Einat Wilf: Telling Our Story

Telling Our Story: Recent Essays on Zionism, the Middle East, and the Path to Peace Paperback

Ayelet Kahane and Batsheva Neuer


The story of Israel and Zionism has been hijacked, disfigured, and trampled upon. It has been deliberately replaced by a story about sinister ideologies and evil motivations.

When this tale of evil becomes the reigning story, peace becomes ever less possible, since evil is not to be negotiated with, but defeated. If peace is ever to be made, the story of Israel and Zionism is to be told anew. In this book, Dr. Einat Wilf does just that, demonstrating in the process how the true telling of the story of Israel and Zionism opens the path to peace with the Palestinians and the entire Arab and Muslim world. In the book’s opening chapter, “Telling Our Story,” Wilf provides a context, telling the story of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland and how through deliberate Jewish action – not foreign hand-outs or Holocaust-motivated guilt – the State of Israel was born. This story of the Zionist movement remains among the most inspiring dramas in human history: although dealt some of the worst cards in history, through force of vision, desire and work, the Jewish people returned to history as active agents and shaped a future in which they are not the victims of others.

This story is crucial to understanding the importance of the Jewish state to the Jewish people, as well as in its broader ability to inspire people throughout the world. In chapter two, “On Why There Is No Peace,” Wilf examines why decades after the establishment of the State of Israel conflict continues to persist with no end in sight. The core of her argument is that the requisite condition for any solution – whether it be a one-state or two-state solution – is for both sides of the conflict to recognize the equal rights of the other as collectives and individuals to all of the land, and the acceptance that neither can have the land in its entirety. As this requisite is absent – specifically on the Arab side – compromise, and thereby peace, has not been viable. In chapter three, “On What Israel Should Do,” Wilf explores the steps Israel should take towards peace. Wilf argues that although peace may not be viable now, Israel should prepare for the hopeful eventuality of the creation of two states for two peoples between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. Israel should do this by specifically delineating its eastern border – including the annexation of the large Jewish settlement blocks that are contiguous to the Green Line – and renouncing is territorial claims beyond that eastern border. Given the very real security issues that Israel faces, however, she should implement a policy of continued military occupation until she feels there is a partner for peace on the Palestinian side.

This policy is one of “yes to the occupation, no to the settlements,” east of that border. Regarding Jerusalem, Wilf clarifies that the only place where controversy persists is in regard to the Old City. The status of the Old City will be determined through a final peace agreement, but the status of the overwhelming majority of Jerusalem can already be specified; and that final peace agreement, Wilf explains, would be in a much better position if the ambiguity regarding the Old City did not spill over into the issue of Jerusalem as a whole. In the concluding chapter, “On What the International Community Should Do,” Wilf explores what roles and policies might be pursued by the international community. Foremost, however, Wilf posits that it is critical for the international community to understand that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, rests on serious issues that go to the core of matters of each other’s sense of justice, history, and identity. Additionally, it is most important to bear in mind that Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs are sovereign agents who need to determine their future for themselves and by themselves.


About the Author

Dr. Einat Wilf is a leading intellectual and original thinker on matters of foreign policy, economics, education, and Israel and the Jewish people. She is considered one of Israel’s most articulate representatives on the international stage. Her opinion articles are regularly published in international publications and she is frequently interviewed for television and radio programs around the world. She was a member of the Israeli Parliament from 2010-2013 on behalf of the Labor and Independence parties. Dr. Wilf has a BA in Government and Fine Arts from Harvard University, an MBA from INSEAD in France, and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Cambridge. Born and raised in Israel, Dr. Wilf served as an Intelligence Officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Dr. Wilf’s past experiences include Chair of the Education, Sports and Culture Committee, Chair of the Knesset Sub-Committee for Israel and the Jewish People, and Member of the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the 18th Knesset. She served as the Baye Foundation Adjunct Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, Foreign Policy Advisor to Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and a strategic consultant with McKinsey & Company. Dr. Wilf is the author of six books that explore key issues in Israeli society: “My Israel, Our Generation”, “Back to Basics: How to Save Israeli Education (at no additional cost)“, “It’s NOT the Electoral System, Stupid”, and “Winning the War of Words”. Her recent two books are “Telling Our Story” – a collection of Wilf’s essays on Israel, Zionism and the path to peace, and “The War of Return” on the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee issue.


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Sława Przybylska

Sława Przybylska

Janusz R. Kowalczyk


Sława Przybylska, 2006, fot. Adam Warzawa/Forum

Piosenkarka i aktorka. Urodziła się 2 listopada 1932 roku w Międzyrzecu Podlaskim. Największe sukcesy odnosiła śpiewając ballady romantyczne. Wiele z tych utworów wykonywała akompaniując sobie na gitarze.

Córka Józefa i Marianny Przybylskich. Po II wojnie światowej wychowywała się w Domu Młodzieży w Krzeszowicach. Zgodnie z wolą ojca miała zostać zakonnicą, marzyła jednak o malarstwie i rzeźbie. Ukończyła Liceum Sztuk Plastycznych w Warszawie (1950). Absolwentka Wydziału Handlu Zagranicznego Szkoły Głównej Służby Zagranicznej w Warszawie (1954).

Udzielała się artystycznie już w czasie studiów. Założyła tercet żeński Syrenki,  współpracowała jako piosenkarka z kabaretem klubu studenckiego Stodoła. Wcześniej jednak zadebiutowała jako solistka w Studenckim Teatrze Satyryków(STS-ie).

