Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stop Blaming the Jews

I want to compose a longer post on this topic when I have more time. For now, below is an edited cut-and-paste of a comment on an Amazon review.

It is a mistake to frame popular understanding of World War Two as a zero-sum competition between Poles and Jews: Either people know about the Jews who suffered under the Nazis, or people know about the Poles. If people learn about the Jews, the Jews win and the Poles lose. If people learn about the Poles, the Poles win and the Jews lose.

In the real world, it doesn't work that way. People can, and should, know and care about both. They should also know about the handicapped people, and the homosexuals, and the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Gypsies, aka Romani, and the Soviet POWs, all of whom suffered horribly under the Nazis.

Poles and Polonians have not done their part to make Polish suffering known. Jews have not always and only been the opponents of Poles trying to make their story known. In fact, many Jews have supported Poles in their efforts to make the Polish story known.

It's not the Jews who are primarily responsible for focus on Jews' suffering. It's the Nazis. It was the Nazis who targeted Jews with a genocidal scheme. The genocide of the Jews under the Nazis is of a different order than what happened to the Poles.

Yes, Poles were abducted, transported, enslaved, tortured, and murdered, by both Nazis and Soviets, and then betrayed by the Allies, primarily America and England, but Poland did not lose a comparable percentage of its population as did the Jews, and we can't pretend that that is not true.

Place responsibility where responsibility belongs: Poles and Polonians in America, England, Australia and elsewhere can and must tell their own story. There is no excuse for Polonia's failure to do so. Poles and Polonians must enter graduate programs, research and write books, fund scholarship, and buy, read, and review books. And Poles and Polonians must learn to abandon their all too often resorted to postures of spite, sarcasm, undercutting, and a lack of respect for each other. Poles must learn, once and for all, to unite with and support other Poles.

There's no excuse for Polonia's failure to do these things. None whatsoever. The money is certainly there: Martha Stewart is unimaginably wealthy and is of Polish descent. There is the Kosciuszko Foundation and the Polish American Congress. There are political leaders like Barbara Mikulski. Where is their list of accomplishments in this matter?

Polonia has, indeed, failed. Blaming the Jews for Polonia's failures is a moral and strategic dead-end.


  1. I'd like to add a few words about Polish-Americans and their unwillingness to do much for the mother country. That so few Polish-Americans enter graduate programs and write books is puzzling --Where are the Wajdas and the Wrobels? Why have they given way to the Jerzy Novaks of the world? -- but what is one to make of the fact that congressmen from areas with large Polish communities never lobby on the community's behalf? A much smaller community, the Armenian-American community, managed to convince two congressmen from Southern California to push the federal government to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and we all know what happened: They didn't get enough votes, but, within days, every television viewer in the country had heard of the Armenian Genocide and Turkey's fury over the fact that a quiet, anonymous community had successfully brought their grievances to Congress. A former Polish Ambassador to the U.S., after stating boldly that the Polish-American community does almost zilch in politics, urged them to study the Armenian and Israel lobbies as examples of what can happen when organized, dedicated men and women choose to lobby on their people's behalf.

    Let's not forget that the Polish-American community is, after all, a successful, highly-assimilated, 10,000,000-strong immigrant group. After considerable thought, I have concluded that most Polish-Americans don't really give two hoots about this topic. And those who do care must deal with a slew of unbelievably lame, marginally literate web sites where one can trash-talk Jan Tomasz Gross and fume about the Zydokomuna. The reaction to the recent tragedy in Katyn (which provided the community with a real chance to educate the larger public about this crime) is a case in point: I looked at the Polish Falcons' website a few days after the plane went down, and was dismayed by what I found there-to wit, a limp letter of condolence to the grieving nation, tucked away beneath a larger headline on an upcoming golf tournament. Madness.

  2. History is never simple, and part of the problem with what most people know about the Holocaust and the related tragedies of the Second World War comes from the way most people learn about these.

    Most people first learn about the Holocaust in school, and the problem there is that teachers, because of the nature of teaching, attempt to find a simple way of telling a complex story. I have probably lectured to at least 10,000 high school students about what happened to my parents and other Polish Catholic slave laborers who were taken to Germany to work in the concentration camps there. The students I speak to seldom know about what happened to the non-Jewish victims of the Nazis. When I ask teachers why they don't teach this, they all say the same thing, "There isn't any time." They tell me that a full treatment of what happened is impossible.

    When I ask them why they focus on the Jewish victims, this is what I hear: The story of the Jews in the Second World War is a coherent, compact, self-contained narrative arc that can be explained simply without reference to historical prologues (the Russian-Polish War of 1920 and Hitler's pursuit of Lebensraum) or epilogues (Yalta and the Cold War). The story has a simple conflict (Hitler against the Jews) and a simple resolution (liberation of the camps).

    These teachers realize that telling history this way is not the best way, but they feel that they cannot tell it otherwise.

  3. It is an insult to memorialize the handful of anti-societal trouble-seeking Jehovah's Witnesses alongside the SIX MILLION Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view the Jews much as did the Nazis.

