Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Memoir of a Polish-American Cleaning Woman & "White Privilege"

Polish and other Bohunk-Americans are in a bind. We are Bieganski the Brute, but we are also classified as "white," and as enjoying "white privilege." It's a particularly vicious bind, very well described by Mary Grabar in her essay, "Yes, We Are Bitter."

Recently I published "Green Vase" about my experiences as a cleaning woman, like thousands of other Polish and other Bohunk American cleaning women. In the essay, I describe being falsely accused of stealing something. 

Jennifer Swift-Kramer, my fellow professor, mentioned to me that my experience defies Politically Correct guidelines. Poor but white. A cleaning woman. Accused of stealing. This can't happen -- whites enjoy "White Privilege" and are never accused of stealing at the workplace; only "people of color" are. Check out Peggy McIntosh's essay "The Invisible Knapsack."

And please read "Green Vase" here

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

150th Anniversary of the January, 1863 Uprising

January, 1863 Jozef Chelmonski 
Aleksander Lesser image that includes Rabbi Meisels, who was active in 1861 (pictured here) and 1863. Source

Prolific Amazon reviewer Jan Peczkis wrote in to remind us that today is the 150th anniversary of the January, 1863 uprising. Mr. Peczkis also recommended "Walka o wolno w roku 1863," a book about the uprising, which he reviews on Amazon here.

Polonians alive today who would like to honor their ancestors' heroism and activism could well begin by reading the three-part blog post on the current Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr, Universal Human Rights, and Bieganski

Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel. Source

Some Polonians believe that "the Jews" are the enemy, and that "the Jews" are responsible for Bieganski, the Brute Polak stereotype.

Some Polonians are convinced that the Brute Polak stereotype is all about Poland's good name. To answer those who say we are all Brutes, we must just say over and over, "Poland is great! Poland is great! Rah Rah Rah!"

No one reading "Bieganski" or this blog, and understanding it, could come to either conclusion.

The book and the blog adduce example after example of Brute Polaks produced by non-Jews. Just a few examples: Catholic publishing houses, Bill Tammeus, a liberal Protestant who blogs at the National Catholic Reporter, Dennis Miller, the Imus show, Barak Obama, NPR, and a Canadian museum. There are too many more examples to offer here.

Shouting "Poland is great rah rah rah!" just feeds the stereotype of Poles as none too bright, narrow-minded chauvinists.

Jews are not "the enemy." Jews are people who are also damaged by stereotyping. We will succeed, not by fighting against Jews, but by allying with those Jews who abhor stereotyping and cherish a significant site of the Jewish Diaspora.

The wise and successful Polonian will recognize, as Linda Wisniewski mentioned in her guest blog post here, that Polonia needs allies. Too, Polonia needs to reframe the discussion against the Brute Polak stereotype, not as a chauvinist exercise – "Poland is great rah rah rah" – but as part of the universal struggle for human dignity.

I deeply admire Martin Luther King's intuitive understanding of the Polish concept of "For your freedom and ours." King understood that his struggle was not just about African Americans, but about universal human rights.

If Polonians wanted to succeed in their struggle against stereotyping, they would adopt the unity, support, and organization emulated by African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement, and as depicted in the must-see film "Eyes on the Prize." And they would follow the plan of action described here.

Dr. King saw the kinship between African Americans, struggling to survive in the face of hate, and Jews. I share his sentiments, and the feelings of Poles like Adam Mickiewicz who recognized a kinship between Poles and Jews.

Quotes from Dr. King on Jews, Israel, and anti-Semitism:

"I cannot stand idly by, even though I happen to live in the United States and even though I happen to be an American Negro and not be concerned about what happens to the Jews in Soviet Russia. For what happens to them happens to me and you, and we must be concerned."

"Israel's right to exist as a state in security is uncontestable."

"Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality."

"I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews -- because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all."

"When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism."

Source of these quotes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"We Must Nurse Our Children on Hatred of Jews": Who Said It?

Former Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Shamir famously stated that "Every Pole sucked anti-Semitism with his mother's milk." It's an oft-cited summation of the Bieganski Brute Polak stereotype. If you google it, you will find it cited on webpage after webpage, in published article after published article, for example here.

