Posted Ian Shulman
Sister cities or twin cities is an extremely fascinating, but almost meaningless puzzle. Indeed, there are cities with almost sisterly relations, tightly connected through history, names, personalities and legends. But ‘sister cities’ are essentially pairs of cities, connected through partnerships, which aim to promote cultural and commercial ties between them. And even though the real, implied tie between sister cities may often look like a hidden key, most probably there is nothing there to be found except for a bunch of signed agreements between two truly random town halls.
In any case, it’s probably impossible to put each and every city into a family relation. There must be some ‘only child’ cities. For example, who can be a sister of New York City? The metropolis is too diverse to be paired with something both in official and imaginary sense. Even its districts are consisting of different neighborhoods, each resembling a different town, if not a different country. However, both NYC and its districts of NYC do have sister cities and districts. I couldn’t resist searching for a true sisterhood among these bureaucratic agreements, and I succeeded – Brooklyn, the heart of American Jewish life, appeared to be paired with Israeli Kfar Chabad and Viennese district of Leopoldstadt. In other words – with Israeli affiliate of Chabad movement and the only reborn Jewish district in Central Europe.
Other four partners of Brooklyn – Anzio in Italy, Gdynia in Poland, Besiktas in Turkey and Lambeth Borough of Greater London – are most probably merely typical partner cities. Kfar Chabad has a special kind of partnership – Brooklyn’s neighborhood Crown Heights is today’s center of the world Chabad Movement, which actually founded Kfar Chabad (literally meaning ‘Chabad Village’) and placed a copy of 770 Eastern Parkway building (the Chabad headquarters in Crown Heights) there. But in case of Leopoldstadt, the sisterhood is especially meaningful, honorary and deserved.
Mazzesinsel / Island of Matzos
Once being a suburban Jewish ghetto, Leopoldstadt has transformed into a vibrant international district and a true center of Central European Jewish life by the end of the 19th century. Being separated by the Danube from the north and by the Danube channel from the south, the area was nicknamed ‘Mazzesinsel’, which means ‘Matzo island’. Located in some 10 minutes walk from Stephansplatz, Vienna’s main square, the Jewish island together with the whole northern bank of the Danube channel was remaining a true ‘Ausland’, a foreign country for a lot of people in Vienna. The reason for this prejudice was not only a significant Jewish population of the area, but also the Nordbahnhof, the North Railway Station located there, through which thousand of emigrants from the Eastern parts of the empire were arriving to Vienna and settling in the district. Back then, the Danube was forming a natural border of both Leopoldstadt and the city of Vienna, and once you cross it, just some 80 km of rural area were dividing you from the borders with Czech Republic and Slovakia. Numerous of beautiful synagogues and yeshivas, Arnold Schöneberg, Sigmund Freud, Viktor Frankl, Arthur Schnitzler, Theodor Hertzl and Billy Wilder – it used to be the beautiful Leopoldstadt, the global Leopoldstadt, the fascinating Leopoldstadt before the 1939.
Flakturmsinsel / Island of Flakturms
Flakturms are probably the only distinctive thing the district gained after the occupation of 1939. Two gross and ugly concrete towers, which were meant to defend the city from the ally aviation, were erected during the war in the Leopoldstadt’s park Augarten, which was once used by Habsburgs for horse promenades and other outdoor leisure activities. The towers are still there today, casting shadows over a kosher shop and a yeshiva. The name ‘Island of Matzos’ is used today as well, after almost 50 years of concrete dullness.
Einwanderungsinsel / Island of Emigration
The first Jewish emigrants have returned to Leopoldstadt right after the end of World War II, having fled to Eastern Europe before the war and now fleeing back from the Communistic regime there. They were later accompanied by those who managed to escape Hungary after the Soviet tanks have entered the country in 1956 and Czechoslovakia after the same happened there in 1968. In the 1970s, Vienna has become a hub for emigrants from Soviet union, heading to Israel or Western Europe. Many of them decided to stay in the city for good. Still, the Jewish community of Vienna was remaining rather small. The situation has changed in the early 1990s, when the Jewish emigrants from the former Soviet Union, many coming from Caucasus or Asia and having Jewish Georgian or Bukhari origin, have moved to Vienna and stayed in Leopoldstadt.
