Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Polish President Visits USHMM

Received an email from the USHMM and within it was a link calling attention to Poland's newly elected president visit to the museum in December before he met with president Obama. The video is below and it's quite obvious that the museum administrative staff were very happy to have president Komorowski visit. It's significant for a number of reasons. First, in my view, it's important to see Polish officials of higher office acknowledge the rich Jewish history that is very much a part of Polish history. The former president, before he died in the plane crash last April, was the first, and I believe the only, president to visit Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw on Hanukkah to light the first candle. I do not know if the new president followed in president Kaczynski's footsteps, however, this past December. Second, that president Komorowski recognizes that the Holocaust, as the person in the video says, is very much a Polish story is important. With some 10% of the country's population Jewish in 1939, the loss of some 3 million citizens should be remembered, especially if it can play a role in alleviating hate. Further to this point, officials of higher office are in a very important position vis-a-vis setting an example for their citizens. Given the amount of anti-Semitism that was once very prevalent in Polish society, and exists to a degree today, someone of Komorowski's stature can have influence over those parts of society that continue to believe in aged-old stereotypes about the Jewish people. That is what was so admirable about Kaczynski visiting the synagogue. For Jewish Heritage travel, Poland is a fascinating place. Many of the buildings are still there, with many of them in ruins. So while the people who occupied those synagogues were taken from the earth in brutal fashion, memory remains, and it must be cherished.

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