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November 10, 1978 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-11-10

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64 Friday, November 10, 1918


Pope John Paul II: Friend of Cracow's Jews


(Rabbi Tanenbaum,
national interreligious
affairs director of the
American Jewish Com-
mittee, was the only rabbi
present at Vatican Coun-
cil II and is regarded as
an authority on Vati-
can-Jewish relations.)
"He was the friendliest of
the Polish Catholic bishops
toward the Jews of Poland,
and he was among the most
vigorous in his rejection of
That was the description
of Karol Cardinal Wojtyla of
Cracow given to me by a
Polish Catholic priest in the
United States three days
following the election of the
Polish prelate as the 264th
Supreme Pontiff of the
Roman Catholic Church.
That evaluation of Pope
John Paul II's attitudes
towards Jews and Judaism
should be taken seriously, I
believe, for several reasons:
First, those views come
from Father Henri d'An-
jou of Portchester, N.Y.,
who lived in Poland and
personally helped save
the lives of a large
number of Jews from cer-
tain death at the hands of
the Nazis. Second, Father
d'Anjou knew the new
Pope when he was a
priest, and met fre-
quently with him be-
tween 1952 and 1956.
(According to Time mag-
azine, "Wojtyla began
studying for the priesthood
in 1942 in an illegal under-
ground seminary.
("That was risky enough,
but young Wojtyla was also
active in the anti-Nazi re-
sistance. Jerzy Zubrzycki, a.
high school classmate of
Wojtyla's who is now a
sociology professor at the
Australian National Uni-
versity in Canberra, says of
those years: 'He lived in
danger daily of losing his
life. He would move about
the occupied cities taking
Jewish families out of the
ghettos, finding them new
identities and hiding places.
He saved the lives of many
families threatened with
("Meanwhile he helped
organize and acted in the
underground 'Rhapsody
Theater,' whose anti-Nazi
and patriotic dramas
boosted. Polish morale.")
Lastly, and importantly,
Father d'Anjou's positive
impressions were confirmed
for us in an overseas tele-
phone conversation be-
tween the new director of
foreign affairs of the Ameri-
can Jewish Committee, Ab-
raham Karlikow, and a
leader of the Union of
Jewish Religious Com-
munities in Poland, Maciej
Jakubowicz of Cracow.

From these conversations
and from others conducted
with reliable sources in the
Vatican, the following por-
trait of the "track record" of
Cardinal Wojtyla toward
Polish Jewry emerges:
Around 1964, there were
a series of desecrations of
Jewish cemeteries in
Cracow, including defile-
ments of tombstones over
Jewish graves. It was
widely believed that these
anti-Semitic actions were
inspired or carried out by
agents of the Polish Com-
munist party and/or the
secret police. Archbishop
Wojtyla called upon
Catholic students attending
the University of Cracow to
clean and restore the defiled
tombstones and to repair
the Jewish cemeteries.
Subsequently, Ar-
chbishop Wojtyla deliv-
ered a public sermon dur-