Globalisierungsinsel / Island of Globalisation
Today’s Leopoldstadt is connected to other parts of the city by U1 and U2 underground lines, hosts a regional railroad hub Praterstern, a huge 200-year-old Prater park with immense outdoor facilities and the Ernst-Happel-Stadium, where the final game of UEFA 2008 took place. A bunch of synagogues, kosher restaurants, shops and cafes, a Jewish high school, sports center and nursing home are there as well. New emigrants, many of which are Jewish, keep on settling in the area. Leopoldstadt is slowly becoming a somewhat stylish, fancy and extraordinary working-class neighborhood, better then it was 30 years ago and different from what it was 100 years ago. It’s once again not unusual to hear ‘Shabbat Shalom’ while walking down the Taborstrasse, the central street of the district, on Friday night. And last but not least – the name ‘Mazzesinsel’ is in use again.
4.18.13 at 1:25 am | Thomas Soxberger was born in 1965 in Lower. . .
4.18.13 at 1:23 am | Today is April 10th … a significant date for. . .
4.18.13 at 1:15 am | As she was passing by some girls in their. . .
4.18.13 at 1:07 am | I must admit that even before we arrived in. . .
3.19.13 at 7:47 am | The poetry of Naftali Herz Kon was finally. . .
3.19.13 at 7:45 am | The Holocaust, globally the largest crime in. . .
7.25.12 at 12:48 pm | Unfulfilled murderers, domestic sadists – nice. . . (77)
4.18.13 at 1:15 am | As she was passing by some girls in their. . . (31)
10.30.12 at 5:53 am | During all my visits to Israel and throughout the. . . (8)
August 6, 2012 | 12:05 pm
Posted Michał Zajda
Every self-respecting football fan knows perfectly which team is the oldest one, however not everyone knows its history. Cracovia has been renowned for its openness and tolerance, especially towards the Jews who gave foundations to the club and provided many activists and football players. The history of Cracovia consists of rises and falls. As a generally academic and Jewish team, it had its greatest sports achievements before the war. After the war had ended, it was brutally marginalised by the communist authorities. Despite their persecutions, the “Stripes” was a brand still acknowledged in the whole Poland and many people identified themselves with them.
We will probably never find out who published the announcement in the most popular Krakow newspaper. Nowa Reforma [New Reform] in issue No. 132 of 13 June 1906 announced: “An academic footballers’ club (football play) is being established in Krakow. The football exercises start on Wednesday, 13th day of the current month. All persons willing to belong to the club are asked to come to Dr. Jordan Park on Wednesday at 6.00 p.m. in front of the pavilion.” The persons who must have come were the students of the Jagiellonian University, called at that time “the academics”, Franciszek Boczarski and Bernard Miller (law), Rajmund Szolz and Stanisław Wójtowicz (philosophy) as they played in the first matches, results of which were published in the Krakow press. Possibly, there were also “the students”, as the pupils of gymnasiums, especially the King Jan Sobieski Gymnasium, were called - Adolf Holoubek, Mieczysław Pollak and Józef Lustgarten.
The 1930s was a time of increasing fascism in Europe. Hitler’s order found recognition in many countries. Also in Poland the activity of national democratic environments, aimed especially at the Jews, increased.
One of the first demands was introduction of the numerus unus rule at the Polish universities, i.e. introducing a limit of Jewish students. The Jagiellonian University, introduced numerus unus in the academic year of 1937/38 to all faculties. The limit for Jews amounted to 10% of places. The authority forced also economic boycott of Jewish salesmen, and in several cities it even rose to pogroms. In such atmosphere of violence, opposing the fascist armed squads required real courage. In the football world they postulated numerus nullus, that is a total access prohibition for the Jews. Such regulation was introduced by some sport clubs. The statutes of Wisła Kraków banned non-Poles from membership. On the break of 1937 and 1938, Warta Poznań brought a request of introducing the Aryan paragraph excluding from the Polish Football Association all non-Catholic clubs, referees and players. It was supported by Wisła Kraków and AKS Chorzów. Cracovia, backed up by Pogoń Lviv and ŁKS Łódź, stood up for the right of the Jews and other ethnic minorities. The anti-Semitic regulations were not adopted due to objections of the governmental authorities. They League authorities, however, were in favour of them. The disobedient clubs were under constant pressure. Cracovia did not submit to these rules and this is where their problems with the referees came from. In the 1938 season, the referees whistled constantly against Cracovia and allowed brutal game against its players, whereas the Stripes, when being fouled with impunity and meted out justice for themselves, were disqualified immediately. The most peculiar moment of that campaign was, however, annulment of a home match won by Cracovia over Polonia, after the referee had published self-criticism in a newspaper. The match was ordered to be replayed - that was the only case in the history of the Polish football. Cracovia lost the replay and instead of third place, it came seventh.
