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Witold Pilecki
September 19, 2008 7:56 PM   Subscribe

On this day in 1941 a man named Witold Pilecki deliberately got himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Pilecki was a spy sent in to investigate the camp and establish underground resistance cells. He sent reports to Warsaw, which passed them to London. In 1942, his reports that prisoners were being gassed were not believed.

Pilecki's extraordinary story was erased from after he was executed in 1948 as a anti-communist spy by his countrymen. Poland is now trying to restore his place in history. A movie about his life was made in 2006. The Polish parliament is trying to make the anniversary of Pilecki's death a memorial of the struggle against tolitarianism.
posted by up in the old hotel (47 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very nice first post.

/Goes off to finish reading the links.
posted by routergirl at 8:25 PM on September 19, 2008


I'd be pretty interested in seeing that movie. Sucks that this guy's story had to end the way it did, though.
posted by Venadium at 8:26 PM on September 19, 2008


Very interesting. I have a particular interest in this time since my parents were teenagers in occupied Netherlands during WWII. The surprise at the carnage at the concentration camps when the Allies arrived there is something often written about, but relatively little is written about what was known beforehand. My own parents, as teenagers, said that they knew that the Jews weren't going to be treated well when rounded up, but the extent of the carnage was beyond comprehension.

Great post.
posted by Eekacat at 8:49 PM on September 19, 2008


Yeah nice first post. (nice username too)
posted by vronsky at 9:13 PM on September 19, 2008


How apropos. Some friends and I just finished watching Band of Brothers. When we got to the part where they liberate a camp, a friend was shocked that no one knew it was there.
posted by sbutler at 11:03 PM on September 19, 2008


Excellent post.

After such incredible sacrifice, compassion and practical help to others in the unimaginable hell of Auschwitz to then be executed in 1948 as a anti-communist spy by his countrymen?!

What a staggering betrayal: Testimony against him was presented by a future Polish prime minister, Józef Cyrankiewicz, himself an Auschwitz survivor. Was it envy-rage that Pilecki escaped and Józef Cyrankiewicz did not?

Talk about terrible injustice. So sad. It seems good to right that wrong now, even if it is half a century later.

Welcome to the blue up in the old hotel. Just looked at your site. Can't help wondering what your opinions about McCain are in light of the interesting looking book you wrote.
posted by nickyskye at 11:50 PM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I swear my brain sort of fizzled when I got to "deliberately got himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz." And then the part where Cyrankiewicz, after what they went through together, sold him out to the Communist government - impossible to say what happened there after so long. Payback, as nickyskye suggests? Self-preservation, ambition? I have trouble wrapping my head around that kind of betrayal.
posted by bettafish at 12:41 AM on September 20, 2008


So this may be a bit of a non sequiter:

I am an American Jew. By some weird dint of fate*, none of my ancestors were ever interned in a death camp, despite my Ashkenazim heritage.

However, growing up at my temple, a large potion of my adolescence was spent doing homecare for former concentration camp prisoners--small town, community represent, yo. The Lotven family, where Izzy and Hyman were so small they were smuggled out in suitcases--yet Hymie was such an authority growing up I still tremble (yes, he's still alive) when he barks at me (I painted the Schul with him). I remember telling him as a kid I would be a musician, his responce: No.

A connective thread with the forearmed-tattooed old ladies I cared for: They were all hoarders.

*My family came here earlier.
posted by sourwookie at 1:41 AM on September 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Now that's courage. And injustice. Hopefully Poland will make sure his name lives where it deserves to be in the history of the country. It's the least they can do.

Just.. wow.
posted by flippant at 1:44 AM on September 20, 2008


bettafish - you might need to understand that in the entire context of the Stalinist purges & show trials. It doesn't necessarily mean that Cyrankiewicz believed what he said or even had an option. It might have been like "Well, we're gonna kill Pilecki anyway, whether you testify or not will decide if we kill you too"

Yuri Dombrovsky's The Faculty of Useless Knowledge is a darkly humourous look into how all that kind of stuff worked. Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon is a bit bleaker, from what I remember of it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:44 AM on September 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sucks that this guy's story had to end the way it did, though.