In terms of his anti-
totalitarianism positions,
Pope John Paul II appears
to hold the same ideological
orientation as did his pre-
decessor, Pope John Paul I.
According to the
president of the Jewish
religious communities in
Poland, Maciej
Jakubowicz, "Through-
out his years as Bishop of
Cracow, Karol Wojtyla
was always approacha-
ble by Jews, and periodi-
cally, he used to inquire
what was happening to
the Jews, particularly in
relation to their religious
life and their religious in-
In 1971, four years after
he was designated Cardinal
by Pope Paul VI, Cardinal
Wojtyla came to the Cracow
Synagogue during a Friday
night Sabbath service. He
spoke warmly with the
small Jewish congregation,
and asked sympathetically
what problems they had
since he had heard they
were having trouble main-
taining their synagogues.
Mr. Jakubowicz also in-
formed the American
Jewish Committee that the
Cracow Jewish leadership
approached Cardinal Woj-
tyla when they had diffi-
culty securing kosher meat,
and that the Cardinal was
both sympathetic and help-
"Over the years," Mr.
added, "we
know of-no case where Car-
ing a large Corpus Christi dinal Wojtyla or the Cracow
procession in which he church was associated with
condemned the Com- any instance of anti-Semitic
munist functionaries for or other prejudicial state-
their anti-Jewish acts, ments or actions regarding
and called upon them to the Jewish people." One can
desist from any further only speak of the new Pope,
hostile actions against the Cracow Jewish leader
the remnant Jewish said, "in excellent terms as
a person and as an open-
His chancery published a minded religious leader."
journal of high academic To underscore their positive
quality, "Common Weekly." feelings, the Cracow Jewish
Archbishop Wojtyla per- leaders sent a cable to Pope
sonally authorized the pub- John Paul II congratulating
lication of a series of articles him as their "Cracow land-
in that journal com- sman."
memorating the victims of
Granted that this data is
the Nazi Holocaust, specifi-
cally the Jewish victims, as skimpy and impressionistic,
well as the Warsaw Ghetto it should -nevertheless serve
uprising of April 1943. In to allay some of the wide-
addition, he supported the spread anxieties that
publication of a series of ar- clearly exist in the Jewish
ticles and book reviews on community about "a Polish
Jewish history, religion and Pope." Those anxieties are
based on the nightmarish
Much has been made of experience with anti-
the fact that the new Pope Semitism in Poland that Dr.
studied at "an underground Lucy Dawidowicz sum-
seminary." Father d'Anjou, marized in her landmark
who attended the same sem- study, "The War Against
inary, told me the signifi- the Jews 1933-1945," in
cance of that fact lies in these words:
knowing that that semi-
"The Republic of Poland
nary, and other under- had come into being in 1919,
ground schools like it, were after its representatives
vigorous centers "of anti- had signed a treaty with the
Nazi ideology and resis- Allied powers, promising to
guarantee the civic and

political equality of its
minorities, to safeguard
their rights as citizens, and
in addition, to extend to all
minorities the right to es-
tablish their own educa-
tional, religious, charitable,
and social institutions.
From the start these
guarantees were never fully
implemented, and in 1934,
they were completely re-
nounced. Pogroms marked
the inauguration of Po-
land's independence and
were a recurring phenom-
enon in the 20 years of inde-
pendent Poland."
Before the outbreak of
World War II, about 3.3 mil-
lion Jews lived in Poland,
constituting the second
largest Jewish community
in the world. Today, there
are about 5,000 Jewish sur-.
vivors in Poland, most of
them aged and infirm, a
tragic remnant of the Nazi
havoc and anti-Semitic pog-
roms they suffered in the
country in which Jews had
lived for nearly a thousand
In contrast to other Polish
prelates, foremost among
them the late Cardinal
Hlond, who in 1937 deliv-
ered a vicious anti-Semitic
pastoral calling for the
boycott of Jews by the
Catholic faithful, Cardinal
Karol Wojtyla is considered
to be a "post-World War II
man, a man of social justice
and of human rights."
The new Pope John Paul
II "was always considered
different from the old
hierarchy on all issues of
human justice," Father
d'Anjou told me with obvi-
ous conviction. "He will be
different now, as he was be-
fore, in his relations with
the Jewish people."
* * *
A report completed by Dr.
Joseph L. Lichten, Anti-
Defamation League of Bnai
Brith representative in
Rome, stated:
"The facts are that during
the German occupation of
Poland in World War II, the
then Karol Wojtyla was
active in an underground
Christian democratic
organization (UNIA) which
had a record of helping
Jews. It is because of this
circumstance that he was
placed on a blacklist of the
"Further, during the Nazi
occupation, Karol Wojtyla
played a role in assisting
Jews to find shelter and
false Aryan identification
papers. Toward the end of
the war, he was hidden in
the cellar of the palace of
Cardinal Sapieha to avoid
arrest by the Nazis and re-
mained there until they left
"After the war, when only
about 500 Jews remained in
Crakow out of a once
flourishing Jewish commu-
nity, Father Wojtyla helped
organize the permanent
care of the Crakow Jewish
Cemetery. In 1968, as Ar-
chbishop of Crakow, he op-
posed the expulsion of the
remnants of Polish Jewry
from the country of their

Boris Smolar's

`Between You
. . . and Me'

Emeritus, JTA

(Coovright 1978, JTA, Inc.)

