Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bieganski on the Michael Medved Show; Obama and "Polish death camps"

Michael Medved and the KF: A surprising difference between the two.

Yesterday, May 30, 2012, I spoke briefly on the Michael Medved radio show about US President Barack Obama's reference, during his Jan Karski Medal of Freedom ceremony, to "Polish death camps."

I am very grateful to Michael Medved for allowing me to speak.

I am very grateful to Michael Medved for honoring this important issue.

Medved's callers repeatedly insisted what many are insisting:

"The Barack Obama / Jan Karski / "Polish death camps" controversy is a tempest in a teapot …Poles are silly and overly sensitive … This is an issue that only Polish chauvinists could care about … Give it a rest … Poles are the world's worst anti-Semites, and Poland is the world's most anti-Semitic country."

I used my brief radio time to say that the "Polish death camps" controversy is an important matter, important to everyone, not just to Poles.

A reminder: Michael Medved is Jewish. And he cared about this. And he gave me his platform of a national radio show to talk about it.

Again, thank you Michael Medved.


My book, "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture," points out that the brute Polak stereotype, root of terms like "Polish death camps," is important to all. Not just Poles or Polish-Americans. Everyone.


For years, Polonians who object to the Brute Polak stereotype have been doing two things:

1.) Signing petitions, like the Kosciuszko Foundation petition that addresses, exactly, the phrases "Polish death camps" and "Polish concentration camps."

2.) Writing letters to newspapers and websites that use the phrases "Polish concentration camps" and "Polish death camps."

What Polonia has not wanted to acknowledge is that all this petition-signing and letter-writing have accomplished absolutely nothing.

The Bieganski stereotype is stronger than ever. Not as strong. Stronger.

US President Barack Obama wants Polish Americans to vote for him. He wants to please Polish-Americans. That's why he was honoring Jan Karski!

Polonia's petition-signing and letter-writing have exercised so little power, so little influence, have attracted so little attention or allies to this worthy cause, that no one – not even White House staff trying to please Poles in order to get their votes – knows or cares about Polonia's petition-signing and letter-writing.

So, what is Polonia doing in response to US President Barack Obama's mentioning "Polish death camps" in his Medal of Freedom ceremony for Jan Karski?

Polonia is … signing more petitions. Polonia is … writing more letters.

I see it on the web now. Polonians circulating new petitions, writing new letters.

I see Polonians losing their tempers and calling those who disagree with them "idiots," "dogs," "morons."

I see Polonians insisting that this is all very important because it insults Poles and Poland.

And I see people who aren't Polish saying, "Who cares? Poland is not important. You Poles are too sensitive. Get over yourselves. And besides, Poles are the world's worst anti-Semites, anyway."

And I don't see Polonians able to communicate to others why the Brute Polak stereotype matters to anyone except Polish chauvinists.

In short, I see Polonia floundering. I see the message not getting out. And Poles calling others names on the internet, and not making the case in an informed way, just reinforces the stereotype: this is a trivial matter, Poles are too sensitive, only they care about this.

What does Polonia need to do to address this stereotype? Polonia needs to take up the hard work outlined in the three-part blog post on the Crisis in Polonian leadership, organization, and vision.


I am grateful that Michael Medved allowed me to speak.

I want Polonia to allow me to speak, as well.

Since "Bieganski" was published, I have spoken at Brandeis and Georgetown. I have spoken at the Jewish Museum of Galicia, in Krakow, Poland, and in Markowa, a village in Poland where the Ulma family was shot to death by Nazis for sheltering Jews. I have spoken in synagogues and Jewish student centers.

I have yet to speak to one Polish American group.

I have written to the Kosciuszko Foundation. They declined.

I have written to the Polish embassy in the US. They declined.

I have written to the Polish Museum. They declined.

I have written to Radek Sikorski, who never misses a chance to say how much he cares about stereotyping. No reply.

I wrote to a Polish group that sponsors talks by Polish American scholars. They responded: "there was no interest - with the subject being too heavy, too negative."

I'm glad Michael Medved let me speak, and cared about what I had to say – something of importance not just to Poles, but to everyone.

I'm glad Brandeis and Georgetown let me speak.

Polonia, please let me speak.

Again, Bieganski's message:

The Brute Polak stereotype is important to all.

It needs to be addressed for *everyone.*

It is not just a matter of oversensitive Poles or Polish honor.

We can change this, and we must. It is our ethical duty.

Invite me to speak to your group. Support the book. Combat the Brute Polak in an intelligent, informed way that communicates to other people who aren't Polish why they should care.

Thank you.


