Monday, June 11, 2012

Bystanders, Blackmailers, and Perpetrators: Polish Complicity during the Holocaust

A blog reader sent this in: "Bystanders, Blackmailers, and Perpetrators: Polish Complicity during the Holocaust": by Jacob Flaws. A thesis submitted to the graduate faculty in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Iowa State University. Advisors: John Monroe, Major Professor, Kevin Amidon, Charles Dobbs. January 1, 2011.

Perhaps someone would like to read this thesis and report back with a summary. It Can be found here:


  1. I have read this and what takes place is Jacob searches with a mission of anti Polishism. Never do you see the truth from all sides just his trying to link Polish to killings and never really successful.

  2. Carol, can you provide us with quotes? That would be helpful. Thank you.

  3. This thesis appears to have many problems and my response is based on skim reading various sections.
    1. The title is a provocative statement without inverted commas to show distance from the subject matter by the scholar - this should not be the case in a work of academic scholarship. It gives the game away
    2. The subject matter is too broad and complex to be covered adequately in an MA thesis
    3. The bibliography contains no articles or books in any language but English. All Polish texts are translations - this is a serious problem for something of this scope and at this level
    4. The discussion of methodology is very weak and narrow
    5. The writing is poor and there are colloquialisms
    That's a start.

    1. Peter, thank you kindly. I appreciate the specificity of your observations. I would like to see objective examples of "poor writing," though. :-) But your other comments are quite specific and you make good points.

      I would invite Mr. Jacob Flaws, the author, to chat with us, but a quick search by me did not turn up an email address.

    2. "The subject matter is too broad and complex to be covered adequately in an MA thesis"

      Peter, just writing to praise you again.

      Your point, above, is a very pertinent and valid one. If I were on the committee for this document, that's one of the criticisms I would make. Author, you can't make this point in an MA thesis.

      this is the kind of criticism we who object to the Brute Polak stereotype must engage in.

  4. Just sent this email to the overseeing professor. I hope he complies and arrives to chat with us. Others, please feel free to invite Prof. Monroe to comment. Please be civil.

    My email:

    Dear Prof. Monroe,

    Hi, I just blogged about a paper you oversaw. The link is below.

    Would you care to make comments to the blog post? That would be very helpful. The blog receives tens of thousands of hits and is cited in other environments.

  5. Dear Dr Goska,

    Jacob Flaws' facebook page -
    Jacob Flaws' blog (there's no e-mail, though) -

    It seems that Mr Flaws does not speak Polish. But speaks English and German. And plans to pursue a Ph.D.


    Anonymous follower

    1. Thank you for that information, Anonymous follower.

      I just sent the following via facebook:

      Dear Jacob Flaws,

      Hi, I'm trying to reach the Jacob Flaws who wrote a Master's Thesis on Poland / WWII.

      I maintain a blog and we are discussing your work now (if I have reached the author of the thesis!)

      It would be great, if you are the author, if you would visit the blog.

      I ask this because we are discussing your work critically and perhaps you would like to offer us a point of view we may be missing.

      I work to allow all points of view on the blog. For the most part I don't censor messages, and post most messages that are civil and coherent.

      To the extent that I am able, I attempt to filter or remonstrate with any posts / posters that are not civil or that engage in ad hominem attack.

      I hope to see you at the blog. Thank you.

      Here is a link:

  6. Hi, Anonymous Follower. I will decline to post his email, but thank you for sending it. I do this because I've heard that posting an email on a webpage increases spam, and we don't want to increase his spam.

    I will direct interested parties to this webpage, that does include his email address:

  7. From the thesis:

    "As survivor evidence often clearly corroborates, there were three main levels of Polish complicity during the Holocaust. The first and most widely practiced level was the bystander phenomenon. Many Poles were silent witnesses to the murder of the Jews and some even had opportunities to intervene."

    This is not a valid argument since one could argue that Christian Poles also were bystanders when other Christian Poles were beaten, imprisoned and killed. Historians calculate that around 2 million Christian Poles were murdered by the German Nazis. Could they have been saved by those so called bystanders? No.

    I have also started to look at the bibliography of the thesis. Only English literature, as Peter states. This is a very negative aspect, of course. The subject of the thesis is too important and complex. To examine it demands a broad range of sources, not only Polish, but they are the foundation.

    Another critical issue is that the thesis lacks an exhaustive discussion about survivor testimonies. He totally accepts Jan T Gross approach to survivor testimonies, which is total post-modernistic nonsense.

    This thesis would never have passed in a Swedish university. The thesis lacks so many basics, but mainly source criticism.

    1. Very to the point Artur.

      "As survivor evidence clearly corroborates, there were three main levels . . . and some had opportunities to intervene." So if they weren't all in the same situation why the one category? He goes from a discussion of physical acts or lack of them (intervention) to a non-physical, moral category - complicity. A negative "ought" from a definite "is".

      Second, descriptions and evaluations of Polish behaviour cannot be done purely from survivor source material. What did these bystanders have to say about their actions? This reflects a persistent problem in Holocaust historiography dealing with Polish/Jewish relations.

  8. I have downloaded "Bystanders, Blackmailers, and Perpetrators..." to my computer. It's only 85 pages, so it won't take long for me to finish reading it. But from the very first pages I've noticed that it contains several "flaws".
    Author obviously belives that unarmed Polish bystanders could have stopped German soldiers from rounding up the Jews. I suppose that he has seen "Return of the Jedi" too many times (those teddy bears fighting evil empire). We Poles know how such confrontations end in real world.
    He also quotes only Jewish survivors. It's called one-sidedness, right?
    But what really makes me angry is how he "jumps" from Poland to Germany. Nations are shaped by their history. And our history is different than that of our western neighbours. Before WWI Germany was a world power. With army, fleet, colonies. We didn't even had our own country in that time. Different mentalities, different behavior types. Definitely different nations.
    I will take a break before reading next chapter. Somehow I have a bad feeling about this one.

