Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bieganski, the Brute Polak and Debbie Schlussel

Recently blogger Debbie Schlussel voiced the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype. You can read some of Ms. Schlussel's voicing of the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype here.

And Polonia is shocked, shocked.

Me? I'm not shocked.

I wrote a book on the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype. It describes how the stereotype came about, how it is used, and why this stereotype has so much power. I've devoted this blog to the stereotype. There is a three-part blog post outlining how Polonia can overcome the stereotype. That three-part blog post, entitled "The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision," is here.

I don't understand why Polonia behaves as if it is shocked when the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype rears its ugly head. I don't understand why Polonia flounders desperately, and fails in its efforts to respond.

I don't understand why people say they care so much about this topic, and yet they tell me that they haven't read the only scholarly book on the topic, "Bieganski," and why when I suggest that they invite me to speak, they say it's too hard to do that. As one Polonian put it, "I can't invite you to speak. I live in New York and you live in New Jersey." (To my readers in Poland: New York and New Jersey are bordering states.)

I've spoken to Jewish groups, Unitarians, a Bruderhof, on university campuses … and never to a Polish-American group. One Polish American cultural leader told me that her "Board of Directors said there was no interest – with the subject [the Brute Polak stereotype] being too heavy, too negative, and too American-centered." Whom does this woman invite to speak? People who talk about Chopin and Kosciuszko and Marie Curie. How nice.

I don't understand why after years of trying, I am still unable to find a Polish publisher for "Bieganski."

How do Polonians respond to the Brute Polak stereotype? In ways that don't help. They write outraged letters, usually as individuals, rather than as organized groups, pounding their chests, saying how great Poland is, and how bad her enemies are. Newsflash: people who aren't Polish won't care. Further: the truth is much more complex than "Poland is really, really great and her enemies are really, really bad." Only sad old chauvinists, marginalized from, and utterly inconsequential to the mainstream of society, will embrace that message.

Further: the real truth of the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype is actually pertinent to all of humanity, not just Poles, not just Jews. Didn't know that, did you, you angry letter writers?

How else do Polonians respond to the Brute Polak stereotype? Polonians sign internet petitions. Newsflash: the Kosciuszko Foundation petition against the "Polish death camp" charge was so ineffectual that President Barack Obama, eager to curry favor with Polish-American voters, badly bungled an award to Jan Karski when he, Obama, voiced that very stereotype. Get it? The petitions have zero impact. Stop sending them to me.

How else do Polonians respond to the stereotype?

Polonians post sarcastic, obscene, and angry internet posts. One Polish man, in response to my suggestion on Facebook that Polonians might consider buying and reading "Bieganski" in order that they could respond to this stereotype in a reasoned way that would reach the widest possible audience and carry the most weight, said, merely, "Debbie Schlussel wouldn't know the truth if it bit her in the ass." No doubt he expelled some anger by typing up that obscene, angry internet post. No doubt he appeared manly to his fans. No doubt he accomplished nothing in the struggle against stereotyping. If anything, his resorting to obscenities, his inability to follow the drift of a conversation, his anger and his lack of self-control reinforced the stereotype.

What good do the strategies that Polonia has tried so far done? Debbie Schlussel, President Barack Obama, and commentators on the upcoming UEFA Euro 2012 soccer matches have all voiced the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype in the past month. And we stand by, helplessly.

So, no, I'm not going to post about Debbie Schlussel's voicing of the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype. I've already said everything I would say about this topic in the book itself and on this blog.

Concerned blog readers, though, have been sending me pages of incriminatory material about Debbie Schlussel. I invite those readers to post them in the comments section here, rather than sending them to me. If nothing else, more people will see your material that way. Thank you.

Gathering of material is a good thing. Maybe someday Polonia will be ready to take this struggle seriously, to unite, support each other, organize, and behave strategically. In the meantime, we can gather ammo. The intellectual kind.


  1. You are absolutely right Danusha.

    After years trying to combate anti-Polish stereotypes I finally have understood what it is all about after reading your well-written and well-researched book.

    And sometimes I think that Poles are their own worst enemies. Its sad and heartbreaking.

  2. "You are absolutely right Danusha."

    Finally, someone sees reason!


