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Against hostility. Jerzy Giedroyc's 'Kultura' vis-à-vis Germany and the German-Polish neighbourhood


The city of Berlin figures prominently in the biography of Jerzy Giedroyc. The editor visited the German capital for the first time during the Weimar Republic, and recalled that visit in Autobiography on Four Hands[1]. It was in Berlin in 1930 that Jerzy Giedroyc became engaged to the Russian Tatiana Shvetsova, whom he had met at a ball for Russian emigrants in Warsaw. The parents of Giedroyc's future wife left Poland in 1930, staying for some time in Berlin, to later seek asylum in Paris. Jerzy and Tatiana travelled to Germany to say goodbye to her parents. In Berlin, they became engaged.

Exactly two decades later, in the early summer of 1950, Jerzy Giedroyc returned to Berlin. After the catastrophe of the Second World War, the metropolis on the Spree was a sea of ruins. Giedroyc could never get to know the city. In a letter to Zofia Hertz, the editor of Kultura expressed how much Berlin evoked associations with Warsaw in him: "I can imagine what Warsaw must be like if it is so alien and strange here"[2]. The destruction was depressing, a reminder of the cruelty of war, but Berlin's moraine landscape, forests and glacial lakes delighted the Polish émigré:  the "lovely" Lake Wannsee and its surroundings, "the birches and pines, sand". "It smelled insanely of Poland: not like Augustów or Pomerania. I felt a slight sting of nostalgia", he recalled in a letter to Zofia Hertz[3].

Congress for Cultural Freedom in Berlin

At the end of June 1950, Jerzy Giedroyc arrived in Berlin together with Józef Czapski. Delegates from Instytut Literacki [the Literary Institute] represented the Polish émigré milieu at the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Spearheaded by liberal American anti-communists, including Melvin Lasky and James Burnham, the Berlin congress was planned as a manifestation of intellectuals against communist totalitarianism. The gathering of hundreds of anti-Soviet artists, thinkers and journalists was intended as a response to Stalinist 'peace initiatives' such as the 1948 World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in Wrocław, Poland.

Stalin used the Soviet victory over Germany not only for the territorial expansion of the communist empire but also for ideological domination, the communist utopia becoming attractive to European intellectuals after the victory of the Red Army. Bolshevik Russia again, as at the time of the October Revolution, seduced many people of culture.

Berlin became the centre of the battle for the hearts and souls of Europeans after the Second World War. Stalin wanted to assert total power over the Big Four-controlled city. In 1948, he ordered a blockade of the western sectors to bring about the collapse of democratic rule in this part of Berlin. The Americans responded to the blockade with an air bridge that ensured the survival of West Berlin. The Western Allies’ solidarity with Berliners became a propaganda success for the US and built emotional bonds between nations that had fought a war against each other only four years prior. The air bridge became the stuff of myth for Berliners, and for the world West Berlin became the symbol of the frontline of the West’s struggle against Communism.

Berlin was a special frontier city. In a Europe divided by the Iron Curtain, the city was still – after the end of the blockade in 1949 – an open, borderless metropolis up until the construction of the wall in August 1961. It was a meeting place for people from opposing political systems. Berlin attracted spies, smugglers and refugees from the Soviet zone. Political life was risk-laden on both sides. In the eastern part, Stalinist terror prevailed, while in the western part, NKVD agents kidnapped political enemies. It was a dangerous and, at the same time, fascinating city with its cultural uniqueness. Thanks to the Allies’ presence, Berlin became multicultural and cosmopolitan after the dark years of fascist dictatorship. Within the western sectors, the American, British and French military administrations supported the new free German media, political organisations and a cultural openness to the world.

With its cosmopolitanism, Berlin beckoned the return of German anti-Hitler emigrants and became a laboratory for a new German democratic culture. The anti-communist Social Democrats ruled the western part of the city. Many of them had been imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps and some had survived in exile, such as Berlin's mayor Ernst Reuter and the Berliner-supported Willy Brandt, a former Norwegian press officer, later mayor of West Berlin and chancellor of the Federal Republic. In the eastern part of the city, Stalinist dictatorship replaced the totalitarianism of the Third Reich, while West Berlin was becoming a democratic metropolis.   

Giedroyc and Czapski could not reach this island of freedom in a sea of communism directly by rail. They first travelled by train from Paris to Frankfurt am Main. According to the editor's correspondence with Zofia Hertz, Jean Paul Sartre and Artur Koestler and his wife also travelled to Germany with Giedroyc and Czapski, "drinking quite heavily and very amiably"[4]. This is very surprising company for Polish émigrés on a trip to Germany: in one compartment the communist-sympathizing French philosopher Sartre and the prominent Stalinism-critic Koestler, a former communist and star of the anti-Stalinist Congress for Cultural Freedom in Berlin.

From Frankfurt am Main, the representatives of the Literary Institute flew by plane over the communist German Democratic Republic to Berlin. The still undivided city gave Giedroyc a chance for a direct encounter with real communism. For Czapski, on the other hand, it was the first trip in his life to the metropolis on the Spree. In his autobiography, the editor recalled how he walked to the eastern side of the city[5]. The differences between the two parts were not yet as striking as they would be a few years later. Walks to East Berlin were the editor's only direct contact with real Stalinist communism, and for Czapski, the first since his wartime odyssey in prisoner-of-war camps and in Anders’ Army in the Soviet Union.

During the congress, Giedroyc was surprised by the considerable sympathy with which the representatives of Kultura Paryska were met in Berlin. With satisfaction, but also with a healthy dose of self-irony, the editor wrote to Zofia Hertz: "Kultura is widely known and respected – it is clear that no one has the faintest clue about it. It's just the colourful cover and its scope and the legend of being in touch with the homeland"[6]. In Berlin, representatives of the Polish émigré community drew the particular attention of emigrants from Eastern Europe. It was during the congress that Giedroyc and Czapski met the Ukrainian émigrés Bohdan Osadchuk and Borys Levytsky, both important for the further development of Kultura. Both became close associates of Kultura in the 1950s, the main voices of the Polish-Ukrainian dialogue in exile, as well as ambassadors of the Literary Institute in the German-speaking world. 