COMPLEX PROBLEMS: The complexity of problems
existing in the relationship between the American Jewish
community and Israel — evident in various areas but not
publicly discussed — has been brought to light now by a
task force of the American Jewish Committee. The aroup
was composed of about 40 members, half from the United
States and half from Israel.
Recommendations advanced by this group in its report
are based on in 7 depth discussions held at three con;_.
— two in Jerusalem and one in New York City. Mo,serisi
tive problems of potentially divisive issues were broached
with candor. They indicated heightened urgency of greater
policy consultation and collaboration between Israel and
the American Jewish community.
The task force acted as an autonomous body. Its views did
not represent the institutional position or policies of the
AJCommittee. Nor was every opinion or recommendation
agreed upon by all members. However, the report has the
approval of all the participants. It shows that while there
are practically no differences of opinion between Israel and
American Jewry on matters concerning Israel's security —
'the exception being only small groups of dissidents — such
differences do exist in some areas of Israel's "internal af-
fairs." The main discrepancies, as spelled out in the report,
concern the power vested in Israel's Orthodox rabbinate by
the government, and the system of the Jewish Agency
selecting for administrative positions only members of
Zionist groups — and on a party key proportional basis —
thus excluding able people, even Israelis, who are not af-
filiated with the Zionist movement; this despite the fact
that the funds administered by the Jewish Agency come
from all elements of world Jewry.
There is also the issue of the assistance being given by
American Jewish bodies to Jews who emigrate from the
Soviet Union and "drop out" on their way to Israel to pro-
ceed to the United States. Also, the element of tension over
aliya from the United States to Israel, which is not meeting
Israel's expectations.
* * *
commendations will definitely lead to emotional debates in
the ranks of American Jewry. One suggestion urges the
evaluation of the present structure of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and
its methods of operation in a way that the organization be
fully representative of Jewish communal opinion.
The recommendations concerning the Jewish Agency
will provoke even greater attention. Especially the sugges-
tion that the distribution of Jewish communal funds raised
by the United Jewish Appeal and other agencies for the
Jewish Agency be. reviewed on the basis of priority needs —
local communal Jewish needs and needs in Israel. It ad- -
vances the argument that this will provide opportunities
for the Jewish organizations to study, discuss and clarify
the priorities of the Jewish people in communities outside
of Israel and in the state of Israel.
• One recommendation with regard to the Jewish Agency
urges more active and specific involvement of the Ameri-
can representatives in Agency work. Another stresses that
there is a need that the Jewish Agency should clarify its
existing arrangements with regard to functions, respon-
sibilities and structure. Also, that .there is a need . to
maximize the participation and effectiveness of the non-
Zionist partners in the Jewish Agency's work — from policy
decisions to appointment of personnel.
Detroiter Max M. Fisher, the prominent American
Jewish leader who is very dedicated to Israel but not iden-
tified with the Zionist movement, and who serves as chair-
man of the board which governs the Jewish Agency, told me
that the task force has never consulted him on the recom-
mendations, and is obviously unaware of certain changt-
that were instituted by the Agency. The Board of Governor
consists of 21 members of the World Zionist Organization
and 21 representatives of communities outside of Israel.
Among the latter are also members of various groups
within the Zionist movement.
Strange as it may seem, the strongest criticism against
the Jewish Agency system was expressed by some of the
Israeli members of the task force. David Vital, a professor of
political science at Tel Aviv University, went as far as

suggesting — in very sharp words — the dismantling of the
Agency and its total reconstruction on new principles. Crit- -
ical views— though in a milder form -- were expressed also
by other Israeli participants at the sessions of the task
force. Concern was also expressed that the representatives
of Israel — by-and-large drawn from the Zionist establish-
ment — do not adequately reflect Israeli opinions.

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