We put together a selective overview of the past 16 months especially for this issue in hopes of presenting an accurate picture of the social and political situation in Poland during that period, highlighting the most important occurrences of Jewish life, and providing a context for the events mentioned in the articles.
Below you will find a chronological outline of recent events (September 2015 -December 2016) we consider the most important for Jewish life in Poland, including those we think will be particularly interesting for our readers abroad.
It is hard to imagine a better topic for discussion than the Righteous, if only one entirely avoids any mention of the non-Righteous. Limiting the debate to positive examples reduces the entire issue of Polish-Jewish relations during the war to a courteous exchange of pleasantries regarding Polish heroism. Thus it comes as no surprise that this topic is one of the key elements of Poland’s right-wing politics of memory.
Many people, including the current Minister of Education in Poland, are still questioning the historic facts behind the pogroms in Kielce and Jedwabne. Fortunately, the majority of Polish intellectuals have reached a causal consensus regarding the events. But now historians face an even more difficult task: it is time to take a long, hard look…
Thanks to a string of coincidences, just as Kitty left for Wrocław, a man contacted her and asked if she could photograph his grandfather’s tomb at the New Jewish Cemetery on Lotnicza Street. It turned out that the man lived in Rochester, just up the street from Kitty, and was the grandson of Selmar Cerini, a cantor at the Neue Synagoge. Kitty immediately started imagining Selmar warming up his throat and humming a melody, in a pre-Shabbat rush as he quickly walked out of his apartment located on the synagogue grounds.
I started going through microfilms of Jewish newspapers that were published regularly in Breslau before the war. (…) It was the last page, the one with announcements. I thought – oh well, no luck. But then I realized that the paper was dated 28th October, which means it was printed on 21st. So there was one more issue for me to check.
When Demnig brought up the idea of his project in Poland, back in the late 1990’s, almost every bureaucrat in every city administration he approached had their own idea as to how to improve on it. Some wanted the Stolpersteine to be installed on building walls (so they would not be stepped on); others were worried the plates would be stolen (because they are made of brass, which is expensive); others thought the memory stones should only be laid for famous people.
According to the play, the Jewish Theatre had become a place where an unexacting audience expected a thoughtless repetition of rituals or classics written by the fathers (not even mothers) of Yiddish literature. The Jewish Theatre was lost in the desert, surrounded by nothing but sand. But then the ritual is interrupted and the actors start talking about themselves. Some are Jewish Poles, some are Poles, or Jews by dint of habit. What is Jewish culture in the Jewish Theatre?
Piotr gained fame after he set fire to an effigy of a Jew in November of 2015 in Wrocław. Since then he has grown increasingly vocal in his racist opinions, despite the fact that he was recently put on trial and sentenced. Father Jacek is the unofficial chaplain of Polish nationalists. He recently left the priesthood, continues to regularly attend extreme-right rallies and marches, and has shifted his hate-inspired sermons from the pulpit to YouTube. Justyna is the president of the Lower Silesian division of the National Radical Camp (ONR) and one of the young faces of the organization. The centuries-old prejudices and hostility that fill her public appearances clash glaringly with her youthful looks.
We were proud that we could talk about this difficult past openly in our country. We were proud that the Polish prosecutors and historians were revealing facts. We were proud it was history, and not courts, that was making judgments. And now it turns out all this work can simply be erased, and history can be easily distorted once again.