  3. The simplest solution - or its prerequisite - is to keep Poland's economy growing on an annual basis. As things stand, it is easily within the top 25 economies in the world, yet Poland's GDP per capita lags behinds its Western and Southern neighbours (Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia). And all too often, lack of economic power = lack of political power = inability to promote your own narratives. Yes, Poles and Polonians do not do enough with what they have. But, cateris paribus, it is easier to tackle the Brute Polak stereotype when Poland is prosperous than when Poland is poor. Poland has to become wealthy and, slowly but surely, Poland does become wealthy. You may call it "the organic work \ praca organiczna" - as the 19th century Polish positivists once did.

  4. Anonymous, why not post under a real name?

    In any case, your response does not comply with scholarship on stereotypes. The US is one of the most wealthy countries in the world, and it is stereotyped. Other examples could be adduced -- poor countries that aren't stereotyped, or are stereotyped positively, and rich countries that are stereotyped negatively.

    Nepal is much poorer than Poland. When I tell people I am associated with Nepal (lived there, speak Nepali) they glow and think more of me. This is not rational -- living in Nepal does not make me a better person.

    When I mention Poland, they think less of me.

    Also, the stereotype works against Poles doing business to make itself wealthier. Not 100% of course, but it is there.

  5. I would agree that an economy's wealth is not sufficient to improve the stereotype. It does help though with ad campaigns, etc. Education and having speakers available does help, as well. And, I agree, that organizations have to address the stereotype head on.

  6. Danusha, you said: "Nepal is much poorer than Poland. When I tell people I am associated with Nepal (lived there, speak Nepali) they glow and think more of me. This is not rational -- living in Nepal does not make me a better person."

    Exactly. This is politics - a political agenda, which you discuss in "Bieganski".

    For the moment Nepal is "uber", but Poland is "unter". And by the way, I hope that doesn't change for the Nepalese.

    So should we counter this by organising politically?

    My problem here is that i am trying to be "no part" of the world, to take no part in its divisive political systems, so I can't respond to this attack in a political way.

    Nevertheless, I think there is so much that can be done.

    And above all, going door to door, trying to get people to see what the Bible on their shelf is actually saying is the most powerful way of all to counter the politics - in all areas.

    2 Timothy 3:16,17 says: "All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work."

    The Inspired Scriptures can make us fully competent, completely equipped for every good work, which is quite a claim.

    I have found that to be one hundred percent true.

    One thing I would say - and perhaps you have said in Bieganski (as you know I have only read it in disconnected bits) - is that we tend to be reactive, rather than proactive.

    So we need to go on calmly getting our own story out there - but not in the Debbie Schlussel manner of course. And I think its so important that each one of us tries to live in accord with the fruitage of the spirit, and not in accord with the spirit of the world.

  7. No, Polish economy is actually the 20th economy in the world, and keeps growing...

  8. As ugly and offensive as this is, it is nothing new. For those who have followed this matter for a long time, as I have, Debbie Schlussel is only one of a long series of outspoken pathetically-ignorant Polonophobes, notably Jewish Polonophobes. Debbie Schlussel is a burlesque version of Jan T. Gross, of whom you, for some reason, consistently have written positively.

    So why are Nepalese, notwithstanding their negligible influence, positively regarded while the Poles, with their negligible influence, are negatively regarded? Simple. Nepalese are not attacked in American publications, while Poles are. Mainly by who?

    For a major resource on Polonophobia, please click on my name in this posting.

    It is a shame that innocent Poles have to suffer because of Jewish Polonophobes such as Debbie Schlussel, and, judging by the angry over-reactive Polish responses at her site (e. g., "Hitler did not finish the job"), innocent Jews also have to undergo humiliation and offense.

  9. Jan your "a burlesque version of Jan T. Gross" made me laugh, though I know this is a serious subject.

    So perhaps Debbie is just more honest and straightforward? At least she doesn't dress her attack up in Academic jargon, nor pronounce her judgements on us lesser mortals from the lofty towers of Academe.

    Well, I have managed to find something positive to say about her, and I must thank Jehovah, my Creator, for that.

    And, yes, responding to her in kind will only make things worse. In fact the post was probably designed to obtain that response.

    Though who knows if those who responded in the hateful way you describe are actually Polish or not. In cybserspace, anyone can claim to be anything. We live in such a twisted world, so full of lies, or spin, that its hard to know.

    The Inspired Scriptures truly are a rock. If you read Psalm 37, you can see that our Creator knows just how "the world" is going to make us feel. He then tells us how to handle it in His way, and most importantly He reassures us by telling us what He is going to do about it.