The name played surely a crucial role. Besides, Cracovia, from its very beginnings, was an open and democratic club. The designers of the club’s badge - a flag with four white and three red longitudinal stripes - which has been used in an unchanged form since 1908, was the “international” trio: Englishman William Calder, Jew Józef Lustgarten and Pole Wacław Wojakowski. Three nationalities, three religions… Cracovia’s players featured the Englishman Calder, the Austrian Singer, the Czech Just, the Hungarian Obert, just to mention only the most important names. The champions’ team in 1921 was made of a strange conglomeration of people - beginning with an owner of a vast estate (Stefan Popiel), through a medicine student (Stanisław Cikowski), a Jagiellonian University philology graduate (Tadeusz Synowiec), a car mechanic (Bolesław Kotapka), a teacher (Józef Kałuża), a bank clerk (Leon Sperling), ending with a house painter (Edward Strycharz). Cracovia never posed racial or religious barriers.
The history and tradition of Cracovia may become a model of cosmopolitanism and openness which are characteristic for Krakow. The Poles are still fond of the club which embodies everything that was beautiful and valuable in the pre-war Poland. Many unique people sympathised and sympathise with Cracovia, among them: John Paul II, Norman Davies, Mieczysław Fogg, Walery Goetel, Jerzy Harasymowicz, Gustaw Holoubek, Nigel Kennedy, Jerzy Pilch, Józef Piłsudski and Kazimierz Wyka. The popular “Stripes”, as Cracovia is usually called, can and even should become the flagship of the reviving Jewish sport in Poland.
July 25, 2012 | 1:14 pm
Posted Gábor Sárosi
The main suspect of last week’s terrorist attack in Bulgaria had a quite big file of involvement in activities of different terrorist groups. He was held for 2 years in Guantanamo, but - being a Swedish citizen - he was sent back to Sweden, where charges were not pressed against him. The Swedish authorities probably didn’t find him dangerous enough to keep him in jail or custody in order to protect innocent people from him. The result of this decision is seven dead and several injured people, whose only sin was going on a vacation by the Black Sea, or being a busdriver. I am sure, the Swedish authorities were trying to make a responsible decision, and avoid the conviction of someone who has probably not killed anyone yet. The freedom of the individual (liberal value) gained priority over the security of the community (conservative value).
In the beginning/middle of the last decade, when the second Intifada reached its peak, Israel has built a system of fences and walls in order to prevent Palestinian terrorists from getting into Israeli cities. Some might say it is only a coincidence, but as the fence was built up, the number of terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens dropped radically, leading to the end of the daily violence, thus saving many lives on both sides. On the other hand, tough security measures hardened the freedom of movement for many Palestinians, including the peaceful ones. The security of the community gained priority over the freedom of the individual.
Sweden is glorified in the World as one of the leading countries in human rights and freedom.
Israel is criticized in the World as being an oppressor and using “excessive force”.
The 13th century Jewish polyhistor, Maimonides teaches, that one of the most important principle is to walk the golden middle way. The Hebrew word “Emet” means truth, but it also means balance. It consists three Hebrew letters: aleph (the first one in the alphabet), mem (the 12th one in the middle), and tav (the 22th or last one). The two extremes on the sides, but in the center, the golden middle one. Truth = Balance.
If we lose balance we’ll eventually fall
3000 years ago in the Middle East slavery was common. In Babylon slaves had no rights, they had to work all the time, the law didn’t secure their life, rather entitled their masters to kill them if they didn’t need them anymore. Same in Egypt. There was only one nation which recognized the basic rights of the slaves: Israel. The Torah prohibits the masters to kill their slaves, who even received a day of rest every week! In those times and place the Torah represented unbelivable social rights and liberalism.
Nowadays, the leading media and organisations in the World judge countries and societies based on how “Western”, how liberal they are.
In the Western cultures less and less children are born, but proportionaly more and more of them are born to single mothers. Besides many useful sources, all kinds of unhealthy material is easily accessible to children. Even though, freedom of speech in most countries doesn’t apply on incitement and racism, it is nearly impossible to enforce those prohibitions. In fact, Western societies idolize individual freedom even when it poses a great danger to society.
