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Julian Tuwim

We Polish Jews...

August 1944, London

For my Mother in Poland or her most beloved shadow

I

I can hear the question immediately: 'Why US?' A question that is not baseless. Jews ask me, the ones whom I always told that I was a Pole, and now the question will be asked of me by the Poles, for the greatest part of whom I have been and will be a Jew. This is my answer for one and the other.

I am a Pole, because it pleases me. It is my personal and private matter, and I do not intend to submit a report nor an explication, an explanation to justify the basis of it. I do not divide Poles into 'native- born' and 'not-native-born'; I leave that for the native-born and non-native-born racists, the local and non-local Hitlerites. I divide Poles and Jews as well all other nations, into intelligent and stupid, honest and thieves, intelligent and dullards, interesting and boring, those who have been harmed and those who harm, gentlemen and not, etc. I also divide Poles into fashists and anti-fascists. These two camps, are not, of course homogenous, each of them disperses shades of color of differing intensities. But, the line of demarcation most certainly exists and shortly will be clearly seen. Shades will remain shades but the color of that very line will be intense and deeper in a marked way.

I could say that in a political sense I divide Poles into anti-Semites and anti-Fascists. Because Fascism is always anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is the international language of Fascists.

II

However, if I did ever have to justify my nationality, or rather my national feelings, then I would say I am a Pole for the simplest, almost the most primitive of reasons, generally rational, frequently irrational, but without a 'mystical' addition. To be a Pole, it is neither an honor, nor glory, nor a privilege.

It is the same as breathing. I have not yet met a person that is proud of the fact that he breathes. A Pole - because I was born in Poland, grew up, was educated, taught, because it was in Poland that I was happy and unhappy, because from my exile I necessarily want to return to Poland, though they may promise me Paradisiacal delights elsewhere.

A Pole - because through a loving superstition which no reasoning or logic can explain, I desire that after my death, it shall be Polish soil that will absorb and consume me and none other. A Pole - because that is what I was told in Polish in my family home; because I was suckled on the Polish language as a newborn, because my mother taught me Polish poems and songs, and when my first great poetic tremor came, it was in Polish words, because all that, which became most important in life - poetic creativity - is unimaginable in any other language, no matter how fluently I may speak it.

A Pole - because it was in Polish that I confessed my first love and its' fears, and it was Polish in which I sobbed of its joys and storms.

A Pole also because the birch and the willow are closer to me than a cypress or a palm, and Mickiewicz and Chopin dearer than Shakespeare and Beethoven. Dearer for reasons that no reasoning can justify.

A Pole - because I have absorbed a certain number of their national faults. A Pole - because my hatred of Polish Fascists is greater than of Fascists of other nationalities. Moreover, I believe this to be a major trait of my Polishness. But above all - a Pole because it pleases me.

III

In response to this, I hear voices: 'Good. But then if a Pole, why then 'We, Jews'? To this I respond: BECAUSE OF BLOOD - 'Therefore racism?' No. Most certainly not racism. In fact the converse.

Blood is twofold: that in our veins and that from our veins. The first is the juice of our bodies and thus undergoes testing by physiologists. Whoever ascribes any special properties other than organic to this blood, or secret powers, he, as can be seen, as a consequence turns cities into smoldering hulks, massacres millions of people and as we will see, brings destruction upon his own kind.

The second blood - that is the one which, that chieftain of international fascism drains from humanity, so as to document the triumph of the blood of his ilk over my kind - the blood of those millions of innocents beings murdered, their blood not secreted in their arteries but their blood disclosed. As long as the world exists, there has not been such an inundation of martyr's blood, and the blood of Jews (not 'Jewish blood') flows through the deepest and the widest streams. Its blackening torrents conjoin into a stormy, foaming river - AND IT IS IN THIS NEW JORDAN THAT I ACCEPT THE CHRISM ABOVE ALL CHRISMS: MY BLOODY, HOT, PASSIONLIKE BROTHERHOOD WITH JEWS.

Accept me, my brothers, to this honored communion of the Innocently Shed Blood. It is in this community, and of this church that I wish to be a member of, from today on.

This ranking - that of the Jew Doloris Causa - let it be granted to the Polish poet by the nation which begat him. Not because of any special merits, because I have none to display before you. I will consider this a promotion and the highest reward for these few Polish poems which may survive me and the memory of which will be entwined with my name - the name of a Jewish Pole.

IV

There was a Star of David painted on the armbands, which you wore in the ghetto. I believe in a future Poland, in which that star, that one from the armbands, will become one of the highest awards granted to the most courageous of Polish soldiers and officers. They will wear it with pride on their chests next to the ancient Virtuti Militari. Thus, there will be the Cross - of the Ghetto - a name that is deeply symbolic. There will be the Order of the Yellow Patch- more regarded than most other trinkets existing currently. There will stand - in Warsaw, and in every other Polish city, a remaining, permanent and conserved fragment of the ghetto in an unchanged form, just as we find it in all its horror of smoldering embers and destruction. We will surround this monument to the infamy of our enemies, and the glory of our martyred heroes with chains, chains cast from captured Hitlerite artillery, and each day we shall plait fresh, living flowers into the iron links, so that future generations shall have a memory of the massacred nation that remains fresh and alive for all eternity, and as a sign that our anguish over it remains always living and fresh.

The Church and the Nation shall gain yet another memorial. We will bring children there and tell them of the most horrible martyrdom in the annals of history. In the center of this memorial, whose tragedy shall be underscored, God willing, by the surrounding and newly constructed Glass Houses of the rebuilt city, there will burn an eternal flame. Passersby will bow their heads before it.