  10. I have never heard of Schlussel before. It seems Jan has nailed her profile exactly with his comment. I am mildly interested to dig deeper into her blog to see what the other points of view are.

    1. Debbie Schlusser has her own blog. You can read it if you want. But do that on empty stomach. She once shared her family's history. She claims her great-grandfather was a mayor in some galician town. Poor guy was elected. Imagine that. ELECTED! Poor persecuted man.
      She also claims that Jews were turned in by Poles. I don't think that Germans needed much help. With all those beards, sidelocks and stars of David on clothes, it was an easy task.
      You can also read the story of her grandfather. How he was hidden by local farmers. How he accidentally overheard that those Poles conspire against him. That they wanted to sell him to Germans for a bottle of whiskey. There's only one problem. Germans didin't produce whiskey. And I don't think that Polish farmers in those times would even know what it is. Even now most of my countrymen have never tasted that stuff.
      If someone lies about the small things, you should not trust him about the important ones.

  11. Debbie Schlussel gave Polonia a great gift. She said out loud what others believe but don't say out loud. We can respond by adopting the strategies outlined in "The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision," or we can do what we've done in the past -- that is, we can continue to fail to live up to our best traditions.

  12. Debbie Schlussel once shared her family's story on her blog. She claims that her great-grandfather was a mayor in some small polish town. I guess that in her opinion election of a Jewish person to such office was a form of persecution. In my opinion it was a proof of respect. She also wrote that her grandfather was hidden by local farmers. Of course Poles only did it because they wanted to sell poor Jew to invaders. And poor Jew avoided this fate because he accidentally overheard them conspire. Such a nice story. But something is not right here. Germans didn't produce whiskey. And I don't think that Polish farmers in those times would know what whiskey is. Even today most of my countrymen have never seen a bottle of that stuff.
    Debbie also claims that Jews were turned in by Poles to the Germans. That wasn't necessary. Not with those beards, sidelocks and stars of David on their clothes. Germans had easy job with identification.

  13. I have recently visited israpundit site. I was curious how American Jews reacted to Debbie's revelations. Well, Yamit was a jerk as always. Jedwabne, Kielce, Jedwabne, Kielce all the time. Like some parrot and not very smart one. Mr. Levinson has higher opinion about Poles than any of us (I swear that man makes me feel not Polish enough). I think he and Mr. Peczkis are like made of the same clay.
    And there was a little surprise - post made by my countrymen. I've never even expected seeing those on that site. One of those guys is a Jewish Pole. He's posts were very, well very polish. Under politness and eloquence there was so much emotions. It cannot be imitated. And yet he still made his point without insulting somebody's mother. I wish I could do the same. I wish my English was better. And my self control greater. But I don't want to make Poles look like morons and neanderthals. Or Bieganskis.

  14. "I wish my English was better."

    Lukasz -- do you know that I am dyslexic? That means I have trouble reading and writing.

    I devote a great deal of energy to checking my own writing. I do so at least partly because of this issue. I can't afford to make mistakes. The atmosphere is so negative to me already, just because of my name, and where my parents were born, and the truths I have to tell.

    I have seen discussions where a Polish person makes a mistake, and others focus on the mistake and cite it as proof of their most vile prejudices.

    I want you to speak, anyway. I want to speak, anyway.

    Adopt a respectful voice, and good hearted people will be tolerant and focus on the substance of your words, rather than the grammar and spelling.

  15. Good point, Lukasz, about the fairy-story about whiskey.

    As for "overhearing Poles plotting to betray or kill the Jews"--this is such a common motif in Holocaust stories that one wonders why the plotters would be so commonly careless when discussing such plans. Could these threats be intentionally made up by Poles, and deliberately said loud enough to be overheard, in order to scare the now-unwanted Jews into leaving? Could they be made up by the Jewish authors in order to make their accounts more dramatic? Could they be a Polonophobic archetype (such as the malevolent-Pole accounts in Jerzy Kosinski's Polonophobic tall tales) reflecting nothing more than Jewish prejudices against Poles?

    Finally, note that the "overhearing" may admittedly be in the hunted-person's imagination, as seriously considered in the book HIDDEN. Please click on my name in this specific posting and read my review, especially the "overhearing" part.

    1. That's a very interesting review, Mr. Peczkis. Thank You! My relatives live in Kańczuga. I assure You that inhabitants of that town know about their Jewish countrymen who lived in Kańczuga. On the wall of former synagogue (now it's a library) there is commemorative plaque in memory of town's Jewish residents. Again, many thanks for Your review.

