Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski. A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

Rod and Sue Martinez Source
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski died yesterday.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski was a world-class hero. We, Polonia, should have created school curricula where every school child in America knew his name. We did not.

What did we do instead?

Most Polonians don't know about world-class heroes like Bartoszewski. If they are engaged in any Polish-related activities at all, those activities are limited to pierogis, polka, and celebrating Polish victories in soccer matches.

Those Polonians who do care about advancing Polish culture are all too often fractious and focused on taking down perceived enemies, rather than advancing Polish authors, artists, poets, and scholars.

Polonians are currently circulating a petition to get FBI director James Comey fired. Polonians have recently tried to squash "Ida," a black-and-white, slow-moving, Polish-language art film that would only ever be seen by very few people.

Both of these protests are misguided. Polonia will not advance by trying to sabotage others. Polonians will advance by supporting their own authors, artists, storytellers and poets.

Too many Polonians who do care about advancing Polish culture fall back on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. I received this email the other day. "Jewish and Soviet influence on film, anti-Polish themes, story-lines, characterisations, and ethnic portrayals…those powers that be out there, who hide behind elaborate chains of ownership, changed names (lots of that in Poland and elsewhere) and shell companies can pull strings and set policies that are absolutely undetectable – which is exactly how they want it. So, don't under-estimate nor over-estimate Jewish influence in all manner of global activities – but certainly Do Not Deny it is happening."

What can one say to this man? Jews are 0.2 percent of the world population – maybe 13 million people. There are tens of millions of Poles, not to mention one billion Catholics. And Jews have often been the ones telling our story in a sympathetic way.

I have been working on the Brute Polak stereotype for over 25 years. I've published. I give talks, including to Jewish groups at Jewish institutions. The Kosciuszko Foundation says it is concerned with negative stereotypes of Poles. I have written to the Kosciuszko Foundation repeatedly offering my services. I receive no reply.

The other day I gave a talk on a college campus. The talk was well received. There were two Jewish American scholars present. They were interested, respectful and engaged. I am surrounded by heavily Polish communities, including Wallington and Greenpoint. No Polish-Americans showed up to the talk.

I reviewed Wladyslaw Bartoszewski's book "Samaritans: Heroes of the Holocaust" eight years ago. I posted the review on my blog, on Amazon, on Polish discussion lists. I begged Polonians to buy, read, review, and share Bartoszewski's book. I visited the Amazon page for the book today and I see there are still only two reviews. It also appears to be out of print.

Polonia, you don't need to peek nervously under your bed for the secret Jews you fear are tormenting you. You do need to organize, advance your own heroes, support your own artists, writers, and poets, and tell your own story.

Below please find a summary of an article by Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, and a review of a book he wrote.

The information, below, is from Wladyslaw Bartoszewski's 1989 article, "The Founding of the All-Polish Anti-Racist League in 1946."

After WW II in Poland, pogroms broke out. In towns like Kielce, Polish Catholics murdered Polish Jews. These Jews were Holocaust survivors. Bartoszewski organized reaction against these pogroms. Quotes below are from his article revisiting this history of Polish resistance to hate. Even though many are eager to speak of crimes committed by Poles, almost no one knows of Polish Catholic organized resistance to hate.

"There are no accounts in histories of Poland after the Second World War of the All-Polish Anti-Racist League, founded in 1946 … it is a waste of time to search scholarly works for even a brief mention of the League, its origins and public activities, or the contents of the League's publication, Prawo Czlowieka (The Rights of Man.) …scholars have not been interested in its existence" (243).

After WW II, the Soviet Union invaded Poland. Poland experienced something like a civil war. "Acts of repression, violence, and terror, mass arrests, deportations, bloody confrontations claiming thousands of dead and injured, were an everyday occurrence, particularly in the first year. Through ruthless political and police methods, a new political order and system was introduced, which was rejected by a significant part of society … the tragedy of the genocide of the Jews was, after all, a great psychological shock for many Poles" (244).

"Both in the Polish press and on the radio at that time there was no lack of voices to oppose these tragic incidents, and the recent suffering and extermination of Jewish society in Poland were also mentioned. Articles, memoirs, and references to the subject can be found in the first post-war dailies Robotnik, Dziennik Ludowy, Gazeta Ludowa, Kurier Codzienny, in the weeklies Nowa Epoka, Odrodzenie, and particularly in the Krakow Tygodnik Powszechny" (247).

