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political world

tranger in Our Midst: Images of the Jew in Polish Literature

jan peczkis|Saturday, January 5, 2013

This book is not one that analyzes images of the Jew in Poland per se. Rather, it is an anthology of otherwise-disconnected separate articles about Poland's Jews. The articles are serialized according to time, beginning with Jews in Poland several centuries ago, and ending with post-Holocaust times. The articles include those by Polonized Jews such as Julian Tuwim and Antoni Slominski.

 
    ending with post-Holocaust times. The articles include those by Polonized Jews such as Julian Tuwim and Antoni Slominski.

One particular article struck me. Written by Father Jan Gnatowski (1855-1925), it shows the asymmetry (both tactical and moral) of Poles and Jews slandering each other. The Polish voice hardly goes beyond the street. Now consider what happens when Jews, using their much greater influence, slander the Poles and the Church. He comments, (quote) And yet, through the centuries, the Jews themselves were the object of many calumnies... But ignorance is a greater misfortune than a sin; how less evil it is than a lie told in full consciousness! The little shoemaker who screams in good faith that Jews in the neighboring street drew the blood from a Christian child can be excused to some extent in light of his stupidity. But how much less deserving of forbearance is the highly educated editor of a prominent newspaper who twice daily, with the smile of an augur, feeds his readers tales of Jesuit millions, the secrets of cloisters and confessionals, even the illegitimate children of Pius IX and Leo XIII, the debauchery reigning in the court of these two popes as well as at that of Pius X, cardinals being poisoned by other cardinals, and still other cardinals operating houses of ill repute for the augmentation of their income!... (unquote)(p. 281).

Fr. Gnatowski's comments are even more relevant today. Nowadays, complaints about Poles' much-exaggerated and long-abandoned past belief in the blood libel are perennial (e. g., by Jan T. Gross and his fans), while Jewish attacks on the Church and Poland are more odious than ever--ironically in this age of interfaith dialogue, "pluralism" and "tolerance".
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