No, that is absolutely fitting, and the way it had to end. The age of ideology has no place for humanists like Pilecki and it is inevitable that the machine will eat them.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:46 AM on September 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


I grew up knowing a number of Polish emigres, including one who had been an officer when the Germans invaded. After fighting the Germans, he went underground for the duration of the war. His wife spent the war in a labor camp. At the end of the war, they both had to flee because they were on death lists maintained by the Russians. They barely made it here.
posted by etaoin at 4:58 AM on September 20, 2008


The age of ideology has no place for humanists like Pilecki and it is inevitable that the machine will eat them.

Meatbomb, I disagree with you that there is any time that there is "no place" for a person like Pilecki.

UbuRoivas, thanks for the info about the Stalinist purges and show trials. I didn't know Poland was under Stalin's control then. Your comment prompted me to check out the online version of Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon. Parts of his The Ghost in the Machine: [the Urge to Self-destruction : a Psychological and Evolutionary Study of Modern Man's Predicament], published in 1967 were a big influence on me, age 19, when I read it in 1974. Arthur Koestler's own complexity seem typical of the authors who came out of that time.

There is so much about that convoluted period of history that I've never understood or known about and felt lost in trying to get a handle on. Reading a number of different authors about that time, from WWI to a few years after WWII, it feels like they are like the six blind men describing an elephant. One has hold of the ear and thinks the elephant is thin and floppy, another has a leg and experiences what feels like a tree trunk. All the authors seem to have been miserable though. That unifies them.

In an attempt to make sense of history and having studied the pathology of the Axis II Cluster B personality disorders, I surmise that the world has been under the domination/oppression/chaos/mass slaughter of sociopathic political 'leaders' for a long time. What troubles me is how these sociopaths like Stalin (and dare I say GW?) are enabled in doing their malice by people who seem mentally/emotionally well.

Reading the link to the movie in the original post I found it astonishing he kept his life secret from his wife:Pilecki and his wife, who he failed to tell about his “volunteering efforts” thus creating an unexplored rift in Pilecki’s love of country versus love of family.

That article says, “Death of Captain Pilecki” joins the ranks of other small, independent films that celebrate life, liberty and the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity. Would love a whole list of those movies.
posted by nickyskye at 7:49 AM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was friendly with a woman who, as a very young child, was sent with her mother and father to Auschwitz. She was singled out among the prisoners by Mengele to go to her death (the kids side) but she ran to her mother, on the "for work" side, and the mother, knowing German, pleaded for the child. The child survived and late met and married a Polish guy who was an underground anti-Nazi. He joined up with the Russians, was later imprisoned by them and sent to Siberian camps...Finally freed, he met the young woman in a refugee camp in Europe and the married. He has since died but she is still alive.

she is an amazing woman and told me the following story. She had a good education and could sing in German. One time, sent to do forced labor cleaning rubble from bombing) she was singing a song in German. The guard, hearing her, told her not to lift so many bricks at one time because when she was freed she would want to return to her piano playing. The moral (she said) even among the cruelty of barbarians there were a few people who maintained a bit of their humanity.
posted by Postroad at 7:50 AM on September 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Wow. Pilecki must have been tough, and it's ironic he survived the Nazi death-cult only to be betrayed by his own country.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:19 AM on September 20, 2008


I think I'm hardwired to do a double-take at deliberately got himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Extraordinary man.

My father's parents are survivors of Auschwitz. They grew up in the same little Polish town and after they were liberated they both went back because they didn't know where else to go. My grandmother says that there were no other Jews there anymore, and she never knew if it was because all of them were dead or if the survivors didn't bother to return.

So they dug up the silver that her parents buried and got the hell out of dodge.

When I was a kid, half the old folks at synagogue were survivors. Now the numbers are dwindling. I'm glad Poland is making an effort to honor Pilecki and ensure that he's remembered in some way.
posted by lullaby at 9:20 AM on September 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Great post, keep it up.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:36 AM on September 20, 2008


nickyskye, I don't think we disagree. When I say there is "no place" for him, I mean that in that time and place people were expendable and crushing those who stood in the way of the steamroller of history was part of the dirty work of building the glorious utopia.

