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"The Holocaust is ultimately a ghost story, and Poles have many reasons to be haunted."
June 25, 2006 8:25 AM   Subscribe

In 1945-46, some of the (very few) Polish Jews who had survived the Final Solution returned -- sick, poor, wounded -- to Poland. In Elie Wiesel's words, "they had thought all too naively that antisemitism, discredited 6 million times over, had died at Auschwitz with its victims. They were wrong." In 2001 Princeton professor Jan T Gross published the story of the 1941 destruction of the Jewish community at Jedwabne, Poland, and proved how Jews were rounded up, clubbed, drowned, gutted or burned to death not by German forces as previously believed but by mobs of their own non-Jewish neighbors. Now professor Gross tells the story of the Kielce pogrom in his new book, "Fear". Of course, the Kielce butchery took place in 1946 -- more than a year after the end of WWII and defeat of Nazism. More inside.
posted by matteo (107 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The annihilation of Polish Jewry resulted in the immediate upward social mobility of Polish Christians. Hitler delivered a devastating blow to Polish nationalism, but a secondary effect of his racial rampage gave an artificial boost to the self-esteem of the Polish peasantry. They emerged from the Holocaust as a nouveau middle-class, a post-atrocity artifact of spoliation and unjust enrichment. And they weren't about to return either their ill-gotten gains or their newfound status. Nor did they wish to be reminded of what they had done. And the best way to avoid discomfort was to not have to look into the eyes of the neighbors they once betrayed.
-- Thane Rosenbaum
posted by matteo at 8:28 AM on June 25, 2006


Since early February I've been working in Warsaw every week. I live in London and typically fly over Monday AM, returning Friday evening.

As soon as the weather got better I started walking to the bank where I'm working, and being an adventerous sort, started wandering about.

I was walked by a beaten up wall and was floored to see an incredibly modest sign maybe 15' off the ground (you certainly can't see it too easily) on it saying something to the effect of "on this site once stood a wall segregating the Jewish Ghetto from the rest of Warsaw". I was amazed at the fact it was so - unappreciated. And respected.

Everyday I walk by and touch it. Its a little unsettling to this of what that wall represents, what happened there and, most distressingly, how little this wall is recognised.

I'd like to post pix here but not sure if that's allowed. In any case, one thing I can tell you from being in Warsaw every week - ain't nobody in that city today making any fuss over that wall.
posted by Mutant at 9:24 AM on June 25, 2006


typo - meant to say "and unrespected"
posted by Mutant at 9:27 AM on June 25, 2006


Even though I know this story well, it remains painful to see it again. I think the reasons for the continuing anti-Semitism and pogroms are more complex than mere guilt over what had happened, although I am sure that played a role. Anti-Semitism had been a huge problem long before Hitler and his final solution. Regardless of the reasons, I find it very hard to find forgiveness for the Poles' post war savagery. Thank God for Israel.
posted by caddis at 9:28 AM on June 25, 2006


I lived near Krakow for seven years and knew lots of Poles well.

Antisemitism is absolutely unremarkable there, people are unashamed.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:30 AM on June 25, 2006


Self link, but I wrote about just this thing a while ago, here.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:33 AM on June 25, 2006


Jan Gross, who stumbled on the documentary evidence by accident in a Polish archive five years ago, spares us no detail. Jewish men were forced to enact grotesque rituals before being butchered; women were raped and beheaded; babies were trampled to death; finally, more than 1,000 tortured Jews were herded into a barn, drenched with kerosene and torched. The Poles played raucous music in order to muffle their screams. They had surrounded the town to make sure that no Jew could escape (it would appear that there were, in fact, seven survivors).

It's pretty damn hard to maintain a belief in the essential goodness of people when you read something like this. But thank you -- again -- matteo for an excellent post. You have given me even more books that I need to read.

While I have not yet read any of Thane Rosenbaum's non-fiction work, I did read his novel The Golems of Gotham which has the holocaust as a facet of the novel. It was a very good book.
posted by bim at 9:42 AM on June 25, 2006


I'd like to post pix here but not sure if that's allowed.

Have you looked at the kind of pictures that do get posted here? This would be a vast improvement. Please do.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:43 AM on June 25, 2006


Pix are fine with me too. And I'm going to read meatbomb's blog too. I think a self link is fine in this case.
posted by bim at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2006


Years ago I taught a course about the Holocaust at a college in Connecticut. Late in the semester, a nice and seemingly bright Polish girl came up to the desk after class and told me that though what had taken place to the Jews in Poland was terrible, after all they were being punished for having killed the Son of God. Taken aback by that statement years after the Vatican had revised its own thinking on the "Christ killing" notion, I could but remark that her view seemed contrary to views expressed in the Sermon on the Mount.
posted by Postroad at 9:55 AM on June 25, 2006


The recently-elected Polish government coalition includes the League of Polish Families, whose connection with the anti-semitic right is not hard to see.

(Corrupt as the last lot may have been, at least Kwasniewski, while president, apologised for Jedwabne saying: "one cannot be proud of the glory of Polish history without feeling, at the same time, pain and shame for the evil done by Poles to others.")

My experience of Poland is very different from some other commenters. The (many) Poles I know regard anti-semitism with as much disgust as any other reasonable person and are keenly, even painfully aware of their country's 20th century history. And Polanski's The Pianist showed in multiplexes, fwiw.

It might explain why so many Poles continue to emigrate - they have little love for the leaders of their country at the moment.

The ghetto wall has certainly not been turned into a tourist attraction like the Berlin Wall. Personally I rather like that; it stands as yet another lingering trace of Warsaw's almost vanished physical history. But in the light of Polish history and the current political climate, its lack of attention takes on a more sinister aspect.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:57 AM on June 25, 2006


I'd like to post pix here but not sure if that's allowed.

If it's several pics, best to use links. If it's just one or two and not too huge (some people are on dialup), thread-relevant inline images are generally welcomed around here.
posted by Ryvar at 9:59 AM on June 25, 2006


It's been a long time since I spent this much time on a post. Bravo!
posted by Raichle at 9:59 AM on June 25, 2006


On a side note, I come from a family of polish Jews that barely made it through those years. When my father went back to Sokolov in 2004 to see where his family had lived, he was chased by a farmer with a pitchfork who thought he was trying to reclaim stolen land. He said the amount of anti-semitic grafiti, even in Warsaw, was astounding. In Sokolov they were planning on placing a community swimming pool on the site of the current Jewish cemetary.

This level of fear and hatred will never cease to amaze me.
posted by Raichle at 10:06 AM on June 25, 2006


Oops, I meant to link this story in my comment above. I appear to be in a minority here, but the attitudes in the link are more representative of the Poles (admittedly urban and educated) I encountered while living there than the ubiquitous intolerance others describe.

They were appalled by Radio Maryja, the politicians exploiting racism and the vile graffiti. Some of the latter was almost laughable, though, such as "nigger go home" scrawled in a remote town with a non-white, non-catholic population (like much of rural Poland) of zero.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:22 AM on June 25, 2006


Only the Catholic Church would seem to have the prestige and politcal immunity necessary to address this festering disgrace.
posted by jamjam at 10:30 AM on June 25, 2006


Busy Old Fool, point taken. I think everyone knows that there are many Poles, especially within the educated community, that are not anti-semites. However, as a whole, the population is unusally permissive where this behaviour is concerned.
posted by Raichle at 10:31 AM on June 25, 2006


.
posted by zouhair at 10:37 AM on June 25, 2006


Thank you everyone for your comments and stories. I too found this a post worth spending my morning reading.
posted by trii at 10:46 AM on June 25, 2006


Only the Catholic Church would seem to have the prestige and politcal immunity necessary to address this festering disgrace.

OK, this front page post tells a story that's so off-the-charts horrifying and savage that it's almost unbearable, even for my standards, especially for a Sunday. so here's a little anecdote that may or may not be historically accurate but really made me smile. and God knows one needs a little smile after reading professor Gross' work. so, if that offends you, just skip this comment. anyway:

In early 1945 a young Hitlerjugend soldier, about 17, is crouched in a sniper's nest. the orders are clear: shoot anything that moves, unless it's a German soldier. after a while he sees a young priest walking down the street. the priest is moving and, of course, he's not wearing a German soldier's uniform. so the young sniper aims at the priest's head and is about to pull the trigger.

suddendly, God's voice booms down from the heavens: "Stop! That young Polish priest will one day be Pope. Do not kill him!".

the German boy keeps the priest in the line of fire, thinks about the situation for a moment and then says: "OK, here's a deal: if I don't kill him then I get to be Pope, too".

posted by matteo at 11:02 AM on June 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


As a follow up to my original comments, this is right off a street called 'Gryzbowska'; the bank I work at is right around the corner, and wandering the side streets I came across this wall.