"An initiative was taken during the first weeks of 1946 by former members of the occupation Council for Aid to the Jews. This was to establish a loosely structured, all-Polish society to discuss the problem for the moral and political danger for Poland and the Poles of actions dictated by anti-Semitic views and anti-Jewish prejudices, whatever their causes. [Former members of Zygota] Were unanimous in recognizing the importance of using their own authority and enlisting the public support of others of importance in the struggle against the degrading chauvinism in Poland, against manifestations of national, religious, and racial hatred, and, above all, against all unsympathetic or hostile attitudes towards Jews who had survived … a group met in Warsaw on 30 March, 1946."

In April 1946 a pamphlet was published and appeals appeared in many national and local dailies, calling for the establishment of an Organization committee for the All Polish Anti-Racist League.

[from pamphlet]

"On 30 March 1946 a group of social and political activists, representing all circles of Polish social and political thought, prompted by deep moral feelings and sharing the conviction that the interests of the Polish nation required nationwide action in the struggle against racism, have established an Organizational Committee for the All-Polish Anti-Racist League, based in Warsaw."

The pamphlet lists ten officers. The majority were former members of Zegota. There was a socialist, a journalist, a philologist, members of the Home Army, a theater worker, and a member of the union of rural youth (248).

Their program:

"The whole of the evil and barbarity of Nazism can be summed up in the slogan: racism, anti-semitism, pogrom. Here, writ large, was all that is worst in man, everything expressing crime and darkness and depriving human society of its right to live, simply because it is alive. Under this banner, man's lowest instincts take precedence over a thousand years of Christian spiritual civilization. The degradation of humanity, the numbing of man's sensitivity to the pain and suffering of his neighbor, the corrupting of human conscience – this is the work and sin of racism. The fight against this evil in Poland is not only the concern of a handful of our Jewish fellow-citizens: the fight against evil is the concern of man, of every man, and is a question of the nation's moral honor."

"The most important task now in Poland is the reconstruction of social and economic life, destroyed by the Germans. No less crucial is the need to rebuild the spirit of the nation, to educate people in the spirit of brotherhood. In this momentous work we should follow the ideals of Kosciuszko and Mickiewicz, Czacki and Lelewel, Orzeszkowa and Konopnicka, Zeromski and Strug. We shall follow the great truths of humanism and humanity.

An example to us should be the all-Polish action of the Council for Aid to the Jews which led the way in helping the victims of racism and anti-Semitism during the occupation, when responsible people from all sections of society, the intelligentsia, workers and peasants, whatever their political affiliations, socialists and populists, members of the PPR and SD, Catholics and free thinkers, rushed to help the victims of racism. In the name of human conscience, in the name of Polish culture and the vital interests of the state, this work is being continued by the All-Polish Anti-Racist League."

The Anti-Racist League was careful to list, as quoted above, Polish heroes, male and female, who struggled for justice (249).

The establishment of the league was noted sympathetically in the American, British, and French press (250).

League members strenuously protested the pogrom in Kielce, in July, 1946. League members called the murderers "scum" (250-51).

Bartoszewski mentions the signatories of the condemnation of the Kielce Pogrom. They include a Catholic priest (252).

The anti-racist league appealed to the Catholic church hierarchy. The league received no reply (253).

Bartoszewski himself was falsely accused by the communists and sent to jail. The communists took control of, and distorted, the League's publications. They were no longer to talk about anti-Semitism; rather, they were to talk of "'American and British imperialists' persecuting Negroes and other colored peoples."

Below please find a review of Bartoszewski's book "The Samaritans."

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski's and Zofia Lewin's "The Samaritans: Heroes of the Holocaust" is one of the most thrilling, moving, and profound books you will ever read. It is one of the top ten books I've read in my entire life. I hope never to forget the lessons it teaches.

In a sense, the stories "Samaritans" contains are simple; their details are the details of concrete choices made in face-to-face human encounters. No one here commands a battleship, great armies, or the attention of the masses. Average people, very much like you and me -- children, blue collar laborers, office workers, a gang of drunks out on a spree --  simply decide to exercise the limited powers they have to make a positive difference in one human life. In doing simple, common things, the real people in these pages display a heroism that is overwhelming in its purity.

On a dirt road, an imprisoned Jew begs Maria Kobierska, a small Polish Catholic girl, for water as, nearby, Nazis guard the transport . . . a Warsaw man must determine a way to dispose of the bodily waste of the many Jews he has hidden in the attic of his apartment building, unbeknownst to his fellow apartment dwellers . . . Dominican Mother Superior Anna Borkowska instructs Jewish resistance fighter and her "right hand," Abba Kovner, in the use of the grenades she brings him . . . carriage maker Staszek Jackowski continually extends an underground bunker in which he eventually hides 32 Jews just two blocks away from Gestapo headquarters . . . secret agent Stefan Korbonski cannot understand why the BBC will not publish the war news he has been sending, at great risk, from occupied Poland . . . finally he is told . . . The Brits refuse to believe Korbonski's report of the Nazi genocide of Jews.

"Samaritans" is an anthology of short accounts of Poles who saved Jews during World War Two. The accounts range from one to several pages. Some are told by the rescued; some by rescuers; a few are told by third parties.

Because they are first-person accounts, some written shortly after the war, some written during the war, reading them requires attention and patience. It's as if you are reading the private diaries of dozens of separate people. You may be a paragraph or two into an account before you are fully oriented -- before you know exactly what town you're in, how old the main characters are, or even their gender. Be patient. These accounts, unmediated and unedited as they are, display raw power. These accounts convey an immediacy and an urgency that more carefully edited versions of the Holocaust do not.

It's exactly because the stories involve average, obscure people in everyday settings in which you can imagine yourself that they have so much power. This book isn't about Hitler or Eisenhower or Roosevelt. It's about a drunk stumbling home across a short-cut, and stumbling onto an escaping family in need of help. The drunk could ignore the people he's stumbled across; he could turn them in and make a tidy fortune for himself; or he could help them.

You can imagine yourself in these scenes. When was the last time you saw someone in need on the shoulder of a highway? Did you stop? Or did you just ignore the needy person, hoping someone else would take care of it? In short, these stories, about an epochal event in a country far away, are also about our everyday lives, and our everyday choices. Are we the kind that looks away and assumes that someone else will take care of it? Are we the kind that profits from someone else's misfortune? Are we the kind that risks, and that helps? When we are offered the opportunity to be heroes, what do we do?

"Samaritans" is an invitation. It proclaims: the only thing separating a hero from you or me is simple human choice. Experts insist that we are all selfish Darwinian wind-up toys, that ideals are silly fantasy only a fool believes in, that focus on pleasuring the self is the only good. The selfless heroism of these Samaritans incinerates cynicism. Driven by faith --  "Because I was a Catholic" --  by political ideals -- "as a Socialist" --  by loyalty --   "He was my friend" --  by personal integrity -- "I knew I could never live with myself otherwise" -- these Samaritans risked torture and death. With people like this in the world, we have to acknowledge that there is such a thing as goodness, and that we can exercise it whenever we so choose.

No one featured in "Samaritans" was solely responsible for the salvation of an individual Jew or a group of Jews. As historians point out, it took only one traitor to betray a Jew to the Nazis, but it took several people, perhaps even an entire village, to protect one Jew. Again and again, Jews on the run encounter person after person who can't take responsibility for their entire safety, but who can give shelter for the night, a new suit of clothes, counterfeit documents, or even just a glass of water.

As small as these gestures were, Poles were tortured and killed for them. Maria, the Polish girl who provided water to a thirsty Jew, was arrested and damaged for life. Other Poles featured here were beaten to death, put in concentration camps, and burned alive. Children as young as three were shot to death.

It is a sin and a crime that this book is so little known. While other, important books detail the crimes we committed during World War Two, a book that proves the reality of human goodness is out of print. By letting this book go out of print, we have let humanity down. Buy it, read it, stock libraries with it: the least we can do. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dr. Neil J. Kressel's Response to Christianity, Antisemitism, Poles and Jews

Ivy Tashlik Sutterstock. Source
Recently I talked about Polish-Jewish relations at WPUNJ. A previous blog post includes a link to the talk on youtube. You can see that blog post here.

Dr. Neil J. Kressel attended the talk. He mentioned Christianity, the Catholic Church, popes and saints as possible causes of antisemitism. I responded in the blog post linked above.

Dr. Kressel responded with the post, below, which he permitted me to post here. Dr. Kressel is the author of Sons of Apes and Pigs.

Neil Kressel

Dr. Kressel's response, below:

I will try later to respond to in more detail to specific points raised in your response, but I would start by noting that (in my comments and your response) we are talking about a number of fairly distinct questions.

1) What was the role of the Christianity in general and the Catholic church in particular in creating, structuring, sustaining, and justifying hostility toward Jews in various historical periods?

2) What role have the various Christian denominations played in recent times in combatting antisemitism?

3) What were the preponderant Polish modes of interaction with the Jews in various historical periods? How did Polish treatment of the Jews at various times compare with treatment of the Jews by other Christian and non-Christian countries?

4) How did various Polish leaders and parts of the population typically interact with Jews during the past century or so? How did Poles react to Nazi antisemitism? How did Poles typically treat the survivors of the Holocaust and their property?

5) How important are economic and political forces in explaining the history of Polish-Jewish interactions?

6) How do Poles currently think about the Jews and interact with the Jews? (For perspective here, I might refer you a recent global ADL poll of 100 nations which places Poles in the middle – not nearly so antisemitic as many other countries but more so than Americans, British and a few others. http://global100.adl.org/ )

7) How do most Jews and Jewish scholars think and act toward Poles? How do they think about Polish history?

8) How do Americans in general think about Poles?

9) What were the distal and proximal causes of Nazism and Nazi antisemitic policy? Does Christianity bear any responsibility for creating the conditions that made people responsive to, or accepting, of Nazi antisemitism?

10) What were Jewish attitudes toward Christians and other non-Jews in various historical periods? To what extent is negativity in these attitudes a product of the Jewish religious tradition, to what extent was it a reflection of natural preferences for the in-group, and to what extent was it reaction to discrimination?

11) To what extent is pre-Christian hostility toward Jews part of the same phenomenon that later becomes known as antisemitism?

12) How does Christianity compare with Islam as a source of anti-Jewish sentiment? To what extent did anti-Jewish ideas in these civilizations develop independently?

13) What role has the Old Testament played in building dysfunctional behavior patterns and belief systems?

14) What role have Jewish theologians played in building dysfunctional behavior patterns and belief systems?

15) How has Israel conducted itself? Where do Israeli actions originate? How does Israeli behavior compare with the behavior of other states confronted by similar circumstances?

Needless to say, it could take a lifetime to explore these questions, and I am open to your perspectives on all of them. I suspect that answers vary greatly by era. I won’t shoot references back at you, but I might start by saying that I think there were certainly some positive aspects to Polish-Jewish interactions – especially in comparison with relations in other nearby Christian states.

But the situation was far from rosy. I also think that you seriously understate the pervasiveness, depth, significance, and moral responsibility of Christianity in making antisemitism into one of mankind’s longest hatreds. In different periods, all sorts of sociopolitical causes were relevant. However – without Christian hostility – things would have been very different and Jew-hatred would never have become the obsession it was, and remains, for Western civilization.

I also think that you may understate the impact of twentieth century antisemitism in Poland as a source of the attitudes of many contemporary Jews toward Poles. Some, like my mother-in-law are still reacting to actual thefts of property and the loss of their homes. While this does not justify generalized attitudes toward Poles (and I don’t think she has them), it is hard to come away from such circumstances with an altogether positive impression.

A common attitude Jews have is “Thank God we got away from that place; our ancestors always were second-class citizens and half the time lived in fear. Thank God we are in America.”

Having said this, I also think that many Jews do not adequately separate crimes committed by German Nazis in Poland from Poland itself. They also may lack perspective on the pre-Nazi period. Many think of the Nazi death camps in Poland as the worst places on earth – without realizing that people now live near these places who played no part in the genocide and may themselves be the descendants of victims. (I think this point needs to be made to Jewish youth groups; I do not know whether it is but I will try to find out.)

I also agree that there is considerable anti-Polish stereotyping in America – including among some American Jews – and that this type of bigotry (like a number of other types) seems to have escaped the attention of the anti-racist community. I detect somewhat less of this now than I did growing up.

Finally, I might point out that I am no enemy of the Catholic Church and – in recent years – have frequently found myself respectful of Catholic institutions. I am a great fan of the fiction and nonfiction of the late Father Andrew Greeley. But he and many current American Catholic leaders agree with my perspective on Church history.

In any case, I detect a great deal of good will in your work and I look forward to reading more of it.

Best,

Neil Kressel

Monday, April 20, 2015

Christianity: A Necessary and Sufficient Cause of Antisemitism?

