Is this the time to stop hating Poland?

4 07 2007

The Polish Dziennik daily reports on a debate that started in Israel, after one of internet portals asked the question: ‘Is this the time to stop hating Poland?’

The row over the relations with Poland, and whether Poland is a nation of murderers or Rigtheous Among the Nations is explained in Dziennik by Adar Primor, the editor-in-chief of the English language edition of the Israeli Haaretz daily. He took part in this debate publishing an article in Haaretz, in which he criticised Israeli stereotypes on Poland and the Polish. According to him, Poland is curreently the most pro-Israeli country in Europe. See Adar Primor’s article in Haaretz: “There is a new Poland” . Polish Dziennik published translation of this text together with a commentary for the Polish readers, which is translated into English below.

* * *

Source: Dziennik daily, July 4th 2007
Author: Adar Primor, editor-in-chief of the English edition of Haaretz
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

“IN ISRAEL WE SEE THE NEW FACE OF POLAND”

After having read my article, a reader said he will apply for a Polish passport. Others protested against including Poland in Nazi Germany. Some criticised the racism in Israel.

I was born in 1965 in Jerusalem. I was always aware of my Polish roots (my grandfather was born in Będzin, my grandmother in Katowice), and I had also known that my mother’s family was murdered on Polish soil during the Holocaust. As a proud Israeli, I always had a strong Israeli identity, thefore I wasn’t paying much attention to its Polish element.

My mum talked with her parents in Polish (however imperfect her Polish was), and when she was driving, my grandmother always shouted to her: “Uważaj” (look out, be careful) from the back seat, giving fright to other passengers. The same loving grandmother always watched us to make sure that we ate everything we had on our plates – which apparently was connected with some Polish (Jewish-Polish?) character feature, which “no Pole can get rid of”. But that concludes the list of things connected with Poland in my life.

When I was 12, my grandfather got ill. Once I heard him raving through his sleep. I came closer, but I wasn’t able to understand the word he kept saying. I asked my mum. “Będzin” – she said. It was the first time I heard the name of his home town. For the first time I understood what home country means. Although grandfather had left Poland over fourty years ago, this country was still alive in his heart.

This is why I was so excited when last month Polish embassy in Tel Aviv invited me to go on a trip to Poland, organised for Israeli journalists. Although I’ve been working for 12 years in “Haaretz” as foreign affairs editor – and I was also preoccupied with the news from post-communist Poland – I wasn’t sure whether the image of Poland that formed in my mind on the basis of media reports (and the interviews that I have done) does reflect reality. The text “There is a new Poland”, which I wrote after almost a week in Kraków, Auschwitz, Łódź and Warsaw summarises my new experiences and thoughts.

As one could have expected, the article published 15th July in Haaretz, did not go unnoticed. I think that no other article that I have ever written received so many reactions.

Some of them were positive, even warm. One of my colleagues journalists, who also went on that trip to Poland, praised me for “courage to fight for normality”, and added that he wouldn’t be surprised if readers stoned me. Meanwhile, pat of the readers – much larger than I expected – joined my colleague in praise. One of them visited Poland after sixty years (he had left in 1946) and saw a completely different country. Another person said, that after having read my article, he will apply for a Polish passport in the embassy. Others joined the historical debate and protested against the mental process in which many Israelis include Poland in Nazi Germany. Some of the readers said, that if we could forgive the Germans there is no way we could blame Poland. Others criticised racism in Israel itself.

On the other hand, one journalist who was born in Poland, and who has visited the country of her birth many times, both professionally and as a tourist, said that she doesn’t agree with some parts of my analysis, which – as she says – goes too far. More critical was my mother-in-law, who lived in Poland during the war. She survived together with her parents thanks to many Poles, who risked their own lives and were hiding them in barns and other places. Nonetheless she will never forget the horrible day in 1948, when she saw her parents being killed by a group of unidentified Poles, who could not stand the fact that Jews were coming back their homes. Her reaction to my article was deeply sceptical. ‘It is hard to believe that the Poles have really changed’ – she said.

Some readers were commenting that until the Polish government tolerates anti-Semites in coalition, and until it is ready to pay full compensations to Polish-Jewish emigrant, whose property was confiscated, one cannot talk about normality or a full reconciliation.

Nari Livneh, author of features in Haaretz, who visited Poland recently and discussed that visit in several articles, wrote: ‘Some things never change, and Poles also didn’t change’. In another feature, she summarises in one sentence the view, that still many Jews and Israelis share: ‘I would never trust the so called “New Poland”, or “New Germany/France/Hungary” or any other “new European country”, because something like that doesn’t exist‘.

The lively debate that my article provoked, can be concluded in my opinion with the words that the wounds have rather healed over, but some still have very visible scars.

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If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 

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3 responses

6 08 2007
alexandersays

“Is this the time to stop hating Poland?”

Seems, it’s not the time.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3434453,00.html

11 09 2007
subsea

It’s rather interesting that so many Jews and Israelis hate Poland and the polish people. There seems to be mass confusion between the location of the majority of the extermination camps (ie on Polish territory which was occupied by the Germans) and allocation of blame. That is a massive mistake which seems to be prevalent amongst the Jewish population in the USA.

Whilst I know for sure that anti-semitism was rife in Poland before the war, it was the same in Germany, France and England especially where there were large concentrations of Jews mixed in with the local population. After the war Poland was destroyed on a huge scale with millions of people made homeless and millions more made to move from lands taken in the East to lands gained in the West. The first couple of years after the war many Poles were living from day to day, where they could and no-one was going to take away their right to live.

Jewish people who have been conditioned into unpleasant thoughts should remember two things about Poland: 1) that Poland gave sanctuary and safety to Jews for hundreds of years when most other less enlightened european countries would prefer to hang them, and 2) during the war the penalty for giving aid, any aid, to Jews in Poland was a magnitude worse than in say Holland or France – whole Polish families were executed immediately by the Germans – and yet aid was given on a huge and largely unrecorded scale.

After the war, Jewish death were tought to be the same as polish deaths in schools – polish kids did not distinguish between catholic and jewish people.

Its apparent that Jewish schools need to reconsider European history and teach it in all of its finer shades. I am not making a apology for the skinheads and bigots that you’ll find on the streets of Warsaw – but their proportion will be less than in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London and Jeruselam

8 08 2012
dodza

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