Posted Klaudia Klimek
Jewish City Pass is a booklet with a list of places like restaurants, cafes, hotels, institutions and shops who have prepared for visiting Krakow and Kazimierz district tourists and who will be offering special discounts on their services. With just one booklet and it's unique codes you can eat, drink, sightsee for a lot less than usual and the pass is valid for up to 5 people. You maybe coming to the Festival of Jewish Culture with friends or perhaps you are looking for your Jewish roots with your family? The Jewish City Pass is the perfect solution to save money and at the same time experience quality and a variety of choices that will be offered by select Krakow establishments!
The Jewish City Pass Team has selected an elite group of partners not because they just exist for tourists but rather because they are people who want to present Krakow and it's Jewish culture in a real authentic way. All of us travel and we know how complex it is sometimes to get around in a new city. Jewish City Pass is supposed to make it a lot easier for you and the group you come with.
Once you buy a Jewish City Pass you can use it unlimited, everyday for two months! ( June and July). Our partners have prepared for you discounts on trips around Krakow and also transport to such places like the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the Nowa Huta District or the Museum of the former concentration camp in Auschwitz.
After a full day of visiting in the Krakow area, JCP will offer you free coffee and dessert to your dinner, a free bottle of wine in the evening or even a cheaper ticket to a Klezmer Music Concert. Details of the offer you can see here: www.jewishcitypass.com
You can't buy the Jewish City Pass online but there are a few places around the Kazimierz District where it is possible.
Partners That Give Discounts:
Jewish Book Shop Yarden
Galicia Jewish Museum
KrakVille Tours & Transfers
Warsztat Po Polsku - Polish Cuisine
Galicia Jewish Museum
Festival of Jewish Culture
Purchasing the Jewish City Pass will not only make your life easier but will as well support the mission and work of the Jewrnalism Foundation. We would like to thank you for that in advance and invite you to read more about Jewish life in Europe .
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June 15, 2013 | 11:12 pm
Posted Ian Shulman
The great writer and mystifier Bruno Schulz left a plethora of puzzles, myths and hidden chambers in two thin booklets of essays. However, one of his lesser-known and most challenging riddles was forgotten under a thick layer of paint in one of the former villas of Drohobych.
Bruno Schulz has emerged as one of the most important writers and innovators of the Polish language in the 20th century, his works translated into 39 languages. He was born in 1892 in the then Austrian (later Polish and now Ukrainian) town of Drohobych to Jakub Schulz, a Jewish cloth merchant. The provincial oil town on the outskirts of Poland and the fading visionary image of his sick father later became the key characters of his magical metaphorical prose. Apart from being a writer and a painter, Schulz was earning his living as a school teacher.
He never left Drohobych for an extended period of time; the Nazi invasion of Poland trapped Schulz within the town's ghetto. In order to save his life, Dziunia Szmer, a friend of Schulz's, put him into a life-prolonging contract with a Nazi officer Felix Landau. As an ‘indentured Jew’, Bruno Schulz had to catalogue loot, make cliché verres and drawings and produce inlays, as well as paint murals in at least four different buildings in Drohobych - the SS casino, a new annex to the riding hall, the former Jewish orphanage and the ‘play room’ of the mansion Landau had confiscated. The officer lived there with his mistress, the Gestapo secretary and former dancer Trude Segel, along with the children from his first marriage, Wolf-Dieter and Helga.
On the 19th of November 1942, Schulz was shot dead on a street in Drohobych. His murderer is believed to have been Karl Günther, Landau’s rival. However, Schulz was murdered on the day of ‘Black Thursday’, coinciding with the massacre of 230 other Jews in the ghetto; identifying the actual killer of Schulz is thus difficult.
The murals of Schulz were painted over and subsequently forgotten. So were Schulz’s essays, rediscovered and appreciated only decades after his death. Despite an intense search for them, none of the murals were ever found.
In 2001 German film director Benjamin Geissler came to Drohobych , together with his father the writer Christian Geissler, hoping to discover the lost ‘fairy tale mural’ in the former playroom of Landau’s villa. Their search and its outcome are described in Geissler’s documentary ‘Bilder Finden’ (‘Finding Pictures’). With the help of Alfred Schreyer, the last living student of Bruno Schulz, Landau’s villa was identified; a closer look at the walls of a present-day storage room in a private apartment revealed the shapes of Schulz’s images. An official commission of Polish and Ukrainian experts arrived at the spot and, having uncovered some fragments of the mural, verified that Bruno Schulz was the author of the paintings. The next step was to obtain international funding needed to professionally uncover, restore and preserve the murals.
