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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
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful and tender hearted story of a life long friendship . . .along with interesting historical information . . . . Read morePublished 5 months ago by Momof7
.the power of the holy spirit is great the pope was ready chosen by GOd to be a S,Aint
How wonderful that the two were able to connect and that Jerzy was so blessed to be... Read more
The author of this book was a boyhood chum of Pope John Paul II. They drifted apart, as school chums often do, and their lives were further separated by WWII. Read morePublished 20 months ago by J. Michael
I recommend its reading. In particulat to those involved in the good relations between Catholics and Jews. It will help.Published on June 7, 2013 by Nissim Hasson