Thursday, October 13, 2011

American Newspaper Story: Polish Soldiers Gassing Jews in 1939; Jews Rescued from Poles by Germans

A reader of this blog sent in a news story that reports that in 1939, Polish soldiers were rounding up Jews with plans to gas them, and that advancing Germans rescued Jews from that fate.

It's a news story from an American newspaper, the Sun Gazette. Headline: "Surviving Horror as a Five-Year-Old. 'I Can't Get It Out of My Mind." Byline: Kristen Nuss. Date: October 3, 2011.

Key passage:

"'I remember a knock on the door at 4 in the morning,' Patz said. 'Two Polish soldiers ordered my dad to leave.' Patz said the Polish Army rounded up 70 men in the community with plans to gas them, but as the German Army advanced, they decided to let them go. His father reunited with the family a few weeks later."

This is the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype. It is the casting of Poles in the historical niche properly occupied by German Nazis, often accompanied by the exculpation of Nazis.

This is allowed to occur, not just in this news article, but in museums, on websites, in classrooms, in the press, etc, because Poles and Polonians are not doing what they should and could do to correct it. Those concerned about the Brute Polak stereotype will unite, support each other, organize, and act strategically.


  1. There are several issues here besides the obvious ones about the inactivity of American Polonia and Polonia across the world. Where does the "information" for the story come from? Who put the reporter onto it? Having been given the raw "facts" how much research did the reporter do to check the factual basis of the story?
    BTW, is there a link so that readers of this blog can read the full text?

  2. I've just read this article on the paper's website. It doesn't suggest that Poles were rounding up Jews because when you read the article it doesn't say that Patz, the person whose story is told, is Jewish. However, it doesn't tell us he's German and that has to inferred. It does report uncritically what his father told him at the time of their arrest by the Polish Army (or what he believes he saw without realising that he is embellishing the story) that they were going to be gassed.
    The article therefore does say without any further analysis that there were Polish gas chambers. It doesn't tell us Patz is German and clearly making excuses for Germany's invasion of Poland. The reporter who wrote the story and especially her editor deserve a strong rebuke for sloppy research and the fact that Patz's patriotism is enough for them to believe him. For all we know Patz's father might well have been a German speaking Polish citizen who was also an agitator for the German minority which constantly appealed to Nazi Germany to liberate them from Polish mistreatment.

    The three readers' comments about the article are all negative and dismiss the idea of Polish gas chambers. Alex Staroszynski ought to be made aware of this and write to the paper complaining about this shoddy article.

  3. "It doesn't suggest that Poles were rounding up Jews because when you read the article it doesn't say that Patz, the person whose story is told, is Jewish."

    It doesn't have to state that Ben Patz is or is not Jewish to, as you say, "suggest that Poles were rounding up Jews."

    Ben is a common Jewish first name. Patz is a common Jewish last name. Readers associate World War Two and gas with Jews.

    I don't know if Patz is Jewish or not. It's clear what readers will conclude.

    "Alex Staroszynski ought to be made aware of this and write to the paper complaining about this shoddy article."

    I am unaware of KF President Starozynski, or any other Polish or Polish American organization, taking any definitive action re: the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype.

    In any case, a Whac-a-Mole strategy -- random people writing isolated letters to this or that entity caught using the stereotype -- has accomplished nothing.

    People who care about the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype will unite, support each other, organize, and take strategic action that addresses the stereotype in full.

  4. Just days later, from the same newspaper, comes this article (an interview, again) with a Jewish holocaust survivor from Kovno, now Lithuania. "Holocaust survivor shares his story"

    This story contains a Jedwabne-style Bieganski centerpiece moment.

    This one has seemed to spark a little on-line letter writing debate but unfortunately has a somewhat anti-Semetic and not quite logical sounding writer as the main opposition to the mindless "template" reactions of most writers and probably readers`too.

    If anything the news piece is illustrative of the kind of rapid response that local Jewish communities are able to mount when faced with "bad media". This article seems to be a reaction to the Volksdeutsch guy, Patz, claiming a piece of WWII victimhood in a few day's earlier Sun Gazette interview.

    It is too bad that neither KF nor any organized local Bohunk reaction is anywhere to be seen in these cases.

  5. MB: I just looked at the story you link, above, and the replies. It is as you describe it. Stuff like this makes me crazy.

    Last night I was listening to Michael Savage (Yes. Sorry. I know he's crazy, but I don't have TV, and he's the most interesting thing to listen to at that hour.)

    He was going ballistic against the anti-Semitic "Occupy Wall Street" protesters.

    one must see the online video of Patricia McAllister, of the CA dept of education, to believe it. This woman, fully identifying herself and her job, says that Jews should be kicked out of the country. I'm not kidding.

