Marcin Kula, also a historian and currently a professor at Warsaw University, who firmly denied the allegations and claimed his father’s sketch was merely a literary confabulation. The real-life prototype for Rachela was nothing like her literary rendition. Yet,

in a sense, she was emblematic of some women of her generation. While Boy Zeleriski’s condescending description of J6zefa Singer as having become ‘a walking shadow of her literary double’ may be exceedingly harsh and unfair, he was correct in stating that there were many Rachelas in the Krakow of her day, who, as he put

it, ‘filled the women’s reading rooms, the libraries, the theatres, the concerts’.!” Indeed, Wyspianski certainly could have seen models of educated, emancipated Jewish women with assimilationist tendencies. The first female students to attend the Jagiellonian University were primarily Jewish.

16 W. Kula, Rozdziatki (Warsaw, 1996), 348-51. The text had previously been published in Nowe

Ksigéki, 21 (1981). 17 Zelenski, ‘Plotka 0 Weselu Wyspiatiskiego’, 390.

Fozefa Singer 367 The vast majority of the Jewish women of J6zefa Singer’s generation were silenced by the Holocaust. ‘They remain largely anonymous; they are practically absent from history books and from the national consciousness of the Poles. Documents concerning Jozefa Singer provide a window on her generation and on the uncharted terrain she had to navigate as a single woman and a converted Jew. Yet the sense of identity she ultimately developed, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust, remains a mystery. Still, in the context of my research on Polish Jewish women’s lives, Jozefa Singer emerges as a most fascinating figure.


Introducing Miss Judaea 1929 The Politics of Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland EVA PLACH ON 3 FEBRUARY 1929 the Warsaw-based Zionist daily Nasz Przeglad (1923-39)

announced the opening of Poland’s first Miss Judaea beauty pageant. The pronouncement was made just as media attention turned to the upcoming Miss Europe beauty competition in which women from twenty European countries would be participating. Only women of the Jewish nation would be missing from the Paris-based European festivities, Nasz Przeglgd reported to its readers. “Were Jewish women not attractive enough to partake in the “Beauty Olympics”?’, it asked.' The Nasz Przeglad pageant organizers appreciated that by their very nature, beauty contests were designed to select ‘the perfect example of a specific racial type’, and they understood that ‘typical’ Jewish women—with their darker hair and olive complexion—did not possess the features that a Polish, French, or English beauty contest was designed to showcase. They recognized, then, just how unlikely it was that any existing competition would ever select a Jewish woman to stand as its representative 1n an international affair; this highlighted the unfairness

in international beauty pageantry of organizing women by state rather than by nationality.” Not inclined to sit idly by while other European nations applauded their beauty queens, Nasz Przeglgd launched the Miss Judaea pageant. Over the course of six weeks, from 3 February to 15 March 19209, 131 women entered a competition for the chance to be crowned the most beautiful Jewish woman in Poland.? From its very inception, however, the Miss Judaea pageant was much more than just an uncomplicated response to the contemporary European fashion for beauty

competitions; this essay aims to understand the wider significance of Nasz Przeglad’s first—and last—foray into the world of beauty pageantry.* The Miss ' “Miss Judaea. Najpiekniejsza zydéwka w Polsce. Wielki konkurs Naszego Przegladu’, Nasz

Przeglad, 3 Feb. 1929, p. 7. 2 Ibid. 3 Tbid. As a point of comparison, 1,000 women entered the 1931 Miss Nippon contest in Japan, which had also been organized by a newspaper. See Jennifer Robertson, ‘Japan’s First Cyborg? Miss Nippon,

Eugenics and Wartime Technologies of Beauty, Body and Blood’, Body and Society, 7/1 (2001), 1.

4 Nasz Glos Wieczorny, a supplement to Nasz Przeglgad, did, however, run its own pageant in 1931. See ‘Wznowienie Naszego Glosu Wieczornego’, Nasz Przeglad, 12 Feb. 1931, p. 12.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 369 Judaea competition was an event loaded with nationalist meaning and purpose, and one which needs to be understood as a short but important chapter in the building

of a middle-class Zionist nationalist movement in inter-war Poland. Societies reveal a great deal about their conception of themselves as a people, about their values, their understandings of the past, and their aspirations for the future when they select a specific woman to represent the collective.° Nasz Przeglgd’s staging of the Miss Judaea pageant was infused with a powerful language of race and nation, a language which was at once designed to strip Jewish features of their perceived

pathology while celebrating the very concept of a ‘Jewish racial type’. Racial categories further provided Nasz Przeglgd with a useful way of describing Jews’ difference from other national groups, while also offering a means of establishing Jewish unity in the absence of generally accepted categories of national selfdefinition such as territory or language. Affirming these bases for unity was vital to realizing the secular Zionist goal of effecting an internal Jewish revolution and, ultimately, of building a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. At the same time, Nasz Przeglgd used Polish Jewry’s entry into the European beauty pageant craze to challenge the view of Jews as existing on the margins of European cultural life, as a traditional, conservative, and backward-looking people. This process of removing Jews from their isolation and showing that they constituted a distinct nation ‘like

any other’ modern nation formed another important aspect of Nasz Przeglgd’s Zionist agenda. In recent years, historical scholarship on the national identities claimed by the Jewish population of the Second Republic (1918—39) has grown and the inter-war period is recognized as one in which a great many competing Jewish nationalist movements vied for adherents. In addition to the Zionists (who were themselves represented in a number of different factions), the socialist Jewish Workers’ Union (Bund) and the Orthodox Agudah Israel parties attracted especially large followings within a Polish Jewish population of three million persons.° This essay contributes to the body of scholarship on inter-war Jewish nationalism, specifically the Zionist nationalism promoted by Nasz Przeglad, by examining the ways in which ideas about race, together with ideas about gender and class, were incorporated

into the ideology and used at this particular juncture to advance the case for Zionism as a dynamic movement for national liberation. ° C.B. Cohen and R. Wilk, with B. Stoeltje, ‘Introduction: Beauty Queens on the Global Stage’, in Cohen, Wilk, and Stoeltje (eds.), Beauty Queens on the Global Stage: Gender, Contests, and Power

(New York, 1996), 1-2; N. B. Barnes, ‘Face of the Nation: Race, Nationalisms and Identities in Jamaican Beauty Pageants’, in J. Scanlon (ed.), The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader (New York, 2000), 361. ° On Zionism, see E. Mendelsohn, Zionism in Poland: The Formative Years, 1915-1926 (New York,

1981); id., On Modern Jewish Politics (New York, 1993), 63-78; D. Biale, Eros and the Jews: From Biblical Israel to Contemporary America (New York, 1982), ch. 8; and id., Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History (New York, 1986), 130-3.

370 Eva Plach In addition, this essay engages the small body of scholarship on beauty pageantry generally.’ This scholarship is best developed in the American context, where the first beauty competition was organized in 1854 by the great showman P. T. Barnum. The Miss America pageant—which became perhaps the most famous contest in the world—begun in 1920 in Atlantic City in an attempt to attract tourists to this part of

the American north-east. Throughout the 1920s the taste for beauty pageantry soared throughout Europe, North America, and also the ‘non-western’ world, with many countries organizing their first national events during this decade.® The first Miss Polonia, Wltadystawa Kostakowna, was named in February of 1929, for example, just weeks before the crowning of Poland’s first Miss Judaea.? Beauty contests became so popular at this time in part because of the growing pageant publicity emerging from the United States; pageants offered the public a brief foray into a world of fun, fantasy, and nail-biting suspense. In addition, beauty contests were increasingly recognized as useful instruments of identity creation, in that they provided a given national group with an opportunity to render, and to celebrate, a controlled public representation of itself. This ability to shape national representation was especially important in an era when so many states were in fact ‘new’ (as was the Polish Second Republic) and were actively engaged in processes of national selfdefinition. That Jews were a national group without their own state only made the search for a usable identity that much more pressing. Like other beauty contests of the 1920s, the Miss Judaea pageant strove to project an image of the national body as decidedly modern, culturally current, youthful, healthy, and ‘civilized’. Given that this image emerged from within the Nasz Przeglad Zionist milieu, the pageant likewise worked to characterize Zionism as a modern ideology that had momentum and broad support; in this sense, Nasz Przeglad’s Miss Judaea pageant formed part of the arsenal of its Zionist identity-making agenda.

CROWNING A QUEEN FOR THE JEWISH NATION The rules for the Miss Judaea contest, and even the fact that the event was organ-

ized by a national newspaper, closely mirrored formats established for other 7 With one exception, there is no existing scholarship on Miss Judaea. See J. K. Rogozik, ‘Konkurs “Miss Judea” na tamach Naszego Przegladw , Midrasz, 7-8 (July 2003), 66-9. Rogozik mainly summarizes the contest procedures. This subject has also been treated recently by Eddy Portnoy in his article ‘Move Over, Miss Polonia’, which appeared in Guilt and Pleasure, 2 (New York, 2006). The article can be found on the web at: . I was not aware of this article when I wrote my own.

8 On the history of beauty pageants, see S. Banet-Weiser, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity (Berkeley, 1999), and A. H. Schissler, ‘Beauty Is Nothing to Be

Ashamed of: Beauty Contests as Tools of Liberation in Early Republican Turkey’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 24/1 (2004), 107-8. ® See ‘Beauty Contest Absorbs Warsaw’, New York Times, 3 Feb. 1929, p. 3. A total of five Miss Polonia contests were held during the Second Republic (with the last taking place in 1937).

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 371 contemporary beauty pageants.'° According to the contest rules, all Jewish women aged 16 and older who were unmarried, living permanently in Poland, and of an ‘unblemished reputation’ were eligible to enter Nasz Przeglgd’s competition. Each

aspiring beauty queen declared her interest in competing simply by sending in three black and white photographs of herself (one full body shot, one threequarter shot, and one profile), along with her name (pseudonyms were allowed), address, age, and occupation.'! This photographic approach to beauty pageantry reflected a measure of caution on the part of the organizers—one which many of the earliest contests adopted—and a concern for maintaining a respectable distance between the women and the public’s gaze; a woman risked comparatively little by simply mailing in her photograph.‘ Arguably, this approach also facilitated the participation in the contest of women living far from Warsaw and kept costs for individual entrants down. Beginning with the 10 February issue, the newspaper published one photograph—always the head shot—from each of the aspirants; every issue of the paper averaged between three to six new photographs.!? Just days after the contest closing date of 15 March, each Nasz Przeglad reader who wished to do so submitted a list of his or her ten favourite entrants along with a special coupon which Nasz Przeglgd had made available in selected issues of the paper.'* Just before the voting was to begin, Nasz Przeglgd editors reminded readers that what was at stake in the contest was selecting women whose particular kind of beauty ‘embodied the characteristic features of the Polish Jewish female type’.'° As we shall see, defining these features formed an important component of Nasz Przeglad’s Miss Judaea pageant. A total of 20,015 lists were counted over the two-day voting period that ran from 20 to 21 March; these were respectable numbers given that the daily circulation figures of Nasz Przeglgd ranged from a low estimate of 21,000 to a high estimate of 50,000.‘ Almost three-quarters of the respondents came from Warsaw, just as most of Nasz Przeglad’s readers came from Poland’s capital city, and over a ‘0 The similarities between the rules for the 1929 Miss Turkey contest and the Miss Judaea pageant are especially striking, and suggest that both contests followed standard procedures in international beauty pageantry. See Schissler, ‘Beauty Is Nothing to Be Ashamed of’, 107 and rog—10. ‘1 “Miss Judaea. Najpiekniejsza zyd6wka w Polsce’, Nasz Przeglad, 3 Feb. 1929, p. 7. ‘2 Cohen, Wilk, and Stoeltje, ‘Introduction: Beauty Queens’, 4.