ZSP przyznało nam tym razem roboczowczasy w Dusznikach Zdroju. Wyjechaliśmy tam na dwa tygodnie podczas zimowych ferii i jak kiedyś w Karpaczu przygotowywaliśmy nowy program. Po powrocie zaczęły się intensywne próby. W składance znalazły się tradycyjnie ambitne piosenki radzieckie. Jedną śpiewała nowa piosenkarka Stanisława Przybylska [u początku kariery późniejsza Sława podpisywała się swoim pełnym imieniem]. Była drobna, mała, z grzywką jak Maria Dąbrowska. Warunki sceniczne miała kiepskie. Najlepiej wypadła, gdy z gitarą śpiewała prywatnie w pokoju. Miała ciekawy repertuar. Dziwiłem się, że Markusz [Jerzy Markuszewski] z [Markiem] Lusztigiem przyjęli ją do nas. Wielkiej przyszłości jej nie wróżyłem. Ale potrzebowaliśmy aktorów i piosenkarzy, zwłaszcza do scen zbiorowych.

[Jarosław Abramow-Newerly, “Lwy STS-u”, Warszawa 2005]

Twórcy zawiadujący STS-em nie do końca docenili jej artystyczną osobowość. “Śpiewającą Sławę (wtedy jeszcze Stanisławę) Przybylską wymieniła Hania Rek” – wspominał Edward Pałłasz [“Medal” w: “Piosenka – rocznik 2015”]. Aż tu nagle… sensacja, która nieźle namieszała w ich umysłach – w 1957 roku Sława Przybylska zwyciężyła w organizowanym przez Polskie Radio konkursie dla piosenkarzy amatorów.

Kto zajął pierwsze miejsce? – spytałem. […] – Przybylska. – Żartujesz chyba?! – krzyknąłem. – Daję ci najświętsze słowo honoru! Podali dziś w dzienniku. Zrobiła dziewczyna furorę. Sam Szpilman orzekł, że to największe odkrycie Polskiego Radia. Najpiękniejszy mikrofonowy głos obok Jurka Połomskiego z PWST… Nie! Zabić się – pomyślałem. – To ja odetchnąłem, że to biedactwo z grzywką odeszło od nas i wreszcie nie zawraca nam gitary, a tu nagle “najpiękniejszy mikrofonowy głos Polskiego Radia”. W usunięciu Przybylskiej z STS-u, jako członek Rady Artystycznej, miałem swój udział. Kolektywna wpadka – też wpadka.
[Jarosław Abramow-Newerly, “Lwy STS-u”, Warszawa 2005]

Wkrótce też w telewizyjnym konkursie “Zapraszamy na estradę” jako jedyna otrzymała od wszystkich jurorów (Stefania Grodzieńska, Lidia Wysocka i przewodniczący Jerzy Waldorff) maksymalną liczbę punktów i miano polskiej Edith Piaf. Niektórzy porównywali ją także do Juliette Greco.

Śpiewała w teatrzykach Czarna Kaczka oraz Tingel-Tangel (1961) – w którym występowali m.in. Krystyna Sienkiewicz, Zbigniew Lengren, Stanisław Młynarczyk, a grał zespół jazzowy Krzysztofa Komedy – oraz w telewizyjnym Teatrze Piosenki.

Sława Przybylska podczas 2. Krajowego Festiwalu Polskiej Piosenki, fot. Janusz Sobolewski/Forum

Uczyła się śpiewu u prof. Wandy Wermińskiej. W 1958 roku została słuchaczką Studium Estradowego Polskiego Radia , w którym uczyła się sztuki interpretacji piosenki m.in. pod kierunkiem Jerzego Abratowskiego I Aleksandra Bardiniego. W tym samym roku nagrała do filmu “Pożegnania” (reż. Wojciech Jerzy Has) piosenkę “Pamiętasz była jesień”, która przyniosła jej olbrzymi rozgłos, śpiewała “Czerwone maki na Monte Casino” w filmie “Popiół i diament” (reż. Andrzej Wajda). W 1960 roku wystąpiła w filmie “Zezowate szczęście” (reż. Andrzej Munk), wykonując piosenkę “Kriegsgefangenenpost”.

W 1960 roku Sława Przybylska wystąpiła z pierwszym własnym recitalem. Dokonała licznych nagrań archiwalnych dla Polskiego Radia i Telewizji Polskiej, także dla rozgłośni radiowych i stacji telewizyjnych zagranicą: m.in. w Moskwie, Tbilisi, Pradze, Bratysławie i Nowym Jorku. Nagrała kolejne piosenki do filmów “Niewinni czarodzieje” (reż. Andrzej Wajda) czy “Rozstanie” (reż. Wojciech Jerzy Has).

W repertuarze miała wiele popularnych utworów, jak “Piosenka o okularnikach”, “Ach panie, panowie”, “Widzisz mała”, “Ciao, Ciao Bambina”, “Gdzie są kwiaty z tamtych lat?” (z repertuaru Marleny Dietrich) czy “Na Francuskiej”. Śpiewała także piosenki w języku jidysz – m.in. “Miasteczko Bełz”.

