Monday, August 18, 2014

Poles are Complicit in the Holocaust - New Jersey. And Polonia is Doing What, Exactly?

Nasz Dziennik published an article alleging that in New Jersey students learn that Poles are complicit in the Holocaust. Of course Poles and Polonians are getting all upset. 

There is one scholarly book that addresses this stereotype of Poles as the world's worst anti-Semites. That book is "Bieganski." 

Polonia has not significantly supported the book. It is not used in courses, as far as I know. It has received few Amazon reviews and I regularly receive emails from Polonians telling me they don't want to buy it because they don't like the spend that much money on books, so why can't I give them a copy for free? 

I received one only invite from a Polish organization to talk about the book. I received more invitations from Jewish groups. 

I've repeatedly contacted Polish organizations and offered to speak. I've contacted the Kosciuszko Foundation. I get no replies. 

In short, there is a scholarly book that helps to explain and deconstruct the very stereotype that so troubles Poles and Polonians, and Poles and Polonians don't support that book, and get caught with their pants down and their hair on fire every time one of these scandals erupts. 

Frank Milewski responded to New Jersey educators. Does he mention the one scholarly book on the topic, a book that might help New Jersey educators to understand Polonia's position as something other than chauvinism? No, Mr. Milewski does not. 

A Polish publisher wants to publish "Bieganski" in Poland. He can't because he can't put together the few thousand dollars he would need for translation. 

Polonia, yes, people do associate you with Holocaust guilt. There's a book that addresses that. Read it. It might help. 

You can read about the latest of many similar kerfluffles here in Polish and here in English.

You will see Polonians going around and around, saying the same things they've said a million times, and making zero progress. God forbid they should study something, come to understand it better, and better equip themselves to fight it. 

And you can read more about how Polonia consistently shoots itself in the foot on these issues here.


Dear Polish American Congress,

I understand that the state of New Jersey is teaching that Poles are complicit in the Holocaust and that you are upset by that.

It may interest you to know that there is a prize-winning, scholarly book that addresses that very stereotype.

I am the book's author. I live in New Jersey. I am a teacher.

Why don't you make better use of the resources available to you, including my book and Polish American authors like me, John Guzlowski, Terese Pencak Schwartz and others who would be more than happy to have the opportunity to educate the public and refute stereotypes, if we received any support at all from Polonia?

Why don't you at the very least read "Bieganski" so that you can respond in an informed, sophisticated way to stereotyping?

Thank you. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Generation War from Netflix

The New York Times says that Generation War, which is now available from Netflix, airbrushes the Nazi era. You can read the article here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 1941

Review of "A Man for Others" by Patricia Treece

I was half way into this book when I felt the urge to send copies to everyone I know.

"There is no poetry after Auschwitz," people say. Others insist that there can be no God after Auschwitz, and no man either, at least not man as we had wished humanity to be. We live in an ugly world of mindless cruelty blasted into our minds by 24-7 news broadcasters. One atrocity after the other invites us to be cynical, to be selfish, and to think that our only satisfaction can be found in the next good meal or drug fix or other self-indulgent, transient pleasure.

Maximilian Kolbe, Polish Catholic priest and Auschwitz prisoner, was one of the most remarkable people who ever lived. His kindness, trust in God, and active compassion shatter our most cynical, selfish stances.

"A Man for Others" is an amazingly easy and engaging read. For the most part, the book consists of transcripts of oral recollections of Kolbe's life from his most intimate friends, family members, and fellow Auschwitz prisoners. The most profound truths are expressed in simple language. A middle school student could read this book, and then reread it later in life, and gain new understanding of its incredible story.

Maximilian Kolbe was born to a family so poor that they could not afford to send him to school, and under a foreign occupation so oppressive the colonizing powers refused Polish children the ability to study in the Polish language. He developed active tuberculosis and coughed up blood regularly. At times, his body was so weak, he felt himself close to death. In spite of hardships that have stunted many a life, Kolbe founded a religious order that prospered in Poland and in Japan.

While founding these orders, Kolbe, the man in charge, observed absolute poverty. He gave freely of whatever money he accumulated. He slept on bare floors under leaking ceilings. The Polish and Japanese peasants among whom he lived were poor, and he allowed no privileges for himself, in spite of his impossible work load and tubercular lungs. The people who knew him during these years, long before his fame spread throughout the world, observed that he was a saint in the making.

When Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, they targeted Kolbe, and all other priests, monks, and nuns. Kolbe was arrested on September 19. He and other priests were packed into train cars. When they asked for water, they were called "Polish swine" and told they were "destined for extermination." Prisoners were fed starvation rations and had to sleep on the ground in winter. In December, Kolbe was released. His followers encouraged him to flee Poland. They knew that with his high profile, his freedom was temporary. Given that he had had a taste of what it meant to be a prisoner of the Nazis, it is all the more remarkable that Kolbe decided to do what he did next: defy the Nazis further.

Kolbe made his headquarters, Niepokalanow, a shelter for refugees fleeing Nazi persecution, including an estimated two thousand Jews. Among Kolbe's last published words, and among the most inspirational words ever written, were the following, "No one can alter the truth. What we can do and should do is to search for truth and then serve it when we have found it." These were incendiary words in a Poland occupied by Nazis. Kolbe was arrested again, and sent to Auschwitz.

There is no need to repeat here what Kolbe endured in Auschwitz. The horrors of that manmade hell are all too familiar. What is unforgettable is Kolbe's behavior. This fragile, tubercular priest, by all accounts, went out of his way to be kind to all. Receiving only starvation rations, he gave his food away to others. He counseled fellow prisoners. He showed no hostility to Nazi guards. For all this, he was singled out for beatings and cruel tortures. A man of peace, deprived of all power, he still had the power of truth. Nazis were so intimidated by him they ordered him not to look at them. They could not endure the power of his eyes (228). After the war, Sigmund Gorson, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, testified of Kolbe, "Now it is easy to be nice, to be charitable, to be humble, when times are good and peace prevails. For someone to be as Father Kolbe was in [Auschwitz] … is beyond words."

Kolbe offered to take the place of a man condemned to death. He was stripped and held in a dark, bare-floored, foul-smelling, featureless concrete cell, with ten other men, with no food or water, until they starved to death. In the cell, Kolbe spent his final days praying, singing, and encouraging his fellow prisoners. It took weeks for him to die. Finally, the Nazis injected him with carbolic acid.

The bare facts of Kolbe's story inspire awe. The bare facts are not enough. You need to read this book, to get an intimate sense of Kolbe the human being. "A Man for Others" was one of those rare, special books that gave me the sense that I was acquiring a new friend. Kolbe comes alive in these pages. He is a man we need today.

Sadly, this must be mentioned. After Kolbe was canonized, professional atheist Christopher Hitchens, celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz, superstar scholar Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen launched a tragically misguided smear campaign against Kolbe. Prof. Daniel Schlafly and Warren Green, director of the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies, debunked the smears, and the concerned reader is advised to study their full report.

“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hetacombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”
― St. Maximilian Kolbe

"A Man for Others" at Amazon here

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Antisemitism in England; Poland is Always Worse

Source: ADL
Hilary Freeman Source: Daily Mail 
Antisemitism is again rearing its ugly head in a big way on the world stage. Jews are being bullied, threatened, firebombed, insulted and beaten in Belgium, France, and England.

In England it is again fashionable to express antisemitism. One does not need to retreat to a basement room; one can voice opinions on the favorability of the death of Jews and the praiseworthiness of those vowing to kill every last Jew on the planet among polite, educated people and be rewarded for doing so.

The translation key that renders Goebbels into warm and fuzzy multiculturalism is to express compassion for suffering in Gaza. You care so much about the suffering in Gaza – while, mysteriously, the suffering in Syria and Iraq escape your notice – that you must say difficult things about Jews.

And then of course you say you are not anti-Semitic and you voice disapproval of antisemitism, although by that point the word "antisemitism" has been torn to shreds and is void of all meaning.

I've been wondering about this, wondering how it all makes sense in the mind of the polite British antisemite. I think this is how it works. I think they – wrongly – associate antisemitism with Catholicism and conservatism, and since they hate Catholicism and conservatism as much as or more than they hate Jews, they think they couldn't possibly be anti-Semitic.

Even as they publicly urge on an entity, Hamas, explicitly committed to the murder of every last Jew on planet earth, except of course for the lucky Jews who manage to hide behind that notorious "Jewish tree" the gharqad, or boxthorn, tree.

In the August 8, 2014, Mail Online, Hilary Freeman reports on the terrifying antisemitism rampant in England right now. Her daughter was chased down a street by thugs shouting seig heil and making hissing, that is gas, sounds.

I'm glad that Ms. Freeman alerts us to this ugliness, but she discredits herself a bit by attempting to distance herself from her fellow Jews in Israel. "I'm not like Israelis," she insists. "I'm English!" Ms. Freeman, the antisemites don't care.

While valuing Ms. Freeman's courage and accuracy in reporting, one can regret that she falls into a classic Bieganski trap, that is denigrating Poland and elevating England.

Neither stance makes any sense; both are stereotypical.

Poland is not the anti-Semitic hellhole its detractors say it is. England has not been the bastion of liberty and dignity anglophiles wish it were, at least not for Jews.

To discover why, please read Bieganski.

You can read Hilary Freeman's article here.

And let's all pray for a cessation of antisemitism anywhere, including in jolly old England, land of the world's snootiest and most politically correct antisemites. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Letter from a Reader

The Artist and His Mother. Arshile Gorky. Source: Wikipedia 
Dear Terese and Danusha,

Today I came upon the website while I was searching for information on some history I was going to write for my family. I want to take a moment to thank you very much for your website and for both of your efforts in educating people about the "Others". When sharing family history with people I do know I too have heard, "I didn't know you were Jewish." The next time I hear this I will respectfully refer them to your site.

My grandfather is a survivor of both The Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. My Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, and his Aunt together survived The Holocaust and immigrated to United States. After their DP camp in Linz Austria was liberated, my grandfather collected a couple hundred Armenians. He helped them to leave and go to Argentina, Chile, and the United States. At that time the United States did not consider Armenians appropriate to come to the country. My grandfather's persistence with the assistance of many helpful people, including but not limited to, American soldiers, Armenian American citizens and Aid Workers got the United States to accept Armenians as refugees. This is why I have the privilege of being an American citizen.

My grandfather escaped the Armenian genocide as a young boy with his parents and ended up in Greece. They were never citizens of Greece, but had a decent life there until World War II. My grandfather, grandmother, her sister and my father all left Greece on a train to Germany and ended up in a camp which had a gas chamber. They then experienced the inside of the gas chamber.

When my grandfather spoke of it he noted that men, women and children were pressed together for hours; naked, hot, embarrassed and afraid. My grandfather had heard rumors of the gas, when they took their clothes off this time for a shower he knew it was different. The clothes were thrown into a pile as opposed to being folded and the men women and children were together. My grandfather commented on how bad he felt for the women being exposed like that. My grandfather would say to us that when the water finally came..."Those lousy bastards, the water was cold". When I tell people this, they look at me strangely and after a minute they usually get it. Then there are those that will never get it. Those who say geez the gas didn't come, why did your grandfather just talk about how the water was cold. They don't really understand survival and how without humor is difficult to move on.

My grandfather, Kevork Berberian, survived two genocides. The 1st, The Armenian massacre as a boy, He and his family were targeted because he was Armenian and Christian. Family members were slaughtered, they lost everything they owned along with their homeland, became refugees, and barely escaped with their lives. The 2nd, The Holocaust he was a young man with his own family. He was not targeted because he was Jewish since he wasn't, family members were lost ,they fled their home and left their belongings behind, became refugees and barely escaped with their lives. I know when my grandfather reflected on both experiences and their effect on his and his family's lives, it did not matter whether he was targeted because he was an Armenian or was one of "The Others". Both experiences were unfathomable.

We all have our own perspectives and experience, though I doubt many have survived two holocausts as my grandfather did. Those without experience can never truly understand, but they can learn and empathize and take measures so there is not a repeat. As you both well know and have cited; Hitler said "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

To this day the Turks have not taken responsibility for their actions and around the world genocide still occurs. When the truth is skewed for whatever purpose, well-meaning or not, bad things continue to happen.

I still remember coming home from school one day and telling my dad he was wrong about 11- 12,000,000 people dying in the Holocaust as I just learned in school it was 6 million Jewish people had died. Imagine his surprise.

Lisa Berberian-Fernandez