    The WatchTower Cult teaches its own version of "replacement theology", which says that GOD rejected the Jews as His "chosen people", and replaced them with today's "Jehovah's Witnesses". In fact, the title "Jehovah's Witnesses" was originally applied to the Jews by the Prophet Isaiah, and is even quoted on the wall at the entrance to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. The WatchTower Society, in calling its own members "Jehovah's Witnesses" is attempting to steal that designation away from the Jews. The WatchTower Cult even teaches that all of the Bible's promises of restoration for the Jewish people now belongs to the followers of the Cult.

    There were only approximately 6000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany during the 1930s-40s. While many of those 6000 German JWs were repeatedly arrested during the 1930s and 1940s, only a fraction were jailed or imprisoned for any significant length of time. Only about 200-300 German JWs lost their lives, and the majority of those died from any number of causes other than having been executed. Approximately 1000 JWs from other European countries lost their lives while incarcerated by the Nazis.

    During that same time period, there were more Jehovah's Witnesses arrested and jailed in the United States than in Germany. In fact, from 1941 until 1945, approximately 4500 American Jehovah's Witnesses "elected" to go to prison rather than serve in the U.S. Military and go fight against those same Nazis who were committing those atrocities. Approximately 3000 of those 4500 American JWs were even offered "conscientious objector" status, in which they were offered "non-combatant" work as a substitute, but 99% of those JWs refused to even help that much.

    It is additionally an insult to SINGLE OUT for memorialization the Jehovah's Witnesses alongside the FIVE MILLION Non-Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view some of those fellow victims (Homosexuals, Gypsies, etc. ) much as did the Nazis.

  4. I respectfully disagree with the post, above.

    Here is a Wikipedia page addressing Nazi persecution of JW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Jehovah's_Witnesses_in_Nazi_Germany

  5. Hello J Jones, I would like to respond to your rather puzzling attack on the Jehovah's Witnesses. I am not a JW, and I don't share their beliefs, but I observe that their refusal to engage in the politics of the world means that they, of many groups, are the least open to political corruption. There is no mileage for any politician in pursuing the Witness' vote with money, advancement, forks or hope.

    In part, you say that: 'It is an insult to memorialize the handful of anti-societal trouble-seeking Jehovah's Witnesses alongside the SIX MILLION Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view the Jews much as did the Nazis.'

    It is outrageous to say that the Witnesses viewed the Jews 'much as did the Nazis'. In 1936 an international convention of Witnesses condemned the Nazi regime, and the international movement also produced publications denouncing the Nazi persecution of the Jews, in contrast to many other faith groups. Their beliefs do not allow them to be part of any ideology that teaches that some races are 'superior' and others 'inferior', because their Scriptures teach that humanity is one family. Across the world the Witnesses faced hostility and were often persecuted for refusing to act against their beliefs. In Nazi Germany, this meant that they refused to cooperate with the Nazis, refused to report for conscription, continued to evangelise despite being banned from doing so, faced the persecution of themselves and their children, to the point that on occasion, their children were taken away from them to be brought up as 'good Germans'. Whether you are a believer or not, this stance has to be respected.

    You also say that 'The WatchTower Cult teaches its own version of "replacement theology", which says that GOD rejected the Jews as His "chosen people", and replaced them with today's "Jehovah's Witnesses".' In all versions of the Bible, Matthew 21:43 has a close variation on 'the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce it's fruit.' The translation used by the Witnesses says: 'The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.’ This is part of Christian belief. In my experience, most religious groups, Christians, Jews and Muslims, identify themselves in some way as a 'chosen people' and the actions of the JW's do not suggest they have ever acted on this belief in an aggressive or hostile way.

    The Jewish people themselves recognise and admire the stance of the Jehovah's Witnesses against the Nazis. The JWs opposed the Nazis by their refusal to cooperate with them. if all Christians had done this, Hitler could never have done what he did.

    The Jehovah's Witnesses do not deserve this attack.

    Danuta R

  6. I personally thank Danuta R for her post, above.

    I hope to return to this post when I have more time to say a bit more about my disagreement with any attempt to censor the JW experience from the history of Nazi evils.

  7. Dear JJones, Why attack Jehovah's Witnesses or any group that was persecuted by the Nazis? To me, it doesn't make any sense. During WWII, there was enough suffering caused by the Nazis and the Russians to go around. My father, a Polish Catholic, was in a concentration camp with Jews and atheists and Christians of all kinds. He told me that watching a Frenchman die was a lot like watching an Italian.

    I would also like to thank Danuta Reah for her thoughtful and informative response about the Witnesses.

  8. JJones wrote:

    "anti-societal trouble-seeking Jehovah's Witnesses"

    "Jehovah's Witnesses view the Jews much as did the Nazis."

