Imaginary Neighbors: Mediating Polish-Jewish Relations after the Holocaust

By Wróbel, Piotr | Shofar, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Imaginary Neighbors: Mediating Polish-Jewish Relations after the Holocaust


Wróbel, Piotr, Shofar


Imaginary Neighbors: Mediating Polish-Jewish Relations after the Holocaust, edited by Dorota Glowacka and Joanna Zylinska. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. 337 pp. $45.00.

Memory of the Holocaust and its influence on Polish-Jewish relations belong to the most difficult historical topics. The book under review fully reflects this difficulty. It consists of a weighty introduction, three parts: "History and Memory," "Literary Encounters," and "Religion, Ethics, Politics," and an index.

The first part includes six texts: "The Dark Past: Polish-Jewish Relations in the Shadow of the Holocaust" by Joanna B. Michlic, the Chair in Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values at Lehigh University; "Jedwabne: History as a Fetish" by Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, a Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Institute of Applied Social Sciences at the University of Warsaw; "Living with Antisemitism" by Janina Bauman, a writer and a Holocaust survivor from Warsaw; "Notes for a Grave under Snow" by Andrew Jakubowicz, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia; "Bearing False Witness? 'Vicarious' Jewish Identity and Politics of Affinity" by Erica Lehrer, an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Concordia University in Montreal; and"St. Korczak of Warsaw" by Terri Ginsberg, an expert in cinema studies who taught film and cultural studies at several American universities.

The second part presents five texts: "The Holocaust, Jedwabne, and the Measure of Time" by Geoffrey Hartman, the Sterling Professor of English and Comparative Literature (Emeritus) at Yale University; "The Ceremony (Excerpts from a Play)" by Eva Hoffman, an acclaimed writer; "It Began with Pleasantries" by Anne Karpf, a Senior Lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University; "Imagined Topographies: Visions of Poland in Writings by Descendants of Survivors" by Marita Grimwood, a Ph. D. student at the University of Newcastle; and "Figures of Memory: Polish Holocaust Literature of the 'Second Generation'" by Alina Molisak, who teaches Holocaust literature in the Department of Polish at the University of Warsaw.

The third part consists of five essays: "A Breakthrough in the Teachings of the Church on Jews and Judaism" by Romuald Jakub Weksler-Waszkinel, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin who, several years after he was ordained a Catholic priest, discovered that he had been born in a Jewish family, which was later murdered during the Holocaust, and that he was saved and raised by a Polish family; "The Vision and Language of the Other: Jedwabne versus the Auschwitz Convent Controversy" by Zev Garber, the Chair of Jewish Studies at Los Angeles Valley College; "Forgiving Witnessing and'Polish Shame'" by Dorota Glowacka, an Associate Professor in the Contemporary Studies Programme at the University of King's College in Halifax; "'Who Is My Neighbor?': Ethics under Duress" by Joanna Zylinska, a cultural theorist and a Senior Lecturer in New Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College, University of London; and "Melancholic Nationalism and the Pathologies of Commemorating the Holocaust in Poland" by Ewa Plonowska Ziarek, the Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of Humanities Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Most texts have extended footnotes and bibliographies.

Diversity is the most striking feature of the book. Among its co-authors, there are representatives of various scholarly fields, journalists, and writers. They live on différent continents and belong to various generations. They approach the book's difficult subject from various positions, but they belong to the same school of thought. There are no conflicting or competing interpretations in the book. Among sixteen contributors there is no one single specialist in Polish history, and, to some co-authors, Poland's history is a distant and vague phenomenon. …

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