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BOGDAN’S JOURNEY – FREE NY SCREENING & DISCUSSION – Sunday, March 26, 2017

There will be a screening on Sunday, March 26, 2017 at 2:00 pm at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, NY. This event, sponsored by The Kieltzer Society of New York, will be FREE to the public (contact museum to reserve free tickets). The screening will be followed with a discussion “Can we heal and mend bitter years of hatred?” by a distinguished panel, including the renown clinical psychologist, award winning author and filmmaker, Eva Fogelman, PhD. Her pioneering work with Holocaust survivors and “second generation” is widely acclaimed. Dr. Magda Teter, Professor of History and Chair in Judaic Studies at Fordham University. Lawrence Loewinger, co-producer/director of Bogdan's Journey. Manny Bekier, President of The Kieltzer Society.

There will also be a private cocktail reception at the museum for members of the Kieltzer Society and honored guests (non-members $35/pp).

BOGDAN'S JOURNEY tells a story that the world has tried to forget. It is the story of Bogdan, a Catholic resident of Kielce, Poland, who bravely attempts to commemorate and persuade the people of Kielce of the atrocity, known as the “Kielce Pogrom”, even while most of his neighbors continue to deny the brutal crimes of the past.

The place is Kielce, Poland, a troubled city. In 1946, Kielce was the site of Europe’s last pogrom. 7 Planty Street, was the Kielce address of the communal shelter for Jewish survivors returning Kielce to search for any relatives that may have survived. Some survivors were on their way to Palestine and some had hoped to return to their homes in Poland.

A story unfolds, of one man’s efforts to mend the wounds of a murderous assault sparked by the centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christians, to use their blood for ritual purposes (aka “The Blood Libel”). After 40 years of silence under the veil of communism, followed by 25 years of vigorous, contentious debate, wounds remain raw. Scenes showing Bogdan’s bold actions in fostering public dialog, along with interviews of townspeople, and compelling eyewitness and survivor accounts of the pogrom, are combined with rarely seen archival footage. Bogdan seeks to educate Poles about what happened in their town. What is their reaction to this day-long murderous assault under the eyes of the entire town?

The film takes the viewer on a voyage that attempts to heal and mend bitter years of hatred. BOGDAN'S JOURNEY is a film that deserves to be discussed by Poles and Jews together.

                                              View official film trailer

                                       Film trailer with archival footage

 

New York Premiere of Bogdan’s Journey

 

 

Bogdan’s Journey held it’s New York premiere February 7, 2017, to a sold-out audience at the JCC Manhattan. This premiere followed it’s successful world premiere last May 2016 in Warsaw and selected screenings in Europe and Israel. This film, a powerful documentary related to the Kielce pogrom, was directed by  Lawrence Loewinger, a Jewish American, and Michal Jaskulski, a Polish Catholic. Please see film trailer: https://vimeo.com/172275324. The screening was followed by a discussion with distinguished panelists, including the directors, Bogdan Bialek, Dr. Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology, and noted historian, Professor Jan T. Gross.

BOGDAN'S JOURNEY tells a story that the world has tried to forget. It is a film that attempts to bring resolution to a dark-age and casts light where all hope was lost. It is the story of Bogdan, a Catholic resident of Kielce, Poland, who bravely attempts to commemorate and persuade the people of Kielce of the atrocity, known as the “Kielce Pogrom”, even while most of his neighbors continue to deny the brutal crimes of the past.

On July 4, 1946, approximately 42 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust then living in a shelter at 7 Planty St in the Polish city of Kielce were attacked by townspeople and murdered. More than 80 others were injured in the day-long attack. In response to this horrific episode, Jews throughout Poland fled the country, cementing the idea that the nation was unwelcome to the Jewish people. After Poland fell to Communism, the story of the pogrom was suppressed, but its impact, and feelings of mistrust and prejudice persisted. When Bogdan Bialek, a Catholic psychologist, learned of the incident, he felt compelled to confront the past openly and acknowledge Kielce’s collective responsibility for the crime.

After 40 years of silence under the veil of communism, followed by 25 years of vigorous, contentious debate, wounds remain raw. Scenes showing Bogdan’s bold actions, along with contemporary media coverage, interviews and activities of townspeople, and compelling eyewitness and survivor accounts of the pogrom, are combined with rarely seen archival footage. A story unfolds, of one man’s efforts to mend the wounds of a murderous assault sparked by the centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christians, to use their blood for ritual purposes (aka “The Blood Libel”). The film takes the viewer on a voyage to heal and mend bitter years of hatred. BOGDAN'S JOURNEY attempts to show that through persistence and hope, peace and understanding can be achieved.