You can see how high up the sign is...it's actually pretty hard to see from street level, and it was only after walking past it a couple weeks in a row that I noticed. I asked a local (hey! I'm a friendly American and talk to everyone) what it was, he mentioned off handedly "it was where the Jews were..." with a shrugging motion before going about his business.




I found his overall attitude - as well as the unrespectful condition of this wall and what it represents - appaling.

This FPP is welcome as I'd been explaining to friends and family via email my discomfort at the casual attitude Poles have towards antisemiticism. Every day that I'm in Warsaw (I'll be there tomorrow) I make a point to walk by this wall, touching it and, at the risk of sounding trite, saying a prayer for those folks. Any book on WWII will have a section on the Warsaw Ghetto, the uprisings, this city could have one of the most dramatic and moving memorials and yet look at it - located in a gritty post-industrial section of town, almost unacknowledged and largely unknown by locals.

I've pointed this wall out to several people who work at the bank there, spending ten or so hours a day right around corner, and only one knew what it was before I showed it to them.

Look guys I've worked all over the world, I consider myself a good judge of human nature and being a New Yorker can feel situations and people out; once I mentioned to a bunch of folks (I admit it, I'm a sneaky bastard and was testing) at the bank I'm working at my love of Kosher Deli, the fact that I'd once heard Poland had a large Jewish population, and oh by the way, "was there a good place to get Kosher deli in Warsaw?"

There were maybe six people in the room, and we'd all been chatting about where to grab lunch. The room got quiet and then one of the guys admitted there was no Kosher deli in Warsaw, but asked with a big smile on this face, "why would you like Jewish food, are you Jewish?" There was an undertone to his query that was interesting to say the least. I've never seen him smile so broadly before or since.

Lanaguage differences asides (his English is far better than my Polish) and even without reading the links on matteo's post, I'd heard about anti-semiticism in Poland and that did it for me. And as I said before, absolutely nobody in Warsaw is making a fuss over that wall. What it represents to Western Civilisation, our history, for better or worse, and it's just sitting there.
posted by Mutant at 11:03 AM on June 25, 2006 [3 favorites]


I think the reasons for the continuing anti-Semitism and pogroms are more complex than mere guilt over what had happened, although I am sure that played a role.

This level of fear and hatred will never cease to amaze me.

Anti-Semitism. Wah, wah, wah. If you think the Poles are anti-semitic, ask one what he thinks of a Russian.

The fact of the matter is that in the 1930s many Jews in Poland - particularly the intelligensia in Warsaw - supported the Bolsheviks and welcomed the Russian invasion of Poland.

One is sometimes judged by the company one keeps.
posted by three blind mice at 11:15 AM on June 25, 2006


Only the Catholic Church would seem to have the prestige and politcal immunity necessary to address this festering disgrace

What with sheltering pedophiles, lying to protect pedophiles, vilfying homosexuals, still treating women as second class citizens etc., I don't think that the Catholic church has much prestige going for it. They long ago lost the moral highground (if indeed they ever had it) and the Catholic church is itself a festering disgrace.

Not to mention the Catholic church's own history of anti-semitism -- speaking as a kid raised in the Catholic school system.

And on a personal note, the current pope totally creeps me out every time I see him. He looks downright evil. :shudders:
posted by bim at 11:23 AM on June 25, 2006


A book that helped me partially understand what led up to the holocaust and how the Jews and others were collectively scapegoated is Soul Murder by Morton Schatzman.

There were child-rearing pamphlets by Moritz Schreber, which had a great impact on Germany and Europe that that time: "Germans were already known for their unusually harsh parenting practices, but these practices became far harsher under the influence of such pedagogues as Dr Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber, whose tracts flooded the region during the mid-nineteenth century. A strict authoritarian, Schreber taught parents to break their children's spirits immediately after birth. For example, he instructed them to physically punish babies for crying, assuring parents that "such a procedure is only necessary once, or at most twice, and then one is the master of the child for all time. From then on, one look, one single threatening gesture will suffice to subjugate the child."

"Germans refused to even acknowledge, much less examine, their emotional injuries. Thus, they were probably unaware of the ethical significance of their actions; the cultural machinery of the Holocaust arranged itself on a largely unconscious level. Just as a simple algorithm generates the infinitely complex patterns of the Mandlebrot Set, the unrecognized and unarticulated psychological pain of the German people generated the intricate preconditions necessary for the creation of the death camps. "

Poisonous pedagogy's impact on Germans at that time.

I can only imagine that the vicious and awful anti-Semitism that took place after the war was partly because of 'identifying with the abuser' and becoming contaminated.

posted by nickyskye at 11:24 AM on June 25, 2006


Anti-Semitism. Wah, wah, wah. If you think the Poles are anti-semitic, ask one what he thinks of a Russian.

The fact of the matter is that in the 1930s many Jews in Poland - particularly the intelligensia in Warsaw - supported the Bolsheviks and welcomed the Russian invasion of Poland.


Is that a fucking joke? Are you actually claiming that the politics of some Jews in some way justified antisemitism, and continues to justify it? You are aware of what happened to Jews in Poland during the Holocaust are you not?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:38 AM on June 25, 2006


Absolutely right, bim, except for your claim about prestige. In Poland the Church has prestige to burn, however undeserved that may be. I suppose I should have tried to convey the bleakness of any hope that the Church would do such a thing, but I just was not equal to the task.

Matteo, that's the best and most wonderfully ambiguous joke about the Church I have ever seen.
posted by jamjam at 11:38 AM on June 25, 2006


matteo, fascinating post, wonderful links (especially the WaPo article), and a joke that made me titter.

However, I'm ashamed to admit that while I knew of the trauma that occured at Jedwabne, Kielce is a massacre that I had never heard of.

From your links, this was the most representative for me of the tragedy within Poland:

On Jedwabne: >>One of the first questions the Poles asked the Nazis, their new rulers, was if it was permitted to kill the Jews. [...] ...the Nazis tried to persuade the Poles to keep at least one Jewish family from each profession, but the Poles responded, "We have enough of our own craftsmen, we have to destroy all the Jews, none should stay alive."

It is with great irony that after the immediate genocide of the holocaust (one article said something about being on the cusp of 'waking from the nightmare'), it was the *Nazi party* that apparently was a lone voice of reason in the madness (unheeded, nonetheless)...

Mutant, thanks for posting your images and your stories of Warsaw. My mother's family is from Warsaw, but the ones who survived the holocaust (none, actually) ...only my grandparents, who had immigrated via ellis island in the mid-1920s. It is stories such as yours that make us extremely reticent to return to Poland to explore our geneology.

On preview: Astro Zombie, ignore the wheezing fart emanating from three blind mice. typical, trite, and antisocial gibberish.
posted by naxosaxur at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2006


From now on, I am calling Dr James Dobson by his new name Dr Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber Dobson.
posted by nlindstrom at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Will do. It's just so shocking that someone might actually pop into a thread, minimize and defend antisemitism, and think they should be allowed to participate in reasoned conversation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2006


For my sake, and the sake of the other 38384, three blind mice, I do most earnestly hope the last line of your post is not true.

And it's the only post I have ever flagged, or even considered flagging.
posted by jamjam at 11:51 AM on June 25, 2006


Let it go guys, tbm's post reeks of adolescent sulkiness and we all know the worst way to handle that is to give it any energy or attention.

Don't let this discussion disolve into a flame war please...
posted by Raichle at 11:56 AM on June 25, 2006


In school I was an assistant for Prof. Lillian Kremer on this book and in the process found out all a great deal about the particular venom of Poles toward Jews, not least from her personal experience and extinguished family tree. Centuries of hate piled on top of one another created the horror of Jedwabne, and simple greed; Raichle's father's experience is far from uncommon. Many besides him who survived the horrors of the war were killed outright by Poles when they tried to reclaim their stolen property.

Thank you, Matteo, for this wonderful post and especially to Mutant for enriching it so deeply.
posted by melissa may at 11:57 AM on June 25, 2006


Is that a fucking joke? Are you actually claiming that the politics of some Jews in some way justified antisemitism, and continues to justify it? You are aware of what happened to Jews in Poland during the Holocaust are you not?