Nonetheless, the discovery of the seemingly lost mural was not the end of its mysterious story. Shortly after the finding, representatives of Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, removed three fragments of the mural and transported them to Israel. The act was claimed to be illegal, since such appropriation could only have been possible with the special permission of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture. Another five fragments were removed in 2002 by Ukrainian restorers.
The controversy over national claims to Schulz’s heritage, which broke out right after the Yad Vashem incident, was naturally triggered by the region’s diverse background, so typical for pre-war Central Europe. For Yad Vashem, Schulz is a Holocaust victim and his murals are part of a Holocaust story. For Poland, Bruno is a Polish writer, innovator of the Polish language and literature, and last but not least, a Polish citizen. For Ukraine, he was a resident of the Ukrainian town Drohobych, and this is exactly where the very mural was created and later found.
Yet according to Benjamin Geissler, Schulz’s work cannot be torn apart, neither metaphorically nor literally. Geissler suggests the characters Schulz depicted in his last mural are not merely fairy tale figures, as expected in the decoration of a children's room. On closer observation, one can unmistakably recognize Felix Landau on his beloved horse, his lover Gertrude, Schulz’s mother and many other subtle images among the depicted characters. Schulz’s mural is a Brothers Grimm tale on the surface and a Holocaust story, likewise a personal tragedy on a deeper level, says Geissler. Turning a task demanded of him into something much more meaningful and personal was an act of both childishness and prophecy, inherent to Schulz's art. It’s because of its messages that the mural cannot be separated and can only be viewed in the way it was created, in the way its elements were placed in relation to each other.
Luckily, there is still a chance to see how the room used to look. Benjamin Geissler has created a 3D model of the chamber with pictures, and it was recently exhibited in Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Once one enters the model of the dark narrow storeroom, Schulz’s drawings start to project on each wall, accompanied by a mysterious tune. Outside of the 3D installation, one can read about the life of Bruno Schulz and the story of the discovery and loss of the mural.
Despite having perished over 70 years ago and remained virtually unknown for years after his death, Schulz's work appears to attract more interest with every passing year. Yuri Andrukhovych, a renowned Ukrainian writer and poet, who took part in a panel discussion during the exhibition, said he felt sceptical about publishing his translation of Schulz’s works into Ukrainian. It was not only about the great responsibility of translating the complicated metaphorical language of Schulz, but also about the unclear demand for this book in Ukraine. However, the edition was sold out faster than estimated, even by the bravest of expectations. Over the last few years, Bruno Schulz has been transformed from a complete stranger, a weird Polish Jewish ghost from the past into a local genius, a beloved figure from Drohobych for many Ukrainians. Andrukhovych claims his translation is meant to make Schulz even more accessible to the Ukrainian reader; he tried to unload the complicated text of unnecessary polonisms and local words, inherent to some previous translations, and pay due attention to the rhythm and pace of the text.
Andrukohvych’s colleague Yuri Prokhasko also took part in the discussions, and not only due to his own fascination with Schulz’s prose and story - Prokhasko himself served as Geissler's assistant during the filming of ‘Bilder Finden’ in Drohobych.
The Schulz exhibition has found its place among an immense series of memorials and exhibitions called ‘Diversity Destroyed’, taking place in Berlin in 2013. Under the caption ‘Berlin 1933 - 1938 - 1945,' it approaches the wartime European tragedy from the perspective of the flourishing diversity characterising pre-war Europe. The fantastic and mysterious semi-fictional and real worlds of Bruno Schulz, who as the exhibition introduction states ‘was born as an Austrian, lived as a Pole and died as a Jew’, is certainly one of the last and most intense embodiments of this epoch.
Edited by Benjamin Geissler and Dmitri Macmillen.
June 15, 2013 | 11:10 pm
Posted Przemek Dudek
AJC Access and AJC Global Forum 2013 - (Inter)Faith in Jewmanity restored Two interconnected conferences organized by the American Jewish Committee in Washington D.C. at the turn of May and June 2013 have come to an end. Like many other events of that class and prestige they gathered both rising leaders and veterans of Jewish movements from around the world.
Like plenty of other events AJC Access and AJC Global Forum involved lectures, workshops, receptions and statements. Parties in the lobby and lobbying at the parties. However, there are certain qualities which made both of the events remarkable places to be. One exceptional feature, especially visible at AJC Access, was dedicated to panels and other activities regarding Jewish-Muslim relations. Middle Eastern conflict, though obviously mentioned, was not dominant, with a lot of dialogue instead of advocacy.