Maria Dąbrowska w zapisie z 1965 roku wspominała Agnieszkę Osiecką, która w radiowym Podwieczorku przy mikrofonie “przemyciła” niekoniecznie dobrze widzianą błatną rosyjską piosenkę “Murka”, świetnie przełożoną – “a równie dobrze zaśpiewaną przez Sławę Przybylską”. [“Dzienniki. 1914–1965”, Tom XIII – 1962–1965, Warszawa 1996]

Sława Przybylska, 1974, fot. Jerzy Płoński/Forum

czytaj dalej tu: Sława Przybylska


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A portrait of the artist as an anti-Semite

A portrait of the artist as an anti-Semite

Linda Nochlin


Detail, Edgar Degas, ‘Portrait of Henri Michel-Lévy,’ 1878(Image: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Wikipedia)

At the time of the Dreyfus affair, many members of the artistic avant-garde took sides: Monet and Pissarro, with their old friend and supporter Zola, were Dreyfusard, or pro-Dreyfus, as were the younger radical artists Luce, Signac, and Vallotton and the American Mary Cassatt; Cézanne, Rodin, Renoir, and Degas were anti-Dreyfusard. Monet, who had been out of touch with Zola for several years, nevertheless wrote to his old friend two days after the appearance of “J’accuse” to congratulate him for his valor and his courage; on 18 January, Monet signed the so-called Manifesto of the Intellectuals on Dreyfus’ behalf. Despite the fact that at the outset of the affair many anarchists were unfavorably disposed toward Dreyfus—an army officer and wealthy to boot—Pissarro, who was an ardent anarchist, nevertheless quickly became convinced of his innocence. He too wrote to Zola after the appearance of “J’accuse,” to congratulate him for his “great courage” and “nobility of … character,” signing the letter, “Your old comrade.” Renoir, who managed to keep up with some of his Jewish friends like the Natansons at the height of the affair, nevertheless was both an anti­-Dreyfusard and openly anti-Semitic, a position obviously linked to his deep political conservatism and fear of anarchism. Of the Jews, he maintained that there was a reason for their being kicked out of every country, and asserted that “they shouldn’t be allowed to become so important in France.” He spoke out against his old friend Pissarro, saying that his sons had failed to do their military service because they lacked ties to their country. Earlier, in 1882, he had protested against showing his work with Pissarro, maintaining that “to exhibit with the Jew Pissarro means revolution.”

None of the former Impressionists, however, was as ardently anti-Dreyfusard and, it would seem, as anti-Semitic as Edgar Degas. When a model in Degas’ studio expressed doubt that Dreyfus was guilty, Degas screamed at her “you are Jewish … you are Jewish …” and ordered her to put on her clothes and leave, even though he was told that the woman was actually Protestant. Pissarro, who continued to admire Degas’ work, referred to him in a note to Lucien as “the ferocious anti-Semite.” He later told his friend Signac that since the anti-Semitic incidents of 1898, Degas, and Renoir as well, shunned him. Degas, at the height of the affair, even went so far as to suggest that Pissarro’s painting was ignoble; when reminded that he had once thought highly of his old friend’s work he replied, “Yes, but that was before the Dreyfus affair.”

Such anecdotes provide us with a bare indication of the facts concerning vanguard artists and the Dreyfus affair, and they tend to create an oversimplified impression of an extremely complex historical situation. Certainly, there seems to be little evidence in the art of any of these artists, of such essentially political attitudes as anti­-Semitism or Dreyfusard sympathies. Yet there are certain ways of reading the admittedly rather limited visual evidence that can lead to a more sophisticated analysis of the issues involved. Two concrete images reveal, better than any elaborate theoretical explanation, the complexity of the relation of vanguard artists to Jews and “Jewishness” and, at the same time, the equally complex relation which obtains between visual representation and meaning. The first, a work in pastel and tempera on paper of 1879, is by Edgar Degas, and it represents Ludovic Halévy, the artist’s boyhood friend and constant companion, writer, librettist, and man-about-town. Halévy is shown backstage at the opera with another close friend, Boulanger-Cavé. The image is a poignant one. The inwardness of mood and the isolation of the figure of Halévy, silhouetted against the vital brilliance of the yellowish blue-green backdrop, suggest an empathy between the middle-aged artist and his equally middle-aged subject, who leans, with a kind of resigned nonchalance, against his furled umbrella. The gaiety and make-believe of the theater setting only serves as a foil to set off the essential solitude, the sense of worldly weariness, established by Halévy’s figure. Halévy himself commented on this discrepancy between mood and setting in the pages of his journal: “Myself, serious in a frivolous place: That’s what Degas wanted to represent.” The only touch of bright color on the figures is provided by the tiny dab of red at both men’s lapels: the ribbon of the Legion of Honor, glowing like an ember in the dark, signifying with Degas’ customary laconicism the distinction appropriate to members of his intimate circle—though Degas himself viewed such institutional accolades rather coolly. Halévy, of course, was a Jew; a convert to Catholicism, to be sure, but a Jew, nevertheless, and when the time came, a staunch Dreyfusard. His son, Daniel, one of Degas’ most fervent admirers, was to be, with his friend Charles Peguy, one of the most fervent of Dreyfus’ defenders. No one looking at this sympathetic, indeed empathetic, portrait would surmise that Degas was (or would become) an anti-Semite or that he would become a virulent anti-Dreyfusard; indeed, that within 10 years, he would pay his last visit to the Halévys home, which had been like his own for many years, and never return again, except briefly, on Ludovic’s death in 1908, to pay his final respects.

