We Polish Jews...
August 1944, London
For my Mother in Poland or her
most beloved shadow
I can hear the question
immediately: 'Why US?' A question that is not baseless.
Jews ask me, the ones whom I always told that I was
a Pole, and now the question will be asked of me by
the Poles, for the greatest part of whom I have been
and will be a Jew. This is my answer for one and the
I am a Pole, because it pleases
me. It is my personal and private matter, and I do not
intend to submit a report nor an explication, an explanation
to justify the basis of it. I do not divide Poles into
'native- born' and 'not-native-born'; I leave that for
the native-born and non-native-born racists, the local
and non-local Hitlerites. I divide Poles and Jews as
well all other nations, into intelligent and stupid,
honest and thieves, intelligent and dullards, interesting
and boring, those who have been harmed and those who
harm, gentlemen and not, etc. I also divide Poles into
fashists and anti-fascists. These two camps, are not,
of course homogenous, each of them disperses shades
of color of differing intensities. But, the line of
demarcation most certainly exists and shortly will be
clearly seen. Shades will remain shades but the color
of that very line will be intense and deeper in a marked
I could say that in a political
sense I divide Poles into anti-Semites and anti-Fascists.
Because Fascism is always anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism
is the international language of Fascists.
However, if I did ever have to
justify my nationality, or rather my national feelings,
then I would say I am a Pole for the simplest, almost
the most primitive of reasons, generally rational, frequently
irrational, but without a 'mystical' addition. To be
a Pole, it is neither an honor, nor glory, nor a privilege.
It is the same as breathing.
I have not yet met a person that is proud of the fact
that he breathes. A Pole - because I was born in Poland,
grew up, was educated, taught, because it was in Poland
that I was happy and unhappy, because from my exile
I necessarily want to return to Poland, though they
may promise me Paradisiacal delights elsewhere.
A Pole - because through a loving
superstition which no reasoning or logic can explain,
I desire that after my death, it shall be Polish soil
that will absorb and consume me and none other. A Pole
- because that is what I was told in Polish in my family
home; because I was suckled on the Polish language as
a newborn, because my mother taught me Polish poems
and songs, and when my first great poetic tremor came,
it was in Polish words, because all that, which became
most important in life - poetic creativity - is unimaginable
in any other language, no matter how fluently I may
A Pole - because it was in Polish
that I confessed my first love and its' fears, and it
was Polish in which I sobbed of its joys and storms.
A Pole also because the birch
and the willow are closer to me than a cypress or a
palm, and Mickiewicz and Chopin dearer than Shakespeare
and Beethoven. Dearer for reasons that no reasoning
A Pole - because I have absorbed
a certain number of their national faults. A Pole -
because my hatred of Polish Fascists is greater than
of Fascists of other nationalities. Moreover, I believe
this to be a major trait of my Polishness. But above
all - a Pole because it pleases me.
In response to this, I hear voices:
'Good. But then if a Pole, why then 'We, Jews'? To this
I respond: BECAUSE OF BLOOD - 'Therefore racism?' No.
Most certainly not racism. In fact the converse. Blood
is twofold: that in our veins and that from our veins.
The first is the juice of our bodies and thus undergoes
testing by physiologists. Whoever ascribes any special
properties other than organic to this blood, or secret
powers, he, as can be seen, as a consequence turns cities
into smoldering hulks, massacres millions of people
and as we will see, brings destruction upon his own
kind. The second blood - that is the one which, that
chieftain of international fascism drains from humanity,
so as to document the triumph of the blood of his ilk
over my kind - the blood of those millions of innocents
beings murdered, their blood not secreted in their arteries
but their blood disclosed. As long as the world exists,
there has not been such an inundation of martyr's blood,
and the blood of Jews (not 'Jewish blood') flows through
the deepest and the widest streams. Its blackening torrents
conjoin into a stormy, foaming river - AND IT IS IN
THIS NEW JORDAN THAT I ACCEPT THE CHRISM ABOVE ALL CHRISMS:
MY BLOODY, HOT, PASSIONLIKE BROTHERHOOD WITH JEWS. Accept
me, my brothers, to this honored communion of the Innocently
Shed Blood. It is in this community, and of this church
that I wish to be a member of, from today on. This ranking
- that of the Jew Doloris Causa - let it be
granted to the Polish poet by the nation which begat
him. Not because of any special merits, because I have
none to display before you. I will consider this a promotion
and the highest reward for these few Polish poems which
may survive me and the memory of which will be entwined
with my name - the name of a Jewish Pole.
There was a Star of David painted
on the armbands, which you wore in the ghetto. I believe
in a future Poland, in which that star, that one from
the armbands, will become one of the highest awards
granted to the most courageous of Polish soldiers and
officers. They will wear it with pride on their chests
next to the ancient Virtuti Militari. Thus,
there will be the Cross - of the Ghetto - a name that
is deeply symbolic. There will be the Order of the Yellow
Patch- more regarded than most other trinkets existing
currently. There will stand - in Warsaw, and in every
other Polish city, a remaining, permanent and conserved
fragment of the ghetto in an unchanged form, just as
we find it in all its horror of smoldering embers and
destruction. We will surround this monument to the infamy
of our enemies, and the glory of our martyred heroes
with chains, chains cast from captured Hitlerite artillery,
and each day we shall plait fresh, living flowers into
the iron links, so that future generations shall have
a memory of the massacred nation that remains fresh
and alive for all eternity, and as a sign that our anguish
over it remains always living and fresh.
The Church and the Nation shall
gain yet another memorial. We will bring children there
and tell them of the most horrible martyrdom in the
annals of history. In the center of this memorial, whose
tragedy shall be underscored, God willing, by the surrounding
and newly constructed Glass Houses of the rebuilt city,
there will burn an eternal flame. Passersby will bow
their heads before it.
