Oral history
Zeugen der Geschichte

Jan Jagielski

Name des Gesprächspartners:
Familienname des Gesprächspartners:
Król Joanna
Jaczewski Przemysław
8th Juli 2015
Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN
Nachbarn – Zeugen


Anti-Semitism, Ghettos, March 1968, Polish-Jewish relations, Jewish tradition, Commemoration.

Interlocutor biogram

Jan Jagielski was born in 1937 in Toruń. He survived the occupation living with his parents in Lublin. Jan Jagielski arrived in Warsaw in 1945, where he attended the second grade of a public school. In his childhood years, his father used to take him to the area of Warsaw where the Ghetto was once located - at that time, Jan Jagielski was not fully aware where he was. In the 1950s, Jan Jagielski attended a secular secondary school run by the Children’s Friends Association (TPD). At that school he met many friends with Jewish ancestry and made friendships which have lasted till this day. In 1968, he was a witness to the antisemitic political campaign as a result of which many of his friends had to leave Poland. Jan Jagielski graduated with a degree in geology from the University of Warsaw and for many years worked as a geologist, , in Iraq, among other places. In the late 1960s, he became involved in documenting Jewish cemeteries in Poland. He is a co-founder of the Jewish Flying University - an informal group of social activists who for many years strived to commemorate the history of Polish Jews and learn about Jewish traditions. In 1991, Jan Jagielski began working for the Jewish Historical Institute (Żydowski Instytut Historyczny), where he works as manager of the Monument Documentation Department. Jan Jagielski is a well-known social activist and expert in the history of the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw and the Warsaw Ghetto.

Recording circumstances description

The conversation was held in the office of Jan Jagielski at the Monument Documentation Department in the Jewish Historical Institute.

Recording summary


  1. Description of the first recollections of the Interviewee linked to Warsaw in ruins and the area of the former Ghetto; biographical description of the Interviewee - born in Toruń, spent the war in Lublin, 0:0:30
  2. Description of his emotions on seeing Warsaw in ruins, 0:02:13
  3. Description of the TPD secondary school - a secular school also attended by the Jewish friends of the Interviewee, 0:02:50
  4. Fear felt by his male and female friends when recalling the war time; war stories of friends from school - hiding on the Aryan side in Warsaw; reflection on the fact that only recently, in their old age, his friends are beginning to open up and discuss their experiences, 0:03:25
  5. Reflection on the policy of Poland against the Jews until 1968; recollection of a brutal confrontation with reality in which the Jewish friends of the Interviewee were forced to leave Poland, 0:04:40
  6. Reflection on the exploration of history by young people, reflection on oneself - the Interviewee calls himself an intermediary between the Jewish and Polish world, reflection on the fact that Polish Jews, despite all the tragic events, have stayed in Poland and are still present here, 0:06:05
  7. Reflection on the lack of respect for the other person in the context of behaviour of the local population in small towns in Poland, where there is no will to remember about the Jewish past of their towns, 0:06:47
  8. Reflection on the events of the antisemitic campaign of March of 1968, the need to care for the cultural legacy left behind by the Jews in Poland, especially cemeteries; reflection on the need to make the Poles aware about Poland’s multicultural traditions, 0:07:56
  9. Memories of the creation of the Jewish Flying University (ŻUL) in Poland in the 1970s, 0:09:46
  10. Reflection on Jewish cemeteries in Poland and the need to treat them with respect, 0:10:27
  11. Opinion of the Interviewee on the need to educate on Poland’s Jewish history and its commemoration, 0:11:15
  12. Description of the Marches of the Living which the Jewish Historical Institute organises every year on 22 of July on the anniversary of the beginning of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, 0:11:56
  13. Reflection on the difficulty of imagining the extent of the Holocaust - nameless numbers of victims; reflection on the fact that Warsaw's residents are becoming less embarrassed to wear the yellow daffodil during the anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, 0:14:50
  14. Memories on starting work at the Documentation Department of the Jewish Historical Institute in 1991, 0:21:08
  15. Memories of the anniversaries of the uprising in the Ghetto in the context of meeting friendly people united by one common memory, 0:22:06
  16. Memories of the walks taken in the area of the former Ghetto with Adina Świdowska; recreation of the Ghetto's topography with the help of the witnesses to history, 0:22:59
  17. Reflection on public ceremonies such as the unveiling of monuments and the emotions of the witnesses to history who directly participated in dramatic historical events, 0:24:25
  18. Reflection on the authenticity of the monuments, namely, the mound commemorating Mordechaj Anielewicz, which is the grave of the members of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 0:31:49
  19. Reflection on the fact that there are people living in Poland who are guardians of Jewish history and also those who want to learn about this history, 0:37:46
  20. Reflection on the Interviewee's age in view of the fact that the Interviewee saw post-war Warsaw in ruins himself , reflection on the destructive nature of man, 0:38:09
  21. Looking at albums containing photographs showing the ruins of Warsaw, 0:43:30
  22. Reflection on the burial place of nameless Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw - the place is encircled with stones and has a dip in the centre which was created by subsidence - reflection on the symbolic dimension of this dip, 0:47:20




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