Judaism refers to the Jewish people as light for the nations. Jews should be the examples of living by truth, in the right balance (unfortunately we sometimes fail to succeed in this). When it is normal in the World to treat certain people as objects or working machines, we should show, that every human being deserves the basic human rights! Similarly, when the World has gone too far in worshipping individual freedom, we should show that the golden middle way for the community is a bit (but not too much) back towards the conservative side.
This post is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Burgas terrorist attack:
Maor Harush (24) Acre, Israel
Itzik Kolangi (28) Petah Tikva, Israel
Mustafa Kyosov (36) Yurokovo, Bulgaria (bus driver)
Amir Menashe (28) Petach Tikva. Israel
Elior Preiss (25) Acre, Israel
Kochava Shriki (42) Rishon LeZion, Israel (pregnant)
May them be the last ones who had to die due to the lack of Emet in the World.
July 25, 2012 | 1:11 pm
Posted Gábor Sárosi
Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift up?
This is the famous “omnipotence paradox”. If the answer is yes, He can, then His weightlifting-power is limited, if the answer is no, He can’t, than His creating-power is limited. Either way, God is not omnipotent.
There are a few proposed answers from big thinkers. (just type “omnipotence paradox” in google, or wikipedia)
I would like to suggest the following answer:
The answer for this question is not yes or no. The answer is: it is a wrong question. Why?
Let’s see first, how infinite works in mathematics (don’t worry, it is not difficult maths, just a little logic). Infinite is not an exact number. If you add one to infinite, what is the result? Infinite. So, the second infinite is bigger than the first one, since we added one to it. The same way, if we subtract one from infinite, we get infinite. In this case the second infinite is smaller than the first one.
The same, using mathematical signs:
∞ + 1 = ∞
∞ - 1 = ∞
if these are true, than:
You can’t really add/subtract a number to/from infinite. You will always get the same number, then the number which you added/subtracted doesn’t exist. Let me demonstrate it with a very simple equation:
∞ + 1 = ∞ / - ∞
1 = 0
(or 1 = ∞)
But this is not true: 1 is not 0, neither infinite. One is one.
Therefore we can’t use our known mathematical operations with infinite, because - as we’ve just seen - they will terminate in a false result. This happens with summation, subtraction, multiplication, division, and all the other known operations. We can’t even use the smaller/bigger signs. Why is it so? Because all these mathematical operations are for the finite World. For real numbers, which are all finite. When we use infinite, all the finite operations and relation marks fail.
Now, let’s go back to the “omnipotent paradox”. Can God create a stone, which He cannot lift up? Let God’s creating-power be “C”, and his lifting-power “L”. We assume, that both L and C are infinite (that is why the whole question is asked). The question is: which is bigger, L or C ? which of these statements is true?
< L now the answer is: He can't, so He is not omnipotent, because His creation-power is limited.
L now the answer is: He can, so He is not omnipotent, because His lifting-power is limited.
C = L now the answer is again He can’t, so He is not omnipotent, because His creating-power is limited.
But we’ve seen above, that we can’t say C
L, neither C = L, because both C and L are infinite, and relation marks don’t work in the World of infinite.
Therefore the answer for the original question is:
The question is wrong, because it has a false assumption, that relation marks can be used in the World of infinite.
July 25, 2012 | 12:48 pm
Posted Michał Zajda
SS-Hauptsturmführer, SS No. – 43673.
Amon Leopold Goeth, like many Nazi criminals, was born in Vienna, on December 11,1908. Before the war he was a modest clerk, with a passion for literature. He was a ticking time bomb. Unfulfilled murderers, domestic sadists – nice and likeable on the surface, of whom a neighbour, upon hearing that by noon they killed half a kindergarten, would say “impossible, he was such a nice and well-mannered man”.
Such people grow in strength during a war. Their second self, or maybe even their whole self, can shoot at helpless people in the glory of law and patriotism. Degenerated rascal and scoundrel, death-man! He dealt punishment out by himself. He beat and encouraged beating. He set dogs on people. He tormented anything that was alive, just another Goethe lover! If he wasn’t hung in Poland, the German justice administration would have leaned over his heavy war experience and discontinued the case due to lack of sufficient evidence of guilt.
