Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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Farewell to Mr. Edelman

the last insurgent of the Warsaw ghetto is dead

Marek Edelman, the leader of the first European armed rebellion against the Nazis ended up with the murder or deportation into the lagers of over 55,000 Jews. The only survivor among the leaders of the insurgency, Edelman became the leader of the Solidarnosc movement against the dictatorship of POland's Communist government and after the 1981 Coup he was a prisoner of general Jaruzelski.
In the name of the democratic and international ideals which characterized the whole of his life, in the 90es he took the side of the population of Sarajevo during the Serbian siege.
Marek Edelman devoted his life to keeping the memory of those who fought to safeguard human dignity. He was an ethical reference point for thousands Polish youths.
Decorated in Poland with the Order of the White Eagle, the highest civil distinction, in 2009 he received the Legion of Honor.

Marek Edelman wrote two books:
Resisting the Holocaust: Fighting Back in the Warsaw Ghetto
Shielding the Flame


5 October 2009

Defence of human dignity

against totalitarian tendencies

In Dentures, collection of Kolyma Tales, Varlam Shalamov told the protagonist, held in the gulag, addressed to the executioners who wanted to strip him of everything: "No, do not give up the soul."
This sentence contains the essence of the Righteous: Those who refuse to "sell their soul" in extreme situations, even with the fear to go in the field of victims and of no escape, in the face of persecution, hatred and discrimination.
The defense of human dignity is the defense of one’s own self, of their own moral integrity, even when he/she rescues another human being. For this we can say that it is just the gesture of one who safeguards the dignity of the victims with his own humanity. To paraphrase the famous words of the Talmud: "Whoever saves one’s life, saves the whole world", we can also say "he who saves himself saves the whole world," not defending his own life, but the soul, listening to the authentic voice of conscience .
In the gulag one could rarely assist and help another prisoner, but every day one could try to oppose the process of dehumanization lucidly put in motion by the perverse mechanism of the working field.

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Samir Kassir

journalist and Political Activist