Edgar Degas: ‘Ludovic Halevy et Albert Boulanger-Cavé dans les coulisses de l’Opéra,’ 1879 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

The second image to consider is a pen-and-ink drawing, one of a series of 28 by Camille Pissarro titled Les Turpitudes Sociales. Created in 1889, the series, representing both the exploiters and the exploited of his time was intended for the political education of his nieces Esther and Alice Isaacson. The drawing in question is titled “Capital” and represents, in a highly caricatural style, reminiscent of Daumier or the English graphic artist Charles Keene, the statue of a fat banker clutching a bag of gold to his heart. The features of the figure—the prominent hooked nose, protruding cars, thick lips, slack pot belly, soft hands, and knock-knees—could almost serve as an illustration for the description of the prototypical Jew concocted by the anti-Semitic agitator Drumont. In a letter accompanying Les Turpitudes Sociales, Pissarro describes this drawing as follows: “The statue is the golden calf, the God Capital. In a word it represents the divinity of the day in a portrait of a Bischoffheim [sic], of an Oppenheim, of a Rothschild, of a Gould, whatever. It is without distinction, vulgar and ugly.” Lest we think that this stereotypically Jewish caricature glossed by a list of specifically Jewish names is a mere coincidence, figures with the exaggeratedly hooked noses used to pillory Jews appear prominently in the foreground of another drawing from the series, “The Temple of the Golden Calf,” a representation of a crowd of speculators in front of the bourse. A third drawing, originally intended for the Turpitudes Sociales album but then omitted, is even more overtly anti­-Semitic in its choice of figure type. The drawing represents the golden calf being borne in procession by four top-hatted capitalists, the first two of whom arc shown with grotesquely exaggerated Jewish-looking features, while several long-­nosed attendants follow behind in the cortege. The whole scene is observed by a group of working­-class figures with awed expressions.

Camille Pissarro: ‘Les Turpitudes Sociales,’ 1890. (Südwest-Verlag, München/wikimedia)

It is hard for the modern viewer to connect these anti-Semitic drawings with what we know about Pissarro: the fact that he was, after all, a Jew himself; that he was an anarchist; that he was an extremely generous and unprejudiced person; and, above all, with the fact that when the time came he became a staunch supporter of Dreyfus and the Dreyfusard cause. Yet lest we reach the paradoxical conclusion that the anti-Dreyfusard Degas was more sympathetic to his Jewish subjects than the Jewish Dreyfusard Pissarro, one must examine further both the art and the attitudes of the two artists. What, for instance, are we to make of a Degas painting, almost contemporary with the Halévy portrait, titled “At the Bourse”? It represents the Jewish banker, speculator, and patron of the arts, Ernest May, on the steps of the stock exchange in company with a certain M. Bolatre. At first glance, the painting seems quite similar to the “Friends on the Stage”, even to the way Degas has used some brilliantly streaked paint on the dado to the left to set off the black-clad figures. But if we look further, we see that this is not quite the case. The gestures, the features, and the positioning of the figures suggest something quite different from the distinction and empathetic identification characteristic of the Halévy portrait: What they suggest is “Jewishness” in an unflattering, if relatively subtle way.
recommended by: Leon Rozenbaum
If “At the Bourse” does not sink to the level of anti-Semitic caricature, like the drawings from 
Les Turpitudes Sociales, it nevertheless draws from the same polluted source of available visual stereotypes. Its subtlety owes something to the fact that it is conceived as “a work of art” rather than a “mere caricature.” It is not so much May’s Semitic features, but rather the gesture that I find disturbing—what might be called the “confidential touching”—that and the rather strange, close-up angle of vision from which the artist chose to record it, as though to suggest that the spectator is spying on rather than merely looking at the transaction taking place. At this point in Degas’ career, gesture and the vantage point from which gesture was recorded were everything in his creation of an accurate, seemingly unmediated, imagery of modern life. “A back should reveal temperament, age, and social position, a pair of hands should reveal the magistrate or the merchant, and a gesture should reveal an entire range of feelings,” the critic Edmond Duranty declared in the discussion of Degas from his polemical account of the nascent Impressionist group, “The New Painting” (1876). What is “revealed” here, perhaps unconsciously, through May’s gesture, as well as the unseemly, inelegant closeness of the two central figures and the demeanor of the vaguely adumbrated supporting cast of characters, like the odd couple, one with a “Semitic nose,” pressed as tightly as lovers into the narrow space at the left­-hand margin of the picture, is a whole mythology of Jewish financial conspiracy. That gesture—the half-hidden head tilted to afford greater intimacy, the plump white hand on the slightly raised shoulder, the stiff turn of May’s head, the somewhat emphasized ear picking up the tip—all this, in the context of the half-precise, half-merely adumbrated background, suggests “insider” information to which “they,” are privy, from which “we,” the spectators (understood to be gentile) are excluded. This is, in effect, the representation of a conspiracy. It is not too farfetched to think of the traditional gesture of Judas betraying Christ in this connection, except that here, both figures function to signify Judas; Christ, of course, is the French public, betrayed by Jewish financial machinations.

read more: A portrait of the artist as an anti-Semite


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MEET THE FIRST LADY OF ISRAELI THEATER

MEET THE FIRST LADY OF ISRAELI THEATER

BASIA MONKA


The First Lady of Israeli Theater, Lea Koenig-Stopler, reminisces about two new plays.
LEA KOENIG-STOLPER: Israelis love and respect theater.. (photo credit: BASIA MONKA)

The First Lady of Israeli Theater just celebrated her 89th birthday. Lea Koenig-Stolper was born in Lodz, Poland; over the years she appeared in more than 100 plays in Habima and other theaters. She is still one of the most active actresses in Israel.

