Oral history
Zeugen der Geschichte

Małgorzata Melchior

Name des Gesprächspartners:
Familienname des Gesprächspartners:
Józef Markiewicz
Józef Markiewicz
9th August 2017
POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews
März '68

Interlocutor biogram

Małgorzata Melchior was born in 1951 in Warsaw. Her parents, unknown to each other at that time, left for France in the 1930s. her father studied medicine there (which was impossible in Poland due to the limits in operation, considering the numbers of Jewish students). Her mother fled to France, afraid of being arrested for communist activities. They married in 1939 and spent World War II in France, participating in the Resistance Movement. In the aftermath of the World War ii, they returned to Poland, found apartments in the Warsaw City Centre and became employees of the state institutions. In 1962, Małgorzata Melchior’s father was dismissed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and started to work as a translator. Her mother died in 1964.

In the aftermath of the March 1968 events, Małgorzata’s elder brother immigrated to Sweden. Then a teenage Małgorzata did not want to emigrate from Poland and persuaded her father to remain in the country.

She began studies of biology, which she had to break due to the increasing, serious problems with her sight. Based on her experiences at work with the drug addicts, she decided to undertake studies at the Institute of Social Policy at the University of Warsaw. She graduated in 1979 obtaining the Master’s Degree and began her work at the University of Warsaw where she has been a lecturer until today. Her scientific research focuses, among others, on issues of Jewish identity and Polish-Jewish relations.      

Recording circumstances description

Interview has been recorded at POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews.

Recording summary

  1. Parents’ pre-war and war experiences; their departure to France; mother’s communist activities; participation in the Spanish Civil War; parents’ participation in the French Resistance Movement, 00:00:00
  2. Parents’ life in the post-war Poland; father’s work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the family’s visit to New York, 00:03:20
  3. Father’s dismissal from the Ministry in 1962 and his commencement of the language studies; mother’s death in 1964, 00:08:45
  4. No sense of Jewish identity and awareness in childhood; discovering Jewish origins due to the participation in the Jewish summer holiday camp while being 12; the feeling of alienation in the holiday camp of the integrated Jewish communities from Dzierżoniów and Lodz, 00:10:10
  5. The Society of the Friends of Children (TPD) school without religious lessons, 00:15:30
  6. The place of residence – the Warsaw City Centre; an incident connected with March 1968 and with the Melchior’s apartment – visits of people interested in taking over Małgorzata Melchior’s apartment, 00:17:00
  7. The atmosphere of March 1968 at school, 00:21:00
  8. The attitudes of the family members (father and brothers) towards immigration; inability to imagine immigration to Israel and Małgorzata Melchior’s opposition against the immigration, 00:23:25
  9. An anti-Semitic incident in the street and the reaction of Małgorzata’s friend, 00:26:20
  10. Being brought up in the atmosphere of involvement in the social issues; no talks with parents on Jewish origins, 00:28:30
  11. The lack of interest in the family history, 00:33:05
  12. Caring for children as father’s argument for immigration, 00:35:00
  13. Elder brother’s motivation to leave Poland; preparations for departure, 00:36:30
  14. Brother’s departure and his will to adapt to life in Sweden; difficulties with contacts, 00:40:40
  15. The immigration of the younger brother to France; his reluctance to visit Poland, 00:47:35
  16. Małgorzata Melchior’s passions and reasons for choosing biological studies; resignation from studies due to health problems, 00:51:00
  17. Working as a volunteer with drug addicts and studies in the field of social prophylactics and rehabilitation, 00:54:10
  18. The emergence of the Jewish Flying University and meeting organised within its framework, 01:00:00
  19. Reasons for getting interested in the topic of Jewish identity; realising the issue of common lack of knowledge of the history of Polish Jews; research on Jewish identity in the second generation after the Holocaust, 01:05:10
  20. Involvement in the opposition activities in the 1980s; cooperation with the “Mazowsze” weekly’s community; a trial and motivations for writing the doctor’s thesis, 01:11:30
  21. Renewed scientific interests; the first visit to Israel; impressions; discovery and meeting with cousins; interest in the family history; father’s recollections; searching for the information on mother’s family in the University of Warsaw and the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) archives, 01:15:00
  22. Learning the family’s CVs and parents’ experiences thanks to the parents’ files in the IPN; information on grandparents, 01:21:00
  23. Why father wanted to immigrate to Israel, 01:26:10
  24. The perception of the anti-Semitic nature of March ’68; political awareness of the participants of the Jewish summer holiday camps; feeling that “it does not concern me”; the lack of the sense of unity, 01:27:30
  25. Anecdotal way of talking about March 1968; taking up residence in Małgorzata Melchior’s apartment by her father’s friends two weeks before immigration and dissuading the limits concerning the things allowed to be taken away from Poland, 01:34:05
  26. Little dramatic tension while saying farewell to Małgorzata’s brother at the Dworzec Gdański Station, 01:38:05
  27. The sense of the growing atmosphere of anti-Semitism in press and TV; two anti-Semitic incidents at Małgorzata Melchior’s school: (writing a negative opinion on her before her graduation from the high school and the refusal to sign her award for very good school achievements by the headmaster) - making Margaret aware of their anti-Semitic dimension by her father, 01:40:00
  28. No sense of the family’s change after March 1968; the sense of being Polish as the obvious truth, 01:49:30
  29. The declaration of identity, 01:55:40
  30. Relation between the scientific work and personal involvement in the topic of the research, 01:57:25
  31. Conducting interviews with the Survivors; scientific grant at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; 02:05:15
  32. The impact of the research concerning the issues of the Jewish identity upon the researcher; impressions on the visit to Israel, 02:12:30
  33. First encounter with the stories of the Survivors, 02:15:05
  34. The importance of husband’s support during the research on the Holocaust; 02:21:45
  35. Work on the book “The Holocaust and Identity”, 02:23:20
  36. Ethical aspect of collecting evidence of traumatic experiences for scientific purpose, 02:24:00
  37. The importance of the March 1968 events for the contemporary times; the interpretation of the exhibition entitled “Estranged” at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews,   02:31:20
  38. The message, which may be drawn from recalling the March ’68 events; the March immigration as a great loss for the Polish society and Polish science, 02:37:00
  39. The lack of strong identification with the Jewish origins, 02:45:00


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