Of course these people are heroes and examples for us now, but the fact that they don't triumph against the vast machine in their personal history isn't at all surprising.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:43 AM on September 20, 2008


The surprise at the carnage at the concentration camps when the Allies arrived there is something often written about, but relatively little is written about what was known beforehand.

Ask MetaFilter: When did America Know About the Holocaust? I wrote a detailed comment about the development of the camps.

My grandmother says that there were no other Jews there anymore, and she never knew if it was because all of them were dead or if the survivors didn't bother to return.

Poland's Jewish population dropped from over 3,000,000 in 1933 to about 45,000 in 1950.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:14 AM on September 20, 2008


Poland's Jewish population dropped from over 3,000,000 in 1933 to about 45,000 in 1950.

Right, but it's entirely possible that any remaining survivors from her hometown simply never went back and moved on to other parts of the world after the war ended. The only people she made an effort to find were the members of her family, although none of them lived.
posted by lullaby at 10:51 AM on September 20, 2008


Great post, great thread.
posted by batmonkey at 11:23 AM on September 20, 2008


Meatbomb made me cry. An edge more cynical than I like to be, but yes, the world of ideology cannot abide a humanist.

I think I'm hardwired to do a double-take at deliberately got himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Extraordinary man.

Yes, but as I immediately reminded myself, Auschwitz has a meaning to us today akin to something beyond the worst horror film. In those days, it was just a concentration camp, a word which filled people with justifiable revulsion, but simply an expectation of atrociously neglectful treatment -- far short of mass murder.

It doesn't necessarily mean that Cyrankiewicz believed what he said or even had an option.

This is true, yet I found Milan Kundera's The Joke and some of his other writings indispensable in understanding how socialism became a state ideology. There had been socialists before the war, of course, but the sheer scale of destruction led many -- "swing voters", let's call them -- to adopt what they saw as a hopeful message of constructing a new and more just society, and those standing in the way became expendable. There are numerous obvious parallels to the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, and related events. The Soviet occupation was a differentiating factor, but not by as much as we think.
posted by dhartung at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2008


Yeah, so the other day at work I was having a nice conversation with an Senior Citizen that had been captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge, and was a POW during 1944 and 1945. Purple Heart recipient too. So some other guy begins to throw a fit because he had to wait, and that he 'didn't give a *F* about some old man'. I, of course; promptly refused my services to his oh so lacking in respect self.

Oddly enough, the office backed me up. Eventually; after making fit thrower wait ten minutes; we did help him out. Sixty plus years later; so much of the populace either forgets, has no idea, could care less about the kind of hell WWII Nazism was. The ignorant individual was of a race (I don't want to tinge this with mentioning it even) that was pretty much on Hitler's 'shoot on sight' list. I have never seen or read of any POW mentions of this particular individuals folk in any WWII readings I have done. I will say this. Some of his people drove a sheer tonnage of supplies that made a great deal of the successful Europe push by the Allies possible. I wish he was aware of this, or would have let me explain even the slightest bit.

Thanks for the post, which as with all things internet somehow segued me off to this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eufrosinia_Kersnovskaya which had some concentration camp/gulag drawings. All of this is going to happen again; because so few remember it.

Positive close; thank you for the post, I am off to find the film mentioned.
posted by buzzman at 12:03 PM on September 20, 2008


Depressing first post. But interesting nonetheless.
posted by thbt at 12:23 PM on September 20, 2008


Meatbomb, When I say there is "no place" for him, I mean that in that time and place people were expendable and crushing those who stood in the way of the steamroller of history was part of the dirty work of building the glorious utopia.

The steamroller of sociopathic bullies, dictators, pathologically narcissistic monarchs/dictators that has existed throughout history would be completely unobstructed if not for some people taking a stand against the tyranny. Steamrollers can be and are stopped. There are many stories of this in history. I think the allegory for this is David vs Goliath. A handful of examples come to mind (Lillian Edelstein vs Robert Moses l Mahatma Gandhi vs The British Empire l Abraham Lincoln vs pro-slavers l Spartacus vs the Roman Republic)

but the fact that they don't triumph against the vast machine in their personal history isn't at all surprising.