The editor had high hopes for his meetings with the Germans. In a letter to Melchior Wańkowicz, he wrote: I am very impressed by my stay in Berlin. The congress itself was like any such congress, quite hopeless, but it provided us with a lot of valuable contacts and acquaintances [...]. The most important were the contacts with Germans. There are, indeed, quite a few Germans with whom one can talk quite reasonably about future Polish-German contacts. And so much so that I am beginning to wonder about a Kultura correspondent in Berlin[7].

One of the most prominent figures at the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Berlin was Jozef Czapski. In his speeches, he drew the attention of Western public opinion to the situation of the people of Eastern Europe. Especially the Ukrainians and representatives of other nations belonging to the Soviet Union, whom the congress organisers approached with distance and distrust, showed him great gratitude for drawing attention to their plight. In turn, his very good knowledge of Russian enabled Czapski and Giedroyc to develop strong contact with representatives of the Russian émigré community. The Germans, on the other hand, were impressed by Czapski's emphasis on the need for Polish-German reconciliation. At the Berlin congress, the eastern and western dimensions of Kultura's political mission merged perfectly.

Giedroyc and Czapski returned to Berlin again in August 1951. In the eastern part of the city, the communist regime had invited young people to the World Festival of Youth and Students. Anti-Stalinist organisations from West Germany tried to take advantage of the event to promote the ideals of the Western world by distributing materials and organising counter-manifestations. The Kultura editors came to Berlin at the invitation of the radical anti-communist German organisation Kampfgruppe gegen die Unmenschlichkeit (Group fighting against inhumanity). This organisation distributed anti-communist literature in the Soviet sector and also helped East Germans to organise escapes to the West. One of its founders was Rainer Hildebrandt, during the war a young anti-Hitler opposition activist, then initiator and first director of the Berlin Wall Museum at the Checkpoint Charlie crossing. This museum became a place not only for the documentation of communist crimes, but also of anti-totalitarian resistance east of the Elbe, including in Poland.

At a meeting held in the western part of the city, in the Titania Palast cinema in the Steglitz district, Józef Czapski gave a speech to the youth of Europe, in which he not only reiterated the necessity of a reconciliation between Poles and Germans but also presented the concept of European integration, of European federalism, as an ideological alternative to the totalitarian utopia of communism[8]. Czapski's Berlin speeches in 1950 and 1951 were the first public statements by an independent, non-communist Polish intellectual in favour of reconciliation between Poles and Germans after the Second World War. Jerzy Giedroyc aptly called his friend a forerunner of the Polish-German reconciliation process[9].

"An attitude towards Germans other than a traumatic one was possible".

As Józef Czapski recalled in his 1967 essay “On Germans” published in Kultura, the visits to Berlin were for him the first direct encounter with German society. Like Giedroyc, Czapski was captivated by Berlin's associations with Poland, the ruins of the city, “our trees”, pines and birches, cafés by the lakes. "The Berlin of catastrophe and collective misery", as Czapski wrote, aroused in him "the simplest reaction of human community, I understood that an attitude towards Germans other than a traumatic one was possible"[10]. Conversations with Germans saved Czapski from falling victim to the stereotypical perception of German culture as completely poisoned by Nazism, devoid of democratic roots. In his essay “On Germans”, which appeared as an afterword in the German translation of Inhuman Land, Czapski recalled in particular a private screening of a documentary film in Berlin – a recording of the show trial against the Germans who carried out the assassination attempt on Hitler on 22 July 1944. The film captured the hysterical speeches of the prosecutor, the fanatical Nazi Roland Freisler, who humiliated the defendants. The scene most memorable to Czapski was the interrogation of a young Prussian aristocrat from Pomerania, Ulrich Wilhelm Count Schwerin von Schwanenfeld. Asked about his motives for acting against Hitler, Schwerin replied in a quiet voice: "I have seen too many murders in Poland".

Schwerin was executed on the day of the trial. The voice of the young German aristocrat changed Czapski's attitude to Germans. He saw in Schwerin's fate the universal “loneliness of the individual in the midst of a hostile mob”, the “found dignity” of the human being.  Encountering the biographies of German heroes of the anti-Hitler resistance made Czapski realise how limiting is the perspective that associates the crimes of Nazism with the German people as a whole. Towards the end of the essay, Czapski writes how the collective approach to Germans takes away empathy for another human being. "Mean-spirited is each one of us", the author of Inhuman Land emphasised, "who identifies Hitlerism with Germans, with the whole of Germany".

Czapski's sister, Maria, also sought direct contact with Germans shortly after the war. From the perspective of her encounters with the public, Maria Czapska wanted to form her own point of view on the post-war development of Germany, independent of anti-German propaganda, be it from the communists or other ideologues. In the January 1951 issue of Kultura, we find an account of her 1950 trip to Hamburg, Lübeck and Travemünde[11]. Sadly forgotten, this is a very important text, as it boldly highlights all the opportunities and limitations of Polish-German encounters at a time when Polish wounds were fresh and the Cold War stood in the way of new political relations between the two nations. Like her brother, Maria Czapska tried in her report to confront the historical perspective of a great history and politics with encounters between individual human beings. The Hamburg experience was full of contradictions and brought Maria Czapska both disappointment and hope. She experienced the distance, but also the closeness of perspective, fear of the future progression of Germany's political culture and, at the same time, hope for a conciliation between the nations.

Maria Czapska was disappointed by the post-war amnesia. An escapism from the experience of the Third Reich prevailed, and she saw no attempt to come to terms with the past, even in Christian circles. Czapska's sense of distance was also caused by the focus of many Germans on their own fate, on their own victimhood in the war, and by their lack of interest in the fate of their eastern neighbours. She was horrified by the political emptiness, the absence of a political vision for the young West German republic. But a trip to northern Germany also opened up new perspectives for Maria Czapska. In Hamburg, she met the young editor of the weekly Die Zeit, Marion Countess Dönhoff, who dreamed of a Polish-German togetherness in an integrating Europe without borders, a community in not just political but also cultural terms.

