Friday, September 19, 2014

Bieganski Lives; A Facebook Encounter

I recently had a "Bieganski Lives" experience.

"Rob," a man, wrote to me to compliment my writing. I responded with a brief thank you. He read more of my writing and discovered that I am a Christian and Polish American. He wrote again, and his subsequent emails were insulting rather than complimentary.

He sent me lengthy emails attempting to "educate" me about how bad Christianity is, and what bad things Poles did to Jews.

Here's a cut and paste example:

"My grand parents, aunts, uncles and father told me from first hand experience that there was a lot [of antisemitism in Poland].

Chmielnicki was Ukrainian and a Cossack but didnt he get a lot of help from Polish Cossacks in the Polish army?

Wasnt he himself in the Polish army and speaking Polish?

Didnt he get a lot of help from local Poles?"

My point is not about historical facts, though Rob's "facts" are sketchy. Chmielnicki can hardly be depicted with any accuracy, as Rob so wanted to depict him, as a Polish Catholic carrying out Polish Catholic ends in murdering Jews. 

Chmielnicki lead an uprising against Poles that is widely credited with ending the golden age of Polish history. Thousands of Poles were murdered in gruesome ways. Rob, in short, doesn't know what he's talking about. But that is not my point. 

My point is that it's more than a little odd for a complete stranger to begin sending lengthy emails to a woman he doesn't know berating her faith, Christianity, and her ethnicity, Polish-American, especially since his initial emails were complimentary.

This is yet further proof that Bieganski lives. If you announce in a public setting in the West that you are Polish, chances are you will confront a similar experience. You will be asked to prove that you aren't an antisemite like all the rest.

You can read a more detailed experience of Rob's emails at the blog post linked here

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Very Positive Experience with Dr. Paul B. Winkler, of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education

Bieganski the Blog recently reported on controversy surrounding Holocaust education in NJ.

Frank Milewski of the Polish American Congress addressed this controversy, and so I wrote to Mr. Milewski. 

In the previous post, I included an email that I sent to the Polish American Congress. I identified myself as the author of Bieganski and an educator in NJ. I offered to be part of the Polish American Congress' efforts to address flawed Holocaust education in NJ. 

I received no reply to this email to the Polish American Congress. 

Late last week, I phoned New Jersey Acting Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe several times. I left messages and spoke to a secretary. I left my phone number and asked for a reply. 

The last time I spoke to a secretary there was Friday. This morning, Monday, I received a phone call from Dr. Paul B. Winkler, Executive Director, State of New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. 

Dr. Winkler was *lovely.* 

Dr. Winkler was attentive, informed, and concerned. He gave me every impression of being committed to addressing Polonia's concerns. He did not hesitate to make a date to meet with me in the near future. He provided me with his email address which I used to send him my CV and an offer to speak to any group he could get together, no matter how small. 

He promised to get a hold of "Bieganski" and read it. 

I am very positively impressed with Dr. Winkler, and grateful for his attention to my concerns, and Polonia's concerns. 

I hope I can speak to Dr. Winkler soon about the main ideas in "Bieganski" and I hope that he and I can work together. 

You can see the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education webpage here.

You can read the previous Bieganski the Blog post on this matter here.

You can read about the Polish American Congress' specific objections to NJ Holocaust education here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Article by me in Israel Hayom

Below is a link to an article by me, translated into Hebrew and appearing in the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom. 

A couple of other pieces by me have appeared in translation. A short essay I wrote on the Shroud of Turin was quickly translated into Italian, and my essay "Political Paralysis" has also appeared in other languages, including German. 

This essay first appeared in the American publication, "American Thinker." A short while after it appeared I was contacted by the Israeli newspaper. I grated permission for translation and it appeared a short while after that.

I hope someday that "Bieganski" is translated into Polish. I've been told that it would cost between four and eight thousand dollars for that to happen, to pay the translator. I hope that those funds are found. I think "Bieganski" would be a helpful and important book for Poles living in Poland, as well as Polish Americans living in the US, England, and Australia. 

Here is the link to my article in Israel Hayom.

Friday, August 22, 2014

"How Did Poland Transform from Hero to Villain?" Bieganski Review by Michal Karski


Equality for All? Well, Maybe Some Still Don’t Deserve It.

by Michal Karski

‘History is written by the victors’, goes the old adage (or, as it was put less solemnly by Winston Churchill; ‘history will be kind to me because I intend to write it’). There is no doubt that the losers are usually at a disadvantage. However, the recent German television series ‘Generation War’ seems to have turned that apparent truism on its head to the extent that the real villains of WWII seem to be not so much the Germans themselves, but rather thuggish and uncivilized Eastern European Nazi sympathisers.

The central European country of Poland has received particular attention in this respect for some time. After 1945 it suited the Communist regime to portray the takeover of the once-sovereign state as a ‘liberation from fascism’. Stalinist propaganda dismissed the Polish anti-Nazi  resistance as ‘fascists and reactionaries’ and this has found its way into Western perceptions.