Among the many speakers one could hear not only the top Jewish figures but also representatives of the Muslim perspective, such as one of Newsweek's ‘world's most influential women’ Dalia Ziada - well known for her human rights activism in Egypt or recognized scholars like Abdullah Hamidadin. A round of applause was given to Ilja Sichrovsky, one of the leaders of the MuslimJewish Conference, who presented the project of getting young Muslims and Jews together for the third time this year. Giving space to interfaith dialogue in the discussion seems not only extremely interesting from the point of view of those AJC event participants who know little about Islam and were confronted with information less visible in the media, but also may result in a different quality of Jewish leaders’ attitudes toward Muslims in the future. As Sichrovsky said about his friendship with Pakistani co-creator of the conference, “It turned out I don’t control the media and he is not making bombs”.
The AJC Global Forum 2013 hosted United States Secretary of State John Kerry, ambassadors and foreign ministers who showed their support for Israel and countering antiSemitism. A standing ovation was given at the end Polish MFA Radosław Sikorski’s speech, who won the audience not only by stating that Hamas is a terrorist organization, but also by sharing the story of Stanisław Aronson, a Polish Jew, fugitive of Auschwitz, veteran of Polish Home Army and the Warsaw Uprising and later officer of IDF. With his example, Sikorski tried to show the complexity of Polish-Jewish history. A burst of applause filled the room when Sikorski said that Aronson flew from Tel-Aviv and is present at the Global Forum.
This year, AJC Access and AJC Global Forum were not only professionally prepared (which is obvious for AJC events) but with the varied program and themes touched during the events it has shown, with great strength, the different voices and narrations present in Jewish life, not only in America, but globally. It will be very hard for organizers of the 2014 editions to match that level, however I am sure they are very likely to succeed, given their professionalism and enthusiasm.
April 18, 2013 | 1:25 am
Posted Ian Shulman
Thomas Soxberger was born in 1965 in Lower Austria. He moved to Vienna to study History and Jewish Studies. In the early 1990s Thomas participated in Yiddish Summer Programmes in Oxford. 1998-2000 - Master Degree in Yiddish Studies at London University. After moving back to London, Soxberger finished his dissertation at Vienna University and worked for the Austrian Parliament. He has also worked in several research projects and as Yiddish teacher at Vienna University. Soxberger’s publications include research articles in the field of Jewish and Yiddish studies, several translations of Yiddish literature, two novels in German and Yiddish poetry and short prose. His book on Yiddish culture in Vienna "Revolution am Donaukanal: Jiddische Kultur und Politik in Wien 1904 bis 1938" was published this spring by Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna.
To start with, tell me how did you get to do what you are doing now?
It came rather straightforward, based on the things I was encountering on my way. I had a general wish to do Jewish studies. It is difficult to answer the question of personal motive, but certainly it was something that was “in the air” at that time. The 1980s, especially before and after the Waldheim elections, were an interesting time. People started to talk about the Austrian past and questioning the official narrative. Remember, the Green party started at this time too. It was somehow all connected with each other, so I think it was also a generational thing. At this time contemporary Klezmer music came to Austria. Some klezmer bands were also putting Yiddish songs into their repertoire. This was an opportunity to encounter this language, which for a German speaker is mostly easy to understand. I immediately felt a fascination with that language. Then there was the encounter with the general theme of Jewish culture and Jewish history, as well as with the part Austria played in this history. And then it was also about finding my own place in this world. Anyway, I decided to do Jewish and then Yiddish studies. There was a summer program in Oxford in the 1990s; by that time I had already been studying some Yiddish in Vienna University, a basic course. I seems that I did have a certain talent for the language and I started to write little poems in Yiddish, first of all as an exercise. I was writing poems in German before. But it was a feeling I could express something special in a special language.
Can you think of a point which turned your fascination into something you dedicated your life to?
It’s difficult to tell whether I actually “dedicated my life to it”. It turns out that just now I’m not working in the academic field. For many years I thought that I would go on to an academic job in Jewish studies, that I could turn this into a career, but one thing lead to another and now I’m doing a journalism job for the Austrian parliament. But I’m also a board member at the Jewish Liberal Community ‘Or Chadasch’ in Vienna, and this becomes an important part of my life more and more now. Of course, I am also doing academic work if I can; I have been writing for an exhibition on Jewish Humor, which openend in the Vienna Jewish Museum in March. I was asked to write about the role of Yiddish in the development Jewish humor, so I had a chance to speak about Sholom-Aleichem and also some Viennese humorists. To tell the truth, it was probably just too hard for me to make an academic career with Yiddish, because the academic field is rather limited. Apart from that I’m still writing literature, mostly in German, but in Yiddish as well. I do both poetry and prose, though prose is the bigger challenge for me.
Could you elaborate on that?
Many people think that prose is easier to write, but indeed writing good prose is a big challenge. You need to have something to say and you need to have a good technique and language to express it. Speaking about what is now considered to be contemporary Yiddish literature, quite a few people do write Yiddish poetry, because it’s a short form and I suppose it’s also a question of how much time and effort you can dedicate to writing. And not even all people who want to write in Yiddish do have a sufficient grasp of the language to write prose.
