Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and Its Aftermath

By Joshua D. Zimmerman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Ringelblum Revisited
POLISH-JEWISH RELATIONS IN
OCCUPIED WARSAW, 1940–1945
GUNNAR S. PAULSSON

The most sensitive barometer of PolishJewish relations during the Second World War must surely be the experience of those Jews who put their lives in the hands of their Polish fellow-citizens by living illegally “on the Aryan side.” As Emmanuel Ringelblum put it in Sepember 1943, while he himself was hiding in a bunker in “Aryan” Warsaw:

For those who go day by day to the steam-boiler in Treblinka, to the gas-ovens in Sobibor, to the crematorium in the Lublin concentration camp or to the death-chamber in BeŁz.ec, the attitude of the Polish community one way or the other is irrelevant; but to those few who are still alive in some underground cave, in a secret hide-out in some suburb, or living as “Aryans” “on the surface,” these questions are not merely theoretical. Whether this small remaining handful of Jews will be able to hold out against the tide of German hatred… will depend largely upon the attitude of the Polish community. 1

Ringelblum concluded that Polish attitudes were mixed. Reflecting on the “blessed arm of Underground Poland,” which had twice saved him from death, he wrote: “I myself am concrete proof that the contention of some Jewish circles that the whole Polish population is supposedly delighted over the fate of the Jews, that there do not exist on the Aryan side people with heart, who are pained by… the tragedy of the Jewish people in Poland, is far from the truth.” 2

But, while paying tribute to the “thousands of noble souls” who had risked their lives to help Jews, he believed that Poland had not equaled the record of

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