Category: Tadeusz

The Politics of Memory

Posted October 18, 2011 - 9:54am

by Walter Bilderback

Tadeusz Słobodzianek was inspired to write Our Class after reading Jan T. Gross’ book Neighbors, which revealed to Poland and the world that, on July 10, 1941, most of the Jewish population of the small town of Jedwabne was massacred – not by the German Army that had recently invaded the area, but by some of their Polish Catholic neighbors, three days after a similar massacre occurred in nearby Radzilow. Neighbors provoked a debate in Poland that continues to this day. The Polish-Jewish journalist Konstanty Gebert writes that before Gross’ book, “There was…not even an intimation of the fact that a group of ordinary Poles might have, as soon as the Germans gave them a push and a nod, tortured, raped and murdered their Jewish neighbors – women, children, elderly; looted their houses, and then continued to live on, as if nothing had happened.” He suggests that the controversy over Jedwabne is “probably the most important debate of the post-Communist period” in the country. A memorial erected for the sixtieth anniversary of the massacre was vandalized just a week before rehearsals started for the Wilma’s production.

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A Visit to Jedwabne

Posted September 13, 2011 - 8:46am

The terrain from Warsaw to Jedwabne is a flat, boring landscape, but the conversation in the car is lively. Tadeusz is talking about faith and free will, free choice and destiny, and how these seemingly contradictory notions mysteriously coexist in our lives.  These are the themes that permeate the text of the play. In Our Class, Tadeusz touches on the biblical story of Isaac, Abraham, and Sarah, which he brings up as we are driving towards Jedwabne: “In the Jewish interpretation, the story gives a deeper meaning to suffering and suggests the absolute necessity for faith. The Polish Catholic Church sees in the lamb Jesus who was sent as the lamb to be sacrificed instead of Isaac, and thus Jesus resolves the conflict between free will and destiny. This is of course nonsense,” adds Tadeusz, who was brought up in a Catholic family but is now lapsed. Then he adds, “Some conservative Rabbis explain the whole Holocaust as the deeper meaning of fate, as God’s will.”  

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