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Marek Edelman’s Defense of the Weak

Witold Bereś

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“Marek Edelman’s Defense of the Weak” by Witold Bereś and Krzysztof Burnetko in: “A Guardian. Marek Edelman talks”, Znak, Kraków 1999, second edition—2006

It is the next part of the Marek Edelman sequel by Bereś and Burnetko. This time Znak resorted to an article coauthored by them for Tygodnik Powszechny, in which they talked about Marek Edelman’s take on the Balkan crisis; Znak also added an afterword to Marek Edelman biography.


Although Marek Edelman’s narrative deals mainly with the situation of the Warsaw Jews in the time of war and it culminates with the fighting ghetto, in fact, it begins in 1921.

This was when a man who saw the hell of the Warsaw Ghetto was born to remain in Poland as the guardian of the Jewish graves. The story of Marek Edelman has its beginning but it has no end yet. And an end to this story is only conditional. As Edelman put it in a letter to the Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski in which he talked about humanitarian aid for Kosovo refugees— his story will have no end as long as there is fascism, totalitarism and nationalism. “As long as we let dictators rule.” (…) The book is also about Israel and Polish Zionists and a part of the post-war history of the Polish People’s Republic. It is also about the most current issues—how Marek Edelman stood for the weak—as described in one of the chapters by Witold Bereś and Krzysztof Burnetko.

(Grażyna Lubińska: Life More Important Than Convenience. Marek Edelman’s Guardian; Gazeta Wyborcza, the Kraków Edition, Oct 8, 1999)



Ever since the new Balkan war broke out at the end of the millennium Marek Edelman has had no doubts.

“Do we have the right to seek aid, to expect aid, while we don’t have the right to pass a judgement on the people who don’t provide that aid? That would be some kind of nuisance!

“It’s not only the right—it is my duty, for refusing to help those who are in need, in danger, in the end, turns against those who refused to help, who hesitated. If they don’t offer their help, sooner or later, they will be in need of help themselves. They will be oppressed the same way. It doesn’t work that way that you help one person and you don’t help the next one in line.

“What the world will have to say in the time of war? Yes, we know there is this genocide of the Jews, but…they will not down the planes for it is too far away, too close, this and that… and that you can’t bomb Auschwitz. But when Hitler poured bombs over London, a retaliatory bombardment took place nearly on the next day.

“What happened to Poland? Poland lied in wait for aid, and in vain. Poland did not dream about anything else but that somebody would help. That the Russians would enter Warsaw right away. Or that Gen. Anders would enter Warsaw riding on a white stallion. That’s what people were dreaming of for it was clear that the uprising failed. “So, what did people want? To get away alive. No matter how. And it didn’t matter whether it’d be Russians or not. What they cared about was that somebody came in and gave a kick to the Germans…”

Marek Edelman is a very emotional man. These days he gets annoyed when one of us tries to ask him if it was an easy decision to send his son to Kosovo. It is easy to theorize about the need to fight the Evil, but what can we say to the Polish mothers whose sons will go to war?

So, Marek Edelman gets annoyed.

“Oh yeah? (…) So help for us is ok but help for others is not? So this is how we are going to survive?”