  16. Anonymous just tried to post a link, no other content. Anonymous, please post with a name and say something. Thanks.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Israpundit - another website to avoid. All the usual right-wing, ultra Zionist rubbish with contributors such as Barry Rubin. Why expect anything else but anti-Polonophobic ranting from contributors and posters on a site like that? They are at one with Schlussel. In Canada and Australia (and many other places) they would be all charged with villification for those sort of utterances.

  19. Interesting what you say about "overhearing" Jan. Of course anyone can say they "overheard" anything very detrimental to "the other" if they so wish. and if they have no scruples about truthfulness. And if the "overhearer" has high factor Political Correctness Protection and the target group does not, then it is very difficult to challenge. There is a reason why hearsay evidence is not allowed in a court of law.

    And of course Poles/Polonians have negative PC protection. We have it in minus figures... if that makes sense.

    Re Jerzy Kosinski, Wikipedia (which i know is not Gospel) has this to say: "Kosiński, who was Jewish, was born Józef Lewinkopf in Łódź, Poland. As a child during World War II, he lived in central Poland under a false identity, Jerzy Kosiński, which his father gave to him. A Roman Catholic priest issued him a forged baptismal certificate. The Kosiński family survived the Holocaust thanks to local villagers who offered assistance to Jewish Poles, often at great personal risk (the penalty for assisting Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland was death). Kosiński's father received help not only from Polish town leaders and churchmen, but also from individuals such as Marianna Pasiowa, a member of the Polish underground network helping Jews evade capture. The family lived openly in Dąbrowa Rzeczycka near Stalowa Wola, and attended church in nearby Wola Rzeczycka, obtaining support from villagers in Kępa Rzeczycka. They were sheltered temporarily by a Catholic family in Rzeczyca Okrągła. The young Jerzy even served as an altar boy in a local church."

    His lauded and applauded "Painted Bird" which I have not read and do not intend to read (I have been told its quite obscene for one thing) apparently pictures Poles as fascist brutes.

    Once again, I see how "the world" turns things on its head. Which it would if "the father of the lie" is presently in charge of it.

    Hello, Charles, I had a brief look at Debbie S's site. And just a brief look at the headlines was enough. I did not want to go further, but it seems she may be one of those cheerleading against Muslims. The "world" is busy hyping up the people of Islam and the people of Christendom into restarting the crusades. And it has been tragically successful so far.

    As a follower of Christ, I can't deal with this on a political level, as I am trying to be "no part" of the world. But i still feel there is much I can do - and in the meantime its a very interesting challenge.

    So if Debbie is telling me that Muslims are my enemy (as I said I havent read more than some of her headlines), then, OK, what must I do about it? Clearly Something Must Be Done. Oh yes, Jesus said, I must do good to all, including my enemies.


  20. I am deeply committed to freedom of speech. I am proud of my own country's Founding Parents who gave us the first amendment.

    I do filter posts to this blog. Related to a previous post -- I have filtered posts that were so poorly written that it would be an embarrassment to Polonia to post them. Spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, hateful spews directed against me, Jews, and other imagined enemies of Poland.

    I began filtering spam when a previous poster began posting the exact same message again and again and again and again and again. He has since stopped posting.


    Otherwise, though, if the message is written in more or less coherent Standard English, if it is accompanied by a real name, and if it is not spam, I am more likely to post it than not post it.

    My posting a message does not mean that I agree with it. I disagree with much posted here.

    I don't always speak up when I disagree with something. Just because something is posted here doesn't mean that I agree with it.

    Sometimes, though, I do speak up.

    A previous post in this thread implies that Jews are responsible for the Bieganski stereotype.

    I have repeatedly blogged against this utterly false, immoral, unethical, destructive, and anti-Semitic idea.

    I am qualified to speak on this topic as no one else is. I have worked on the Brute Polak stereotype more than anyone else. How do I know? I researched others' work for my book, and my committee would not let me squeak past with any holes in my research. I know what others have done. What have they done? Not much. That's why the stereotype is so strong.

    I know this stereotype. I know who produces it, who supports it, and why it lives.

    The idea that Jews are responsible for it is false, immoral, and destructive to Polonia.

    I'm not saying this to be politically correct. Any chance I may have ever had to appear politically correct and to gain thereby is non-existent.