Yes, maybe Pilecki was unable to experience his triumph personally but he did triumph. He just died in the process and before he knew he'd be honored.
posted by nickyskye at 1:27 PM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well... did he, now? I personally think his story is inspiring and I admire his bravery. I think he was fighting not to be honored, but to end totalitarianism and man's inhumanity to man. But we've got Guantanamo bay, Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing of the Yugoslav succession... Gandhi - assassinated; Lincoln - assassinated; Spartacus - crucified along the via Appia; Moses got his road; Tank Man was probably shot in the back of the head and dumped in an unmarked grave...

Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost

posted by Meatbomb at 2:49 PM on September 20, 2008


Well... did he, now?

Yes, Pilecki triumphed. His effort was part of winning the war against the Nazis and totalitarian Soviet rule. He didn't live long enough to see his efforts bear fruit. But he triumphed like any other person who fought against the Hitler or Stalin regimes. Those monsters lost and good guys won. Not in a black and white way but Hitler and Stalin did lose.

Of course, Pilecki didn't fight to be honored but to end totalitarianism and man's inhumanity to man. However, he didn't live long enough to be honored. Honoring him now is, I think, very much part of his triumph. Just because he died doesn't, imo, mean he lost.

There will likely always be bullies, tyrants, sociopathic politicians and sadistic military 'leaders'. And, imo, there will also likely be those with the cojones, the spine and the passion to make a stand and, hopefully, win.

Yes, Lincoln died but he lived long enough to see the Emancipation Proclamation into being and the end of the Civil War. He won. Yes, Spartacus died but "many runaway slaves joined Spartacus until the group grew into an army of allegedly 140,000 escaped slaves" wow. Major triumph in an age without books, cellphones or tv. Astonishing really.

Does a person who takes a stand have to win every war in the world for them to be triumphant? Winning some part of the battle, at one place or moment in time is enough. It's part of the good.

Louis Pasteur, Salk invented medicine that helped defeat certain diseases, not all disease. Does creating only some small antidote against disease diminish their accomplishment? I don't think so. They died. They didn't live to see the total eradication of disease but, imo, they triumphed in their way, their time. Accomplishing a part of the betterment is, imo, a victory.
posted by nickyskye at 3:27 PM on September 20, 2008


That article says, “Death of Captain Pilecki” joins the ranks of other small, independent films that celebrate life, liberty and the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity. Would love a whole list of those movies.

let's see what the hive mind can come up with, shall we? :)
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:47 PM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


