Thursday, July 24, 2008

In Memoriam Bronislaw Geremek

Scholars and human-rights activists alike mourn the death of Polish historian and former Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, killed in an automobile accident earlier this month.  Timothy Garton Ash offered a moving tribute in the Guardian:
When a friend dies, a part of you dies too. When Bronislaw Geremek was killed in a car accident on Sunday, a part of Europe was lost as well. I remember him once turning to me in a corridor of the Polish parliament, which he had helped to make again a true parliament, stopping in his tracks, taking his ever-present professorial pipe from his mouth, touching his beard, and saying with sudden passion: "You know, for me Europe is a kind of Platonic essence."

Europe will not see his like again. A bright Jewish child saved from the Warsaw ghetto amid the apocalypse of Nazi occupation, educated in patriotism and poetry by Catholic pedagogues of the Marian Sodality; a wonderful historian of the poor in medieval France; a Communist party member; then, through his pivotal role in Solidarity, an architect of the peaceful transition from communism, not just in Poland but in all of central Europe; his country's foreign minister at the moment it joined Nato; a member of the European parliament after Poland joined the EU. So much of the history that has made our continent what it is today, the worst and the best, ran through his veins and into every fingertip. He wrote some of that history, especially of the 14th and 15th centuries, and he made some more of it. . . . .

Further obituaries:
Süddeutsche Zeitung
Le Monde
New York Times
Gazeta Wyborcza (tribute; announcement of funeral)

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