Schlagwort-Archive: Galizien

Über Gott und die Welt – About everything and anything – O wszystkim i o niczym

Recorded in Gera (Thuringia/Germany) in May 2013. We talk about everything and anything: About Deutsche Ordnung i Polska Improwisacja, about the impact of the past on the present time and the future, about my books Schweigen die Täter, reden die Enkel and Todleben, about God and about Borussia Polska Dortmund. Thank you, Uwe Heimowski, for invitation!

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„My Grandfather liquidated the Warsaw Ghetto“

Wprost, Nr. 17-18/2013 (5 May 2013)

For him, they were like cockroaches, like insects. Killing these insects was, for him, just the next step in advancing his career.Wprost - Interview2So says Uwe von Seltmann, a journalist and writer, the grandson of an SS-man who liquidated the Warsaw Ghetto.

 

A conversation with Magdalena Rigamonti

 

 

How many Jews did your grandfather kill during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising?

SS General Jürgen Stroop, the commanding officer of the ghetto’s liquidation, wrote on 16 May 1943: “The total number of people captured and killed is 56,065.” How many of them were murdered by my grandfather himself? That I don’t know. He left no notes.

He believed it was a good idea to kill, eliminate these people? I ask this because I want to know if you have been able to understand your grandfather’s actions.

In April and May 1943, he wrote many letters – after all, his fifth child, my father, was born while the uprising in the ghetto was going on. And in those letters, he talked about having exhausting work, difficult duties and very little time to relax. In the letters, he writes about a certain action that “lasted for weeks”. Simultaneously, he wrote at length, in very poetic language, that he had no time to enjoy the coming spring … What he felt during this “work” – I don’t know. However, there is one thing I know for sure: my grandfather hated Poles and Jews. For him, they were like cockroaches, like insects. Killing those insects was not anything special for him …

What was he? What was his exact role then, in April 1943? How long was he in Warsaw?

He was an SS-Obersturmführer in Kraków, and in February 1943 was appointed to the Ersatz und Ausbildungs Bataillion der Waffen-SS. This unit was stationed in Warsaw and worked in the ghetto during the uprising. My grandfather was a rank-and-file SS-man. He was in Warsaw until autumn 1943. Then he went to the Prague area to become an Officer in the Waffen-SS. In February 1945, he probably committed suicide.

How did you check all of this? How much time did it take for you to learn the truth about your grandfather?

It turned out that there are documents about my grandfather in many archives, including in Poland. Besides that, I have hundreds of letters from my grandfather and my grandmother. Luckily, I was still able to talk to people who remembered my grandfather and grandmother and those times. However, I am still getting information about my grandfather.

What is the most painful for you?

I don’t understand how an educated and intelligent person, a loving father and husband, could have such hatred in him. That he could hate and murder other people.

When one asks Germans of your generation what their grandparents did during the Second World War, they say that they worked in the kitchens, on the railways. Why did you start searching and checking?

One day, I saw that my father’s passport stated he was born in Kraków. I tried to find out why, but my father wasn’t able to answer my question. He didn’t know, because he was orphaned at age 2. It was only in November 1999, when I met a Jewish man from London at the Remu Synagogue in Kraków, that I decided to return to this question, see why my father was born in Kraków and take a look at my grandfather’s life. I always had a feeling that something was not right in our family, something was being kept secret. I decided to find out what it was.

Do you feel guilty?

Earlier, yes, but not today. Feelings of guilt are destructive. You have to take them and turn them into something constructive, like a sense of responsibility, for example. We need to make sure that what happened between 1933 and 1945 will never happen again.

Do you think that many people in your generation feel like that?

Yes, many do. I’ve received a great many letters and emails, in which the descendents of the perpetrators tell their stories, in response to my books. On the other hand, however, these people aren’t able to talk about their own feelings of guilt and shame, they aren’t able to completely describe the kind of psychological burden these horrific stories are for them. I know that they are afraid of how the outside world will react, of being rejected and misunderstood. The fact is that this fear still paralyses people; it’s very sad.

What do pupils in German schools learn about what took place in Warsaw in April 1943? I’m asking about the basic programme, as I know you meet with students.

I can’t really rate it. I don’t know the exact programme. However, knowledge about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is very limited. Most Germans have never heard about what happened in April and May 1943. But, I’ve also observed that the pupils are more interested in what happened during the Second World War than their teachers.

In your opinion, how do Germans deal with the past?

They say: Nazis, Holocaust, Second World War, but the word ‘German’ is used less and less in the context of the Second World War. Unfortunately, for the last few years, there are increasingly loud voices calling for a line in the sand to be drawn, for the past to be cut off. At the same time, you don’t see the same idea being raised about the Thirty Years War. I think that the horrors caused by the Germans were so unimaginably huge that, for decades, they could not be contained in the German imagination. And so many blind themselves to this evil, running away from confronting it. For them, it’s better to be the victims of the war, of the Red Army, of the Allied air raids or even victims of the expulsions and displacements. Another good solution for them is to believe that the Nazis were from Mars and chose to land in Germany. Accepting guilt is one of the scariest things, to say plainly and bluntly: Yes, my ancestors were staunch Nazis. It’s easier to say that it was all Hitler’s fault. The past isn’t dead, no, it doesn’t have an expiration date. The National Socialist era and the war didn’t end on 8 May 1945.

