06 January 2010

Poles and Jews during the Second World War

The passing year brought further contributions to the discussions about the attitudes of Catholic Poles towards the Jews during the Second World War, perhaps the most complex and controversial topic in modern Polish history and one of the most painful and politically charged aspects of collective memory in the country. After the most thoroughly researched Polish study of the Warsaw Ghetto (Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, Getto warszawskie: przewodnik po nieistniejącym mieście, 1st edn. Warsaw, 2001) became available in English owing to the translation by Emma Harris for Yale University Press (The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, New Haven, 2009), its co-author, Barbara Engelking, the director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, together with Dariusz Libionka, the director of the Research Department of the Majdanek State Museum, turned her attention to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Their book Żydzi w powstańczej Warszawie (Warsaw, 2009) explores the place of Jews and Polish freedom fighters’ attitudes towards them during the doomed attempt of the Polish Home Army to liberate Warsaw from the Nazis before its capture by the Red Army. As the authors explain in an interview with the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, their aim was to show “the entire spectrum of [Polish] responses” to the Jews (“My staramy się pokazać całe spektrum postaw”). They conclude that during “the last battle for free Poland, nobody had time for the Jews” (“Rozgrywała się ostatnia bitwa o wolną Polskę, nikt nie miał głowy do Żydów”). The interview can be found here on the website of Gazeta Wyborcza.

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