                  

Manny Bekier, President of The Kieltzer Society with Esther Montag, the last living survivor of the Kielce Pogrom, honored guests at the premiere of Bogdan's Journey.

            

A group photo of several of the Jewish Holocaust survivors who took refuge at Planty 7, in the months prior to the pogrom.  Esther Montag (Estusia Meppen) is in the photo (arrow on right). Leo (Lolek) Jazwicki, Stasie Fishman’s father, is in the center of the photo (arrow). Stasie, a Kieltzer Society member, painfully recalls her father’s lifelong suffering from the severe knife injuries to his head, as a victim of the pogrom attack.

 

The Kieltzer Society paid tribute to outgoing president       Henry Glenn

 

On October 18, 2015, The Kieltzer Society honored outgoing president Henry Glenn and his wife, Ester, for their many years of dedicated service.  Cocktails and dinner were served at Temple Gates of Prayer, Flushing, New York.

The newly elected President of The Kieltzer Society, Manny Bekier, gave a presentation on how The Kieltzer Society evolved in it’s 110 years of existence. He pointed out that now, for the first time, the organization is in the hands of “the 2nd generation” of Holocaust survivors and he called for active involvement of a new generation of members. Many new members were inducted this past week.

To view photos of this event click here.

Amnezja (Amnesia)

 

Here is the trailer for the film AMNEZJA. I had the opportunity to view this film at a special preview in Kielce (arranged by the Jan Karski Society, in the building 7/9 Planty, where the pogrom took place). I also had the opportunity to personally meet with Piotr Piwowarczyk, the filmmaker and man who had the courage to confront his family past.

Piotr’s grandfather, Boleslaw Stawiarski, was one of the perpetrators of the Kielce pogrom. His grandfather was in the 2nd wave of perpetrators who worked in the Luwikow steel mill.
 Piotr, who lived in Poland for 22 years, only after 20 years abroad did he learn that only a short distance from his family home, 42 people had been murdered in the Kielce pogrom on 4 July 1946. A phone conversation with his mother revealed this unknown part of his family history. In order to fully explain the matter, Piotr returned to Kielce, to confront his mother and his hidden family past. I admire Piotr’s courage in confronting his family past and making this important film.

 

Commemoration in Kielce

News Coverage by Wyborcza - Kielce Gazeta of the Kielce Pogrom Commemoration (click)

Many photos of the commemoration have been published. Part of Manny Bekier’s speech at the Jewish cemetery was quoted in the 2nd paragraph. The translation is not exact. “I don’t believe that most Poles are anti-Semitic, or any more anti-Semitic than people in other countries of Europe. I think that people sometimes may feel disenfranchised and are looking towards patriotism as a means to rally under, improve their lives and gain self-respect. Anti-Semitism and blaming “outsiders” has always been an effective means to unite people, as well as blaming others for their misfortunes” said Manny Bekier, President of the Association of Kielce Jews in New York. He added “For me, Kielce is no longer a place of old black and white images. Remembering our shared past will always remain a part of our legacy. But now I am also able to see Kielce in full bright colors. I need to say this because I feel it is about time that we stop looking at each other, Jew and Pole, Pole and Jew, as if we are coldly staring at the enemy. It is time that we show each other mutual respect”.

 

The Civil Ceremony (69th Anniversary of the Kielce Pogrom - July 4, 2015)

 

There was a small civil ceremony on Saturday, July 4th, by a delegation of city authorities acknowledging the pogrom that took place 69 years ago, and was reported on Kielce TV. Bouquets and candles were also submitted by representatives of the Świętokrzyski Region "Solidarity" Jan Kochanowski University and the Institute of National Remembrance. The major commemoration was held the following day, in observance of the Jewish Sabbath.

While looking at the incredible photographic exhibition "And I Still See Their Faces", located at the building at 7 Planty Street (site of the pogrom), Manny Bekier, President of the Association of Kielce Jews in New York, was stopped and interviewed for Kielce TV. Reporters noticed Bekier’s excitement over some of the enlarged photos, that they learned from his wife, were of his deceased father and his family from Kielce.