The Magazine recently sat down with her to talk about two new plays she is currently performing in: King Lear by Shakespeare and Behind the Fence, based on a Bialik story, where she acts in Russian. We learn about the complexity of acting in different languages and the importance – or not, of gender – in her playing King Lear. She tells us of her love for the Yiddish language and the disappearing Yiddish world, and the crucial decisions she had to make after moving to Israel and be reborn as an Israeli Hebrew actress.

Koenig is multilingual. The interview was conducted in Hebrew, although with me also being born in Poland, we spoke also in that native tongue.

I wanted to start by saying that the Israeli theater Queen Lea plays the king, King Lear at Habima. But thinking about it, I have realized that your surname Koenig, König, means king. 

Yes, that’s right.

So this role was waiting for you.

No, he did not write it for me. But really, this part is not written as a king, it is Lear. It is not important if this is a man or a woman. And also I don’t insist in the play to be just a man.

Within my character we have both a man and a woman. And I think this way. When I perform it, I don’t think about myself being a man, but that I am Lear.

Do you think the problems Lear is facing are still relevant today?
Absolutely. I don’t want to give names, but the problem of elder parents who are not taken care of, is present also in the theater community. There are actors who have the story of Lear at home… In general, there exists the problem of old people, whose children are not always there. In Lear, my interest is to focus on his family situation and his family issues are also involved in the politics. You can see that children do not think at all about their father, the one who raised them. They only think how to gain, how to profit.

I believe, as a young actress you dreamed about Shakespearean roles, as most of actors do, but  Lear was not one of them?

I did not think about it. This was the idea of the theater now, they offered me that. But in recent years, in some places in the world, Lear was performed by women. That tells us the problems we face, specifically in the relations with children, are essentially the same for a man and a woman.

Regarding parts in Shakespeare’s plays, I was also Gertrude in Hamlet. But if you ask me about when I was young, I was not so interested in his characters. I was more intrigued for example by characters by Ostrovsky [Alexander]. I loved The Visit by Dürrenmatt [Friedrich]. I loved the variety of characters, but was not in Shakespeare at that time…

More of the contemporary theater?

I must say, yes.

What do you think is the difference between the way directors work today and in the 1960s when you moved to Israel?

Everything has changed. We live now in the times of technology. From day to day, it upgrades fast. It is impossible not to follow it. The people, the energy nowadays, the desire to achieve, that race against the time – makes lots of differences.

recommended by: Leon Rozenbaum

For example?

You build a play much faster today. The technology that is connected with the play is different. But also what directors are looking for is different. Today, the modern theater doesn’t exactly say what to think, but instead wants you open your feelings in order to understand what is going on a stage. And the public loves it. There is also the fringe, now, it gets a lot of significance in the theater scene.

You are saying that nowadays the preparations for the play are faster, shorter. How long were they in the case of ‘King Lear?’

I have worked on that a lot of time myself. Together, we worked on that for four months, which is long. Normally we prepare a play in about a month, or month and a half. It depends.

I am not asking how long it takes you to learn the dialogues, because after all those years it must be natural for you…

It comes naturally, but not as easy as 20 years ago.

I would like to ask you about the language itself. The audience today may not realize that the biggest Israeli actress did not always know Hebrew. Did you speak any Hebrew before coming to Israel?

No. I did not know Hebrew at all.

So at first, did you learn to speak Hebrew in real life or only for the lines for the theater plays?

There was no a special ulpan for actors. I did not know any Hebrew before. Many people are mistaken, thinking that if you know Yiddish, you know Hebrew, but there is no connection. There are some expressions in common, but no more. If you know Yiddish, it’s easier to learn German.

Was Polish or Yiddish your first language?

I do not know. It seems to me that at my home all those languages were spoken, as was accustomed at that time in Europe. My father was from Vilnus – a “Vilnianit” – he spoke Russian, my mother was Lodzanit – she spoke amazing Polish. She never spoke as well in Romanian, after that. My grandmother spoke to me in Polish and Yiddish. With my husband, he was from Czernowitz, I spoke German, Yiddish, Romanian and at the end in Hebrew, too. So all those languages are inside of me.

But is there a difference for you in working in Hebrew, Yiddish or Russian?

There is a big difference. Despite all those years, Hebrew was not spoken to me when I was a child. In this language, I sometimes make mistakes. I do not always feel a word in Hebrew.

So is it easier in Yiddish?

In Yiddish, I have no problem.

In ‘Behind the Fence,’ based on Hayim Nahman Bialik’s story, the new play at Habima directed by Moshe Kepten, you perform for three hours, all the time in Russian.

I have not spoken it for many years. So there are some nuances in the accent, that I say differently. But I speak Russian well, much better than Polish now.

Some years ago I saw you in Warsaw at the Singer Festival and you spoke Polish on the stage.

Because I knew I had to. When you know you have to, the brain starts to work. I speak Polish, but not correctly, I mix it with Russian. It bothers me a bit, that I don’t speak fluent Polish. I also speak Romanian. I spent 12 important years in Romania; there I became an actress.