What are your topics in prose?
My last story was published in the journal Gilgulim in Paris, and unlike previous ones, it is a longer piece. There I tried to describe my own Yiddishist experience, yet that is not as easy as one might think. It’s not exactly autobiographical, I am trying to create a literary fiction based on my experiences. But in general for a writer, once you realize how vast the range of human experience is, naturally you want to write about some of that. Interestingly, there are some writers around – some of which I know personally – who try to write in Yiddish and I think we do share the same experience with Yiddish literature to some degree: you take from it and you want to give something back.
You were mentioning your involvement in the Liberal Jewish Community. How can you describe the link between your involvement in Jewish culture and your more recent involvement in Jewish religion?
Religion helps to understand Jewish culture. Apart from that, religion provides some answers that secular culture alone cannot give. At least that is what I feel. Liberal Judaism is a result of trying to connect the two and allow for the individual to find its own answers. On the other hand, many religious Jews will think that Liberal Judaism is too laissez-faire in many things. So the question arises: where is the common ground? I find this issue immensely interesting.
Contemporary Yiddish literature: Some people question the very right of it to exist, since Yiddish is not a contemporary used language.
But who are these people that they have to be asked whether Yiddish literature is allowed to exist? Indeed, some people might think that literature in general is irrelevant for their life and wonder how others can spend time on such nonsense. It’s a very loaded question. You might ask: is there still relevant literature in Yiddish at all? I think you just have to look for it, to find it and then you will realize it’s just as relevant as any other literature.
What would you answer to people, and there are many of them, who argue that Yiddish belongs to the past, and younger people should not pay too much attention to it?
Well, one could just as well say that Torah belongs to the past; it’s actually even much older. You always have to decide which part of the past you use. What can be a reason for people to decide that they don’t want to use this specific part of the past? I am also an historian and I can say that you need to know something about the past, otherwise what’s your claim for the future? This is my first argument against it. Also, there are many useful things to be learned from the Yiddish experience. If you question the relevance of a certain experience, you should at least know something about it and not dismiss it out of hand. Modern and older Jewish culture will never be fully separated. You might claim that Yiddish is not as mainstream now as it was back then in the Eastern Europe, that the Jewish mainstream is somewhere else now. If people just decide that they want to look only at things that are mainstream, alright, if they want it that way ... But for example, there are still people doing Latin poetry, and Latin is certainly more “dead” than Yiddish. But they have their own reasons for doing it.
There are people who write Yiddish poetry today, who just keep the tradition alive. There are people who take Yiddish and try to make it sound modern. It particularly applies to modern covers of traditional Yiddish songs. They are not trying to prolong the tradition, but rather to offer it as a new tradition, to revitalize it. What’s your opinion about this approach?
Before answering that, I have to underline that Yiddish has been “modern” now for over 100 years ... Of course, if you do use a language, it will develop, even if fewer people speak it now than was once the case. Yiddish of the early XIX century was different from Yiddish of the middle of the XX century, when it was still a widely spoken language. It was developing until this period and this did not really stop after that. You cannot say that everything Yiddish just ended with the Shoa. This enormous crime actually destroyed the whole culture in Eastern Europe. But there were big Yiddish-speaking communities in the USA and other places, which did not quit speaking Yiddish because of the Holocaust, but for other reasons. And there were also some people around who tried to keep it alive. In that respect, you could argue that the second half of the XX century was mostly a big failure for the Yiddishist enterprise, and who wants to be a part of a failure? It was not so for the Chassidim, but they are a different matter.
So did Yiddish language develop since 1945?
Obviously, it did. The Yiddish speaking communities of Chassidim were always alive. But there have been also non-chassidic, even secular circles, where the language was passed on from generation to generation. And if we look at it, there language also has developed, though there is criticism of this development too. For example, among dedicated Yiddishists there were attempts to prescribe which words in Yiddish should be used and which should not be used, because of their being “too German”. You find such “warnings” in the dictionary of Uriel Weinreich. And Mordechai Shechter in New York continued that tradition, he always argued for more “Yiddish”, more “Jewish” words to be used instead. That is a purist approach which argues that everything should be and can be expressed in Yiddish terms. If you lack words, you should make up new words, which is a phenomenon in itself. But I personally think the purist approach does not show the way to any new development of Yiddish.
Yiddish has many dialects. Is there a certain ‘high Yiddish’?
