Text size

Poland is not above criticism

In response to “Poles Apart” ‏(Dominika Blachnicka-Ciacek, May 5‏).

This article reflects the ongoing, often painful and complex debate about Poland, the Jews and memory. If the author found the Israeli ‏(Jewish‏) media snide in their coverage of the Warsaw Ghetto’s 70th anniversary, who can blame them? There is no reference in her piece to the work of Prof. Jan Gross of Princeton, and to the lethal pogroms against Jewish survivors in Poland after the Nazis left. Nor does the writer mention the virulent anti-Semitism of the Communist regime, and the on-going anti-Semitism heard on the Maria radio station, admittedly run by maverick Polish clergy.

‏(I was personally offended by the appearance of the crucifix on a state memorial for perished Poles erected in Warsaw’s Saskie Gardens, which included victims of the Warsaw Ghetto.‏)

On the other hand, sympathetic Polish prelates have come to Israel, the late Polish pope, John Paul II, went to Yad Vashem, and Catholic academics teach Jewish studies to Polish students. A recent trip to Poland ‏(mine‏) revealed a striving, modern country filled with hard-working people. Youthful hostility is really geared less toward the Germans than toward the Russians, who in Soviet times saw Poland as their stomping ground. The senseless and brutal Russian murder of ranking Polish military officers at Katyn in 1940 is still talked about.

However, one gets the sense that some Polish people of a certain age do miss the Jews and Jewish culture, and resent ‏(deeply‏) the Third Reich having turned their country into a Jewish cemetery. After all, Jewish life blossomed in Poland ‏(despite poverty and bursts of anti-Semitism‏) for 1,000 years. I saw photos of atrocities committed against Polish non-Jews in the Polish memorial pavilion dedicated to the 3 million non-Jewish Polish victims of the Nazis at Auschwitz. Yes, there was Polish suffering and Polish underground heroes, but there were also Polish informers and SS guards. The fact that Poland never restored individual Jewish property, or offered easy, obtainable Polish citizenship to survivors, is also problematic.

Many members of my family, born in Poland, perished either in the Warsaw Ghetto, or in the Uprising, or in Treblinka. Even relatives from Belgium found their deaths on Polish soil. Sadly. my story is not unique. It is the story of many Jews in Israel and throughout the world. What happened in Poland is something contemporary Jews cannot seem to forget and is part of their ethos, no matter how many Warsaw Jewish museums are put up. Ms. Blachnicka-Ciacek will have to understand that it takes time, more than 70 years − if ever − to get over such things.

Netty C. Gross-Horowitz, Jerusalem

Don’t compete with Dome of the Rock

In response to “Golden shrine to Einstein to be built over Green Line” ‏(Nir Hasson, May 2‏).

Preposterous! A golden helmet ‏(!?‏) would justifiably be seen as a cheap ploy to outshine the Dome of the Rock which since 691 CE has represented not only an Islamic take on Jerusalem but to all and sundry the location of the temple/s and their very symbol.

Traditionally Jerusalem is a city of spires − Eleona, Augusta Victoria, Hebrew U, Terra Sancta ‏(in the 19th century the highest by virtue of the statue on top‏), YMCA − all piercing the skyline and reaching for the heavens. Surely a gilded spire on Mount Scopus would be not only the most visible element but also avoid a cheap confrontation with the Dome of the Rock.

Barney Wainer, Tel Aviv