‘3 Photos were also published in Nasz Przeglad Ilustrowany, which came out each Sunday and offered better photo quality. See ‘ “Miss Judaea”. Najpiekniejsza zydéwka w Polsce’, Nasz Przeglad, 4 Feb. 1929, p. 6.

4 “Czy konkursy pieknosci sa pusta zabawa?’, Nasz Przeglad, 20 Feb. 1929, p. 5. The first coupon appeared on 7 Feb. Just days before voting was to occur, Nasz Przeglad changed the rules: instead of voting for just one candidate, as originally planned, each reader would submit a list of his or her top ten choices. Either way, the paper had always intended to end up with ten semi-finalists. See ‘Przed rozstrzygnieciem’, Nasz Przeglad, 17 Mar. 1929, p. 11. '® ‘Dzis rozpoczynaja sie wybory MISS JUDAEA!!’, Nasz Przeglad, 20 Mar. 1929, p. 3.

16 Michael Steinlauf provides compelling evidence for taking the lower of these numbers. See M. Steinlauf, “The Polish-Jewish Daily Press’, Polin, 2 (1987), 222, 224-5.

372 Eva Plach quarter came from smaller cities and provincial centres. The results of Nasz Przeglad’s self-described ‘beauty plebiscite’ were published in the 24 March issue,

and they revealed that 21-year-old Liza Harkawi (contestant no. 27) won this round of the competition, with 13,091 votes.’ In second place was 18-year-old Marja Lobzowska (pseudonym Amra, contestant no. 60) with 12,950 votes, and in last place was Sima Dynkinowna (contestant no. 1) with 7,075 votes. As it hap-

pened, the total number of semi-finalists reached eleven rather than ten: Zofja Oldak6wna (pseudonym Judyta, contestant no. 48) was added automatically to the

list given her recent claim to the title of Queen of the Ball at the Jewish Press Awards ceremony; this opened up room for an eleventh candidate. Oldakowna had placed sixth in this portion of the competition, with 10,205 votes.*® The second stage of the contest asked the semi-finalists to present themselves in

front of a jury of twelve distinguished men. In reserving all the spaces on the judges’ panel for eminent men, the Miss Judaea contest was again quite typical for its time: male authorities were deemed the best arbiters of women’s beauty.'? The judges’ panel in this case featured the Nasz Przeglgd editorial board, the three top men at the newspaper: Jakub Appenszlak, Natan Szwalbe, and Saul Wagman. It

also included a number of prominent Jewish artists (such as the painter Adam Herszaft and the sculptor Abraham Ostrzega), in addition to several other wellrespected community members, including the Yiddish writer and president of the Union of Jewish Writers and Journalists, Zusman Segalowicz and, sitting as president of the jury, the noted historian Ignacy Schipper.2° At Warsaw’s Hotel Polonia on 28 March, the semi-finalists were paraded in alphabetical order in front of the jury and each candidate, dressed as beauty contestants most often were at this stage in evening wear, was given precisely one minute to impress the judges; the parade lasted eleven minutes. The votes cast by the judges were secret, as were

any deliberations that went into their decision. The results were somewhat surprising: Zofja Oldakowna, the sixth-place contestant in round one, but a woman known to at least some of the jury members who would have attended the Jewish Press Awards ceremony, was crowned Miss Judaea, winning with nine out of twelve votes (Figure 1). Liza Harkawi, the readers’ favourite in the photographic stage of the contest and, incidentally, the woman chosen in 1928 by the American Yiddish publication Forverts as a ‘typical’ Polish Jewish woman, was voted 17 “Pierwsze wyniki glosowania. Wybory “Miss Judaei”’, Nasz Przeglad, 22 Mar. 1929, p. 3, and ‘Ostateczny rezultat glosowania’, Nasz Przeglad, 24 Mar. 1929, p. 8. 18 “Ostateczny rezultat glosowania’, Nasz Przeglad, 24 Mar. 1929, p. 8. Note that the real names of the women were revealed during the semi-final round. Lobzowska appears both as Marja and as Mirjam. 19 Cohen, Wilk, and Stoeltje, ‘Introduction: Beauty Queens’, 26; Banet~Weiser, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, 37.

20 Also on the jury were the painter A. Szyk, the theatre directors M. Mazo and M. Weichert, and

, the president of the Society for Art Appreciation, I. Lejpuner. The editor Mieczystaw Grynbaum served as honorary secretary. See ‘Wybor “Miss Judaei” odbedzie sie w czwartek dn. 28 marca r.b.’, Nasz Przeglad, 26 Mar. 1929, p. 5.

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374 Eva Plach runner-up (Figure 2). Marja Lobzowska, the second-place winner in the photographic stage of the contest, was chosen as the other runner-up (Figure 3).7+ At the end of her first day as Miss Judaea, Oldakowna was honoured with a celebration at the home of the well-known General Zionist leader and parliamentarian Yitzhak Gruenbaum (1879—1970).** Word spread quickly through the streets of Warsaw’s Jewish neighbourhood that Miss Judaea was among her people,

and soon the large crowd that had assembled outside the Gruenbaum residence demanded to see their queen. Standing on the balcony with her host, Miss Judaea was greeted with applause and loud cries of “Long live Miss Judaea! Long live the Jewish nation!’*° With its simple beauty pageant, Nasz Przeglgd had stimulated a

tremendous outpouring of national pride. Here was a pretty young Jewish woman—the first beauty queen that Polish Jewry had ever known—socializing

with an important Zionist parliamentarian and facing an impressive mass of admirers, her co-nationals. ‘This impassioned nationalist response to the crowning of Miss Judaea needs to be appreciated in the light of the specific milieu in which the contest was executed; this context was provided by Nasz Przeglgd, one of the premier Jewish newspapers of its day. It is to Nasz Przeglgd that we now turn.

NASZ PRZEGLAD AND THE JEWISH NATIONAL RENAISSANCE Nasz Przeglad was founded in Warsaw in 1923 by Jewish journalists at once exasperated with the antisemitism which they confronted in work environments dominated by ethnic Poles and eager to express their own growing Jewish nationalism. From its inception, the paper defined itself as a non-party Jewish daily that published a great variety of political perspectives on its pages. Increasingly, however, it became known for favouring a Zionist nationalist position: its founders and editors—most notably Szwalbe and Appenszlak—-were active Zionists.** Appenszlak himself sympathized with the Et Livnot (Time to Build) faction within Zionism, which argued for the immediate need to devote the largest share of material and intellectual resources to the building of the Jewish state in Palestine.?° Despite the

personal preferences of individual editors and associates, Nasz Przeglgd never 27 On Harkawi, see ‘Kim sa kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”’, Nasz Przeglgd, 24 Mar. 1929, p. 8. On

the election results, see ‘Wybor “Miss Judaei”’, Nasz Przeglgd, 26 Mar. 1929, p. 5; ‘Protokdél posiedzenia jury’, ibid. 6; ‘Jak wybrano “Miss Judaee”’, Nasz Przeglad, 29 Mar. 1929, p. 5; and ‘Wybor “Miss Judaei” ’, ibid. 6.

22 Gruenbaum was the 1922 Minorities’ Bloc leader in the Polish parliament. He was associated

with the Al Hamiszmar (Na Strazy) branch of the General Zionists. See J. K. Rogozik, ‘Nasz Przeglad: Miedzy “hajntyzmem” a “mechesyzmem”’, Zeszyty Prasoznaweze, 40/1—2 (149—50) (1997),

127-9. 23 “Miss Judaea rozpoczyna prace spoleczna’, Nasz Przeglgd, 30 Mar. 19209, p. 5. 24 Rogozik, ‘Nasz Przeglad’, 127-9. 25 On Et Livnot, see J. Tomaszewski and A. Zbikowski, Zydzi w Polsce: Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon (Warsaw, 2001), 86 and 365, and Mendelsohn, Zionism in Poland, 249-51.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 375 developed a direct association with a specific Zionist party, and reflected instead various positions within a broadly secular and middle-class Zionism.”° Strikingly, and notwithstanding that many Nasz Przeglgd Zionists supported

the use of Hebrew as the Jewish national language, the paper published in the Polish language. It was not until the inter-war period that large numbers of Jews began learning Hebrew, long considered a sacred rather than a ‘living’ language, in Jewish-run schools. Yet by the time of the 1931 census, only about 8 per cent of Polish Jews in the Second Republic actually knew Hebrew; even Appenszlak was

only just learning the language. For these reasons, it was not uncommon (nor was this free of controversy) for the inter-war Zionist press to publish in Polish, as was the case with Nasz Przeglad, the Lwow-based Chwila, and the Krakowbased Nowy Dztennik. Even for the 80 per cent of Jews who claimed Yiddish as a mother tongue, linguistic Polonization was widespread. It therefore made sense to publish a ‘Jewish paper’ in the Polish language and thereby to reach the greatest possible audience.*’ The strong circulation numbers for the Polish-language press throughout the inter-war period attest to the popularity of these publications.?°

In general, Polish-language Jewish papers like Nasz Przeglad were directed at a | readership drawn not from the numerically large Jewish lower-middle classes and working classes, but rather from the small and elite acculturated middle and professional classes and from the intelligentsia. These were secular, educated, cosmopolitan, and sophisticated readers, typically men, and living for the most part in Poland’s large cities.?° In an era of growing nationalism, this group began looking increasingly for engagement with their Jewish identity in their daily and weekly newspapers; Nasz Przeglad provided this opportunity.°° By the late 1920s Nasz Przeglgd had firmly established its reputation as the most important Jewish newspaper in Poland and as a publication devoted to serious political analysis and high intellectual standards. In addition to its own wellregarded editorial board, other influential names associated with it included the political commentator Bernard Singer (Regnis), the historian Majer Balaban, and the founder of the Nasz Przeglad children’s supplement, Maty Przeglad, Henryk Goldszmit (Janusz Korczak).?! Far from being a narrowly ‘Jewish’ newspaper, Nasz Przeglad presented on its pages all the topical issues of the day, Jewish and 26 Steinlauf, ‘The Polish-Jewish Daily Press’, 228, and Rogozik, ‘Nasz Przeglgd’, 123-38.

2” The figures come from the 1931 census. On understanding this census, see C. Shmeruk, ‘Hebrew-Yiddish-Polish: A Trilingual Jewish Culture’, in Y. Gutman et al. (eds.), The Jews of Poland between Two World Wars (Hanover, NH, 1989), 287—9 and 300-5.

28 A. Paczkowski, “The Jewish Press in the Political Life of the Second Republic’, Polin, 8 (1994), 178, and [M.LAN.] ‘Nasz Przeglad’, Encyclopedia Fudaica, xii. 843. For more background on the meaning of the Polish-language Jewish press, see M. Fuks, Prasa zydowska w Warszawie, 1823-1939 (Warsaw, 1979).

29 Rogozik, ‘Nasz Przeglad’, 133-4, and J. K. Rogozik, ‘Czytelnicy Naszego Przegladw’, Zeszyty Prasoznaweze, 44/1—2 (165-6) (2001), 75-02. 30 Steinlauf, ‘The Polish-Jewish Daily Press’, 222. 31 For a full list of Nasz Przeglad associates, see Rogozik, ‘Nasz Przeglad’, 137-8.