I would say there are at least two of them. There is Yiddish as the language of the Yiddish stage. And then there is Yiddish as a language of Yiddish literature, which appeared during the XIX century and which was then thought in Yiddish schools. These literary languages avoid regional expressions and aim at a style that as large an audience as possible will understand. Many languages are in a situation like that. I read that in Norway during the XIX century, two literary languages were developed, and people still use both of them. Some prefer the one because it’s closer to the spoken language of a certain region, and others prefer another one because it’s connected to a longer literary tradition, even though it’s closer to Danish. And not every language is like French, with its language academy and tradition. There are many languages which are in more ‘disorder’, so to say, and one of them is Yiddish. One can always cultivate a supposedly ‘uncultured’ language and use it in a very literary way. It is a lot about people who know how to use language.
Do you have some practicing partners in Yiddish?
I was doing Yiddish courses in London, and there we talked Yiddish most of the time. I meet people at Yiddish language conferences. It’s an interesting phenomenon. The dilemma is whether it’s only about keeping Yiddish literature alive some way or other or really pushing it to a level of some relevance.
What would you say about Yiddish culture becoming trendy in Eastern Europe now, for example in Poland, where there are not so many Jews, but there is an active Jewish stage and a high interest to the Jewish culture?
It reminds me a lot of what I have mentioned about Austria, it just came to Poland a little bit later. It happened when Klezmer music became a part of the whole trend of world music, a part of the mainstream. I am not surprised that such things are taking place. It’s the younger generation, who is looking at the past of the country and trying to come to terms with it. It also has a lot to do with questioning the received narrative about the national history. Austria had a certain narrative too about being the first victim of Nazi Germany in 1938. I remember it quite clearly, the whole thing about questioning this received narrative in the 1980s, and now a new version has become the mainstream. Politicians for example have to acknowledge on memorial days in an almost ritualistic fashion that it wasn’t only the Germans that occupied Austria, but there was Austrian participation in the crimes of the Nazis and an Austrian responsibility. I don’t know if all of this holds much promise for Yiddish literature in particular, but to all people who are interested in this topic, this development is interesting.
Can you think of some other people from Austria, who were also influenced by this trend to that extent?
I can mention a friend, Armin Eidherr, who is actually teaching Yiddish literature in Salzburg; another academic friend of mine, Brigitte Dalinger, is writing a lot about Jewish theatre. When I look around, there is also a bunch of people involved in Jewish culture, often touching the topic of Yiddish too. It’s a very small group, but I think it certainly can be found.
Poems that Die Young
by Thomas Soxberger; translated from the Yiddish by Irving Massey
There are always some poems that die young.
It's always been that way, always will be.
No sooner do they see the bright day
Than they're buried
With a handsome titlepage for a headstone
In a book (published by the author), in an anthology, ,
Or maybe it was in the pages of The Future I
That they entered immediately upon their eternal rest,
Or got into The Golden Chain,
And already nobody cares about them.
What do those poems sing about, the ones that die young?
About anything that you can think of, and about the fact that
In the year 1965 there was a spring,
And, obviously, an autumn.
There were stars in the sky that year
As there were the next year.
And at that time there was love, too,
People longed, hoped, and the dear departed
Had not yet been forgotten.
What do we need those poems for, if
Anyway they're going to die young,
If no eye will ever see them again
In their selfappointed graves,
And no one is going to waste any breath
Reading them out loud?
Whom could you ask? Could it have something to do
With the fact that there will be poems being written
About spring in 2115, about love in 5790?
לידער, וואָס שטארבן יונגערהייט
אלע מאָל זײַנען דאָ לידער, וואָס שטארבן יונגערהייט.
אזוי איז געוועןף און אזוי וועט ווײַטער זײַן.
זיי האָבן נאָר וואָס דערזען די ליכטיקע שײַן
און זײַנען שוין באגראָבן געוואָרן
מיט א שיינעם שער־בלאט צוקאָפּנס
אין א בוך (פארלאג פונעם מחבר), אן אנטאָלאָגיע,
אָדער זײַנען גאָר אויף די זײַטן פון דער צוקונפט
ארײַן אין זייער אייביקער רו,
אָדער ארײַן אין דער גאָלדענער קייט
און זיי גייען שוין קיינעם ניט אָן.
וועגן וואָס זינגען די לידער, וואָס שטארבן יונגערהייט?
וועגן וואָס נאָר איר ווילט, און וועגן דעם,
אז געווען איז א פרילינג אין 1965,
און א הארבסט, פארשטייט זיך, אויך.
שטערן זײַנען געשטאנען אין די נעכט דעמאָלט
פּונקט ווי אין א יאָר ארום.
און דעמאָלט איז אויך געווען ליבע,
מען האָט געבענקט, געהאָפט, און טײַערע טויטע
זײַנען נאָך ניט פארגעסן געוואָרן.
