The Holocaust cast a shadow over the entire humankind. It affected everyone, even those who did not know about it, argued Marek Edelman. The Holocaust is a wound that may never heal. The Holocaust is a part of Polish history. The Holocaust is a part of the history of Christianity. It is the history of Christianity in Poland, inscribed in the history of Polish Catholicism.
20 thousand people were exterminated by the totalitarian German state within three days of August 1942 – one third of the population of Kielce.
Jewish Poles, Jewish residents of Kielce, shaped the spiritual and material culture of our city. Prayers in dozens small prayer houses scattered across city’s courtyards faded; prayer songs in the synagogue stopped; the murmur of cheders and yeshivas died. What remained was stones and walls of many houses occupied today by the present city institutions and residents of our city.
Imagine that soon, within 3 days, one third of the Kielce population of 190 thousand was killed – the elderly, women, children. One third, which is more than 60 thousand people. It is impossible to imagine, isn’t it? Could anyone imagine, let’s say in 1938, the death of 20 thousand people exterminated during the war? No. And yet it happened, and what happened once can happen again. Why not? Who is able to name at least one reason why this cannot happen again?
Could anyone back in 1945 imagine that a handful of survivors would die in their hometown of a martyr’s death, killed by their neighbours or the so-called law enforcement officers, security officers or soldiers? Nobody could imagine it then. And yet it happened, and what happened once can happen again. Why not? Who is able to name at least one reason why this cannot happen again?
What will stop the hatred and contempt felt for others just because they are different? Who will stop those who feel superior because they think others are inferior? Who will expose liars, who shamelessly cheat the crowds even though they know the truth? Who will teach the young generations that no war brings victory as it is always a failure of good and love? Who will provide our children and grandchildren with strong fellowship with other people, with every man? Today we are thinking about the victims. About the martyrs. We – Catholics believe that martyrdom sanctifies. On July 4, 1946, Jewish Poles were martyred for their faith in the fact that a better world was possible. Miriam Guterman, saved from death by a Polish Pole, said: “I was a Jewish Pole. I was a patriot. I wanted to live”. The murderers killed her loved ones and the world that she believed in before her eyes.
The world without hatred, without prejudice, without division into the better and the worse, the world without fear, misery, hunger and loneliness. The world that will be a safe home for all, the world of solidarity and compassion.
Do we really believe in such a world today? Do we live according to our faith?
I repeat after Marek Edelman: “No matter who is beaten – you need to stand by their side. You have to give them shelter, you must hide them in your cellar. You mustn’t be scared and you have to fight against those who beat”.