  1. I have just heard you on the Michael Medved's show (on demand). I didn't know about Mr Medved before reading your post.

    Stay strong. Things will get better. If anything, Obama's controversy proves that nobody can get away with calling the Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland "Polish death camps" any more.

    I also applaud the Polish government - the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs - for strongly condeming Obama's remark.

    Lech Wałęsa, Michael Schudrich and Abraham Foxman have all condemned Obama's comments. Things will get better.

  2. Dr. Goska,

    Do you have the link to Medved's show? If not, could you post your comments here?


    Foxman also made a really good point about this being an opportunity for the White House to educate an increasingly clueless public about WWII. Here's his full statement, which the ADL quoted in its press release.

    "We commend the White House for appropriately recognizing their error in describing the Nazi death camps in Poland as "Polish camps" and immediately expressing regret for the mistake. This is a perennial problem, and the president's unwitting mistake only highlights the need for ongoing education about the history of World War II and the Holocaust.

    The misnomer "Polish camps" unjustly implies that the death camps in Poland were built in the name of the Polish people rather than by the Nazi regime. While the White House acknowledged that the president misspoke, the administration should turn this mistake into a teachable moment for the American public and explain more fully why the expression "Polish death camps" offends our strong ally, Poland, and distorts the history of the Holocaust. By doing so, the White House will do more than rectify a mistake; it will strengthen the relationship of trust with Poland and promote Holocaust education.

    As an agency that prioritizes remembrance of the Holocaust, ADL has frequently spoken out on this topic and has expressed full support for the efforts of the government of Poland to ensure that the official names of the death camps in Poland emphasize that the camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany.

    In 2006, ADL wrote to UNESCO to ensure that the official name of Auschwitz, as recorded on UNESCO's world heritage site registry, emphasizes that the camp was built and operated by Nazi Germany."

  3. Hi, LR! Nice to read you, and thanks for sharing the ADL statement.

    My comments on Michael Medved were very brief. I was using a cell phone that dropped the call before anything substantive could be said. I conveyed the essence of my comments in the blog post.

  4. Nice to read you too, Dr. Goska. I found the podcast of yesterday's show, and look forward to listening to it later today. Here's hoping that other stations invite you to share your thoughts on this topic.

    The ADL's statement is but one of many hard-hitting Jewish responses to President Obama's "Polish death camp" comment, which (I hope, I hope) was an innocent gaffe. David Frum, a conservative columnist and a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, took the president to task in his own column for The Daily Beast. Those interested in reading his article should click on the following link:

  5. Barack Obama has just responded to President Komorowski's letter. He agrees that there is no such thing as a "Polish death camp". If POTUS cannot get away with calling the Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland "Polish death camps", then who can?

    Had we lost the war, Auschwitz would not have been in Poland. It would have been in Germany.

  6. Great show.Unfortunately, we Poles have a very serious problem the roots of which go deep-we have lost,in great parts, our soul (see: Homo Sovieticus),we have NO self-esteem (or better-great parts of the Polish population don't have that), we are governed by morons (I hate to say this as s.o from the (patriotic) left but compared to the Gov. of Kaczynski this one is just a disgrease,selling out our interests whenever possible),nothing gets better and too many people are ashamed to come from a poorer country.Because their are superficial, I am extremely proud to be a compatriot of people like Maria Sklodowska-Curie,Karski,Pilecki,Sendlerowa,the Ulms,the Cursed Soldiers,Kosciuszko,Pilsudski,Korczak,Bruno Schulz and many many more.Anyways,communism never left Poland, after the Round Table Talks communist became "democratic socialists" and devided Polish wealth among themselves.Many transformed into the "new left" which wants to "civilize" Poland,in their view a backward,redneck,ultracatholic,homophobic,anti-women,clerical,rascist and anti-Semitic country-their preach loathing of Polish culture and customs,further lowering Polish self-esteem.We also need a de-cultural-marxisation along with a strong leadership. It is possible, look at Hungary.

  7. The link to Obama's letter to President Komorowski:

  8. Lech Walesa wanted to pick up the award but Obama would not let him? According to Wall Street Journal:

  9. Good point, Felek, about the need for a cultural de-Marxisation of Poland. Poland is ruled by neo-Stalinists, not in the sense of supporters of Stalin, but in the sense of lewaks waging war against Poland's patriotic and religious traditions.

    Dr. Goska pointed out that writing petitions and letters is ineffective. Why? I compare letters and petitions to the bark of a dog. If the dog never bites, no one pays attention to its barking. But if the dog is prone to bite, her barking is very much noticed. Since Poles never "bite" politically, no one feels the need to pay attention to them.