My mother was Slovak, not Polish. She spoke some Yiddish, because, like many Bohunk women, she cooked and cleaned for a Jewish family, and raised their children. I picked up what little Yiddish I know from her. We ate the Jewish foods she had prepared for her employers. She had Jewish friends, who visited the house regularly, and were included in important family events like funerals. I had Jewish boyfriends, and they visited the house, and my mother greeted them, as she greeted everyone, with food. The one time she fixed me up on a blind date, it was with a Jewish boy, the son of a friend.

Obviously this is an anecdote, not a thorough study of Polish child-rearing practices. Yes, there is anti-Semitism in Poland. The problem with Shamir's quote is that it essentializes Polish anti-Semitism. It makes it an inextricable aspect of Polish biology and culture.


Sue Knight regularly reminds us of George Orwell's classic book "1984." In that book, the masses of Oceania are encouraged to cheer blindly for whomever the government wants them to cheer. One minute they could be cheering for Eastasia and reviling Eurasia; the next minute the opposite could be true.

Recently Americans were urged to cheer for the Arab Spring. We were urged to cheer for the Arab Spring in spite of the hideous assault on Laura Logan, the graphic photo of a soldier stepping on a woman in Tahrir Square, and deadly attacks on Egypt's Coptic Christians.

We are urged to cheer the Arab Spring's election of Mohammed Morsi, who exhorted his fellow believers, "Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them. They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue."

I wonder if Morsi's actual exhortation to nursing children on hatred of Jews will ever receive any press or attention.

Mohammed Morsi exhorting his fellow Muslims to nurse their children and grandchildren on hatred of Jews: full story here.

The Arab Spring. Tahrir Square.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Poles: A Reliable Ally in Operation Foxley

An interesting find from a Google image search of "assassinate Hitler" source 

Operation Foxley document 

During WW II, the Allies hoped to assassinate Hitler. One attempt, Operation Foxley, hoped to make use of a Polish assassin. Otto Gross, L8 researcher, alerted me to this plot and I thank him for it. Otto mentioned to me as he shared this information, "It's interesting that the Allies chose a Pole as a potential assassin, given that nowadays Poles are so frequently depicted as collaborators with the Nazis."

Yes. The Bieganski phenomenon is part of an attempt, in recent years, to position Poles in the historical slot best filled by Nazis.

Yes, there was powerful and destructive anti-Semitism in Poland in the interwar era. Yes, there were deadly anti-Semitic Poles during and after WW II. No, the Bieganski project is not justified by either fact. Any questions? Read the book, as Prof. John Connelly might say: Read "Bieganski."

Otto Gross' original research on a little known WW II era mystery, the destiny of the L8 or Ghost Blimp, is here.

Some National Archives documents on Operation Foxley are here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

UC Berkeley Professor John Connelly Responds. Polonia Must "Read;" Stereotypes Are Not a Problem; Stop Being So "Riled Up."

Recognize yourself, Polonia? Are you all "riled up?" Have you done your reading?
Why should a scholar waste time talking to you? 

In a previous blog post, I reviewed Halik Kochanski's "The Eagle Unbowed."

I mentioned UC Berkeley Professor John Connelly's review of "The Eagle Unbowed" in "The Nation."

Subsequent blog reader comments mentioned John Connelly's review of "The Eagle Unbowed," as well. Those blog reader comments are visible beneath the review, linked below.

John Connelly's review came up in a subsequent guest blog post, also linked below.

I believe in dialogue. Dialogue is important. If I want my voice to be heard, it is only fair that I hear others' voices. Also, given how highly volatile Polish-Jewish relations is, it is important that each side hear the other, and not overreact. There is great potential for misunderstanding. We must strive to hear each other fully.

Given that Prof. Connelly's review was mentioned on the blog so frequently, by myself and others, I sent him an email inviting him to interact with concerned readers here. Here's what I wrote:

"I would really love it if you would drop by and respond. My blog readers are for the most part serious and concerned people. One is a published novelist who has published books about WW II, and will publish more in 2013, one is a Polish professor, living in Poland, one is the child of a WW II veteran, etc."

Prof. Connelly declined. I received his emails ten days ago and I delayed responding to them or mentioning them here. I delayed because I became upset when I read his emails. I wanted to give it time, to see if I was misinterpreting what he wrote.

I've given it time, and reread his emails, and they still upset me.

