In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The duty of thought stems from the following: the men who were murdered were thinking beings. The rest is only a symptom of shame because we have failed to accomplish this duty. E>DIG B6INL>:8@> Without forgiveness there is no future. 6G8=7>H=DE 9:HBDC9 IJIJ, Truth and Reconciliation Commission I went to Jedwabne on August 15, 2001. I had to go there after receiving an email from a Polish friend who had participated in the commemorative ceremony on July 10. She wrote: “I thought there would be more people there. But, apart from the representatives of Jewish communities, the President , a throng of journalists and hundreds of policemen, there was only a handful. It rained, and Rabbi Baker said that God was crying. The people of Jedwabne stayed home, peering from behind the curtains, because the priest told them not to go. I kept thinking whether today they wouldn’t do the same.” In Jedwabne, I stood at the site where the ordinary citizens of the town tortured, humiliated, and finally burnt in a barn the Jewish half of the town. Unbearable memory, inexpiable crime . . . And yet, as a nation, Poles have not been able to attribute guilt unequivocally for that crime, to draw a line between good and evil. Forgiving In his reflections on Auschwitz titled The Drowned and the Saved, Holocaust survivor Primo Levi asserts that considering the collapse of a clear  Forgiving, Witnessing, and “Polish Shame” dorota glowacka  ;DGK>CIC:HH>CH= H=6B:” distinction between good and evil in what he calls the moral gray zone, he must withhold moral judgment and, as a consequence, also must relinquish his authority to grant or withhold forgiveness.1 It seems that in Poland, as in Levi’s example, this inability to assign guilt has put a question mark over the possibility of forgiveness between Poles and Jews. In the following discussion I argue, however, that the ashes of Jedwabne do not belong in Levi’s gray zone, in which moral judgment must be suspended. On the contrary, I discuss Jedwabne in terms of ethical responsibility, insisting at the same time on what I see as a necessary correlation between forgiveness and bearing witness. The multilayered context of the Jedwabne debacle has also led me to believe that this relation pivots on the notion of “shame,” as it has structured historical and cultural memory in postwar Poland.2 If, as I believe, rethinking the relation between forgiveness and witnessing is an urgent task for thought today, my personal responsibility as an intellectual is closely intertwined with my own Polish-Jewish heritage, a double legacy of pain, honor, and shame. Similarly to the Dreyfus affair in France at the turn of the century, Jedwabne has divided Polish society, revealing a profound rift in the nation’s historical and social imaginary.3 The right-wing nationalist camp has interpreted the efforts of Gross and his sympathizers as a hostile attempt to create “a society of shame” and thus corrode national unity, which they think is desperately needed under the conditions of new democracy.4 On the other hand a sizable part of Polish society, including prominent left-wing politicians, reputable academics , and members of the clergy, has seen the crisis as an opportunity to wrestle with the painful legacy of antisemitism in Poland and to embrace the values of tolerance as part of the redefinition of patriotism. At the unveiling of the new monument at Jedwabne, Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski declared: “Because of this crime we should beg the shadows of the dead and their families for forgiveness. Therefore, today , as a citizen and as the president of the Polish Republic, I apologize. I apologize in the name of those Poles whose conscience is moved by that crime. In the name of those who believe that we cannot be proud of the magnificence of Polish history without at the same time feeling pain and shame for the wrongs that Poles have done to others.”5 These words K>CIC:HH>CH= H=6B:” families, including my own, the parents’ Jewish background was a carefully guarded secret. Maria Thau Weczer, a child survivor from Kraków, cites the words of one of her friends from the Jewish orphanage: “Being Jewish was so horrible, so disgusting, that even today, after so many years, when I confess it to a stranger, I do so in an artificial way, with a certain measure of defiance...

pdf

Additional Information

ISBN
9780803205994
MARC Record
OCLC
154676978
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.