Saturday, February 18, 2012

From the National Catholic Reporter

Polish history throughout the 1930s through to the late 1940s was a bloody and violent narrative that saw over 3 million Polish Jews and an equal number of Polish non-Jews murdered.  To its shame the Catholic Church was a contributor to the widespread cultural acceptance of Judeophobia and even antisemitism.  But, to its credit, the Church also had the highest number of "Righteous among the Nations" who rescued and saved Jews.  The role of Pope Pius XII and the war in Poland is long and very complex, requiring ongoing serious study to disentangle the many layered webs.

In 2005 I visited Poland and Lithuania as part of Yad Vashem sponsored graduate field trip to places of Holocaust significance.  It was one of the most significant journeys I have taken.  One of the things I learned was of the growing number of young(ish) Poles who have come forward over the last ten or so years who have discovered Jewish ancestry and who need to know about that part of their identity that has existed only as a vague memory, if it has existed at all.

The Jagiellonian University in Krakow has one of the largest departments of Jewish studies in Europe with a growing graduate research program that aims at getting students who have discovered Jewish ancestry to uncover, discover and recover the Jewish history of Poland's towns, shtetls and cities.  As far as I am aware, the department's program in this area continues.

This provides an introduction to the article I read on the National Catholic Reporter entitled "Educators revive history of Poland's Jews".   It is very much a "good news" read, even if some of the comments are somewhat indicative of minds that could do with a little opening.

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