 

The 69th Anniversary of the Kielce Pogrom (July 5, 2015)

This past July, marked the 69th anniversary of the Kielce pogrom. A meaningful commeoration was held this past July 5, 2015 in Kielce, Poland, where a once sizeable Jewish community thrived. The commemoration began in the Jewish cemetery. Prayers were led by Chief Rabbi Schudrich and El Male Rachamim was sung by the great cantor, Benzion Miller. Commemoration of the pogrom was covered by Kielce TV (see video). There was a small, inconsequential protest demonstration prior to the commemoration by a small bunch of young, misguided “Polish Nationalists” who felt that they should not be held responsible for the pogrom, claiming the perpetrators were all outside Soviet provocateurs. They were ignored and were not allowed to demonstrate once the commemoration began. Although visibly upset, Manny Bekier, President of the Kieltzer Society, who participated in the commemoration,stated "I would not consider them anti-Semitic. They were only a handful of young, misguided nationalists, in search of a cause".

 

 

And I Still See Their Faces                                                            A short film has been made of this photo exhibit in Kielce.

 

On April 23, The Jan Karski Society celebrated its 10 years anniversary and inaugurated the Institute of Culture and Dialogue located in the building at 7 Planty Street - site of the pogrom. At this location is the photographic exhibition "And I Still See Their Faces" (a photographic glimpse of the pre-war Jewish community). This link has a gallery with many interesting photos.

 

A Sobering Ceremony in Kielce

The 68th anniversary of the Kielce pogrom (link)

“He handed me a list of 42 names and I began to shudder. Each name represented a life cut down, a shocked survivor of the recent horror. Next to each name was a number—their age” – Rabbi Avi Baumol

Yaacov Kotliki, Chairman, Kielce Jewish Community in Israel

Rescuing 5 Jews from Kielce, Righteous Among Nations was awarded by Yad Vashem to the family of Jozef and Marianna Walczynski

 

Link to event gallery (Israeli Embassy, Poland)

July 4, 2013, coinciding with the Kielce March of Remembrance and the commemoration of the Kielce pogrom, the Righteous Among Nations ceremony and presentation was held in the Kielce City Hall. The event was hosted by the President of Kielce, Wojciech Lubawski, the Jan Karski Society, under the leadership of Bogdan Bialek, and the Israeli Embassy in Poland, represented by Israeli Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner.

 

Righteous among nations Poland, Manny Bekier, Walczynski

The Righteous Among Nations medal was presented to the son, Edward Walczyński, and the great grandson, Bartłomiej Walczyński, by son of Judka (Yiedel) Bekierman, Manny Bekier.

Righteous among nations Poland, Manny Bekier, Walczynski

Israeli Ambassador, Rav-Ner and Manny Bekier presenting the Righteous award and medal.

prayers Jewish cemetery Poland, Rabbi Schudrich, Manny Bekier, Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis

Chief Rabbi of Poland, M. Schudrich recited El Male Rachamim, Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis of Katowice, Manny Bekier, Kieltzer Society, recited Kaddish.

 

A gallery of photos highlighting the awarding of Righteous Among Nations, as well as the commemoration of the Kielce pogrom and the prayer service at the Jewish cemetery. An article (Polish) and an additional gallery of photos.

 

The speech delivered by Manny Bekier during the awarding of Righteous Among Nations ceremony. Speech was printed in Polish and distributed during ceremony.

 

Many photos and information can be found at the site of the Jan Karski Society.

Kielce Pogrom Lecture

Jan Gross spoke on the Kielce Pogrom to survivors and Jewish Descendants of The Jewish Community of Kielce, Queens, November 23, 2008

Internationally renowned scholar and author Jan Gross, Professor of History at Princeton University, addressed and met with some of the very few remaining Jewish Holocaust survivors from Kielce, Poland along with descendants of that destroyed community. This was an emotional and significant event for the aging survivors from Kielce, as Professor Gross’ research provided insight into the murder of their friends and families in the Kielce Pogrom, which took place one and a half years after the liberation of the death camps.

Professor Gross is the author of the controversial books, FEAR: Anti-Semitism In Poland after Auschwitz (Random House, 2006), and NEIGHBORS (Princeton University Press, 2001). According to Thane Rosenbaum, writing in The Los Angeles Times Book Review, “FEAR takes on an entire nation, forever depriving Poland of any false claims to the smug, easy virtue of an innocent bystander to Nazi atrocities”.

This talk, which was open to the public, was in the format of questions posed to Professor Gross by Manny Bekier, member of the Executive Board, who collected questions from the members of the Kieltzer Society.


photo of Manny Bekier, Henry Glenn, President, Kieltzer Society, Professor Jan Gross

Photo – Manny Bekier, Henry Glenn, President, Kieltzer Society, Professor Jan Gross