And he who is Christian - will
make the sign of the cross...
It will be with pride, with funereal
pride that we will wear this rank, which will eclipse
all others, the rank of Jewish Poles - who by a miracle
and happenstance have remained alive. With pride? Let
us rather say: with humility and devouring shame. It
is through your suffering, through your glory that we
gained it, Saviors!
...Then perhaps not 'We, Polish
Jews'... but rather 'We Specters, we Shadows of our
murdered Brothers, Polish Jews'...
We Polish Jews... We eternally
living - that is those who died in the ghettos and the
camps, and we specters - that is those, who have returned
from beyond the oceans and the seas to our Homeland
and who will cast fear among the ruins with our preserved
carcasses and phantomness of our seemingly preserved
We, the truth of graves, and we
the illusion of being, we, millions of cadavers and
some, some thousands of seemingly non-cadavers: we,
the endlessly enormous fraternal tomb, we the Kirkut,
such as has never before been seen and will not be seen
We, who were suffocated in the
gas chambers and turned into soap, with which not one
iota of our blood, nor the stigma of the world ís sins
against us can be washed away.
We, whose brains oozed on the
walls, on the walls of our destitute homes and on the
walls against which we were shot en masse - for one
reason only, that we are Jews.
We, the Golgotha, on which there
could arise an impassable forest of crosses. We, who
two thousand years ago gave forth the Son of Man to
mankind, innocently murdered by Imperial Rome - and
it sufficed in this one death, that he became God. What
religion will arise from the millions of deaths, tortures,
denigrations and arms spread crosslike in their last
We, Shlomos, Sruls, Moishes, we
scabs, ritual murderes, curly haired one - we whose
names and epithets will eclipse in honor the fullness
of all the Achilles, the Boles3aw the Valiants and Richard
the Lion Hearteds.
We, once again, in the catacombs
- in the 'bunkers' under the streets of Warsaw, shuffling
through the stench of the sewers, much to the amazement
of our companions, the rats.
We, with our rifles on the barricades,
among the ruins of our bombarded homes; we, soldiers
of freedom and honor...
'Jojne, go off to war!' He went,
my dear Sirs, and he died for Poland.
We, for whom 'each threshold was
a fortress' of every building which collapsed about
We, Polish Jews, becoming savages
in the forests, feeding our terrified children with
roots and grass, we, crawling, creeping, our hair bristling,
an ancient double barreled shotgun, somehow miraculously
gotten or purchased for some enormous sum, in our hands.
We, Jobs, we, Niobes, we, in penance
in memory of our hundreds of thousands of Jewish Ursulas...
We, the deep ravines of shattered
and mangled bones, of twisted and lacerated bodies.
We - the scream of pain! A scream
of such duration that it can be heard in the furthest
ages. We, the Moaning, we, the Choir, mournfully chanting
El Molei Rachmim, which one century will pass to the
We, the most wondrous of all times,
mass of bloody dung with which we have fertilized Poland
so that those, who survive us will taste the bread of
freedom that has a richer taste.
We, the macabre reserve, we, the
Last Mohicans, the survivors of the slaughter, whom
some new Barnum can tour throughout the world, hanging
signs on brightly painted boards saying ëAn amazing
sight! 'The biggest sensation in the world' Polish Jews
- live and real!' The Torture Chamber, the Schreckenskammer,
Chambre des Tortures! The weak and nervous are
asked to leave the chamber!'
We sitting on the riverbanks of
foreign lands and crying like they once did on the banks
in Babylon. Throughout the entire world, Rachel cries
over her children, but they are not to be found. On
the Hudson, the Thames, the Euphrates, Nile, Ganges,
and the Jordan we blunder about in our confusion crying
aloud: 'Vistula! Vistula! Vistula! Our birth mother.
Gray Vistula, pink not from the rays of dawn, but rather
We, who will not ever find the
graves of our children and our mothers - they are layered
so, that they would cover the entire land were they
to be buried one next to the other! And there will not
be one spot where you could lay flowers, but like the
sower casting his seed, you will cast them about. Through
some coincidence, you may find the spot.
We Polish Jews... We, the legend
dripping with blood and tears. Who knows, if it will
not need to be written in Biblical verses: 'That they
were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!
(Job XIX, 24) We, the lament of Jeremiah:
In the dust of the streets lie
the young and the old; my maidens and my young men have
fallen by the sword; in the day of thy anger thou hast
slain them, slaughtering without mercy'...
'they flung me alive into the
pit and cast stones on me; Water closed over my head;
I said, 'I am lost. I called on thy name, O LORD, from
the depths of the pit; ...Thou hast seen the wrong done
to me, O LORD; judge thou my cause... Thou wilt requite
them, O LORD, according to the work of their hands.
Thou wilt give them dullness of heart; thy curse will
be on them. Thou wilt pursue them in anger and destroy
them from under thy heavens, O LORD." (Jeremiah,
Laments, III) [Revised Transnote Standard Version]
* * *
An enormous and ever-growing skeleton
stands over Europe. The flame of dangerous anger glistens
from its eye sockets, and its fingers have curled into
a bony fist. And He, our Leader, and Dictator will instruct
us in our rights and our demands.
This text is republished from
POLACY - ŻYDZI / POLEN - JUDEN
/ POLES - JEWS 1939-1945 WYBÓR ŻRÓDEL
SELECTION OF DOCUMENTS
Foreword : Władysław Bartoszewski
Edited by: Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert
Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa
Instytut Dziedzictwa Narodowego
Oficyna Wydawnicza RYTM
IV/33 : 1944, August, Londyn. We Polish Jews..., pp.