Elie Wiesel Accuses Poland
commentary by Adam Michnik
Adam Michnik editor-in-chief

Gazeta Wyborcza,  June 27 2006

The influential US daily Washington Post published on Sunday a review, by Nobel prize winner and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel, of a new book by Jan Gross, the author of Neighbors. The subject of the book, titled Fear, is the persecution of Jews in post-war Poland in the years 1945-1946.

In the review, Elie Wiesel recalls his own experience from 10 years ago. His speech during the event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the pogrom in Kielce sparked - he writes - attacks across the wide range of the Polish press and those attacks were 'in fact anti-Semitic.'

Contrary to what Wiesel writes, his 1996 speech - chiefly the fragment referring to the dispute over the presence of Catholic crosses at the former Birkenau camp - was criticized by many people far removed from anti-Semitism, such as by father Józef Tischner on the pages of the Gazeta Wyborcza.

Moreover, Wiesel's review conveys the image of a country unable to confront the plague of anti-Semitism.

Several years ago, following the publication of Gross's book Neighbors about the destruction of a Jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland became the stage of a broad debate that was ignored by neither the Polish president nor the primate of the country's Catholic Church.

There is probably no other country in East Central Europe that would be accounting for the dark chapters of its own history with such seriousness and honesty.

That debate was as important as the publication of Gross's book.

A couple of weeks ago rabbi Michael Schudrich was assaulted by a hooligan on a Warsaw street. This was probably not the only case in the world of a hooligan assault on a rabbi.

Poland, however, is likely the only country where on the next day the president ostentatiously invited the rabbi to meet him and in front of the cameras expressed his solidarity with the victim of the assault.

Anyone who writes about anti-Semitism in Poland and ignores those facts, falsifies - even if unintentionally - the truth about Poland.

Gazeta Wyborcza, June 27, 2006
Adam Michnik editor-in-chief, Gazeta Wyborcza