376 Eva Plach non-Jewish, and was firmly committed to unpacking for its readers the Polish and international contexts in which they operated. The paper moved with ease from discussing national politics and international affairs to considering art, literature, culture, sport, the so-called white slave trade, and the contemporary controversies about birth control and family planning. Nasz Przeglgd articles were so broad-ranging and informative that the paper even counted some ethnic Poles among its readers. *”

At first glance it seems incongruous, then, that a newspaper of such distinction, with such a large number of elite intellectuals associated with it, would even bother with something as apparently inconsequential as a beauty contest. While acknowledging outright that beauty pageantry was not an obvious priority for Poland’s beleaguered Jewish communities, the editors nevertheless maintained the symbolic importance of the Miss Judaea pageant and called hosting the event a matter

of ‘national pride’; other ‘civilized’ nations, after all, were holding their own pageants.°? From Nasz Przeglgd’s perspective, the Miss Judaea competition constituted an important civic event that, in a small way, would help to usher in a new day for Polish Jewry. It was also a convenient, popular, and politically useful springboard from which to advocate its own Zionist position and to sell Jewish unity.

IMAGINING THE JEWISH RACE The discussion generated around the pageant and appearing on the pages of Nasz Przeglad during the weeks that the competition ran was carefully orchestrated by

the contest organizers, who were at once the editors and jury members. This discussion was marked by an attempt to characterize the supposedly ‘objective’ features of Jewish women’s beauty and to sell this definition to Jews themselves.

Behind this undertaking was the idea that all Jews—regardless of where they currently lived in the Diaspora—were part of what Nasz Przeglgad referred to asa single ‘Jewish race’. By positing the existence of a Jewish race, the Miss Judaea contest in effect offered Polish Jews the opportunity to see themselves as part of a coherent entity that imaginatively extended well beyond Poland’s state borders. As such, this strategy invoked a collective Jewish past while offering simultaneously a

common basis for moving forward together in the future, a future which the Zionists believed was located in the historic Jewish homeland of Palestine. That the contest was organized for Polish Jews exclusively was the result, no doubt, of obvious practical considerations. But it also reflected, as the paper itself stated, a recognition of the great importance of Polish Jewry and of what Nasz Przeglad regarded as Polish Jews’ obligation, given the size of the population, to serve 82 Rogozik, ‘Czytelnicy Naszego Przegladw’, 77. 33 “Miss Judaea. Najpiekniejsza zyd6wka w Polsce’, Nasz Przeglad, 4 Feb. 1929, p. 6.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 377 as a positive example for their co-nationals in other states.24+ This communitybuilding promise of the pageant and its rhetorical potential to transcend fierce political, religious, and social divisions by focusing instead on supposedly objective ‘racial attributes’ suited Nasz Przeglgd’s editorial position extremely well. In this

way, ironically, a Polish-language newspaper directed at a very specific class of reader and expressing general Zionist tendencies could claim to speak to and for ‘all’ Jews, for a Jewish people united as a single race. During the course of the Miss Judaea pageant, Nasz Przeglad attempted to transform itself—if only in a rhetorical way—into a unifying presence within a notoriously divided Polish Jewish collectivity. This was clever political positioning on the part of the paper’s Zionists.

Nasz Przeglgd’s endorsement of race as a category for Jewish national selfdefinition preceded the Miss Judaea pageant and, in general, reflected a contemporary European-wide fashion for using scientific categories to understand perceived social realities.*° The foundations for a social-scientific mode of thinking evident within inter-war Zionist circles had been laid in the nineteenth cen-

tury.°° As early as 1873, for example, the publication of Arthur comte de Gobineau’s The Inequality of Human Races presented the powerful idea that Jews enjoyed a particularly strong racial continuity, despite their dispersion over many centuries in varied states.°’ Ideas about the relative purity of the Jewish race and of the permanency of racial characteristics proved useful to inter-war Zionists eager to establish bases for claiming a fundamental Jewish unity. Once this basis for unity was established through racial categories, it became possible to act on behalf of

Jews’ needs and rights, and the prospect of building a Jewish homeland in Palestine moved into reach.*®

The broad potential that the Miss Judaea competition offered in realizing nationalist goals was aptly summarized in a letter to Nasz Przeglad by a reader named Leon Berkowicz and published shortly after the announcement of the event in February 1929. In his understanding of the pageant as a nationalist affair, Berkowicz reflected the editors’ own views and echoed the message contained in many other readers’ assessments as well. Berkowicz praised the Miss Judaea pageant for 34 See ‘Czy konkursy pieknosci sa pusta zabawa?’, Nasz Przeglad, 20 Feb. 1920, p. 5, and ‘Miss Judaea. Najpiekniejsza zydowka w Polsce’, Nasz Przeglad, 3 Feb. 1929, p. 7. 35 M. B. Hart, Social Science and the Politics of Modern Fewish Identity (Stanford, 2000), 17. For a

fuller elaboration of the ways in which race was used in Nasz Przeglad, see J. K. Rogozik, ‘Misja odrodzenia narodowego realizowana w Naszym Przeglgdzie poprzez gloryfikacje rasy’, Zeszyty Prasoznaweze, 46/ 3-4 (175-6) (2003), 99-108. 36 On the social-scientific classifications of Jews in 19th-c. Europe, see J. Efron, Defenders of the Race: Fewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de-Stécle Europe (New Haven, 1994). For a discussion of these ideas in roth-c. France, see L. M. Leff, ‘Self-Definition and Self-Defense: Jewish Racial Identity in Nineteenth-Century France’, Jewish History, 19 (2005), 7-28. 37 Hart, Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity, 171-2 and 183-5.

88 On the inter-war German context, see M. Hart, ‘Jews, Race and Capitalism in the GermanJewish Context’, Jewish History, 19/1 (Jan. 2005), 57 and 59.

378 Eva Plach offering nothing less than an opportunity to ‘rehabilitate the Jewish type’.®? He was of the view that for too long, Jews had been belittled ‘individually and nationally, [and] also as a racial type’.*° Indeed, as historians have argued, Jews in this period

faced not only economic and religious antisemitism, but they also confronted an unpleasant prevailing ethnology which held that disease, filth, and ugliness defined the ‘essential nature’ of the Jew, a nature that existed in direct opposition to health, virtue, and beauty.*! Berkowicz spoke directly to these stereotypes in his letter. In contemporary culture, Berkowicz noted, the blue-eyed, blonde-haired, and fairskinned ‘Aryan’ and Slavonic types were favoured, while the dark-haired and darker-skinned Jewish type was caricatured. He impugned Jews themselves for allowing this ridicule to persist and levelled specific charges against those Jewish men who married Christian women—even, as he said, poor, unintelligent, and plain-looking Christian women—in an effort to avoid association with the obvious signs of Jewishness that features were thought to convey. Berkowicz thus regarded the Nasz Przeglgd beauty contest as an important step in fighting assimilation as well as in effecting a celebration of undisguised physical Jewishness.*? He hoped that, as a result of the pageant, Jewish men would appreciate the beautiful women that existed within their own communities and would be tempted away from Christian women.*? He concluded his comments by comparing women’s participation in the pageant with the obligation that men possessed to complete military service. Each pageant contestant, according to Berkowicz, fulfilled ‘an act of aesthetic justice’, and those women who opted not to partake in the event were nothing other than ‘deserters from the national cause’.** But what were the specific ‘anatomical signs’*° which the jury would be looking for in this quest for ‘aesthetic justice’? This is a question to which Nasz Przeglad devoted a great deal of attention. Immediately after the announcement of the contest, the paper began two series devoted to identifying supposedly classic Jewish women’s features. The first was written by the hygiene and cosmetics specialist Dr

Henryk Zamenhof and discussed all aspects of beauty and beauty regimes. The other series was reserved for the views of artists exclusively, given that, as Nasz Przeglgd editors reasoned, artists were best able to appreciate beauty; all the featured artists were male. In giving artists the dominant voice in this series, and in appointing artists to the judges’ panel, the Miss Judaea pageant was quite in line with other beauty contests of the day, which similarly assumed that artists were 39 L.. Berkowicz, ‘Zrehabilitujmy typ semicki. Glos Czytelnika’, Nasz Przeglad, 9 Feb. 1929, p. 5. 40 Tbid.

41 For a general discussion of the ‘essential nature’ of Jews, see S. Gilman, The Jew’s Body (New York, 1991), 173. On the pathologization of Jews, see Hart, Social Science and the Politics of Modern

Jewish Identity, 97-8. 42 Berkowicz, ‘Zrehabilitujmy typ semicki’, 5. 43 Implied in this, too, was a judgement on Jewish masculinity. On this, see D. Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (Berkeley, 1997), ch. 6.

** Berkowicz, ‘Zrehabilitujmy typ semick?’, 5. 45 The term comes from Gilman, The Jew’s Body, 174.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 379 uniquely able to evaluate beauty. Norman Rockwell, for instance, was one of the artists on the judges’ panel for the 1923 Miss America pageant.*° As part of Nasz Przeglaa’s artists’ series, the painter Adam Herszaft argued that Jewish women possessed a distinct kind of beauty, marked as it was by an olive complexion, a longish face, dark eyes, high brows, small nostrils, and ‘lips with an undulating line’.4” The nose, what Sander Gilman has called one of the ‘central loci of difference in seeing the Jew’,*® functioned, to quote Zamenhof, as ‘the jewel decorating and giving shape to the whole face’ of the Jewish woman.*? An ideal nose, according to Zamenhof, was to be ‘slender, straight or with a slight hook; the crest should not be either too severe or too subtle; the tip should rather fall towards

or cover the lip; the side profile of the nose should be symmetrical from both sides’.°° But it was the eyes that Nasz Przeglgd commentators isolated as the most distinc-

tive aspect of Jewish women’s beauty. The painter Maksymiljan Eljowicz commented on the uniqueness of Jewish women’s eyes: ‘dark . . . deep like the ocean’, ‘unquiet . . . but at the same time all-knowing’,”! and the painter Wincenty Brauner added that a Jewish woman’s eyes conveyed a profound sense of sorrow.°” The eyes of the runner-up Liza Harkawi were described as large and black, ‘clouded by sad-

ness’, and reminiscent of the familiar ‘Jewish aristocratic-type of woman from Salonika’.°? The semi-finalist Adela Eizenberzanka was similarly described as possessed of ‘sad eyes’.°* The expressiveness of the eyes defined a Jewish woman’s face, according to several observers, and this assessment was incorporated into a narrative of the Jews’ centuries-long persecution: ‘On her [the Jewish woman’s] face there

cannot but be traces of the tragedy of wandering, of national persecution, and 46 Banet-Weiser, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, 54. Nasz Przeglad was an avid supporter of Jewish artists generally, and Appenszlak himself had founded the Society for the Propagation of Fine Arts (Towarzystwo dla Krzewienia Sztuk Pieknych). See Steinlauf, ‘The Polish-Jewish Daily Press’,

231. 47 ‘Pieknosé zydowska’, Nasz Przeglgd, 11 Feb. 1929, p. 4.

48 Gilman, The Jew’s Body, 180. 49 H. Zamenhof, ‘Miss Judaea. Najpiekniejsza zydowka w Polsce’, Nasz Przeglad, 10 Feb. 1929, p. 9. On representations of ‘the Jewish nose’ in the Yiddish press, see E. Portnoy, ‘Follow My Nose: SelfCaricature in Cartoons of the Yiddish Press’, /nternational Journal of Comic Art (Fall 2004), 285—303.

50 Zamenhof, ‘Miss Judaea’. In his memoir, Michat Glowiriski describes a woman who came to Pruszkéw after the war in search of her family. The woman apparently held a Miss Judaea title before the war, and Glowiriski comments that it was her Semitic beauty—her dark hair, dark eyes, and curved — nose—that had become her curse during the Nazi occupation. See Michal Glowinski, Czarne sezony

(Warsaw, 1998), 137-43. >! ‘Pieknosé zydowska’, Nasz Przeglad, 12 Feb. 1929, p. 5. 52 “Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 28 Mar. 1929, p. 4. See also M. Fishberg, The Jews: A Study of Race and Environment (1911; repr. New York, 1975), 110, for a discussion of the unique qualities of Sephardi Jewish women’s eyes. °3 “Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 27 Mar. 1929, p. 5. Salonika in Greece had a very large Sephardi Jewish population during this period. 54 ‘Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 28 Mar. 1929, p. 4.

