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President of Canadian Polish Congress ( MB Branch) Galezowski Apologizes for Writing That Jews in Ghetto Government 'Chose to Collaborate' with Nazis

Jewish Federation CEO Bronstone chose not to ask Galezowski for written apology on the public record

by Rhonda Spivak, February 5, 2015






Grazyna Galezowski, President of the Canadian Polish Congress Manitoba Branch, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review yesterday in a telephone conversation that "I apologize" in a "heartfelt" manner for writing that Jews who were forced to become part of the government of the Litzmanstadt (Lodz) ghetto were "Jewish inmates who chose to collaborate with German State authorities."




Grazyna Galezowski wrote this in a letter published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Wednesday February 3, 2015 titled “'Ghetto' was not Poland’s". In the letter Galezowski referred to the German ghetto Litzmannstadt as "a German-controlled prison-city with a German-appointed self-government comprised of Jewish inmates who chose to collaborate with German state authorities." (The letter can be accessed here:




Galezowski told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that she regretted writing that Jewish inmates "chose to collaborate" with the Nazis. She wrote in an email following our conversation in which she indicated that she apologized, that "It was an unfortunate choice of words on my part for which I already apologized. I cannot undo what has been done. It was [an] unintentional remark."




Galezowski wrote her letter to the Winnipeg Free Press in response to Steven Leyden Cochrane 's article of January 29th  titled "Facing the unthinkable” now  being exhibited at the Ogniwo Polish Museum, 





Organizers of The Faces of the Ghetto exhibit are the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada and the Ogniwo Polish Museum. The exhibit is also sponsored by the Government of Manitoba, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto, the Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy, University of Winnipeg, and the University of Manitoba Faculty of Arts.




The organizations above also sponsored an event on January 27th which was the North American premiere of the documentary film Wielka Szpera (The Great Szpera) by a Polish filmmaker. Galezowski spoke at the event. 




To the best of this writer’s knowledge, there has never been any Holocaust program in recent, and not so recent, memory where the Jewish community is involved, where Jews have been referred to as choosing to be collaborators of the Nazis, arising out of a Holocaust education exhibit, and is, as such, unprecedented for our Jewish community. 





After first reading the letter penned by Galezowski, and before speaking to Galezowski, the Winnipeg Jewish Review wrote to Dr. Adam Bronstone, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, asking him to "...outline if in the view of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg the Jewish inmates who were part of the German appointed self-government had a choice of whether they could participate or not with the German state authorities? i/e If they had refused, what would the consequences to them have been? Were they willing participants or were they under terrible duress or coercion? Were they reasonably afraid for the lives of themselves or their loved ones if they did not participate is it fair to call them "collaborators" or are they more properly to be characterized as victims?" The Winnipeg Jewish Review also asked Bronstone if the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg would be writing an official letter to the Canadian Polish Congress in response the Galezowski's original letter.




Bronstone responded below on Feb 4th (his full response is given below):




"The JHC [Jewish Heritage Centre] is a local partner agency of the Federation, whom this organization works closely with on many issues. After much consultation, I am advised that the JHC and its partners in the Polish community have written a detailed response to the initial letter, asserting that so-called Jewish ‘collaborators’ during the Holocaust acted in this manner for reasons that had nothing to do with freedom of choice. As well, the letter reiterates the dual intent of the project which was on the one hand to tell the tragic story of the Lodz Ghetto through the eyes of Jewish photographers and also to build bridges between the Polish and Jewish communities by working together on this project. Of course, the Federation does not believe that Jewish ‘collaborators’ did so with a freedom of choice and that Ms. Galezowski was quite incorrect on this matter. The rebuttal letter, as you know, has been signed by people from both the Polish and Jewish communities, indicating a deep interest in setting the record straight from both communities and having read the letter, we are in agreement with its position on this matter.  I do not know Ms. Galezowski personally, but I am assured that she has spoken in a very sympathetic manner with respect to the Shoah, took part in the March of the Memory, and has shown an interest in Holocaust education. I am planning on reaching out to her directly, but I do believe that the exhibit speaks for itself: It is starting point rather than an end in and of itself on this subject and the work that we as a community are and will continue to do in reaching out to other groups in this city with respect to Holocaust education."




After further email correspondence after more questions from the Winnipeg Jewish Review, Bronstone added on Thursday February 5th: ". . . I have not yet spoken to the head of the CPC [Canadian Polish Congress, MB branch], but will do so in the very near future, and no letter from the Federation to the CPC will be forthcoming... " 




The Winnipeg Jewish Review then asked Bronstone:

  1. Given Galezowski is the head of an important organization, did you consider speaking to her right away and asking her to write a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press issuing an official retraction or apology in this matter, or in some way correcting her description of Jewish inmates serving on the Jewish ghetto government as "Jewish inmates who chose to collaborate with German state authorities”?... That way there would be a retraction or some sort of clarification on the public record from the Canadian Polish Congress MB Branch for all to be able to access. This is especially the case since Galezowski is the President of the MB branch of a very respected national Polish organization, not just a local Polish organization. 




2. Alternatively, as the CEO of the Jewish Federation did you consider speaking  to Galezowski right after her letter appeared and asking her to issue a joint-statement about this matter with the Jewish Federation and  submit  the joint statement together to the Winnipeg Free Press, thereby dealing with the matter as soon as possible?  




Bronstone responded, "I spoke with a number of people involved who know and work with her and suggested that they speak with her first and I also want to see the exhibit before I speak with her. And there are times when a person has learned their lesson and a public statement becomes an embarrassment if the person truly made a mistake. Again I will be speaking with her early next week."




The Winnipeg Free Press published a response on February 5 to Galezowski's letter titled "A Matter of Survival" signed by Belle Jarniewski, Chairwoman, Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre and Dorothy Paryzek, Board of Directors, OGNIWO Polish Museum Society Inc.  In an email, Jarniewski explained to the Winnipeg Jewish Review that this letter was signed by an additional four others-Dr. Daniel Stone,  Magda Blackmore, Christine Tabbernor and Stepan Yurkiw. However, Jarniewski explained that the Winnipeg Free Press was not "prepared to print six signatures as it would take up too much space," and instead "allowed one name from each of the two communities." 




This writer does not know one way or another if Jarniewski requested that Ms. Galezowski write a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press asking her to  apologize or retract her remarks, or otherwise clarify her original letter. Nor does this writer know one way or the other whether Jarniewski or Paryzek asked Galezowski to penn a joint letter of clarification and/or retraction with them as a follow up to her initial letter, which caused this controversy.  

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.