    So, Savage was going ballistic on her and other antisemites, and, frankly, his arguments were weak.

    I kept wishing he would read the introduction of "Bieganski," which argues against ALL stereotyping -- not just of Bieganski, but also of Shylock.

    But, my book is controversial and little read, so I just have to listen to this stuff and let it drive me crazy.

    So, yes. Demonizing Lithuanians does no good, and demonizing Jews does no good. Unfortunately my own book, which argues against both types of demonization, is apparently too controversial to sell.


  6. Dear Danusha,

    Your book does not fit the template. Its thought provoking. The ever decreasing originality in US political and social thought is saddening. The lack of originality is vividly evident in the Occupy movement's participants. Who ever heard of a pro-Government protest movement in the US, for example, not to mention that it is "anyhing goes" so long as it fits a simplistic anti-capitalist format.

  7. Strikingly unoriginal and silly comment about the nature of the protests and the participants MB. There are always fringe "loonies" at any protest but to suggest, as you do, that the people there are all deluded, are into anything as long as it's anti-capitalist shows you are completely incapable of grasping what has happened to ordinary people's economic prospects under laissez-faire, capitalism and unfettered free markets. Of course you may be one of the relatively small number who has benefited from the changes of the past 25 years.

    "Who ever heard of a pro-Government protest movement in the US, for example"? Try the Hard Hat demonstrations in support of Nixon's pro-war Vietnam policy for starters.

  8. "Strikingly unoriginal and silly comment about the nature of the protests and the participants ... you are completely incapable of grasping what has happened"

    Everything that needs to be said can be said without this kind of ad hominem insult.

    Thank you.

  9. You're right Danusha - too severe on my part. My apologies MB.

  10. Your book doesn't sell because even-handedness and balance would take away the weapon of demonization that the Slavophobes wield in the media.
    You are supposed to say things about them that are as nice as their mothers would say about them.


  11. No offence taken. The Nixon hard hat supporter reference was good, albeit 41 years old and a somewhat flawed analogy. The hard hats and their anti war opponents both promoted very specific goals, either supporting or opposing the war in Vietnam. The most famous hard had incident involved 1200 people (1000 students and 200 hard hats) over two hours in New York City. In the age of monolithic News-Gods, Walter Cronkite made sure he presented Nixon as closely tied to the hard hat rioters. The students have never been blamed for the suffering in Cambodia under Communist Vietnam installed Pol Pot. Today’s Occupy protesters are all over many issues, to near anarchy, in their demands, wanting tuition debt relief while ignoring the tax free multi-billion dollar fortunes of universities, marching right past George Soro’s building to reach the Koch building. It’s impossible to legislate away a 200% increase in the global labor force and illogical to demand more “wage justice” while maintaining unfavorable US corporate tax rates that incentivize businesses to move off shore. The US has not seen unfettered capitalism for a hundred years or so. The banking crisis was partially a result of specific US Govt policies, not total freedom, with plenty of blame to spread between Congresses and two President’s terms. Free booting bankers would never make loans they knew would likely not be repaid, but mandate them to do so, guarantee the loans and they’ll do it. The confused and frightened young people in New York and elsewhere are caught up looking for an easy solution to a near impossible problem.

  12. It may not surprise you that I disagree with almost all of your positions in relation to how Pol Pot came to power in Cambodia; what you describe as "unfavourable US corporate tax rates" (the corporations agree with you there); the reasons for off-shoring jobs and production; the reasons for the banking crisis and so forth and so on. As for laissez-faire capitalism in the US, you are right that it's most extreme form is not around today in the sense that probably 100 years ago the tax payers would not have been asked to bail out banks which would have been allowed to go to the wall. Now we have bankers wanting their losses socialised while the profits are not.

    Still, perhaps this site is not the place for this debate.

  13. I trust no one was offended by our discussions…those are mostly very debatable points, with the exceptions, I believe, of Pol Pot and US tax and business law (US Corp tax vs. global levels, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, etc).

    Good point Nemo too..

    Because this is a Polish/Bohunk centric blog I like to have a Polish perspective where possible. Poland’s example of being outside the Eurozone and its related regulations is one of the main reasons for Poland’s continued economic growth. It is also, I am afraid, my Polish perspective that makes me hyper sensitive to seeing young people in pro-regulation demonstrations. But there was a small one in Poland too (see pic)

    History cannot be anymore clear on when and where Communist Vietnam’s support for the Khmer Rouge began and where it led. The US was omnipresent then in SE Asia, so there was always an American hand in regional matters but there is no conjecture as to who originally supported the Khmer Rouge: it was not the US. It’s doubtful too that even more regulation would improve US business competitiveness vs. Hong Kong, Singapore or especially China. Global tax and business law policies are not secrets.



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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