Vale Janina Goldhar (1929–2021)

Joanna Król, Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 1st June 2021
It was with great sorrow that we received the news of the passing of Janina Goldhar (née Proner) – Holocaust Survivor, March'68 emigrant, retired Tel Aviv University professor and long-time, irreplaceable volunteer at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. She passed away on 27th May 2021, in Israel, at the age of 92. Janina was our friend, a friendship which we valued immensely. We farewell “Jasia” by recalled her biography and the original texts, about Jewish Holocaust survivors. which she prepared for this Polish Righteous portal.

Memories of Janina Goldhar

Janina Goldhar, the daughter of Mieczysław and Maria (née Asterblum) Proner, was born on 14th January 1929 in Warsaw. Together with her mother, she survived the Holocaust thanks to help she received from, among others, Maria Palester (1897–1991), who was honoured, after the War, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Before the War, her father was an academic at the University of Warsaw. He served in the Polish Army Reserve and perished in Katyń in 1940.

Janina Goldhar was a microbiologist and an assicate professor at the Medical Academy in Warsaw. Following the March’68 antisemitic campaign, together with her husband Jerzy, daughters Hanna and Ewa, and mother Maria, she emigrated to Israel. She lectured at the University of Tel Aviv and settled in Ganei Tikva. Her first return to Poland, following emigration, was in 1983. Following Poland’s return to democracy, she visited on countless occasions. She had friends in Poland and, in recent years, she also discovered members of her extended family.

“Poland is where I grew up.
It is a country whose culture is closer to me than any other.
I have a great fondness for Poland.”
– Janina Goldhar in an interview for POLIN Museum.

In her later years, Janina Goldhar was a volunteer for POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Together with her friend, Jadwiga Rytlowa (1928–2016), for the Polish Righteous portal, she documented and worked on stories about other Jews who had survived the Holocaust, and about the Poles who had helped them. Their work featured in the documentary film “OCALENI” (THE RESCUED), created by Karolina Dzięciołowska and Joanna, in 2011, for POLIN Museum.

In the last few years, she supported the editorial staff of the Polish Righteous website, translating Hebrew-language documents from the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem – documents which are used in the preparation of stories of rescue.

To us, at POLIN Museum, she was “Jasia” and we were in frequent contact with her. Her passing came as a surprise to us. We were aware that she was sick, but hoped that she would soon recover. With her, we would exchange information about our lives and on professional matters. We would send her Polish books to read. As for new publications, she was particularly interested in books regarding the fate of Polish Jews. She took an active part in various meetings with authors – even online since the pandemic.

Her character was very easygoing even though, in some matters of life, she could be quite firm. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were her great pride and joy. She suffered from her limited contact with them due to the pandemic and had herself vaccinated as soon as possible. She loved Polish cuisine, which she would serve in her home in Israel. Her apartment was filled with Polish items – rugs, furniture, crockery and souvenirs from her many visits. Her last visit to Poland was in 2019. She went to shopping malls, to restaurants and watched a TV series popular in Poland.

Jasia had a positive attitude towards Poland and Poles, depsite her difficult experiences – firstly, during the war and the Holocaust and then, in March’68, when she acutely felt that, as a Jew, she was being excluded from Poland. As she herself stressed, only in Israel could she rid herslf of this “Jewish complex”.

Jasia was like a tree, deeply rooted. She was a person to whom you could turn and ask about every detail of the story and contacts with those whom she interviewed for us at the Museum. She was like a bulwark for Polishness in Israel while, at the same time, wonderful and modest.    

Janina Goldhar passed away on 27th May 2021, in Israel, at the age of 92. The next day, she was buried in the Givat Ha’Shlosha Cemetery, beside her husband Jerzy.

Read the Stories Worked on by Janina Goldhar

In farewelling Janina Goldhar, we recall texts authored by her, which she worked on during her many years as a volunteer for POLIN Museum’s Polish Righteous portal – most often, working together with Jadwiga Rytlowa. The majority of the texts which she prepared and on which she assisted, were based on stories told from the perspective of living Holocaust survivors – just like her, in Israel. Below is a list of selected texts:

Listen to the story of Janina Goldhar