Reuven Rivlin: Historians, not politicians, should deal with history

President welcomes a delegation of Polish Righteous Among the Nations.

President Rivlin embraces Janina Rosciszewska  whose family saved seven Jews during the Holocaust (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
President Rivlin embraces Janina Rosciszewska whose family saved seven Jews during the Holocaust
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
History should be written by historians rather than politicians who might rewrite it in order to serve one purpose or another, President Reuven Rivlin told a delegation of Polish Army in Exile veterans, victims of oppression, and 10 Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
During the group’s visit to Israel this week, some of the 10 Righteous Among the Nations met with the people they saved, most of whom are no longer living.
One of the 10 was Janina Rosciszewska, whose family saved seven Jews including Pavel (Pinchas) Wagner, whom she met at the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv. Rosciszewska told Rivlin on Wednesday that although her family had been under constant threat of death for hiding Jews, they had agreed “either we all survive together, or we all die together.”
Rivlin spontaneously rose from his seat and embraced her.
Among the veterans were aged soldiers who had been together in Mandate Palestine with Menachem Begin in the Anders Army.
Rosciszewska, who previously visited in Israel in 1991 at which time she visited Yad Vashem, did so again during her present visit. She said that this was her first opportunity to voice her appreciation to all those who had welcomed her so warmly on both occasions. “This is a people that knows how to say ‘Thank you’” she said.
The delegation, which included Jozef Kasprzyk, secretary of state at the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, and Polish Ambassador Marek Magierowski, was headed by acting Head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression Jan Józef Kasprzyk.
This is a special year for Poland, said Kasprzyk, because it marks the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by German and Russian aggressors who murdered so many Poles and Jews. He was proud that there were humanitarian individuals in Poland who were willing to endanger their own safety in order to save Jews, and gave a shout out to those rescuers in his delegation who were visiting Israel for the first time.
Referring to Holocaust survivors whom the group had met, Kasprzyk said that it was a very emotional meeting.
Another emotional experience was seeing their names at Yad Vashem included with the Righteous Among the Nations. It is still a source of wonder in Poland, he said, how all these people found the courage to do what they did.
Kasprzyk said that because Poles and Jews tragically suffered together, it was important for the delegation to join together with Israel in declaring ‘Never again!’
Rivlin, who attended the opening in Warsaw in 2014 of the Polin Museum of the History of the Jews of Poland, is familiar with the centuries-old symbiotic relationship between Jews and Poles.
“Jews were part of Poland,” he said, noting that there were times when Jewish life in Poland flourished and times when there was rampant antisemitism, “just as there was elsewhere in Europe.”
Relating to the delegation’s visit to Yad Vashem, Rivlin reminded his guests that when they were there, they could not help but realize the importance of educating others about the humanitarian heroes of the Holocaust, just as it is important to educate the next generation about the horrors “so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Rivlin also warned about rising fascism, neo-Nazism and antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere, saying that it was a danger to the whole world. Dwelling briefly on the Anders Army, he stressed its role in bringing Jewish orphans and refugees to the Land of Israel.
Unreservedly disturbed by developments in the telling of Poland’s history during the Second World War, Rivlin stated that even Poland’s President Andrzej Duda had conceded that there were incidents in Poland that should never have taken place.
“We cooperate for the future without forgetting the past,” said Rivlin. “Today’s antisemitism and political evolution in Europe are troubling, and we must all learn from the past.”