Let’s go back yet in time. You had a career in Romania. Why did you decide to move to Israel in 1961?

I left Communist Romania. The perception of the world, the mentality, all of that was different. Suddenly you come to a capitalist, democratic country, – the new world.

Now to someone young, it is hard to comprehend, when I say I could not travel, I did not receive permission. A young person asks me, “What do you mean, you did not get permission? Why? What do you mean they did not perform plays of Ionesco in Romania?” It is hard to explain to someone who did not live there in those times.

Back in Bucharest, I was already a very successful actress and a “young celebrity.” When you leave your career behind, you don’t know what the future will bring. “You change the place, you change the luck (mazal.)”

It’s hard for me to forget that I was an olah hadasha. Those were hard times, but also special and moving.

Did you start to work at the Yiddish theater when first you moved to Israel?

No.

Why not? That was easy for you to do.

That was very easy. I had many invitations, and offers followed by money, that could have solved problems of an apartment, a fridge, and all of those things. But I did not take them, because my mother [Dina Koenig] was not only a fantastic actress, but also a very smart woman and she told me, “You must start in Hebrew. You must prove to yourself and others that you able to perform in Hebrew.” She told me, “First you must prove to everyone that you can act in Hebrew, then you can perform in Yiddish or any other language you want.” She was right. So this is how we did it, my husband [Zvi Stolper] and I, we started to perform in Yiddish only three years after working previously in Hebrew.

What was your first play in Hebrew?

 The very first play in Hebrew was Mr. Puntila and his Man Matti by Bertold Brecht. Immediately after that, I performed in an Israeli play, Genesis, by Aharon Megged, a great Hebrew writer [born in Wloclawek, Poland]. That was the push to my career here.

When I moved to Israel, many of the actors at the Yiddish theater were from Warsaw. Those theaters worked without any support; they were private businesses. There was still a public that was drawn to Yiddish and there were some big stars. There were Dzigan and Shumaher [Szymon Dzigan (1905-1980) and Yisroel Shumacher (1908-1961)]; they managed to engaged the Hebrew audience also.

What do you mean by that?

Their sense of humor, their style of satire, was very strong and very good. At that time, there was already a Hebrew audience here that did not know Yiddish, but that was coming to see Dzigan and Shumaher. In general, the majority of audience of Yiddish theaters were people who spoke Yiddish also at home.

But that has changed. There are fewer and fewer people who go to the Yiddish theaters now and when they do, it is with simultaneous translation.

Did you feel some connection to your father, Josef Kamien, when you were in Warsaw, at the Jewish Theater?

Of course I did. My parents were well-known actors. There were people who remembered them, I met them. It was very moving.

But time runs. At my age, I must accept it, that a generation is coming and a generation is leaving. We have a new generation. But yes, I would like them to be remembered and given respect, and that people would want to learn about them.

Were your grandparents also actors?

No, my grandparents were “normal people.” [Laughs]

Why do you use surname of your mother, Koenig?

My father died during the Second War World when we were in Russia. My mother remarried and she changed her surname. She decided I would go by her family name.

What do you remember from Lodz, your childhood in Poland? Do you remember the theater of your father?

Not much…

I can imagine you as a little girl sitting behind the stage, watching your parents.

No, they were not taking me to the theater. My mother was afraid to. She did not want me to become an actress. She did not raise me to be an actress. She knew it is not an easy life, so she did not want me to follow this route…

But you still did.

This is thanks to my husband. He pushed me to that. Once, he heard me reciting and he said I should try. So I tried and I succeeded.

Do you feel that young actors who work with you are also your students?

I don’t know if they are my students. But I think that when they perform with me, they take something. I hope so.

When I see you on the stage, especially during the applause after a play, I often think that I am seeing you with your family. For example, when you received flowers, you gave them to the girl who was acting in the play [‘Behind the Fence’]. You gave more than flowers; you gave her your hand. Another time, about three years ago, after the play ‘Et Dodim’ [‘In the Time of Love’], you invited a young man on the stage who bent down on one knee and proposed to one of the actresses from the play… 

Yes, I did it?

Yes, I remember it well. So you are not just a ‘König Lear,’ you are like the mother of the theater. Do you feel this way?

I don’t know about that. But the audience is still with me and gives me a lot of hope. Israelis love and respect theater. There is no doubt. We are a nation like that. Thanks to people who were once in Poland, in Russia, the Jewish public is used to theater. Shalom Aleichem on a wheelchair used to travel to little villages where Jewish people lived. They would bring a table and a carpet from their homes and would make a theater in a storage unit. This passes from generation to generation.

Recently I saw you act as a Ukrainian woman. Earlier, as Jewish woman, also an American woman in the fantastic ‘The Velocity of Autumn.’ As King Lear, you are not young as well. You play old people, but now we’ve met and in real life you are young! Preparing for this interview, I listened to you singing songs of Mordechai Gibirtig, songs that my grandfather loved so much and I have noticed that when you sing in Yiddish, you shine. Do you think you are more yourself when you sing in Yiddish?

I do not carry the roles home. I really like speaking Yiddish. I enjoy it. There are certain phrases, expressions in Yiddish that you cannot translate. Nothing specific comes to my mind now, but when you are saying it in Hebrew, it loses its taste.

What is your dream today, about which play?

My dream is to be healthy. To do those six plays, that I do now. I think if I did Lear at my age, that it is pretty good.

An absolutely outstanding Lear – thank you and happy birthday!


For more information: www.habima.co.il


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Państwo polskie ratowało Żydów. Polemika z dr Agnieszką Haską

Państwo polskie ratowało Żydów. Polemika z dr Agnieszką Haską

Jakub Kumoch


Hotel Polski przy ul. Długiej 29 na fotografii anonimowego autora wykonanej najprawdopodobniej w 1941 r. Podczas powstania warszawskiego wybudowany w 1808 r. budynek został niemal całkowicie zniszczony, ocalał tylko front. Odbudowano go po wojnie, dziś również jest hotelem i zachował starą nazwę

Operacja berneńska, w wyniku której dzięki paszportom państw południowoamerykańskich udało się wydostać z okupowanej Polski wielu Żydów, była akcją państwową, a nie, jak się dotąd uważało, indywidualną inicjatywą kilku dyplomatów

Z wielkim zainteresowaniem przeczytałem wywiad Pawła Smoleńskiego z dr Agnieszką Haską („Ale Historia”, nr 49 (358), 17 grudnia 2018 r.) ponieważ dotyczy on – po części – sprawy, którą moja placówka i ja badamy od ponad roku. Wywiad ciekawy i bolesny, pokazujący jedną z mało znanych akcji ratunkowych z czasów Zagłady i niewątpliwie udzielony przez badaczkę, która się na sprawie zna. Jednakże wymagający paru zastrzeżeń.

Dr Haska jest wybitną ekspertką, która poświęciła wiele czasu badaniom tzw. afery paszportowej – wyprodukowania przez Poselstwo RP w Bernie i organizacje żydowskie kilku tysięcy paszportów Ameryki Łacińskiej dla ratowania Żydów. Była też jedną z prekursorek tego tematu i jako jedna z pierwszych dokonała odkrycia, że za tą historią w dużej mierze stał mój poprzednik, polski poseł w Bernie Aleksander Ładoś.

Niekiedy jednak jej wnioski są w mojej opinii krzywdzące dla bohaterów tamtych dni.

Przede wszystkim w wywiadzie zabrakło jakiegokolwiek śladu istnienia Konstantego Rokickiego, polskiego konsula w Bernie, który odręcznie sfałszował prawie wszystkie paszporty Paragwaju, a więc najprawdopodobniej większość ratujących życie dokumentów. Po odtajnieniu szwajcarskich archiwów sprawa jest więcej niż jasna, tym bardziej że na stronach Instytutu Yad Vashem jest dostępna online korespondencja Rokickiego z organizacjami żydowskimi dotycząca tego bezprecedensowego fałszerstwa (widać m.in. okoliczności powstania paszportów dla pisarzy Georga Hermanna Borchardta oraz Stanisława Wygodzkiego, widać też „obrabianie” przez Rokickiego całych długich list nazwisk, można też rozpoznać na paszportach jego styl pisma).

Nie wspomnieć o Konstantym Rokickim, to tak jak – mówiąc o ratowaniu żydowskich dzieci – nie wspomnieć o Irenie Sendlerowej.

Jest to zupełnie niezrozumiałe, tym bardziej że raptem dwa miesiące temu sami ocaleni oddali hołd Rokickiemu na cmentarzu w Lucernie, gdzie przez 60 lat spoczywał w nieoznakowanym grobie w sekcji dla ubogich.

Dużym błędem jest również sugerowana nieskuteczność akcji paszportowej. W wywiadzie bezkrytycznie przyjęta została liczba „kilkudziesięciu” ocalonych. Problem w tym, że Agnieszka Haska, znakomita znawczyni sprawy Hotelu Polskiego, nigdy nie publikowała badań na temat innych miejsc, dokąd trafiały paszporty – przede wszystkim obozów koncentracyjnych w Westerbork (Holandia) i Bergen-Belsen (Niemcy), a także wielu innych miejsc w okupowanej Europie. Akcja Silberscheina, Ładosia, Rokickiego, Kühla, Ryniewicza, Eissa i ich wielu pomocników była akcją ogólnoeuropejską.

Od wielu miesięcy pracuję nad bazą danych, tzw. Listą Ładosia. Opublikowana ma być na wiosnę, ale już we wcześniejszych publikacjach podawałem dane i metodologię ich obliczeń. Dziś znamy z imienia i nazwiska 433 ocalonych żydowskich obywateli państw europejskich, posiadaczy paszportów. Wśród nich jest konkretnie 132 Polaków, 130 Holendrów, 126 Niemców, 23 Austriaków, a ponadto m.in. liderzy żydowskiego ruchu oporu z Francji, Słowacji i Włoch oraz wielu innych. Liczba ta wkrótce wzrośnie, bo badacze z Instytutu Pileckiego pracują nad listą posiadaczy paszportów Hondurasu i Peru. Ponadto rzeczywistej liczby nie poznamy zapewne nigdy, ponieważ brakuje nam około 50 proc. nazwisk, a los wielu spośród znanych nam osób jest nie do ustalenia. I to pomimo znakomitej współpracy ze strony Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau, IPN (który sprawdza dla nas zawartość bazy danych w Bad Arolsen), wspomnianego Instytutu Pileckiego oraz wielu indywidualnych badaczy i potomków ocalonych.

Wielokrotnie w ciągu roku pokazywałem te dane oraz towarzyszące im dokumenty – jestem otwarty na ich krytykę, ale nie na przemilczanie.