And he who is Christian - will make the sign of the cross...

It will be with pride, with funereal pride that we will wear this rank, which will eclipse all others, the rank of Jewish Poles - who by a miracle and happenstance have remained alive. With pride? Let us rather say: with humility and devouring shame. It is through your suffering, through your glory that we gained it, Saviors!

... Then perhaps not 'We, Polish Jews'... but rather 'We Specters, we Shadows of our murdered Brothers, Polish Jews'...

V

We Polish Jews... We eternally living - that is those who died in the ghettos and the camps, and we specters - that is those, who have returned from beyond the oceans and the seas to our Homeland and who will cast fear among the ruins with our preserved carcasses and phantomness of our seemingly preserved souls.

We, the truth of graves, and we the illusion of being, we, millions of cadavers and some, some thousands of seemingly non-cadavers: we, the endlessly enormous fraternal tomb, we the Kirkut, such as has never before been seen and will not be seen again.

We, who were suffocated in the gas chambers and turned into soap, with which not one iota of our blood, nor the stigma of the world ís sins against us can be washed away.

We, whose brains oozed on the walls, on the walls of our destitute homes and on the walls against which we were shot en masse - for one reason only, that we are Jews.

We, the Golgotha, on which there could arise an impassable forest of crosses. We, who two thousand years ago gave forth the Son of Man to mankind, innocently murdered by Imperial Rome - and it sufficed in this one death, that he became God. What religion will arise from the millions of deaths, tortures, denigrations and arms spread crosslike in their last despairing moments?

We, Shlomos, Sruls, Moishes, we scabs, ritual murderes, curly haired one - we whose names and epithets will eclipse in honor the fullness of all the Achilles, the Boles3aw the Valiants and Richard the Lion Hearteds.

We, once again, in the catacombs - in the 'bunkers' under the streets of Warsaw, shuffling through the stench of the sewers, much to the amazement of our companions, the rats.

We, with our rifles on the barricades, among the ruins of our bombarded homes; we, soldiers of freedom and honor ...

'Jojne, go off to war!' He went, my dear Sirs, and he died for Poland.

We, for whom 'each threshold was a fortress' of every building which collapsed about us.

We, Polish Jews, becoming savages in the forests, feeding our terrified children with roots and grass, we, crawling, creeping, our hair bristling, an ancient double barreled shotgun, somehow miraculously gotten or purchased for some enormous sum, in our hands.

We, Jobs, we, Niobes, we, in penance in memory of our hundreds of thousands of Jewish Ursulas....

We, the deep ravines of shattered and mangled bones, of twisted and lacerated bodies.

We - the scream of pain! A scream of such duration that it can be heard in the furthest ages. We, the Moaning, we, the Choir, mournfully chanting El Molei Rachmim, which one century will pass to the next.

We, the most wondrous of all times, mass of bloody dung with which we have fertilized Poland so that those, who survive us will taste the bread of freedom that has a richer taste.

We, the macabre reserve, we, the Last Mohicans, the survivors of the slaughter, whom some new Barnum can tour throughout the world, hanging signs on brightly painted boards saying ëAn amazing sight! 'The biggest sensation in the world' Polish Jews - live and real!' The Torture Chamber, the Schreckenskammer, Chambre des Tortures! The weak and nervous are asked to leave the chamber!'

We sitting on the riverbanks of foreign lands and crying like they once did on the banks in Babylon. Throughout the entire world, Rachel cries over her children, but they are not to be found. On the Hudson, the Thames, the Euphrates, Nile, Ganges, and the Jordan we blunder about in our confusion crying aloud: 'Vistula! Vistula! Vistula! Our birth mother. Gray Vistula, pink not from the rays of dawn, but rather from blood!'

We, who will not ever find the graves of our children and our mothers - they are layered so, that they would cover the entire land were they to be buried one next to the other! And there will not be one spot where you could lay flowers, but like the sower casting his seed, you will cast them about. Through some coincidence, you may find the spot.

We Polish Jews ... We, the legend dripping with blood and tears. Who knows, if it will not need to be written in Biblical verses: 'That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever! (Job XIX, 24) We, the lament of Jeremiah:

In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my maidens and my young men have fallen by the sword; in the day of thy anger thou hast slain them, slaughtering without mercy'...

'they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; Water closed over my head; I said, `I am lost. I called on thy name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit;... Thou hast seen the wrong done to me, O LORD; judge thou my cause... Thou wilt requite them, O LORD, according to the work of their hands. Thou wilt give them dullness of heart; thy curse will be on them. Thou wilt pursue them in anger and destroy them from under thy heavens, O LORD." (Jeremiah, Laments, III) [Revised Transnote Standard Version]

* * *

An enormous and ever-growing skeleton stands over Europe. The flame of dangerous anger glistens from its eye sockets, and its fingers have curled into a bony fist. And He, our Leader, and Dictator will instruct us in our rights and our demands.


This text is republished from :

POLACY - ŻYDZI / POLEN - JUDEN / POLES - JEWS 1939-1945 WYBÓR ŻRÓDEL
QUELLENAUSWAHL
SELECTION OF DOCUMENTS

English Translation: Krystyna Piórkowska
Foreword : Władysław Bartoszewski
Edited by: Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert

 

Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa
Instytut Dziedzictwa Narodowego
Oficyna Wydawnicza RYTM
Warszawa 2001

IV/33 : 1944, August, Londyn. We Polish Jews..., pp. 452-455