Around the motto of Zofia Nałkowska’s Medaliony: “People doomed people to this fate”

Grażyna Borkowska

Abstract


The motto of Zofia Nałkowska’s short-story collection Medaliony [Medalions] – “People doomed people to this fate” [Polish, “Ludzie ludziom zgotowali ten los”] – as obvious as it may apparently seem, has aroused various controversies. Henryk Grynberg believed that the only right formula, the one that would do justice to those persecuted, would have been “People doomed Jews to this fate”. Recently, the discussion was resumed in a book on the portrayal of the Holocaust in Medaliony – Zagłada w „Medalionach” Zofii Nałkowskiej, edited by Tomasz Żukowski: one of its essays (by Żukowski and Aránzazu Calderón Puerta) notices that endeavours to universalise the Holocaust is at least premature for the Poles tending to avoid facing the truth about their own contribution to annihilation of the Jews. While the threads addressed in these debates are important, they disregard the beliefs and the system of values Nałkowska adhered to. The Polish novelist adopted the view that man and the pleasure he takes in inflicting pain is the actual cause of evil. This inclination revealed itself not only during the war. This more general observation was rooted in her knowledge of life, relations between people, and daily cruelty. Supported by an ideology and furnished with technical resources, the war added a historical dimension to this bent. Moreover, Nałkowska was definitely not one among those who stayed silent in respect of the Jewish victims. Conversely, a few of the stories in Medaliony speak exactly about this problem, never trying to conceal anti-Semitic attitudes among Poles.

Keywords


World War 2; [German Nazi] occupation; Holocaust; Jews; Poles; anti-Semitism

Full Text:

PDF (Polish)