Friday, June 10, 2011

The Polish Catholic Conscience

Zegota members. source
"We are required by God to protest. God who forbids us to kill. We are required by our Christian consciousness. Every human being has the right to be loved by his fellowmen. Blood of the defenseless cries to heaven for revenge. Those who oppose our protestare not Catholics." from "Protest" by Zofia Kossak.


This series of blog posts travels inside the mind of an anti-Polish bigot. Much of this is discussed in "Bieganski," a book that offers an x-ray into the anatomy and physiology of bigotry.

1.) The first post offers an introduction.

2.) The second post discusses the concept of universal human progress, its nineteenth century refiners, and its modern-day adherents.

3.) The third post points out echoes of ideas of universal human progress in discussions of Polish-Jewish relations, and points out that these echoes are fallacies.

4.) The fourth post mentions facts that prove the bigots wrong. Polish peasants are entirely capable of ethical behavior.

5.) The fifth post points out that Polish moral leaders responded appropriately to atrocity. Polonia has not adequately communicated their story, and their efforts have been all but forgotten.

***
The information, below, is from Wladyslaw Bartoszewski's 1989 article, "The Founding of the All-Polish Anti-Racist League in 1946." This article appeared in "Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry," published by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. All Poles and Polonians owe the Littman Library a debt of gratitude for Polin, a splendid and essential publication that has published many key articles about Poles, Jews, America, Israel, and Poland.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski is a Polish hero. He was in the underground during the war, and, after the war, he, along with other Poles, struggled against post-war anti-Semitism.

When those who are invested in the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype insist that Poles require non-Poles to educate them, to help them evolve, to help them to develop a conscience, these bigots attempt to erase the existence of heroes like Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.

Bartoszewski describes the precarious status of Jews in post-war Poland. There was deadly violence. "Bieganski" quotes Temple University Professor Joan Mellen, who, in "Poland's Little Holocaust after the Holocaust," published in the Baltimore Sun, implied that because Poland was such an essentially anti-Semitic country, that all Poles were involved in post-war atrocities against Jews, and that no Pole condemned these attacks.

Bartoszewski was alive and active in post-war Poland. He reports otherwise. Unfortunately, far more people will see articles like Mellen's than will see Bartoszewski's eyewitness account. Bartoszewski acknowledges that the story he has to tell has not reached wide audiences. He begins his article mournfully, admitting that history books do not tell his story. Polonia owes it to the world to communicate this story on university campuses, in the mainstream press, and in popular culture.

***

"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.) The terrible experience of the war years and the dreadful crime committed against Polish Jews … have pushed actions and phenomena which were, in a sense, marginal to the whole picture, to one side…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, works 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 reader ought note: those who insist that Poles have no conscience, that Poles require outside tutelage to evolve into acceptable human beings, are wrong. 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 uncategorical 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."

***

No sane or responsible person denies that anti-Semitism was a powerful and destructive force in inter-war, wartime, and post-war Poland.

The problem is that those invested in the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype have distorted history, and, indeed, ethics, in locating guilt for the Holocaust in an inferior, primitive, unevolved Polish, Catholic, peasant essence.

There are several fatal flaws in this dominant view. One flaw is this: the view of universal human progress is without merit. The second flaw: there is no Polish essence that is different from the universal human essence. The very concept of ethnic essences is itself racist.

Fourth: the posited Polish essence is not responsible for the Holocaust. Nazism was.

Fifth: scapegoating Polish peasants is an ethically corrupt escape hatch. As "Bieganski" makes clear, the Brute Polak stereotype is exploited to make the Holocaust narrative go down easier for Western audiences. If the average American audience member of Holocaust films like "Shoah" were forced to acknowledge that modern, educated, secular people are entirely capable of committing atrocity, and that universal human progress has not caused our species to evolve in any ethical sense, the Holocaust story would become unbearable for many audiences members.

"Bieganski" attempts to address the problem of anti-Semitism in Poland with the scholarship of Edna Bonacich and Amy Chua, scholarship that is truly universal, rather than ethnically based.

In a final irony, those very atheist elites invested in the concept of universal human progress, with their contempt for Christianity, which they believe people must evolve past in order to become fully ethical, took power in Poland and jailed Catholics like Bartoszewski who tried to resist atrocity.

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. Mama Lu, I removed your post and my response.

    Post under a real name.

    Post about what has been posted here, not straw men.

    thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Naturally.;)) (mama lu)

    ReplyDelete
  5. A very interesting post.

    For an unusually rational Jewish perspective of pre-WWII Polish anti-Semitism, please read my book review which can be accessed by clicking on my name in this specific posting.

    ReplyDelete

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