Sunday, October 7, 2012

Controversy over Renaming of NJ Park after Chester Grabowski; Alan Dershowitz Objects; Congressman Bill Pascrell Withdraws

When I tell people that my book "Bieganski" addresses Polish-Jewish relations, and they give me a blank stare, I wonder, anew, at the gap between the constant feud between Poles and Jews, and the rest of the world, often spinning blissfully oblivious of this controversy.

The Polish-Jewish feud is now affecting Clifton, New Jersey. Congressman Bill Pascrell and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz are involved.

There was an initiative to rename a park after Chester Grabowski, publisher of a Polish-American newspaper. Alan Dershowtiz caught wind of the initiative and alleged that Grabowski was an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier. Congressman Bill Pascrell withdrew his support for the renaming of the park.

The full text of the article addressing the controversy can be found here.


The article alleges the following about Chester Grabowski:

That he said that only two million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

That he published an advertisement from the Ku Klux Klan.

That he hosted an event for John Tyndall, "A British politician known for neo-Nazi ideals."

That he said that the six pointed star on a dollar bill was a sign that Jews wanted to push to destroy Christianity.

At first, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell said that he supported Grabowski. The article quotes Pascrell as saying, "The Chester Grabowski I remember was not only a dedicated leader in his community, but a proud advocate for all Polish-Americans, who helped raise a great family who I deeply admire."

Celebrity Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz stepped in. He said that he would "bring it to the attention of the world" if Clifton renamed the park for Grabowski. "If the people of this fine city want to be known for revering a bigot like him, the world will know," he said. "I will bring it to the attention of the world. We will have pickets and protests and leaflets."


My thoughts, for what they are worth:

One: I grew up and live in the area. I have struggled against stereotyping of Poles all my life. When I was a little kid, I pestered area librarians to stock books about Poles. I harangued my teachers to include lessons about Poles. While living in the area, I published a book about stereotyping of Poles, "Bieganski." Jacky Grindrod, who works in Congressman Pascrell's office, is herself of Polish descent. She advised me on my work, and informed me of local people I should contact. She never mentioned Chester Grabowski to me.

I've had zero contact with Grabowski or any of the other people mentioned in the article. They've never contacted me about "Bieganski" or invited me to speak. I am dubious about the claim that they are having any kind of impact with whatever it is they are doing to promote Polonia or to fight stereotypes. If their work is known only among themselves, it can't be very effective.

Again, if Poles want to be effective, they need to overcome the Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision, described in this series of blog posts.

Two: If the allegations in the article are true, Grabowski was, in my estimation, an anti-Semite. I'm not comfortable passing that judgment on a man I never met who is not here to defend himself. But, again, if the article is true, it will not benefit Clifton or Polonia to name a park after him.

Three: Let's talk about the identity politics here.

Chester Grabowski is a relatively obscure figure. The park is not known outside its immediate area. Clifton is rarely in the news.

Certainly other places are named after highly imperfect people. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner who had six children by his slave, Sally Hemings. Yet we have countless schools and libraries named after this deeply flawed man.

If Alan Dershowitz had not gotten involved, no one would ever have heard of Chester Grabowski or this park.

Why would Alan Dershowitz, a national celebrity, about whom a Hollywood film was made, want to bring this very small, obscure, local story to the attention of the world? It is Dershowitz's effort that typifies the Bieganski stereotype.

If Garbowski was a hater, he was a small potatoes hater. His hate is being treated, by Dershowitz, as if it were of international significance.

In the Bieganski stereotype, Polish people's hate is weightier than other people's.

Quoting a previous blog entry:

In Willard Gaylin's 2004 book "Hatred: The Psychological Descent Into Violence," Gaylin attempts to illustrate human hatred for his reader. Gaylin does not turn to Al Qaeda terrorists, who had attacked the US just a few short years before, committing one of the most visually spectacular displays of hatred humanity had ever seen, and inaugurating the War on Terror. He doesn't turn to German Nazis as the epitome of hate. Rather, to illustrate pure hatred for his reader, to, as Gaylin puts it, engage in the courageous task of "confronting evil head-on," Gaylin turns to Poles, specifically Polish, Catholic peasants. They hold the key to understanding evil.

