Bartoszewski – More Than Decency

Redakcja / Editorial staff / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 5th May 2022
As part of the events marking the Year of Władysław Bartoszewski, established by the Warsaw City Council to mark his 100th birthday, the History Meeting House presents an open-air exhibition entitled “Bartoszewski – More Than Decency”. The exhibition creators present the most most important biographical threads, main areas of interest and political activity of Władysław Bartoszewski – a prisoner in Auschwitz, a Home Army soldier, historian and social activist, a member of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews, a Righteous Among the Nations and an Honorary Citizen of the State of Israel.

“This is a story about recent history. It reflects both the dark and hopeful intertwined fates of Poles, Germans and Jews in the 20th century. It also carries a universal message. It tells of the resistence of a man, filled with a spirit against all forms of oppression and indifference in the face of evil. It reminds us of the victims of persecution and points to a readiness for dialogue, despite the experienced suffering, wherever understanding and reconciliation is possible”, curator Marcin Barcz.

The exhibition was created in 2015 at the initiative of the Office of the Prime Minister of Poland and, over the past seven years, has been shown in various Polish and German cities. This year, the History Meeting House, together with the Władysław Bartoszewski Square Association, has prepared a new open-air version, which will be on display, until 19th May 2022, on ks. Jana Twardowskiego Square in Warsaw.

The exhibition's creators, Marcin Barcz and Cyryl Skibiński, present the most important biographical threads, main areas of interest and political activity of Władysław Bartoszewski. Also discussed is his underground activity in occupied Warsaw, his co-founding of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews, his camp and insurgency experiences, as well as his more than six years as a Stalinist prisoner.

The exhibition also includes topics relating to his opposition and journalistic involvement, his work with the Polish programs of Radio Free Europe and the Polish emigre circles. Bartoszewski's story is, therefore, also a story about free Poland.

In 2001, in a speech entitled “Common European Responsibility”,  Bartoszewski said:

“Enmity is imcomparably easier than reconciliation. After all, it happens that we feel almost friendly towards an enemy, being able to shift the responsibility for all our misfortunes to him. […] And reconciliation? How can we live amongst the rubble? How to rid oneself of the memory of wrongs? How can we forget the suffering which filled a victim' entire life? […] Reconciliation requires reflection, moral sensitivity, conscience, great spiritual effort. It requires parting from delusions, from the mythology of hatred and seeing – in the old enemy and in oneself – a person under the same heaven”.

The exhibition includes never seen before photographs from the personal collections of Władysław Bartoszewski and the curator of the exhibition, his long-time secretary, Marcin Barcz.

Material, relating to the life of Władysław Bartoszewski, will became part of the free app “Your Warsaw”. It will include over eighty items, with descriptions of places, quotes of his memoirs, photographs from archives and family albums. This historical context and the interesting facts will perfectly complement walks following the paths of Władysław Bartoszewski.

On ks. Jana Twardowskiego Square, you can also view the exhibition entitled “They Were Neighbours – Human Choices and Behaviour in the Face of the Holocaust”, prepared by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which discusses the issues of the attitudes of Poles towards Jews during the Holocaust. In 2013,  Władysław Bartoszewski received, in Washington, the Elie Wiesel Award, the highest decoration presented by the USHMM. The medal is inscribed with the words, “Even one honest person can make a difference”. It was pressented in recognition of all those who saaved Jews.

» Read more: 100th Anniversary of Władysław Bartoszewski's birth