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The Pope and I: How the Lifelong Friendship between a Polish Jew and John Paul II Advanced Jewish-Christian Relations Hardcover – May 10, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"History rarely turns on personal friendship, but an exception must be made for Blessed John Paul II and his lifelong friend, Jerzy Kluger. Their friendship helped move Catholic-Jewish relations in a nobler direction and opened lines of conversation that had been closed for centuries. Mr. Kluger's telling of this remarkable human story is full of insights into the character of his friend from small-town Poland who became one of the most consequential figures of the late twentieth century, while reforming the Office of Peter for the twenty-first." - George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jerzy Kluger grew up in the Polish town of Wadowice, where he befriended Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. While most of his family perished in Auschwitz, he escaped Poland and fought with the allies. After the war he moved to Rome and trained as an engineer. This book is his story, written with the help of Gianfranco Di Simone.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books (May 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570759707
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570759703
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Danusha V. Goska on May 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Anyone with a serious interest in Pope John Paul II, Polish-Jewish, and Christian-Jewish relations will want to read "The Pope and I: How the Lifelong Friendship between a Polish Jew and John Paul II Advanced Jewish-Christian Relations" by Jerzy Kluger. Kluger was Karol Wojtyla's childhood friend and adult confidante and colleague in changing Christian-Jewish relations.

Popular stereotypes of Poland in the interwar period (1918-1939) presume an anti-Semitic hellhole of regular pogroms where the Holocaust was a teleological inevitability. Anyone who has met a Jewish person who lived in interwar Poland, or who has read numerous memoirs, knows that this is not the case. Polish-Jewish relations are complicated. "The Pope and I" reflects this, and the tremendous intimacy of the Polish-Jewish relationship, as well.

Perhaps the intimacy and complication of Polish-Jewish relations are no better captured than in one line from the book. Pope John Paul II visited Israel. He said to Kluger, his childhood friend, "I have a strong desire to return to the Holy Land...There were so many Polish Jews there. It was like being home." Or this - when Kluger met Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, he reported, "What certainly put me at ease was the fact that I could speak to Shamir in Polish." Or this - Kluger's Uncle Wiktor lived with Countess Isabella, a Polish Catholic noblewoman.

Jerzy (Jurek) and Karol (Lolek) grew up in interwar Poland. Anti-Semitism in inter-war Poland was part of a worldwide upswing. Memoirists recount heartbreaking tales of economic boycotts, of being beaten up at universities and insulted in public. These incidents are reported more as shocking straws in the wind than as expected constants of daily life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding book depicting an exceedingly close relationship between two Poles; one a Catholic; the other a Jew - Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) and Jerzy Kluger. It describes a wonderfully simple life in Poland before the Nazi invaded it. It is heartwarming to read about the comraderie between people from different faith beliefs. This book also gives an excellent explanation of the continued conflicts in the Middle East as well as an excellent historical recount of Poland's history. The indefatigable efforts of Pope John Paul II to ameliorate strained relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis is unbounded. The warmth that comes through in this book - well, once you begin reading, you just can't put it down. The reader can almost visualize the bucolic scenery in Wadovice as well as the market places described by the author. Truly this book offers an excellent visualization of two people from such diverse religious convictions and how they not only remain friends after eight decades, but completely trust each other in so many ways. You don't have to be a Catholic or a Jew to enjoy this book. The essence lies in the love and trust people share and nuture regardless of their personal convictions. I highly recommend this book, without reservation. E. Slanga
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Format: Paperback
Karol (Lolek) Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920, into a traditional Catholic family. Jerzy (Jurek) Kluger was born on April 4, 1921, into a traditional Jewish family. Both grew up in Wadowice, a little town, between Kraków and Bielsko, in Poland. They attended the same grade school. As schoolmates they established a friendship that eventually lasted for life. In 1978, when Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, he granted his first private audience to Kluger and his family.

As a youngster, Kluger was affected by anti- Semitism that was quite rampant in those days in Poland, as it was in several other Eastern European countries. One day when ten-year old Kluger was looking for Woityla, he was told to find him in a certain church. Kluger went to that church and he was told by a lady sitting next to him: "You are a Jew, and Jews aren't allowed in a church." When Wojtyla heard about that incident, he became outraged. "Jews and Catholics are all children of the same God!" he said to that woman. "The Jews are our older brothers," Wojtyla told Kluger. When Kluger attended an engineering school in Warsaw, he was told by schoolmates: "You are Jew; you can't sit here," pointing to the seats at the very back. "Your place is back there, with the rest of your kind." Then, he was thrown to the floor, beaten, kicked and cursed. Consequently, a frustrated Kluger left that school.

Jews were hated because they were considered capitalist but also because they were communists; because they were too religious but also because they were too secular. Jews refused to assimilate, but also Jews were too eager to assimilate. Jews were stingy but they were also ostentatious spenders, and so on. Anti-Semitism has always been a mental disease but became contagious and endemic at certain times in history.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Mr. Kluger, in a very brief couple of asides, completely reveals the vicious reality of Catholic and Polish antisemitism between WWI and WWII. This was not his chief purpose but for me it seems the most important part of the book, as well as that Karol Wojtyla was able to escape Polish Catholic antisemitism entirely. Polish antisemitism still exists in the work of Radio Maryja which is getting financial support from the new nationalistic Polish government today. On wonders if some divine spirit protected the future John Paul II from the dominant ideology of his people and his priests in Poland.

I suppose it is possible to find excuses for the Poles. Casimir the Great welcomed large numbers of Jews into Poland and for centuries they enjoyed rights and privileges and the support of Kings and nobles. Their chief enemy right from the start was the Polish church which refused ever to modify its extremely negative view of the Jews. To this day Polish antisemitism is fueled by religion. Polish righteous gentiles are noted at Yad Vashem at the top of the list of such meritorious people. But t here were more Jews in Poland in 1939 than anywhere else, except in the USA perhaps. So even a few Righteous Gentiles would top those in other lands.

I fully expect a retort from our resident Polish nationalist and anti-Jewish publicist Mr. Jan Peczkis whose every contribution here seeks to damn anyone not Polish, especially the Jews.
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