Assessing Actions and Outcomes in Contemporary Central-Eastern Europe
Edited By Jacek Kurczewski
Reconciliation with the Absent: Poles and Jews in Democratic Poland
The word reconciliation does not mean an admission of guilt and a request for forgiveness. Repentance is possible, often necessary. Forgiveness is no longer possible. The victims cannot forgive, and no one alive has the right to grant forgiveness in their name. Reconciliation is something less than repentance, but more than omission. Reconciliation leads to changes in attitudes, at least as far as a comprehensive and critical understanding of the past. It must always mean a serious and honest confrontation with historically shaped collective identity.
Let us begin with an examination of the sociological analyses and the results of social research on Polish-Jewish relations.
I. The latest sociological research reveals that fewer and fewer Poles have personal contact with Jews. People do not really know who is Jewish. They know virtual Jews, Jews from Polish literature, Jews from photographs published in press coverage of, for example, visits of Hasidic Jews to the graves of their tzaddiks. This is not particularly surprising. There are very few Jews left in Poland. (Before the war, 3.6 million Jews lived in Poland, and it is estimated that between 220,000 to 250,000 survived.) According to the 2011 census, there are 7,000 Jews in Poland. In reality, there are probably more, but no one knows exactly how many. Most of all, we do not know what criteria to use in order to determine who is, was or might be a Jew. After all, the word itself causes anxiety. It...
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