Prof. Connelly told me that it would not be worth his time to interact with a group of "riled up" people who "haven't done the reading." "The issue is not stereotypes." "You really have to do the reading." "I don't see a purpose in engaging critics of my review." "Those interested in the subject should read the basic literature and then we could have a conversation. I get requests from students all the time for opinions on matters from the past, but always refuse if the student has not first done some requisite reading." "I just cannot spend precious time going (sic) through that blog of yours and correct all the misconcpetions (sic)."

There you have it, blog readers. You have not done the reading. There is nothing about stereotypes here. Your words reveal your many misconceptions. And stop being so riled up.

Polonia is losing the war on the Brute Polak stereotype because Polonia is fighting it incorrectly. This response from John Connelly is acceptable because Polonia has failed to do exactly what Linda C Wisniewski tells Polonia to do in her guest blog post. Chauvinist Polonians insist that the Brute Polak stereotype is just about "Poland's good name." It is not. It is about the universal struggle for human rights and human dignity.

Polonia has not communicated that, and so a UC Berkeley professor can decide that anyone who argues that Poles are not essential brutes is a brute him or herself, someone who does not read, someone who is laughably or frighteningly "riled up" – worthy of being smeared, but not worthy of interaction.

The initial blog post that mentions John Connelly is here.
The subsequent blog post that mentions John Connelly is here.
Blog reader comments are found beneath each blog post.
Prof. Connelly's UC Berkeley webpage is here.

PS: I was a grad student at UC Berkeley. On that campus, years ago, one of my fellow grad students, Nick Schoen, told me I could not be Polish because I *do* read. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Polish-American Mother, Slave Laborer, Role Model, Child of the Forest, and Survivor

Teresa Guzlowski

Sometimes I think we Bohunks – Polish-Americans, Slovak-Americans, Lithuanian-Americans, etc, all have the same mother, or the same grandmother.

Get out your handkerchiefs and read poet John Guzlowski's salute to his Polish-American mother. She was a child of the forest, until the Nazis and Ukrainians arrived, killed, and committed unspeakable atrocities John does not detail here.

An excerpt:

"She survived the [Nazi] camps and she survived a life of working on factory assembly lines and in skyscrapers where she cleaned offices from midnight until 8 in the morning taking out other people's garbage and polishing the stains off of their desks.  And she survived the sometimes turbulent relationship she had with my dad and my sister and me.

If you could have seen her when she was dying, you would have seen that same desire to go on, to survive, even when there was little hope that she would ever be able to walk or talk or hear or breathe the way she had before her strokes.  For the last two years, when she and I talked, she would often say, 'Johnny, how can I live without hope?'"

For the full text of this moving salute, go to the Lightning and Ashes blogspot here.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Polonia! Wake Up! Irene Sendler is Now Officially German!

From page 104 of "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype."

"In addition to what did appear in the press and in public discourse, the discussion on anti-Semitism in Poland was fashioned by what did not appear in the press and what was not said in public discourse. A July 27, 2001 LexisNexis search of the previous year's news stories found one hundred sixty four articles covering Gross' Neighbors. Sampled texts emphasized a diagnostically and uniquely Polish racial essence that was typified by violent anti-Semitism. A July 27, 2001, LexisNexis search of the previous year's news stories found only two articles addressing Irena Sendler. One of those articles was a mere hundred words long, and in a local paper. The other article included lengthy mention of Gross' Neighbors and described Poles as "viciously anti-Jewish" (Komarow).

Irena Sendler was a Polish woman who is credited with saving 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust. She rescued Jewish children although, unlike the German Nazi Oskar Schindler, as a Pole and a target for eventual genocide or enslavement by the occupying Nazis, Sendler faced death for herself and her family if caught aiding Jews in any way. Nazis tortured Sendler. On May 31, 2001, Sendler, 91, met with Kansas schoolchildren who had uncovered her forgotten story. Only two newspapers covered this event, according to a LexisNexis search, and one felt it necessary to give lengthy space in its coverage to Gross' book. No articles focusing on Gross' book, according to a LexisNexis search, made any mention of Irena Sendler at all. Anti-polonists had done such a good job of communicating that Poles are essential haters that the idea of a Polish rescuer was so unbelievable that Sendler is accorded a page at, a website devoted to exposing urban legends."

End of quote from "Bieganski."

Today a facebook friend, a lovely, caring, and sincere person, posted a message recommending that Irene Sendler receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Irene Sendler, this lovely facebook friend wrote, was German.