Where did I say it was justified?

Are you aware of what happened to all the Poles in Poland during the Soviet invasion? The Jews are not the only ones who suffered horribly during - and after - the war.

Revisionist history and denial about Jewish sympathy for and support of Soviet Bolshevism doesn't serve the memory of what happened very well either.
posted by three blind mice at 11:58 AM on June 25, 2006


Go away.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:00 PM on June 25, 2006


We're talking about the Poland of the past through the Poland of the present, and also about its present reactions to elements of its own past. We should acknowledge that's a pretty tough thing to do, intellectually, and it's easy to rush to judgement. I'm half-Polish, and proud of it. Let's not judge a whole country and culture by the worst things its done, or by the best.

There are two strands here: first, whether there is more anti-semitism in Poland than elsewhere. I'd say there is certainly more anti-semitism than in Western Europe, but I have hope that that is changing for the better. The second thing is, why do the Poles in Warsaw not care about the Holocaust? Now I don't know which people Mutant has been talking to, of course, but the State certainly cares: there are a large number of Holocaust memorials in Warsaw, including a preserved stretch of Ghetto wall.

On the anti-semitism of the Poles, I'd say the real hard-line anti-semites in Poland are like the real hard-line rednecks in the Southern US - poor and uneducated people, whose view of the world is very unsophisticated and about a hundred years behind the times. But casual anti-semitism seems to me more widespread and accepted in Poland than casual racism in the US (or UK). This is obviously a very bad thing, but at the same time, I think that it will retreat (and is retreating) as Poland emerges as a modern European nation. If you look at the spread of the vote for Law & Justice, LPR and Samoobrona (the unsavoury governing coalition), it's vastly skewed towards the poorer rural areas of the east. The centre-right vote in the modern parts of the country went to PO (Civic Platform) a much more normal party. I have hope.

On Warsaw, Mutant's post might be taken to mean that there are no memorials to the Holocaust in Warsaw (I don't mean that was his intention). In fact, there are a fair few. There is a memorial to the Ghetto uprising, and the embarkation point (the platform from which people were loaded) is preserved as a memorial. There is also a Path of Remembrance, the preserved Command Bunker, a memorial to Shmuel Zygielbojm, and of course that a bit of Ghetto wall. A museum of Jewish life in Poland will open in 2008.

Two other facts to toss into the discussion: Communist governments (in Russia, Poland and elsewhere) tended to see WWII as a great victory against Fascism, rather than anything to do with the Holocaust, and it tended to be treated that way in schools and the press. That has meant discussion of and acknowledgement of the Holocaust in Poland is some way behind the West.

Second, on a similar point, there is a tendency, when looking from the west, to underestimate the severity of conditions in the East. France (where it was entirely possible to live a comfortable life under occupation, at least as a gentile) lost 267,000 civilians out of a population of 41m. Poland (a country entirely populated, according to the Nazis, by untermenschen of various types) lost 2.2m civilian gentiles and 3m civilian Jews out of a population of 38m. The Jewish deaths in the East were, of course, very different in nature and intent from the deaths of gentiles, but the scale of suffering across the country - and the fact that the Jews who were exterminated were also Poles - means that some Poles see WWII in their country as much as a Polish tragedy as Jewish one.
posted by athenian at 12:01 PM on June 25, 2006


go away

Just to be clear Astro Zombie, do you deny that there existed among many Poland Jews support for the Bolsheviks as well as the Soviet invasion of Poland as a historical fact?

Or is it just someone pointing it in a thread about Polish anti-semitism out that offends you?
posted by three blind mice at 12:09 PM on June 25, 2006


I applaud you athenian for a well very thought out and informative response.

I agree that true racists, and anti-semites are the same type of people regardless of their cultural or geographical location.

But, I guess what we are looking at is the casualness with which this anti-semitism is still being treated in Poland... and perhaps you are correct that this will dissipate with the modernization of Poland. We can only hope as I would like to be able to celebrate my Polish heritage instead of mourn it.
posted by Raichle at 12:09 PM on June 25, 2006


Or is it just someone pointing it out (in a thread about Polish anti-semitism) that offends you?

*must preview more often*
posted by three blind mice at 12:11 PM on June 25, 2006


Fuck you Astro Zombie, three blind mice wasn't saying anything unreasonable or debate-poisoning.

We find racist people offensive, racist people find some particular group of people offensive. We have reasons for not liking racism, and naturally have the moral high ground, but they have reasons (however flawed) for being racist. Investigating their reasoning is not racist, and repudiating people for doing so in a sane manner is just stupid.
posted by blasdelf at 12:30 PM on June 25, 2006


do you deny that there existed among many Poland Jews support for the Bolsheviks as well as the Soviet invasion of Poland as a historical fact?

that's hardly an excuse for what was done ... in fact, it's the same damn reasoning hitler used in his rhetoric against the jews

shut up
posted by pyramid termite at 12:30 PM on June 25, 2006


three blind mice: Historical context is welcome, "Anti-Semitism. Wah, wah, wah," not so much.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:39 PM on June 25, 2006


This is an amazing post, thank you matteo.

I'm quite saddened to see that the discussion has degenerated into hateful comments about Polish Jews (re: support of Bolshevism - what does it matter? Can you prove that every single Jew in Poland supported the Bolsheviks? Even if they did, who cares? What was done to them was unspeakably horrible and there's nothing imaginable in the whole world that can justify it).

Anyhow, thankyou matteo for the post and Mutant for the follow-up.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2006


Interesting post. Heda Kovaly wrote of her similar experience as a Jewish concentration camp survivor returning to Prague, and how the shame of her former friends and neighbors and fellow Czechs at having aided and acquiesced in the Nazi's attempt to destroy the European Jews translated into yet another form of anti-Semitism.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:51 PM on June 25, 2006


Metafilter: Go away. Shut up.
posted by kaemaril at 12:55 PM on June 25, 2006


that's hardly an excuse for what was done ... in fact, it's the same damn reasoning hitler used in his rhetoric against the jews

Shut up. I've flagged this post, etc. etc. etc.

C'mon people. If you want to UNDERSTAND - not EXCUSE - Polish anti-semitism you should have the courage to consider the whole of the story. Shouting down someone who suggests the consideration of an uncomfortable truth means that you do not want your orthodoxy challenged.

Carry on.
posted by three blind mice at 12:59 PM on June 25, 2006


do you deny that there existed among many Poland Jews support for the Bolsheviks as well as the Soviet invasion of Poland as a historical fact?

If you're going to vomit the antisemitic propaganda of the period on this thread as if it were fact, you'd better be prepared to prove the assertion; the burden isn't on others to disprove it. And even if you do show that some urban twentysomething cafe intellectuals (1930s hipsters, basically, complete with pretentious attitudes and a sophomoric way of toying with radical ideas) spoke up on behalf of communism, what does that prove? Oh, wait, you said:

One is sometimes judged by the company one keeps.

In that case, please excuse me from your company.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:04 PM on June 25, 2006


What exactly is there to UNDERSTAND about anti-semitism? People have found bullshit "reasons" to hate the Jews for thousands of years and in the case of the Shoah, managed to stretch these "reasons" into justification for genocide.

Historical context is important, yes, but what you're implying is that people don't want to face up to the facts that the Jews were somehow deserving of what happened. No one is deserving of the fate of the Polish Jews during WWII. No. one.

Uncomfortable truths aside, it wouldn't hurt you to have a little respect for the innocent dead.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:07 PM on June 25, 2006


Wait, I thought Jewish support of bolshevism in Europe was actually well established. Is merely mentioning that anti-Semetic? It sure is nice to be able to clap your hands over your ears and scream 'anti-Semite' whenever you hear something you don't like! I have noticed that this is common here on MeFi when any discussion about Jewish topics or Israel takes place. If you call somebody an anti-Semite does that automatically invalidate their points and render the information untruthful? Seems to be the object sometimes. People who engage in such tactics should be ashamed of themselves.

Turn that Spigogott of BS off.
posted by Sukiari at 1:18 PM on June 25, 2006


The worst is when people claim anyone who dosn't support strong zionism is an anti-semite.
posted by delmoi at 1:19 PM on June 25, 2006


Sukiari: What does it matter what the political affiliations of any of the Polish Jews was if they were rounded up and systematically killed? I'm not saying that it's anti-semitic to point out that some Jews supported the Bolshevik regime, I'm saying it's completely irrelevant.