380 Eva Plach suffering.” This lachrymose view of the injustices committed against the Jewish nation reflected general Zionist approaches to the Jewish past and future; building a Jewish homeland represented an attractive solution to continuous discrimination in

the Diaspora. Here in the context of the pageant, the legacy of suffering was inscribed onto the physical body of the Jewish woman, but instead of functioning as a sign of failure or shame, past suffering was reinterpreted for its ability to establish a forward-looking and nationally focused purpose. The entire exercise of describing the quintessential features of Jewish women’s physical beauty and of creating a prototype of the Jewish female ideal, however, struck some observers as problematic. Contemporary Jewish women, real Jewish women, hardly resembled the prototype, the painter Janusz Trefler stated, ‘thanks

to the penetration of [other] races during the nation’s long wanderings’. If pressed, though, Trefler believed that Sephardi Jewry conformed most closely to the classical ideal, and during the semi-final round of the contest he encouraged the judges to choose this representative of the ‘Jewish type’.°° Sephardi Jewry, one of the two main Jewish communities in Europe, had been expelled from Spain during the Inquisition and had settled in parts of western Europe, the Balkans, and the

Ottoman empire. Their numbers were very small in the Jewish population of Poland and of most other parts of central and eastern Europe, which was made up instead of the Ashkenazi Jews. The tensions and divisions between the perceived Ashkenazi and Sephardi ‘Jewish types’, and the stereotypes that grew up around each of these classifications, had figured prominently in nineteenth-century Jewish emancipation and assimilation ideologies. ‘To some central and west European

Jews, such as the Zionist founder Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) (who claimed Sephardi origins), east European Ashkenazi Jewry was base, weak, and ugly; neither in character nor in physical presence and comportment did it reflect the grace of Sephardi Jews and of a Jewish ‘golden age’ in Spain. For Herzl during a particu-

lar historic moment, a claim on Sephardi origins recalled images, as Jacques Kornberg writes, ‘of the noble Jews of medieval Spain among romantic poets’; ‘Sephardi origins’, in turn, ‘erased the taint attached to Jewry’.?’ By the inter-war period, the situation had changed in significant ways. In the conception of many Polish (Ashkenazi) Zionists, it was precisely the assimuila-

| tionist Sephardim of western Europe who had forsaken their Jewish roots and some essence of Jewishness. That the Miss Judaea pageant was designed to crown an Ashkenazi beauty queen was in itself a revealing aspect of the pageant. But the rhetorical preference expressed by some for what was perceived to be a ‘Sephardilooking’ Ashkenazi woman was an equally revealing aspect of the pageant. Despite

east European Zionist criticism of the Sephardim, there nevertheless remained something compelling about an imagined Sephardi type, such that specific indi-

13 Feb. 1929, p. 5. 56 Thid. 55 This description comes from sculptor Jozef Gabowicz. See ‘Pieknosé zydowska’, Nasz Przeglad, 57 J. Kornberg, Theodor Herzl: From Assimilation to Zionism (Bloomington, Ind., 1993), 76-7.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 381 viduals, like Trefler, expressed openly a preference for an (Ashkenazi) Polish Jewish beauty queen with what were understood to be Sephardi features. The notion that Sephardi Jewry had better preserved authentic Jewish features was one commonly held at the time of the pageant. In his anthropology of Jewish

types published just before the Great War, The fews: A Study of Race and Environment (1911), Maurice Fishberg made precisely this point with respect to women specifically: ‘It is hard to imagine a beautiful Jewess’, Fishberg wrote, ‘who looks like a Jewess, presenting any other physical type.’°® Sephardi-looking women were thought to possess ‘exotic’ qualities and a purer, darker colouring; these features made them that much more distinct from non-Jews and allowed them to be

more easily recognized as a separate nationality. As a visibly distinct group, Sephardi Jewry could then be linked to the far-away historic home of the Jews in Palestine, and this in turn helped support Zionist claims to the land of Israel.°° Though Nasz Przeglgd denied that its judges’ panel had a single vision of how

Miss Judaea should look, many contestants nevertheless believed that this Sephardi-inspired prototype for the ideal Jewish woman was in fact being promoted actively on the pages of the newspaper. One aspiring beauty queen, for instance, wrote a letter to Nasz Przeglgd during the first (photographic) stage of the contest and asked outright whether her blonde hair and blue eyes—the hallmarks of stereotypical Slavonic and ‘Aryan’ beauty—would reduce her chances of winning the Miss Judaea crown. In response, Nasz Przeglgd was adamant that the

contest remained open to all kinds of beauty, and that despite associations of Jewish beauty with the darker colouring of Sephardi Jews, ‘who on the outside have retained the purity of the semitic race’, it wrote, the jury would be working with what the editors referred to as ‘a modern rather than a biblical’ meaning of Jewish beauty.©° Another woman named Roma Gliksmanéwna (contestant no. 67),

who made it to the semi-final round ‘despite’ her blonde hair and blue eyes, expressed in an interview just before the final judging round at Hotel Polonia her feeling that she was in fact working from a marked disadvantage: ‘It saddens me that everyone sees in me only a pure Aryan type. .. . I feel first and foremost like a Jewish woman.’®! Gliksmanéwna believed she needed a strategy for overcoming her apparent physical shortcomings, and to that end, she hoped that her future husband would be a ‘Semitic type’. “This kind of husband’, Gliksmanowna stated, ‘would rehabilitate my non-Jewish look in the eyes of the world.’©* Contestants, themselves, were coming to believe that only a specific kind of physical presence would put the Miss Judaea crown within reach. 58 Fishberg, The Jews, 110. For another contemporary discussion of Jewish types, see A. Zweig, The Face of East European Fewry, with Fifty-Two Drawings by Hermann Struck, ed. and trans. N. Isenberg (1920; repr. Berkeley, 2004), p. xvi. °9 See Efron, Defenders of the Race, 131, for a discussion of the uniqueness of Spanish Jews. 60 ‘Odpowiedzi redakcji’, Nasz Przeglad, 27 Feb. 1929, p. 7.

61 “Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”>?’, Nasz Przeglad, 26 Mar. 1929, p. 5. 62 Tbid.

382 Eva Plach We can further gauge something of Nasz Przeglgd’s conception of ideal Jewish beauty in the paper’s reply to one would-be contestant enquiring after her chances of placing well in the competition, given that she was born in Constantinople to a Sephardi mother and an Ashkenazi father. The editors expressed great excitement

over what they imagined the young woman looked like, saying that the mix of Sephardi and Ashkenazi features represented ‘a physiological-racial synthesis of Sephardi Jewish values with the intellect and the culture of Ashkenazi Jews.

Can one imagine a more interesting representation of the modern Jewish woman?’*? The assumption, again, was that Sephardi Jewry could claim racial authenticity and a real physical connection with ancient Jewry, thereby underscoring an all-important continuity between contemporary and historic Jewish populations.

CREATING THE ZIONIST "NEW WOMAN’ Zofja Oldakowna, the winner of the Miss Judaea crown, was widely described as bearing the perfect physical hallmarks of the Jewish race. One commentator praised her for ‘reflect[ing] the true Oriental [Sephardi] Jewish type’.°* Another celebrated a complexion that was ‘rich in artistic qualities’, ‘dark large eyes accented by beautiful brows’, and dark hair.®° In Miss Judaea’s photograph as contestant no. 48—the first official photo of her that the public and the judges would have seen (see Figure t)—-Oldakowna sported a fashionable centre-parting style of her long dark hair, with the hair gathered at the back and tied into place at the nape of the neck by a ribbon or a clip. The historian Oz Almog has argued that hair, generally, was highly symbolic for Jews. In simplest terms, bare heads—in the Miss Judaea pageant only one candidate wore a head covering®°—constituted a clear rejection of religious Orthodoxy, as well as an embrace of European modernity. ‘These were precisely the ideals which the Zionist revolution favoured. Moreover, bare heads and long hair advertised health and beauty—personal and national—and ultimately fulfilled goals of ‘Jewish normalization’.®’ Similarly, in two other photographs (see Figures 4and 5), Oldakowna, as Miss Judaea, was shown wearing fur, a beautiful gown, long earrings, and a necklace; here she further reinforced the idea that Jewish women, 63 ‘Odpowiedzi redakcji’, Nasz Przeglad, 28 Feb. 19209, p. 5.

64 ‘Miss Judaea rozpoczyna prace spoleczng’, Nasz Przeglad, 30 Mar. 1929, p. 4. On the use of ‘Oriental’ to mean ‘Sephardi’, see S. Dworkin, Miss America, 1945: Bess Myerson’s Own Story (New York, 1987), 153 (Bess Myerson was the first Jewish Miss America, 1945). Also on Jews and Orientalism, see P. Mendes-Flohr, Divided Passions: fFewish Intellectuals and the Experience of Modernity (Detroit, 1991), ch. 4. 65 M. Weinzieher, ‘Uroda Miss Judei?’, Nasz Przeglad, 31 Mar. 1929, p. 7. 66 See the photograph of contestant no. 9, Dibora, a Warsaw office worker, in Nasz Przeglgd, 12 Feb. 1920, Pp. 5.

67 ©. Almog, ‘From Blorit to Ponytail: Israeli Culture Reflected in Popular Hairstyles’, in Jsrae/ Studies, 2 (2003), 89.

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too, were part of the European bourgeoisie, and as such, she contributed to shaping an image of Jews generally as cultured and integrated into European society rather than as narrowly ‘Jewish’.°° With Oldakowna, the pageant showcased the kind of Jewish woman whose class, comportment, and style conveyed a European bourgeois

respectability and modernity, while simultaneously adhering to a conception of 58 ‘Miss Judea’, Nasz Przeglad, 5 Apr. 1929, p. 5. A similar photo appears in Ewa, no. 14 (7 Apr. 1929), I.

384 Eva Plach Jewish ‘traditional’ beauty; Oldakowna successfully walked this fine line between ‘Jewishness’ and ‘Europeanness’. In analysing Oldakowna’s specific qualifications as a beauty queen, commentators also devoted a great deal of attention to the ways in which the young woman’s whole body conveyed health and beauty, and they admired openly her stated commitment to athleticism and physical fitness.°? Whereas some contemporary and

many later beauty contests included a bathing costume component that was designed specifically to allow the adjudication of physical health, the Miss Judaea pageant relied instead on contestants’ clothed presentation of themselves and on

verbal confirmations of their dedication to athleticism.’° In one interview conducted before the final crowning, Oldakowna expressed her sad personal realization that ‘the Jewish nation stands lower than other nations with regard to physical fitness’. If elected as Miss Judaea, she looked forward to promoting physical education for Jews because, as she stated, paying greater attention to overall bodily well-being ‘would give our brothers psychological confidence in themselves as well as national pride’.”! This coupling of biological and national regeneration reflected contemporary European-wide anxieties about the way in which the general physical condition of

the population exerted an effect on the political and military potential of the people.’ It further echoed standard east European Zionist language about the need for overcoming what were perceived to be the physically degenerative aspects of diaspora Jewish life and for effecting a complete national renewal of the Jewish people; only in this way would Jews be able to meet the challenges that lay ahead in

the Promised Land. This theme appeared frequently in Nasz Przeglgd, and in February of 1926 the paper even launched a weekly supplement, entitled Nasz Przeglad Sportowy (‘Our Sports Review’), devoted to popularizing physical fitness

among Jews. Enthusiasm for aspects of ‘muscular Zionism’ chipped away at a long-standing preference in (male) Jewish diaspora life for privileging the intellectual over the physical.” As a group, women were not typically integrated into contemporary notions of a

muscular Zionism, or of Zionism generally. Through the Miss Judaea pageant, 69 “‘Wezorajszy dzien Miss Judei’, Nasz Przeglgd, 1 Apr. 1929, p. 4.