Viewed today, this meeting between Czapska and Dönhoff bears a symbolic dimension. In later years, the aristocrat from East Prussia became Germany’s most influential journalist and an advocate for Polish-German reconciliation. Dönhoff committed herself to the recognition of Germany's post-war borders, accepting the loss of her family estate in East Prussia. Marion Dönhoff is today an icon of democratic Germany, a symbol of the strong women who lifted the country from ruin.

In her Hamburg report, Maria Czapska made no secret of her irritation at the Germans' lack of interest in the fate of the European victims of the Third Reich, but she was nevertheless able to recognise the tragedy of German civilians, especially those fleeing from the east. Czapska unequivocally condemned the forced post-war resettlement of Germans by the Polish authorities, the murder and rape of women. She did not relativise these crimes, nor did she regard them as a necessary evil, a punishment for the crimes committed by the Germans against the Poles. She simply, like her brother Józef, did not recognise the collective responsibility of the German people.

Józef Mackiewicz also wrote in Kultura about the trap of thinking in terms of collective responsibility. In the essay "Kompleks niemiecki" ["The German complex"], he criticised the anti-German and anti-Russian stereotypes of Poles, which deepened after the experience of Bolshevism and Hitlerism[12]. According to Mackiewicz, the war crimes of the Germans and the Soviets led to Poles ceasing to distinguish between the fate of the individual and the policies and crimes of the state. Mackiewicz wrote openly about the crimes against German civilians, dissociating himself from the murder, rape and forced resettlement of Germans. Stretching responsibility over entire nations, he considered it a "propaganda game of political conjuncture", which serves dictators because it takes away the individual's ability to look empathetically at the fate of another human being. A collective responsibility perspective robs people of their dignity, their independent assessment of politics, their independent thinking.

Addressing artists, and writers in particular, Józef Mackiewicz urged his readers to oppose the national collective, to cultivate patriotism less by describing war and post-war crimes, and to be closer to the "truth of life". He stressed that every crime is directed against a person, not a nation.

In the assessment of the Germans, Mackiewicz saw collective responsibility as exceptionally dangerous for the Poles, for the development of democratic Polish culture, its independence, the building of its authority: "Germany is for many Poles a closed circle and an ossified mental complex in this regard", he also wrote:

If an attitude to just one country, or one nation, inhibits all vital flexibility and is a stumbling stone on the path of independent thinking, then there is not much to be said about the possibilities of a Polish contribution or participation in the progress of the universe. True service to the country seems to me to consist in something quite the opposite. It consists in the creation of a word, a creative thought, an émigré literature that would break free of the constraints imposed on the country, get rid of all complexes to the maximum and shed all opportunistic servility[13].

The essays by Czapski and Mackiewicz show how important it was to try and find an appropriate perspective for Polish-German relations, an appropriate language for the dialogue between the two nations after the tragic experiences of the war, in the ideologically-charged times of the Cold War, when the communists were forging their hold on power in Poland on the basis of anti-German propaganda. In the early post-war years, there was no other independent Polish milieu than that of the Paris-based Kultura, which long before the 1965 address by the Polish bishops had been so consistently building a new language for Polish-German dialogue. Giedroyc was right to underline the significant role of Józef Czapski in this process, but, without diminishing Czapski's contribution, this positive assessment should be extended to the entire Literary Institute and the circle of Kultura authors.

Jerzy Stempowski's essay writing and Juliusz Mieroszewski's political journalism were also particularly important for the reconstruction of Polish-German relations. One of the fundamental works of post-war Polish literature offering an independent language for coming closer to Germany is Jerzy Stempowski's 1945 Diary of a Journey to Austria and Germany. Jerzy Czapski and Jerzy Giedroyc, while still officers in the 2nd Corps, sent Stempowski on a post-war mission to Austria and southern Germany a few months after the end of the war and before the establishment of the Literary Institute. The writer was to establish contact with the Ukrainian diaspora and assess the political situation in Germany. The trip yielded an outstanding work of reportage, which in 1946 was published in Polish and Italian as one of the first books by the Literary Institute established in Rome.

Stempowski's Diary is the keystone of the thinking and writing about Germany in the work created by Jerzy Giedroyc. This was not the writer's last German mission for the Literary Institute. In later years, Stempowski continued to travel to Germany as an envoy of Kultura. In an approach similar to that of the Czapskis’ and Mackiewicz’s essays, Stempowski offered a view of post-war Germany which was independent of any ideology, hatred or mental shortcuts; he combined observations and accounts of meetings with incidental people and cultural representatives with a profound reflection on the history of the German state and its culture.

Stempowski's Diary is the work of an outstanding expert on Germany, a man who, as a student in Munich, experienced the final years of the Wilhelminian Empire. Later, as a correspondent of the Polish press, he observed at close quarters the development of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, and thanks to Czapski and Giedroyc, was one of the first Polish writers to see the war-ravaged Germany and observe the birth of the Bonn Republic. In his Diary, Stempowski reconstructed a wide panorama of Germany, from the worst nationalist traditions, including the culturally catastrophic, to democratic, republican, universal ones. Stempowski understood that Nazism was born out of the tension between these contradictory attitudes and violently conquered the noblest traditions, a trace of which the writer tried to find in the post-war ruins of Germany.

Stempowski, like the Czapskis and Mackiewicz, was an advocate of Polish-German dialogue, but he was also able to mercilessly reveal its shortcomings. He recalled how little thought there had been of good relations between Poles and Germans even before the NSDAP came to power in 1933, and how easily Hitler could base his colonial policy towards Poland on the absence of a positive German policy vision towards its neighbour.