Alan Dershowitz wants to bring to the world's attention the hate of an obscure, deceased man in a town few have ever heard of, and the naming a park no one knows existed – because Polish Catholics are involved, and their hate is bigger, badder, weightier than anyone else's hate.

Please see a previous blog entry, with material sent in by Otto Gross. V-1 and V-2 Rockets, Mittlebau-Dora, and Wernher von Braun. Wernher von Braun was a member of the Nazi party. He exploited slave labor. He was unperturbed by piles of human corpses. And in the above-cited blog post, you can see a snapshot of Wernher von Braun schmoozing with America's most romanticized president, John F. Kennedy.

Wernher von Braun's hate is no big deal. He can be made into an American hero in the race to reach the moon.

Polish Home Army, or Armia Krajowa soldiers managed to provide allied intelligence with a V-2 rocket stolen from the Nazis. Did they ever schmooze with John F. Kennedy?

No, in fact they have been demonized.

The University of Missouri Press published a book, "They Were Just People," that states that the Armia Krajowa, or Home Army, was an anti-Semitic organization bent on killing Jews (206, 133). "The Polish underground in general and the AK in particular, displayed little interest in the Jews and certainly took no action to defend them … the AK was imbued with anti-Semitism" (206).

One author of that book, Bill Tammeus, is a liberal Protestant of German-American ethnicity. He is now a blogger at the National Catholic Reporter.

Why I mention this – too many Polonians blame the Jews for the Bieganski stereotype. In fact that stereotype is pervasive. Catholics and Protestants disseminate it.

And I mention this because we, Polonia, do nothing about it. "They Were Just People" is still available. Tammeus, who wrote this book, has been rewarded by a Catholic organization. And Polonia does nothing about it.

Other ethnic groups, who do organize, play the ethnicity politics game more expertly, and achieve different results.

Congressman Bill Pascrell said that he knew Grabowski and admired him. When confronted with the charge that Grabowski was an anti-Semite, Pascrell threw Grabowski under the bus.

Pascrell's district has one of the highest Muslim populations in the US. Has Pascrell similarly thrown Muslims under the bus? Even when their statements have been overtly anti-Semitic?

Please see articles here and here and here.

Full Disclosure: Bill Pascrell is my congressman, and I have voted for him. His office has been helpful to me and I admire him and his staff.

My point is simply this. Other ethnic groups are playing their cards differently than Polonians, and they are getting different results than Polonians do.


  1. I guess then, to be consistent with what Dersh is saying about Grabowski, there are quite a few people, including not a few Jews, who cannot have anything named after them because of their bigotry (anti-Polish bigotry, that is).

  2. Of course he was.Because,as a Pole, this is a default option.How about naming the park after f.e Voltaire,Napoleon,Marlon Brando,Nixon,Truman,Patton,Goethe,Pestalozzi
    Giordano Bruno,Martin Luther,Erasmus of Rotterdam,Paracelsus and others?
    Oh, wait-each of this people did not really have a hight opinion about Jewish people,still,places are named after these anti-Semitic bigots (like the restaurant: Chez Napoleon) and NO one seems to care. Or explain it along the lines of "yeah, but you know, this was the spirit of their times blah blah". This does, of course,not apply to Poles,for some reason.

  3. Also, about Holocaust negation-I don't know any Poles who do negate the Holocaust (for what reasons anyway?), rather, I know MASSES of Germans who are downplaying its extent (of course, Slavs and Gypsies somehow are not victims of the Holocaust.I digress,of course.),Westeners (like British,French,Dutch) who are saying stuff like "Hitler was kind of a military genius" (I digress-He was mad and normal people have huge difficulties with dealing with madness,for obvious reasons) and belittling f.e the Polish Armia Krajowa ect. and one Polish "progressive" "inteligensja" (I am biting my keypad right now) by the name of Tomasz Piątek who suggested to call Auschwitz,hold your breath, a "human death camp".There seems to be much more of the crazy lately...

