Tue December 31, 2013
The Long Road Back: Polish-Jewish Relations Today
"Do they miss us?”
That was the question on Louise Steinman’s mind when she decided to travel to Poland and explore the country’s efforts at reconciliation with their traumatic past of dual occupations of the Nazis and Soviets.
Steinman wrote a book about the experience titled “The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation.” And as it turns out, some Polish citizens do miss their Jewish brethren, Steinman said
She discovered that some Poles are gratified the stories of their efforts to protect the Jews of Poland are being told. They also want the story told of the destruction of both the gentile and Jewish Polish population during World War II and beyond.
Poland was once the center of European Jewish culture. The war changed that. Most of the country’s three million Jews were killed, but so were three million other Polish citizens.
Now, with an emerging democratic Poland, a new generation is trying to take an unflinching look at their snarled history. Steinman said resentment over what happened during World War II is giving way to dialogue.
For example, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is being financed by the Polish government and this spring will open on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto.
Steinman said that delving into an uncomfortable history is critical to any healing, even if there is real pain. She said she can’t whitewash the anti-Semitism of the past or the present, but she wants to celebrate the works of people who are working to develop tolerance in a newly democratic Poland.
“This is the work of generations,” Steinman said. “It is a hard road, but a deeply moving and satisfying road when you experience it yourself. Things that you didn’t think were possible are possible.”