Like Czapska, Stempowski noticed a post-war amnesia in Germans. Yet, already in the early 1960s he noted the critical interest of the younger generation of Germans in the crimes of fascism and wrote about a new wave of interest in Polish culture, as well as a readiness for dialogue, also, and perhaps especially, among those Germans who had fled from the eastern lands. The writer sensed well the fundamental changes in the attitude of young Germans towards Poland. These positive cultural trends strengthened in the following decades. Polish culture, especially literature, film, theatre and music gained a presence in German culture and helped shape the first two generations of post-war Germans. Influenced by the Frankfurt trials against Auschwitz extermination camp personnel in the 1960s, West German youth began to publicly demand a consistent reckoning with the crimes of the Third Reich by historians and state authorities. In the second half of the 1960s, there was no longer any sign of amnesia in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Like the Czapskis, Stempowski sought direct contact with Germans, cultivated dialogue with them, and at the same time, as an essayist and thinker, proposed dialogue as a form of encounter between Poles and Germans. It is exceptionally valuable that Stempowski, just as Mackiewicz stipulated, was not intellectually constrained by any barriers set by the political realities. His thinking, sensitivity and sensibility knew no national boundaries. Germany is Europe, Europe is Poland, Germany is also our heritage, because it is European – this was Stempowski's way of understanding culture. The totalitarianism of the Third Reich was the fruit of German culture; none of the authors of Kultura denied this. Moreover, in the introduction to the first issue of Kultura in 1947, the editors criticised the "German civilisational catastrophism" strongly present in pre-war Europe. With this apocalyptic catastrophism, German imperialism and nationalism was decomposing the nations of Europe, a fact that was remembered by Kultura contributors[14]. This was also what Stempowski remembered, though neither did he forget those layers of democratic German culture that had been destroyed by Nazism. What Nazism had killed in Germany was, from Stempowski's perspective, also our loss, the loss of Poles, of Europeans. Stempowski understood the reconstruction of democratic Germany as a mission for European democrats too. This independent perspective of the common fate of Europeans is the leitmotif of his diaries, their unique strength.

Poland's sovereignty and the new neighbourhood culture

Seeking understanding, a space for dialogue, a distance from anti-German communist propaganda, the authors of Kultura did not only write about commonalities, about what brought Germans and Poles together. The independence of Kultura's authors also gave them the opportunity to notice the differences, disputes or negative tendencies in the development of the post-war democratic culture of the Federal Republic and in the reunified Germany. I have already mentioned this when recalling Maria Czapska's reportage. I would like to draw attention once again to Józef Mackiewicz's essay on the Poles’ German complex, in which he stressed that he did not engage against the anti-German complex of Poles as a “Germanophile”. This was not the point – Mackiewicz's concern, like that of Giedroyc’s other authors, was to build the intellectual, cultural and political foundations for a modern democratic Poland. The editor was convinced that Poland's sovereignty also depended on building new, friendly relations with all its neighbours, especially Germany and Poland’s eastern neighbours.

Giedroyc formulated the main assumptions of the new post-war Polish neighbourhood policy in a dialogue with Juliusz Mieroszewski. Unlike the communists, Giedroyc and Mieroszewski did not accept the division of Germany. A divided Germany meant the consolidation of Soviet military presence in Central Europe. They saw a united, sovereign Germany as one of the conditions for Polish independence, its independence from the Soviet Union. Mieroszewski and Giedroyc were obviously thinking of a German state that accepted the post-war borders. This acceptance was painful for Poles and Germans who had lost their homeland in the east, but any changes would mean new conflicts. For peace on the continent, the new Polish and German borders imposed by Stalin had to be accepted.

Mieroszewski stressed that for German reunification to be a stabilising element in European politics, it had to take place within the framework of European integration. Both he and Giedroyc were positive about the prospect of European federalisation, and saw in this process an opportunity to build a new peace order. In the vision of the Paris-based Kultura, Poles were to become Europeans from the canton of Poland, as Father Jan Maria Bocheński put it in his Democratic Manifesto[15].      

The Berlin correspondent

Let us return again to Czapski and Giedroyc’s second mission to Berlin. They used their stay in there in the summer of 1951 to distribute the Literary Institute's publications in the communist eastern part of the city, to the Polish participants in the world festival. Today, we know from biographical research and memoirs that the Polish contingent of the socialist festival included Anna Walentynowicz, a worker from the Gdansk shipyards, and Ryszard Kapuściński, a young journalist; it was their first trip abroad. What a coincidence that was: Giedroyc, Czapski, Walentynowicz and Kapuściński in Berlin during the Stalinist era. Different Polish worlds on the River Spree, all of them Polish legends today.

This second post-war trip deepened Giedroyc's interest in Berlin. In a letter to Andrzej Bobkowski, he wrote:

I am fascinated with Berlin. First of all, there’s a good atmosphere in the city. You can feel the border, feel the front. Our contact and communication with the homeland today is pretty much the only kind, so far up to 10 people a week are going across, and the dispatches of prints to the homeland are also going like clockwork. We have established quite interesting contacts with the Germans and are making Polish-German friendships. It's not easy, especially as we are quite firm on the current borders, but it is possible to find partners[16].

In order to deepen relations with Germany, Giedroyc planned a German-language issue of Kultura. The editor wanted to distribute it in the East with the help of Kampfgruppe, and to prepare it editorially in cooperation with Eugon Kogon, founder of the Social Democratic monthly Frankfurter Hefte. Kogon, a former prisoner at Sachsenhausen, published the first monograph on the totalitarian concentration camp system, titled Der SS-Staat (The SS State), after the war. Giedroyc remained in dialogue with him and his circle, yet the German edition of Kultura was never published. It was only in 1984, on the wave of Western European support for the Solidarity revolution, that the editor managed to release a German edition of Kultura.

