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August 10, 1990 - Image 58

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-08-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

N EWS

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'An

'Terrible Reality' Held
Poles Back, Says Bishop

DAVID FRIEDMAN

Special to The Jewish News

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58

FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 1990

p

oland is trying to
come to terms with
the more than 1,000
years of a "glorious and
painful history" shared by
Jews and Poles, including
the Holocaust, a Polish
Catholic bishop recently told
a Jewish audience here.
Bishop Henryk Muszyn-
ski, chairman of the Polish
Episcopal Commission for
Dialogue with Judaism, said
that Jews and non-Jews both
suffered during the Nazi oc-
cupation of Poland.
But shared sufferings
"does not mean the same
sufferings," Muszynski told
a luncheon audience of the
Washington chapter of the
American Jewish Corn-
mittee.
He explained that while
the Nazis sought to exter-
minate the Jewish people, it
wanted to enslave the Polish
nation. At the same time,
many Poles were murdered,
including half the priests in
some dioceses, he said.
The bishop, who earlier
spoke at the AJCommittee's
annual meeting in New
York, admitted that Poles
committed crimes against
Jews during World War II
and after.
"We have to take respon-
sibility for all that we have
been guilty," Muszynski
said. "But to take the
responsibility you have to
see the terrible reality which
we have faced in Poland.
Muszynski tried to explain
why so few Christians
helped Jews during the war.
"We were entirely helpless,"
he said, adding that anyone
who sought to help Jews not
only risked his life, but that
of his entire family.
Those who did try to help
should be praised not for
compassion, but for heroism.
"You can't expect many
heroic acts in a terror situa-
tion," Muszynski said.
Today, with the collapse of
communism, both the Polish
government and the Roman
Catholic Church are trying
to teach Polish history as it
was, Muszynski said, not as
the Communist government
distorted it for 45 years.
"Polish history means also
the very wonderful and
great Jewish heritage," he
added.
This also means reaching
out and "building bridges"
to Jews, both the few thou-
sand that remain in Poland

and Jews abroad, so that
each side can better under-
stand the other.
Muszynski and his corn-
mission are credited with
playing a positive role in
forming the original 1987
agreement to relocate a
Carmelite convent at
Auschwitz, and in resolving
the crisis last year when the
nuns at first refused to
move.
The focus now is on
teaching seminary pro-
fessors about Judaism so
that they in turn can teach
their students, who as
priests will teach their con-
gregants. This will have a
"multiplying" effect,
Muszynski said.
Last year 21 seminary pro-
fessors spent six weeks at

Many believe
Poland has always
been "the land of
anti- Semitism, the
most anti-Semitic
country in Europe."
A. James Rudin

Spertus College of Judaica
in Chicago.
At the same time as
teaching seminary pro-
fessors, the commission is
also trying to stem a revival
of anti-Semitism in Poland.
"We in Poland have to be es-
pecially careful of all anti-
Semitic feelings because of
what happened before on
Polish soil," Muszynski said.
He said that before World
War II, there was religious,
economic and political anti-
Semitism in Poland. But he
maintained that it was
never based on a racial
theory in which Poles con-
sidered Jews as inferior.
Anti-Semitism under the
communist regime, disguis-
ed as anti- Zionism, was
called "instrumental" by
Muszynski. He said that this
same type of instrumental
anti-Semitism is being used
by groups in Poland, not as
an anti-Jewish measure but
as an instrument to oppose
Solidarity.
Muszynski said that dur-
ing his 25 years as a semi-
nary professor, he did not
find anti-Semitism among
the young people he taught.
Instead, after he returned
from studying in Israel, he
found his students eager to
learn about what he saw
there.
The commission is

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