Friday, September 30, 2011

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Continues to Disseminate the Brute Polak Stereotype

Tanya Bouchard, who has designed backpacks for children,
decides what is "representational" of Poles during World War Two.

Ever design one of these?
Then YOU may be qualified to teach  Immigration, Holocaust, and World-War-Two History!

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 shows a film called "Oceans of Hope" that is an archetypal example of the "Bieganski" stereotype. It locates Polish, Christian, rescuers of Jews in the historical niche properly occupied by German Nazis. It sets up that historical revision by beginning with a false and stereotyped depiction of Slavic immigrants to Canada as fat, dumb, happy, without history, and laughable.

One can read a previous blog post about this film here.

Pier 21's revision is not the result of casual or isolated error. It is part of a strategic revision of Holocaust and World War Two history, concomitant strategic revision of immigration history and a pernicious stereotypification of Eastern European peasantry as only slightly more sophisticated than animals.

One may ask – why would anyone want to place Polish, Christian rescuers of Jews in the historical niche properly occupied by German Nazis? Why would anyone want to disseminate false images of Eastern European peasantry and immigrants?

The answer is complex, and best mastered through a reading of "Bieganski."

An activist, Malgorzata Tarchala, has been writing letters to Pier 21 politely requesting that they reconsider the film.

Needless to say, given that she is just one person, Pier 21 has found it easy to dismiss her polite requests.

The Polish Embassy also wrote to Pier 21.

On September 7, 2011, Pier 21 Chief Curator Tanya Bouchard, whose previous museum experience includes designing backpacks for children, wrote to Ambassador Kosiniak-Kamysz of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ottawa, Canada regarding "Oceans of Hope."

She wrote that "Oceans of Hope" is, and this is a quote from her letter, "acceptable as it is a representation of facts of the time."

Her letter addresses none of the points found here. It doesn't have to. She has power; Polonia has yet to exercise any power in relation to its own stereotypification; she can say whatever she wants. She could say that Hitler was born in Warsaw and that the Nazis loved Poles; no Polonian would or could take any significant action to address any absurdity.

Bouchard's letter is false, of course. There is nothing representational about "Oceans of Hope."

What Bouchard and Pier 21 believe to be true, though, is this: Poles, Polish-Americans, Polish-Canadians, and Polonians worldwide will do nothing to remove this film.

I fear that Pier 21 is correct. Polonia has yet to unite, engage in mutual support, and act strategically in response to the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype.

In response to Pier 21 alone, I've seen several letters sent by various Polonians. None acted in unison with anyone else. I approached one previous letter-writer and he declined to participate in any new action. I approached a man who saw the film with his father. Both were outraged by it. Neither offered to participate in any response to the film. No letter I saw cited "Bieganski," the one scholarly book that addresses the brute Polak stereotype. Writers make vague statements about how the film upset them. One particularly bad letter focused on how the film made someone cry.

This isn't about a vague sense of unease this or that Pole felt walking out of the film with teary eyes. This isn't about "dishonoring the Polish nation," whatever that means. This isn't an issue that only a handful of disgruntled Poles might care about for about five minutes before forgetting about it and moving on to something more entertaining.

This is one incidence of a culture-wide systematic historical revision, documented in a scholarly book. This is something that anyone who cares about truth might care about. This is something that right-thinking Jews that I know personally care deeply about – and have taken action in response to. The Bieganski, brute Polak stereotype requires informed, educated, unified, cool-headed, professional, strategic action by activists who are willing to work with others over the long haul and who have committed themselves to not stopping until the film is gone.

As long as Polonians decline to do what is necessary, the Brute Polak stereotype will continue to dominate, including in immigration history, World War Two history, and Holocaust history. Not because it is true. But because Polonians declined to take appropriate action. And people who design backpacks for children will decide what constitutes "representational" histories of World War Two, the Holocaust, Immigration, and Eastern European peasantry.


  1. Please provide a website URL for them. List who supports this. List the donors. List names.


  2. That info can be found in the first post on this topic. It's linked in the post above. The link itself is here:

  3. ah, thank you. So who is this gal who designs Polish Pig backpacks for kids? Do I actually have that right? Where was she born, live, went to school? Where is she otherwise visible in the Kultur? what is the origin of that?

