Jewish Heritage Europe

Poland’s Jewish heritage pioneer Jan Jagielski in the news

Jan Jagielski. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber
Jan Jagielski. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

America’s NBC News features a lengthy profile of Jan Jagielski, longtime friend and one of the true pioneers of Jewish heritage research and documentation in Poland. Jan has received many well-deserved honors for his work. Among his many other achievements, he was — along with Lena Bergman — research director and coordinator of the survey of Jewish heritage sites in Poland carried out in the mid-1990s for the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, the first fullscale inventory of such sites after World War II.

Jan Jagielski used to work as a chemist. But the 77-year-old has become one of the leading authorities on Polish Jewish history, making him the go-to man for Jews traveling from the United States and elsewhere to trace their ancestors.

“My office is a place where people can come to cry and talk about the past,” he told NBC News at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. “This makes my life worth living. I make time for everyone.” […] 

He began as a hobbyist in the 1960s before joining the Jewish Historical Institute in 1991, traveling the country and recording the location and condition of hundreds of synagogues and 1,400 cemeteries that served the pre-war Jewish population of 3.3 million. He compares pre-war pictures with current ones and has become an invaluable source for anyone looking into Polish Jewish history.