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Honors for reconciliation

Witold Bereś


“For the extraordinary accomplishments in the field of culture and the work towards Polish-Jewish mutual understanding,” this was how President of the Republic of Poland explained his decision to honor Witold Bereś and Krzysztof Burnetko with Knight’s Crosses of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

The Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta is the second highest Polish state order bestowed upon individuals who have had “extraordinary accomplishments in the field of education, science, sports, culture, art, economy, national defense, social activities, public service and the development of good relations with other countries.” The order was established by the Polish Parliament on Feb 4, 1921 as the second highest-ranking Polish honor after the Order of the White Eagle. The capitule of the Order of Polonia Restituta ensures the high respect ability of the Order. What was significant, it was one of the last decisions of President Komorowski in his office.

Bereś and Burnetko were honored as the authors of many books and press articles, as well as movies and theater performances devoted to “difficult topics” in Polish-Jewish relations, as the media present at the medal-handing ceremony reported.

Bereś and Burnetko have coauthored such bestsellers as Marek Edelman. Life. Just like that (Second edition entitled Marek Edelman. Life. Until The End), and a book-length interview Marek Edelman. God is Asleep. In addition, Bereś and Burnetko wrote about another Jewish Ghetto hero, Kazik Ratajzer vel. Simche Rotem (A Hero in the Shadow). In turn, in their book-length interview with Rev. Stanislaw Musiał, published under the title Spiritual Rebel, Bereś and Burnetko focused on the relations between Judaism and Christianity. They also were involved in inspiring Polish lay Catholics to get involved in a dialogue with the Jews (a monograph of Jerzy Turowicz, editor-in-chief of the Tygodnik Powszechny weekly, entitled The Weekly. The Times and People: 1945-99.

Some of the Bereś-Burnetko books generated enthusiastic reviews abroad. The biography of Marek Edelman was published in Germany and Israel, and Marek Edelman: God is Asleep in Russia.

Both authors collaborated also with then producers of documentaries about Polish-Jewish relations Commander Edelman and Bartoszewski. The Road, which were presented by the public television in Poland and distributed in cinemas across the country—in big cities as well as provincial Poland.

They also coauthored a monodrama based on the life of Marek Edelman Walking in the Sun which was staged in over 20 cities in Poland and also in the form of an open-air show And There Was Love in the Ghetto… performed twice. The venue waf the former Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.

At the order handing ceremony Bereś and Burnetko were joined by their long-time collaborator, movie director Artur Baron Więcek.

fot. Grzegorz Kozakiewicz
fot. Grzegorz Kozakiewicz