Giedroyc returned from his second post-war trip to Berlin convinced that the development of the Literary Institute needed a permanent associate in Germany, a correspondent of Kultura in Berlin. The editor tried to persuade Andrzej Bobkowski to return to Europe and take up this post. But Bobkowski had severed ties with the Old Continent permanently and had no intention of returning. In a letter to him, the editor even considered moving the Literary Institute to Berlin. He wrote to the author of Szkice piórkiem (Pen Sketches) that in France "he could walk on his head" and still be unrecognisable, while "in Berlin Kultura is a sensation, not only in Berlin and Germany, but also in the States". Bobkowski, however, believed New York to be the most influential place for a political mission. Jerzy Giedroyc considered this view, not least for financial reasons, to be unrealistic. America was too far away from Poland, and New York "runs the risk of making me soft and completely cutting me off from the reality back home. In view of this, Berlin is logical"[17].

Jerzy Giedroyc did not move the Literary Institute to Berlin, but by late 1951 he had sent a Kultura correspondent to Germany. The correspondent was Jerzy Prądzyński, who lived in London and was a pre-war journalist whom the editor knew from his days at Polska Zbrojna. "An excellent guy, a hotshot, with a fine record in the Second Corps", the editor recalled him in his autobiography[18]. The Literary Institute’s financial resources were too limited to support the Berlin correspondent.  Already in 1953, before the anti-communist uprising of 17 June 1953, the journalist left Berlin. Although Prądzyński was in Berlin only briefly, it was a very productive time; monthly, he sent a newsletter and political texts from Berlin and Germany to Maisons-Laffitte. In addition, together with Bohdan Osadchuk, he published a press bulletin reporting in German on the political situation in Eastern Europe and in exile. After Prądzyński left Germany, the role of the Berlin correspondent was taken over by Bohdan Osadchuk, who collaborated with Kultura until the end of its existence and for nearly five decades influenced the shape of Kultura's political journalism with his texts.

Osadchuk was, from Giedroyc's perspective, an almost ideal author. He wrote from Berlin, from the frontline of the war for freedom and democracy, analysed developments in the two German states, sent texts on Polish-German relations, and at the same time was something of a guide for Kultura to the world of Ukrainian émigrés and Giedroyc's ambassador to the Ukrainian diaspora. Unlike many émigrés, Osadchuk crossed the invisible ghetto wall corralling Eastern European exiles, writing, teaching and influencing Western European public opinion.

The circle of ‘Kultura’ authors living in Germany

Osadchuk was able to root his analyses of the Soviet bloc and European politics in the broader global context of the clash of political systems. As a contributor to Germany's most influential dailies, Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Der Tagesspiegel, he travelled throughout Europe and the world and visited Communist China, Yugoslavia and the United States, among other places. His radio and television commentaries reached an audience of millions. As a contributor to the popular West German journalism programme Der Internationale Frühschoppen, he became a prominent analyst of international politics. In addition, as a professor at the Free University of West Berlin, he trained German Sovietologists from the 1960s onwards.

With his journalism, Bohdan Osadchuk shaped Kultura’s political line, and at the same time, as a German reporter, introduced the perspective of Polish and Ukrainian émigrés into West German public discourse. Wanda Brońska-Pampuch, with whom Osadchuk worked at the Polish Military Mission in Berlin in the first post-war years, played a similarly important role as a Sovietologist in West Germany. Both escaped from the Mission at a time of escalating Stalinist terror and began working with the Western media. Brońska-Pampuch, a former communist and victim of Stalinism who also published in the Paris-based Kultura, became a prominent witness of Bolshevik totalitarianism in the Federal Republic and a voice of anti-totalitarian intellectuals.

Among Giedroyc's influential associates in Germany we should also mention the writer, translator and radio journalist Tadeusz Nowakowski. Like Osadchuk and Brońska-Pampuch, he possessed the gift of multilingualism, wrote in perfect German, and published in the most renowned German dailies and publishing houses. Thanks to his participation in Hans-Werner Richter's well-known literary collective Gruppe 47, Nowakowski became acquainted with the most eminent representatives of post-war West German literature. By participating in the meetings of the Richter group and in literary discourse, Tadeusz Nowakowski influenced German literature and the perception of Eastern Europe among German intellectuals. On the Polish side, as a journalist of Radio Free Europe and associate editor, he introduced Kultura to contemporary German literature, particularly to works by Siegfried Lenz, Günter Grass and Johannes Bobrowski that were rooted in the culture of the Polish-German border region.

In the first post-war wave of Polish emigration to Germany, an important collaborator of the Literary Institute was Stefan Kozłowski, a former officer of the Świętokrzyska Brigade. The editor learned about Kozlowski from Ukrainians. Living in Munich after the war, Kozlowski maintained contacts with the Ukrainian émigré community, which had established the Free Ukrainian University there. It was one of the most important academic institutions of East European émigrés in the West. Kozlowski also maintained contact with West German political parties, especially with Christian Democrat politicians such as Kurt Georg Kiesinger, Chancellor of the grand coalition of the late 1960s.  These contacts resulted in articles for Kultura on the politics of the Bonn Republic. After his death in 1981, political issues were taken up by his daughter, Nina, who is today a well-known Polish activist in Munich and a promoter of Polish émigré literature in Germany.

After the war, the capital of Bavaria became, not least thanks to the Ukrainian diaspora, one of the most important centres of East European émigré political life in Europe. As a result, many eminent writers and intellectuals from behind the Iron Curtain took up residence in Bavaria, including the legendary heads of the Polish division of Radio Free Europe, Jan Nowak Jeziorański and Zdzisław Najder, as well as authors of Kultura such as Tadeusz Nowakowski and Józef Mackiewicz.

In the 1970s and 1980s, new waves of emigration from the People's Republic of Poland expanded the circle of Jerzy Giedroyc's associates living in Germany. Andrzej Chilecki and Kamila Chylińska settled in Cologne, while writers and translators of German literature Witold Wirpsza and Maria Wirpsza-Kurecka took up permanent residence in Berlin. After Wirpsza's death in 1985, his son, Aleksander Wirpsza, a poet who published under the pseudonym Leszek Szaruga, settled in West Berlin. Thanks to their good command of German, the Wirpszas quickly found their way into Berlin's literary circles. They collaborated with the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts and the Literarisches Colloquium (Literary Colloquium), a literary institution founded by the Group 47 milieu.

