Canadian Jewish News | July 19, 2001
Polish Magazine Under Fire for Wartime Memoir
By Paul Lungen
TORONTO - The editor of a Polish magazine will meet this month with representatives of Canadian Jewish Congress to discuss an article that Congress believes repeats anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews.
The article, which appeared in the February edition of Miedzy Nami magazine, is presented as part of the memoirs of author Chris Gladun's late mother, Janina Sulkowska-Gladun.
The memoir repeatedly refers to Jews in a way that "tars the entire Jewish community," said Len Rudner, Congress' director of community relations.
In a letter to Jolanta Bugajski, editor and publisher of Miedzy Nami, Rudner points out the article, which reflects Sulkowska-Gladun's memories of the Soviet occupation of Poland from 1939-41, describes members of the local Communist party as almost exclusively Jewish.
The memoir repeatedly refers to Jews as supporters of the Communist regime and it alleges the NKVD (the Soviet secret police), aided by Jews, decided the fate of its victims. It also states innocent people were in fear of arrest because of a Jewish militia.
"Your readers are presented with a litany of horrors either perpetrated by Jews, 'a young Jew,' 'two local Jews', 'a young Jewish female doctor,' 'Jewish assistants,' 'armed and bullying Jews,' 'teenaged Jewish thugs,' 'a local Jewish militiaman' and 'a rather dim-witted Jewish girl.'...On only two occasions does Mr. Gladun provide us with the actual names of these supposed Jewish perpetrators. For the rest, he is content to let the words 'the Jews', without proof, stand as condemnation of an entire community," Rudner's letter states. Bugajski said she was not troubled by the references to Jews in the memoir, although she said "it's not my point of view or that of anybody else working for us.
"You have to show readers what other people think. It doesn't matter if you agree with it or not. You have to let her (the author) express views the way she sees things. It's her memoir. It's her words, not my words," Bugajski said.
"I certainly stand by what my mother wrote and her experiences," Gladun said. "I take umbrage at any accusations [the article] is anti-Semitic."
Gladun, a writer, researcher and poet, said the memoir is "just a representation of what was happening in Eastern Poland. It's not a reflection on all Jews...Certainly a sizable minority of Jews did collaborate with Soviets in imposing Soviet power in Eastern Poland."
Gladun, a past member of the Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation, said a community can't be judged by the actions of a few individuals. Referring to the current controversy over the Polish village of Jedwabne, in which a recent book revealed that Jews were massacred by Polish villagers early in the Holocaust, he said that just as all Poles were not responsible for the murder of Jews, not all Jews were like those who collaborated with the Communists.
Rudner said the cumulative effect of the repeated references to Jews "is to present Jews in a highly unflattering and extremely negative way, It would be difficult for a reader to go through this portion of the memoirs and not conclude all Jews are like this."
Rudner said Congress will ask Bugajski to run a letter in the magazine expressing the concerns of the Jewish community.
"If [Bugajski] fails to understand the damage this kind of unsubstantiated claims make to the Jewish community, we will have to see what legal remedies are available to us," he added.
Miedzy Nami is a mostly Polish-language publication with 10,000 copies printed monthly.