What is the past’s future?

I still have hope that humanity will learn from history, but I’m also a little anxious looking into the future because economic crises are good foundations for racism, nationalism and antisemitism. We need to fight that. My grandfather was a murderer; my wife’s grandfather was killed in Auschwitz. Every day, we experience how important it is to understand people of other cultures, religions, experiences. Understanding between different nations begins in everyday life.

In your opinion, is there a campaign to eliminate the word ‘Germany’, eliminate German responsibility for the Second World War?

I always use the phrase “German National Socialists.” I don’t believe that there’s any kind of organized campaign. However, I see that in Germany there is a tendency to blur the guilt when accounting for the National Socialist era.

When you hear the phrase “Polish concentration camps”, you …

I write letters or emails. I protest.

What did you think of the ZDF film Our Mothers, Our Fathers, in which Polish Home Army soldiers are presented as declared antisemites?

I saw the film. I think it’s a scandal. I sympathize with the Polish protests. I don’t agree with portraying the Home Army in such a black-and-white and one-dimensional way.

Have you forgiven your grandfather?

I’m not the one who can forgive him. Only those who he harmed have that right. When I was born, my grandfather had been dead for 20 years.

Translation: Gina Kuhn, Kraków

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Gabi i Uwe at Jewish Festival Kraków 2012

50 people were expected – 250 were coming to our book presentation in Galicia Jewish Museum. Thanks to all of you for a great evening – and thanks for inviting us to 22nd Jewish Culture Festival!

Auf das Leben – za życie – לחיים

 

The meeting was conducted by Anna Makówka from Czulent – Stowarzyzenie Żydowskie. Bardzo dziękujemy!

all photos: Kasia Filimoniuk – bardzo dziękujemy 🙂

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Wprost & Tygodnik Powszechny (with Timothy Snyder)

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TV & Radio w Polsce – in Poland – in Polen

The PR-Tour for our book Gabi i Uwe is over: 3 times in TV, 3 times in Radio, a lot of interviews for print media. For all who don’t have a TV (like we) or couldn’t listen to the radio, some links:

Dzień dobry TVN, 19.05.2012 – with Kinga Rusin and Bartosz Węglarczyk
http://dziendobry.tvn.pl/video/jego-dziadek-byl-esesmanem-jej-zginal-w-auschwitz,1,newest,45550.html
The film they made about and with us in Kazimierz is well done – thanks!

Pytanie na Śniadanie, TVP2, 19.05.2012 – with Marzena Rogalska i Hubert Urbański
http://www.tvp.pl/styl-zycia/magazyny-sniadaniowe/pytanie-na-sniadanie/wideo/malzenstwo-na-przekor-historii/7416978

Klub Trójki, Radio Trójka, 17.05.2012
http://www.polskieradio.pl/9/396/Artykul/606169,Przezwyciezanie-trudnej-przeszlosci
In front of the wall of fames with Jerzy Sosnowski. His questions were the most unusual and interesting … I’m still thinking about them … Jerzy Sosnowski wrote about the book in his blog: http://www.jerzysosnowski.pl/

Radio TOK FM, 11.05.2012
http://bi.gazeta.pl/im/5/11708/m11708435.mp3?skad=rss&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

And some more links … Very friendly articles on http://www.jewish.org.pl (2x) …:
http://www.jewish.org.pl/index.php/pl/historia-mainmenu-66/4855-gabi-i-uwe.html
http://www.jewish.org.pl/index.php/pl/historia-mainmenu-66/4895-qnie-jestem-moim-dziadkiemq.html

… and in Tygodnik Powszechny:
http://tygodnik.onet.pl/35,0,75618,moj_dziadek_zginal_w_auschwitz_amoj_byl_esesmanem,artykul.html
http://tygodnik.onet.pl/35,0,75337,ona_i_on__gabi_i_uwe__polka_i_niemiec,artykul.html

Last but not least a very nice article published in the Netherlands:
http://e-huis.nl/index.php/en/?option=com_content&view=article&id=155

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Tour de Pologne – 10.-20.05.2012

With Władysław Bartoszewski at Book Fair in Warszawa – we had a lot of fun!

Nigdy nie złożyłem tylu autografów na książkach, nigdy nie udzieliłem tylu wywiadów, nigdy nie byłem zaproszony do tylu talkshows … Kocham Polską!!!

I’ve never signed so many books, I’ve never given so many Interviews, I’ve never been invited to so many talkshows … I love Poland 🙂

MiTo – art-café-books in Warszawa (Foto: MiTo)

With Gabi, Lidia Ostałowska and Krzysztof Pieczyński (Foto: Robert Ciodyk)


Signing a book for Kris Pieczyński (Fotos: Robert Ciodyk)

MiTo – a nice location (Foto: MiTo)

In Lauder-Morasha-School, Warszawa

Radio TOK FM, Warszawa

Tajne Komplety, Wrocław: Anamneses – 1st International Festival of History with Timothy Snyder, Jochen Böhler a.o.