The day of February 13th, 1942 engraved with blood in the annuals of the Krakow history. It was then that Amon Goeth became the commandant of the camp. Previously, he was an administration officer controlling the death camps in Bełżec, Sobibor and Treblinka. He was authorised in person, which was a rare thing, by another “great Austrian” – Odilo Globocnik. The head of “Reinhard operation”, the man responsible for murdering millions of people. It should be stated that the new function was absolutely a promotion for Goeth who was to make use of the experience gained in the death camps for reinforcing the one thousand years old Reich. Goeth, as the commandant of the Płaszów camp, was the superior of all other minor camps, the so called Arbeitskommandos, located in Krakow. Just as on the previous post with Globocnik, Goeth had the right to enter every camp, which he often did. He participated actively in the liquidation of the ghettos in Krakow, Rzeszów and Przemyśl, and the liquidation of the Tarnów ghetto was controlled by him personally. He had enormous power and prestige among criminals like him who described the Płaszów camp as “Lager Goeth”. Goeth also had his private camp jail – leaving barely anyone alive. The death sentences were usually performed by the Jewish Ghetto Police but the Commandant very often could not deny himself the pleasure of killing and often reached for the gun, becoming a passionate and loyal arm of the Nazi justice.
Amon Goeth, however, was not a Nazi philanthropist blindly following his principal Heinrich Himmler. He liked gold and money. The valuables taken from the prisoners were stored in a camp unit with a catchy name: Effektenkammer. During initial sorting of the robbed jewelery, the first to be awarded were all the kinds of helpers who the Commandant made use of in his criminal business. Next, the more valuable items were presented, surely by mistake and as a result of Jewish conspiracy, to the surprise of anything Goeth. Everything that left was sent to the warehouse of post-Jewish property. From there the valuables and foreign currency were transported to the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt [SS Main Economic and Administrative Department] in Berlin. The next stage was the Reich’s Treasury and then probably Switzerland or Argentina, where people like Goeth – “those who only obeyed orders” – lived and laughed in the face of what honest people call justice! Goeth, however, by robbing the Jewish prisoners of all earthly goods and appropriating them, robbed at the same time the unbreakable Reich. And that was something they did not tolerate. Many people devoted and similar to him, probably not generously presented by their benefactor, informed the top. He was arrested on September 13th, 1944 and later brought before the SS court. It was then that somebody realized that abusing the prisoners, as well as stealing and misusing the power given with Führer’s grace was not right. He plead guilty!
At the end of the war, Goeth managed to escape from a Nazi prison, or as he claimed, he was released. He got into American hands who immediately gave him away to Poland where on August 27th, 1946 he appeared before the Polish Supreme National Tribunal. The trial revealed the true face of Amon Goeth who wallowed in luxury in the Płaszów camp. He lived in a beautifully equipped villa with a swimming pool in the garden and employed prisoners as servants – mainly women. Heoften threw lavish parties where the “first fiddle” was played by a friend of his – Majola. Goeth fed his dogs with meat earmarked for the prisoners, his beloved dog Rolf arousing fear just like his owner. During his walks, he specialised in various murders. The idea of dying by his hand was enough to not show disrespect to the commandment.
Władysław Kopystecki, a Pole lying curbstones at the camp, testified: “When he [Amon Goeth] came to the camp with his dog, in a white shirt, in high boots, he found her at the back eating a potato. He shot at her head. She fell at the cauldron. Then he called two Jews who worked in the stable and ordered to throw her to the other cauldron with boiling water. [...] The Jews threw her inside, she still lived, and she moved her legs splashing that boiling water. So he ordered to cover her and walked away.” He also murdered children. Once, an incident like this happened: A six-year-old boy, after being dropped from a truck, began to run away. Goeth called then: “Komm, komm, hab keine Angst!” [Come, come, don’t be afraid!] Suddenly, the boy stopped. He took a mirror and some toys out of his pocket, trying maybe subconsciously to avoid death. With a forgiving smile, Goeth took everything from him only to shoot the boy with his own hands.
Once he shot his housemaid. When he returned home, completely drunk, he met her at the stairs and shook hands with her. She, surprised with the gesture, said she was Jewish. When he sobered up the next day and recalled that incident, he called the woman and shot her down. He also shot his batman because he prepared the wrong horse for a ride.
On September 5th, 1946, Amon Goeth heard the sentence: capital punishment, loss of civil rights and honorary civil rights for ever, and confiscation of property. The law of mercy was not used. On September 13th, 1946 the sentence was performed. By hanging.
That was the end of one of the greatest criminals the Earth has ever known. A man devoid of any feelings. A mere bandit lacking ideals who fell into disgrace of people similar to him. He was not even able to hide himself after the war and as we know, many of his fellows managed to do that. Practically, he did not defend in the court, probably realizing that the only thing available for him in Poland, was death.