7 On the bathing costume competition in the Miss America pageant, see Banet-Weiser, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, ch. 2.

“ “Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 26 Mar. 1929, p. 5.

” For an elaboration on parts of this debate in Britain, see R. A. Soloway, Demography and Degeneration: Eugenics and the Declining Birthrate in Twentieth-Century Britain (Chapel Hill, NC, 1995).

73 J. K. Rogozik, ‘Ideologia muskularnego syjonizmu, czyli sport w Naszym Przegladzie’, Zeszyty Prasoznawcze, 45/ 1-2 (169-70) (2002), 125-6 and 137. On the general importance of sport and bodily fitness in Zionism, see Biale, Eros and the Jews, 178-9. On some of these debates in an ethnic Polish context, see N. Mathur, ‘ “The New Sportswoman”: Nationalism, Feminism and Women’s Physical Culture in Interwar Poland’, Polish Review, 48 (2003), 443—4.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 385 however, Nasz Przeglad succeeded in shifting attention to the question of just where women actually stood in Zionist ideology. What would the ‘new Zionist woman’, partner to the much talked about ‘new Zionist man’, look like? With her youthful vitality, athleticism, and beauty, Miss Judaea embodied this Zionist new woman and the Jewish rebirth to which Nasz Przeglgd hoped to contribute. As such, she made a fitting role model for a young generation of Jewish women, a generation that generally possessed few such role models and that, as a constituency, was too often ignored by male Zionists. Women like Oldakowna—even women like Oldako6wna—would be physically tough enough to make it in the ‘Promised Land’. Just as importantly, the context of a beauty pageant assured anyone who might be

concerned about the effects of Zionism on gender roles that Zionist nationalism would not in fact eliminate women’s femininity, beauty, and difference from men; there was no mistaking Miss Judaea as anything other than a desirable woman. The pageant was in fact poised to do just the opposite by using this dual image of women—physically capable and healthy but at the same time feminine, respectable, and beautiful—to dispel any perceptions of Zionism as a radical, masculinizing ideology.’* Nasz Przeglgd editors skilfully drew a certain class of women into what Gerald M. Berg has called (in a different context) Zionism’s ‘masculine trope’.”° The Miss Judaea pageant was all about managing and selling an image of the ideal

Zionist woman, and by extension, of Zionism generally, to Polish Jewry. Using women to sell a specific vision of the national group was hardly unprecedented, either in terms of Jewish history or the history of beauty pageantry. As the historian Paula Hyman has argued, Jewish women have long been used to gauge the level of Jews’ adaptation to modernity. “© The Miss Judaea pageant was designed to reconfigure the modern Jewish woman as being on par with other European women, as beautiful and respectable middle-class ladies—who were also Jewish.’’ Nasz Przeglad editors were at once careful to show that specific forms of integration into European definitions of middle-class femininity in no way precluded the articulation of a separate Jewish national identity. Instead, Nasz Przeglgd offered its readership a

compelling alternative to outright assimilation in Zionism. The Miss Judaea pageant showcased the kind of women that Zionism needed in order to effect the fundamental transformation of Jewish life that the ideology proposed: Jewish women who ‘looked Jewish’ and were considered attractive because of—trather than “4 For a general discussion of women in Zionism, see G. M. Berg, ‘Zionism’s Gender: Hannah Meisel and the Founding of the Agricultural Schools for Young Women’, Israe/ Studies, 6/3 (2001), 142, and Hart, Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity, 108-9.

Berg, ‘Zionism’s Gender’, 143-4. 76 PE. Hyman, ‘Gender and the Shaping of Modern Jewish Identities’, Jewish Social Studies, 8/2-3 (Winter/Spring 2002), 155. 7 One contemporary New York Times columnist noted that conceptions of beauty actually differed little across national boundaries. See L. Warren, ‘Beauty in Europe Is Now Standardized; Contest “Queens” of 17 Nations Look Alike’, New York Times, 17 Feb. 1929, p. I.

386 Eva Plach in spite of—this essential Jewishness, and whose public presence communicated both a modern femininity and national pride. This was the model for the Zionist ‘new woman’ that Nasz Przeglgd was popularizing with its pageant. Most of the women selected as pageant semi-finalists satisfied both the social and the physical criteria that would define the Zionist new woman. Specific biographical information about the semi-finalists resulted from interviews conducted

with the women before the final judging round and was published in Nasz Przeglad.’° Without exception, the interviewees presented themselves as ‘modern’

and secular-minded women who reflected the profile of Nasz Przeglgd readers generally. ‘They were middle-class, lived in urban areas (most were from Warsaw),

and were well educated. In addition, the young women enjoyed or expected to enjoy some degree of personal economic independence (secured through paid employment outside the home) and spoke Polish with ease.’? For example, Rebeka (Janina Wilczerowna, contestant no. 102, and the runner-up at the Jewish Press Awards ball)®° worked in a Jewish bank in Warsaw; Hadasa (Regina Grynberzanka,

contestant no. 93) was a humanities student at the University of Warsaw; and Awiwa (Jadwiga Weingartenowna, contestant no. 72) had been employed for a time as an actress with the German film studio UFA before returning to Poland.*! All the contestants also expressed a fervent desire to perform charity and social work,

and many admitted to wanting to learn Hebrew and to visit or eventually live in Palestine, ‘our fatherland’, to quote the runner-up Liza Harkawi.®? There were no significant departures in any of the biographies from this set of attributes.°? While the women understood the absolute centrality of projecting a modern image of themselves, they appreciated, too, the concurrent importance of professing commitment to their Jewish communities and to the cause of Zionist nationalism.

In their class profiles, educational experiences, employment options, and community-mindedness, the Miss Judaea contestants had much in common with participants in other European beauty competitions; national pageants throughout Europe endeavoured to attract women who would embody the economic success and cultural sophistication of the national collectivity. While Nasz Przeglgd did not openly declare a preference for women with a specific social and economic profile, pageant organizers could comfortably rely on the fact that the contestants would be drawn, in the main, from their own middle-class readers, as they in fact were. There is evidence to suggest that some readers were also eager to have a certain class of woman dominate in the contestant pool. Shortly after the pageant * “Przed wyborem’, Nasz Przeglad, 25 Mar. 1929, p. 3. On interviews in the Miss America pageant, see Banet-Weiser, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, 27. ” “Opinja czytelnikow o naszym konkursie pigknosci’, Nasz Przeglgd, 10 Apr. 1929, p. 6. 8° “Kim sa kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 24 Mar. 1929, p. 8. 8! ‘Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 28 Mar. 19209, 4. 82 Ibid. 5, and ‘Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 26 Mar. 19209, Pp. 5.

83 For semi-finalists’ biographies, see ‘Ostatetczny rezultat glosowania’, Nasz Przgelad, 24 Mar. 1929, p. 8.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 387 opened, the paper showcased a powerful letter from a reader named Zofja Kornblitowna which spoke frankly about some of these issues and which might well have helped set the tone for the competition. Kornblitowna wrote her piece specifically to warn against allowing the pageant to be taken over by women of the ‘lower orders’, as well as to encourage the daughters of the bourgeoisie, social elites, and intellectuals to enter the competition. Kornblitowna informed readers that, for example, even Hanna Daszynska, the daughter of the prominent Polish socialist Ignacy Daszynski, had competed for the Miss Polonia crown, as did other women from notable Polish families. According to Kornblitowna, only if Polish Jewry followed this trend would the contest fulfil its goals of ‘nurtur[ing] the real representatives of our race’ and raising ‘the general national aesthetic’.2* Mapped onto the supposedly objective racial attributes shared by Jewish women was this explicit appeal to unambiguous socio-economic criteria. Oldakowna’s specific family background had prepared her well for balancing the various elements that went into fashioning an identity for the Zionist new woman.

For example, following the customs in well-established European families, Oldakowna had been sent away from home to pursue part of her education, in her case to Dresden, Germany, where she studied music and foreign languages.®° After her return to Poland, she worked to support herself, most recently taking a position in the office at her father’s sawmill outside Warsaw. In an interview conducted with Ewa, the Zionist-feminist women’s weekly that existed as a kind of sister publica-

tion to Nasz Przeglgd, Oldakowna elaborated on her views about women’s economic and social roles and about the relationship between women and men in the modern world. She expressed a strong belief in the necessity of women’s economic independence and, identifying herself with certain feminist currents of the day, she was quick to define a woman’s material self-sufficiency as a precondition for marriage: ‘A woman cannot be. . . weaker than a man because then she suffers’, Oldakowna declared.®© Perhaps the most symbolically resonant evidence that 84 Oldakéwna reinforced the image of Zionism as a modern ideology

that could attract to its fold beautiful, young, and progressive women who, far from being ashamed of their Jewish identity, wished to work actively for the ‘ideal of Jewish rebirth’ and were prepared to take the ultimate step. ‘My dream’, Miss Judaea told the press after her election, ‘is to leave for Palestine. [ would like to begin again from the foundations. I would be ready to forsake the comforts of life and prosperity, and to work together with our pioneers on building the edifice of our rebirth there in our land. . . . I want to achieve whatever is in my power—for the good of Jewish society.’®? Just days after making this statement, Oldakowna, in her official role as Miss Judaea, met personally with a group of pioneers (halutsim), and made a financial contribution to their efforts to build a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.?° Oldak6wna balanced a fervent commitment to building a new world with beauty and a youthful, progressive, and modern femininity.

According to Nasz Przeglad’s Paris correspondent, Michal Weinzieher, Oldakowna was a terrific ‘Sephardi beauty’ who represented ‘the type of emanci-

, pated Jewish woman that is on par with all women of the world’. As such, Weinzieher continued, she reflected completely the cultural values of the modern era, and thereby embodied the ‘essence of her race’.?! That Oldakowna successfully blended modernity with tradition was raised repeatedly by commentators. Even the Mizrahi (religious Zionist) leader and parliamentarian Szyja Heschel Farbstein praised Miss Judaea for combining ‘the traditional forms of Jewish culture with the demands on the lives of modern Jews’.”* While affirming racial dif-

ference, and the new identity and sense of purpose that might stem from this established difference, the Miss Judaea pageant simultaneously worked (as did the Zionist cause generally) to confirm certain similarities between Jews and other 87 “Wezorajszy dzien Miss Judei’, Nasz Przeglad, 1 Apr. 1929, p. 4. 88 ‘Co mowia kandydatki na “Miss Judaee”?’, Nasz Przeglad, 26 Mar. 1929, p. 5. 89 “U “Miss Judaei”’, Nasz Przglad, 29 Mar. 1929, p. 6. 9° “Miss Judea wsréd Chalucow’, Nasz Przeglad, 3 Apr. 1929, p. 4. 91 Weinzicher, ‘Uroda Miss Judei?’, Nasz Przeglad, 31 Mar. 1929, p. 7. 92 “Miss Judaea rozpoczyna prace spoleczna’, Nasz Przeglad, 30 Mar. 1929, p. 4. Farbstein was the

president of the Mizrahi from 1918 to 1931 and a parliamentarian from 1919 to 1930. See Tomaszewski and Zbikowski, Zydzi w Polsce, 88, and Mendelsohn, Zionism in Poland, passim.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 389 national groups; in forming part of a separate racial constellation, Jews were both like and unlike other distinct European national groups. That Miss Judaea did not receive a cash prize or luxurious gifts for winning the crown—she officially received only a special medal and a certificate—gave further credence to the idea that young Jewish women entered the competition because they believed in the importance of conveying these messages, and not because they were tempted by pride or material gain.?° Though beauty queens in other contests did often receive prizes and gifts, all early beauty contests struggled with a need to preserve the modesty of the contestants and to avoid speculation about what motivated women’s involvement in the first place.2* Many individuals in Poland nevertheless made private gifts of money or goods to Miss Judaea, but even these were passed on to people in need.”°

| Promoting charity and social activism is precisely what Nasz Przeglgd had in mind for Miss Judaea after the pageant. This sort of public activism had long been understood as an integral part of middle-class Jewish women’s responsibilities, and in this sense, the pageant was asking nothing extraordinary of Miss Judaea.

