ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE UPRISING IN THE WARSAW GHETTO

JAN ŻARYN

Polish and Jewish relations have never been easy or pleasant. Also interpretations concerning these relations have not been unambiguous but they have been contradictory. Let’s recall, in the end of the 80s of the XX century Jan Błoński wrote that during the war ‘Polish society did not feel obliged towards the Jews (…). The Jews were outside the border of solidarity’. He wrote about it with disapproval, somehow demanding the remorse frp, Polish readers. Whereas many years later Ewa Kurek proved in one of her books, particularly in the first years of the second world war that it was the Jews who proved their lack of solidarity towards Poles, supporting German occupants in the issue of inequality of parties. Only when facing up the genocide, the Jews from ghettos, including the Jewish conspiracy, were to recall about the existence of the Polish Underground State. I wrote about it myself in order to remind that because of the great liquidation action of the Warsaw ghetto in Autumn 1942, both Bund and the Jewish National Committee decided to protect themselves through the underground action and appeal to the Polish government in exile for support. This mutual accusation of the lack of solidarity had a longer tradition. When today I am looking at journals (vol. II) of Stanisław Wojciechowski, a socialist, an inner affairs minister in the government of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (in 1919), finally a president, I come across descriptions of the minister pointing to disloyalty, acts of betrayal (of communists of Jewish origin) or claims of particular representatives of the Jewish nation in a nearly renewing Poland.

In 1919 the Jewish society organized – either by its press or by pressures addressed to our Versailles allies – was trying to make the world believe that Poles are dealing mainly with organizing anti-Jewish pogroms. Irritation of the minister to this narration, responsible for creating inner order of the newly reborn state after 123 years of its absence on the map will surely be acknowledged as a sign of anti-semitism. Similarly as – in the opinion of many historians dealing with Polish –Jewish relations in the Second Republic of Poland – lack of assimilating successes at that time was to result from the Polish anti-semitism, including the teaching of the Catholic Church, allegedly discouraging the Jews from Polishness.

And if a minority did not feel obliged to support Polish efforts to gain independence, both during the First and the Second World War, could not hope for friendliness or solidarity. Only the moment in the history of the XX century, when we can say that the attitude of solidarity won – although not ruthlessly – it is the time for an uprising in ghetto.

The Main Police Office of the National Army and leadership of districts (for example of the Warsaw district) made a difficult decision about delivering weapon to the Jewish opposition movement still before the uprising in ghetto. ‘One light small machine gun, two semi-automatic guns, 50 pieces of hand weapon (all with ammunition), 10 guns, 600 pieces of hand bullets with detonators, 330 kilos of explosive materials (plastics from air throws), 120 kilos of explosive materials of one’s own production, 400 detonators for bombs and bullets, 30 kilos of potassium for production of ‘Mołotov cocktail’ and big amounts of potassium nitrate for shooting powder were delivered, mainly, to the Jewish Military Organization’ – said Stefan Korboński. Facing up the needs of the Polish underground state this support was a relatively great help. Whereas, during a fight – in April 19433 – divisions of the People’s Guards, particularly, the National Army, among the others, a division of captain Henryk Iwański or a unit under leadership of captain Józef Pszenny, were directly trying to support Jewish fighters, trying to break the wall of ghetto.

Thanks to the help of some Jewish fighters, at least a few dozen people, were led out of ghetto. However, it does not mean that the whole Polish population of the capital city would identify itself with fighters, but the previous opinion about the Jews as passively giving in to the Germans had to subordinate and it did subordinate to verification. The Jews began to fight like Poles – it was constantly said, and the visible Polish flag hung out by Jewish fighters made everybody express deep respect.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 16/2018 (22 IV 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl