Telling Intricate Rescue Activities: Letters of Jewish Survivors about Their Rescuers, 1944-1949

Joanna Beata Michlic

Brandeis University

This paper analyses the correspondence, addressed to the Central Committee of Polish Jews and its various local branches, pertaining to rescue activities during the war and to individual requests for remunerations for these activities. Noe Grüss, one of the leading historians of the Jewish Historical Commission set up in Poland in 1944, viewed information concerning rescue activities as “files of human kindness in the archives of murder and destruction”. My main argument is that the letters of the rescuers and the rescued undoubtedly corroborate the acts of kindness; but they also constitute a rare documentation, that of the intricate map of relations between the Christian rescuers and rescued Jews, and of the ‘raw’ immediate postwar memory of these relations. In the paper I ask the following questions: How did the rescuers and the rescued Jews perceive each other? What were their recollections of the shared wartime experience? What did the rescuers expect from their former Jewish charges and the newly re-emerged Jewish organizations? What were the main concerns of the Jewish survivors?  How did the issue of secrecy concerning rescue activities affect postwar relations between the rescuers and the rescued individuals? And how did the context of the early postwar turmoil and anti-Jewish violence impact upon the relationship between the individual rescuer and the rescued individual?

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