Talk with Marek Edelman
(An interview made by Anka Grupinska and Wlodzimierz Filipek in 1985 for the underground magazine CZAS published in Poznan)
(...) From what you are saying I understand that you never had any religious education.
No, no. I have nothing in common with God. I would like him to defend me from my friend, because from my enemies I can defend myself, but he doesn't even defend me from my friends.
Indeed he doesn't...
My home was very progressive, not religious. Anyway the Church before the war in Poland was really racist. All those anti-Jewish and anti-Ukrainian riots started in the churches. In Warsaw father Trzeciak had his church at the Plac Teatralny and from there all the pogroms started. "Don't buy Jewish", "bash the Jews", all those things. At the Nowy Swiat, I think it was during the matriculation exams, I was beaten up. You couldn't go there, all those gangs were there, Falanga, who were afraid of the Jews from Plac Bankowy, where the Jews beat them with cart shafts. You don't remember carters. They had those carts with a shaft. After the war they weren't there any more. When a Jew went to Nowy Swiat, it was a disaster. I don't remember exactly how it was, but it was the only time when they beat me so badly. But I somehow went through the matriculation. I didn't know anything, but I passed.
What was the source of your identity? I mean what were your motives?
I don't understand you. You speak such highbrow words.
Why didn't you become a Zionist?
Well, you see, you grow up in some kind of a house. My mum thought and always told me that all would be well here, that all people are equal. good and so on. Zionism is a lost cause, both then and now.
Can you elaborate?
I am not talking about the ideology. I am saying that you cannot return to what was there 2000 years ago, this is impossible. In the sea of 100 millions Arabs you cannot make a state against them, any day those Jews can be slaughtered as they were slaughtered by Hitler. I am not saying it's gonna happen today, but those Arabs will learn how to shoot just as they have learned. They are a much bigger nation. It is a purely political thing. The Arabs say: OK, why the state of Israel should be here? Why not in Munich, why those 3 millions Jew don't live somewhere near Hanover? After all it's the Germans who should pay. And they are right! In the same way it is said that Pomerania and Silesia are Polish. Why? For the past 700 years Germans lived there. Is Kiev Polish today because some time ago Poland ruled there?
But the state of Israel was created and does exist.
You know, the Russians created this political entity for them. Later the Jews manoeuvred the Russians out and went to the Americans, but they will die anyway. A country of three millions in the sea of 100 millions Arabs cannot exist. It has no chances. They'll be slaughtered and pushed to the sea. Americans will give them the planes as long as they need the carrier there. Anytime the Americans can make friends not with Mubarak, but with some other fak, and tell those 3 million people to piss off. The state of Israel is a purely political thing. First the Russians wanted to chuck the English out, then the Americans wanted to chuck the English, and they did. Now they have this foothold. Of course the only rock that holds for so long is Gibraltar, but this is a rock. The chance that the Jewish state in the Middle East survives is not very big.
But this state exists already forty years. Anyway any state exists in certain political situation. Did you use the same arguments in 1939 in talks with your Zionist friends?
I couldn't use the same arguments, because today I have different experience. But it was the same. There was three and a half millions Jews in Poland of which three millions wanted to live here, earn a living, work. But there was 40 or 50 thousands mystics who wanted to go to Israel. Zionism was the rejection of Diaspora. Politically it was a marginal movement. It had to be marginal, it was unpractical, it had no chances. Those 50 thousands were like a drop in the ocean. It was mystically religious and nationalistic thing. Especially after the war the Jewish piety and the Jewish mysticism ceased to exist. They ceased to exist during the war: piety, mysticism, faith. God turned away from them and they turned away from God. "Kiss my arse" they said to God.
What was meaningful in the Ghetto?
Nothing! Nothing! Don't talk rubbish. You think that what you have seen in the movies, in the cinema, that this is true.
Do you remember Hasidim in the Ghetto?
Yes, of course, there were a lot of them, but already in 1941 it ceased to exist. The only social movement that left no trace, only open synagogues. Those faithful Jews left all those sacred books and went away. In 1939 I lived at Dzielna Street, opposite us there were those Jews called Toyte Hasidim. They were from the East, their rabbi died and they were the disciples. One of those persistent, happy, mystical Ukrainian group. Three months later they were gone, they left everything open and nothing was there. Whatever was left of the memorabilia, the Germans took from the burned out houses and took to Prague. This movement ceased to exist. Nothing was there. Lord God failed them. He punished them for nothing. Therefore they turned away from God: they shaved the beards, took off the robes, left the synagogues. To say something like this in Poland today is a terrible thing. It is because of that political Catholicism that grew up here, today everybody believes in God to spite the Reds. People go to the church and go through all the motions, but really Poland never was a very religious country. The church was always political, was always with the state. The Jewish religion was the same: political. When Lord God turns away from the Poles, when they start slaughtering those church goers, I am not talking about beating up with truncheons, this is small beer, but when they gas 100 thousand people in churches, then you'll see, the churches will be empty and only the banners will stay there. It was the same in the Ghetto. Religion vanished. All those tales about Jews praying when the uprising started, are just nice literary pieces. You know, they killed you for nothing! You went in the street, you had black hair or grey, so they killed you. How such a person can believe in God? He didn't do anything wrong. Maybe even he wanted to shine the shoes for that German, or something, he bowed down, and the other just shot him. And you what? You think that Christ orders to kill 20 million Poles and all Poles are gonna be believers?