    Now a lot of stuff like this has little effect on the lives of people who don't move in the circles of the types that produce this stuff. As an academic you probably DO move in those circles, so get a higher dose of the poison. So it hurts you more, and you may wonder why it doesn't hurt everyone else as much?

    Also, you seem to at least in the past have cultivated friends, or tried hard to be in those settings that are more or less owned by the types who give us a lot of this stuff. Correct?

    So in part, you may be the canary in the coal mine, or the eagle trying to find nourishment on the dung heap. And so Joe the plumber and his friends may not get as upset about this stuff, because they aren't around it much, don't interface with it, to some extent, for their well being. Micro (or greater) inequities abrade the soul.

    But of course something like this, set down in concrete (literally most likely), is a hardened target and not likely susceptible to the flyswatter of letters. Most likely the people who fund it are the people who get good jobs there are the people who are on the board are the people who set up exhibits are the people who design and select exhibits and invite exhibitors, etc. etc. Mutually defending and reinforcing positions which will always have you in the crossfire. Defense in depth.

    Better to use the MacArthur strategy. Hit 'em where they ain't (a baseball strategy) in the war against Japan, to avoid excess casualties that would be incurred upon hitting hardened Japanese targets like Rabaul, MacARthur instead taking bases from little defended Japanese positions, and choking off the strongpoints.

    So first, a college credit course on Slavophobia. Might be fun to see if the academics have the integrity to do that kind of multiculti. A softer target, since their ideology logically obligates them to do such a thing. (not saying that they, hypocritically, won't resist, but if they do, it's a great opportunity for agitprop, consciousness raising.)

    If American Univ won't do it, ask the Jagiellonian to, and then have it offer the course in the US, or get that course approved for credit in the US, first of course at Universities that have similar courses for other groups - what in chess is called the fork.

    (You may have noticed that ethnic studies at most Universities function to advance the well being of those client ethnicities, vs. Slavic departments that have variously served as think tanks or personnel pools for measures often directed against the ethnicity of their subject of study.)

    Such a deal.


  4. Thanks Danusha for writing about it. However I am afraid the way you described the fight against this movie would rather discourage people to join. Even the title of the blog suggests that "Polonians declined to act". Who exactly declined to act strategically and what was the strategy they declined to apply? Is criticizing “Polonians” the strategy you find the most effective?
    We have done enormous work. We are still doing it. We will be addressing the Embassy response too. We have on board people from Poland, Canada, the USA, Australia and the UK. We are fighting and getting more and more support. It is not easy, though.
    You do not know how many and what letters were sent out and where and what steps have been taken. You have seen maximum 3 letters I can recall. The “one particularly bad letter” you mentioned was amended and you co-signed it. I am happy about any letter people write to the Museum. This is a first act of commitment. Do not criticize it, pls. We will be sending more letters. We find it the first and necessary step to express our indignation about the movie. Everybody can express their own thoughts.
    You met or contacted 2 people that did not help. I know 20 people who joined me. We do have a plan. We discuss it. We hoped the Embassy will be helpful. It was not, but it does not justify statement “Polonians declined to act”, “Polonians declined to do what is necessary”, Polonians declined to take appropriate action” (quotes from FB)? What steps, what appropriate action and who declined to take?
    My letter to the Museum referred to Bieganski. My article in Polish about the movie referred to your book and was posted in 5 websites in Poland. I cannot see how it helped Tanya Bouchard (or whoever stays behind her) understand our point better.
    Tanya Bouchard’s template response is a shame. BUT - It is not her who stays behind this libel. I find it unnecessary making it a personal attack. Do not blame the messenger. You do not know if she is qualified to do this job or not.
    What we need to do is continue fighting. And we will. We need to encourage people instead of criticizing them. Are we really too stupid to understand how to act strategically? This is a team work. Please propose the strategy, we will discuss it and apply it. I do not claim I know how to run the protest. But I am doing my best with support of others. I am asking people to join me, offering ideas, planning the next moves. My aim is to make the movie go, not to unite Polonia.
    People will not follow if they get criticized all the time and are not offered any alternative.