July 25, 2012 | 4:03 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
I was brought to this place by Wikipedia. While reading about a demolished synagogue in Skoczów I noticed some information about a nearby cemetery. Night had already fallen, so I came back the next day. Little places like this have this are wonderful though they are easy to miss. Try to use your car navigation system to find the cemetery in Wilamowice and you will undoubtedly end up somewhere close by, if not at the exact address. Fortunately, a friend of mine knew the way.
Entrance to the cemetery – a large gate, a small sign saying that it is a historic monument, no more information. A black dog is inside and looks at us not knowing what to do. Eat them alive? We enter and to our surprise we see that on the cemetery plot there is an inhabited house. The doors are open, you can spot laundry drying in the wind, shoes… Living within a cemetery sounds pretty exciting. The building itself was a part of the venue. It used to be occupied by the caretaker. There would have been a mortuary house but it had been demolished. Today, in this densely populated area the cemetery looks as it had fallen from the skies in the middle of the neighborhood. Houses are so close that they almost enter (well, the caretaker’s house has actually entered…) the place.
The cemetery was established for the community living in the Skoczów area in 1891. However after the 1930s’ some of the wealthier Jews left the area due to anti-Jewish propaganda events. The cemetery was therefore used less up until 1939. The German troops entered Skoczów on September 2. and shortly after that the synagogue and the cemetery had been destroyed. There have been over three hundred people buried at the site and the oldest gravestone commemorates Perel Zabarski who died in January 1891.
The period after the war can be described as a slow decay of the place. Nobody really cared about the remnants of the stones. Some of them were sold and some were brought to a nearby cement factory. Only some years after the war did the Jewish families from the area begin recovering the stones from them. In the 70’ there was even an idea to transform the site into a culture centre or a park. Who knows how the story of the site would develop if not for the Jewish society in Brussels. There were some people whose roots were in the Skoczów area and wanted to restore the forgotten place. Together with Fundacja Wiecznej Pamięci (The Foundation of Eternal Remembrance) they managed to clear out the area and arrange 54 macebas that now create some sort of monument with a large stone in the centre of the Star of David. The inscription on the stone commemorates Jews murdered in the area between 1939-1945.
The lapidary part is not that interesting though. We walked a bit outside the arranged macebas and you can still spot some of the gravestones lying on the grass. Sometimes covered with moss, sometimes barely possible to spot. There are some that are still standing proudly. When we leave the place somebody looks at us in disbelief. Apparently, not many people come inside.
More information about the site (in Polish):
July 25, 2012 | 4:01 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
The Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Poland, interesting, isn’t it? The organization’s goals of breaking barriers and changing stereotypes, give the people contributing to the seminar and organisation, as well as its potential participants, an uncomfortable feeling of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Maybe having been a conference participant, I should write about the conference itself?
There were lectures, discussions, professors and nice evenings—like the one spent in a jacuzzi with new friends from Australia, America, Ukraine and Israel. More than the course of the seminar itself, I am more interested in its location on the world map. So it happened that this one took place in the most anti-Semitic country in Europe − the Jewish cemetery, the place of bad memories. That was, unfortunately, the attitude of many conference participants from all over the world. Their negative feelings towards Poland are born out of bad memories of their grandparents or parents. All that, additionally seasoned with a visit to Auschwitz, colored almost every conversation and discussion.
As a Jew from Poland or a Polish woman of Jewish origin (anyway they classify me) I do not have such an attitude towards Poland and the Poles. I wonder why. Am I not Jewish enough to get caught by the stamp of bad memories or have I succumbed to the Polish propaganda and promotion? The Poles − friends of Israel? It seems quite hard to imagine as Poland, with regard to the Jewish question, is rather complicated. What do I mean? The truth is that the Polish history contains both glorious and inglorious events. Although I could mention several facts, I will not do it as there are other people in Jewrnalism who would do it better. I only would like to draw attention to the resonance of particular behaviours and the present discourse. Now, Poland the country and the Poles as a people, did much for the Jews before, during and after the war, but nobody talks about that.