  4. Lets dissect this article:
    "had made derogatory comments about Jews and had minimized the Holocaust, Dershowitz said, pointing to writings and news stories over the years in The Record. Grabowski during his life had denied being anti-Semitic."
    Wow,I mean-there You have it: Grabowski denied being an anti-Semite.So, case closed. About the rest: Why does "derogatory comments" only seem to apply to CERTAIN groups (like: Jews,Muslims,Homosexuals,Blacks)? Come on, how tiny must ones ego be to be incredibly offended because s.o said derogatory once? It happens to everyone all the time (like when people get mugged and the perpetrators were Black,perhaps, in the heat of their anger, they will curse Blacks,without being racists at all)-the important thing is not to let such things shapen our world view. He "had minimized the Holocaust"? Propably he just mentioned, that Jewish people were not the only victimes, that in the Soviet Union along around 20 mio people died because of (almost only) Nazi German agression-he thus "minimized the Holocaust".And he is RIGHT to do so-every victim of Nazi German crimes should be commemorated,regardless of ethnicity,religion,sexual orientation,gender ect.
    BTW, some bigots (who happen to be Jewish) decry the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism to be "anti-Semitic" because it "minimizes the Holocaust"(apparently by remembering the victimes of Communist rule). These people are bigots and lets call them likewise-they are creating bad feelings towards Jewish people as a whole.
    But lets continue: "But he also made comments suggesting the Holocaust was exaggerated, and that some Jews wanted to “destroy Christianity.”
    Same here-the Holocaust is indeed "exaggerated" because many many millions more were just shot by f.e German Einsatztruppen (see f.e Babi Yar),murdered by Nazi German war "tactiques", died of Nazi German induced hunger ect. About "some Jews wanted to destroy Christianity". Ok, this is true,isnt it? There were (a tiny fraction of) Jewish people like Trotzki and, in Poland, Rozanski and Helena Wolinska who HATED christianity with an intense passion and wanted to see it gone.Of course, these were also atheists who also hated Judaism.And went against every Jewish moral law that exists. I believe that it would be high time to denounce these people as criminals.This does not and can not have anything to do with their religio-ethnic background.

    "portrayed Grabowski’s newspaper as a “modern-day” version of Der Sturmer, "
    Of course, because "nazism" originated in Poland.This is gettting tedious-one one does this with Germany,interesting,isnt it?. Some time ago, a German journalist stuck a "nazi" lable to Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the rally his party,some other organizations as well as the remnants of Solidarnosc organized in Warsaw.Yes, a German (whos other articles show an intense belittling of us Poles as a nation-her name is Gabriele Lesser,btw) had the audacity.

  5. I did not know Grabowski.

    If he said and did what the article alleges, he was an anti-Semite.

    The question of whether or not a park should be named after him is a different question.

    I hope that the park is not named after him. Naming a park after a man who said and did what he said and did is not good for Clifton, and not good for Polonia. Do we want this person as our hero? If so, why?

    That there is a double standard at work is clear. See the previous post from Otto Gross. Wernher von Braun was a Nazi who utilized slave labor. He was photographed associating with one of America's most beloved presidents.

    The good Polish AK soldiers who got the V-2 to England are forgotten, and, in university press books like "They Were Just People," defamed.

    1. Polonia should look for another hero. Someone who can be the "face" of Polonia. I suggest Matt Louis Urban or Francis "Gabby" Gabreski.

  6. Dear Goska, I agree, still, I have become very,very sceptical with regards to alleged anti-Semitism and/or homophobia or rascism. (as an example have a look at what the BBC managed "to make of" the interview with the Rabbi of Cracow,Mr. Ornstein, in their "objective" documentary (or rather hatementary) "Stadiums of hate"-the latter was furious and called it anti-Polish bigotry and a huge disservice to the Jewish community of Poland).In Communist states,all enemies were labeled as "fascists",today, people are defamed as nazis,homophobs,anti-Semits,rascist and what not. I believe that one such remark does not make s.o necessarily a bigot-provoked,sometimes people can say really stupid things they do not really believe.