To koku Ryu and others:
Witold Pilecki was not killed by his country. The puppet communist government installed by Stalin and the Soviet Union which occupied Poland after the war until the 1990's killed Witold Pilecki. Cyrankiewicz was a communist who betrayed Poland. Poland and other eastern european countries resisted the communist takeover for several years by actually fighting the Russian army. The rest of the world was enjoying peace after World War II and ignored this extension of the war and what the soviets were doing in Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviets of course did everything to hide the atrocities they were commiting. The reason no one ever heard about Witold Pilecki was because the puppet communist government suppressed information about him as they would not want world opinion to know that they executed such a hero. They suppressed any positive things about Poles because they wanted to undermine any support for a free Poland because a free Poland would have overthrown the puppet communist government (which they finally did after the birth of the Solidarity movement.)
Unfortunately The left leaning liberal media swallowed Soviet propaganda and called Stalin "Uncle Joe". They then,following the line of Soviet propaganda began to insinuate that Poland somehow collaborated with the German Nazis and were co-responsible for the holocaust. Even the NY Times shamelessly and repeatedly, in spite of protest by Polish Americans, used the historically, geographically, politically and morally incorrect term "Polish Concentration Camps" which insinuated that somehow the camps were of Polish design when in fact Polish gentiles were the first prisoners there and three million Polish Gentiles and three million Polish Jews perished in the holocaust, that was perpetrated by the German nazis. And now because of this Soviet propaganda and poor reporting by such "Crown Jewels" of Western media as the NY Times and others, Poles and Jews look at one another with suspicion instead of sharing their grief over their suffering and losses in the Holocaust.
I would like to also add that not only did the Soviets suppress positive things about patriotic Poles in order to undermine any support for a free Poland but they also sought to malign the Polish image. Heroes, such as Pilecki, were arrested and charged as criminals and executed. And considering how the West was shocked by the Holocaust against the Jews, what better way to malign Poles than to paint Poles as anti-semites who collaborated with the German Nazis, which was the farthest from the truth. During the war of resistance against the Soviets, whenever a Polish Gentile or Jew was killed by the Soviets, nobody knew about this. When a Communist of Jewish origin was killed by anti-communist Poles, it was immediately and cynically announced as an anti-semitic act and this was trumpeted to the Western media which then gobbled it up and passed it on as true. The pogrom of Kielce? Polish historians believe that this was orchestrated by the Communists. Even the NY Times thought the propaganda campaign following this pogrom was suspiciously played up by the Communists. But then the the NY Times said the Polish Catholic church did not condemn the pogrom, when in fact the Polish Catholic church had no access to the media to do so, something hard to imagine by those who live in freedom. Ultimately, the NY Times adopted the official Communist line, even though, communist policemen were involved in the pogrom from the beginning to end and the area was cordoned off.
Thankfully, Poland is now free - 50 years after the end of World War 2 and the truth is now coming out. Read about Zegota, a polish organisation that saved 50000 Jews from the German Nazis, Henry Slawik who saved 5000 - 10000 Jews, Irena Sendler who saved 2500 Jewish children and then reunited them with their familes after the war, Irena Gut who saved 11 Jews. Read the The Zookeeper, a true story about a couple who worked in the warsaw zoo during the occupation and saved 300 Jews amongst the animals. Would you believe the Communist puppet government never erected a monument to the Zegota organisation. (There since is after the fall of the communists) Wonder why these people are not known? Because patriotic Poles were persecuted by the Soviets and the naive Western media and academia was in love with the Soviets for beating the German Nazis and didn't want to see the sins of the Soviets. Poland is only know researching those with their families that died trying to help Jews.
You may not want to believe what I wrote, but just remember - the naive West, including those in the US, did not want to believe the Poles when they informed them about the Holocaust.
posted by In memory at 4:10 PM on September 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


Poland and other eastern european countries resisted the communist takeover for several years by actually fighting the Russian army.

several years? the partisan war against the soviets continued until the mid 1950s in the Baltic states. relatives of mine were active Meža Brāļi (forest brothers).
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:23 PM on September 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


In memory, what a mind-blowing, wonderful and educational comment. Thanks. So much good learning to do in this thread. I love it when people who know about history can make a complicated event concise, so that I can go from there to expand understanding.

What you said sounds reasonable. Now I want to study more about the Solidarity movement. That Lech Wałęsa seems to have accomplished much in his life as well.

Had no idea that Stalin suckered the "left leaning liberal media". yikes.

Even the NY Times shamelessly and repeatedly, in spite of protest by Polish Americans, used the historically, geographically, politically and morally incorrect term "Polish Concentration Camps" which insinuated that somehow the camps were of Polish design


Huh. What was behind that incredible wrong and blindness do you think?

When a Communist of Jewish origin was killed by anti-communist Poles, it was immediately and cynically announced as an anti-semitic act and this was trumpeted to the Western media which then gobbled it up and passed it on as true.

Ahh. There were some intense and impassioned posts/threads while back and I never understood the background of what was being talked about. Now I get enough to be able to study the topic on my own.

aww Ubu, thanks so much for the film thread.
posted by nickyskye at 4:54 PM on September 20, 2008


She had a good education and could sing in German. One time, sent to do forced labor cleaning rubble from bombing) she was singing a song in German. The guard, hearing her, told her not to lift so many bricks at one time because when she was freed she would want to return to her piano playing.

*

thank you for the story, Postroad
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:31 PM on September 20, 2008


My own parents, as teenagers, said that they knew that the Jews weren't going to be treated well when rounded up, but the extent of the carnage was beyond comprehension.

My father - a smart guy, son of the local GP - was put in a Hungarian labor camp when he finished high school in 1944. He told me that there he heard rumors of the death camps but nobody believed them. He quoted someone else in his labor battalion as saying (excuse the language) "Germany is a civilised country; they wouldn't do that to a Congo n.....r". (1)

As kirkaracha said in his link, there was a difference between concentration and death camps. Concentration camps were well known and I can't imagine that anyone normal seriously thought that deported Jews were going to be "resettled" in anything other than a concentration camp. None the less, my father's circle didn't believe that the Germans were engaged in genocide; nor did they contemplate the sort of industrialised extermination that took place in the death camps.

