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Two Experiences of Danger and War


It seems to me that they come, first of all, to see the Holocaust sites: the largest and symbolically the most important one is in Oświęcim. Second, they come to see a place where anti-Semitism flourished. And perhaps still flourishes….

The newsstands sell anti-Semitic publications, and at the cathedral in Sandomierz they can still see a painting that, without any commentary, depicts ritual murder allegedly perpetrated by Jews. In the third place, they come to see a place associated with Jewish history, where many of the founders of Israel came from. Only in the fourth place do they come to see Poland. There is another goal, which for some is the most important—the organizers of the trips want to show how important the existence of Israel is for the security of Jews.

What should the goals of these trips be as I see it? The Holocaust must remain in first place. That is a trauma that has still not been overcome. Second—learning about the history of the Jews in places that owe a great deal to Jewish creativity. Third—learning about the history and current state of Poland. This can be accomplished through meetings with Polish young people, and fortunately there are more and more such meetings. Another way of overcoming preconceptions is through meetings with Polish Jews. People like me are a part of the Jewish world, and also a part of Poland. This is not easy for Israelis to accept: for years, there was no place at the March of the Living for the presence of groups of Polish Jews, or of the Polish language.

This year's visit cannot be indifferent to the situation in Israel, the experience of danger and war. But a visit to Auschwitz will not be a positive experience if it takes place under the slogan: "They are preparing a new Holocaust, if we don't strike first." It can be enriching to the degree that it points up the ultimate consequences of organized hatred, where it fosters reflection on the idea that this is what people, what we, are capable of doing

Stanisław Krajewski – member of the Board of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities, co-chairman of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, member of the International Auschwitz Council