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  • Originally published 03/11/2014

    Why Poland Cares So Much About Ukraine

    For the first time in modern history, Poland does not face an existential threat from Russia. But that doesn't mean Poles have forgotten.

  • Originally published 08/20/2013

    Warsaw Uprising brought to life in film

    ...The scenes are as riveting as any Hollywood war movie. But they are snippets of historical footage from the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, enhanced by modern coloring and sound techniques — and turned into a film.The only purely fictional elements are voiceovers presenting an imagined narrative that stitches together the footage: Two brothers scour the streets of the Polish city tasked with filming the 1944 rebellion of Warsaw residents against their Nazi occupiers, commenting on what they witness, from soup kitchens to scenes of destruction.It makes for a mesmerizing account of the fierce house-to-house fighting against the German army that began on Aug. 1 and ended 63 days later with the insurgents surrendering, following the deaths of some 200,000 rebels and residents. “Warsaw Rising” is cobbled together from black-and-white silent footage of crews that the Polish resistance Home Army sent fanning through the city to chronicle the uprising. Cinematographers hired by the Warsaw Rising Museum added coloration and sound that give a real-life feel, while modern editing techniques provide a polished, fast-paced narrative....

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    'Vampire cemetery' found in Poland

    Construction workers building a road near the town of Gliwice in southern Poland this month came across four skeletons buried in a bizarre way. Their skulls had been cut off and placed between the knees or hands of the dead. Later, a further 13 skeletons arranged in a similar way were found.Adding to the mystery, nothing -- no jewellery, remains of clothing or coins, not even a button -- was found on the bodies.Archaeologists now believe that the bodies date from the 15th or 16th centuries, when the fear of vampires was widespread in Eastern Europe. Lukasz Obtulowicz, an archaeologist from the monument protection office in the nearby city of Katowice, said there were clear indications that this was the site of a vampire burial, noting that stones had been placed on the skulls. "All this served to prevent the vampires from returning to life," he said in a television interview....

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Netanyahu warns of another Holocaust

    WARSAW, Poland — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his two-day visit to Poland, which Germany’s Nazis occupied during World War II and where they committed the worst crimes ever against the Jewish people, with a stern warning about a potential Holocaust from Iran.Netanyahu said Wednesday the upcoming “so-called” Iranian presidential election will “change nothing” in the Islamic republic’s quest for nuclear weapons and that the regime will continue to pursue a bomb aimed at destroying Israel. Iran insists its uranium enrichment program has only peaceful goals.Iran’s election overseers have approved a list of would-be hopefuls, most of them loyalists favored by both the theocracy and the military, and any future president will likely side with the supreme leadership’s nuclear aspirations....

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Netanyahu helps dedicate upgraded Holocaust exhibit at Auschwitz

    OSWIECIM, Poland —For decades, the Communist-era memorial to Jewish victims at the barracks known as Block 27 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex of death camps stood dilapidated and mostly ignored.“No one visited. They opened the doors, that was it,” said Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s vast and authoritative Holocaust memorial museum and research center.Key artifacts had gone missing. The history presented in the signage was inaccurate, at best, and dominated by Soviet propaganda....

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    Polish history professor dismissed for blaming Jews for Shoah

    WARSAW, Poland  (JTA) — Polish historian Prof. Krzysztof Jasiewicz [not to be confused with the anthropology professor of the same name at Washington and Lee University, to whom he is not related] was dismissed from the Polish Academy of Sciences following an interview in which he partly blames Jews for the Holocaust.Jasiewicz, 61, will lose his position as head of the Department of Analysis of Eastern Issues on June 1 but announced that he will appeal the decision.In the interview, which was published in April in a special edition of Focus magazine on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Jasiewicz said that “generations of Jews worked for centuries to bring about the Holocaust,” that “without the active participation of the Jews the Holocaust would have been impossible,” and that “it is a waste of time to dialogue with the Jews.”...

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Boruch Spiegel, Fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 93

    Boruch Spiegel, one of the last surviving fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943, in which a vastly outgunned band of 750 young Jews held off German soldiers for more than a month with crude arms and Molotov cocktails, died on May 9 in Montreal. He was 93.His death was confirmed by his son, Julius, a retired parks commissioner of Brooklyn. Mr. Spiegel lived in Montreal.The Warsaw ghetto uprising has been regarded as the signal episode of resistance to the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum calls it the first armed urban rebellion in German-occupied Europe.As a young man, Mr. Spiegel was active in the leftist Jewish Labor Bund, and when it became clear that the Germans were not just deporting Jews but systematically killing them in death camps like Treblinka, Bundists joined with other left-wing groups to form the Jewish Combat Organization, known by its Polish acronym ZOB....

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Marci Shore: The Jewish Hero History Forgot

    Marci Shore, an associate professor of history at Yale University, is the author of “The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe.”SEVENTY years ago today, a group of young men and women fired the shots that began the largest single act of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.The Warsaw Ghetto uprising is rightly commemorated — through books, memoirs and movies — as an extraordinary act of courage in the face of near-certain death. Those who fought in the ghetto provide the iconic image of heroism, and an antidote to images of Jews being led to the gas chambers.The uprising was indeed extraordinary. But the manner in which it has been remembered over the years — in Communist Poland, in the West and in Israel — says more about the use of history for contemporary purposes than the uprising itself. The true nature of the uprising cannot be understood through its postwar commemorations but only through its wartime origins....

