BialyGen: Bialystok Region #Bialystok #Poland Re: Summary of Trip to Poland -- Report 2 #poland


Very interesting commentary >from Tilford. Also, some very interesting
real-life experiences with these two issues.

My intent was to highlight the impact of these two issues to our pursuit
of Genealogy. Of course, these issues have a much heavier impact to Jews
living in Poland and those who lost loved ones and property as a result
of the Soviet occupation in 1939-41, the Nazi occupation and Holocaust,
and the post War Soviet administration.

Recognizing that my observations result >from only a short visit to
Poland and some Internet reading about these issues, I agree that the
property restititution issue is very emotional and more critical to
Jewish-Polish relations. It is true that segments of the Jewish
Community disagree on the disposition of the recovered Jewish communal
property. Even worse, this disagreement is played out in the press.

If anyone is interested in more background on this issue (in English),
please see the following websites:

For those interested in Jewish issues in Poland, at the bottom of the
last two webpages are Index of Names and Index of Subjects for you to

In my mind, the communal restitution and the private restitution are
completely different issues. However, these get mixed together and could
lead to Xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Poland. I am not sure how we can
help, but I think Genealogists must tread lightly at this time when they
research in Poland making sure that research requests do not appear be
addressing property issues.

For those interested in property restitution issues, this is not the
forum for discussion of individual claims. Individual restitution now
must be played out in the Polish political and court system.

Mark Halpern
BIALYGen Coordinator

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tilford Bartman" <>
To: "Mark Halpern" <>
Cc: "BIALYGen: Bialystok Region Jewish Genealogy Group"
Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 7:46 AM
Subject: Re: [bialystok] Summary of Trip to Poland -- Report 2


Great stuff! I'm envious of your 18 days in Poland. My trips have all
been relatively short ones. I'll make a few comments about your

About two years ago I wrote the IPN (Institute of National
trying to find if documentation was available of the trial where my
relative Palter Lopata charged the Polish Police Assistant to the
Germans in Zabludow Zigmond Koslowski with war crimes. They wrote me
back telling me that the records of the trial were destroyed in 1989!
Palter and two other survivors >from Zabludow testified, and I think
records of this trial would have information about what happened in
Zabludow during the war which is otherwise unknown and not available
elsewhere. They were nice enough to point me to some other resources
Zabludow most of which I was familiar.

I think the issue of people who were recruited by the communist
agencies is a huge one for Polish people, and I don't doubt that this
incident with the reporter would create a stir. My understanding is
since the fall of the communist government in Poland very little has
been done to identify those who worked for the security agencies or
those who might actually be guilty of various crimes during this
Many ex-communists have been successful in the "new" Poland including
"reformed" ex-communist politicians. Of course this is really an issue
for Poles, but as a observing descendant of Polish Jews I have mixed
feelings about it. One possible benefit of the Poles facing the truth
about the communist period in Poland could be that they (Poles within
Poland and elsewhere) might see that the vast majority of those that
"collaborated" were not "Jews", just more or less ordinary Poles very
much like themselves. And that many millions of Poles simply did what
they needed to do to benefit >from the system and make a life, as
generally do elsewhere. There where very few true heroes in this
Historically I think the view in Poland has been widespread that 1)
communism was nearly 100 percent imposed on Poland >from without- this
think is to quite a large extent correct but still somewhat
by many Poles. 2) that it was largely Jews who were responsible for or
who were "used" to impose communism on Poland- this has a small grain
truth but is very distorted and exaggerated in a convenient way. I
notice that many "activist" Poles living outside of Poland as
Canadians, Brits, etc., would like to see the government in Poland do
much more to expose, root out, and prosecute ex-communists and their
helpers. Inside Poland there has not been nearly as much taste for
this. Hopefuly the effects of the Bronislaw Wildstein incident on
access to Jewish vital records will be short lived but who knows.

The personal property restitution issue is very emotional and really I
think an impossible one in Poland. It's considerably more complex than
it was in the other European countries that have already dealt with
this. There are all kinds of people in Poland who could claim
restitution, as you mention even Germans. Can you imagine how many
might feel about that! What about the more than 1 million Poles from
Eastern Poland who were arrested and deported East by the Russians
between Sept. 1939 and June 1941. Many of them lost property. Who are
they going to go to for restitution and what is their chance of every
seeing it. These are all issues that are ripe for exploitation by
various Polish political parties. We had two very nice Polish high
school students >from the Bialystok area come over to participate in
Zabludow Synagogue model project about a year ago. They had a good
and were pretty enthusiastic. Their one concern was that the project
would increase interest among Jews here in their roots in Poland, and
that inevitably would lead them to have interest in property
restitution! Anyway, I think it's important to be aware that Jews
aren't the only ones in Poland that suffered, and what might be the
effects of our words and actions on others.

>from what I understand the community property issue has caused a
deal of bitterness and divisions within the Jewish community in Poland
and among those very concerned with it. >from what I understand one of
the assertions is that some of those involved in making decisions like
in selling religious property are people who Jewishness until rather
recently was quite subterranean, and that they are in no position in
terms of their knowledge or their emotional connection to be making
decisions. About five years ago I was able to obtain an original
document that was a power of attorney >from 1946 giving the jewish
community in Bialystok the right to sell the religious property in
Zabludow of the Rabbis house and the Bilsk Street prayer house for
130,000 Zloty's. It was signed by Shimon Datner and Menel Turek, and
the seal of the post war Bialystok Jewish community. I gave a copy of
to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. It appears that on the
property that was once the Zabludow wooden synagogue, the Mikvah, and
the Jewish school house, have been built the towns fire station, and
several homes. There is one large vacant lot behind the fire station.
learned that when the fire station was being built they hit a large
concrete foundation, and that was removed. It was what was left of the
Mikvah. Architects >from the Conservators Office in Warsaw would like
find where were the exact foundations of the synagogue and do some
archeological exploration there, but I don't know if that will be

The home and Blacksmith shop that was owned by my great grandfather
then my great uncle was still there after the war. Now it appears to
have several homes that were built on it, though I don't now just what
the property line was. At first I had the wrong home and I thought
the original home was still there. I talked to the owner who told me
that her stepfather bought the home in 1937 >from a Jew named Ico
and that my families home and shop was on the other side of the street
right over the little bridge. She showed me the deed, and the
list for her home. She was really very nice. I image in part because
she new she could show that this was not my families home, and that
home had been legally bought before the war. She told me that when
were building the homes where my families Smith shop was they found
old horse shoes and that she still had a few. She gave me one which of
course I still have. I personally have no interest whatsover in
property restitution- just that the truth be known. That the property
belonged to Jews (my family), that they were murdered by the Germans,
and that the property was taken over by others.

I think there is a national election coming up in Poland before very
long? I here the current Polish President Kwasniewski doesn't stand a
chance ( I think he's a center left reformed communist) , and that a
significantly more conservative government is very likely to be
I wonder what effect that will have on issues of concern to us?


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