    "The WatchTower Cult teaches its own version of "replacement theology""

    "There were only approximately 6000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany during the 1930s-40s. While many of those 6000 German JWs were repeatedly arrested during the 1930s and 1940s, only a fraction were jailed or imprisoned for any significant length of time. Only about 200-300 German JWs lost their lives, and the majority of those died from any number of causes other than having been executed. Approximately 1000 JWs from other European countries lost their lives while incarcerated by the Nazis."

    Several things are going on here.

    One assertion: If people are obnoxious to you, you should not care about their being persecuted.

    This position is unacceptable to me. Persecution, even of people you don't like, is persecution.

    Two: Jehovah's Witnesses are just like Nazis.

    This statement invokes Godwin's Law. Comparing JW to the Nazis is false. No facts can be adduced to support it.

    The JW do preach replacement theology. That does not make them like Nazis.

    Three: The number of JW who suffered was negligible. Here's what the USHMM website says:

    "between 2,000 to 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, as were a total of about 700 to 800 non-German Witnesses (this figure includes about 200-250 Dutch, 200 Austrians, 100 Poles, and between 10 and 50 Belgians, French, Czechs, and Hungarians).

    The number of Jehovah's Witnesses who died in concentration camps and prisons during the Nazi era is estimated at 1,000 Germans and 400 from other countries, including about 90 Austrians and 120 Dutch. (The non-German Jehovah's Witnesses suffered a considerably higher percentage of deaths than their German co-religionists.) In addition, about 250 German Jehovah's Witnesses were executed -- mostly after being tried and convicted by military tribunals -- for refusing to serve in the German military."

    Link: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005394

    Four: We should not commemorate the JW

    This is historical revisionism. JJones argues that we rewrite history because we don't like JWs. Such a rewriting of history would cause us to completely misunderstand Nazism.

  9. An interesting link re: Matthew 21:43, cited by Danuta R, above: http://www.theologicalstudies.org/page/page/4362539.htm

  10. In 1933, after the Nazis first started arresting some German JWs, the WatchTower Cult issued a public proclamation of appeasement which condemned an imagined partnership between "Jewish Big Business" and the governments of the United States and Great Britain, which supposedly oppressed and exploited other countries, including Germany. The WatchTower Cult's proclamation condemned the Americans and the British as "the most oppressive empire on earth".

    A conciliatory letter also was sent to Hitler, which highlighted those areas in which the WatchTower Cult supported the new Nazi government. The letter even claimed that the U.S. Government had imprisoned the leaders of the WatchTower Cult during WW1 because they refused to print anti-German propaganda.

    During the early years of World War 2, when Germany and Japan were having much success on the battlefields, the WatchTower Cult started teaching that the Bible prophesied that the Axis Powers would defeat and rule over the United States, Britain, and other Allies.

    In the United States, JWs went to the homes of families of American service men and women and told those parents, siblings, and spouses that Germany was prophesied to win the war, and that in fighting against Hitler, American and British soldiers were fighting against God's will. A Jehovah's Witness named Taylor was arrested after going to two homes of dead servicemen and telling their families that their sons had died while opposing God's will. Don't believe this? Read 1943 U.S. Supreme Court case TAYLOR v. MISSISSIPPI. Remember the actual historical context the next time you read some liberal newspaper or book's account about how some poor innocent Jehovah's Witness was beaten during WW2 for doing nothing except preaching the Bible door-to-door.

    While it is true that a small number of German and other European JWs suffered greatly during the early stages of the Holocaust, it is also true that during the latter stages of the Holocaust that imprisoned JWs became exemplary Nazi collaborators highly valued by the Nazis.

    Over the decades, the WatchTower Cult itself has published numerous biographical stories in which imprisoned JWs are praised for having been given positions of authority and responsibility within the various Nazi concentration camps. Various Nazi officials are quoted praising those JWs for not only their work, but their work ethic and supportive attitudes.

    In fact, one of Heinrich Himmler's deputies even sent Himmler a report suggesting that after Germany won the war that conquered non-Germanic christian countries be forced to convert to the Jehovah's Witness religion, so as to maintain a controlling religious element in those people's lives which would pose no threat to Nazi political control.

  11. jj2014, you seem to have a problem with the Jehovah's Witnesses. You have posted this kind of stuff in several places. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum do not agree with you, and they seem to me to be a credible source.

    As for Taylor vs Mississippi, this relates to a case where three people were prosecuted for "distributing literature and printed matter designed and calculated, and which reasonably tended to create an attitude of stubborn refusal to salute, honor, and respect the flag and government of the United States and the State of Mississippi." This would be what JW literature would say. They don't support wars, nor do they allow their followers to take part in wars. I suspect saluting the flag might cause issues as well, but I'm not a JW, so I don't know. The convicted people appealed, and the US Supreme Court reversed the convictions.

    As for your other accusations, post references and links to these sources and documents. If they exist, we need to see them.

  12. Much as you disagree with him, you may be surprised to learn that Roman Dmowski also had a "Stop Blaming the Jews" message. While visiting the USA about 1920, he went beyond the pro-Jewish and pro-German nature of the American press, and blamed primarily the Poles for not letting their message be heard. To see this, please click on (or paste-in) my recent review:



Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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