Arch of Titus, record of Pagan Roman genocide of Jews

On April 9 I gave a talk about Polish-Jewish relations on a university campus. My goal was to offer a quick overview for members of the general public who have no knowledge of Polish-Jewish relations. It was a one-time only talk, not meant to be representational of the alpha and omega of my work or anybody's work on Polish-Jewish relations. You can hear the talk in the youtube video linked below.

After the talk was over, attendee Neil J Kressel, author of "Sons of Apes and Pigs," protested that I did not mention Catholicism in general and saints and popes in particular as causing trouble between Christians and Jews.

I responded to Neil in the note, below. Again, what you find, below, are my thoughts on this matter at this time; I'm not offering the definitive truth here. I am not capable of doing so, because I have not written an exhaustive history of antisemitism.

I remember Neil as saying that I should have spoken about the role of the Catholic Church in fomenting discord between Christians and Jews.

Rather than focusing on the Catholic Church, I focused on what Edna Bonacich called the middleman minority theory, and what Amy Chua called market dominant minorities. These two scholars, independently of each other, describe very similar paradigms.

My goal in the talk was to provide an introduction to the general public who knows nothing about Polish-Jewish relations why Poles and Jews don't get along today. Poles and Jews, for the most part, no longer live in the same country. There are few economic barriers to amity. There are some restitution claims, but those are not looming barriers to relationships between Poles and Jews in the US. And yet Poles and Jews still fight. I was trying to describe why Poles and Jews fight today.

Neil suggested that the cause of the problem is the Catholic Church.

If I ever were again to do this kind of quick, introductory, explanation for why Poles and Jews today still fight, I would add a slide or two addressing Neil's point. I would say the following.

Some scholars do cite the Catholic Church as the most important source of animosity between Poles and Jews. Some cite the Catholic Church in particular and Christianity in general as the source of all anti-Semitism. Such scholars include James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair and John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII.

I would also mention that one can find well-respected works that make similar sweeping claims about Judaism. Regina Schwartz's The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism blames the Old Testament for war (See Peter Berkowitz's review from the New Republic). Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade and other New Age "goddess" books implicate Judaism in replacing allegedly woman-celebrating Goddess religions with misogyny. Carl Bernstein is said to have blamed Jews for the Iraq War and Matt Taibbi is said to have blamed Jews for the 2008 financial crisis. These examples show why we must be careful when even well-respected authors pin a specific crime on a specific religion.

We find, though, that attempted genocides of Jews pre-date Christianity's spread, and antisemitism can be found today without reference to Christianity. The Roman Empire attempted to wipe out all Jews and Judaism and to exile Jews forever from Israel. The Romans were Pagans. The Egyptian Merneptah Stele of 1205 BC is said to be the first extra-Biblical mention of Israel. It reads, "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not." These Jew-killing Egyptians were not Christian. Modern-day anti-Semitism often occurs in the Muslim world.

The worst expression of antisemitism, Nazism, was specifically anti-Christian. It described itself as overturning Christianity and returning to Pagan roots, while also looking forward to a brave, new scientific future.

If there were no Christians and no Christianity, there would still be anti-Semitism. The Romans would have committed their genocide in the Jewish-Roman wars – Christianity exercised no influence there. Jews would have still undergone their reform that made them literate and numerate while in exile – Christianity exercised no influence there. And the middleman minority pattern would have played out, as it does among populations that are neither Jewish nor Christian.

Middleman minority tensions exist between groups that are neither Jewish nor Christian. For example, between Chinese and Malay in Malaysia. Anti-Chinese pogroms and atrocities take place.  

Neil pointed out that popes, saints, and Christians in general have said ugly things about Jews. Ugly statements alone, though, don't necessitate violent conflict. All identity groups say ugly things about whomever is the closest neighbor. For example, Jews did once regularly pray for the destruction of the Christians and Christianity (the Birkat haMinim). Talmudic statements about Jesus are very unattractive. Polish-Jewish authors, including Isaac Bashevis Singer, Eva Hoffman, David Roskies, and Leon Wells, have been very frank about the contempt that many Jews felt for non-Jewish Poles. Various quotes from these authors convey the following: Polish Jews could and did regard Jesus as an idol, Poles as stupid and unclean, and Poland as a foreign land, even though Jews lived there.

One can't make the point that Jews said these things because they were oppressed by Christians, thus, Christians are always the source of the problem. The early Jewish curses on Christianity were spoken when Christians were themselves a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire. Jews arrived in Poland with systems already in place to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews in ways that made intimate contact difficult – for example, taboos about intermarriage and sharing food and wine. Jews did not arrive as the oppressed minority in Poland. Again, the first Jews in Poland were slave traders dealing in Polish slaves.