Such arguments have been used by anti-semities as justification for their hate. As a Jew descended from grandparents who narrowly escaped the Shoah, I'm very wary of anyone who tries provide "uncomfortable facts" that reflect poorly on the Jews.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:27 PM on June 25, 2006


If you want to UNDERSTAND - not EXCUSE - Polish anti-semitism you should have the courage to consider the whole of the story.

there were polish anti-semites long before there was any such thing as bolshevism ... and, as some comments on this thread have pointed out, after ...

simple truth is they'd have just made up another reason to hate them ... that's the real context and the "whole of the story"
posted by pyramid termite at 1:28 PM on June 25, 2006


[Just realized that the last comment I responded to wasn't directed towards me. Ooops. Carry on, and I apologize for my overzealousness.]
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:30 PM on June 25, 2006


Anti-Semitism long predates any Jewish support for Bolshevism. It's a convenient excuse for hatred though, no? Haters always try to justify their hate somehow, when it's really just dislike of people who are different.
posted by caddis at 1:38 PM on June 25, 2006


Information about the Polish Soviet conflict in World War l. More complexly in World War ll.

Pursuing Truth, Seeking Moral Justice
"Simon Wiesenthal understood that when it comes to heinous acts, only the apology, not the absolution, is morally obligatory".


An interesting site discussing on of the topics in this thread: On October 22, 1995 TYGODNIK POWSZECHNY, a leading Catholic weekly in Cracow, published an article by its deputy editor-in-chief entitled "Clear Choices and Dark Reasons." The article's last chapter - subtitled "The Jews" - provoked a controversy.
It is worth noting that this magazine had initiated an important discussion about Polish anti-semitism, publishing in 1986 a famous article, "A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto."


Poland seeks Auschwitz renaming and an angry blog entry discussing this.
posted by nickyskye at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2006


Three blind mice. Goddamn it. God fucking damn it.

I'm a grandchild of Polish holocaust survivors. And you know what? My Jewish grandfather served in the Polish army in WWII.

His unit was transferred to Eastern Poland following the Soviet invasion. After a week of fighting and finding themselves unable to receive supplies, they were taken prisoner by the Soviets.

Instead of being killed, he found himself on a train to Soviet Central Asia. From 1940-5 he was in a prison camp near the Iranian border, breaking rocks while watching himself and his fellow POWs slowly starve to death.

After 1945 he was repatriated to his home village, which was in the eastern regions annexed by the Soviets after the war. Not wanting to live under a Communist government after the past five years, he decided to risk it and flee west to British-occupied Germany. Following the war, he eventually made his way to Israel and then America to reunite with the remaining members of his family - 10 survived out of an extended family of more than 250.

Don't even dare bring up that old lie of Jewish Poles welcoming the Soviet invasion. Believe me - They knew what Stalin was about. And they had no love for him either. To claim otherwise is... disgusting. Immoral. And a lot of other things.

athenian - great post btw.
posted by huskerdont at 2:10 PM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


With twenty-twenty hindsight it is obvious any rational Pole, Jewish or Catholic would have preferred the Russians coming in given the alternative was the Germans. So even if that were a motive (I highly doubt that), it isn't a motive. It's bullshit.
posted by bukvich at 2:30 PM on June 25, 2006


discussing on of the
oops, meant "discussing one of the"

And thank you for the posts matteo, Mutant and athenian.
posted by nickyskye at 2:31 PM on June 25, 2006


To claim otherwise is... disgusting. Immoral. And a lot of other things.

well, 3bm's argument is, as scholarship, debunked. it's simply not true. it's a lie, and to pretend otherwise means

a) he's not informed
b) he has other reasons to repeat that lie

morally, it's also a very disturbing argument -- it's the same revisionist distraction Holocaust deniers use all the time. because three blind mice, out of ignorance or of simple bad faith, ignores two millenia of antisemitism (in the Middle Ages was it all about anti-communism, too, just a tiny bit ahead of the times?) accusing us of, of all things, following "orthodoxy" (define orthodoxy -- see, the fact that the Shoah really happened is orthodoxy, too). tbm with his anti-Bolshevik crap is putting himself on the same level of those who argue that the Dixiecrats in the 1960's were really fighting against communist infiltration in the civil rights movement, not against desegregation

the scholarship on Poland and the Shoah does not support your theory, tbm. on the other hand, revisionist propaganda does use that straw man all the time.

now, am I arguing tbm is a Holocaust denier? I don't know, and I couldn't care less. his debunked arguments, on the other hand, are the same as the deniers'.

the company one keeps, etc
posted by matteo at 2:43 PM on June 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


For those who are claiming that the Jews welcomed the Soviets and that this contributed to the monstrous Polish anti-semitism — well, why not provide some supplementary links? If this is true you should be able to find lots of support on the net, if not the search will be educational, and the links could perhaps help us understand what happened in Poland.

I don't believe anti-semitism is ever more than making a scapegoat of a people that are guilty of nothing but being a distinct society, but if you think otherwise let's see what you've got to back it up.
posted by orange swan at 2:46 PM on June 25, 2006


I'm very wary of anyone who tries provide "uncomfortable facts" that reflect poorly on the Jews.

There you have it. Game, set, and match. Anyone who says anything the reflects "poorly" on anything the Jews do or have done is someone to be wary of.

well, 3bm's argument is, as scholarship, debunked. it's simply not true. it's a lie, and to pretend otherwise means

Thus matteo who in the best traditions of Metafilter offers not one shred of argument other than to say "not true." Debunked because well, it's debunked, simply not true.

Jewish support for Bolshevism in the 1930's is well-established fact and I am a bit surprised at the deniers of
Jewish bolshevism in this thread. Or is it now "history" that Marx and Trotsky were goyim?
posted by three blind mice at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2006


I was unaware Marx and Trotsky were Polish.
posted by PenDevil at 3:24 PM on June 25, 2006


An Amazing discussion, I would love to join in, but I just got back home to Budapest from a research trip to Romania two hours ago. I'll post tommorow.

huskerdont: I've heard the same thing.

But in Budapest, the only remaining plaque to the Soviet Army is on the site of the old Ghetto walls in the 7th district - all others have been taken away to the museum of communist monuments. And quite honestly, Jews in Budapest (there are about 70,000 of them) tend to consider the Russians as liberators.

The Hungarian nationalists use this as evidence that the Jews are not worthy of being acceptable as members of the body of the Hungarian people.

Eastern Euopre. I live here. There are good people, and there are worthless shits, like anywhere. Some days the worthless shits get out of hand.... and get elected to public service.
posted by zaelic at 3:34 PM on June 25, 2006


three blind mice, having trouble finding a cite - I got one for you. Are these your kind of guys?
posted by caddis at 3:41 PM on June 25, 2006


It's a bit bizarre that people in this thread are seeking to justify anti-semitism as if it were something rational. By definition, any sentiment for or against a whole race has to be irrational. I, for instance, am irrationally fond of the Dutch, being in no way related to any of them, or having spent more than a few weeks in Holland all told. In any case, Polish anti-semitism didn't start on 17 September 1939, or in 1917. It was a deep-rooted historical phenomenon, and at least during Poland's periods of greatness, counteracted by a sense of religious tolerance.

Raichle: You said I would like to be able to celebrate my Polish heritage instead of mourn it.

I know what you mean. Both my national backgrounds, English and Polish, have things in their history that make me cringe. However, my view is that we should "love the sinner, hate the sin". Though I condemn and mourn for the bad things that Poles have done, and even that Poland as a state has done, there are always great and worthy things to rejoice in. I'm particularly fond of Solidarność and (less remembered) the Constitution of 3rd May.

Can't say much for the football team, though. (sigh)
posted by athenian at 3:54 PM on June 25, 2006


I myself have only just now returned from Solvay to my home in the UK from a weeklong conference on quantum ontology and mind-matter synthesis. This topic is quite interesting to me as I was staying with a nice university couple a few blocks from the ghetto wall.

Heda Kovaly was a relative to the wife of my friend, and showed me the journals that have survived. Pretty frightening, all. As to the pogroms, one has to ask just why it is that these have been enacted since at least the time of the crusades, if not before. Why do the people of this planet hate God's chosen ones so much as to wipe them off the face of this earth? This is undoubtedly the essence of the struggle between Good and Evil: The Chosen Ones vs. the World.
posted by sluglicker at 4:12 PM on June 25, 2006



Fuck you Astro Zombie, three blind mice wasn't saying anything unreasonable or debate-poisoning.


