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Hero, Conspiracy, and Death: The Jewish Lectures

Translated by Alex Shannon


Maria Janion

With Hero, Conspiracy and Death: The Jewish Lectures, the author has written a book of sweeping significance for readers interested in Polish history, Jewish history, and the Holocaust in which she asks troubling questions: Can a Jew be both a Jew and a Pole? Are we right to talk of «worthy» and «unworthy» death in the Holocaust? What are the implications of Adam Mickiewicz’s philo-Semitism? In Zygmunt Krasiński’s anti-Semitism, do we see the «specter of elimination»? Are humanist and enlightenment values useful in analyzing the Holocaust, or did the experience of Nazi genocide render them obsolete? Tracing the history of anti-Jewish stereotypes in early nineteenth-century Poland (and beyond), the author offers answers to these questions that are bold, clear and compassionate.
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Part Two


1. A Wound on the Body of Poland

When Krasiński was living in Geneva in 1830 he came across a freshly published book edited by Leonard Chodźko entitled Tableau de la Pologne ancienne et moderne (A Portrait of Old and Modern Poland). He found there a reprint of the brochure written by his father in 1818, Aperęu sur le Juifs de Pologne. Still in a state of great emotion, he confided the following in a letter: “You will not believe, Papa, what an impression it made on me to find my dear Papa’s name.” The reprint includes a list of all General Krasmski’s titles, which his son quotes.232 We must place “My dear Papa’s name” as an inscription at the beginning of this discussion of Nie-Boska Komedia. The “Name of my Father.”

What was the young Krasiński – in view of his thoughts of, and about, his father – able to derive from this new edition of Tableau de la Pologne, which contained a variety of information (described in the work’s subtitle) along with reprints of tracts with publisher annotations and supplements?233 After some comments on the geographical location, climate and customs of Poland and the character of its inhabitants comes chapter five, “Żydzi w Polsce” (Jews in Poland). After that we find historical and geographical descriptions of the Polish regions and a “Krótki rys historii Polski” (A Brief Outline of Polish History). Jews were thus set apart as a...

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