The History of Polish Heraldry By Marek Lesniewski-Laas, J.D., Honorary Consul for the Republic of Poland
Topics covered include the concept of heraldry in Poland, noble and state heraldry, heraldry among Polish Jewry, the structure of the Polish nobles, how the nobility differed from other European countries and other features. The talk is illustrated with many colorful heraldic examples that were significant in the history in Poland. One might see the crest that Babcia spoke of! Talk arranged by the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts.
About the Speaker: Attorney Lesniewski-Laas has an AB from Bowdoin College and a JD from Boston University School of Law and is admitted to the practice of law before US Supreme Court, US First Circuit Court of Appeals, the US District Courts of Mass and CT, and the Supreme Judicial Courts of Mass and NY. He visits western Mass often.
Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:30pm – 8pm Eastern Time
Chicopee Public Library, 449 Front St, Chicopee, MA 01013, USA
Wladyslaw Broniewski published his poem titled To the Polish Jews, on June 16, 1943 to commemorate both the memory of the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the protest-suicide of Szmul Zygielbojm, a Bund politician and a member of the National Council of the Polish government-in-exile in London.
Appeals to the Allied government about the fate of Jews fell on deaf ears. By April 1943, numerous reports of the realities of Nazi rule circulated among the Allied leadership, including information gathered and delivered by Jan Karski which led to the publication of The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland in December 1942. The enormity of the tragedy seemed to paralyze the western powers who seemed to believe ignoring the issue was a sound strategy.
On April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover and the same day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising started, representatives of the US and the UK met in Bermuda to discuss the question of Jewish refugees. As Jews died by their thousands in Poland and Eastern Europe, the US decided not to raise immigration quotas for Jews and the UK did not lift the prohibition on Jewish refugees settling in the British Mandate of Palestine.
By early May 1943, this inaction proved too much for Zygielbojm and he wrote a suicide protest-letter addressed to the Polish president and prime minister in which he rightly put the blame for the Holocaust on its perpetrators yet also added that: “indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenseless millions – tortured children, women and men – they have become partners to the responsibility.”
Zygielbojm was smuggled out of Poland in 1940 but felt his destiny was tied to the Jews of Warsaw: “I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. … I belong to them, to their mass graves.” He hoped that he could accomplish in death what he could not accomplish in life: “perhaps I shall be able by my death to contribute to the arousing from lethargy of those who could and must act in order that even now, perhaps at the last moment, the handful of Polish Jews who are still alive can be saved from certain destruction.”
The death of one politician in London did not do any more to wake up the Allies than the deaths of millions of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe. Zygielbojm’s death did not do much more than inspire a “wandering poet” to pen a poem in his memory. Yet do we really deserve to claim that “the blood shed unites us?” We, who unlike Zygielbojm look at political issues and logistics instead of human suffering? We, who over seventy years later raise up walls and think up similar political excuses to make ourselves feel good and claim that we do what we can while thousands die because we have reached our immigration quotas? What lesson have we learned from the Holocaust if not that our fear and indifference are inexcusable?
To the Polish Jews
To the memory of Szmul Zygielbojm
No cries of despair are heard from the Polish town or city
As the dying defenders of Warsaw’s Ghetto pay the soldiers’ dues.
My words are washed in blood, my heart is wrung with pity
As I, the wandering Polish poet, grieve the Polish Jews.
Not soldiers but craven brutes, not men but blood-thirsty hounds,
They came to wreak vengeful death on you, your children and wives,
To kill in gas chambers, to destroy in quicklime mounds,
To mock those who were afraid and helpless and those who laid down their lives.
But you raised the stone and hurled it at the cannoneer
Who took aim to crush your homes to dust.
Sons of Maccabee, you know how to die without fear!
You carry on the hopeless fight begun in September to the last!
In every Polish heart these words must be engraved as in stone:
The blood shed unites us, the execution wall,
Dachau and Auschwitz and our ravaged home
Every nameless grave and every prison cell unite us all.
One sky will shed its light on Warsaw’s charred debris
When the years of anguished struggle end in victory.
Each man will enjoy the rights of law and liberty
And one highest race will rise of men noble and free.
The Orchards Country Club—18 Silverwood Terrace–South Hadley, MA 01075
Monday, June 19, 2017
10:00AM – 8:00PM
Registration fee $135 per person/$500 per foursome: Includes cart, driving range, use of locker, lunch, and dinner
Featuring a Donald Ross golf course.
Networking on the course (on a Monday!).
10:00 am Registration
10:30 am Orchards Golf Pro will give a golf
11:00-11:45 am Lunch on the Deck
12:15 pm Shotgun start
5:30-8:00 pm Dinner following golf at Pulaski Hall, 13 Norman St, Chicopee, MA, 01013:
Will include Polish Food option
Team Format (A) Men and (B) Women and (C) Mixed Gender.
Make your own foursome or let us assign you to a groups. Singles are welcome.
Grand Prizes for Hole-in-one.
Silent auction and raffle.