פאר וואָס דארף מען אזעלכע לידער, אויב זיי שטארבן
דאָך סײַ ווי שוין יונגערהייט,
אויב קיין אויג וועט זיי שוין מער ניט זען
אין זייער זעלבסט פארלייגטן קבר,
און קיינער קיין אָטעם ניט פארשווענדן
זיי צו לייענען אויף א קול?
גיי פרעג א קשיא. אפשר האָבן זיי א שײַכות
צו דעם, אז מען וועט נאָך שרײַבן לידער
וועגן פרילינג אין 2115טן יאָר,
וועגן ליבע אין יאָר
April 18, 2013 | 1:23 am
Posted Michał Zajda
Today is April 10th … a significant date for Polish people, being another anniversary of the Smoleńsk catastrophe, which some call an assassination. I have no intention of debating here, what happened there that day, since I am not an aviation expert and was not present at the aiport in Smoleńsk, staring up at the sky. I am mostly only interested insofar as this fact concerns the “present day”. I leave the fight for the truest truth to the more “real” and more “heroic” of my countrymen. I propose we focus on the aftermath of what happened. Poland became divided in a way that had not happened before. People stopped talking to each other, aggression rose, as well as animosity and distrust. What appeared is what I fear most, that is increased nationalism and xenophobia. People who I had respected up to then – went mad; people who appeared to be thinking individuals – went crazy; people who could have been the avant-garde became a dangerous extreme. A large part of society went into a kind of hysteria, demons of the past returned. Protests, called patriotic by some, in truth became dangerous parteitags, conventions for an oppositional political group. When I see the images from the anniversary ceremonies I remember the story of Horst Wessel and the craze that reigned in Germany after his death. Then it was also THEM who were to blame, because THEY killed him and THEY had to pay. I fear the rhetoric of revenge and settlements, since it always leads toward something the modern state cannot turn to.
Janusz Korwin Mikke, whom I personally valued as a competent publicist, with skill in speaking and an independent thinker, also became part of the mass madness. In the piece entitled Słownik polsko@polski” taken off the air, because TVP spent money on programs about Jews, JKM clearly shows that he is heading in the wrong direction, since a man above a certain „level” does not use rhetoric like this. His colleague of the pen, Stanisław Michalkiewicz, whom I have devoted plenty of room to in the past, succumbs to the lowest instincts a publicist can in his text entitled Instead of Stations of the Cross – a whore’s instruction. Using the word “Jew” in various ways, he vents his animosity at times turning into hate.
Sirs, how puny you have become!
Gazeta Warszawska, a bastion of followers of anti-Semitism in its pure form, leads the pack of the elite loonies of the press. In its form and content it exceeds the Toruń-based media organ Nasz Dziennik, Gazeta Polska Codziennie and other quasi-national periodicals, enthusiasts of the enigmatic, ill-defined conspiracy, which will supposedly be the ruin of Poland. The paper printed an article called The Myth of the good Jew in which we find out that, „It was not Zionists who killed 66 million innocent Jews in Russia, but Jews who called themselves communists, who were supported by other Jews, who called themselves Americans or Britons and who took control of Western finance, legal systems and systems of conducting war.” Later, the author springs to an even higher level of madness, „One ought to remember, what I have said before, that the Talmud is the heart of darkness in human history, and not the Zionists, which is a word favoured in use, being a great all-purpose trick word. It matters not, how smooth their speech and how nice they seem, because we are speaking of the bane, the curse of this world, which all Jews are, engaged in a conspiracy against humanity, against life itself.” I won’t comment on the above outbursts, since that seems useless. I only want to remind everyone that only two or three years ago such texts were rare, even online. Above all, I am asking everyone, including the authorities, appealing to the common sense of all people – what is happening in a Country which was free from these kinds of slogans not long ago! And what follows, I ask again: If someone allows the publication of such shit, as there is no other word for it, and they are not prosecuted for this, then why is the sale of Mein Kampf banned? A book which, at this point, has historical value and could also serve as a negative model for similar such closet crazies?
Certain specific political groups in Poland, who for unknown reasons refer to themselves as „right wing”, have crossed a certain line which I believe is unaccetapble. Imposing on others their world view, under threat of sanction, accusal of treason and being anti-Polish, has far-reaching consequences, which can become the root of an internal conflict.
Unfortunately the tragic crash in Smoleńsk was the beginning of a polarization in Polish society, which keeps layering further, emotionally, because conversation about the event has this basis surprisingly often. The melancholy messianic spirit found in the Polish soul is seeking expression in the search for conspiracies and mysterious partnerships created to destroy the Polish Nation! Many do believe this, mixing in God, who was killed by Jews of course... Let us beware!
April 18, 2013 | 1:15 am
Posted Jewrnalism reporter
Finally, we got to the March of the Living. A group of young Jews from several cities in Poland who decided to take part in this enormous and powerful way of remembering the ones who perished in the Shoah. We were accompanied by several non-Jewish people, life partners and friends who felt the need to share that experience with us.
