A True Mensch
Jewdas, H/T JSF.
“To be a Jew means always being with the oppressed and never the oppressors”.
The author of these words was the Bundist Marek Edelman who has just died aged 90. He was one of the commanders of the ZOB – the Jewish Fighting Organisation that led the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943.
To anti-fascists and human rights activists around the world he was a hero – plain and simple. He wrote one of the earliest Holocaust memoirs, The Ghetto Fights, which was published in
After escaping the burnt-out ghetto through the sewers he continued underground anti-Nazi activity and then joined other Poles in the Warsaw Rising of 1944. After the war he saved countless more lives working as a cardiologist. In recent years he used the medical arena to make contact with Dr Mustafa Barghouti, director of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.
Edelman was never a Zionist, and he opposed
Not that Edelman was worried. This hero of the Jewish people and of anti-fascists had long been treated as persona non grata by the Israeli political establishment and its mainstream media. Edelman would not countenance
He refused to allow the historical experience of the Ghetto fighters to be claimed by any group/nation exclusively. On the contrary, he argued that this history belonged to everyone and carried a universal imperative to fight for equality, democracy, human rights and dignity wherever these were threatened or suppressed
He continued to repudiate the Zionist narrative of Jewish history with its blinkered ultra-nationalism. Instead he remained loyal to the Bund’s socialist political tradition which, as its 1938 manifesto had declared, rejected “one’s own and foreign nationalism”.
Throughout his life Edelman worked for human rights, democracy and egalitarianism. He remained sceptical of nationalism in general and critical of state power. He was a brave and forthright opponent of the Stalinist regime in
In 1988 – on the 45th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – he snubbed the official commemoration in Poland attended by Stalinist dignitaries from Poland and Zionist dignitaries from Israel, in favour of an alternative ceremony at the Warsaw Jewish cemetery, attended by 3,000 people, where he unveiled a monument to Henryk Erlich and Victor Alter – Bundist leaders of the 1930s who had been captured and murdered on Stalin’s orders during the War.
I treasure the fact that I had the good fortune to hear Marek Edelman speak and briefly meet him in 1997 at a conference in