Le Monde carries a curious biography of Marek Edelmann, one of the last survivors of the the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (he was also a member of Poland’s Solidarity Movement, and a subject of the documentary Avant la Bataille). Edelmann is considered a hero of the uprising, but largely doesn’t figure into the history of Israel, as do others who resisted:

Docteur de l’opposition, dissident perpétuel, révolté infatigable. Israël, où il s’est rendu quelques fois pour voir ses amis, reste sa bête noire. Le commandant en second de l’insurrection du ghetto de Varsovie n’est pas aimé en Terre sainte. “Edelman n’y a pas bonne presse, convient Elie Barnavi, ancien ambassadeur d’Israël en France. Il est un héros incontestable, mais dans la mémoire collective israélienne, il reste un juif diasporique. Dans le conflit idéologique qui structure le pays, le vrai héros soutient le projet sioniste. Le vrai héros du ghetto, pour Israël, c’est Anielewicz.”

Doctor of the opposition, perpetual dissedent, tireless revolutionary. In Israel, where he goes sometimes to see his friends, he is but a bête noire. The commander of the second insurrection of the Warsaw Ghetto is not loved in the Holy Land. “Edelmann had bad press … He is indisputably a hero, but in the collective memory of Israel, he remains a diasporic Jew. In the ideological conflict that structures the nation, the true heroes support the Zionist project. The real hero of the Ghetto, for Israelis, is Anielewicz.”

Putting aside the ideological differences between Edelmann (who was much more of a Bundist) and Zionism, his exclusion from Israeli history seems rather arbitrary. Had he died before he could opine about Israel, he would have been granted recognition in a forefather of the nation. Had he found return to his place of origin (say Thessalonika) impossible, he would have accepting Israeli nationality out of necessity.

Recognition as a hero arbitrarily requires the ability to nationalize him. Edelmann is exceptional, perhaps, only in that he cannot be retroactively nationalized, like the Joans of Arc, who could hardly be defenders of the French Republic. These more distant figures are more capably transnational and transhistorical simply because they are mute on the spatial and temporal boundaries between nations.

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