Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:11

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Bogdan Białek's speech delivered during the unveiling ceremony of the restored tombstone of Kielce Pogrom victims (July 5, 2010)

b.bialekWhat news will be reported by the different media today? What else will there be reported about, apart from the regular breaking news, without which the media would be like a soup lacking salt?

 

I ask this question because I know that the day reported in black on the white pages of newspapers, and presented in all possible colours on the screens of our TV sets, is not just a description of an unimaginably tiny fragment of reality. These different news reports will not, however, include an answer to the most important question, namely where do the actual changes take place in this world? Changes that deeply transform a society. Something that either paralyses or inspires us. Something that can either spark a war or prevent it. Something that either destroys hope or offers it. Does the essence of things appear in the news? Can it at all appear there?

 

And here, today, we are actually touching the essence of things, we are within the essence of things. We have spun the thread of memory across our city – from the Menora monument commemorating the life and annihilation of the Jews of Kielce, to the tombstone on the collective grave of our dear deceased, whose life has been taken away by our neighbours, co-inhabitants, compatriots, perhaps our friends, or perhaps our forefathers. This thread was spun by a handful of people, private persons, Poles and Jews. We, who have participated in this endeavour, are aware that this is a very significant event, not only for this moment, but for many generations to come. Let each one interpret it as they like.

 

We have spun this thread – not a steel rope or a thick line, but a delicate, silk thread.

 

All who are here today by the call of their hearts, sensitivity of conscience, or even just the bare duty resulting from the office held – are here, in this essence of things, which is about transforming the world for the better, and building hope. There are many absent here – they do not want or do not know how to be here, maybe do not even see a reason for being here. Many others find it hard to accept what atrocious crime has happened here, on this soil, and what great responsibility lies on us – and hence on them. Responsibility which is not only limited to memory, or, in other words, for what is remembered, but also what this memory looks like now, namely how it is remembered.

 

The murder which took place on 4 July 1946 is a fact. But this bare fact does not tell much, particularly after 64 years. We need to constantly ask ourselves questions – why has this murder taken place? Who committed it? By that I do not mean the continuous search for ever new facts because we know that history is not facts only. Even thousands of facts do not make history. We need an understanding which would put the facts in order. We need a clear attitude towards the facts.

 

We also need to accept it that the Kielce crime was an act of hatred which did not appear from out of nowhere. The crime had its “official” instigators with mean intentions. But they did find a fertile soil. Are the sources of this hatred definitely dry?

We are moved when listening to tear-jerking Jewish songs or watching for the hundredth time scenes from “Fiddler on the Roof”. We laugh our heads off listening to Jewish jokes, of course when they are told in “Jewish style”. We are bombarded with appeals for dialogue and tolerance. Appeals are not enough – it a dialogue that should be created! Dialogue means action and not empty words. How many destroyed Jewish cemeteries are out there?

 

cmentarz_maleThere are more Jewish cemeteries in Poland than there are Jews. Who is to take care of them? And still, in many places we live in houses built by our Jewish neighbours, our predecessors. We walk on streets bearing their memory. Should not our care for this last remnant of the Jewish presence be the duty – and not just a moral one – of each local community? True, some cemeteries are well marked and put in order. But then it’s very quickly that we find a plaque with the name of a Jewish sponsor nearby. I think on such occasions about the inhabitants of such a locality – are you not ashamed?

 

In 1942, during the Reinhard operation, the German criminals annihilated almost the entire Jewish population of our region. In almost every place atrocious scenes took place which were witnessed, often mutely, by Polish neighbours. And who remembers this today? Even in places known for the many projects and contacts with the Jewish community, the local people do not commemorate the different anniversaries and it also happens that even the local authorities, lay or church, forget to lay a wreath, light a candle, recall the local Jews murdered there – just as they would to commemorate the Polish victims of this black night of German occupation.

 

In present times there is still too much evil in this world. Some say that it is intolerance which is the sources of evil. Tolerance? It’s not enough to appeal for tolerance. Acceptance is not enough either. We need love, we need empathy, we need commiseration. Do schools teach love? Do families teach commiseration? Does religious instruction teach this? Do we have with us here today future priests from the local seminary so that they could translate today’s lesson to future lessons in religion in schools?

 

Young people want to be taught this. They want us to teach them that. We have spun a thread of memory in Kielce – from Menora to this place. It would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Mayor Lubawski and his associates – and in particular, let me mention Deputy Mayor Gruszewski and Mr. Tworogowski. Mr. Lubawski is the first and, so far, the only politician from Kielce and local authority activist who has expressed his deep understanding and openness. It is important that words of gratitude for him are said here.

 

Our community has regained its memory. Will it allow us to find in us a place for trust and hope? We have come to the end of a certain road. We need to look for new ones. Ones which would takes us to hope. I shall keep on searching.

 

 

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