Live in Radio Trójka, 17.05.2012, 21.05 h

Przezwyciężanie trudnej przeszłości

Jej dziadek zmarł w transporcie z Majdanka do Auschwitz, jego był esesmanem. Gabriela i Uwe von Seltmann są małżeństwem i postanowili skonfrontować się z przeszłością rekonstruując wojenne dzieje swoich przodków.
Przezwyciężanie trudnej przeszłościGabriela i Uwe von Seltmann Fot.: Fragment okładki książki „Gabi i Uwe“

Czy żeby doszło do pojednania między narodami, musi nastąpić amnezja? To pytanie stawiamy sobie nieraz, spierając się o relacje polsko-niemieckie, polsko-ukraińskie, polsko-litewskie, polsko-żydowskie, polsko-rosyjskie, a nawet polsko-polskie… Z jednej strony zdajemy sobie sprawę, że nie sposób dalej toczyć (choćby tylko w wyobraźni) wojen dwudziestego wieku – oraz wcześniejszych – z drugiej zachowane w opowieściach rodzinnych traumy są wciąż bolesne.
Bohaterowie książki Uwe von Seltmanna, a mianowicie sam autor, oraz jego żona, Gabriela, musieli skonfrontować się z powyższym pytaniem nie teoretycznie, ale w praktyce. Ona jest bowiem Polką, której dziadek, zaaresztowany przez hitlerowców, zmarł w transporcie z Majdanka do Auschwitz; on jest natomiast wnukiem esesmana, który działał w czasie okupacji na terenie Lublina i Krakowa.
Dla wielu członków jej rodziny zaakceptowanie jej związku z Niemcem – choć urodzonym wiele lat po wojnie, o liberalnych poglądach i poczuciu winy za działalność dziadka – było nie lada kłopotem. Oboje mieli do wyboru nie wracać do historii sprzed ponad półwiecza albo się z nią skonfrontować. Wybrali drugie, rekonstruując wojenne dzieje swoich przodków.
Książka von Seltmanna jest nie tylko opowieścią o radzeniu sobie z traumą, ale w gruncie rzeczy skupioną jak w soczewce dwudziestowieczną historią tej części Europy, którą amerykański historyk Timothy Snyder nazwał nie bez powodu „Skrwawionymi ziemiami”: skrwawionymi przez eksterminację Polaków pod niemiecką i sowiecką okupacją, Holocaust, konflikt ukraińsko-polski…
Z bohaterami książki „Gabi i Uwe”, Gabrielą i Uwe von Seltmannami, będziemy rozmawiać w dzisiejszym „Klubie Trójki“.

Zapraszam o godz. 21.05,

Jerzy Sosnowski
tagi: Gabi i Uwe, Gabriela von Seltmann, historia, Niemcy, Polska, trójka zapowiedź, Uwe von Seltmann

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Opublikowana w Polsce – released in Poland – in Polen erschienen: GABI & UWE !

Kompletny tytuł: Gabi i Uwe. Mój dziadek zginął w Auschwitz. A mój był esesmanem
Tłumacz z j. niemieckiego: Katarzyna Weintraub
Autor: Uwe von Seltmann
ISBN: 978-83-01-16954-1 (01)
Format: 148×210 mm
Objętość: 384
Cena: 39,90

Ona i On, Gabi i Uwe, Polka i Niemiec – małżeństwo na przekór historii – przezwyciężają uprzedzenia, otwarcie mówią o tym, co było i odważnie budują przyszłość.
Poznali się na krakowskim Kazimierzu, On – niemiecki dziennikarz Uwe von Seltmann; Ona – polska artystka Gabriela Maciejowska. Zakochali się w sobie, ale niebawem spostrzegli, że przeszłość nie minęła i w fatalny sposób ich ze sobą łączy: Dziadek Uwe, SS-man Lothar von Seltmann, odbywał podczas II. Wojny Światowej służbę w Krakowie, w tym czasie dziadek Gabrieli, Michał Pazdanowski, został zamordowany przez nazistów w obozie Auschwitz.
Dziś są małżeństwem. Odbyli wielką podróż do odległych miejsc i w niechętnie wspominaną przeszłość, która stała się dla nich odkrywaniem samych siebie.
Z perspektywy trzeciego pokolenia patrzą na bolesną przeszłość, analizują wpływ konsekwencji drugiej wojny światowej na życie kolejnych pokoleń i to, co się dzieje, gdy przeszłość jest ukrywana. Badając historię swoich dziadków, Gabi i Uwe dostrzegli, że nie tylko oni muszą się nauczyć żyć z duchami przeszłości, oraz, że tylko ten, kto ma wiedzę o przeszłości może współkształtować przyszłość. Stworzyli projekt „Future of the Past”, czyli „Przyszłość przeszłości”, którego celem jest pojednanie ofiar i sprawców oraz uświadomienie, że kolejne pokolenia nie muszą dźwigać grzechów przodków, pod warunkiem, że nie będą ukrywać prawdy.

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