Um, fuck you right back?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:20 PM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


C'mon people. If you want to UNDERSTAND - not EXCUSE - Polish anti-semitism you should have the courage to consider the whole of the story. Shouting down someone who suggests the consideration of an uncomfortable truth means that you do not want your orthodoxy challenged.

I am certainly no expert on the topic, and I don't know how widespread any support for Bolshevism was among Polish Jews, but it would seem to me that this support would be a reaction to, rather than a cause of, existing antisemitism among the Poles, in the same way that Paul Robeson's support of the USSR was a reaction to the existing state of race relations in the US and a belief that communism was more progressive when it came to race equity.

But in any case, Jewish support for Bolshevism can provide no explanation for, say, Bogdan Chmielnicki, unless time travel is possible.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:24 PM on June 25, 2006


Can we get off the topic of how Jews somehow contributed to their own Holocaust? If that's not a derail from the actual FPP, I don't know what is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:34 PM on June 25, 2006


When my father went back to Sokolov in 2004 to see where his family had lived, he was chased by a farmer with a pitchfork who thought he was trying to reclaim stolen land.

I know of two other people who have gotten the same reaction from Polish peasants. One was a Jew who survived Birkenau and went to visit his village many years later, and the other was my (non-Jewish German) uncle, who went back to the town of his birth in East Prussia. It really underscores the extent to which fear (of losing land in these cases) drives hate.

in Budapest, the only remaining plaque to the Soviet Army is on the site of the old Ghetto walls in the 7th district - all others have been taken away to the museum of communist monuments.

So basically, there are more plaques and monuments to the Soviet Army in Berlin than there are in Budapest. Ah, the irony!
posted by Slothrup at 5:39 PM on June 25, 2006


I'm very wary of anyone who tries provide "uncomfortable facts" that reflect poorly on the Jews.

There you have it. Game, set, and match. Anyone who says anything the reflects "poorly" on anything the Jews do or have done is someone to be wary of.


Twist it however you like to suit your purposes since you clearly want to paint me as a zealot.

However, what I meant, for anyone who cares to listen:

I'm not going to lightly judge anyone as an anti-semite unless that person does or says something truly heinous, however, I am wary and slightly uneasy when I hear remarks such as "Well, the Jews had their ties to Bolshevism..." that are little more than blanket statements that have been used BY anti-semites in the past to do great harm to the Jews. There are only two reasons to say something like this, either #1) the speaker doesn't understand the weight of their statement or #2) the speaker has anti-semitic beliefs. I would like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, which is why I said merely that I am wary, and not that I believe that anyone who speaks ill of the Jews is an anti-semite.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:52 PM on June 25, 2006


Agreed, but tbm is on my shitlist right now. Other than that funky post about the Austrian laws before I never really noticed anything, but I'm, watching your potentially anti-Semitic ass tbm.
posted by caddis at 6:25 PM on June 25, 2006


Who gives a shit if "some" Polish Jews were soft on the Red Menace. Even if it was true, it's completely irrelevant to Poles murdering their Jewish neighbors and stealing their land.

It's murderers looking to camouflage their motive, that's all. Simply "killing someone for their stuff" doesn't have the same fiery emotional appeal, shouted out before the rabble.

As clearly proven in the linkage, people with a motive will grasp any excuse to whip up a crowd - butchering babies, using purloined blood to make matzoh, controlling the international banking system, bringing the glorious Fatherland to its knees at Versailles ... oh and not to mention the last brisket sandwich you sold me was a little on the fatty side.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:25 PM on June 25, 2006


tbm: wait, political disagreements can be considered a mitigating factor in wholesale murder?

If so, cool -- because I've got a lot of disagreein' in me.
posted by aramaic at 8:00 PM on June 25, 2006


Late to the party, I guess.

"With twenty-twenty hindsight it is obvious any rational Pole, Jewish or Catholic would have preferred the Russians coming in given the alternative was the Germans. So even if that were a motive (I highly doubt that), it isn't a motive. It's bullshit."

The alternative *wasn't* the Germans. Has no one here even heard of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a 1939 agreement between Germany and the USSR to divide & occupy Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania? The choice between Germany & Russia was never offered, and previous Russian domination of eastern Poland (ending with WWI) was a known evil.

It's easy to be an armchair historian passing judgement from 60 years later, but the history of that area is substantially more complicated than this thread lets on. "Evil Poles" doesn't cover the half of it, and absolutely ignores the competitive, divisive, intentionally-disruptive propaganda of the Germans and Soviets who used racial & ethnic differences as a convenient point of leverage. It's depressing to see that the old propaganda still gets trotted out from time to time.

"I'm watching your potentially anti-Semitic ass tbm."

Watching for thoughtcrime? Fuck this.
posted by migurski at 8:57 PM on June 25, 2006


Watching for thoughtcrime? Fuck this.

So, what, you celebrate anti-Semitic thought?
posted by caddis at 9:02 PM on June 25, 2006


Yes caddis, anyone who disagrees with you evar hates Jews.

I wish tbm had tried to present his view less belligerently. But to start telling somone--anyone--to shut up! shut up! shut up! reminds me of what it must have been like dealing with the Gestapo on a daily basis.

I agree that the Poles (and the Germans, and the Japanese, and the French, and many others) still have a lot of thinking and, to use a phrase I abhor, "soul searching" regarding the Holocaust to do. But there are moments in this thread where I get the impression that the only thing that would make some people happy is to bulldoze Warsaw and turn it into some sort of memorial theme park.

I haven't lived there, but while there are huge differences, I have lived in Japan--there are decent, open-minded people trying to understand what went horribly, horribly wrong (treatment of the Chinese, treatment of the Koreans, etc., much of which still exists to this day in less direct forms), and yeah, there are lot of asshats who just can't be bothered, and outright bigots as well. Passion is not a crime in itself, but to get so overheated as to deny any attempt to at least understand motivations (primarily economic ones, IMO, that were twisted by those in power into racial concerns) is not to justify atrocious, homicidal behavior. Because hate is an unfortunately universal impulse. But it does have causes, and they're worth examining in any given context.

Pick your fights. A lot of people are just as happy to move on with their lives and never pay attention to things they should when people start becoming what they claim to hate. I appreciate some of the fine, thoughtful comments, especially those based on personal or familial experience, and hope there are more of them. The only thing that "wins" in a shouting match, however, is further ignorance.
posted by bardic at 9:39 PM on June 25, 2006


This has been a thoroughly engrossing discussion... despite the "rationalization" of the most base of human instincts.

Last night I watched The Pianist for the second time. What happened in Warsaw makes my mind ache.

Now all we can do is remember the collective crimes of our past, and do our very best to avoid repeating them.

Darfur tells us that we have light years to go.

... and as to thoughtcrime... some say that it is the thought that counts... the question we all need to ask is who will be doing the counting.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 9:52 PM on June 25, 2006


bardic, do you really think a comparison with the gestapo belongs in a call for reasoned and moderate speech? It's like making the "settle down" gesture with one hand while fanning flames with the other.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:55 PM on June 25, 2006


One other nit to pick before bed:

Can we get off the topic of how Jews somehow contributed to their own Holocaust?

The belief that the history of the Holocaust belongs solely to the Jews is something I find deeply offensive. I'm not unbiased (note "-ski" at the end of my name), but I think that the framing of WWII history as a "Jewish thing" is pretty offensive to Poles, who suffered a half-century of protracted insanity along with everyone else in Central Europe. This kind of broad-brushed painting is also at work in the FPP, which implies that the events in Jedwabne in Kielce are the fault of "The Poles". In fact, I'll even go so far as to say this kind of logic, which casts entire peoples as resolute actors on the grand stage of history, is the same sort of reductionist B.S. propaganda that led to the Holocaust in the first place.

Why does Warsaw not live in a constant state of hushed reverence among endless Holocaust memorials? Probably because the residents of Warsaw want the same thing they wanted pre-September 1939: a regular, peaceful city to live in.
posted by migurski at 10:07 PM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


I offered an analogy. I didn't tell anyone to shut up or go away or make veiled threats.