But here, the activism emerged from under the umbrella of a Zionist-backed Jewish beauty pageant and served the Zionist cause in a very public way: Nasz Przeglgd transformed Zofja Oldakowna into a professional and public agent for Jewish Zionist nationalism, and the paper reported regularly on her every move for the next few weeks. As Miss Judaea, Oldakowna also met with numerous representatives of political, cultural, and social organizations, attended openings of various events and theatre productions, and generally brought media attention to a range of events within the Jewish community. In addition, just after the crowning ceremony, Nasz Przeglad established “The Miss Judaea Social Fund’ for Oldakowna to administer. By the last day of March 1929, the fund counted 2,025 zlotys in contri-

butions from the editors, together with donations from the paper’s readers.*° Miss Judaea distributed this money to various hospitals, nursing schools, orphanages (including Janusz Korczak’s orphanage), and senior citizens’ homes; she

also made donations to individual families in need.?’ Everywhere she went, Oldakowna appeared ostensibly as a queen for ‘all’ Jews in Poland, but as a queen

who nevertheless had accepted Nasz Przeglgd’s leadership in crowning an _ %8 “Miss Judea, Najpiekniejsza zydéwka w Polsce’, Nasz Przeglgd, 5 Feb. 1929, p. 5. 94 Bridal trousseaus were a common prize in 19th-c. American beauty pageants. See Cohen, Wilk, and Stoeltje, ‘Introduction: Beauty Queens’, 4. By the mid-2oth c., pageants increasingly offered academic scholarships as prizes in order to attract a certain class of contestant; this was the case with Miss America. See Banet-Weiser, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, 156-7. 9° See e.g. ‘Podarunki i upominki dla “Miss Judaei”’, Nasz Przeglad, 29 Mar. 1929, p. 6. While the contest was still ongoing, the fur salon ‘Lion’ announced that it would donate a fur coat to the winner. See ‘Futro dla “Miss Judaei” ofiaruje firma Lion’, Nasz Przeglgd, 8 Mar. 1929, p. 5. %6 ‘Fundusz spoleczny Miss Judei’, Nasz Przeglad, 31 Mar. 1929, p. 7. 97 ‘Miss Judea wésrod sierot’, Nasz Przeglad, 4 Apr. 1929, p. 4. See also ‘W suterynie Fiszman przy ul. Nowolipie Nr. 59’, Nasz Przeglad, 3 Apr. 1929, p. 4.

390 Eva Plach ‘all-Jewish’ beauty queen and who had gone on record as proclaiming her affinity with secular Zionist nationalism.


Reflecting on the post-pageant roles which Miss Judaea fulfilled, the Nasz Przeglgd editor Saul Wagman offered the assessment that in Oldakowna the Jewish community had a woman who, in addition to carrying the physical attributes of Jewish beauty, possessed ‘the most important Jewish virtues: goodness, charity’.?°

According to Dr Schipper, the president of the jury, Oldakowna quite simply ‘symbolized that which we wanted to convey through the competition’.®? With the

pageant, Nasz Przeglad had fulfilled its main aim of stimulating a small-scale renaissance in Jewish national pride and spirit. Though the specific scope and terms of this impact is difficult to gauge, the very amount of space which the paper devoted to the pageant—at least one full page, and often more, every day for two months—suggests that public interest in the event was 1n fact high and that readers were being shaped in some ways by the pageant discourses. The Miss Judaea contest had popularized the potential contained in racial categorization for building national unity, for stimulating a rhetorical rebirth of the Jewish people, and ultimately, for articulating Zionist claims to a Jewish state in Palestine. The framework of a beauty pageant allowed Nasz Przeglad Zionists to present a very care-

fully constructed image of Jews to the world, one which visually erased Jews’ ‘foreignness’ and made the point that instead of ‘suffering from Jewishness’, Jews could take pride in their seeming physical distinctiveness. ‘°° The time for Jewish identity to be concealed or simply conveniently omitted from a given individual’s biography had passed, according to Nasz Przeglgd’s editors. This issue of ‘hidden Jewishness’ is precisely what made the winner of the February 1929 Miss Europe crown (announced after Nasz Przeglad’s contest had already started) so troubling. Miss Hungary, E]zbieta Simon, had won the title of Miss Europe, and as it happened, Simon’s father was Jewish. Nasz Przeglad con-

cluded, simply, that Simon could not be considered a real Miss Judaea: ‘Miss

Judaea cannot appear along the road of a masquerade, under the name of a Hungarian woman, but rather, she must appear on the open horizon, as a daughter of our nation.’!°! Nasz Przeglgd’s Miss Judaea competition offered this possibility to Jewish women.

Both Polish and international media outlets followed the two months of pageantry closely, and according to Nasz Przeglad, they were impressed by what 98 “Miss Judaea rozpoczyna prace spoleczna’, Nasz Przeglad, 30 Mar. 1929, p. 4. 99 Ibid. 100 The term ‘suffering from Jewishness’ comes from Gilman, The Jem’s Body, 173. 101 “Czy konkursy pieknoésci sa pusta zabawa?’, Nasz Przeglad, 20 Feb. 1929, p. 5. For an interview with Miss Europe, see ‘Co opowiada Miss Europa’, Nasz Przeglad, 25 Feb. 1929, p. 4.

Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Inter-War Poland 391 they saw. Of course, it is to be expected that Nasz Przeglgd published only positive assessments of the contest from non-Jewish and Jewish media sources. Predictably,

too, the paper remained decidedly silent about criticism of the pageant which might have emerged, for example, from Orthodox Jewish circles. To have included

such criticism, clearly, would have undermined the very concept of all-Jewish unity that the pageant was designed to encourage. On the other hand, Nasz Przeglad did publish negative reactions to the contest from predictable voices in the Polish antisemitic press, and the paper used these antisemitic outbursts to underscore that Jews did not in fact enjoy a comfortable home in Poland and could not, therefore, be indifferent to Zionism. In its own enthusiasm for the event, and in the support it ascribed to a wide range of national and international readers, the message which Nasz Przeglad delivered was consistent and clear: Jewish women had arrived to take their spot on the international stage alongside other European

women, and, by extension, that ‘the Jewish race’ had reached a certain level of national maturity. 1°?

Through its pageant, Nasz Przeglgd portrayed young Zionist women who balanced pride in being Jewish and a steadfast commitment to Zionism with some

, very typical markers of modern European bourgeois femininity. The contest also worked to present Jewish women as a hitherto under-appreciated Zionist constituency, one which Zionist nationalists would do well to court in a more direct and concerted fashion. And lastly, the contest contributed, again in a rather modest fashion, to shaping the contours of contemporary Zionist nationalism as an ideology that emphasized modernity, growth, and change, and as one that refused traditionalism and retreat into obscurity. In the 1929 Miss Judaea contest we see the very fine line that some Polish Jewish Zionists walked between asserting their status as a distinct national group and maintaining their basic similarity to other national groups. 102 For a list of international publications interested in the pageant, see ‘Wybor “Miss Judaei”’, Nasz Przeglad, 29 Mar. 1929, p. 6. For a positive evaluation of the contest from Warsaw’s Yiddishlanguage Unzer express, see E. Geitlin, ‘Dlaczego mamy wybrac Miss Judaee’, repr. from Undzer ekspres in Nasz Przeglad, 19 Feb. 1929, p. 5. On criticism of the contest published in the press, see Rogozik, ‘Konkurs “Miss Judea” ’, 69.


Shmerke Kaczerginsk1 The Partisan-Troubadour BRET WERB

FoR AT LEAST a decade following the Second World War, Shmerke Kaczerginski was a familiar figure to Yiddish speakers worldwide. Yet although he was a popular writer and speaker with a wide circle of friends and professional associates, very little about him appeared in print during his lifetime. That situation altered abruptly with his death, in 1954, and the publication the following year of the Ondenk-bukh,

a memorial volume commissioned, edited, and financed by a committee of his

admirers in Buenos Aires.’ In addition to a representative sampling of Kaczerginski’s own writings, the volume gathered fifty tributes to the departed author, among them several personal reminiscences that add telling details to his biography. Fifty years after its publication, the Ondenk-bukh remains the best source for information on Kaczerginski’s life and works. Many anecdotes related in the following biographical sketch were drawn from essays collected in this volume.”

Shmaryahu (Shmerke) Kaczerginski was born on 28 October 1908 in Vilna, then an outpost of the Russian empire.® His parents, Volf and Alte, worn down by years of deprivation, died during the early months of the First World War, leaving the 6-year-old Shmerke and his younger brother Yankl to be raised by a grandfather and assorted other relatives. Kaczerginski was educated at the City Talmud Torah, a religious school for needy Jewish children. Describing this institution for The author is grateful to Raymond Rosen (Los Angeles), Motl Rosenbush (Washington, DC), Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski (Paris), Chana Mlotek (YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York), and Vadim Altskan (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC) for their contributions to his research. He alone, however, bears responsibility for any errors that may have found their way into the text. 1 Shmerke katsherginski ondenk-bukh (Buenos Aires, 1955).

2 The Ondenk-bukh is divided into three sections: (1) ‘Writers on Sh. Kaczerginski’ (appreciative essays of various lengths); (2) Kaczerginski’s own creative work (as a journalist, songwriter, and dramaturge); (3) bibliography of Kaczerginski’s writings and writings about Kaczerginski. ° Birthdate according to Kaczerginski’s 1952 Argentine passport (IWO, Buenos Aires: Kaczerginski Collection). ‘Shmerke’ is an uncommon diminutive of ‘Shmaryahw’ (‘Shmarya’ being the more familiar form). Kaczerginski seems never to have signed his given name to his professional work but did use it on official documents (e.g. his Argentine naturalization papers and passport).

Shmerke Kaczerginski 393 the Ondenk-bukh as ‘a modern state school with Yiddish as the main language of

instruction’, one of his teachers there, the future Israeli folklorist Yom-Tov Lewinsky, drew special attention to its most conspicuous architectural feature: ‘an

enormous dormitory accommodating over 300 orphans, most of them literally abandoned to the streets after the First World War and the Polish—Lithuanian conflict’. Lewinsky went on to reminisce about the young Kaczerginski: [Shmerke was] short in stature with a swollen belly and enlarged forehead, symptoms of the ‘English disease’ that had afflicted him in early childhood due to poor conditions during the war. A pair of good-natured eyes, slightly crossed, and a wise smile on his lips. I knew him as a 12-year-old boy, one of the oldest residents of the Talmud-Torah. His friends there adored him because he spoke up for their concerns to the institution’s managing committee, whose members also loved and accepted him.*

‘The English disease’ remains a common designation for rickets in many parts of Europe, although not in England.° Figure 1 shows the young Kaczerginski with his brother, Yankl; for a near-contemporaneous depiction of an impoverished child suffering from ‘English rickets’ in a 1921 Soviet hygiene poster, see Figure 2. Despite the disruptions of war, the trauma of losing both parents, and post-war

political upheaval that saw Vilna successively annexed by the newly formed republics of Lithuania and Poland, Kaczerginski distinguished himself at school as ‘a good scholar and even better comrade’.® After completing his primary education, he enrolled in a private night school for adolescents.’ To support himself, he

became apprenticed to the lithographer Hirsh Ayzenshtat, whose shop’s motto, ‘professional work at the cheapest prices’, suggests a largely proletarian clientele.® Reverence for literature drew him to the printer’s trade, but it also served another

growing passion: radical politics. An idealistic teenager, Kaczerginski was 4 Lewinsky, ‘Nokh der mite fun mayn talmid’ (‘At the Bier of My Pupil’), Ondenk-bukh, 96. © Rickets (osteomalacia), a bone and muscle abnormality caused by a diet deficient in vitamins and calcium, can be diagnosed from various physiological traits: the ‘groyse kop-simnim’ Lewinsky notes among Kaczerginski’s symptoms probably refers to the enlarged or distended forehead known to medical science as craniosynostosis. © Kaczerginski orphaned: cf. Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (New York, 1956-81), iv, col.