(1) This was probably a reference to the atrocities in the Belgian Congo rather than the simple racially charged remark it sounds like. (2)

(2) Not that it wasn't racist, of course. (3)

(3) Yes, the fact that someone enslaved by a racist regime was himself capable of this sort of unconscious racism is quite ironic, isn't it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:51 PM on September 21, 2008


Very nice post on an incredibly heroic Pole. Too bad his intel wasn't believed. I read that much of the news coming out of the death camps wasn't believed because in WWI there was so much atrocity-mongering that people stopped believing it, and that carried over to WWII. Sad.
posted by sundancer at 7:59 AM on September 22, 2008


To Nickyskye:
The Soviets perpetrated the biggest (or one of the biggest) lies of the War. They killed approx. 20 000 Polish Officers (see Katyn) they took prisoner when they invaded Poland 2 weeks after Hitler. They then blamed it on the Germans. They denied committing this crime until 1990! In the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and especially in Poland, it was forbidden to say that the Soviets did the crime. The families of these officers were hunted down and killed and those that werent lived in poverty because they were blacklisted and prevented from doing anything. Guess what, there was an article during the War in the NY Times in which the author admonished the Poles for insisting that it was the Soviets. One of Polands heroes, Jan Karski, who also went into a German concentration camp to see what was happening and then went to the west to say what happened , was warned by the US Secret Service not to say anything about this crime being committed by the Soviets.
The fact of the matter is that the Soviets were instrumental in the defeat of the Nazis whose crimes became publicly known, while the crimes of the Soviets were not, and because of that people gave them credibility they didn't deserve. That is why you should expect more revelations about what was true or not true during WW 2 and after in Eastern Europe. The research is only starting. Poland just recently was able to start bringing back sick, elderly and poverty stricken Poles who were deported in the 1940's to Siberia!!!!!
posted by In memory at 12:05 PM on September 22, 2008


In Memory, thank you yet again for your amazingly educational comment. This time in history, especially with the internet is an extraordinary one for having the truth be uncovered when lies, secrecy and deliberate misinformation were delivered to the public.

Years ago I was in the big New York Public Library, looking up information in old newspapers on microfilm and became interested in reading backwards through time, seeing the lies the newspapers said, that were later revealed to be lies and/or misinformation, going all the way back to the stock market crash of 1929.

These days one can go to The National Archives online and read some of what happened that was not told to the public until now. Looking up Poland and Soviet I came across this, validating what you said:

22.170 In April 1943, in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in the Soviet Union, German troops discovered several mass graves containing the remains of thousands of Polish Army officers and intellectual leaders captured by the Soviets during their invasion of Poland in September 1939. The Soviets blamed the Germans, but a medical commission organized by the Germans determined that the massacre occurred at a time when the area was under Soviet control.


In its final report, the committee concluded that U.S. officials failed to properly evaluate and act upon clear danger signals available as early as 1942 that the Soviets had imperialist intentions (H. Rept. 2505, 82d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11578). In addition, the committee found that American policy toward the Soviet Union might have been different if information deliberately withheld from the public had been disseminated. The committee mentioned the possibility, without elaboration, that lower level governmental officials with Communist sympathies might have attempted to cover up such reports.

I presume that the " lower level governmental officials with Communist sympathies" are being scapegoated to protect whoever was really the cause of this deliberate blindness/silence, particularly that of the media at that time, but I don't know why.

All that comes to mind is that the American government has been really lousy, corrupt and greedy in their foreign relations and it's about time the American people were better educated about this aspect of the American government and get to know more about the world. I'm hoping the internet will play a big part in this education.