My sense is that the people who matter most in a debate like this, or over ones concerning the Japanese slaughter of their neighbors, or of South African atrocities commited against blacks under Apartheid, what have you, are those who would benefit from reading and discussing the actual history of these events that they probably know very little about. Frankly, they'll never have a reason to do so if the debate begins along the lines of: "Why can't you get over the fact that you have always been hateful and intolerant and always will be, as a nation?"

Believe me, I wish I knew how to walk this tightrope between opening a (painful) discussion and simply ignoring the past altogether, but I'm certain as to where the discussion doesn't begin.

FWIW, I thought this FPP itself was pretty good (read the Wiesel piece before I got onto Mefi this morning, actually).
posted by bardic at 10:13 PM on June 25, 2006


Can we get off the topic of how Jews somehow contributed to their own Holocaust?

The belief that the history of the Holocaust belongs solely to the Jews is something I find deeply offensive. I'm not unbiased (note "-ski" at the end of my name), but I think that the framing of WWII history as a "Jewish thing" is pretty offensive to Poles, who suffered a half-century of protracted insanity along with everyone else in Central Europe.


In no way does my statement imply that the the Jews were the only one who suffered during World War II. But why jump into a thread about the Jewish experience of World War II, which was one of genocide, and say, oh, but the Jews aren't unique at all, look at all the other people who suffered! It was bad for the Poles too!

Yes, it was bad for the Poles. But they weren't collectively rounded up, sent to camps, tattooed, and exterminated, and that difference should be respected, not minimized. If you want to talk about the Gypsy experience of WWII, or the Homosexual experience, or anyone else who was targeted for total extermination, fine, there is a point of legitimate comparison. But to get into a huff and try to include the experience of Poles under the phrase "Holocaust" is grotesquely misconceived and an injustice to history.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:36 PM on June 25, 2006


Oh, and by the way, my family is also Polish.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:37 PM on June 25, 2006


Worth noting, as a sidebar, that Poland has more people than any other nation enrolled among "the Righteous Among the Nations" (who risked their lives to save Jews) in Yad Vashem. A selection of their stories.

(#2 are the Dutch - I knew I liked them for a reason)
posted by athenian at 11:56 PM on June 25, 2006


Actually what gets up my nose is the bizarre blunt premises in tbm's initial post. No Poles were communists? Antisemitism in Poland started in the 30's? The inhabitants of Kielce wanted to get their own back on the relatives of those Warsaw intellectuals? The more you think about what he said, even on its face, the less sense it makes.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:39 AM on June 26, 2006


In case anyone who doesn't live here is getting the impression that all Poles are walking around muttering antisemitic obscenities, I thought I'd just note that I have lived in Poland a number of years and I have run into almost no antisemitism. About as much as I'd hear of racism in the US over the same time.

Mind you, I can only talk about a certain portion of the population. Everyone I know (in the US and Poland) has a university degree and a decent job and so on. I'm not talking about bitter dropouts in the unemployment line or struggling farmers on (literally) one-horse farms, where attitudes, for all I know, might be quite different. Or not. I can only talk about who I know. Also, I suppose it is possible that people here, knowing I'm an American and maybe even a Jew, don't say antisemitic things they might say in front of other Poles, who are almost never Jews, just as Americans knowing I'm a liberal -- people everywhere have a way of testing the ground before coming out with outrageous slurs -- might not talk their usual racist stuff when I'm around. I can't talk about how things would be if I weren't there to listen.

I do know just one outright, unashamed antisemite here, a guy about 60 years old, not uneducated but not successful. He needs a good kick in the nuts (and would get one if I were not constrained by various things, including the fact that I just don't go around kicking 60-year-old men in the nuts). The rest of the people I've known here have always been cool.

Here is something fairly interesting: "Poland's new fascination with Jews"
[...] I caught part of the festival's closing concert, a kind of Jewish Woodstock that grows bigger every year. In the heart of what used to be Krakow's Jewish quarter, before an outdoor stage dominated by a giant electric menorah, 10,000 exuberant Poles swayed, cheered, and sang along as dozens of Jewish artists performed. The concert lasted for seven hours and was broadcast live on TV. In a country with no more than a wisp of Jewish life, where does such an appetite for things Jewish come from? [...]
This year's festival: Program of the 2006 Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow July 1-9 . More info here. It's not too late to arrange a visit.
posted by pracowity at 3:28 AM on June 26, 2006


I used to chaff people by asking whether, if europeans had accomplished their holocaust as thoroughly under a triumphant German leadership as we in the USA have ours, they would be sending their children to camp Jude to learn to dance the Hora, the way we send ours to camp Hiawatha. Events have shut my mouth.
posted by jamjam at 8:58 AM on June 26, 2006


Let me just add in here that I don't blame Poles in general for the destruction of Polish Jewry, the same way I don't hold Germans in general (even Germans from the era) to be responsible for the Holocaust. One of the great tragedies of World War II was that the Nazis not only systematically destroyed Jews and others they viewed as undesirable, but also waged an internal war against elements of German culture that they opposed. In doing so, the Nazis managed to destroy much of Germany, and, as the war progressed, much of Europe. Berlin had been a center of European progressivism and was an artistic capitol prior to the Nazis, and they destroyed that with the same ferocity they used to destroy the Jews.

The war was nothing but tragedy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:26 AM on June 26, 2006


I find it ironic that Jews in Europe were villified for being rich and grasping on the one hand and for supporting bolshevism on the other.

TBM, pogroms against Jews (if under another name) had been a recurring phenomenon in Poland centuries before Marx put pen to paper.

They were hated for being different, full stop.
posted by dyaseen at 10:08 AM on June 26, 2006


Jewish support for Bolshevism in the 1930's is well-established fact

You should have no problem finding supporting links for that then. Let's see them.
posted by orange swan at 12:35 PM on June 26, 2006


It's true, every single Jew in Poland supported Bolshevism, whereas there wasn't a single non-Jewish Pole who did, therefore the Jews collectively raised Polish animosity.

They also collectively killed Jesus. This too is a well-established fact.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:41 PM on June 26, 2006


Since three blind mice hasn't seen fit to provide references, I did some searching. The Country Studies book on Poland doesn't mention Jewish support for the Soviet Union in the chapter on the interwar period. Nor does the Wikipedia article on the history of the Jews in Poland.

The article on Kielce in matteo's original post does mention in passing: An additional psychological factor that should be mentioned is the Poles' memory of the behavior of some Jews on the Polish territories seized by the Soviet Union in September 1939.

I found a book dealing with postwar violence against Jews in Poland: After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II, by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. Review, response.

I'd never heard of Chodakiewicz, but there's a blurb by Kenneth W. Thompson, a well-respected political scientist at the same university: Dr. Chodakiewicz brings clarity to an enormously complex moral and political problem that has cried out for this kind of rigorous analysis. So he appears to be a reputable historian.

Amazon book description:
Conventional wisdom holds that Jews killed in Poland immediately after World War II were victims of ubiquitous Polish anti-Semitism. This book traces the roots of Polish-Jewish conflict after the war, demonstrating that it was a two-sided phenomenon and not simply an extension of the Holocaust. The author argues that violence developed after the Soviet takeover of Poland amid postwar retribution and counter-retribution and was exacerbated by the breakdown of law and order and a raging Polish anti-Communist insurgency. Meanwhile, Jewish Communists fought to establish a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist regime. Some Jewish avengers endeavored to extract justice from Poles who allegedly harmed Jews during the War and in some cases Jews attempted to reclaim property confiscated by the Nazis. These phenomena reinforced the stereotype of zydokomuna, a Jewish-Communist conspiracy, and Poles reacted with violence.
From the review:
He cites three reasons that Poles killed Jews: resistance to Jewish communists, to Jews determined to execute Poles who had collaborated with the Nazis, and to Jews attempting to reclaim property expropriated by Nazis and since claimed by Poles. ...