    Sometimes, we might not like a Group of people (a founding member of Zegota, Sofia Szczuka-Kossak,could be regarded as an "anti-Semite",yet, she thought it her Christian duty to risk her life in order to save people of Jewish faith.Does this devalue her deeds,I am wondering.

    If he was an anti-Semite-how about naming the park "Irena Sendlerowa Park" than? We have a great many great Polish people to choose from ;-).Also, I would love to see Dershowitzes reaction- I am making a cynical guess here: "...she was one of very few Poles, who was not an anti-Semite cheering on the nazis...." Sight.

    1. Well said, Hanna.

      Terms like racist, anti-Semite, fascist, Nazi, homophobe, xenophobe, etc.--these have become standard left-wing buzzwords.

      Otherwise, no nationality or ethnoreligious group has a monopoly on either vice or virtue, and so no nationality or ethnoreligious group is beyond criticism.

  7. What about addressing the charges at least a little bit? These are specific charges - any context here? If they are correct, and I assume there is at least a grain of truth here, then, whatever his achievements for the Polish community, it may not be wise to push this - most people do not say things like "oh, it was 2m" or hobnob with the KKK - whatever his merits, if true, this shows, at a mimimum, a lack of common sense.

    In any event, given what already happened this park will not be named for him so end of story.

    As far as the argument that there were others who were anti-Semites and who have parks named after them - well, yes, but, in almost all of these cases, that was long ago and they had other "redeeming" features. Patton's (more like stupidity), Brando's, Luther's anti-semitism was long well known but when they were heroes the Jewish community had no power to stop their worship - and, Grabowski, is no Patton or Bruno, in case you missed this. Napoleon, really? Truman made certain statements that have been interpreted as anti-semitic (and were made in the context of talking about E Europeans) but they were not known for a very long time and Truman was a US president who was also instrumental in the establishment/recognition of Israel. For that matter, FDR, so worshipped by leftists, turned back the St. Louis. These are known facts but FDR also did lots of other things that were beneficial for the US and for the Jewish community. Again, too, all of these cases you mention were also in a context where anti-semitism was rampant and the Jewish community could do little about the behavior of these individuals. Well, times have changed and unless Polonia wants to be forever perceived the way it is perceived, it may take a page out of the German (post WWII) playbook.

    Let's put it this way, Mel Gibson, ain't getting any parks named after him. And you may say, he was drunk, etc. etc. He may even had been set up (I don't know how many Jewish traffic cops there are in Malibu or in CHP) but, so what? He's a buffoon - first think, then talk.


  8. I just updated the blog post with new text which, I hope, makes my point more clear.

    I hope interested readers will read the new text, added to the end of the blog post.

  9. Dear Danusha (I hope I am allowed to call You by Your name) You are making a great point in mentioning Muslims. They do not "get thrown under the bus".But than again, two things are at work here,I believe.

    1. Left-wing hedonists have made the "fight" of the Palestinian people their own.Because they do not have much to live for (apart from occupying the sidewalks in front of Wallstreet where they are offering "tutorials" on Communism 101).Muslim is the new Jew for them (just have a look at the "Israeli Apartheid weeks or how often Israel is equated to Nazi Germany) and being "pro-Palestine" (btw, Hamas says,in its own charter, that they want Jews to "disappear from Palestine" hmmm) makes your a good human being.For virtually free.

    2. Muslims FIGHT back.Yes, its a stupid fighting back,childish at worst (like sending death threats-happens all the time here).Unfortunately, this WORKS.And it says a lot about "progressive"-just ofter to show them the "staircase to heaven" and they will start to become all whiny and do your bidding.

    I believe there is only one way out-Poles should not only start to fight and inform the public,I believe there are also other groups who are abused in similar ways (I do not know enought about the US to say which group that might be)...