In the memories of the Holocaust survivors, the help of the Polish people faded and is not relevant when compared to the magnitude of their tragedy. Larger or smaller percentage, who cares? A human can be either a good being or an evil one, no matter under which banner they stand − Polish, German or Israeli. It might seem that such issues should not matter. A human who commits crimes should be punished, the one who helped should be awarded or at least mentioned in a positive light. However, in the contemporary Jewish world, the devil is in the details, i.e. in the so called discourse. The banners do matter, and so for instance the Poles are, were and will be evil. What is more, characterised by innate stupidity, they would never invent Holocaust. Nevertheless, they are extremely grateful to the Germans that they liberated them from the Jews. And they, of course, helped them willingly! The Pole had to wait over seven hundred years for a charismatic leader in the person of Hitler who would help them murder almost one third of their own citizens. Indeed, the Jew also was a Polish citizen, ipso facto to a large extent they were also Poles. Although almost six and a half thousand Righteous among the Nations are Polish, that is the largest number of all other nations, this fact is not mentioned. Just as the events in Bulgaria where the trains transporting Jews were stopped. The pity is that the majority of people do not ask “why”. Well, the awareness of death penalty makes difference, dear sirs and madams. How many of us would sacrifice their lives just to rescue a stranger? Almost nobody − that is certain! And this is why heroes like Irena Sendlerowa should be remembered and praised, and the youth should be educated to never forget about them. The thing is, that in Poland there are still many people who saved and protected the Jews. Nobody talks about them because they’ve not asked for glory. Saving a neighbour, a Jewish friend, seemed a natural behaviour to them. Many lost their own lives, however many saved other ones. As they perceive it to be completely natural, they do not boast about it. For me, this is a reason to boast about, however after what I’ve heard from my foreign friends I claim that a gram or even better, a kilogramme, of self-promotion would come in handy. I am angry with Poland that She does so little to publicise the good deeds of the Poles, their participation in combat missions, the help during the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto or in Auschwitz. Instead, She stands open to the Jewish trips like a forgotten cemetery. She does not add to their education anything from herself, not changing, thus, the discourse and accepting the current status quo. Of course, the money from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is earmarked for building a bridge between Poland and Israel but why does everything, as always, fall on NGOs? It is obvious that no NGO would be as strong partner as the government.
Following this track, the Jew won’t spend the Jewish money in Poland. Full stop. The Pole did not deserve, what is more they still earn much on other tourist visiting the death camps. Camps such as Auschwitz seem to be bonanzas for Poland. Pity that no one mentions that Poland would rather send such places far, far to the moon. Not only do such places ruin our PR, because in the majority of cases we are associated only with six years of history, but also we are obliged to maintain them. Auschwitz is a museum not only for Poland, but for the whole world. We all should be responsible for it to the same degree. Especially when everything, aging, goes to rack and ruin and requires expensive conservation. Most of the Jews are convinced that such “disneylands” surely provide for themselves on their own so requests for foreign grants are at this point perceived as faux pas and proof of Polish greediness.
The problem, however, disappears when the Jew goes to Berlin, Hamburg or Munich. One can relax there well, enjoy civilisation and top level art. I, personally, do not have such a problem when I go there for holidays and spend money. With my character, however, I am able to spend it anywhere. But I am aware that both Siemens and Krupp are not saints and I think that this is the awareness in question. How did it happen that the Jew does not burn with hatred towards the Germans? Well, these are not the Germans but the Nazis, and that is a major difference. Secondly, they have already atoned for their sins. They fetched so many Jews from Russia and secured them financially that actually the right thing is to forgive them. One cannot blame everyone for everything, right? Nazis are Nazis are Nazis but the Germans themselves are not guilty. Another paradox in the contemporary world! This is an immensely irritating fact and also an alarming one because such relativism might hit us on the rebound in the future. Soon the Holocaust will be associated not with the Germans but with a narrow group of the Nazis who having developed a perfect plan of extermination, in cooperation with their Slavic brothers from behind the eastern border, introduced it into being with the use of not even the “so called” but simply − THE POLISH DEATH CAMPS.
Horror of horrors! I already see my children learning this version of history from Polish textbooks as the Polish government would allow everything. At this rate, Mein Kampf will be soon available − like in Germany.
Of course, I mainly play with the words and simplify various statements − a bit to diversify the text and make it more readable, and not to bore the reader to death. It is time, however, for me to finish so I would like to find a joyful point like “there is no anti-Semitism in Poland!”. This is a new declaration, willingly repeated by leaders of the Jewish community in Poland − a sort of a new Jewish “trend”. The truth is that anti-Semitism is present in Poland, but it is different from anti-semitism in other European countries. It can be observed in jokes, in memories of elderly people, in the stadiums and in the fights of pseudo graffiti painters who eagerly scrawl the Star of David on a gibbet, which should be related to the Cracovia football team − the so called Jews.
