Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Hebrew) edition o f Ficowski’s poetry on Holocaust themes
appeared in Israel (1985), translated by Shalom Lindenbaum
with illustrations by Marc Chagall.
The question remains: Just what is it that has caused this flood
of books on Jews to appear in Poland at a time when practically no
Jews remain there? It can be taken for granted that in countries
governed by totalitarian regimes nothing gets printed without
approval from on high. In a conversation that reportedly took
place between General Wojciech Jaruzelski and the late Israeli
rabbi Yedidiah Frankel in 1983, at the ceremonies comme­
morating the fortieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto upris­
ing, the general stated that one of his aims was to uproot anti-
Semitism in Poland. Is the abundance of books on Jews, then, an
indication of this policy’s implementation?
As far as book publishing in general is concerned, in recent
years a serious liberalization is evident, and now even known
opponents of the regime can have their books brought out by
official publishing houses. It is in this context that permission is
being granted to print books on Jewish subjects as well. But the
books themselves are not being written pursuant to orders. There
is, I believe, a genuine demand for them nowadays, particularly
among Polish intellectuals, who feel that the 1968 expulsion from
Poland of most remaining Jews was a critical error. To the extent
that my own contacts with Polish authors enable me to say so, and
to the degree that it can be supported by empirical evidence, I
believe that there is a growing interest among Poles in the spirit­
ual universe of the Jews and in the vestiges of Jewish culture on
Polish soil. This interest finds expression not only in publications
but in the efforts of various organizations to preserve and recon­
struct Jewish monuments, cemeteries, synagogues, ritual objects,
and so forth. Among Poles there is also a growing sense of the
need to rehabilitate their nation’s good name in the eyes both of
Jews and the world at large, on account of the Poles’ image of pur­
ported complicity with the Germans in the mass murder of the
Jews. The efforts to cleanse the name of the Polish people have
also led to a dialogue between Poles and Jews — a high point of
which was the International Conference on Polish-Jewish Stud­
ies, held at Oxford in September 1984. Participants included