But how did Poland, the country which was, after all, the first to offer military resistance to Hitler and fought against the Nazis on all fronts for the entire duration of the war, manage to become transformed from hero to villain?

Dr Danusha Goska provides the answer to this conundrum in this scholarly but immensely readable study of a prejudice which seems to surface with alarming regularity in the worlds of academe and media and which few influential agencies seem willing or able to tackle. She points to a pattern in American culture which has been able to denigrate immigrant Slavs in general and Poles in particular which would never have been acceptable with other ethnic groups. She gives the reason why this continues and provides numerous examples of negative stereotyping. The book discusses unflattering portrayals of Poles and other Eastern Europeans in films and also so-called ‘jokes’ based on ethnicity delivered by people who imagine they are being witty when they are otherwise being essentially racist. (May I say, on a purely personal note, since I did not grow up in America - even though I did have the good fortune to go to a superb American Forces school in Germany for quite a few years – that I have never been exposed to any anti-Polish prejudice. This does not mean, of course, that I am denying the existence of such prejudice and  the examples cited of Poles and other Eastern Europeans being regarded as inferior beings demonstrate that there is still some work to do in the USA in terms of combating ethnic prejudice. Some individuals clearly need to live up to the ideals of  the Nation’s Founders in what is otherwise considered by many people as not only the world’s foremost democracy but also one of the world’s most advanced societies).

Returning to the question of Poland being subjugated by the Communist puppet regime imposed by Stalin and the resulting image of the Poles as fascists which has found its way west. There is no doubt there was an extreme right which was active in pre-war Poland and there is also no doubt that the war would not have been won without the enormous sacrifice of ordinary men and women from all over the USSR (which included Polish contingents incorporated into the Red Army) – and it is only right and proper that their sacrifice is honoured. Unfortunately the flip side to the actions of the USSR which is rarely mentioned in the west other than in history texts, is the two-year Nazi-Soviet co-operation which resulted in the dismemberment of the Polish state. As I wrote previously on these pages, the pre-war multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation, with all its faults and divisions, is extinct and lives only in the memories of a generation who are themselves fading away.

Given the prevalence of the Slavic stereotype, the question arises whether Danusha Goska’s study will do anything to mitigate the entrenched attitudes of some  Americans. The overall impression given in the book about attitudes to Poles looks fairly bleak at the moment, therefore all credit to Dr Goska for analysing  a controversial and difficult subject. The epithet which seems to come up most frequently in descriptions of this book is ‘necessary’. In this respect, Polonian organizations might consider offering Dr Goska the kind of support which a serious scholar of her calibre clearly deserves.

This is not to say that I agree 100% with everything that Dr Goska says. Personally I think the section of the book which demonstrates the way in which Hollywood has tended to portray Polish characters negatively could do with some balance. A few positive depictions ought to be mentioned, in fairness. Gene Hackman’s General Sosabowski, in ‘A Bridge Too Far’, for instance, is shown to have been one of the very few Allied commanders expressing serious reservations about the wisdom of Monty’s Arnhem plan; there are honourable and sympathetic Polish characters in Polanski’s ‘The Pianist’; Charles Bronson’s Danny Velinski, the ‘Tunnel King’ of ‘The Great Escape’ is quite positively drawn (albeit with potentially damaging claustrophobia); the whole tenor of Jack Benny’s ‘To Be or Not To Be’ (and its Mel Brooks eighties remake) is very much pro-Polish, so that the positives, although perhaps not outweighing the negatives, do appear from time to time.

The average American needs to be reminded that the vast majority of people of different religions and nationalities in pre-war Poland co-existed peacefully, flourished because of the cultural interchange, and are now in no position to defend their good name because they were either murdered by the Nazis for no other reason than their own ethnicity or, in very many cases, for trying to protect their Jewish friends and neighbours.

My single reservation about Dr Goska’s book concerns the cover painting and echoes what Sue Knight also referred to recently on this blog. People do, unfortunately, judge a book by its cover and the picture of Millet’s peasant with the hoe is rather off-putting (in my humble opinion), therefore may I suggest that perhaps a second edition would substitute the famous ‘Bociany’ by ChelmoĊ„ski, with its overtones of innocent simplicity rather than just brutishness, which would be an implied and pointed contrast to the book’s title? But otherwise, full marks for an excellent, extremely scholarly, objective and fair-minded work which would be a valuable addition to every American school syllabus in the on-going debate about ethnic stereotyping.  It would certainly serve as a stimulus to critical thinking and would also be a powerful counterbalance to entirely non-academic creations expressing purely personal viewpoints such as Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’ (which, for all its undoubted visual brilliance, is a rather controversial  example of an academic teaching aid, since, in my opinion, it reinforces, rather than challenges, ethnic stereotypes). Well done, Danusha.

You can read previous blog posts by Michal Karski here and here.

"Bieganski" is available on Amazon here

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.