Thank you again for your comment.
posted by nickyskye at 12:49 PM on September 22, 2008


In memory, while of course you're right that Poles have been unfairly tarred with the crimes of the Nazis, you go way too far in your own tarring. The NY Times did not "adopt the official Communist line" (are you unaware of the strong anti-Communist slant of the 1950s, which very much included the Times?), and I hope you're not claiming no Poles collaborated with the Germans or that there is not a saddening amount of anti-Semitism in Poland. (Please do not respond by calling me a Communist dupe, thanks!)
posted by languagehat at 12:54 PM on September 22, 2008


languagehat, In memory says, "there was an article during the War in the NY Times in which the author admonished the Poles for insisting that it was the Soviets." So that would have been before 1945, not in the 50's.
posted by nickyskye at 1:23 PM on September 22, 2008


nickyskye, I'm not talking about that but about this earlier bit:

But then the the NY Times said the Polish Catholic church did not condemn the pogrom, when in fact the Polish Catholic church had no access to the media to do so, something hard to imagine by those who live in freedom. Ultimately, the NY Times adopted the official Communist line


I would be careful about taking In memory's words as gospel; In memory is clearly a strong Polish patriot who can't stand "slanders" against Poland, which, while understandable, is not conducive to a balanced understanding of history.
posted by languagehat at 1:32 PM on September 22, 2008


languagehat, I think In memory makes excellent points, which, on a tiny bit of googling, are backed up in the National Archive records online saying: "In addition, the committee found that American policy toward the Soviet Union might have been different if information deliberately withheld from the public had been disseminated."

If you have information, links to essays worth reading online on this topic I'd be very interested. Please do post a comment about what you know or think to be true.

I have personally, anecdotally experienced the New York Times being biased and telling outright untruths or twisted information. Nothing like reading lies with my own eyes to make me doubt the NY Times. And not only that newspaper. So I'm inclined to think what In memory may be saying is true and that with a little research may be backed up. I just don't know but I'm not usually a person to take anything anyone says "as gospel". I thank them for the education and research the info on my own, trying to keep an open mind.

Perhaps the NY times was more pro-Communist before the whole, ugly Red Scare of the McCarthy nightmare?

A quick google brought up these interesting articles:

This one recently by the NY Times about the Kielce pogrom:
Days before the pogrom, the Polish primate, Cardinal August Hlold, had spurned Jewish entreaties to condemn Roman Catholic anti-Semitism. Afterward, he charged that by leading the effort to impose Communism on Poland — Jews were in fact prominent in the party, though hardly in control — the Jews had only themselves to blame. The point was seconded by the bishop of Kielce, who suggested that Jews had actually orchestrated the unrest to persuade Britain to hand over Palestine. It was a neat trick: being Communists and Zionists simultaneously. Only the bishop of Czestochowa condemned the killings, and was promptly reprimanded by his colleagues. One wonders how Karol Wojtyla, then a young seminarian, later Pope John Paul II, viewed this cesspool of ignorance and intolerance.
posted by nickyskye at 3:09 PM on September 22, 2008


Stalin was the Time Man of the Year in 1940 and 1942.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:27 PM on September 22, 2008


Good point kirkaracha.
posted by nickyskye at 5:05 PM on September 22, 2008


Exactly, languagehat. As much as I love my friends and family in Poland, In memory is trying to lay far too much blame on the evil Communists. Polish anti-semitism has a long history and is still very much alive. (self link)
posted by Meatbomb at 5:07 PM on September 22, 2008


evil Communists

I think In memory is trying to say that the West didn't know the Soviets were as harsh to the Polish as they were, that the deaths and abuses by the Soviets went underreported and that because of this the Polish didn't receive the help they needed.
posted by nickyskye at 6:06 PM on September 22, 2008


My (ex) father in law was a major in the Polish army at the time of the Solidarity strikes and martial law. Whenever we talked politics he always came around to how the West sold Poland out at Yalta. Never mind that Stalin was who he was and did what he did, never mind that there were plenty of Poles ready to participate in a puppet regime (himself included) - the blame was with the Churchill, Roosevelt, and the West for "selling them out".
posted by Meatbomb at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2008


Little Goldilocks Riding Hood.

"The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, signed August 24, 1939, opened the way for Germany and the Soviet Union to invade and partition Poland. Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1 precipitated World War II."

