Polish Comparisons


This summer I was among some 50 people who went on the Heritage Tour of Poland’s Jewish
History. Helen Chernikoff’s excellent article about two young people’s
upbeat experience with mezuzah traces (“Tracing Poland’s Past, And Its Future,” Sept. 25) rekindled memories of our trip which I
would like to juxtapose with theirs.

The factual statement that from 1939 to 1941 the Polish Jewish population
plummeted from 3.3 million to 300,000 is well illustrated by the numerous empty
remains of synagogues, the sites of mass graves in forest groves, and the
many monuments. For us Poland was a mass Jewish grave from which the voices
of the dead called out to remind us of their tragic fate and of the
ever-present fragility of the Jewish people. 

The description of the upbeat mezuzah tours remind me of the
2011cartoon travel book of the French Jewish author, Jérémie Drès, “We Will Not Go To See Auschwitz.” For us the popular, tourist-oriented Jewish quarter was not an example of Polish Jewish
renaissance, but reminiscent of the menschengarten that that Nazi governor
of Poland, Hans Frank, wanted to give to Adolph Hitler for his birthday in
l941 — that is a neighborhood about Jews without Jews. 
For me it is not possible to visit “Judenrein” Poland in 2015 without
seeing Auschwitz.