John Paul II's Letter to a Jewish Friend

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John Paul II's Letter to a Jewish Friend

The heart-rending story of two Polish boys divided by World War II, reunited by love

Schoolmates “Lolek” Wojtyla and “Jurek” Kluger were boyhood pals in pre-war Poland—till their lives were blighted by invasion, war, and genocide. It took 50 years, but they reunited. A moving tale of friendship in the face of evil.

Karol ("Lolek") Wojtyla and Jerzy ("Jurek") Kluger were schoolmates until the autumn of 1938. They played hockey and went to dances together, went skiing and swimming, and studied in one another's houses. They learned about life from their loving families and endured the agony of tests and entrance examinations as a team.

High school graduation and creeping anti-Semitism led to their separation. In the years that followed, they endured the unendurable: the invasion of Poland, the destruction of the Wadowice community, the creation of the Jewish ghetto, the decimation of the synagogue; the army for Jurek, the catacombed seminary study for Lolek, the loss of beloved family members, and every day the fear for their very lives.

It would be fifty years before their emotional reunion. The seed of hope that had been planted in their personal story would be magnified by world-changing events in politics and religion. So it was that when the rebuilt synagogue in Wadowice was about to be dedicated in 1989, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to his Jewish friend, Jerzy Kluger, reestablishing the ties of friendship. When diplomatic ties between the Vatican and the State of Israel were being established on December 30, 1993, and again on April 7, 1994, when the Holocaust was being remembered in The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah, on April 7, 1994, Lolek and Jurek, together, remembered, and were healed.

Reviews and endorsements

is little gem of a book recounts the story of a friendship lost and a friendship regained. Pope John Paul II and Jerzy Kluger were close school friends in Wadowice, Poland, until they were separated by the Nazis and war. In 1965, the two were reunited in Rome; and in 1989, on the occasion of the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at the Wadowice synagogue, the Pope writes a letter to Kluger urging a solidarity between Jews and Catholics based upon the memory of their common suffering during the war in Poland. A heartwarming story that offers glimpses into the personal experiences behind Pope John Paul's well-known condemnations of anti-Semitism.
Publishers Weekly

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“A deeply moving testimony to a rare friendship, this book also manages with light but deft brush-strokes to illuminate the Jewish-Polish catastrophe of the years 1939-1945 when both communities were caught up in the hatreds of Nazi ‘ethnic cleansing’. Because this is a personal story, it reminds us, as more general books cannot, that the trauma and pain of the Holocaust have not been wholly eradicated by the years but have penetrated the psyche of the survivors. Letter to a Jewish Friend shows us only too clearly where racial hatred can lead. Its publication is timely since today we appear to need a lesson as much as ever.”
Mary Craig, author of Man from a Far Country: A Portrait of John Paul II

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“For me, as a current Jewish friend of the Pope, Letter to a Jewish Friend represents an all-important insight into the origins of the man I have come to know and work with. This book is a must read, for all who would understand how Lolek the boy became the Pope, John Paul II.”
—Maestro Gilbert Levine, Papal Knight of the Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great, Artistic Director and Conductor, The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah

9780824520441
Paperback / 108 pages
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25
CROSSROAD, 2014