The Wirpszas were also friends with Günter Grass. Under their influence, Grass agreed to the first Polish edition of his novel The Tin Drum at the second-circuit publishing house NOWA in 1979. Leszek Szaruga also associated with the East Berlin anti-communist opposition and, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, became involved in cultural cooperation on the Polish-German border. It was thanks to him that the radio journalist Andrzej Stach, who came from Wrocław and lived in Berlin, was able to publish in Kultura. It is also to Leszek Szaruga that I owe my collaboration with the Literary Institute.

In addition to Munich and West Berlin, the third key centre for Polish émigrés in Germany was Cologne, a metropolis of major importance on the map of German culture. The city of Konrad Adenauer and Heinrich Böll, home of Böll's publisher, Kiepenheuer und Witsch – a publishing house of particular note, which released works by Czesław Miłosz, Marek Hłasko, Józef Czapski or Joseph Roth in Germany – Cologne was in Giedroyc's time and remains to this day a city of exceptional creative contrasts. Here one finds Rhenish Catholicism, critical of the Protestant tradition of Prussia, and West German conservatism, averse to Eastern Europe, and at the same time a liberal, open-minded media and contemporary art milieu, with strong social democratic and alternative-green currents that were sensitive to the changes transpiring in Eastern Europe. Cologne was where Andrzej Chilecki and, following the antisemitic reprisals of March, Kamila Chylińska settled. Chilecki ran the German section of Kultura, organised the distribution of the Literary Institute’s publications in Germany and supported the anti-communist opposition in Poland. In the 1980s, he was one of the co-founders of the Solidarity aid initiative, Solidarität mit Solidarność, in Cologne. More than just a support organisation for the anti-communist opposition, the initiative was also a meeting place for Germans and emigrants from Eastern Europe. It was also supported by the prominent Cologne-based Russian émigré writer Lev Kopelev, a reader of Kultura. It was a very politically diverse milieu. Many of the young German activists of the Cologne Solidarity movement sympathised at the time with the newly founded Green Party, in which many strands of the new social movement coalesced. The strength of the Solidarity civic movement fascinated young Germans; they admired this Polish alliance of intelligentsia and workers and its emancipatory language of anti-authoritarian uprising. Many Green activists took cues from the social, self-limiting revolution that was Solidarity.

The importance of the new social movements for change in the Federal Republic was recognised early on by Kamila Chylińska. For three decades, from the 1970s to the end of Kultura, Chylińska wrote about the impact that social change in Germany had on politics in a column in Giedroyc's monthly. She had a close friendship with the important Green activist Elisabeth Weber, who in the 1980s and 1990s, as a member of the Green parliamentary club in the Bundestag, was responsible for contacts with the anti-communist opposition in Central and Eastern Europe and, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, co-created the Greens' Eastern policy. To a large extent, Elisabeth Weber, a subtle and highly modest person, perpetuated a positive image of the Eastern European revolutions among the West German Greens. For Chylińska, Weber became an important guide to the new political culture in Germany. In turn, as a member of the French resistance and, after the war, the editor of Życie Warszawy, Chylińska  became for Elisabeth Weber and her friends a guide to the complex history of the 20th-century Polish Jewish intelligentsia.        

The editor's German hopes

In Autobiography on Four Hands, Jerzy Giedroyc wrote about how trips to Berlin and Munich had stimulated in him hope for broad cooperation with Germany. He even recalled how, when travelling to Germany, he was involved, with no less enthusiasm, in smuggling into France typewriters with Polish characters, bought cheaply in the GDR[19]. With his typical modesty and brevity, he claimed, however, that in practical terms little had come out of his German projects[20]. Indeed, Prądzyński's tenure as correspondent of Kultura in Berlin was short-lived, and it was not possible to deepen his collaboration with Eugon Kogon or publish a German issue of Kultura in the 1950s. Yet, I personally believe that the editor was too critical of his efforts in the Polish-German field. Prądzyński did not last long in Berlin and was replaced by Bohdan Osadchuk as a regular Berlin collaborator, who even took over Prądzyński's pseudonym – the Berliner.

Through Osadchuk and the German translator Arnim Dross, a selection of Juliusz Mieroszewski's essays was published in 1961 by the Berlin-based Colloquium Verlag under the title Kehrt Deutschland in den Osten zurück? Polen-Deutschland-Europa. Osadchuk even managed to arrange contacts with the German media, who offered to organise public meetings with the author. Unfortunately, Mieroszewski did not want to leave London. Without his active participation in its promotion, the book proved a difficult sell in Germany.

Although the German issue of Kultura did not appear until (the Orwellian) 1984, it did so at a very important time for Polish-German relations. It coincided with a swell of support for the underground Solidarity movement, a new Solidarity-driven wave of emigration to Western Europe and, after the Nobel Prize for Literature for Czesław Miłosz, a renewed focus on Polish literature. The German issue of Kultura received quite a lot of attention. It was an interesting record of the times. In the journalism of Jan Józef Lipski, Adam Michnik, or Zdzisław Najder and the Polish Independence Alliance group, one could see how the Paris-based Kultura’s political thinking on Polish-German dovetailed with the openness of the democratic opposition in the People's Republic of Poland, which was looking for a new political strategy to build relations with Germany. Texts by Mieroszewski, Czapski or Stempowski were a great inspiration for the opposition. The German issue of Kultura, showing this alliance between exile and home, was only possible after 1976, not in the 1950s.

