24.05.2018 Books

Opening the Drawer by Barry Cohen

Profiles of three generations of Poles who discovered their hidden Jewish identity

Barry Cohen is a Canadian writer and journalist based in London who has worked as an editor for many publications, including foreign editor of the New Statesman. He also contributed articles to a broad range of British, US and European magazines and newspapers. Much of his work has focused on foreign affairs and international business and financial issues. In recent years, he won several financial journalism awards. He holds degrees in political science and international relations from universities in Canada, Britain and Italy.

Jacket blurb:
For the first time in a single volume, Opening the Drawer brings together illustrated profiles of three generations of Poles who discovered their hidden  Jewish identity in often surprising ways. Drawing on interviews with child Survivors of the Holocaust; the post-war second generation and the post-Communist third generation, these voyages of discovery are not simply variations on a theme, but memorable depictions of unearthing long-buried family histories and secrets. They include the stories of a Catholic priest, a former anti-Semitic football hooligan, students, academics and renowned writers.
Each generation has confronted a specific Polish environment which shaped their lives. The Holocaust survivors were usually raised as Catholics, ironically some even grew up in anti-Semitic families. Members of the second Generation are  frequently the offspring of dedicated Communists or leftists who shunned any kind of Jewish identification, and. many discovered their roots in traumatic circumstances. Younger Poles are very much the product of the democratic society that emerged after the fall of Communism. Growing up in a more tolerant civil society, they were spared the challenges faced by previous generations, and were less constrained in developing and sharing their new identity.
In a sharp departure from the past, many Poles are expressing a deep, sympathetic interest in the phenomenon of emerging Jews by flocking to Jewish museums and cultural festivals. Until recently, Poland was regarded as a tragic land of ghosts where Jewish life had ceased to exist. But these wide-ranging profiles gathered by Barry Cohen reflect a growing spectrum of communal activities that paint a different picture.

‘Made up of contributions by the three generations of Polish Jews … it gives a multi-sided and complex picture not only of Jewish identity in Poland but of the complex history of Poland and its Jews from the Second World War to the present. It is an essential source for a proper understanding of these developments.’
Antony Polonsky, POLIN Museum of Polish Jews, Emeritus Professor Brandeis University

Opening the Drawer
By Barry Cohen
Published by Vallentine Mitchell & Co., Ltd
Publishing date: 24.05.2018
Order online

Scheduled Books

Premiere of the catalogue “Polish Books for

As is tradition, along with the inauguration of the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the Book Institute's catalogue "Polish Books for Children & Young Adults" premieres, presenting excellent Polish books for young audiences that were published last year.

14 03.2023 13 03.2024 Books, Events, Literature, Resources

I Saw a Beautiful Woodpecker: The Diary

by Michał Skibinski, with illustrations by Ala Bankroft.
12 10.2021 Books

Things I Didn’t Throw Out 🗓

by Marcin Wicha, Translated by Marta Dziurosz.
18 10.2021 Books, Literature, Resources