Chodakiewicz cites ample evidence to support claims about the Communist occupation that have been recorded in other works. The postwar Communist government of Soviet-occupied Poland did demonize and persecute the heroic Poles who had fought against the Nazis during the war. These Poles, including rescuers of Jews, faced often fabricated charges of antisemitism. This was one way to discredit Poland in the West and lend legitimacy to the Communist takeover. Anti-Nazi heroes were hounded, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. Similarly, the author provides ample evidence to support what has been acknowledged elsewhere but remains a contested factor of postwar Polish life. Jews were disproportionately represented in the Communist power structure, including among those actively torturing Poles.
From the response:
Chodakiewicz does not deny the existence of anti-Semitism in Polish society nor in the Polish anti-Communist resistance as the reviewer suggests throughout the review. To the contrary, he provides many examples and shows in some detail how the Polish resistance often erroneously attributed the actions and opinions of Jewish Communists to the Jewish community as a whole. However, he rejects the dominant paradigm that all Polish actions and all Jewish deaths were caused by this single factor.
From an Amazon review:
Chodakiewicz cites a number of documents (pp. 42-43) that prove the fact that Jews, at 1% of Poland's postwar population, represented upwards of 50% of leadership positions in the dreaded Communist secret police, a force responsible for torturing and murdering tens of thousands of Poles. Jews were also strongly over represented in its lower levels, though not to as extreme an extent. While there was no grand Jewish-Communist conspiracy as such, it is difficult to imagine how the existing situation could have failed to inflame Polish-Jewish relations. ...

The cited testimony of Jan Dawid Landau (p. 77) is instructive in understanding how Stalin recruited Polish Jews to do the dirty work for him (also facilitating the tarring of independentists with the label of anti-Semitism once they fought back). Landau was told by a UB (Communist secret police) officer that he now had the opportunity to take revenge for everything he had suffered from the Polish people. This illustrates the typical left-wing technique of stirring up resentments ("victim consciousness") of one group against another.
posted by russilwvong at 1:34 PM on June 26, 2006


Thank you, russilwvong. The idea that any action by Jewish Poles somehow rationalizes any of the violent actions taken against them is ridiculous - I can think of no reason an entire community should be attacked or even murdered no matter what the actions of some individuals were. Should the hardships that the Polish people went through as a result of the Soviets be remembered? Of course. But nothing can excuse those actions, just as nothing can excuse the brutality at Kielce and Jedwabne.

Pointing fingers and questioning flimsy, ill thought-out motivations will get you nowhere. These atrocities happened, and while it's worth remembering the motivations, nothing can excuse what happened. One is sometimes judged by the company one keeps? That was the match that lit the fire.
posted by mikeh at 2:00 PM on June 26, 2006


Thank you, russilwvong. Facts are always useful in these discussions.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:01 PM on June 26, 2006


"The Holocaust is ultimately a ghost story, and Poles have many reasons to be haunted."

It's interesting that you chose that as a title for your post, since it is primarily about a new book which details the Kielce pogrom after the fall of Nazism. I ask this for simple understanding, when is the Holocaust considered to have ended?

Unrelated to the last question: why should Poles, in general, be haunted? I was born in the 80's in a town many kilometers from this atrocity, years after the war. The construction of this post places Poles on the defensive, and makes it difficult to respond in any way constructively. You're putting me into a group I don't belong to.

The biggest impression I'm left with this post is that it attempts to place the blame of the Holocaust on the Poles. Factually, how many Jews were killed by the Poles, and how many by the Germans? Then how can someone come up with this:

The annihilation of Polish Jewry resulted in the immediate upward social mobility of Polish Christians....They emerged from the Holocaust as a nouveau middle-class, a post-atrocity artifact of spoliation and unjust enrichment. And they weren't about to return either their ill-gotten gains or their newfound status. Nor did they wish to be reminded of what they had done. And the best way to avoid discomfort was to not have to look into the eyes of the neighbors they once betrayed.

It makes it look like the Poles committed the Holocaust against the Jews. When the Germans came back to Poland to try to get back their land, which was taken by Poles after they were kicked out of Lithuania and Ukraine and moved to parts of Poland being vacated by the fleeing Germans, the Poles didn't give up their land then either. Did someone expect the people living in their homes to move out for someone else, especially as they were also victims of the war? As if these peasants, their relatives killed by bombing, or by being sent to Siberia or to a camp like Auschwitz, were truly happy at their newly found position under Soviet-controlled Poland.
posted by romanb at 2:12 PM on June 26, 2006


This is an e-mail I received from a Polish friend, who is unable to post:

"Mutant, you seem to know little about Polish history. If you want to know what happened in Warsaw at that time I recommend the movie The Pianist by Polanski (he’s Jewish) or The Canal by Wajda. A year after the tragical Warsaw Ghetto Uprising there was a Warsaw Uprising proving to be just as tragical and eventually Warsaw was raised to the sole. You make a big fuss about the wall once separating the Warsaw Ghetto that to your mind doesn’t get enough attention and you complain about the information sign placed too high suggesting it is done on purpose to preserve people from learning about it. But Warsaw as a city is full of reminders of the tragical plot it suffered and it is obvious for all. If you go visit the Old City, know, it has been rebuilt according to old designs out of nothing but masses of debris and blood. Go visit any church, any palace and you will see a panel with a photograph showing how it looked like 1945 (usually it’s nothing but debris). For monuments referring particularly to the Jewish Shoah see a post by athenian. But the Poles lost 3 million inhabitants, many of them died in extermination camps side by side with the Jews. The terror reign by the Nazis in WWII let Poles live under an extreme persecution and fear. They, too – men, women, children – used to be rounded up in a manhunt in order to get shot or be sent to a camp (or sometimes, if you were lucky, for forced labor to Germany or Austria). Retaliation rates were 100 Poles for one German executed by the Polish Resistance. They were not allowed to go to schools and even for possessing a radio receiver there was a death penalty. (At least this is what every Pole in my age knows from movies and history lessons and as far as my own research goes it is confirmed). If someone was hiding a Jew (and as we know more did than in any other country – 6000 Righteous among the Nations) a whole family would be killed or even a whole village exterminated.

Now let me explain you the unease and the wide smile from your college when you asked about the Kosher restaurant. Most Poles had nothing to do with peasants and other lowest elements who were killing the surviving Jews or chasing them from the villages after the night mare of the Nazi reign in order to advance socially and get hold of the Jewish possessions (please keep proportions in mind: in comparison to what Nazis just did to the Jews and to the Poles, it was a deplorable aftermath but I would argue a drop in the ocean – maybe a couple of thousands in comparison to 6 millions!) And don’t forget many Germans were brutally killed by the Poles at that time, too (so it was not an exclusively anti-Semitic phenomenon). And there was a million of Poles who had to leave their possessions in the east and millions of others who lost everything: they were now moving in into the homes left by the Germans and the Jews and would be in existential threat if they couldn’t do that (Poland is even today the poorest nation in the EU). During the communism the history lessons were virtually reduced to remembering Polish suffering hardly mentioning the nationality of those killed (this was the official communist policy). I would guess more than 95% of the Poles had nothing to do whatsoever with crimes against the Jews and they were always brought up as if they were a martyr and heroic nation (and if you look at the facts in a way it’s true!) And in the 90s (that’s time when I was in my 20s) all of a sudden you hear of accusations of complicity in the Shoah, you see on TV orthodox Jews coming in for sit-in protests against crosses in Auschwitz (Poles were simply remembering their dead) letting themselves get carried out by the police and so on. It was a shock. Even though there is huge interest for Jewish matters in Poland now (and Poland is one of the most loyal allies of Israel), now a Pole, when he hears “Kosher” or “Jewish”, feels uneasy because he doesn’t know what trouble will follow…"
posted by romanb at 3:17 PM on June 26, 2006


So everyone was right!

Sneaky*: Stalin recruited Polish Jews to do the dirty work for him (also facilitating the tarring of independentists with the label of anti-Semitism once they fought back).

That sounds like old Joe! Sociopathic political cunning.

*The word I was going to use there was 'chutzpah', but I thought some people might find that offensive for some reason. Is it?
posted by asok at 3:21 PM on June 26, 2006


Nifty read, thank you matteo
posted by Smedleyman at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2006


Yeh, I got it too and here is my reply to hiim.

As I don't want to take responsibility for posting others peoples words, my offer to sponsor him still stands...just waiting for number one to reply with howto.



From: Mutant@you-suck.com
Subject: Re: your postings on metafilter
Date: 26 June 2006 22:15:13 BDT
To: dankam@web.de

Daniel with all due respect your English apparently is not as good as you might think it is; unlike others in that thread I certainly have not passed judgement on you or your country.

I simply posted my observations, and backed them up with photographs.

If these words and pictures trouble you then I would suggest this discomfort is indicative of something deep in your soul, perhaps even ingrained in your national psyche; it's not as a result of my observations. Others were far more judgmental than I - did you email them as well?

