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Marek Edelman. Being on the Right Side

Witold Bereś

Marek Edelman: Being on the Right Side by Witold Bereś and Krzysztof Burnetko

– is the first biography in English of this hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, renowned physician, and defender of human rights.

This book was almost 30 years in the making, from the moment when the authors first met Edelman. That was in the 1980s, when the opposition Solidarity movement was forced underground after the communists introduced martial law in Poland. Bereś and Burnetko, active in the democratic opposition, interviewed him for the first time on behalf of an illegal paper they published clandestinely. From that moment on, meetings with Edelman became a part of their lives.

It took a long time to finish the book. Edelman was not an easy man to deal with, moral issues were muddled under the communist dictatorship, and above all there was the vexed question of the Holocaust.

To top it all off, new eyewitness accounts and previously unknown documents kept surfacing.

Bereś and Burnetko ended up devoting no fewer than three books to Edelman (Marek Edelman: Just Life; Marek Edelman: Life to the End; and Marek Edelman: God Is Asleep). Each one was a bestseller, and translations were published in Israel, Germany, and Russia.

The English-language version of their biography of Edelman is based on all three of these books.


Marek Edelman. Being on the Right Side - okładka

Witold Bereś i Krzysztof Burnetko: “Marek Edelman. Being on the Right Side”, transl. by William Brand; Beres Media, Redwood City, 2016

Keywords: Marek Edelman; Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; Holocaust; Solidarity movement in Poland; medicine in Poland; human rights; Polish-Jewish relationships; history of Poland


Hardcover: 540 pages

Publisher: Beres Media, Redwood City, CA, USA / Krakow, Poland; 1st American edition (2016)

Language: English

ISBN: 978-0-9973153-0-1


The Golden Patron: KGHM Polska Miedź S.A

Support: Fundacja KGHM Polska Miedź

Publication subsidized by The Polish Book Institute – The Poland Translation Program



Marek Edelman is one of those names in the recent Polish-Jewish history who cannot be passed by indifferently and who eludes all easy definitions. He was born in Poland and bound his fate to this country notwithstanding many historical complexities. He dedicated his life to “Shielding the Flame” although he himself hardly ever believed in the flame of eternity. What he believed was a human being, man and woman alike, in whose eyes he was able to see a hunger for life to be lived to the full. He never cared about what to say but whenever he spoke, he was the best spokesman for human dignity; a man who declared not to believe in God, yet perhaps he was closer to Him than many of those who too easily invoke His name. This is what prompted him to fight in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, to criticize governments, political trends and to cure human hearts and bodies. Literally. I still regret, I never met Marek Edelman in person. You may find him alive in this breathtaking book.

WIESŁAW DAWIDOWSKI, OSA – member of the Jewish Christian Dialogue Committee at the Polish Bishop’s Conference


I am incapable of writing about those times without poignancy and exclamation points. Edelman dismissed emotionality with a wave of his hand. “Don’t keep going on and on about it,” he tells Bereś and Burnetko. “Nobody can understand it anyway.”

So I won’t go on and on about it either. This is a book that must be read.

Prof. IRENA GRUDZIŃSKA-GROSS, Princeton University


Edelman was a man with a beautiful life story. But Israel has trouble with Jews like Edelman. Because Edelman, by staying in Europe after the Holocaust, marked out a line of Jewish fate running parallel to the line drawn by the Zionists and the founders of Israel. It is going to take us a good while yet to come to terms with such life stories.

This book tries to explain his choices.

ETGAR KERET, writer, screenwriter, and author of story collections including Missing Kissinger


Marek Edelman was my commander during the uprising in the ghetto and a great friend of mine. He was not an easy man to get along with and we did not agree on everything, but he was an honest, brave man. I am happy that there are Poles who attach importance to remembering our struggle and Edelman himself.

SYMCHA ROTEM, the last living soldier from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Jerusalem 2016


“Marek Edelman: Being on the Right Side”, part biography, part extended interview, offers a rare insight into the mind of a complex man whose life was marked by both Nazism and Communism. A hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a political activist, a cardiologist, and most of all a humanist, Edelman never shies from speaking his mind on what matters to him the most: the plight of another human being in need. An important book!

EVA STACHNIAK, novelist, the author of the international bestseller “The Winter Palace”


Marek Edelman’s life would suffice for several biographies. The Museum of the History of the Polish Jews not only mentions him as a Warsaw ghetto fighter, but also carries on the tradition of commemorating that struggle with the yellow daffodils that Marek Edelman placed at the Ghetto Fighters’ Monument each year. Now, Museum volunteers pass out 50,000 paper daffodils on the streets of Warsaw on the anniversary of the start of the insurrection. The launch of the Polish edition of his biography was also held at the Museum and turned out to be both an artistic and an educational success. This gives me all the more satisfaction in welcoming the English-language edition of the book. I am convinced that its brisk narrative will prove attractive to many readers, making it easier at the same time to understand this eminent figure and, in turn, the dramatic fate of the Polish Jews in the 20th century.

Prof. DARIUSZ STOLA, Director of Polin – The Museum of the History of Polish Jews


Marek Edelman was a friend to everyone who values freedom, and his life would suffice for several feature-length films. I myself have drawn on his story in my own work. I am cheered that this superb biography by Bereś and Burnetko will now be coming out in English. Perhaps it will inspire some young director to make a new film about the Jewish heroes who fought for their freedom and ours.

ANDRZEJ WAJDA, film director, recipient of an honorary Oscar for his contribution to world cinema


This biography which tells the incredible life-story of that hero of our times, is a must-read, and should be taught in schools worldwide. Some of the passages in this moving, sad, funny, sometime rude book are no less than sublime.

prof. IDITH ZERTAL – historian, author of Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood