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Wjc Denies Report That It Decided Not to Attend Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Commemoration in Poland

April 7, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The World Jewish Congress today denied a report in the Wall Street Journal which claimed that the Jewish organization had cancelled its plans to attend the eight-day commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to be held in Warsaw beginning April 15.

Elan Steinberg, director of the WJC-American Section, said a delegation of six representatives of its Executive Committee will participate in the commemoration. Included in the delegation will be Kalman Sultanik and Dr. Gerhart Riegner, vice president and secretary general of the WJC, respectively.

However, according to Steinberg, Edgar Bronfman, the WJC president, will not be among the member of the delegation to Poland. It was explained that this was an attempt by the WJC to prevent the Polish government, which is officially sponsoring the event, from politicizing it.

As the president of the WJC, rules of protocol would obligate Bronfman to meet with his counterpart or a representative of the host country, Steinberg explained. Bronfman’s decision was made to thus emphasize that the commemoration is “a Jewish event” and not a “political event.”


The WJC governing board decided last February “in principle” that it would participate in the commemorative event and recommended that WJC member communities participate in the observance as well. At that time, the governing board issued a statement declaring it is “unthinkable that (in) a place drenched in Jewish blood there should not be Jews to bear witness and recite kaddish.”

Steinberg said today that some 1,000 delegates representing 24 countries, including Israel and the Soviet Union will attend the ceremonies. Some 400 delegates from Israel, including Education Minister Zevulun Hammer, will participate. It was estimated that between 100-150 members of the American Jewish community will participate in the ceremonies.

The Workmen’s Circle, the world’s largest Jewish fraternal organization, said it will not participate in the ceremonies, and has called on American Jewish leaders “to renounce this event for the cynical insult it has become to all those martyred and who have survived the Holocaust.”

Marek Edelman, the only surviving leader of the ZOB (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa-Jewish Fighting Organization) and deputy commander of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising has refused an invitation to join the honorary committee of the event because of its official government sponsorship. Edelman, a delegate to the first national Congress of the now-outlawed Solidarity trade union, was briefly interned by the Polish government when martial law was imposed in Poland on December 13, 1981.

Edelman, in an open letter to an underground Solidarity newspaper, said: “Forty years ago we did not fight merely to survive — we fought for life in dignity and freedom. To celebrate our anniversary here, where enslavement and humiliation is now the lot of the whole society, where words and gestures have become nothing but lies, would betray the spirit of our struggle.

The Polish government has apparently gone to great efforts to see to it that the commemoration is as memorable and rewarding as possible. It has assumed the cost of reconstruction, reportedly at a cost of well above $1 million, of the old Warsaw synagogue. The building will be symbolically handed over the city’s Jewish community at the opening ceremonies. Also, on the same day. an exhibition will open at the Polish National Museum retracing the history of Poland’s Jewish community and its contributions to Polish culture and Poland’s struggle for independence.

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