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political world

We, Polish Jews ...

Jan Paczkis|Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This work is simultaneously published in Polish, English, and Hebrew. It contains a moving tribute to Poland's Nazi-German-murdered Jews. Ironic to many modern Jews who are put off by Poland as a graveyard for Jews, Tuwim was not. He writes: "We--history's most glorious heap of bloody manure which we have fertilized the Polish soil so that the bread of freedom may be sweeter for those who will survive us." (p. 44).

      My, Zydzi Polscy ... (We, Polish Jews ...)   )      
  4.0 out of 5 stars Poet Julian Tuwim's Views on the Holocaust, His "Polishness",

Also, ironic to those modern Jews who have objected to the crosses at Auschwitz as something totally foreign to Judaism, Tuwim had no problem incorporating Christian symbols and themes as part of his analysis of the Holocaust. He wrote: "We, the Golgotha upon which an endless forest of crosses could be raised. We, who two thousand years ago gave humanity a Son of Man slaughtered by the Roman Empire, and this one innocent death was enough to make Him God." (p. 43).

Both Tuwim and Editor Chone Szmeruk have cited the rhyme, "Jojne, idz na wojne" ("Jonah, go to war!")(p. 44), as a Polish mockery of the Jewish lack of military aptitude. This is one-sided. In fact, Poles have also admired Jewish military exploits, such as those of a Jewish brigade that fought under Kosciuszko, and, more recently, the Jewish valor shown during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Finally, Jews themselves have criticized each other for perceived insufficient militancy. For example, after Israel had become established with its strong military tradition, young Israelis (e. g., the sabras) sometimes faulted their elders for having lacked such a tradition.

Tuwim's identification with Poland and with his Jewishness was a matter of personal choice, not on definitions imposed by others. However, it becomes obvious that Tuwim's identification with Poland was primarily of a geographic nature. As an assimilated Jew, Polish was his first language, and his life-defining experiences were with Poles. (pp. 41-42). Evidently comparing the flora of Poland with that of Palestine, he expressed a preference for birches and willows over palms and citrus trees. (p. 42). He admired Mickiewicz and Chopin more than Shakespeare and Beethoven.

At no time does Tuwim show any identification with Polish patriotic traditions. Not a single statement in his poetry shows any sorrow for Poland's loss of independence under the Nazis, nor her impending loss of independence under the Soviets. Tuwim displays much grief over the murders of his fellow Jews, but has not a word to say about the murders of millions of gentile Poles.

Finally, Tuwim's identification with Poland was temporary. In his THE MEMORIAL AND THE GRAVE, spoken at the 5th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1948), Tuwim said: "I do not appear here as a Jew or a Pole or as a European...I am Humankind." (p. 46). Editor Chone Szmeruk takes this further, and comments: "In the 1948 article, we no longer find emotional declarations of the poet's loyalty to the Jewish people and his own Polishness, as we do in WE POLISH JEWS..." (p. 37).

Tuwim has been accused to being pro-Soviet and pro-Communist. This possibly comes through in the poetry contained in this book. He divides Poles into anti-Semites and anti-fascists, thus equating anti-Semitism with fascism. (p. 41-42). This corresponds to the Communist propaganda of that time. [Also, "Fascist", in Communist lingo, was virtually anyone who was not a Communist.] Tuwim ignores forms of anti-Semitism that had nothing to do with fascism, as well as the anti-Semitism found in Communism. Also, some forms of even overt fascism (e. g., Mussolini's, in its early stages), were hardly anti-Semitic at all, and even included openly-Jewish members.

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