It is obvious how powerful standing next to the gas chamber can be and what kind of emotions can it bring. We walked speechlessly, which does not happen too often, and took out the flags of some Jewish organizations we are part of and the red and white flag of Poland. It was not even five minutes later when some English speaking person passing us by said to his friend: “It is kind of awkward to see a Polish flag here”. We did not react to that statement however shocking for us Polish Jews it was; maybe we felt a bit embarrassed because of our gentile friends standing next to us.
We decided to use the one hour before the beginning of the March to walk around Auschwitz. At the meeting point it turned out that unfortunately not everyone seemed to understand what this march is about. At least not how we felt about it. Our Polish friend, life partner of one of Jews from our group, was walking between the barracks with Polish flags with her long blond hair falling on her leather jacket. As she was passing by some girls in their twenties, wearing blue coats and waving and Israeli flag she just heard: “Oh hello you Polish asshole!” She did not react, just moved forward.
Organizers divided the area in zones and each group was to walk from a certain starting point. We gathered in the F zone, the one that we believed to be for people supposed to walk at end of the March, the zone for the Polish and Austrian people. The red and white was separated from the blue and white with a fence and a buffer zone. However, the gate separating us from the people already marching opened earlier and we were able to walk with everybody. It was kind of a relief.
And there we were, Polish assholes, Polish gentile assholes, Polish Jewish assholes who decided to take part in something big, something worthy of doing. Something that must be done. We took the Polish flag up and marched with everyone. When we got to Birkenau it was the blond girl wearing leather jacket who was telling us about that camp and showing the barracks. Her knowledge seemed much bigger than ours. Thank you for going there with us you Polish asshole.
April 18, 2013 | 1:07 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
Everyone who knows me, knows that I like to participate in various trips, events and seminars organized by Jewish organizations. I always meet someone interesting, learn something useful and see a new place.
The March of the Living is one of the few events, which negates all three of the above, however this was not the reason that I did not take part until I was 25 years old. I already had had several occasions in the past, but the idea of this event never quite moved me, encouraged me, perhaps I did not feel invited?
This year I decided to find out for myself what the March of the Living is really like and seized the occasion to participate with my good acquaintances, as well as those just met a couple days earlier at a seminar - people who came to the march from all over Poland. It is worth noting that the group traveled to Oswiecim as an official group of Polish Jews. We held flags of the Socio-Cultural Association of Polish Jews (TSKŻ), the Jewish Agency for Israel in Poland, as well as the white and red flag of Poland. Since I had somewhat of a chance to see behind the scenes of the seminar preparations and our presence at the March, I must admit that even before we arrived in Oswiecim I felt disappointed with the March of the Living (MOTL) organization’s approach to us, Poles and Jews in one.
But let’s start at the beginning - what the March of the Living is. On the official website we read that it is an annual educational program, which aims to inform participants about the history of the Holocaust, and examine the roots of intolerance, prejudice and hate. Indeed, this is quite interesting, but why is it that the organizers want to teach us about these matters in Poland specifically? Poland was the location of many concentration camps, I agree, but we will not find the history of the Holocaust here. That story began much earlier than the camps themselves; it was many years of politics, events and bad decisions, which led to someone like Hitler taking power. If we want to confirm history with the landscape, then I invite you to Berlin and Munich, then only lastly to Poland. The concentration camps were the final strokes of Hitler’s sick politics, and not its beginning or the idea itself. As for prejudice and intolerance, Poland is also the wrong address, since it was known to Jews for 700 years as a place that they called home. This is not clear to everyone. One of our friends was called a “Polish asshole” as she was walking through the Camp with a Polish flag in hand. The sender of this message was a girl wrapped in an Israeli flag, though she was American.
Reading further the MOTL website, we arrive at the topic of the three kilometer march in silence. It is far from silent, dear readers. The march begins in Auschwitz I. A horrible crowd mills at the toilets, I was witness to some 50+ ladies bidding over who had the worse kidney disease and pushing each other out of line. I immediately thought of the story of one prisoner, who described how women supported each other near the toilets, giving each other those few moments to relieve oneself, by standing around the person on the “toilet”, so that others could not push her off. But that is just an anecdote that came out of nowhere, maybe it was because of such anecdotes that I couldn’t camp out like the others, by the walls of the barracks with a sandwich and a cola in hand.