Didn't know about Yalta: "Roosevelt met Stalin's price hoping the USSR could be dealt with via the United Nations. Later, many Americans considered the agreements of the Yalta Conference were a "sellout", encouraging Soviet expansion of influence to Japan and Asia, and because Stalin eventually violated the agreements in forming the Soviet bloc."
posted by nickyskye at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2008


To Meatbomb and languaghat
While there is, was and will be anti-semitism in Poland there is, was and will be also anti-polish sentiments amongst Jews. What do you expect. They inhabited the same lands for several hundred years. Western media is out of balance, however, in that it by far reported, and this is only now starting to change for the better, only the negative. What you rarely read about are the positive things that happened in that time, which, I dare say must have been more than the negative, many of which was due to foreign occupation of Poland (I'm not just talking about WW2). Otherwise Poland would not have had such a large Jewish population. Poland did accept them over the centuries when other countries were persecuting them ... and they were able to flourish. (I cannot help but think about that ship with Jews fleeing European Nazism that was turned back from US shores.) But make no mistake, dislikes of other nationalities is not solely Polish or Jewish. It was even in the US! I wonder what would have happened during the Crown Heights riots if not for the NYPD. Have we forgotten about the existence of the Ku Klux Klan? I don't remember them having a love for Jews and I don't see every American being judged as if they were a Klan member although they were a large group. We would like to be judged the same as any other nationality.
The point I am making is that the Soviet propaganda made it worse. It let out and magnified the negative aspects of Polish Jewish incidents, while suppressing anything positive and did this deliberately because it suited their objectives. They were able to get away with this because they defeated the german nazis and their liberation of Auschwitz made them heroes. The leftist media went for this and continued this line which discredited or ignored anything good done by Poles who were not associated with the Communists.
Had the positive stories gotten out, I believe Polish Jewish relations would not have been so strained as they were for the last 65 years,because not only would Jews have found out about the dregs of Polish society who sold out Jews for profit, but also about the heroic defiance of the German nazis and all the sacrifices that were made to save Jews. They would not wrongly believe, as many Jews I know wrongly believe, that Poland collaborated (not true!) with the Nazis which is the most offensive and untrue thing you could say, considering the sacrifices they made to defeat the German Nazis. Many Jews I know are shocked when I tell them the horrible and frightening conditions the Polish gentiles endured under German Nazi rule. They are mostly unaware that only in Poland was there a death penalty for helping Jews, decreed over and over again. They were led to believe that Polish antisemitism (no greater than in the US) translated into being perpetrators of the Holocaust.


To Nickyskye:
Thanks for being open minded.
If I were Jewish I would not like Poles based on what I've seen in the US press - and I've seen lies, distortions and half truths or deliberately inflammatory sentences.
In the January 21 -27 , 2005 edition of the Jewish World there appears an article - Our Own Worst Enemies in which the author David Horovitz includes the following sentence- Of the 6,500 SS members who worked at Auschwitz and survived the war, just 750 were ever put on trial, and most of them were Poles. This was supposed to be a quote of a January 10, 2005 article in the Guardian. When I read the article in the Guardian - this is what it said - Of the 6,500 SS members who worked at Auschwitz and survived the war, just 750 were ever put on trial, and most of them were prosecuted by the Poles. Was this man David Horovitz so blinded by hate of Poles that he could not read this sentence properly? Well,i think he passed that hate onto others.
Now another one - for the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this is what the NY Daily News found fit to print in tribute to the victims of the holocaust - an article in which the gist of the article is a story by a Soviet Major who is approaching Auschwitz and asks a Pole what is there and the Pole allegedly replies - That is where they bake the Yids. The author, with a very russian sounding name just took this guys word for it and maligned a whole nation. Meanwhile this Soviet Major could have had Polish blood on his hands. My questions were: Did the guy say that this is also where they baked the Pollacks? I wonder what language this was said in and how well each of them spoke this language?
Do I have the right to believe that our media is gullible when it comes to Soviet propaganda?
Anyway, I agree with you that the internet has definitely broken the hold of the government and media on our lives and things should improve

Languagehat:
I am saying that Poles probably collaborated in so few numbers, especially when compared to other nationalities, that the sentence "Poles collaborated with the nazis" would be extremely, extremely misleading.
posted by In memory at 11:11 PM on September 23, 2008


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