There were no physical abuses here or terrorism acts aimed at Jewish cultural institutions. We do not have as many neo-Nazis as other European countries and there are no such groups in our government. Our synagogues are open and everyone is welcome − one does not need to announce themselves in advance or to possess permission from the Community President. Our cultural events meet with great popularity − not only among the Jews. So from the logical point of view, the anti-Semitism surely exists in Poland, but it is very specific and we should remember that. However, the Jew does not have as bad a life in Poland when compared to before the war. It is important to understand this, sooner or later. Maybe then, the bad feelings towards the country would fade away.
The Museum of Polish Jews, being currently erected in Warsaw, seems to be a joyful point. I rest my hope in its educational activity. Our seminar group visited the construction site, as well as the centre of Warsaw. Did it help, did anything remain after that day in Warsaw? Maybe a couple of people hit on the idea that what they have heard so far is not fully true, but the rest decided not to have a good time in Warsaw and not to spend any money. What can I say − the doughnuts from Blikle were outstanding. Overpriced but still outstanding. Those who did not try should regret it.
July 15, 2012 | 1:57 pm
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
The heat of Rome in July is just a prelude to what will happen in August, when the city starts to close itself for the holidays. The Jewish quarter is not much different with regards to that. At least during the day.
The Jewish area of the city is outside the main touristic routes. If you go to the crowded and popular Trastevere you should take Ponte Sisto to cross the river rather than walk towards the synagogue. If you are visiting the Coloseum you might be too tired to walk a bit more to see Teatro Marcello and Portico di Ottavia. Further away, close to the church of San Gregorio della Divina Pietà temple is the adjacent Jewish part of the city.
Referring to it as a whole “part” is slightly exaggerated though. It’s comprised of only a street, a couple of restaurants and shops and a towering synagogue, which is one of the most guarded buildings in Rome. After the attack that has taken place in 1982 the building is under close Police watch. It was an Autumn day in October when a Palestinian, Abdel Osama al-Zomar, 28 years old, came in front of the synagogue and launched a grenade and submachine gun killing a 2-year-old boy and inflicting wounds to over 30 people who were leaving the place at that time.
The building was created by two Italian architects Osvaldo Armanni and Vincenzo Costa between 1899 and 1904. In a city full of Catholic churches and the omnipresent Vatican, the synagogue needed to sharply accentuate its presence. A large cupola located on a square base is visibly different from the surrounding architecture. Moreover, the large fence around makes the building even more unusual for the city as there is simply no place for any kind of railings. During the period in which the synagogue was erected, the area was not getting good press. Vernon Lee, a British writer born in France and living for some time in Italy would describe that area as a perfect place to arrange a murder without being spotted by anyone… She would write about dark cul-de-sacs and isolated squares not visited by a soul.
Today, if not for a couple of obvious signs of Judaism, such as a Jewish Infopoint or kosher restaurants, the area could be any other neighbourhood. Romans do not advertise the area and it seems to be left for the community to promote it. However, if taking pictures is prohibited (especially if you have large lenses) and people seem to be afraid of anybody who is closely examining the area, it does not seem welcoming. I was accosted twice. “Why do you take so many pictures?” “No people in the pictures” “No close-ups”... After all it is a public place, but the memories of 1982 are still very present. Getting into the synagogue is burdened by scrupulous control and the police are all over the place. Perhaps it creates a feeling of safety, not for me though.
The central square of the district, Piazza delle Cinque Scole, is usually full of people. The Jews feel that there is a part of Rome, where they can feel very much at home and that the diaspora has a focal point for meetings or initiatives. On Saturdays the place is practically dead. “Havdallah at 21:32” this is all one can read at the doors of various restaurants serving kosher food. Romans are slowly walking around, older mammas are looking for any relief under the stone plates that commemorate the Jews that have been killed by the Nazis both in concentration camps and in Rome during the Ardeatine massacre, when 75 Jews and 260 Italians have been exterminated. Only after 9 on Saturday does Cinque Scole and the neighbouring area become vivid. The music becomes louder and food is served both inside and outside the restaurants. The tense atmosphere of the afternoon disappears and even though the police are always present, the number of people visiting disappears. You do not hear much Hebrew. Almost everybody speaks Italian or English as tourists make up a large proportion of the visitors. Fast Kosher Yesh Sheni becomes full with people biting focaccias and the Ghetto Bar is full of friendly chatting. The traumas are once again forgotten and people live their splendid Jewish-Italian lives.