Launch of the new issue of Jerzy Kwiatkowski’s memories in Warsaw
The book’s launch event organised by the State Museum at Majdanek (PMM) together with the History Meeting House (DSH) took place on September, 11, 2018. Specialists from Poland and the United States discussed the new issue of Jerzy Kwiatkowski’s memories titled “485 dni na Majdanku” [485 days at Majdanek].
The meeting was conducted by Krzysztof Banach, the manager of Exhibition Department of PMM. Dorota Niedziałkowska, language editor of the book, presented the new issue of memories during a multimedia presentation. Apart from the biography of Jerzy Kwiatkowski and the publishing history of ‘485 days at Majdanek’ she also talked about the editing aspects. Due to the scholarship from the Hoover Institution Library and Archives, she managed to examine all existing texts of memories from the camp.
Maciej Siekierski, custodian of the European collection of the Hoover Institution, a specialist in the field of the territory of Poland and Eastern Europe and a leader of the division of gaining archival materials from this part of Europe, characterised the Kwiatkowski’s archive using the background of other materials kept in this institution. The interest of PMM in these materials made the Hoover Institution to arrange them and make accessible for the researchers. Due to the engagement of Maciej Siekierski, the custodian of the collection, we managed to find professor Janina Kwiatkowska-Korczak, the only living cousin of Kwiatkowski from the Lviv part of the family that was repatriated to Wrocław. Janina Kwiatkowska-Korczak also participated in the meeting.
The second speaker was Zbigniew Gluza, a journalist, publisher, an opposition activist during the times of the Polish Peoples’ Republic, founder of Eastern Archive that works on the documentation of the 20th century history of Poland and Eastern Europe, executive editor of a quarterly journal ‘Karta,’ creator of the ‘Karta’ organisation, co-creator of DSH. He focused on the phenomenon of the traumatic memory of Kwiatkowski that enabled him to precisely recreate his memories. At the camp, he had no possibility of keeping a written track of the events.
As an expert in the field of reminiscential literature we invited Bartłomiej Krupa from the Institue of Literature Research from the Polish Academy of Sciences, a literature specialist with specialisation in camp literature, author of ‘Labour-camp memoirs as a specific variety of historic writing’ and ‘Relating Holocaust. Polish Prose and Historiography against the Holocaust’. His review of ‘485 days at Majdanek’ will be printed in the upcoming issue of ‘Holocaust Studies and Materials.’ He spoke about the memories from Majdanek using a wider background of camp memories. The specialist put emphasis on the great editing of the new issue of the book. He was, however, critical towards the camp attitude of Kwiatkowski, as he expected a confession of guilt. Gluza discussed it with him, saying that one should not expect such confession and heroism from an author that was also a victim.
A special guest was the manager of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives by the Stanford University – Eric Wakin. He congratulated to the PMM for the Polish edition of ‘485 days at Majdanek,’ prepared with use of archive materials from the memories of Jerzy Kwiatkowski kept in the institution he was managing. He said he wanted to continue the cooperation in working on the book in English. On the 12th of September 2018 in the PMM, Eric Wakin – together with manager of the PMM Tomasz Kranz – signed an intentional letter about this project.
New issue of ‘485 days at Majdanek’ is the third, but first that’s free from the censorship and other changes, edition of the memories by a former political prisoner of the Lublin concentration camp. It is an invaluable source of knowledge about the camp. The basis of the issue is the first text from 1945 kept at the Hoover Institution. The text, written on a typing machine, was carefully modernised and issued with the original language which should be seen as novelty in the field of reminiscential literature.