I have already mentioned the German links and influences of some of Kultura's contributors on politics and culture in the Federal Republic of Germany. Also of fundamental importance for the presence of Jerzy Giedroyc's work in Germany were two intellectuals associated with the Congress for Cultural Freedom: I refer here to the initiator of the congress, the American columnist Melvin Lasky, and the Swiss writer François Bondy. Lasky and Bondy, as the editors of three journals supported by the congress – the French Preuves, the German Der Monat and the British Encounter – had a strong influence on the intellectual life of Western Europe from the 1950s to the 1980s. One of their missions was to publish literature and essays by émigré writers, including authors of Kultura. Run by Lasky in the 1950s and 1960s in Berlin, Der Monat was a monthly magazine that introduced Germans not only to Western culture, but also to outstanding Central European artists – Miłosz, Czapski or Gombrowicz. Lasky continued his mission to popularise voices from behind the Iron Curtain in the pages of the London-based Encounter. Giedroyc's and Czapski's relations with Lasky were pragmatic, cool. In turn, a close friendship united the editors with François Bondy, who, as a bilingual Franco-German essayist and literary critic, influenced the tastes of French and German-speaking readers. His intellect, brilliance and subtle sense of humour helped him establish himself as one of the most influential cultural experts in post-war Western Europe.

Bondy was fascinated by Gombrowicz. Together with his friend Konstanty Jeleński, he contributed not only to Gombrowicz's fame in France but also to his presence in Germany. It was in part on Bondy and Jeleński's initiative that the writer returned to Europe from Argentina in 1963. Bondy and Jeleński brokered a grant from the American Ford Foundation for his one-year stay in West Berlin. After the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, many politicians and intellectuals with ties to Berlin wondered how to protect the city from cultural isolation. Gombrowicz's arrival in West Berlin – like the meeting of European intellectuals at the Congress for Cultural Freedom in 1950 – was the symbolic beginning of a new era in the city's culture. Gombrowicz, together with Ingeborg Bachmann, were the first recipients of the artists-in-residence programme of the Ford Foundation in Berlin. This programme was later transformed into a scholarship scheme of the federal organisation DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), still existing today and expanded to include all areas of the arts. Many prominent Polish writers have benefited from it since Gombrowicz – Zbigniew Herbert, Witold Wirpsza, Sławomir Mrożek, Stanisław Lem, Adam Zagajewski, Tadeusz Różewicz, Kazimierz Brandys, Olga Tokarczuk and, in recent years, Tomasz Różycki.  A year's stay in the city provided Polish writers with favourable conditions for artistic development and an opportunity to build relationships with German publishers, media, readers and literary institutions. Before the fall of the Wall, the most important institutions for the promotion of Polish literature in Berlin were, and still are today, the already mentioned Literary Colloquium on Lake Wannsee, founded by the legendary poet Professor Walter Höllerer and now run by his son Florian Höllerer, as well as the Academy of Fine Arts in Tiergarten. Witold Gombrowicz, who was looked after by Irena and Bohdan Osadchuk in Berlin, lived a stone's throw away from the latter. Today, the headquarters of the academy, which publishes the Poland-friendly literary magazine Sinn und Form, is located in the heart of the city, by the Brandenburg Gate on Pariser Platz.

By these several examples at least, I wanted to signal just how much, via German contacts, the circle of Kultura authors came to exist in the realm of German literature and culture. I am aware that, when speaking of unfulfilled plans, Jerzy Giedroyc had in mind more the realm of politics and less the cultural imagination of Germans. This is not the place for an extensive study on the perception of Kultura in Germany, but staying briefly on the subject of the influence wielded by the émigré community, I would like to quote Jerzy Giedroyc's words from a 1981 conversation with Barbara Toruńczyk. At the time, the editor drew attention to the significant role played by émigrés from the People's Republic of Poland, especially those from after 1968, in promoting the Polish cause in Europe. In Giedroyc's opinion, the old wartime Polish exiles, especially those in London, had failed to break out of their political isolation:

Thanks to Kołakowski, Pomian, Smolar, etc., the Polish cause was beginning to be put on the international stage. It was no longer the ghetto that Dziennik Polski, Wiadomosci and the state in exile used to be. This is to the great credit of these people, above all Kołakowski. And so it seems, one should rate this exodus very positively. They succeeded in what the old émigré generation was never able to achieve[21].

The post-1968 wave of émigrés also strengthened the activities of the Anders' emigration project, of which the Literary Institute was an example. Giedroyc worked closely with Pomian and Kołakowski, and supported Aleksander and Eugeniusz Smolar in the early days. Forgotten in Poland is how symbolically significant to Polish-German reconciliation was Leszek Kołakowski being awarded the 1977 German Booksellers' Peace Prize, the most prestigious peace prize in the Federal Republic. In 1972, in a wave of support for the policy of reconciliation with the Poles by the government of Chancellor Willy Brandt, the prize had been awarded to Janusz Korczak. To this day, this is the only edition of the Booksellers' Prize honouring a deceased intellectual who was murdered by the Germans. The year before Korczak, the Prize was awarded to Countess Dönhoff for her commitment to the recognition of the Polish-German border on the Oder and Neisse rivers. It is worth mentioning that in 1985, the German Prize for Peace was awarded to Władysław Bartoszewski. And in 1990, the year of German reunification, it went to Karl Dedecius, a translator and promoter of Polish literature. The choice of Dedecius underlined the importance of Polish-German relations for a sovereign Germany.

The German Booksellers' Peace Prizes interestingly reflect the political as well as intellectual atmosphere of the times. The honouring of Kołakowski coincided with the beginnings of organised anti-communist opposition in Poland and other Eastern Bloc countries, when citizens active in either the Polish Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) or the Czechoslovakian Charter 77 demanded the fulfilment of the civil rights guaranteed by the communist rulers in the 1975 Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. As an official representative of the KOR, prominent dissident, critic of communism and émigré, Kołakowski was a recognisable voice throughout Europe, both from behind the Iron Curtain and from the liberal, democratic world. Kołakowski not only represented knowledge of Europe's cultural heritage but was also a co-creator of the process of unifying the part of the continent divided by the Iron Curtain.    

