Stefan Verne

Pol­ish Al­lied fighter who ded­i­cated his life to com­bat­ting an­ti­semitism in his home­land

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - GLO­RIA CIGMAN

IMET STEFAN Verne, who has died aged 88, many years ago on a guided tour of Am­s­ter­dam’s art gal­leries. His for­eign ac­cent prompted me to ask where he was from. When he said Poland, my friendly in­ter­est be­came hos­til­ity. I re­mem­bered what I knew about many cen­turies of an­ti­semitism in Poland – at best, the in­er­tia, at worst, the ac­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion of Poles dur­ing the Nazi ex­ter­mi­na­tion of 90 per cent of the coun­try’s Jewish pop­u­la­tion.

I also re­mem­bered of­fen­sive an­ti­semitic re­marks made by a Pol­ish col­league here in Eng­land. As I got to know Stefan, I told him all this, and I re­main shamed by what I learned. Born in War­saw, Stefan had been in a bru­tal Ger­man prison camp as a young boy, then cap­tured and treated harshly by the Rus­sian “lib­er­a­tors”. He es­caped and joined the al­lied armies in Italy. His return to Poland saw the be­gin­ning of a com­mit­ment to ad­dress­ing the an­ti­semitism of many of his fel­low-coun­try­men and cam­paign­ing for har­mo­nious in­te­gra­tion of the Jews of Poland as Poles. Too few voices were raised with Stefan’s dur­ing the Com­mu­nist pe­riod, but this pre­oc­cu­pa­tion con­tin­ued to en­gage him when he went on to make his life in Eng­land, where he be­came an experimental chemist in sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant fields. He took his fam­ily to Poland reg­u­larly for hol­i­days and his many ac­tiv­i­ties also in­cluded co-writ­ing a book on Pol­ish Jewish re­la­tions and giv­ing reg­u­lar talks at meet­ings of the Coun­cil of Chris­tians and Jews. Tes­ti­mony to the suc­cess of Stefan Verne and Poles like him is to be found in the Mu­seum of the His­tory of Pol­ish Jewry that opened on the site of the War­saw Ghetto in 2013. Be­lated? Per­haps, but the ex­tent of the debt to Poles like Stefan should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. I am proud to have had such an ad­mirable Pol­ish friend.

Stefan Verne’s English wife Chris­tine died in 2012. He is sur­vived by two daugh­ters and five grand­chil­dren

Stefan Verne, born May 14,1928. Died Novem­ber 22, 2016.

Stefan Verne: Poles owe him a debt

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