Polish Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Andrzej Jaroszynski: The Polish-Jewish Dialogue After 1989 (presentation outline)
Prior to 1989
· The era of no-dialogue but of propaganda and hidden individual sentiments.
· Non-existence or false image of Jews in social and historical awareness in the Polish public under communist regime. Distorted identity of who is a Jew, a Polish Jew, a Pole?
· Strong stereotypes and negative attitudes not present in the public space.
· First breakthrough, March 1968, i.e. the expulsion of Jewish Poles (mainly communists) by the Polish ruling communist party. The beginning of the opposition on the political left and the rise of its alliance with the progressive Catholic trends.
· 70s and 80s the rise of the democratic opposition of Poland and the Solidarity movement. The rediscovery of the long presence of Jewish history and culture as part of Polish heritage, the need to re-assessment of Polish Jewish relations. “The Flying Jewish University” in Warsaw, rediscovery of the Jewish past and present in underground press.
· The role of the Catholic intelligentsia and the teachings of John Paul II in the return of the Jewish heritage and history to the public debate and social awareness. The Polish Episcopate’s Commission for Dialogue with Judaism est. in 1986.
· Starting from 1984 the beginnings of the dialog between Christian and Jews, both in Poland (1984 Conference at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow) and abroad (conferences at Columbia and Brandeis Universities, 1986, Jerusalem, 1988, Chicago, 1989, the publication of “Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry” in London).
· Jewish Culture Festival starts in Cracow in 1988.
· A small Jewish community (around 15 thousand) reemerged on the public scene. The wave of rediscovery of Jewish roots by many Poles, especially of younger generations. Synagogues, schools and press help to revive Jewish life in Poland. Free contacts with abroad (the first rabbi comes from New York).
· Institutional forms of the dialogue:
o The Polish Council of Christians and Jews, affiliated to the ICCJ, 1991
o Catholic-Judaic Dialogue at the then Catholic Academy of Theology is established with the quarterly “Maqom” 1994
o A Council of the Commission of Inter-Religious Dialogue starts “The Day of Judaism” and the title of “The Man of Reconciliation”, 1996
o The Catholic issues many pastoral letter, among others on the anniversaries of “Nostra Aetate” declaration, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Kielce pogrom.,
o Apart from the above mentioned Festival of Jewish Culture in Cracow, many others are held in Warsaw, Wrocław, Łodź, Będzin, Białystok, Lublin and others.
o There are also numerous Publishing Houses (The Midrasz, Cyklady) and internet projects (Virtual Shtetl) dedicated to Jewish life in Poland.
o In many cities there also many educational and cultural initiatives promoting research and lessons from the Holocaust.
o The most significant project is that of the establishing “The Museum of the History of Jews in Poland” supported by the government, the Churches and non-governmental institutions from Poland and abroad.
o In addition, the 90s and 2010s witness numerous book publications on Jewish presence in Poland written by Polish and foreign authors as well as films and TV programmes.
· Broad debates including historians, experts, political figures and general public provoked, among others, by Jan Gross’s Neigbors. The publications of the Polish National Institute of Remembrance on the Jedwabne massacre and other events.
It is part of a general process that began after the collapse of the communist system – a coming to terms with many neglected aspects of the Polish past (the history of Poles beyond the borders of present-day Poland, relations with Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Germans and Russians. The phase of “the posthumous integration of the Jews into the history of Poland”.
· The divided Church with its small but noisy groupings of nationalistic and anti-liberal attitudes (Radio Maryja).
· The still persisting anti-Semitic sentiments, especially in rural and small-town areas.
· The unfinished process of the revaluation of the Polish recent history: the communist heritage and anti-communist movement after the war, the Poles in the II World War, the Poles abroad, the lost property under the German Nazi and the communist regime.
· The failing interest in history, religion and theology in younger generations submerged in pragmatic aspirations of careers, prosperity and post-modern style of life.
· The lack of support of the Jewish community abroad for Poland’s attempts against false accusations of “Polish concentration camps”, Polish “genetic” anti-Semitism, and above all, the lack of interest in the revival of Jewish life in Poland and the rich Polish-Jewish dialogue. Also, too narrow concentration on property claims without recognizing broader historical and moral context.
“Poland can have a role in the historic developments in the Christian-Jewish dialogue. After all, this is a most important place in Jewish history, and a very important country for the world-wide Catholic Church, as it was both the home of Pope John Paul II and the home of so many Jews over the centuries: and today is still the home of some Polish Polish Jews” Stanisław Krajewski, 2005
“My generation wants something more than merely a precise calculation of losses and a historical truth created as a result of a balance of wrongs. We need to transcend the logic of national suffering … We want to replace a history that is primarily concerned with confrontation and the defense of national honor … with a post-Holocaust universalism, directed towards the future of the generations to come” Sławomir Sierakowski, 2003