    1. "Left-wing hedonists have made the "fight" of the Palestinian people their own.Because they do not have much to live for (apart from occupying the sidewalks in front of Wallstreet where they are offering "tutorials" on Communism 101).Muslim is the new Jew for them (just have a look at the "Israeli Apartheid weeks or how often Israel is equated to Nazi Germany) and being "pro-Palestine" (btw, Hamas says,in its own charter, that they want Jews to "disappear from Palestine" hmmm) makes your a good human being.For virtually free."

      Well we know you hate the left (that large amorphous group which is never defined) but really, do you expect the above rant to be treated with any seriousness or do you just want to be a gadfly who engages in serial "whinging" about the state of the world in general?

      Have you actually made a study of the issues involved in the Israel/Palestinian conflict as distinct from picking up bits and pieces of attitude here and there? Please list the books that you have read on the issue that lead you to your conclusions that the left positions on Israel/Palestine are merely the result of political correctness and "Communism 101", so that those of us who are interested can go off and read them and attend the seminars as a corrective?

    2. Peter, please stop posting ad hominem posts. If you send in another post that consists mostly of ad hominem comments about another poster, I will not post it.

    3. I too picked up the "leftist" points in Hanna's post. I don't think there was nothing wrong with Peter's response.

  10. Hello Danusha - an interesting point. You say: "One author of that book, Bill Tammeus, is a liberal Protestant of German-American ethnicity. He is now a blogger at the National Catholic Reporter."

    As I have said, I am not a Catholic, but surely every Pole/Polonian who is should be drawing this to the attention of their local and national church, and letting them know how it makes them feel. Doing this politely of course, but firmly - and making a lot of use of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

  11. I have a Jewish father and a Protestant mother. I guess the Catholic Grabowski has two reasons to hate me. I have two reasons to hate him rIght back. I have known about tis guy for decades. He is anti-Jewish. The fact that he published an ad from the KKK should should raise heckles. To be honest, anti-Polish bigotry is a myth. I have never hear any anti-Polish comments by anyone in my life.

    1. Don't be silly. You can be hated (pitied really) because you are an ignorant troll.

    2. Hello William, Presumably you don't live in the USA? I never realised all this was going on until we became expats and I lived in what was effectively small town America.

      Have you read Dr.Goska's "Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype, its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture"? Its a devastating analysis. I had to take it in in small doses and keep a copy of Psalm 37 close by.

      And in John Radzilowski's excellent "Poles in Minnesota", he tells us this:

      ""The 1970s represented a kind of watershed for Poles in Minnesota... Nationally, the entertainment industry and media singled out Polish Americans for stigmatization, and stores across Minnesota carried bigoted "Polish joke" products that were widely used. Because they had little mainstream media presence, many Polish Americans,especially young people, internalized these stereotypes. If students did not keep quiet, they faced harassment and abuse from classmates and sometimes even teachers. With the Polish White Eagle Association,
      this stigmatization led to occasional pressures to remove the word "Polish" from the group's name as early as the 1960's."
      (Poles in Minnesota, John Radzilowski, Minnesota Historical Society Press, pp.67-68)

      That was very deliberate, very political and very nasty. And, on the silver lining side, is one of the things that helps me to keep on keeping out of politics and staying neutral.

      Then there is the book "Maus", in which all Poles are portrayed as "swine". I have to ask, what other minority groups could be portrayed as swine and the book even be publishable, let alone lauded and applauded?

      Because of all this, I assumed that Chester Grabowski (who I had never heard of) was not going to have a park named after him solely because he was a Polish-American. However, I accept that I was wrong about that.

  12. @william: do you have any evidence that Grabowski hated Protestants? Or do you believe that all Catholics do so? Do you actually have evidence that he "hated" anyone as opposed to, say, "disliked" ?

    What are the two reasons you hate him even, apparently, after his demise?

    Do you believe your experience is sufficient to justify making the statement about the "myth"? Why?


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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