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

By Joshua D. Zimmerman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
Some Issues in Jewish-Polish
Relations during the Second
World War
ISRAEL GUTMAN

Beginning in the 1980s, a series of discussionsand international meetings were held in Great Britain, Israel, Poland, and the United States. These conferences revolved around the complex of questions and controversies relating to Polish-Jewish relations and the Polish-Jewish historical perspective. While many considered these past conferences to be exchanges of opinions among scholars—a Polish-Jewish dialogue—they have been, until recently, encounters between two contending camps.

Jan BŁoński, a distinguished Polish scholar in the field of literature, described this situation of conflicting camps implicitly in his 1987 essay, “The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto.” 1 In his essay, he characterized the Polish-Jewish dialogueas a group of deaf people who did not listen to one another, but spent their time mobilizing contradictory arguments against the other. In light of this illustration, I believe there has been recognizable progress in the last few years. First, we have the appearance of works by young, qualified scholars. Second, and not less important, there is now little difference between Polish and Jewish scholars with regard to their approach, the merit of their research, and their attemptat objectivity on a wide array of topics.

On the one hand, I have the feeling that we have considerably improved the level of specific topics, arrived at a more common understanding, and are less affected by sentiments and prejudices. On the other hand, we are still not ripe enough to analyze and evaluate long periods of time and to comprehend the whole, often different and painful, phenomenon of Polish-Jewish relations.

In speaking broadly about the problem of wartime Polish-Jewish relations, Antony Polonsky refers to Mordekhai Tenenbaum, the leader of the Jewish fightingorganization in the BiaŁystok ghetto, and Emmanuel Ringelblum, the great

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