I asked her why she said that.

She sent me the text below, which she had received via facebook. It says that Sendler "being German" knew about the Holocaust. The phrase is ambiguous, and can be taken at least two ways. In any case, many will interpret it as identifying Sendler as German.

This will make sense to many people for whom Bieganski, the Brute Polak stereotype, distorts history.

Polonia, I hope you wake up at some point. Buy "Bieganski." Read it. Study it. Act on it.

Here is the facebook post that appears to identify Sendler as German:


Look at this lady - Let us never forget!
The world hasn't just become's always been wicked.
The prize doesn't always go to the most deserving.

Irena Sendler
Died 12 May 2008 (aged 98)
Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a plumbing/sewer specialist.

She had an 'ulterior motive'.

She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews (being German).

Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids).

She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.

She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family.

Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She was not selected.

President Obama won one year before becoming President for his work as a community organizer for ACORN


Al Gore won also --- for a slide show on Global Warming.


I'm doing my small part by forwarding this message.

I hope you'll consider doing the same...

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.

This is being posted as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated by the Nazis.

Now, more than ever, with Iran, and others, claiming the HOLOCAUST to be 'a myth'. It's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again, and this time, it may be your religious, ethnic, sexual preference or 'whatever' group."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Polonia: Make Allies. Linda C. Wisniewski's Guest Blog Post

Author Linda C.Wisniewski tells Polonia we must make allies
Allies: Rev. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,
Heschel was one of many supporters of the Civil Rights Movement. 
In the PFLAG "Stay Close" ad campaign, heterosexuals embrace and support their homosexual family members. 
Israel has many friends and allies who are not Jewish. 

Keep Talking

I hate to be defensive. If only Polish people are standing up and saying we were not anti-Semites, it carries less weight than if we had non-Polish allies speaking up for us. The civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, the women's movement, all had powerful allies that were not part of the group unfairly treated.

I learned very young that people would look down on me for being Polish. I learned it from my mother. I went to a Polish elementary school and all of my friends were Polish too. In the neighborhood, nobody called me a Polack. I learned that I should expect that, but actually it never happened. I just grew up expecting it. I was lucky.

In school, I learned about the Holocaust. When I asked my mother why nobody stopped it, she said "we didn't know."

My first husband was Jewish. Our wedding caused earthquakes in both our families. My husband smarted still from being called anti-Jewish names when he was little. His relatives giggled and called me a derogatory name for Gentile woman. An older woman at my workplace warned me that "Jews and Polish people don't get along." She was Polish and Catholic.

The marriage ended after ten years, not because of religion (neither of us was observant by then) but because we looked at life in different ways. I read about the concentration camps in occupied Poland and in Germany, and learned that some of my people collaborated or participated in genocide, like some Germans and Ukrainians and French and Italians. I felt sad but not defensive, because I believe we need to acknowledge the good and bad in all of us. There were bad Americans at My Lai and Abu Ghraib and bad Poles at Jedwabne.

In 2010, I went to Auschwitz and Birkenau with my second husband, Polish American like me. We were guided by Polish citizens who were very respectful of the sites. They said they could not do it every day, the story is so sad. I will never understand the cruelty of genocide, but I do understand how "we didn't know" became an excuse for inaction. Ursula Hegi's novel, Stones From the River, made it clear for me, for the first time. Ordinary people hoped the Nazis would go away, or that the crimes would not touch them or their friends or family. The movement grew and grew aided by prejudice and fear until it became so powerful it took huge armies to halt the horror.

In Krakow, we visited the Kazimierz district and learned about a Jewish revival in Poland. I felt a dual patriotism when a Polish college professor said "we have the pain of a phantom limb here" as he talked about the loss of so many of Poland's Jews. I thought of the loss of so many Native Americans in the early days of my birth country. Same kinds of losses, same delayed acknowledgement.

In my youth, I laughed nervously at Polish jokes. I even told a few myself, to show I had a good sense of humor and could laugh at myself. One day I stopped, not in a big moment of epiphany, but because I felt false, phony, and inauthentic for mocking my ancestry. I didn't really believe Poles were brutes, stupid or drunks. When I told a friend her Polish jokes offended me, she was angry. She called me judgmental and said many people laughed at Polish, Italian and Irish jokes. It's all in fun, she said. Then count me out, I replied. I didn't give a detailed explanation or try to defend my position. I just resolved then and there to speak up, walk away, and not allow ethnic jokes or their ugly cousin, hate speech, in my presence.