    I've blogged extensively about this. I will name just one promoter of the Bieganski stereotype -- Bill Tammeus. Not only is Tammeus, the bigot, not Jewish, he is GERMAN and a LIBERAL PROTESTANT sanctioned by the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER.

    This blog cites numerous such other examples. Catholic publishing houses that publish books that support the Bieganski stereotype. Catholic periodicals. Atheists, like Bill Maher, who made anti-Polish statements on his show (Maher is of mixed Catholic and Jewish background and is currently an atheist.)

    I could go on and on and on. Scapegoating Jews is utterly false.

    If Ahmedinejad's wish came true and every Jew on the planet disappeared today, the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype would continue to flourish.

    Further -- Jews have supported me in ways Poles have not. Jews have invited me to speak and Polish Americans have not. Jews bought my book and few Polish Americans have. Jews stuck by me when I was writing the book and Polish Americans either ignored the book or supported me at first and then cut and ran like mice when they saw how controversial the book would be. Jews published "Bieganski."

    Please consider keeping this cowardly, blaming, immature, anti-Semitic filth off my blog. Thank you.

  21. An anonymous poster sent this along:

    On closer examination, it appears that Debbie Schlussel's claim that Poles wiped out almost all of both sides of her family -- Poles Were Complicit in Holocaust: Outrage Over Obama “Gaffe” is Fraudulent, Ignorant, May 30, 2012, -- is itself fraudulent.

    It so happens that the testimony of Isaac Engel, her maternal grandfather, which was recorded in 1992, is available online at
    . Isaac Engel, who hails from Zwolen, a town near Radom, describes his wartime fate in detail and states that his parents and his younger brother were rounded up by the Germans in nearby Ciepielow and taken to Treblinka. After the war, Issac Engel heard that his older brother had been killed by Polish partisans.

    Unlike Debbie Schlussel, Jewish sources do not shift the blame for the destruction of the Jewish community of Zwolen onto the Poles. It was clearly the work of the Germans. On one occasion, two young Jews were ordered to hang Polish prisoners, among whom was a priest. See the following websites: (English section)

    1. Most interesting! If accurate, then this situation is yet another example of Polonophobic tall tales--reminiscent of Jerzy Kosinski-Lewinkopf's frauds. For an expose of the latter, please click on my name in this specific posting.

    2. Kosinski is a complex person. I write about him in Bieganski. Late in life he was an outspoken opponent of the Brute Polak stereotype, and of exploiting it to rewrite Holocaust history. No excuse for his passing "Painted Bird" off as a memoir rather than a novel, but ... again, a complex person who did end his own life. Maybe we can feel some compassion for him.

  22. Its interesting that you speak of Catholic publishing houses that propagate the Bieganski stereotype - you have mentioned this before I think, with reference to a specific book about WW2, but I can't remember what it was... rack both brain cells as I may.

    Interesting because the Bieganski stereotype not only (nowadays) includes the idea the Poland fought on the Axis side - that Poles were "fascist brutes" - but isn't it very much based on the ideas of us being "despicable fools" - all as thick as two short planks?

    In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ warned his followers: “I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; but whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.”—Matthew 5:22

    These powerful words have been written down and preserved for us to this day. Gehenna is "the second death", the death from which there is no resurrection, no awakening. So the matter could hardly be more serious.

    Now we all say things we shouldn't sometimes. But would a follower of Christ ever take part in a campaign of vilification against a Christian brother or sister, or indeed anyone?

    Yet again, i am moved to wonder what the churches have been teaching people down all the centuries when they had such power and influence.

    Re who is behind this campaign of vilification and spin... I think we need to look no further than "the father of the lie" - Satan the Devil. All the governments of the world lie in his power, and he pulls the strings.

  23. Sue, there are reasons why Catholics propagate Bieganski. And I'd be happy to go into those reasons to the group that invites me to speak.

  24. Well, I hope they do... but I won't hold my breath while I'm hoping. I would assume - and i expect you do say this in "Bieganski" - that it is to deflect certain accusations that could be made against the Church. And to deflect them onto a group that America's media and academe constantly signal it is safe to attack.

    I only read "Bieganski" in small bits, over a long time, (for reasons I state in my Amazon review) so I don't remember all of it. I have re-read your chapter on Hollywood though, which is very much to the point.

  25. ---> Blame all Poles for holocaust or support post-war occupying communist authorities in Poland and deny stalinist crimes.
    ---> Cry that antisemitism still spreads.


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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