Remembrance & Reconciliation

Polish-Jewish reconciliation cannot be based on polite, expedient ambiguity. It must be built on a foundation of facing our shared history with honesty. It must arise out of an acknowledgement of unpleasant and shameful historical truths.

                                                      – Manny Bekier

Movie: Bogdan’s Journey

This is an amazing film that will touch every heart. See the film trailer.

Bogdan’s Journey is a groundbreaking film, nine years in the making. It’s an incredible story about one Polish Catholic man, Bogdan Bialek, who took it upon himself to be the conscience of Kielce (a most frustrating and dangerous goal). Bogdan is an “Honorary Member” of The Kieltzer Society.

“Bogdan’s Journey is about change—the process, the results and the cost. Jews and Catholics, sharing a long, embittered past, come together. This surprising change happens because of the extraordinary efforts of one man. His persistence, commitment and passion lead him to overcome prejudice, extract the truth from a painful history and heal deep-seated historical wounds in his city.

For Bogdan Białek, a Catholic Pole and trained psychologist, anti-Semitism is a sin. For over thirty years Białek has made it his life’s mission to reconcile Poles and Jews over a massacre that took place in his city in 1946: the Kielce pogrom. Cutting through the fog of conspiracy theories and the unending debate about how and why it happened, Bogdan Białek transforms Kielce into a place of dialogue and reconciliation”.

The commemoration of the 67th anniversary of the Kielce pogrom

The commemoration was held in Kielce, Poland, July 4, 2013. The day-long event included the awarding of Righteous Among the Nations and the “Vir bonus” medal, along with the March of Remembrance and Reconciliation, scholarly presentations and debates, as well as prayers offered by Christians and Jews at the Jewish cemetery in Pakosz.

The names of all the Jewish victims (42) were written in chalk in front of the building at 7/9 Planty (site of the pogrom) and the names were being read, while wreaths were being laid against the building. During this commemoration, a face was connected to a name of one of the victims (Bella Gertner), when Dayle Bekier placed a photo of the cousin she never knew, next to her name. Article (Polish).

Many photos here highlighting the commemoration.

Righteous Among Nations

During these tragic times under Nazi occupation, in which Poland experienced a near total moral collapse, there were a small minority of Poles who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values, and their acts of heroism must be told. Such was Jozef and Marianna Walczynski, from Piekoszowa, who saved five Jews, escapees from the Kielce ghetto.  Such individuals stood in stark contrast to the mainstream of indifference and hostility that prevailed, not only in Kielce, but throughout most of Europe. It should be noted that, 98% of all the Jews of Kielce, were murdered. Only by cooperation, or at best, indifference, by the local population, could German efficiency be so remarkably high. Jozef and his wife, were fully conscious of the dangers facing them and their family, not only from the Germans, but also from betrayers within the local population. Yet, they accepted these risks. They knowingly, had to sacrifice their normal lives and courageously went against the accepted norms of the society in which they lived. In fear of their neighbors and friends, they accepted a life ruled by, dread of denunciation and capture. One can read here  the story of this rescue .

A 20 year search by Manny Bekier, son of Judka Bekierman z”l (one of the rescued Jews) resulted in finding the descendants of Jozef and Marianna Walczynski. Gathering documentation, along with documentation found at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Manny submitted all documents to Yad Vashem in Israel. The approval of Righteous Among Nations was given nine months later.

The award ceremony took place on 4th of July 2013 at the Kielce City Hall, as part of the commemorations of the 67th anniversary of the Kielce pogrom.

The Jan Karski Society, an organization in Poland, on the forefront of Remembrance and Reconciliation

I would like to mention the Jan Karski Foundation, and the tremendous energy and commitment of it’s president, Bogdan Białek, a remarkable individual whom I am proud to call my friend. We, the new generation of the Jewish descendants from Kielce, thank you for your dedication, your courage, and your continuing efforts in the recognition of the Jewish community that once thrived in Kielce.

           – Manny Bekier

The mission of The Jan Karski Society, founded in March 2005, is to promote tolerance and respect for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or culture. Its many projects and activities promote openness and dialogue, and they have been actively challenging and counteracting all forms of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism. To find out more about the Jan Karski Society, part of their website is in English.

The Chairman of the Jan Karski Society, Bogdan Białek, is widely acknowledged for his many initiative for Kielce-wide remembrance of the Jewish community that once thrived in Kielce and was, before the war, one third of the Kielce city population.

Bogdan Białek has received much recognition and many awards for his social activity. One which we are proud to mention is his recognition as “honorary member” of the Kieltzer Society of New York.