Available sponsorship Categories for Businesses and Groups:
Platinum — $1,500 (Two foursomes, tee green sign, $20 raffle tickets)
Gold — $1,000 (One foursome, tee green sign, $20 raffle tickets)
Silver — $500 (Two players, tee green sign, $20 raffle tickets)
Tee green/practice — $100
For more information contact
Ed Dzielenski at (413) 567-3132 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Minkos at (413) 427-6699 email@example.com
Make checks payable to the POLISH CENTER and mail to:
Pieciak & Co CPA
Attn: Linda O’Brien
488 Newton Street
South Hadley, MA 01075
How do you organize an armed uprising among the starved, cold, dehumanized? How do you organize an uprising without weapons, strategies, intelligence, and experienced command structure? How do you organize an uprising with less than a 1000 young men and women, most about 20 years old? How do you organize an uprising against a well-fed and trained military force with tanks, artillery support, and flame throwers? Then, how do you commemorate and pay homage to the struggle? Where do you find a ray of hope and find the strength to move on?
The Grossaktion Warsaw saw over 250,000 Jews transported to and killed at Treblinka in the summer of 1942. By April 1943, out of some 400,000 Warsaw Jews, there were about 60,000 left in the Ghetto. With another round of deportations scheduled for the eve of Passover, the Jewish Combat Organization and the Jewish Military Union decided to resist. Yet the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had no chance to succeed, not militarily; it was outnumbered, it had very few weapons and little ammunition. However, the uprising should not be judged in those terms. Here was a group of people who decided they did not want to die in the gas chambers of Treblinka but at the receiving end of a bullet. Symcha “Kazik” Ratajzer-Rotem, one of the fighters, said that “the only thing we could do in the situation was to stand up against the Germans, knowing that death waits at the end of the road. It was the only sure thing. There were no illusions, there was absolutely no thought, that we could survive. No one dreamed of it. Not at the start of the uprising, not later. To the Germans, a Jew was defenseless – you could do whatever you wanted with them.” Death was the only sure thing, and by taking the decision to die in this way, the dehumanized fighters asserted their humanity in a way that could no longer be denied.
Throughout the uprising, there was a sense of being forgotten, not just by the people outside the Ghetto, but by the whole world. Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the uprising, remarked that:
“The [ghetto] wall only reached the second floor. And already from the third floor, one could see the other street. We could see a merry-go-round, people, we could hear music, and we were terribly afraid that this music would drown us out and that those people would never notice a thing, that nobody in the world would notice a thing: us, the struggle, the dead…. That this wall was so huge, that nothing, no message about us, would ever make it out.”
Perhaps in some metaphysical sense, the Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz heard that cry as he noticed the same merry-go-round and people’s passivity about what was happening to the dying fighters in the Ghetto. In Miłosz’s poem Campo di Fiori, he recalls the burning of Giordano Bruno, the 16th century Dominican friar and the return to “normal” life following his death. The poet feared that the same oblivion might await the Ghetto: “I thought of the Campo di Fiori / In Warsaw by the sky-carousel, / One clear spring evening / to the strains of a carnival tune. / The bright melody drowned / The salvos from the ghetto wall, / and couples were flying / high in the cloudless sky.” Mi?osz accuses people (and he includes himself) of complicity by inaction. Yet the poem is about memory, it immortalizes the struggle of the fighters and warns against forgetting.
After the end of the war, Edelman never left Poland. He thought of himself as a guardian of the memory of those that perished and he recalled their human stories, struggles, and finally, death. Each year, on April 19, the anniversary of the uprising, he received a bouquet of daffodils which he always brought to the Ghetto Heroes Monument. A Hebrew, Polish, and Yiddish inscription on the monument reads: “”For those who fell in an unprecedented heroic struggle for the dignity and freedom of the Jewish nation, for a free Poland, for the liberation of man – Polish Jews.”
Edelman passed away in 2009. Starting on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 2013, volunteers hand out paper daffodils to the citizens of Warsaw as a way to commemorate the uprising. Thus, arising from the darkest period of history, out of the ruins of a burned city, a little flower, which blooms around the time of the Passover, became a symbol of memory and hope, of human relations, brotherhood, and sacrifices. Finally, a symbol of humanity and life with dignity against oppression. In Judaism there is a process understood as the obligation of repairing the world called tikkun olam. It implies that each person is responsible not just for their own spirituality and morality, but is also responsible for the society. The Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews for the crime of existence, robbed the world of 6 million chances to better the world. Let us not forget the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against tyranny, and honor their memories by upholding human rights and advocate justice for each oppressed individual in the world today. For the liberation of mankind.
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4/12/17 Update: Registration is still open! There are a few spots left…
In July 2017, we will once again head to Poland on a heritage tour led by Sta? Radosz, our Executive Director. We will visit western and southern Poland, sleep in a castle, eat dinner in a cottage in Zakopane, visit a world-famous brewery, and a lot more. Please click the attached flyer for full information and detailed itinerary.