  5. My experience is very different from that described in Malgorzata Tarchala's post, above.

    Further, Ms. Tarchala is not, in her post above, offering a full or unbiased account of her own experience. I make that statement with confidence, based on face to face work we've done together and emails I've received from Ms. Tarchala.

    Ms. Tarchala's insistence that my only goal is to "insult" people is tragic and misguided.

    Over twenty years of work on this issue, I have seen Polonians do the following in response to stereotyping:

    1.) Fail to act at all.

    2.) Turn on those who are acting. Insults, temper tantrums, intrigue, drama, fights, quarrels. Polonians hating other Polonians.

    3.) In the end, after the dust settles from all the empty drama, Polonians who began with an announcement that they were determined to accomplish goal X accomplish nothing, and leave the field without any concrete accomplishment.

    4.) In every Polish American group I've been part of, and that includes several, at least ten percent of the group will fall back on blaming the Jews.

    And the other 90 percent of the group, who perhaps don't even share that antisemitic sentiment, will decline to speak up against antisemitism.

    Maybe I'm incorrect. Maybe Polonians have effectively countered the Bieganski stereotype.

    If that is the case, then why is this true:

    Museums, newspapers, websites, films, novels, school curricula -- all offer abundant proof that Bieganski is flourishing.

    The Bieganski stereotype is everywhere. It has not been defeated; if anything, it is flourishing.

    A truth teller needs to tell the truth -- no matter what the consequences. These truths need to be told:

    1.) Bieganski is flourishing.

    2.) Polonians have dropped the ball in addressing it.

    3.) Polonians need to unite, support each other, organize, and act strategically. Forget the drama, the intrigue, the egos, the temper tantrums, the empty posturing. Focus on action.

    4.) Blaming the Jews is a strategic, moral, and ethical failure.

  6. Well, I am surprised that the issue of anti-Semitism has anything to do with this matter.

    If for example, all ethnicities are represented proportionally among the Slavophobes, then it is not an issue.

    If certain ethnicities are disproportionally represented among the Slavophobes, or have Slavophobe tendencies more than the average American, that is certainly worth noting, and not covering up for them. Only a fool would shrink from noting reality, despite accusations of anything from those accustomed to a cheap ride on shibboleths.

    The best way to sort this out is to ask the question: Of all the Slavophobe propagandists that I have noticed, is this ethnic group represented among the Slavophobes more than their %age in the general population?

    So for example, if Jews represent 5% of the American population, and 25% of the persons along the decision making chain, or foundational support, of various Slavophobe propaganda and institutions, then noting that, and blaming something in that culture would be highly appropriate. It's a non random behavior. Declining to observe and acknowledge reality is usually unhealthy.

    I might add that a tendency to blame only one perpetrating group of origin risks the hazard of ignoring the threat from all the other a-holes.


  7. I think that being dispirited at the lack of popular response to cultural genocide from these hardened targets is premature, and self defeating. Most people wisely don't want to use up resources on such stuff.

    The people that run these and staff these and support these all get big payoffs from doing so. Spontaneous change from that direction, a sudden satori enlightenment, is highly unlikely. Brain transplants are not yet technically or socially feasible, even if there were a pool of plausible donors. These people are deeply imbedded in a personal and social history, and economic system, and ideology that rewards them financially and psychically for such Slavophobe behavior, and that has done so for a long time.

    Kurtz and his misguided fiance back home got to think nice things about each other and themselves, and look good all around. The payoff is that these are performances (this includes the Slavophobe performances) designed to help them think that they are after all, good people, intelligent people, progressive, combatting all the negative things, all that usual stuff. Your Bieganski is on target there. In fact, Kurtz is perhaps an even more iconic figure in all this Slavophobe stuff than is Beiganski.

    And it becomes a mass psychology thing, the herd of independent minds. Sort of like tele-evangelists telling everyone that each other are holy men of god, etc. One hand washes the other's psyche. You are quite right about applying Kurtz analogy to them.