Operacja berneńska nie była też, jak się dotąd uważało, indywidualną inicjatywą kilku dyplomatów. Była to – według wszelkich dokumentów – operacja państwowa, a nie indywidualna. Tak postrzegał ją zresztą Abraham Silberschein, lider RELICO, który przesłuchiwany we wrześniu 1943 r. przez policję zeznał, że został „zadaniowany” przez dwóch polskich dyplomatów – Rokickiego oraz Stefana Ryniewicza, zastępcę posła Ładosia. Na centralną rolę Poselstwa RP wskazywali również Hügli i Eiss, a także Juliusz Kühl, wszyscy przesłuchani między styczniem i majem 1943 r. Stenogramów przesłuchań brakuje w bibliografii artykułu pani doktor z 2015 r., ale od tego czasu były one publikowane choćby przez Ambasadę RP w Bernie i cytowane przez innych autorów.

Ponadto z dokumentów z 1943 r. wynika jasno, że to polska dyplomacja interweniowała w obronie zwolnionego za podrabianie paszportów konsula Peru (późniejszego Sprawiedliwego wśród Narodów Świata), to Ładoś z Ryniewiczem (kolejny nieobecny w wywiadzie) wyciągali z aresztu Abrahama Silberscheina i wreszcie to MSZ – ustami posła Ładosia – skutecznie zaszantażowało Szwajcarię, mówiąc, że walka z paszportami oznaczać będzie skandal międzynarodowy.

To Polska w grudniu 1943 r. przekonała Stany Zjednoczone do interwencji wobec rządu Paragwaju. Również i na ten temat publikowaliśmy dokumenty.

Dlatego negatywna ocena MSZ RP pod kierownictwem Tadeusza Romera, bardzo przychylnego sprawie ratowania Żydów, jest – w mojej ocenie – niesprawiedliwa. W tysiącach dokumentów nie dostrzegam nic, co – w sprawie ratowania życia za pomocą paszportów – byłoby zrobione źle lub opieszale. Dostrzegam natomiast bezprecedensową zgodę na fałszerstwo paszportów z maja 1943 r. motywowaną – jak to ujął w depeszy wysoki urzędnik MSZ – „momentami natury ściśle humanitarnej”.

Niekiedy MSZ domagało się bezpośrednio ratowania poszczególnych rodzin. Na jednym z dokumentów widnieje podpis Romera, na innym – ambasadora w USAJana Ciechanowskiego. Znam osobiście potomków rodziny Kruskal uratowanej w ten sposób, podobnie jak znam Eve Brandel, Amerykankę, córkę pani Suchestow ze Lwowa, w sprawie której MSZ kazało Ładosiowi jechać do Zurychu i interweniować w konsulacie Kostaryki, by ratować ją z Vittel.

Traktowanie operacji berneńskiej jako indywidualnej akcji ratunkowej jest karkołomne, bo w sprawę walki o uznanie paszportów zaangażowanych było kilkanaście polskich placówek, w tym wszystkie ambasady i poselstwa w państwach Ameryki Łacińskiej.

W Instytucie Hoovera i Archiwum Akt Nowych są nawet dokumenty pokazujące polską interwencję także wobec rządu Haiti.

Niewątpliwie akcja berneńska jest akcją polsko-żydowską, a wielu jej bohaterów nigdy nie zostało upamiętnionych. Jak chociażby około setki szwajcarskich Żydów i nie-Żydów, którzy finansowali paszporty dla swoich bliskich, znajomych i nieznajomych. Wśród nich jest anonimowy darczyńca, który przekazał 1000 franków – dwie miesięczne pensje lekarza – by wyciągnąć z Westerbork rodzinę z dwuletnim dzieckiem. Dziś ten wówczas mały chłopiec jest izraelskim emerytem. Znam go i jestem z nim w kontakcie.

Co ciekawe, roli polskich dyplomatów nigdy nie bagatelizowali działacze żydowscy. Recha Sternbuch napisała po wojnie, że bez „ambasadora Ładosia nie uratowałby się prawie nikt”, i jako jedyna udzieliła mu pomocy, gdy klepał biedę we Francji, zaś Chaim Eiss nazwał go Sprawiedliwym wśród Narodów Świata na wiele lat wcześniej, zanim termin ten przyjął Instytut Yad Vashem. Wreszcie po ponad 70 latach nasi dyplomaci odnaleźli w Londynie podziękowania od Agudat Israel dla polskich dyplomatów – wymieniają one na równi Ładosia, Kühla, Rokickiego i Ryniewicza jako osoby, bez których nie uratowano by setek (tego słowa użyto) ludzkich istnień.

Niedawno prezentowałem wyniki naszych badań w Polskim Instytucie Spraw Międzynarodowych i na sali było kilkoro badaczy Zagłady, w tym dr Agnieszka Haska. Wszystko, o czym piszę, omawiałem, pokazywałem dokumenty i – przyzwyczajony do norm akademickich – byłem gotowy na krytykę, której notabene bardzo mi brakuje. Czekałem na pytania o liczby, o sposób dotarcia do danych, zaznaczałem też, że nie każdy posiadacz paszportu ocalał dzięki paszportowi. Pytany byłem o to, czy dyplomata powinien kierować się prawem czy moralnością i dlaczego badania prowadzimy tak późno. Żadne merytoryczne pytanie nie padło.


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