In the description of the idea behind MOTL we read that a week before the March participants visit a place which was once a haven for Jewish life. Attention, attention - in most of these places there are still Jews cultivating their traditions and religion. If the organizers of the March wanted participants to have a dialog with Polish Jews they would have contacted us beforehand. Here the situation is quite the opposite – Polish Jews had to solicit for months for permission to participate in the March. A bizarre situation! Not only does one pay for participation in the March, and not a small sum, then you have to plead to enter the camp, which is open every day to visitors for free. That’s not all; you have to stand in the proper place assigned and marked for your country. Each group receives a map to position themselves properly for the March. Imagine my surprise when I saw that Polish Jews stand at the very end, next to groups from Austria and Germany. I could not believe my eyes, checking the plan several times. I was convinced that we should at least be near the head of the march, this was quite a disappointment. Unperturbed and unyielding we pushed in front of the group from Los Angeles, ripping the tape which barred us from the Arbeit macht Frei gate, in a gesture of cooperation and support for each other.
Another matter is the presence of former inmates, survivors of the Holocaust. Several times already I’ve had the chance to attend meetings with survivors who told their stories. The young do listen and even feel it, but too bad their memory is short. While in Camp I, before the March started, I was witness to an older man with a cane crossing the square – a former inmate. Too bad no one noticed him, it is not a sight one will see often. Speaking of former prisoners and how grateful everyone is for them being there, surviving and coming to such ceremonies to testify history. After the ceremony ends, first leave diplomats and high position people. It takes quite a long time, because of the regulations, rules, protocols. Former inmates and spectators are at the end. Then organized groups go into the buses and former inmates to the bus stop. No one thinks to provide these seniors with a decent mode of transportation to and from the Camp. After the spectacle, let the actors worry about getting home on their own.
In closing, I will recall the last sentences from the official March of the Living website, which speak about how youth after the march return to Israel strengthened in their Jewish identity, remembering the Holocaust and more engaged in their local community. At what and whose cost, I ask? At the cost of history not quite told, staged emotions, an omitted dialog, future generations from across the water thinking that there is no Jewish life in Poland?
I went to the March of the Living with a critical attitude but also with a will to change my views and give it a chance. Unfortunately, the event did not redeem itself in my eyes. Regardless, it will take place next year and the year after, and for a few or a dozen more. I have no qualm with that, in fact I support it, but only with a different narration and let some use come of it.
March 19, 2013 | 7:47 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
The poetry of Naftali Herz Kon was finally released from the imprisonment of the Polish Archives.
In January this year I was exploring complicated happenings around the poetry of Naftali Herz Kon. The poet was accused of espionage and all his archives were confiscated in the early 1960s (Read more here). A battle between the courts and Kon’s daughters Ina Lancman and Vita Serf took years. When it was finally decided that the State Archive should return the property to the inheritors, procedural issues aroused.
Today, finally the poems are free. - First we got through all the formalities. The Director of the Archives read aloud the operative part of the judgment, which put the Archives under an obligation to return the literary estate. It was an extremely emotional moment. The daughters cried and I was on the brink too as the emotions got to me after such a prolonged battle – says prof. Tomasz Koncewicz, who was working on Kon’s issue. Indeed, it was a long battle set in the realities of slow Polish courts, which seemed to miss the whole point and did not understand who absurd the whole situation was. - It is hard to believe but to get the literary estate back to their rightful owners I have written more than 1000 pages of interventions, pleadings, statements… You name it! – says Koncewicz, passionate about the problem.
When we met with prof. Koncewicz in January this year he was sure that one day the poetry would be returned. Even though, we started to plan a poetry evening consisting of a broad historic background of the story, readings of the poems both those then available and those that would be “set free”. There was hope in his voice, but nobody could be sure when the issue will be solved. – During the commemorative evening with the poetry of Kon on 7th of March at the Center of Rabi Schorr in Warsaw I even quipped that that all this would make up decent novel “Lost in the Archives”. – prof. Koncewicz says today. – I make fun of all this now but I will never forget that 6 months ago the mood was much more somber and I was desperate – he adds.
It was not easy to predict what is hidden in the boxes imprisoned in the Archives. Everyone was expecting poems, but as we see now, there is much more. - There is some amazing content hidden in the Kon’s papers. Apart from the priceless poetry, there are intimate letters, notes and photographs. One document, which is most symbolic, is the original of the Kon's release order from gulag in the fifties! – says prof. Koncewicz who had a chance to assist in receiving the documents.
- All in all it was a wonderful and fulfilling day for all of us. The case is a powerful proof that justice and dignity stand for something after all – Koncewicz sums up.
Now the documents need to be ordered with great care. They were kept in the Archives for over 50 years. When Koncewicz first saw the files in 2010 they were covered with dust. It was obvious that nobody was touching them, perhaps the lawyer was the first one since the 1960’. Lancman and Serf are planning to translate the documents to English and Polish.
All photographs related to this text courtesy of TT Koncewicz.