So. Popes and saints said ugly things about Jews. Popes and saints roundly condemned prostitution, gambling, and gluttony, and yet a lot of prostitutes, gambling dens, and pizza parlors are doing very good business. Ugly statements from popes and saints can't be the necessary and sufficient cause of antisemitism. Something else must be going on to have prompted spontaneous, violent outbursts by average people who otherwise were not engaging in mob violence. The middleman minority theory provides us with some of that answer.

Popes, saints, and Christians said good things about Jews. Popes and other Christians repeatedly attempted to stop violence against Jews. These Christians did these things because hatred of Jews is contradictory to Christian scripture.

Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you." When asked who his followers should love, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. The message is that Christians are to love everyone, whether that person is a member of the in-group or not. Jesus and his early followers were mostly Jewish. Pope Pius XI said, "We are all Semites."

There are no scriptural verses ordering Christians to convert others by force. Jesus advised us to preach. If people didn't listen to us, we were to "shake the dust off our sandals" and move on. There are no scriptural verses ordering Christians to kill those who aren't Christian. Just as God allows tares to grow with wheat, we are to allow non-Christians to live among us.

Popes repeated these messages in papal bulls. An example is Sicut Judaeis from 1120 which forbade Christians from harming Jews.

Yes there are harsh verses in the New Testament about Jews, but they were written by Jews following the Jewish tradition established in the Old Testament, which contains many more harsh statements about Jews written by Jews.

If you are going to read the authors listed above who cite Catholicism as the source of antisemitism, in all intellectual honesty you have to also read the authors who have responded to them, including Ronald J Rychlak's Hitler, the War and the Pope and Rabbi David Dalin The Myth of Hitler's Pope.

About Constantine's Sword, an important book among those books that cite Catholicism as the course of antisemitism. James Carroll falsifies Polish and Holocaust history in a big way in that book. I talk about Carroll's misrepresentation of history in Bieganski. That he could be so false on something so important says nothing good about the overall worth of his work.

One reviewer of Constantine's Sword wrote the following, "As a professional historian, I can say that this book is not a book of history, as it claims to be. The author has not used primary sources to construct his case on the Catholic Church's attitude toward the Jews. Many of the secondary sources he uses (such as John Cornwell's discredited book) are not considered serious by professional historians. On the rare occasion when the author does use primary sources, he clearly distorts the source. I've noted at least ten Church documents where the author draws out several phrases that appear to be anti-Semitic, but where he ignores passages (in the same document) which explicitly condemn violence against Jews. Rarely have I read a book that so ruthlessly cuts the evidence to suit the author's personal biases."

It's undeniable that Catholics and other Christians have done horrible things to Jews and that they did so believing that they were acting in the name of God. When one looks at their own self-announced motives for attacking Jews, though, those motives often spring from the middleman minority stereotype, rather than from theology. Radio Maryja is Catholic radio station. It is a modern-day purveyor of antisemitism in Poland. Here is one quote, Poles are "being out-maneuvered by Judeans who are trying to force our government to pay extortion money disguised as compensation." This Radio Maryja spokesperson is complaining about Jews being smarter, craftier, and getting money thereby. This is a middleman minority concept, not a theological one. And Radio Maryja has been repeatedly criticized by the Vatican and by Polish cardinals.

The most influential philo-Semite in Polish history and culture is John Paul II, a Catholic and a pope, who grew up among Jews and who had a good Jewish childhood friend, Jerzy Kluger. Probably the most influential antisemite in Polish history and culture is Roman Dmowski, a biologist influenced by Scientific Racism, an application of Darwinian concepts of struggle to human beings. Dmowski was a critic of Catholicism, but made a tactical decision to adopt a public pose as a Catholic, because he saw the Catholic Church as an important feature in Polish nationalism.

So, yes, if I ever were to give this talk again, I would mention Catholicism, but I wouldn't say that Catholicism was the necessary and sufficient cause of bad relations between Christians and Jews. I would acknowledge that Catholics often said horrible things about Jews, did terrible harm to Jews in the name of their faith, and Catholics often disseminated destructive anti-Semitic cultural products. 