  9. Well, I have finished reading. I can now say that this is the worst anti-polish pamphlet I've read in my life. Author thinks that scoundrels, degenerates and sadists are representatives of an entire Polish nation. And to that nation he added also volksdeutches. Germans by blood and choice.
    Now I want to write about American nation. Should I visit San Quentin prison? Or maybe someone knows were I could find some members of Ku Klux Klan?
    And another thing. In Poland there are no "survivors". Survivors are on desert islands. Here we have "saved ones" (ocaleni). It's more fitting name.

  10. A rather interesting article about Euro 2012 and how Slavs are once again "backward" - - not that you did not predict the whole thing in your Bieganski. Anonymous.

  11. Thanks for all the contact details and I do hope I will be able to read and follow up. Its all getting beyond satire. My "satirical" take on it has been that the Official Version of WW2 (as opposed to What Actually Happened) now involves the Evil Axis Powers of Poland, Poland and Poland being overcome by the Noble Saintly Allies: America, America and America. I feel i am only keeping one step ahead of the agenda. If it overtakes me, I suppose it will turn out that we were responsible for WW1 and The Hundred Years War. In the meantime please can we take our Creator's warnings to heart and act on them. What has He warned us about "the wisdom of the world"?

  12. Thank you to everyone who has posted such substantive, responsible posts. I have received no reply from Jacob Flaws or Prof. Monroe. i regret that. I sense we could all learn a lot from each other.

  13. Hi Prof Goska

    I have a rather lengthy essay by way of response to the above-mentioned thesis. The problem is I can't figure out a way to post a link to a PDF file. Any ideas?

    Cheers - Michal Karski

    1. Hi, Michal Karski. Would you like to post your essay on this blog? I would happily do that for you if it meets with the general approach of the blog. I would like to read it first. Can you please email it to me? Are you on facebook? If so, you can easily send it to me as an attachment to a facebook message. Thank you.

    2. Thank you for your reply. I've been resisting facebook for various reasons so maybe there's another way of transmitting the essay to you? (As a matter of fact, there is another Michal Karski on facebook, but he spells Michal the Polish way, I think).

      Anyway, I'd be happy for you to go through it with the proverbial blue pencil...

    3. Hi, sure, you can send it to calamitygene



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

    1. Michal add dot com and please don't type it here. I'm trying to protect my account from spam bots

  15. On a related subject - ascribing complicity in the Holocaust to Poland - this time not explicitly stated as in the above thesis, but, according to many, quite clearly implied by the presentation of the Armia Krajowa as essentially anti-Semitic thugs, the controversy over the German TV serial 'Unsere Mütter Unsere Väter' rumbles on in Poland itself and Polonia abroad. If ever there was a negative Polish stereotype, it is the picture of the brutish and rabidly anti-Semitic partisan.

    There were undoubtedly Jew-hating individuals and even rogue groupings within the resistance, but most Polish viewers will recognise this picture as being extremely unfair. However there is no reason that English-speaking viewers should think this picture doesn't represent Poles in general and the impression they will be left with will be extremely negative, which is, of course, the reason why various groups are protesting both in the US and the UK.

    Whether protests will prove effective or whether they will entrench the BBC further in its position is another matter. My own opinion is that the least an organization like the BBC could do, given the very negative aspect of the portrayal of the AK, is to run a documentary in parallel, perhaps focusing on the Jewish fighters of the AK and those soldiers of the Polish Resistance, such as Witold Pilecki and Jan Karski who risked their lives to report on the extermination of the Jews.

    There is no compelling reason why German television should necessarily want to highlight examples of heroism or decency among members of the Polish Resistance. It is up to Poles to defend their good name.

    A final point - and if you haven't seen the German serial in question, I'll try not to give too much away, although the controversial clips are freely available on Youtube - the scene with the train which shows the exchange about the prisoners raises some questions. Why are the passengers/inmates of the cattle cars already in concentration camp uniform? Are they being transferred from one camp to another? Would that actually have happened? And how does the Polish partisan know that 'większość z nich to żydzi'? Does this mean they are willing to sacrifice any Christians on board? Again, could that really have happened?

    Maybe it would be best to put pressure on the BBC and whoever else means to show this, to at least wait until the Polish documentary about the real AK is ready next year:

    and then viewers could judge for themselves which is the more authentic picture.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. How did that happen?

    I seem to have repeated myself. Please feel free to delete as appropriate, Prof Goska. Thanks.

  18. Nothing controversial. I merely posted a duplicate.

  19. Here's an interesting piece in the London 'Dziennik Polski':

    For the benefit of those whose Polish is a bit shaky, it's an article about a project to document on film, largely by way of witness testimonies, hitherto untold stories of (many) Polish people - individuals and families - who were murdered by the German Nazis for aiding their Jewish neighbours.

    So far it would seem that this documentary has only been available to Polish speakers. The sooner this material appears to an English-speaking audience, the better. Then perhaps some people, possibly even including the rather judgemental Jacob Flaws, might revise their negative opinions of those Christian Poles who lived alongside their Jewish neighbours.

    Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku - Happy New Year!


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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