    What might change this? How about massive street demonstrations too large for even an unsympathetic media to notice? I, a Polish-American, have taken part in Polish street demonstrations in the USA and would be happy to take part in more massive ones.

  10. Enjoying these posts and want to comment more when I have a minute, but for now just saying how much I'm enjoying reading.

  11. We seem to be getting a gift in disguise from Pres. Obama. He was always supposed to be the great unifier and he seems to have created and unified a lot of groups, many against him to his dismay and our benefit. Our awakening to the Balkanization of American society and politics may be good for us as former believers in big-tent America. Its time to dig in with those who most closely share our values.

    Felek's and Jan's points ring so true as be self evident. Poland's lefties, as noted by both, are as embarrassed by traditional Polish values as a US Liberal is of a US Southerner or strong Christian. How fast Poland has gone from a nation saved from enslavement under a frequent symbol of the Blessed Virgin to a nation that wants to remove crucifixes from schools and from around the necks of airline employees! Poland's "progress" has been much faster than the US's and must therefore cause a bigger shock within Polish society: the US has had a long slide that many don't even notice. At any rate, I got a bit off track, but in the end I trust everyone in Polonia is reinvigorated by these events. We may proudly call ourselves, broadly, "Bohunks" sometimes, kudos to Danusha, but Poland and Polonia as the largest such power, is the focal point of attacks both cultural, as with Obama, and geo-political, as from Russia. Therefore it is Poland, Polonia and traditional Polish values that must be at the forefront of any such positive movement now.

  12. P.S.

    Has anyone truly confirmed that Wałęsa would have picked up the award from Obama anyway?

  13. MB, don't know. I would contact the WSJ, that published this assertion.

  14. This left v right thing depresses me greatly. It just seems like another way for Poles and Polonians to use energy in an unproductive way.

    And it isn't reflective of reality. I am a feminist, gay-friendly, Catholic, philo-Semitic ... in short, I defy these attempt to divide people into black and white.


    1. Certainly the political left and political right are not watertight categories. However, the drive to destroy Poland's Catholic and patriotic heritage is unmistakeable. To read more about this, please visit my Listmania on the Culture War in Poland, which can be accessed by clicking my name in this specific posting.

    2. This is part of a much much broader drive to destroy the European nation state. Poland is by a small part here.

    3. Yessss !
      United we stand, divided we fall.

  15. Here's a post on self-hatred:

  16. An interesting news item today, related to the some of most anti-Polish--and unfounded--assertions in the Smolensk plane crash report, i.e., that the most senior Polish military man on board was drunk and ordered the landing, poorly trained pilots, etc.

    It seems that Russia has its own air crash problem now and has no problem laying blame on sinister outside factors rather than pilot error.

    From Pravda English, below:

    U.S. behind the crash of Russian plane
    01.06.2012 | Source: Pravda.Ru
    A principal Director of Russian Intelligence (GRU, English translation of the Russian acronym ГРУ), believes that America is behind the crash of the Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft that occurred in Indonesia, earlier this May.

    "We know they have equipment that allows them to cut communications between the aircraft and the control tower or to interfere with the parameters on board," says the international newspaper Christian Science Monitor, citing a GRU general, without mentioning his name.

    The Superjet 100 was strategic for Russia, believing that it would play an important role in the market for modern aircraft.

    The plane, with 45 passengers aboard, took off on May 9 for a demonstration flight at an airport in Jakarta, but lost radio contact after 50 minutes and then disappeared from radar.

    The general stressed that the GRU has been monitoring, for some time, the activity of U.S. Army electronics experts at the airport in Jakarta and argued that electronic interference caused by the U.S. were the main cause of the accident that claimed the lives of all passengers.

    Moreover, inspection of the plane's black box does not show any technical or system defect on the aircraft.

    Lisa Karpova


  17. Conformer with A CauseJune 4, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    Actually you haven't commented on what I thought were quite vile remarks by Sol Campbell anywhere but I thought I would include another less news-worthy opinion on those comments here.

  18. No, conformer with a cause -- wish you used a real name -- I have commented. It's called "Bieganski" and it is for sale on Amazon.

  19. Peter RechniewskiJune 5, 2012 at 2:31 AM

    Felek, you wrote that "We also need a de-cultural-marxisation along with a strong leadership. It is possible, look at Hungary." Do you mean Poland should have its own version of the Jobbik Party plus strong leadership. Well, that reads like a call for a Polish fascist party to develop, Fuehrer principle and all, as that would cure Poland's problems! Wow, that faith of yours in such parties, given the history of the mid-20th century, is impressive. Should the Roma be warned? Do you mourn the demise of the League of Polish Families?


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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