  8. I think that the best approach is to let the Slavophobes put it out, and hang it all out, and the more they do, it becomes your data base for commentary, analysis, and exposure in building the case against them. Sort of like jiu-jitsu, using the weight of your opponent's force against them, rather than opposing it directly and wearing yourself out doing so. You do not have the cultural resources to oppose them directly anyhow. And so people rightly don't want to follow your cavalry charge against tanks with machine guns.

    People want to feel good about what they do, life is short. The Slavophobes, and any conflict with them (that you are likely to lose at the moment) is not likely to give you good vibes. Being around people like that is not likely to give you good vibes. It gets to be like the TarBaby/Brer Rabbit thing.
    Being around people who share your views and wounds should be a welcome respite from the constant cultural assault, not an amplification of it.

    So first build your organs and institutions of self education and mutual support. For example, your website is a great step in that direction. STaying power is likely to last when forming institutions that are nurturing and friendly, with tasks that are do-able.

    Begin to assault the Slavophobe culture first by

    1. doing a study of history books and the treatment of Eastern Europe in them. Education and the media are the modes of brainwashing the elites, and the masses, respectively. Maybe some SlavAm academic might see if they could get this published in a peer reviewed academic journal. Wouldn't that be interesting?

    2. Begin an organization that mentors Slavic kids by teaching them research skills, by compiling bibliographies of various Slavic Amerians and posting this online. this would be a first step in long overdue self study (everyone else ignores our lives, when not attacking them). With bibliographies posted online, academics could do research more readily.
    Since scholarships and even high school graduation requirements are now wanting kids to do various STakhanovite volunteer things to (usually) serve other groups' agenda and well being, this would be a way for SlavAm kids to step out of the line of servitude, and still put in their "volunteer" hours.
    A kid thinking of going to law school might do a bibliography on SlavAm lawyers in America, and learn something about the professional culture they might be entering.

    3. Instead of spending money on useless assaults on hardened targets (your opponents are too enmeshed in the rewards from Slavophobia to change their behavior based on any short term non violent means you would use)
    instead use that money, time, and attention to fund a study of Slavophobe propaganda in the comics,
    or fund a study carrying Biskupski's analysis of Hollywoods war with Poland, 1939-45 into the years following the war, until the present.

    4. Fund studies, do studies on social defeat stress, and microinequities, as they apply to Polonia.

    5. Do a study of hostile climate for Slav Ams in various elite and non elite educational institutions.

    6. do a study of addiction and suicide among SlavAms.

    All of the above are likely to produce more positive results, with less work, and less pain that frontal assaults on hardened targets.

    AND ---- they will elicit less pushback, less defensive behavior on the part of the Slavophobes, as they will be under the radar, rather than out in the open where they will call in airstrikes on you.

    Years ago, I thought for awhile it would be a great idea to destroy all the (anti) Polish joke books in the country. Now I am glad that never happened, because I have my own copies to show my kids how it was.

    Avoid frontal assaults on hardened targets. This does not mean giving up more productive, constructive, knowledge buidling methods of struggle.


  9. The Polish Embassy in Ottawa did not decline to act strategically and will take further actions:

  10. Oto fragment artykułu, który ukazał się w „Głosie Polskim” w Kanadzie”

    Podczas wystąpień i wspólnej dyskusji, największą znajomością „spraw polskich” i interesów Polaków, zamieszkałych w Kanadzie, wykazał się ze „strony rządowej” minister Jason Kenney, który przypomniał nasze wysiłki w celu zniesienia wiz dla Polaków, „walkę” polskich kombatantów o zrównanie ich praw z weteranami kanadyjskimi, wspomniał o inicjatywie budowy pomnika ofiar komunizmu na Wzgórzu Parlamentarnym, podkreślał doniosłość wizyt Papieża Jana Pawła II w Kanadzie, mówił o konieczności usunięcia filmu, prezentowanego w Muzeum w Halifaksie, gdzie sugeruje się odbiorcom, iż to Polacy byli oprawcami Żydów w czasie II wojny światowej, a nie Niemcy, obiecał, że będzie reagował na wciąż pojawiające się w mainstreamowych mediach kanadyjskich, urągające nam Polakom określenie „Polish concentration camps” (tu zwrócił się do posła Teda Opitza, który ostatnio w tej sprawie interweniował na forum kanadyjskiego parlamentu).


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.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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