One of the Jewish members of our group evoked an embarrassed laugh this morning as we walked into the Jewish cemetery in Kielce. "Another perfect day; let's go visit some dead Jews", he said. It was dark humour to relieve the tension of an emotional week.
At times, this tour has seemed like a very long funeral. We have respectfully shuffled, solemn-faced, through cemeteries. We have filed past memorials to horrors so implausible that one can almost understand those who deny them. We have tried to take pleasure in loving restoration work to buildings that now only symbolise the millions of murdered people they used to serve.
When our Jewish friends prayed, sang and danced in renovated synagogues, it only intensified a chilling truth expressed last night at the Jan Karski Society's centre for "culture, meeting and dialogue". In a film about the Society's attempts to get to the truth about the Kielce Pogrom, we saw its founder, Bogdan Białek say "like all Poles, I have lived my life in a Jewish graveyard."
It's important to understand that, with the shocking exception in Kielce, the Polish people did not do this terrible thing. For six centuries their country was the safest place for Europe's Jews. Anti-semitism existed here, as elsewhere, but it should not define the common history of Poles and Jews.
On the way back from Kielce to Warsaw we visited the ongoing reconstruction works of the synagogue in Przysucha. We arrived in Warsaw, after one short break for a packed lunch, in the mid afternoon. This gives plenty of time for the Jewish members of our group to prepare for a service tonight at Warsaw's synagogue, followed by a Shabbat dinner. We goyim are cordially invited, but one and a half hours of religious worship in a language I don't speak might be taking curiosity too far. Especially as, understandably, no photography is allowed.
Tomorrow is the final day of the tour and we will visit various places in Warsaw including the new Museum of Jewish Life in Poland. In the meantime, Shabbat shalom.