The truth about the Polish-Jewish relationships

Fr Mariusz Boguszewski talks to Edward Kopowka and Fr Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, the authors of the book "Dam im imie na wieki (Ksiega Izajasza 56, 5)". Polacy z okolic Treblinki ratujacy Zydow" [Imperishable name will I give them (Is 56:5). Poles from the vicinity of Treblinka saving Jews].

FR MARIUSZ BOGUSZEWSKI: - Recently the Polish media have spoken about Poles very negatively. How does the book contribute to the discussion about the Polish-Jewish relationships?

EDWARD KOPOWKA: - We all realise that for several months, and actually several years, there has been a polemic about the Polish-Jewish relationships during World War II. Two options have been represented in the discussion. One is trying to put responsibility for the Holocaust on some considerable part of Poles whereas the other is opposing such an attitude. Our book goes beyond this polemic and proposes yet another option. It is respect for Jews and Poles, martyrs and heroes. That's why we do not judge or generalise but pay homage to those who saved Jews risking their lives and describe the extermination of those whose only 'guilt' was the Jewish origin.

-Some say that the role of the Germans has not been mentioned in this discussion…

E. K.: - Every death and every suffering should be respected. There were Germans who were forced into the war machine despite their wills, and they suffered, too. They also have the right to speak about their pain but… we must remember who caused this pain, who began the whole affair. And disputes and bidding can lead to such a situation that we forget who started the war and who the victims were and who the executioners were.

- How much time did it take you to gather materials for this important publication that has 500 pages?

FR PAWEL RYTEL-ANDRIANIK: - The publication is a fruit of several years of work, its intensity varies. Some testimonies were documented towards the 1990s. For a few years there has been a page on the website of the Museum in Treblinka, dedicated to the Poles who saved Jews. Moreover, in the summer of 2010 I had an occasion to work in the library in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, and conduct research on the vicinity of Treblinka. Now the fruits of my research have been presented to readers.

- What did it strike you when you were conducting your research?

FR P. R.-A.: - It turned out that Yad Vashem awarded most medals of the Righteous Among the Nations on those living in the former Wegrow-Sokolow district… i.e., the district where the camps in Treblinka were located - altogether 93 people (20 more cases are being looked into). Moreover, 44 Poles from this district were killed for helping Jews; they included five people who gave only bread to Jews! Considering the neighbouring districts the book describes stories of almost 1,000 people: over 250 (including 18 priests) were killed mainly for helping Jews, over 330 Righteous Among the Nations and ca. 400 people who offered effective help, risking their lives. And they should be remembered for ever.

- Thank you for the conversation.

You can order the book from Wydawnictwo Siostr Loretanek, Warsaw, tel. (+4822) 673 4693, e-mail:
Hard cover, 500; pages: price 28 zloty.
The book is also available at:;

"Niedziela" 23/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: