Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bieganski in Poland in Polish. March, 2015

Jacek Tokarski of Wydawnictwo Wysoki Zamek writes to report that "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture" will appear in Polish in Poland in March, 2015.

"Bieganski" is being translated by Katarzyna Szuster. Katarzyna has previously translated "A Broken Childhood" by Martyna Gradzka and "Secession in Lviv" and the work of the poet Justyna Bargielska.

I have chatted with Katarzyna via email and I am very encouraged by her attention to detail. I wrote "Bieganski" while treading a razor's edge. I strove to tell even controversial truths in a way that might be heard over the din of competing victimologies and prejudices. I prayed that Jacek would find a translator who would walk that same tightrope in the Polish language translation.

I asked Katarzyna her feelings about the charged topic of the book. She wrote back, "I enjoy translating your book, partly because it reflects my feelings about Polish-Jewish relations. I feel that Poland hasn't been given a voice or attention that isn't negative in some way, but at the same time, we're not blameless." I very much appreciate her reply.

I wrote to Kira Nemirovsky of Academic Studies Press, the publisher of the English language version of the book, to discuss the Polish language version. I mentioned to her that some have objected to the cover as it exists now. In fact it was I who had originally suggested the current cover, as I felt it encapsulated both of the stereotypes the book describes: the lumpen Polak Bieganski and the crafty Jewish Shylock. Unfortunately some readers interpreted the cover as an endorsement of those stereotypes. For that reason, I think another cover might be in order. Some possibilities are below. If you care to, please express a preference in the comments section. Thank you.











Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Anna: A Possible Life. By Michal Karski

Source: Wikipedia 

Anna: A Possible Life

By Michal Karski

Can a person's character ever be guessed at from a single photograph? I am probably by no means unique when I say that I have always found faces fascinating and am invariably drawn to the portraits in any art gallery. I don't think I'd be re-discovering the wheel if I said that people tend to subconsciously make snap judgements about others based solely on their looks and in fact I have no doubt that scholarly volumes have been written on this very subject. So when we do discover biographical information about the person depicted in a portrait, for instance, it can sometimes be very surprising.

If I say that the girl in the photo above was born in 1925, would it be possible to match her image to any of the following scenarios, on the basis of what little information is available in a single picture?

Scenario 1: Anna is from a Polish-Jewish musical family, born and raised in Krakow. She survived the first part of the war in hiding with her mother at the home of a Catholic widow, but was later captured by the Germans and sent for labour to Bavaria. After the war, she became well-known as a pianist and accompanist among the Polish emigracja in London and is now in her 89th year, loved and respected by all who know her.

Scenario 2: Anna was from a Catholic Kresy family from eastern Poland, in what is now Ukraine. After the Soviet invasion, she was transported to the Gulag with her parents and sisters for years of hard labour. Her parents did not survive. After the Sikorski-Maisky Pact, she joined the Anders Army, went through the Middle East, Egypt, Palestine and Italy before arriving in Liverpool, England. She then married and emigrated to Canada, where she raised a family and pursued her first love of photography, exhibiting her work at many Canadian and American art galleries. Her eyesight failed her in later years and she turned to writing poetry. She died in 2013.

Scenario 3: Anna, originally from Cremona in Italy had a Polish father (a former Hallerczyk) and French mother. She was a brilliant student, spoke five languages fluently and studied psychology in Bologna. She worked undercover for British Intelligence during the war, joining the resistance in Holland. In 1947 she emigrated to Brazil, where she gained recognition for her work in the field of clinical psychology. She gave her name to an institute in Sao Paolo. She died in 2006.

Scenario 4: Anna is an Anglo-Irish actress and poet who starred in many English and American film and TV productions, most famously as Madame Paderewska in "Upstairs, Downstairs". The real Polish connection in her own life was that her first husband was a minister in the Polish wartime government-in-exile. It was recently revealed that she was one of the code breakers at Bletchley Park. She lives in an actors' retirement home in Hampshire where she is visited by her many grandchildren.

Anyone who recognizes Anna Zakrzewska from the photograph will know that none of the above scenarios apply to her. I came across her name in a list of notable members of the Armia Krajowa when I happened to be reading about the liberation in August 1944 of the Gęsiówka concentration camp which the Germans had built in Warsaw.

This episode gets scant attention in the mainstream English-speaking media, although most Poles will know that it was the AK, the Polish resistance army, which carried out the attack on the camp, freeing over three hundred prisoners – most of them Jewish – in the process.

The particular unit responsible for this action was the famous Zośka Battalion of which Anna Zakrzewska was a member. Reading about her, I couldn't tell whether she was actually involved in the attack on the camp at Gęsiówka or not. Her face had caught my attention perhaps for the simple reason that she bore a passing resemblance to someone I used to know many years ago or perhaps she just had the kind of looks which would have graced magazine covers in any other age. What was she like in the days before war broke out? What were her hopes and dreams?

Wikipedia lists some notable members of the Zośka Battalion. A very few did survive the Warsaw Uprising and lived on into old age but I was struck by the number of them who were killed. All of them died at the time of life at which many young people would have been enjoying a peaceful life of study at some college or university instead of being involved in the horrors of urban warfare. The sequel to the actual insurrection, as we know, was the crushing of Warsaw and its citizens with unexampled brutality.

The little information there is available about Anna Zakrzewska tells us she was cut down by German gunfire during the uprising in August 1944.

She was just eighteen years old when, as happened with so many others of her generation, the possibility of any kind of life was taken from her.

Link to the Wikipedia article on Anna Zakrzewska here.

Source: Wikipedia 
Source

About the Author

Danusha asked me to write a few words about myself. I suppose I would describe myself as a Brit of Polish descent. I was born in Worcester in 1949 and now live in London. My mother was painter Halina Karska and my father military historian Tadeusz Kryska-Karski. They both found themselves in England after the war, having followed the convoluted route taken by many Polish citizens whose lives were thrown into turmoil by the events of 1939. My grandfather Franciszek Karski was reportedly killed at Katyn, although I have had conflicting information about a Franciszek Karski who did, indeed, perish in the USSR, except not at Katyn but Uzbekistan, having already enlisted in the Anders Army.

For myself, I lived in Munich, Germany from 1957 to 1966, where my parents – primarily my father – worked for Radio Free Europe. Returning to England, I studied for a German and English degree at the University of London (Queen Mary College) and after a fairly hectic and varied working life am now retired and catching up on films and books and writing the occasional essay and radio drama. I am married and we have one son.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Source: Heavy
"Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects: I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning; I have been helped by terror (in the hearts of enemies): spoils have been made lawful to me: the earth has been made for me clean and a place of worship; I have been sent to all mankind and the line of prophets is closed with me. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1062, 1063, 1066, 1067)"


Source: Answering Islam

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Addressing Antisemitism Today; Some Thoughts

I just received an email from a fellow scholar who is working on antisemitism. He asked for my thoughts. I typed up the post, below, very quickly.

Anyone concerned about antisemitism needs to realize that the world is changing rapidly on this topic.

Many of my students are black, Hispanic, first generation, and not at all acculturated into mainstream American life. They know hip-hop and they have street smarts but they don't know who John Adams was. They haven't been socialized with the kind of shame that was widespread in American culture after cultural leaders like Hollywood director George Stevens witnessed and filmed the liberation of concentration camps. Many of my students don't know, and more importantly don't feel the words "Never again."

Many of my students are often openly and unashamedly anti-Semitic. They take it for granted that Jews blew up the World Trade Center. They say so without any shame or hesitance. They aren't aware that there is any reason to feel shame or hesitance for saying such a thing.

The antisemitism they pick up often comes from inner city sources like the Nation of Islam and Muslims who inhabit the inner city alongside them. It is my subjective impression that antisemitism is stronger among African Americans, even those not affiliated with the Nation of Islam.

Anyone working on antisemitism right now needs to know that antisemitism is rife in current Muslim American culture.

This is my subjective impression. I was born in, and currently live in, Passaic County, which, I have read, has the second highest Muslim population in the US. I do not know if that statistic is accurate. I do know many Muslims.

Very nice Muslims have looked me right in the eye and told me that Jews are responsible for the majority of the world's ills. Have told me that Jews are responsible for everything that goes wrong in the Muslim world. Jews are behind ISIS. Jews were behind Mubarak. Very nice Muslims, people I consider friends, have looked me right in the eye and told me that when Muslims are ready, someday, they will kill entire populations of Jews. All the Jews in Israel, or maybe in the world.

I emphasize that nice people have said these things to me because no one should be so naïve as to assume that genocidal hatred of Jews and utterly irrational Jewish conspiracy theories are limited to screaming extremists. They are part of everyday life among many nice Muslims.

How many? I don't know. I haven't done the research. I just did a quick Google search and found a web page that includes the following quote:

"From the study, it became clear that the Muslims interviewed were more anti-Semitic than Christians in the United States and Canada. The average or mean test scores endorsing negative Jewish stereotypes – after statistically separating out anti-Israel sentiment items – were more than double those of North American Christians. When separating culture from religion, Arab Muslims came out as the most anti-Semitic. Arab Christians and Non-Arab Muslims from Bosnia and Pakistan were less so, yet still anti-Semitic. Mainstream North American Christians were not very anti-Semitic at all."

I can't vouch for this study or this page. It's just something I found doing a Google search. Here is a link.

I strongly recommend Neil J Kressel's book "The Sons of Pigs and Apes" review here.

I also recommend Andrew Bostom's "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism" review here.

Anyone who really wants to address antisemitism needs to also address anti-Christian prejudice amongst Jews.

I am a non-Jew who is horrified by antisemitism. I am supportive of Israel – see my essay "Coming Out As Pro-Israel on Facebook" here. Many Jewish authors and speakers lose me – lose my support, my attention, and my interest, lose me as an ally – as soon as they open their mouths. Why? Because they are not so much about fighting antisemitism as about bashing and smearing Christianity.

This is a huge mistake on a factual level and a tactical level.

Jews make a mistake when they conflate antisemitism and Christianity. And Jews do it a lot. They do it because doing so is an identity-firming aid. As a minority in a largely Christian world, many Jews decide, "We are the folks who don't celebrate Christmas, and, further, the folks who celebrate Christmas are inferior, and are out to get us."

Melanie Philips lost me with her June, 2014 article in Commentary entitled "Jesus was a Palestinian: The Return of Christian Antisemitism." I knew she was trying to say something important, something I care about. I could not grok her message because I was so turned off by her gratuitous and false anti-Christian prejudice.

A very good Facebook friend lost me when she posted a web page that claimed that Catholics in Poland used to use Christmas as an excuse to murder Jews. The web page tried to look authentic. It purported to be recounting genuine history. It was a Jewish cultural website. I sent the link to Antony Polonsky, himself Jewish and the premier historian of Polish Jews. He said that the page was false.

My friend who posted the link to this bogus page is herself a highly educated woman. She's a physician. Yet she uncritically assumed that a made up story about evil Polish Catholics was true, without any evidence to back it up.

Those concerned about antisemitism should educate themselves about Christianity. There are verses in the New Testament that are critical of Jews; these verses are comparable to verses critical of Jews in the Old Testament. In fact the Old Testament verses are harsher. This makes sense; the authors of the New Testament were Jews themselves, with the possible exception of Luke, who may or may not have been Jewish. There are other verses interpreted to mean that the chosen-ness of Jews is unchanging (Romans 11:29). There is much discussion of these matters; the discussion means that disagreement is possible.

There are no verses in the New Testament that call on Christians to murder Jews, and Christians who have done so have done so in contradiction to the New Testament. Popes, bishops, and local priests have repeatedly commanded those Christians who were killing Jews to stop doing so.

Christian crimes against Jews have always been specific to a given set of geographic, historic, and economic circumstances. At the same time that Spain was a bad place for Jews, equally Catholic Poland was a good place for Jews.

European Christians who harmed Jews did so not in obedience to the New Testament, which counsels love, but rather more typically in response to an economic caste system. I hope anyone interested in antisemitism will read my own book, "Bieganski."

I think that those who want to fight antisemitism should educate themselves about Christianity and Christian antisemitism to better prepare themselves for the fight. I also think they should do so in order better to understand Muslim antisemitism.

Compare and contrast the Koran, hadith, and the example of Mohammed with the New Testament and the example of Jesus. Jesus never killed a Jew. Mohammed killed, tortured, raped, and enslaved Jews. Mohammed is Islam's "perfect example, worthy of emulation." The Koran describes Allah turning Jews into monkeys and pigs. A famous hadith, or saying of Mohammed, reports that the time will come when stones and trees will order Muslims to kill Jews hiding behind them.

There is no analog to the Good Samaritan story in the Koran. The Good Samaritan story, of course, demonstrates the Christian concept of universal brotherhood and love.

As for the myth that Islam was a tolerant place for Jews, quoting Wikipedia "Mark Cohen, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, in his Under Crescent and Cross, calls the idealized interfaith utopia a 'myth' that was first promulgated by Jewish historians such as Heinrich Graetz in the 19th century as a rebuke to Christian countries for their treatment of Jews."

I mention these facts for this reason: If you think battling Christian antisemitism prepares you for battling Islamic antisemitism, you are naïve. Christendom has had leaders who preached against antisemitism. Christendom upholds scripture that counsels love. Christianity's founder was a Jew who killed no one. You confront a different reality in the Muslim world.

Some people conflate Christianity with Nazism. There is more about that in "Bieganski." The conflation of Christianity with Nazism is a big lie that distorts history. And it's more than that. It's a tactical error for those who want to fight antisemitism. People are amazed that antisemitism is rife on college campuses and among the Politically Correct, atheist left. They should not be amazed. If you say "Antisemitism equals Christianity," all atheists are absolved. I know people who are self-righteous, anti-fascist leftists who hate Jews and want Israel to be destroyed. They don't see themselves as anti-Semitic at all, because they equate antisemitism with Christianity, and they are atheists.

One last thing. We tend to be blinded by the concept of universal human progress. There is this idea that things are always getting better. This process is inevitable. This idea is so pervasive people don't even realize that they are subject to it. It is ingrained in language, eg, "That was then; this is now."

Bibi Netanyahu revealed that he is subject to the fantasy of universal human progress. In a September, 2012 UN speech, he contrasted the medieval – bad – with the modern – good. I wish I could grab Netanyahu by the lapels and remind him that there was nothing more medieval than the university, and nothing more modern than Nazism.

Universal human progress is a chimera. In fact the very worst things that we could imagine could happen tomorrow; they could happen right now. As many Jews as were murdered by the Nazis could be murdered again. There is a critical mass of hate in the world right now. We trivialize it at our peril.

I wish I could end on a more positive note.

Oh, let me add this positive Bible verse, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Adam Zucker's New Film "The Return" in The Times of Israel. Bieganski, the Brute Polak is Dead ... Or Is He?

From Adam Zucker's new film "The Return" Source: Times of Israel
On October 24, 2014 the Times of Israel published "New Film Suggests a Bright Future for Polish Jews," about Adam Zucker's new film "The Return" about Jews in Poland today.

The interview is hopeful. Zucker rejects the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype of Poles as the world's worst anti-Semites.

Unfortunately, in the comments section, it's clear that many Jews cling to Bieganski. Examples below:

Samuel Emil Malul wrote, "'Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community of Jedwabne' by historian Jan T. Gross. An immaculately detailed book which shows how this horror occurred with practically no input by Germans, the delight of the Polish neighbors in torturing, pillaging, raping and killing. The execrable acts against the Jewish people in Poland during the war could never have taken place without the conscious intent of their Polish neighbors."

Tuvia Fogel wrote "As far as Jews are concerned, Poland is nothing but the biggest graveyard in the world. Who the hell would want to live in a cemetery?"

Daniel L. Remler wrote "Unfortunately the director, in the paragraph where he compares Germany and Poland, understates the amount of Polish anti-Jewish acts during the war. Yes, the Germans ran the show. Yes, the Germans did far far more. But anti-Semitic attacks on the part of Poles were not limited to just a a few 'incidents.'"

Eddie Belz wrote "When I was younger, I knew many survivors (including my Polish father) and they often spoke about how horribly anti-semitic their fellow Poles were."

elimhauser (sic) wrote "While anecdotal, the refugees from Poland I have met by and large affirmed that anti-semitism was a large part of being in Poland, as demonstrated by the various pogroms after the war as collaborating experience"

In the article, the director himself takes a very different position. An excerpt:

"By and large, anti-Semitism is really not a big deal in Poland. I mean, there are some events that take place and they’re usually caused by the same skinheads that are racist and homophobic and all those other things. What is more noticeable is the philo-Semitism, the love and fetishism of all things Jewish. You go to the JCC at Krakow, there’s no metal detector — anybody can walk in the doors. And that’s not the case at Jewish synagogues in France or Sweden or elsewhere. So, if you were to quantify anti-Semitism in Europe, which is in fact on the rise, Poland is definitely low on the totem pole."

Big, big dziękuję, thank you, and תודה לך to Liron Rubin, mother of the cutest baby I've ever seen, for sending me this link. With apologies to all other babies.

Read the full article here