48; also Avrom Sutzkever, ‘Di grine legende’, Ondenk-bukh, 112. The Vilna City Talmud Torah (Shtotisher ‘talmud torah’) was founded in 1891; by the first decades of the twentieth century ‘[t]he

number of orphans housed in its dormitory frequently reached between 250 and 300’. Cf. H. Abramowicz, Profiles of a Lost World (Detroit, 1999), 222; see also L. Ran, Yerushalayim d’lite (New

York, 1974), 11. 285. Kaczerginski as scholar and friend (‘er tsaykhnt zikh oys vi a guter talmid un a nokh beserer khaver’): unsigned introduction to Ondenk-bukh, 9. ” Kaczerginski attended the Peretz ovnt-shul (night school) in Vilna. Cf. Shmerke Kaczerginski, Lider fun di getos un lagern (New York, 1948), unpaginated section before p. xi, and Ran, Yerushalayim a’ lite, 1. 322.

8 ‘Firt oys ambiligstn ale litografishe arbetn. fakhmenishe oysfirung’: advertisement in the 1939 Vilna Almanac, ed. A. 1. Grodzenski (repr., ed. Isaac Kowalski, New York, 1993), p. xxx. For samples

of work produced by the Ayzenshtat firm while Kaczerginski was employed there, see Ran, Yerushalayim a’ lite, 11. 301, 317.

394 Bret Werb | Figure 1. Shmerke Kaczerginski with

ng : his younger brother, Yankl (holding a

a .‘* eee as F _Z +ae 4,‘

mandolin), Vilna, ¢c.1920 (Ondenk-bukh, facing p. 17). Yankl is believed to have

been among those massacred in Ponar during the summer of 1941

4 }‘Roar ' \es. «as “uve 7

- * ; x . t- = cee ‘

Spel); ye , i %

at y Figure 2. ‘Causes of the English

om, a | Ff Disease Rickets. Improper Feeding with —i +s ; /q5Cow’s Milk and Poor Conditions 0D —y/o > Ley. | almost always LeadLiving to Rickets’. > > a) Published by Maternity and Child aS | Protection, Moscow, 1921. Soviet Poster a - = Pi (¥ Collection, Swarthmore College Peace a 508 az rs = =e . _-— ; ‘se Collection


rAHHCKOH BO-(J}F; NMESHH waxata | &/ ‘





Shmerke Kaczerginski 395 attracted to the communist youth organizations that evangelized among Vilna’s Jewish underclass. In constant need of printed matter—pamphlets, broadsides, newsletters—these groups, in turn, would have welcomed the apprentice writer and lithographer as a particularly well-placed recruit. Kaczerginski was popular, too, with the Polish police. Occasionally beaten and

often detained, he reportedly organized a drama club for the Jewish inmates in Vilna’s central prison.? Many details of Kaczerginski’s early life remain obscure, yet

it is clear that political activism gave direction to his literary path. His first published writings appeared at this time: pieces on class struggle and the living conditions of Polish workers, submitted, presumably under a pseudonym, to the underground press. This period also saw him find his calling as a politically engaged poet and songwriter, with two works launching his reputation while he was still in his mid-teens. ‘Baynakht 1z gefaln a shney’ (‘Snowfall at Night’) is said to have been sung in many quarters, but was never collected and can no longer be traced.?° In contrast, “lates, mames, kinderlekh’ (‘Fathers, Mothers, Children’), also known as ‘Barikadn’ (‘Barricades’), written when Kaczerginski was 15, achieved phenomenal

and lasting popularity.11 The Polish Yiddish writer Moyshe Knaphays, in an Ondenk-bukh essay, testified to the song’s rampant spread and impact: At the start of the 1930s, a lively, mischievous song with a singularly cheerful melody rolled like a golden coin through every Jewish community in Poland, as if it were a lofty composi-

tion about the destiny of mankind. The simple, spirited words, which on the surface appeared innocently naive, were possessed of a magical power to disturb, to incite people to take to the streets, to head to their assembly points, to strike, to demonstrate. . . . This revo_ lutionary song, unleashed by a young trickster from Vilna, raced through Vilna’s alleys and onwards to the Polish countryside, where it was embraced by old and young alike, then on to the capital, to Warsaw’s crowded streets and byways—and was soon on every lip. From every poor home and workers’ local, every basement and attic, from everywhere, this joyful song issued forth, piped out by young, thin voices. !“

Kaczerginski, for his part, offered a purely benign account of the song’s origins. He wrote it, he claimed, for Vilna’s working-class youngsters to sing while strolling 9 Vilna’s Lukiszki prison, Ondenk-bukh, 9; Sutzkever, ‘Di grine legende’, Ondenk-bukh, 112.

‘0 For more on the underground communist press, cf. Ran, Yerushalayim d’lite, 1. 235-41. ‘Baynakht iz gefaln a shney’ reference, Ondenk-bukh, 9; cf. also Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur,;

Sutzkever, ‘Di grine legende’, Ondenk-bukh, 112. These sources seemingly repeat the same information. 11 Recorded interview with Ruth Rubin, New York, 1948; in the Ondenk-bukh the piece is dated

1926. (Ruth Rubin Collection, YIVO and Library of Congress. Kaczerginski recorded a total of twenty-one songs during his session with Ms Rubin.) 12 Knaphays, ‘Di troyerike geshikhte fun a freydik lid’, Ondenk-bukh, 143. Since Kaczerginski by his own account wrote the song in 1924 at the latest, Knaphays’s statement that its popularity dates from the ‘start of the 1930s’ may indirectly document its spread through Poland. Notated music to “Tates, mames, kinderlekh’ in Ondenk-bukh, 229; see also E. and J. Mlotek, Songs of Generations (New York, 1997), 84. Knaphays’s translation is adapted and modifed from Mlotek.

396 Bret Werb the city’s outskirts on Friday evenings.‘? Whether or not the author intended ‘mischief’, his antic call to arms and catchy, folklike tune had evident broad appeal:14 tates, mames, kinderlekh, boyen barikadn, oyf di gasn geyen arum arbeter-otryadn. s’iz der tate fri fun shtub avek oyf der fabrik, vet er shoyn in shtibele nit kumen haynt tsurik. s’veysn gut di kinderlekh, der tate vet nit kumen, s’1z der tate haynt in gas mit zayn biks farnumen. s’1z di mame oykh avek in gas farkoyfn epl, shteyen in kikh faryosemte di teler mitn tepl.

—s’vet nit zayn keyn vetshere—zogt khanele di yatn,— vayl di mame 1z avek tsuhelfn dem tatn...

Fathers, mothers, children, raising barricades, Workers’ battalions taking to the streets. Father left home early, to the factory gone, Won’t be coming home to us any time too soon.

The kids know well the reason why father won’t return, He’s taken to the streets today and brought along his gun. Mother too is in the street, off to buy some apples, Leaving orphaned in the kitchen all the pots and dishes. ‘Don’t expect to eat tonight’, Khane tells the boys, ‘Because mother’s gone away to help dad in the fight!’

In 1929 Kaczerginski joined the literary and artistic group Yung Vilne (Young Vilna), whose entrée into the city’s cultural mainstream had just been heralded on

the front page of the influential daily Vilner tog.’° Inspired by the writer and teacher Moyshe Kulbak, whose rhapsodic poem ‘Vilne’ appeared shortly before his departure for the Soviet Union, Yung Vilne, as a group, never endorsed a par‘8 Ruth Rubin interview. 14 Stanzas 1-5. For the melody and complete lyrics, see Ondenk-bukh, 229-30, and Mlotek, Songs of Generations. A recent recording is featured on the CD In Love and Struggle: The Musical Legacy of the Bund (YIVO, 1999).

7° Der araynmarsh fun yung-vilne in der yidisher literatur’ (“Yung Vilne’s Triumphant Entry into Yiddish Literature’), Vilner tog, 11 Oct. 1929. The cover page is reproduced in Ran, Yerushalayim d’lite, 1. 362. The entire section is reprinted in Di goldene keyt, 101 (1980), 66—76. The author of the section was the V1/ner tog chief editor Zalman Reyzen (Reisen), who may also have coined the name of the group. For more on Reyzen, cf. H. Abramowicz, Profiles of a Lost World: Memoirs of East European Jewish Life before World War IT (Detroit, 1999), 313 ff.

Shmerke Kaczerginski 397 ticular aesthetic agenda. Rather, its members sought to express, through individual voices and points of view, their collective deep allegiance to the society and culture of Jewish Vilna."

During its decade of existence, Yung Vilne membership numbered about twenty writers, artists, and sculptors. Among these were Kaczerginski’s close friends, the poets Chaim Grade (1910~—82) and Avrom Sutzkever (b. 1913), both of whom went on to distinguished literary careers after the war, and the poet Leyzer Wolf (1910-43), who perished during the war in a refugee settlement in Soviet Central Asia. Kaczerginski, Yung Vilne’s acknowledged live wire, was responsible for organizing its activities, editing its journal, and publicizing its accomplishments. Under the pen name Khaver Shmerke (Comrade Shmerke) he was also one of the group’s most popular writers, prized for his animated, sometimes incendiary verses.!/ Settling into a regimen he would maintain throughout his life, Kaczerginski at this time held several jobs simultaneously. In addition to his Yung Vilne duties and his day job at the print shop, he worked as a co-ordinator for Agroid, a semi-legal pro-Soviet organization, and as a correspondent for the Morgn frayhayt (“Morning

Freedom’), a New York-based newspaper also affiliated with the communist party.’® The American historian Lucy S. Dawidowicz, later an eminent scholar of

the Holocaust, became acquainted with him in 1938-9 during her study year at YIVO, the Yiddish Research Institute in Vilna. In her memoir, From that Place and Time, she offered this impression: 16 Born in Smorgon, near Vilna, in 1896, Kulbak lived in Berlin before returning to Vilna in 1923, where as an instructor at the gymnasium he mentored many aspiring Yiddish writers. He left Vilna in 1928, initially for Minsk, Soviet Belorussia. A major Yiddish poet and author, Kulbak was murdered c.1940 during a Stalinist purge; cf. The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse, ed. 1. Howe, R. Wisse,

and Kh. Shmeruk (New York, 1988), 379. On the genesis of Yung Vilne, see J. D. Cammy, “The Emergence of Yung Vilne’, Polin, 14 (2001), 170-91. Cammy maintains that Kaczerginski was not a ‘founding member’ of the group (as sometimes stated) since his writings did not appear, nor was he even mentioned, in Reyzen’s Vilner tog story. Within months of Yung Vilne’s debut, however, Kaczerginski had become a pivotal member of the group. (Justin Cammy, telephone conversation, 15 Sept. 2004.) 17 Kaczerginski signed his work ‘Kh. Shmerke’, ‘Kh.’ (Heb.) abbreviating khaver (friend), an equivalent to ‘comrade’ in Jewish political circles. According to Cammy, Kaczerginski’s editing tasks consumed time he might otherwise have spent on his own writing (Cammy, pers. comm.). However, both

Sutzkever and the compiler of the Ondenk-bukh bibliography (‘Shmerke katsherginskis verk’, 573) concur that during this period Khaver Shmerke produced a novel, Yugnt on freyd (‘Youth without Joy’), and, with fellow Yung Vilner Moyshe Levin, co-authored a play, Azoy iz umetum (‘Thus It Is Everywhere’); neither work seems to have survived. A novella (or novella fragment) by Khaver Shmerke, Monyek in zayn svive (‘Monyek in his Surroundings’) appeared in the third (1936) issue of the journal Yung vilne; cf. Ran, Yerushalayim d’lite, 1, 362; Sutzkever, ‘D1 grine legende’, Ondenkbukh, 113.

