Voices from Poland

Ludwik Kowalski

April 23, 2013


Introduction and links

I found a set of interesting posts on a Polish language website: The authors of these posts discussed the 2013 book "How Polish People Helped Germans Murder Jews;" by Stefan Zgliczynski.

http://www.czarnaowca.pl/literatura_faktu/jak_polacy_niemcom_zydow_m,p720952114


I drafted a comment asking how to eliminate hate, racism, xenophobia, etc; so as to approach the ideal of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. The overall tone of my comment was pessimistic, and I decided not to post it.

I did not read this book, except the opening paragraph (using the link above), where the author states: "It is time to admit it, the Poles are not just helpless victims. We are not innocent, we have blood on their hands. Jewish blood. During the Second World War, and immediately after it, many Poles denounced their Jewish neighbors, blackmailed, extorted protection money, raped and murdered. It is time to reexamine this part of our history." The thread I am reading begins at:

http://www.polityka.pl/forum/1159278,jak-polacy-niemcom-zydow-mordowac-pomagali-recenzja-ksiazki.thread?addPost=true&parent_id=1160679#commentBox

Selected quotes:


1) Young Germans despise Poles and all Eastern Europeans...The Civilized West continually reinforces its belief that only the "Wild East" is capable of racism and anti-Semitism, that they, true Europeans, would never do anything like this, and they are able to forget about ghettos near Paris, racial riots in London, German and Austrian Neo-Nazis, etc.

2) It may already be time to move forward and not, every time we are criticized, claim that we are a nation of victims.

3) I have no desire to preach hate against Russians, Germans, Jews and other nations. But I'm not going to listen while people whose grandparents made clothes out of human hair and fertilized soil with human ashes instruct us about tolerance and civilized behavior.

4) A valuable person is one who, coming from a poor home, acquires professional qualifications, or one who volunteers to help disabled and abandoned people. German, Polish, or Russian--it makes no difference to me. Whether his grandparent was Stalin or Genghis Khan, I couldn't care less.

But I'm not a Catholic and I was not brainwashed since childhood to believe that it is right to persecute descendants for the sins of their ancestors. This way of thinking is foreign to me, and I am pleased with Polish law, which does not require assuming the debts of great grandparents...

5) You are among the few who look toward the future and try to solve problems without seeking the guilty, punishing them and putting them in prison. Nothing will move forward in Poland as long as you do not change this point of view.

6) My own experience with Jews in London is negative and this is quite serious. I know people from many nationalities who have been connected in some way, mostly professionally, with Jews for many years. Hardly anyone has a good opinion of them! Why? Because they are arrogant, they demean others, especially those non-Jews who are dependent upon them....I can also describe what my Jewish friend tells me about how the Jews treat Palestinians... What I want to say is that Jews should start with examination of their own conscience. There are reasons why they have had problems for millennia.

7) The French really loved the Jews, especially by sending whole families to Auschwitz. Most French Jews survived and took part in the French Resistance. Jews were not accepted in the AK [Polish Resistance]. Polish partisans often murdered Jews wandering in the forests. Polish police guarded the ghetto gates to prevent Jews from escaping.

8) It happened that Poles murdered Jews at the instigation of Germans, with their consent, thinking it was permitted and no longer evil. Yet more often they murdered on their own, for their own purposes, their own benefit. This is frightening but even more frightening is that 60 years after the end of the war anti-Semitism is still alive--see entries on this forum.
The infamous role of the Catholic Church in this affair is well known. This spirit prevails in the Polish Catholic Church from pre-war days to today.

9) Aron, neither I nor my family members, and no one in my circle of friends, is an anti-Semite. Do not generalize. During the war, Germans (not Nazi) killed a lot of people in our country. (I hope you consider Poland to be your country as well.) But we Poles defended ourselves, hid our families and ourselves. Germans started the war, with the help of Russians. We do not apologize for crimes committed by others.

10) I often hear TODAY (yes, TODAY) that the Holocaust was a terrible crime. But what would Poland, and our lives here look like, if all Jews did not disappear?

11) More than one fifth of all Nobel Prize winners are Jewish; every second one of them was of Polish origin.

12) The criminal HOLOCAUST has its reasons and consequences. Thinking about relations between Jews and other nationalities, one should not forget the idea of CHOSEN PEOPLE. ...

Of course, any crime, including the HOLOCAUST, can be elevated to the level of CULT, limiting critical evaluation of Jewish ethnocentrism. ... Collaboration of influential Jewish organizations with Germans is conveniently ignored. The silence was interrupted in Poland by Jerzy R. Nowak, in the book JEWS AGAINST JEWS.

13) It is difficult for me to understand the motivation of the authors of these essays, books. The first obvious reason is the desire to profit- a low level motive. Another is the desire for revenge - also a very low level motive. Why dwell on dark pages of our history and reopen the wound. We are well aware that anti-Semitism existed in Poland before the war, as it existed all over the world. Events of the war have changed the nature of the word anti-Semitism, bringing it closer to a crime. We do not have clean hands, no one has them, but I have enough of this spitting in my face; I do not deserve it.

14) What are you writing about? Do you feel guilty? Do you have "dirty" hands? If you don't, then no one will "spit in your face." Honesty calls for writing about such matters. This is HISTORY that you should know, so that mistakes will not be repeated.