  • Originally published 04/19/2013

    Poland honours Jews who fought Nazis in Warsaw Ghetto

    A major ceremony is under way in the Polish capital Warsaw to honour Jews who fought overwhelming Nazi German forces 70 years ago in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.Sirens wailed and church bells tolled in the city, where several hundred Jews battled the Nazis in World War II.About 13,000 Jews died in the ghetto when the Nazis reduced it to rubble. Survivors were sent to death camps.Poland's president praised the Jews' "last stand" in a speech on Friday.President Bronislaw Komorowski and Israel's Education Minister Shai Piron spoke at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, on the site of the former ghetto...

  • Originally published 04/19/2013

    Adam Chandler: Remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

    Adam Chandler is the editor of The Scroll. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Salon, Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.After a week of warm April weather, sunny afternoons and calm evenings, Friday morning in Warsaw was grey. An easily imaginable and heavy Polish grey: cold, windy, and threatening rain.Like all anniversaries, the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising represented the interaction between history and the public marking of time. There were ceremonial sirens, church bells, military drums, and symbolic rifle fire, all of which echoed through the open plaza between Nathan Rapoport’s iconic monument to the ghetto fighters and the newly-minted Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The silences were tense and even the weather had conspired to project solemness.

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Polish nationalists defend historian who blamed Jews for Holocaust

    JTA — Leaders of a Polish nationalist movement said a historian’s claims that Jews helped perpetrate the Holocaust were “factual” and “necessary.”The historian who made the claims, Krzysztof Jasiewicz, was “far from politically correct but his statements are supported by historical facts,” Robert Winnicki, president of the All-Polish Youth, said in a statement published Tuesday on the website of the ultra-nationalist organization, which has a few thousand registered members.Artur Zawisza, a former lawmaker in the Polish parliament, is quoted as telling the news site NaTemat.pl that Jasiewicz “said too much common sense that has long been present in the literature.” He said the historian’s claims were a “necessary part of open debate.”...

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    Will Wikipedia replace the academic thesis?

    KYIV, Ukraine — Click on a Wikipedia topic about optometry in the Polish language or Newtonian mechanics in Ukrainian and the article that pops up may well be a college student thesis.That’s because universities in Poland and Ukraine are exploring new requirements. Instead of cribbing research from Wikipedia for papers that will probably only gather dust, advocates of the idea say students would be better off writing their own Wikipedia articles.Although critics warn that Wikipedia articles are no substitute for rigorous academic papers, supporters say more than simply putting more information at public disposal, erasing boundaries between the internet and academia will invigorate scholarship by enabling it to benefit everyone.

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Warsaw plans to bulldoze quaint wooden homes outages residents, mobilizes Finnish ambassador

    WARSAW, Poland — Nearby the big city rumbles, but one feels almost transported to a quiet forest village when standing amid a colony of Finnish wooden houses in Warsaw’s government district.The homes, erected as temporary housing in the destroyed capital just after World War II, have dwindled over the years from 90 to about 25. Now the surviving structures have become a point of contention between their inhabitants and a city government keen on tearing them down to make way for new developments.It’s a story being played out in various ways in Warsaw these days, as the Polish capital undergoes a building boom that makes new constructions lucrative for developers and attractive to city officials eager to put their mark on the city. But such change often comes at the cost of old buildings of historical or sentimental value to others....

  • Originally published 02/14/2013

    Only surviving synagogue near Auschwitz on verge of collapse

    A synagogue near the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz is on the verge of collapse, officials warned on Wednesday.The head of the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation, which maintains the historic building in the southern Polish city of Oswiecim, said in a phone interview that the synagogue is on unstable ground and if it is not reinforced soon, it may crumble."There are already small cracks visible," Tomasz Kuncewicz said. "A thorough examination found that the ground is unstable and with heavy rain or something similar, anything can happen."...

  • Originally published 02/14/2013

    Only surviving synagogue near Auschwitz on verge of collapse

    A synagogue near the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz is on the verge of collapse, officials warned on Wednesday.The head of the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation, which maintains the historic building in the southern Polish city of Oswiecim, said in a phone interview that the synagogue is on unstable ground and if it is not reinforced soon, it may crumble."There are already small cracks visible," Tomasz Kuncewicz said. "A thorough examination found that the ground is unstable and with heavy rain or something similar, anything can happen."...

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    Plans to destroy prewar building in former Warsaw ghetto set off struggle to save it

    WARSAW, Poland — It was the place where Jewish women did their ritual bathing. It was a tuberculosis clinic. It survived the German onslaught and became a gathering point for Holocaust survivors.Now “the white building,” the headquarters of the Jewish community and one of the few surviving remnants of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, could be torn down to make way for a multistory tower that would fit seamlessly into a modern city skyline.The building’s fate will soon be determined by the Culture Ministry, which has been asked by advocates of historic preservation to declare it a historical monument, a classification that would ban its destruction. It’s not yet clear how officials will decide, though previous rulings by other state offices had declared the building not worth saving. Now those for and against destroying the old building are anxiously awaiting a verdict....

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    Cardinal Jozef Glemp, longtime leader of Poland’s Roman Catholic church, dies at 83

    WARSAW, Poland — Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the longtime head of Poland’s influential Roman Catholic church at a time when it played a key role in the fight against communism, has died. He was 83.Jozef Kloch, a church spokesman, said in a statement that Glemp died Wednesday evening in Warsaw. Glemp had been ill for many years, and the Polish news agency PAP said he had lung cancer. Earlier in the day Warsaw Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz had asked the faithful to pray for Glemp, noting that his condition was deteriorating.Glemp oversaw the church at a critical time in its history and in that of Poland, a largely Catholic nation....