Education toward dignity

Kołakowski's Frankfurt speech, delivered on the occasion of the presentation of the Booksellers' Prize, is today a forgotten text. However, it is worth revisiting this essay/talk on the role of hatred and education toward dignity. Today, at a time of strong polarisation in politics and a widespread, ironic distance for empathy towards Others, it is a very topical, and indeed necessary, text. In fact, it is a manifesto of the Kultura authors, representing their approach to dialogue with our neighbours. Its importance was stressed by Giedroyc, who highlighted this sketch by Kołakowski by making it the opening topic in the December 1977 issue of the magazine. What we find in Kołakowski's essay is an echo of the thoughts expressed by Czapski, Mackiewicz and Stempowski, who warned against hatred as a driver of not only destructive but especially self-destructive forces. In his Frankfurt speech, Kołakowski reminded us what a great force hatred is, serving to enslave and paralyse the individual:

The demand for hatred is explained by the fact that it destroys internally those who hate, that it renders them defenceless against the state, that it amounts to spiritual suicide, self-destruction, and thus rips out the roots of solidarity also among those who hate[22].

Hate was characterised by Kołakowski as "the secret weapon of totalitarianism", which poisons the entire spiritual fabric of man and thereby deprives him of dignity. Democratic culture educates toward dignity, "this in turn presupposes, indivisibly, both readiness to fight and freedom from hatred". Kołakowski was under no illusion that it is easier to raise a person to hate, that it is harder for all of us to embrace tolerance and dialogue, and that conflicts are part of collective life. Yet, for democrats, for free citizens, he saw no other way forward than the difficult path toward tolerance and acceptance of pluralism:

The conciliatory spirit and the readiness to compromise without cowardice and without conformism, the ability to remove excess hostility without making concessions to what one considers to be the kernel of the matter, is an art that certainly does not come easily to anyone as a natural gift. On our ability to acquire this art, however, depends the fate of the democratic order in the world[23].

In order to survive spiritually, to be spiritually sovereign, one must learn social engagement and political struggle without hatred, and must surrender to a conciliatory spirit, Kołakowski stressed.

Kołakowski's manifesto can be read in various contexts, including that of building a new culture of dialogue between peoples marked by the experience of war, such as Poles and Germans, and between Poles and their eastern neighbours. It was also a seminal text for the anti-communist opposition in Poland, which chose a non-violent path of dialogue with the authorities, expressed three years after Kołakowski's Frankfurt speech by the self-limiting revolution that was Solidarity.

In the same issue of Kultura in December 1977, Jerzy Giedroyc supplemented the philosopher's thoughts against the culture of hatred and hostility with an editorial manifesto on Polish-German relations. In the editor's view, the communist regime in Poland constantly recalled German crimes because it did not wish for reconciliation between the nations. Kultura warned that Polish society would not escape the process of normalising relations with Germany, that there would be no Polish independence, no Polish democracy, without friendly relations with democratic Germany. In his editorial manifesto, Giedroyc recalled his main thoughts on the Polish road to independence. The basis for a sovereign Poland was not only the ULB programme, the idea of an understanding with Poland's eastern neighbours, acceptance of Poland's post-war eastern borders, support for the independence of Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus, but also the German programme, support for German unification in a federalised Europe, and German recognition of the post-war border on the Oder and Neisse rivers. Referring to the formula of Mieroszewski's and Giedroyc's ULB programme, one can describe Kultura's political vision as the ULB-N concept.

In the 1977 editorial manifesto, Giedroyc again reiterated the central humanist theme of Kultura's journalism, that democratic politics, despite its devotion to national interests, must recognise the primacy of the individual and oppose xenophobia, racism, and stereotypical ideas about neighbours. Democratic politics serves the individual:

Even in the most complicated circumstances, the democratic movement must always emphasise its humanism and its respect for the individual human being, for these are the foundations on which the culture of Poland and of Europe as a whole rests.

These are words which, unfortunately, despite the political success of the Polish émigré milieu and anti-communist opposition in 1989, have not lost their relevance, are still a beacon, and have even become a contentious issue in Polish politics. Giedroyc's words from 1977 show how important the work of Kultura, a publishing project that ended with the editor's death on 14 September 2000, still is. The work is closed, but the mission to build good relations with all our neighbours remains.

[1] Jerzy Giedroyc, Autobiography in Four Hands. Compiled by Krzysztof Pomian, Warsaw 1994, p. 173.

[2] Iza Chruślińska, Była raz Kultura. Rozmowa z Zofią Hertz, Lublin 2003, p. 159.

[3] Ibidem.

[4] Ibidem, p. 149.

[5] Jerzy Giedroyc, Autobiography...., p. 173.

[6] Jerzy Giedroyc-Melchior Wańkowicz, Listy 1945-1963 [Letters 1945-1963], Warsaw 2000, p. 165-166.

[7] Józef Czapski, W Berlinie o Zjednoczonej Europie [In Berlin about the United Europe], 'Kultura', 1951, no. 9.

[8] Jerzy Giedroyc, Autobiography ...., p. 174.

[9] Józef Czapski, On Germans, 'Kultura', 1967, no. 5.

[10] Maria Czapska, Hamburg Reflections, 'Kultura', 1951, no. 1.

[11] Józef Mackiewicz, German Complex, 'Kultura', 1956, no. 1.

[12] 12.) Ibid.

[13] Jerzy Giedroyc, Autobiography ...., p. 257.

[14] Ibidem, p. 278.

[15] Jerzy Giedroyc-Andrzej Bobkowski, Letters 1946-1961, Warsaw 1997, p. 189.

[16] Ibidem, p. 190.

[17] 17.) Jerzy Giedroyc, Autobiography ...., p. 183.

[18] Ibidem, p. 139.

[19] Ibidem, p. 183.

[20] Barbara Toruńczyk, Rozmowy w Maisons-Laffitte 1981 [Conversations in Maisons-Laffitte], Warsaw 2006, p. 137.

[21] Leszek Kołakowski, Wychowanie do nienawiści, wychowanie do godności, 'Kultura', 1977, no. 12

[22] Ibidem

[23] Jerzy Giedroyc (Editor), Germany, 'Kultura', 1977, no. 12.

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