15) I do know history; I was in Jedwabne back in the 80's (as a child). And I knew that Poles contributed to what happened there. I also know about shmalcownikis, those who were selling Jews during the war. Perhaps I am wrong in assuming that all this is well known. But I am angry at those who keep reminding me and build up stereotypes of Polish anti-Semites; we have more beautiful history cards worth showing.

16) I do not understand your anger. Everything in our history should be remembered. Yes, you were mistaken assuming most people already knew about THIS. Not everyone knows, not everyone wants to know. Your anger is not justified. You did not kill these people. This is now HISTORY! Let it remain as such.

17) Do not forget that most of the medals of the Righteous Among the Nations were awarded to Poles. Furthermore, only in Poland and Ukraine did the Nazis enforce a death penalty for helping Jews. These are also historical facts. ... One should also keep in mind that wartime is a particularly difficult period. Constant fear for one's own life, and for lives of family members, often brings out the worst evil in some people and heroic goodness in others. An author describing only one aspect of very difficult time is a manipulator. Not surprisingly, honest people are outraged.

18) Research shows that more Poles would prefer a German neighbor to a Jewish neighbor. Germans, as you can see, do not carry evil in the genes, but Jews do.

19) I did not read Zgliczynski's book. My knowledge about killing of Jews by Polish guerillas is based not only on reading but also on hearing from reliable people. The murderers were not motivated by hatred of Jews; they were motivated by fear for their own safety. Germans looking for escapees were dangerous to guerillas. Such searches would often end when bodies of Jews were found. I certainly do not approve of this kind of killing; my point is to emphasize that fear rather than hate caused some killing.

20) Jews were not the only victims of post-war killings. Ukrainians murdered Poles and Poles murdered Ukrainians. But no one talks about collaboration with Germans or Russians. ... War demoralizes, introducing chaos and destruction that continue even after the war.

21) From the report prepared by Section II of the General Staff of the Supreme Leader: "The role of Jews was shameful. Nearly everywhere in the whole area [Kresy] Jews openly and enthusiastically welcomed the Soviet troops. Initially, most of the police and local authorities were recruited from the Jews. The NKVD [Secret Service] depended on them as informants, etc. Jews harmed Poles and Ukrainians to such an extent that everywhere there is a great hatred for them. (...) It should be noted, however, that occasionally Jews helped our fugitives. But such episodes should be classified as exceptions. “...

At the same time the Jews fought in AK [Polish Underground Army] and perished at Katyn. So the conclusion is clear - we should not beat our tribal chests because we can break our ribs - every nation had both heroes and cowards, good people and vermin. The idea of tribal responsibility is a form of racism.

22) Personally, I think that anti-Semitism in Poland, during the war, was not higher than in other countries (Anne Frank's family was betrayed by the Dutch, not by Germans and Poles). In the context of what's going on now it will be difficult to convince Germans, and the rest of the civilized world, that the term "Polish extermination camps" or a movie about Polish partisans murdering Jews are exaggerations.

23) I was born several years after the war, I did not kill anyone, nor did I contribute to anyone's death. I'm not going to beat my chest for other people's guilt.

24) ... Anne Frank is a good illustration. She is surrounded by an official cult; her life is commemorated in an Amsterdam museum. And yet, she herself wrote about Dutch anti-Semitism, about the planned deportation of Jews, by the resistance, after the war, and about her fear of being denounced by neighbors. In fact, she died because a Dutch neighbor denounced her family. Let me also mention the Dutch Waffen-SS division, and local fascists. ... Dutch people do not want to remember such things. Perhaps someone should wake up their conscience as well.

25) We should be happy! We are not alone! Regardless of how we dealt with the Jews, both good and bad, we are still considered to be the most bloodthirsty anti-Semites. We drank such attitudes with our mother's milk. We're absolutely not alone? This comfort is an illusion. If someone else also murders then I am not really that bad....

26) Poles in World War II were not angels; they denounced Jews without blinking, not only to Germans, but to Brown [Polish] Police as well. In my town there was a Polish policeman--he was hanged after the war--who hunted Jews, even his friends. Several days ago I watched a documentary in which Polish Police were portrayed as heroic and dedicated to the Motherland. The only exceptions were traitors. As far as I know, the opposite was true.

Anti-Semitism exists; it will continue to exist even when not a single Jew remains in our country. Calling someone a Jew is an insult, even among young people who have never met Jews. They repeat what they hear at home. I defended Jews in messages posted at the Onet.pl website. But replies were buckets of swill--how do you dare to defend them? I was accused of being a Jew... Are anti-Semitic statements common on our Internet websites? I think they are. This, to a large extent, is also due to the Catholic Church, in my opinion.

27) What is the reason for so many comments on a purely historical issue? Is it not a guilty conscience, the feeling of embarrassment or awkwardness? I am only asking...

28) It might be aggressive Jewish anti-Polonism.

29) A professor in Gdansk claims that Jews deserved what happened to them. ... In one of his volumes Sienkiewicz [Nobel Prize in Literature 1905] describes Cossacks tearing Jewish toddlers in half. Did they deserve what was happening to them?

* * * * * * * * *

Ludwik Kowalski, author of a free ON-LINE book entitled

“Diary of a Former Communist: Thoughts, Feelings, Reality.”

http://csam.montclair.edu/~kowalski/life/intro.html