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They also served

Listen - Polish Radio
05.10.2006

An exhibition focusing on Jewish soldiers in the Polish armed forces during the Second World War is now on in Jerusalem.

The organizers say the fact that Polish Jews served in the army alongside Christian Poles hasn't been given enough attention. The current exhibition in Jerusalem is held under the patronage of the Polish President.

The Struggle for Liberty: Jewish Soldiers in the Polish Army focuses on little known episodes of Jewish life in Poland. At the outbreak of the Second World War, one tenth of the whole Polish Army was made up of Jewish soldiers. Krzysztof Olendzki, undersecretary of the Polish ministry of culture thinks that the time is ripe to shed new light on this facet of Polish Jewish history.

"We underestimated the fact that ten percent of the Polish population was comprised of Polish Jews. This ten percent of the population were taking part in the entire political, social and cultural life of our country. We also underestimated the fact that representatives of the Jewish community were taking an active part in the army. During the September campaign in 1939 there was also ten percent of Polish army that were Jewish soldiers, Polish citizens who were fighting during the Second World War. Some of the soldiers from General Anders 2nd corps. Remained in Palestine in 1943 and they took an active part in the independence of the Israeli state.'

The exhibition includes some 300 items related to the life of Jews in the Polish military between the end of the 18th century and the final days of the Second World War. The exhibition coincides with a fresh wave of interest in their ancestry among Israelis whose families come from Poland, and Poles who are discovering their Jewish roots.

Jay Bushinsky CBS radio correspondent in Jerusalem thinks that Poland is taking giant steps forward in revealing true historical facts about its past.

"Speaking as an American corresponds here in Jerusalem, the relationship between Israel and Poland and the relationship between the Jews and the Poles must go beyond the horrors of the Holocaust. There was centuries of co-existence in Poland and there was an aftermath. The Jews were ten percent of the Population of Poland before the Nazi genocide. As the Jews made up ten percent of the Polish army, the troops who came to the Middle East with the Late General Anders. My late father - in - law served in the Polish army until he came to Palestine in 1935.The positive side of Polish - Jewish relations has to be brought out in the open."

Polish President Lech Kaczynski paid a visit to Israel last month, which the media in both countries described as further evidence of the two nations overcoming past problems.