One example of that is the mural in Sandomierz cathedral mural that depicts blood libel. I would also mention that popes repeatedly condemned blood libel. Something, then, prompted Catholics to embrace blood libel in spite of papal condemnation. I believe that that something is the middleman minority social structure that Catholics interpreted as leaving them subject to exploitation. That they felt that way is not right or just or attractive, but it is a universal feature of body exploitation folklore. 

This folklore exists today. A Japanese tourist and bus driver were stoned to death in Guatemala in 2000 because the villagers believe themselves to be victims of body exploitation schemes by tourists. The villagers' belief is false and the murder is hideous, but it can be understood through the lens of body-exploitation folklore. 

I think that the middleman minority pattern, emphasizing, as it does, economic castes, offers greater explanatory power for something like the Kielce Pogrom and the Sandomierz cathedral mural than does any ugly statements by popes, though, yes, those statements should be mentioned.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bieganski Lives: Polonians Send Many Outraged Emails

Polonians are again in a tizzy. They are again realizing that Bieganski lives. They are again sending many outraged emails. 

Tizzies are not what Polonia needs. Polonia needs leadership, organization, and vision. See here.

The current Bieganski crisis is like the last Bieganski crisis and like the next Bieganski crisis. Someone in power -- this time it was James Comey, US FBI director -- said publicly that Poles are more or less the same as Nazis and Polonians are in a tizzy. You can read more here.

Here is a comment from Yahoo coverage of the story:

"Poland has been the most anti-Semitic country, after Germany and Hungary. Poles are Catholics. The Catholic Church helped Hitler murder Jews, Gypsies, gays, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, the homeless and "subversives." "

Here is another comment from Yahoo:

"While it is true that there were righteous Poles who aided Jews and fought the #$%$; they were a tiny minority. Even in the resistance, Jews were not accepted or sheltered (there were Jewish resistance groups, however, they operated independently and had to fight both the germans, poles, Slovaks, etc on both sides). Some Soviet units accepted Jewish individuals with necessary skills, but they didn't assist Jews running from death. And when you look at what happened AFTER Germany was defeated, you see the hate of Jews, who were killed on returning home. Poles let the Jewish communities in their midst be taken out to the killing fields, took over their property, and killed any Jews coming back who might have asked them to give them their homes and possessions the Poles stole after the communities were murdered. The Poles still have a problem with giving back Torah scrolls (right now there are 35 scrolls that need to be returned and the gov't is fighting it). They have never faced the fact that the majority of Poles did nothing and even helped the murders or benefitted from the murders."

You can read comments like this here.

Want to change this, Polonia? 

Stop getting yourself into empty tizzies. Start organizing. Read this.

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Bieganski" in Poland in Polish. New Date.

Back in November, 2014 I mentioned that Jacek Tokarski of Wydawnictwo Wysoki Zamek planned to publish "Bieganski" in Poland in Polish in March of 2015. You can read that post here.

Mr. Tokarski has written to inform me that he will not make that date, but that he hopes that "Bieganski" will be published in Poland in Polish later this year. 

Lena Dunham Compares Her Jewish Boyfriend to Her Dog: Anti-Semitic? Funny?

Before you complain,
please realize that this is a relatively discrete photo,
compared to what else is out there. 
In the March 30, 2015 issue of The New Yorker, actress and writer Lena Dunham compares her Jewish boyfriend to a dog in a meant-to-be humorous quiz.

Lena Dunham is famous for appearing naked on TV, and for doing so in spite of weighing more than most TV stars do.

Her New Yorker quiz is a list of 35 items. Each item is meant to be funny because it could be about a dog or a Jew. Samples:

"He comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don't acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates.

He expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life, and anything less than that makes him whiny and distant.

He doesn't tip.

He's really more of an ass man.

He has a sensitive stomach and has to take two Dramamine before entering any moving vehicle.

Every week it's some new health issue: urine crystals, sprained foot, beef allergy.

He has hair all over his body, like most males who share his background.

He once vomited on his seatmate in United business class, then ran up and down the aisle in a panic."

What is immediately apparent is that the whole thing, like Lena Dunham herself, is embarrassingly, painfully, weird, narcissistic, and unfunny. You keep waiting for it to be over but keep reading out of perverse fascination.

But is it anti-Semitic?

I'm not sure. Our culture gives people the right to mock and stereotype their own. Chris Rock on African Americans, Joan Rivers on women, David Chase on Italians.

Various blogs say yes it is anti-Semitic, including Kveller linked here.


Read Lena Dunham compare her Jewish boyfriend to a dog in The New Yorker here.