18 ‘Vilna Agroid’, a ‘society for the encouragement of agricultural labour and home industry among Jews in Poland’. According to Ran, Yerushalayim d’lite, i. 238, this organization promoted Jewish settlement in Soviet Birobidzan.

398 Bret Werb He was barely taller than I and, though I later learned that he was then thirty years old, he looked like a teenager. Behind his big, round, black-rimmed glasses you could see that he was slightly cross-eyed. He had a high forehead and a snubbed nose. He was shabbily dressed, but that didn’t inhibit his boisterous sociability. ... He chose printing as his trade because he had fallen in love with the printed word, with books and writing. ... When I met him, he was still working in a printing shop, but he was still very poor. Genial and goodnatured, he was also rough and tough, ready with his fists. He’d grown up in a harsh and brutal world where he learned to protect himself. He was known to have taken on antiSemites spoiling for a fight. ‘Today we’d call him street smart. He was reputed to be—or to have been—a dedicated Communist. [Dawidowicz’s friend, Zelig] Kalmanovich knew his history and warned me that Shmerke had been arrested a couple of times for writing or publishing pieces the authorities considered subversive. ‘Thereafter, he had been under

police surveillance, though that was probably no longer the case when I was there... . Shmerke’s literary output was small. He had written some stories and journalistic pieces. His occasional verses were like folk songs, some sentimental, others bristling with leftist militancy. Some had been set to music and were sung in Vilna. He was all sociability and gregariousness. His greatest talent was organizing things—meetings, art exhibits, excursions, parties. He kept Young Vilna together as a group, socially and institutionally. 1?

The dynamism of Yung Vilne and the creative and administrative skills Kaczerginski developed while associated with the group were to inform his activities during the war years, already looming at the time of Dawidowicz’s visit.7° Under the terms of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact, Vilna became the

Lithuanian capital after Poland fell to Germany in September 1939. Having cast his lot with the communists, Kaczerginski left Vilna after the Red Army ended a month-long occupation of the city.7! He found a teaching position in a village newly under Soviet control, then moved to the formerly Polish city of Bialystok, now also in the Soviet Zone, to join the army as a volunteer.?* When, in June 1940, 19 L. S. Dawidowicz, From that Place and Time: A Memoir 1938-1947 (New York, 1989), 121, 122, 123.

20 Dawidowicz left Poland in Aug. 1939. For more on Kaczerginski’s contribution to Yung Vilne,

see Y. Botoshanski, ‘Sh. katsherginski—der praktisher dikhter fun “yung-vilne”’ (‘Shmerke Kaczerginski, the Practical Poet of Young Vilna’), Ondenk-bukh, 27-31. 21 Vilna, historically the Lithuanian capital, was annexed by Poland during the Polish—Soviet war of 1919-21 (throughout the inter-war period the nation’s second city, Kaunas (Kovno in Yiddish), served as the capital). With the implementation of the Nazi—Soviet Pact (signed 23 Aug. 1939), Poland and

the Baltic States were partitioned into German and Soviet spheres of interest; Lithuania’s claim to Vilna was affirmed in a subsequent protocol of 29 Sept. The Red Army occupied Vilna from 18 Sept. until its transfer to the still nominally independent Lithuanian Republic on ro Oct. 1939. Lithuania was formally absorbed into the Soviet Union on 3 Aug. 1940: see under ‘Vilna’, ‘Lithuania’, and

~ “Nazi—Soviet Pact’, in I. Gutman (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (New York, 1990); E. TuSkenis, ‘Critical Dates and Events’, in Lituanus, Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, 32/4 (Winter 1986), online: . 22 As a non-Soviet citizen, Kaczerginski probably signed on as a dobrovolets, an irregular enlistee whose obligations to the military structure differed considerably from those of ordinary conscripts. Cf. S. Ozhegov and N. Shvedova, Tolkovyi slovar' russkogo yazyka: So,000 slov 1 frazeologicheskikh vyrazhenu (Moscow, 1995).

Shmerke Kaczerginski 399 Red Army troops again entered Vilna, this time to proclaim Lithuania a Soviet Socialist Republic, Kaczerginski returned with them, ending his first lengthy sojourn away from his home town. In Soviet Vilna, Kaczerginski found work with various cultural organizations,

including the Jewish writers’ union. But the satisfaction he had taken in the Bolshevik coup began to sour as he personally witnessed the Stalinist experiment in societal transformation. Together with the majority of Vilna Jews of every political stripe, Kaczerginski had believed that the new regime would tolerate, even support, secular Jewish culture. Instead, he witnessed the censoring and shuttering of Yiddish newspapers and printing houses, and the arrest and deportation of prominent Jewish figures, including many long-standing party stalwarts, suddenly and inexplicably branded as ‘capitalists’ and ‘reactionaries’.2? Among the exiled was Yung Vilne’s impresario, the Vilner tog editor Zalman Reyzen, a champion of workers’ rights who, like Kaczerginski, had fought for and welcomed the change of government.”4

In June 1941, not quite one year after the Soviet takeover, Germany turned against its ally and invaded the Baltic States, in the process stepping up its campaign to eradicate European Jewry.*° In Vilna, as in all newly conquered eastern territories, Jews not murdered outright were forced into ghettos or sent to labour camps. Kaczerginski evaded the initial round-ups by posing as a deaf-mute—his thick Yiddish accent in Polish would have betrayed his disguise—and with a tin cup and placard roved the city streets begging alms from the already hard-pressed citizens.7° In Avrom Sutzkever’s telling, his friend had ‘slithered through a hundred hells’ before this imposture was discovered and he was finally sent to the ghetto, in

early 1942.2” Once there, he promptly turned his versifying skills and organizational genius towards the cause of resistance: writing songs to console and encourage the ghetto dwellers while drawing up schemes to undermine the enemy. Kaczerginski understood that diversion could be a positive force during trying

times, and assumed a key role in organizing the ghetto’s theatrical productions, literary evenings, and educational programmes. It seems likely, too, that he met and married his first wife, Barbara Kaufman, in the ghetto; he was, in any event, widowed there in April 1943, and the lyrics he penned during this period mirror the uncertainty and also the obstinate hope that characterized ghetto life. Many became instant favourites, including his elegiac tango ‘Friling’ (‘Springtime’), 23 _Kaczerginski recounts his experiences during the Sovietization of Vilna in Tsvishn hamer un serp (1949), 14-30. 24 The elderly Reyzen would die in a Soviet prison camp in 1941. 25 See e.g. Y. Arad, The ‘Final Solution’ in Lithuania in the Light of German Documentation (Jerusalem, 1976), and Ghetto in Flames: The Struggle and Destruction of the fews in Vilna in the Holocaust (New York, 1982).

26 Details on Kaczerginski’s Yiddish-accented Polish are related by Julio and Nusia Gotlib, interview, Buenos Aires, Nov. 2004. 27 Sutzkever, ‘Di grine legende’, Ondenk-bukh, 113. Partial translation by Gerald Stillman in Jewish Currents (Mar. 1995), 27.

400 Bret Werb written on the occasion of Barbara’s death; ‘Shtiler, shtiler’ (Quiet, quiet’), an ode to the victims of the killing field Ponar, near Vilna; and ‘Yugnt himen’ (“Hymn

of Youth’), which was adopted as the anthem of the ghetto youth club.”° Kaczerginski later reflected on the creation and diffusion of such songs within the ghetto’s surreal environment: ‘In ordinary times each song would probably travel a long road to popularity. But in the ghetto we observed a marvellous phenomenon: individual works transformed into folklore before our eyes.’ In retrospect, he was awed by the creativity and dedication of artists trapped behind the ghetto walls: It seems unnatural when in a moment of high tragedy an actor on stage suddenly breaks into song. You would think: this does not happen in real life. But ‘real life’ has shown us otherwise. On the day the partisans of the Vilna ghetto mobilized to defend their commander Itsik Vitnberg, though I knew my final hour was fast approaching, I continued to work on my diary. And when we partisans stood on the barricades, the Gestapo blasting away, Sutzkever, Opeskin, Hirsh Glik, and other armed authors kept on scribbling their creative work.?°

In March 1942 representatives of Einsatzstab Rosenberg, the official Nazi agency for the confiscation of Jewish cultural property, arrived in Vilna intent on plundering the city’s fabled collections of rare books and Judaica. From among the ghetto intelligentsia, the Germans assembled a team qualified to choose the most valuable

items for shipment to the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question, in Frankfurt.*! (Afterwards contemplating the fate of those volumes rejected by the German agents, Kaczerginski lamented: “Tens of thousands of books, many, many

unique editions from Venice, Salonika, Amsterdam, Prague, Krakow, Vilna, hauled off to the paper crematoria.’**) This team, which included Kaczerginski, Sutzkever, and the educator Rakhele Pupko-Krinski, was soon engaged in a dangerous rescue operation, smuggling precious cultural artefacts from the Rosenberg headquarters on the ‘Aryan side’ of Vilna, past armed sentries, and into the ghetto 28 In his commentary to ‘Friling’ (Lider fun di getos un lagern, 71), Kaczerginski notes only his wife’s

first name, family name, and place of birth, Krakow. The melody to ‘Friling’, independently composed by the 11-year-old Aleksander Wolkowiski, had won a music competition sponsored by the Vilna ghetto Judenrat (cf. ‘Shtiler, shtiler’, ibid. 89). Along with Sutzkever and other ghetto notables, Kaczerginski taught and lectured at the youth club—and may have combined these duties with reconnaissance work for the underground resistance: in July 1943 the ghetto chief Jakob Gens disbanded the youth club after several members were found to have been concealing weapons. Cf. R. KostanianDanzig, Spiritual Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto (Vilnius, 2002), 97-9. 29 Dos gezang fun vilner geto, ed. Sh. Kaczerginski (Paris, 1947), 9.

8° Ibid. The Vilna-born teacher and writer Leyb Opeskin (1908-44) was one of the founders of the ghetto underground movement; cf. Sh. Kaczerginski, Khurbn vilne (New York, 1947), 179-80.

| 31 On Einsatzstab Rosenberg in Vilna, see D. Fishman, Embers Plucked from the Fire: The Rescue of Jewish Cultural Treasures in Vilna (New York, 1996), 4-7. 82 Kaczerginski, Partizaner geyen!, 2nd edn. (Bamberg, 1948), 68. Completed in L6dz in Apr. 1946, Partizaner geyen! draws on journals Kaczerginski kept while a partisan fighter. The phrase ‘paper crematoria’ (papir-krematories) refers to German papermills where cast-off books were to be pulped and recycled into new paper.

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