Odds are no, as I checked the thread and nobody has posted your protests. So you emailed me. Why I might ask when I was perhaps the least judgmental in that thread?

Yes, I am a fair minded American but no, I'm not going to go about posting others responses, taking some degree of responsibility for their words. I've asked Matt who owns the site how I can go about sponsoring you for an account then you can post this yourself.

Sorry guy - I already had my own nascent opinion of the situation here in Warsaw before you mailed. I've worked all over the world and read people very well. I know what he was thinking - you weren't there, so don't even try to defend him. Of course I don't let me private opinion of his attitudes and prejudices change my interaction with him but I know what was on his mind when he asked that question.

And by the way - I was honest when I said everyday I'm here I go out of my way to pass by that wall and say a prayer for those people, your countrymen, a point I made in my post.

And you feel it's suitable to email me your rebuttal? To my rather neutral observations? Once again I ask, how else did you email?

I'm sorry, but your words, dear correspondent, only justify my suspicions and to solidify my opinion even more about the soul of this nation and the deep seated attitudes.

"Methinks Thou Protesteth Too Much.", Shakespere, Hamlet, Act Three, Scene two
posted by Mutant at 3:30 PM on June 26, 2006


"the soul of this nation" "national psyche"

I'd personally steer well clear of those kinds of phrases. They're just metaphors. Nations are abstract groupings of people, and they don't have emotions, or souls, or psyches. You certainly cannot legitimately infer anything about an individual person from your conception of their national soul, and it is a dangerous enterprise to ascribe characteristics to all members of a group based on your experience of a few. I don't think Mutant's correspondent protests too much at all. He is totally entitled to contradict your experience as a visitor to Poland with his as a Pole.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2006


Mutant, context is important, too, even if you're simply posting 'neutral observations'. As has been pointed out, there are other monuments in Warsaw to the Jewish past, including a new museum to be built. So your assertion that Poles aren't "making any fuss" about the Ghetto in Warsaw (and in this context, Jewish-Polish history) based on your observation of a wall marker isn't necessarily true.

Non-Jewish Poles died in Warsaw. Hitler's plan was to kill or deport everyone inside the city and turn it into a lake. saying a prayer everytime one passes a monument is for tourists and visitors. Would you expect to do it for 50 years?
posted by romanb at 4:02 PM on June 26, 2006


Absoluteyl correct Joe, point taken about generalisation, however I've heard more than my share of mumblings while on biz in Eastern Europe and I'm not just talking about Poland.

At present I have, as I put it in my reponse, a rather embryonic opinion, and it's mail like this that only serves to solidify it.

I would have rather not posted it at all, but apparently he'd sent it along to others and didn't want to edit my (admitedly private) response to him.
posted by Mutant at 4:03 PM on June 26, 2006


"saying a prayer everytime one passes a monument is for tourists and visitors"

Hey thanks for the tip Romanb! I'll try to keep your advise in mind tomorrow morning on my way to work.
posted by Mutant at 4:10 PM on June 26, 2006


Mutant: --unlike others in that thread I certainly have not passed judgement on you or your country.

I would respectfully disagree.

I was amazed at the fact it was so - unappreciated. And [un]respected.

--most distressingly, how little this wall is recognised.

In any case, one thing I can tell you from being in Warsaw every week - ain't nobody in that city today making any fuss over that wall.

The implication is that you believe people in Warsaw should do more to appreciate, respect, and recognize the wall, and more importantly, what it represents. (I'm not saying this is unjustified or unreasonable on your part, just that it's a definite judgement or opinion on people in Warsaw in general.)

That said, thanks for posting the photos.
posted by russilwvong at 4:19 PM on June 26, 2006


Very well, I see I've ruined my point with that remark. I cannot argue against your personal observations on what people have said to you in Warsaw. How can one respond, with a very long email of my observations of statements, actions, and behaviors of myself, my friends and relatives that were and are against anti-Semites in Poland? Actually, maybe that would be a good start, or atleast the only way to defeat that sort of arguement. For that reason it's perfectly fair for Daniel to send you an email, if we're going to discuss anti-Semitism in Poland based on personal memories, why shouldn't Poles be interested in giving their opinion?

But I do wish that visitors felt welcome in Warsaw, Jewish or otherwise, without it being tainted by occurances of racism, which I don't think anyone denies existing or having existed in the country.
posted by romanb at 5:00 PM on June 26, 2006


No problem at all Romanb, I've considered your point and I have to say that I sincerely was not being judgemental by my (admitedly subjective) observations. The wall troubles me - what else can I say? It did from the first moment I saw it and found out what it was.

But I'd be the first to admit that I know little about Warsaw and made that clear in my post. After all, banking is very much an exercise in airport->taxi->hotel->bank->hotel->..., and I stumbled upon that wall totally by accident, somethng I'd pointed out. Other opinions seemed much stronger, and much more negative.

And I still think Daniel was too quick to judge my post. I'm still waiting to see if I can sponsor him to offer up his own voice here, as I'm surely gonna sound schizoid to say the least if I argue against myself... actually, I'm not going to argue any more. You folks know my opinion and I really don't have anything more to say on the subject.
posted by Mutant at 5:26 PM on June 26, 2006


Fair enough, I will say that I'll make it a point to visit the wall next time I'm in Warsaw.
posted by romanb at 5:36 PM on June 26, 2006


pracowity: I have played the Krakow festival with my Klezmer band several times. Last summer I played for the Warsaw Jewish Festival in honor of Isaac B. Singer. I sang a Bobover Hasidic song with one verse in Polish and the crowd went wild. My band, which plays klezmer, has toured in Poland several times.

The young and educated Poles I spoke with were thoroughly aware of their history, and of the Jedwabne pogrom. If anything, the Polish fascination with things Jewish is a realization that many of Poland's great writers, composers, and artists were Jewish, and how can modern Poles integrate this knowledge into a new image of modern Poland.

Jedwabne was not the only instance of post war pogroms. There were several in Hungary (Karcag), a country that had no pre-war tradition of anti-semitic pogroms. Some Jews returned to their homes in Moldavia to face armed peasants squatting their houses. But these incidents were not a general trend of postwar Jewish history as they had been before the war, they were abberations. I have interviewed and recorded hundreds of older Jewish survivors in Eastern Europe (heck, I am a folklorist) abouty their lives after WWII and the impression I come away with was that they generally re-integrated into their local communities. Or they emigrated directly to Israel or America. But those who stayed are the ones I meet, and they are generally not a bitter bunch when it comes to their non-Jewish neighbors.

A while ago there was a controversial MeFi post about the Ovich Family, the Jewish Dwarf Circus in Auschwitz who were from Rozavlea in northern Romania. I met the writers of the book, who were Israeli. In their book they describe the non-Jewish Romanian villagers as thieving liars who were happy to steal all the Jewish property. Which is a complete literary fabrication to play to Israeli stereotypes about the evils of the "Old Country." In fact, the villagers guarded the Ovich family property and returned everything to them when the war ended. Their house was not taken from them, as reported in the book, but bought by the young man who guarded their car while they were at Auschwitz. He lives there today still. I have seen the bill of sale.

I know the family in Sighetul Marmatei who took care of Elie Weisel's family's property during the war. Guess what? They were ethnic Zipser Germans.

I took courses with Elie Wiesel at Boston U. in the '70s and have read all of the man's work. I lost a lot of respect for Wiesel when he objected to including Gypsies in the US Holocaust memorial, but nevertheless Wiesel is often cited because of his eloquent and transcendant manner of locating the Holocaust within history on a uniquely grand scale. He has devoted his life to making sure the world does not forget the horror of the destruction of Europe's Jews.

Zoltan Blum is much less well known Jewish survivor of Auschwitz. He is a butcher living in Gherla, Romania. He was on the same transport to Auschwitz with the young Elie Weisel, and slept in the bunk next to Weisel in the barracks. He sang me a song that Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz used to sing that goes:

There will be a time
When there will be no more yellow armbands
Those who made us wear them
Will come to their senses
Those who made us wear them
will realize
That there is no life without Jews.


I tried to help Mr. Blum register for war reparations from the German government (my mother recieves them too.) Mr. Blum's response was "I don't want anything from the Germans except my pay. They made me build a factory, and I laid brick fourteen hours a day. I just want them to pay me for my work, nothing more."

Poles. Jews. Germans. Gypsies. People.

It's a matter of scale.
posted by zaelic at 5:56 AM on June 27, 2006 [5 favorites]


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