For the rest of the world to understand that Poland did not build concentration camps for Jews, and that Polish people welcomed Jews for many years before Hitler came to power, and that Poles are not brutes, we will need allies from other ethnic backgrounds. Otherwise, I think our protests will be dismissed as whining and defensive.

But to gain these allies, we need to keep talking and writing about this in a factual, clear and not embittered way. We need to frame it as part of the larger struggle for social justice and equality. Then I think we will succeed in seeing all people as individuals, some more flawed than others, but no one as an unjust stereotype.

Linda C.Wisniewski is a writer and memoir teacher. Her book, Off Kilter: A Woman's Journey to Peace With Scoliosis, Her Mother and Her Polish Heritage, was published in 2008 by Pearlsong Press. Visit her website and blog at


Linda C Wisniewski is correct. "Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype" is very much not a chauvinist book. It very much is a book that, as Wisniewski says, frames the struggle against the Brute Polak stereotype as part of the larger struggle for social justice and equality.

This stereotype will only be defeated when Polonians and others adopt the strategies described in the three-part blog post entitled "The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Remembrance Without Commemoration. Brian Porter-Szucs on Roman Dmowski

Roman Dmowski 1864-1939
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland
Source: Wikipedia
Statue of Roman Dmowski in Warsaw. Erected 2006
Dmowski holds the Versailles treaty.
Source: Wikipedia 

Remembrance without Commemoration
by Brian Porter-Szűcs
Professor of History, University of Michigan

On January 2 the Union of the Democratic Left (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, or SLD) proposed that Edward Gierek be officially commemorated on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. As many readers will recall, Gierek was the First Secretary of the communist party in the 1970s, and his legacy is (to put it mildly) controversial. He had a pragmatic and technocratic approach to governing, and during the first several years of his administration the Polish People's Republic achieved some noteworthy economic accomplishments.

Nonetheless, it was precisely Gierek's resistance to free labor unions that spawned the Solidarity movement, and while he was relatively restrained in his use of police power, he nonetheless presided over an authoritarian one-party state.

As a historian I'm always eager to use anniversaries as an opportunity to remember and reconsider the past, but I can't see much justification for celebrating Mr. Gierek. Doing so forces us to whitewash his ideological convictions in order to elevate his achievements.

Those on the right in Poland today would be quick to agree with what I have just written – in fact, they would likely do so in much stronger terms. Yet they are equally guilty of the sort of selective memory that the SLD displayed last week. In fact, they often place at the very center of their pantheon individuals with ideological baggage far heavier than that carried by Mr. Gierek.

First among these is the man widely considered the founder of modern Polish nationalism, Roman Dmowski. He is often credited with leading the Polish delegation at the treaty negotiations in Paris following WWI, and it is true that he performed this task well. But if Dmowski were just a diplomat, even a highly skilled one, he would hardly provoke so many vehement opinions a century later. The real source of his fame is as the founder and leader of the National Democratic movement.

The worldview represented by that movement is best summarized in a quotation from an early essay by Dmowski entitled "Półpolacy" [The Half-Poles], first published in 1902.

While [my opponents] consider it possible to occupy an impartial position "in accordance with justice" in all conflicts between our nation and foreigners, we recognize an extensive sphere of matters in international relations in which there is neither right nor wrong, only competition between irreconcilable interests, in which one stands on one or the other side not from a feeling of justice, but from a feeling of solidarity with one of the combating sides. They want always and everywhere to be only people, standing on guard for nonexistent or ridiculed laws, [but] we demand of everyone that in relations between their nation and foreign [nations] they feel above all that they are Poles.

In a book written that same year entitled Thoughts of a Modern Pole Dmowski wrote, "In relations with other nations there is neither right nor wrong, there is only strength and weakness."

Dmowski's thought would evolve a great deal over the coming decades. For example, he was harshly critical of the Catholic Church early in his career, but later came to see the clergy as an important source of national unity. His tactical alliance with the Church would temper the National Democratic movement somewhat, holding it back from some of the violence that typified other radical right movements from the interwar years in Europe. But that was an alliance that left many Catholics uneasy, because the core of Dmowski's thought remained grounded in the passages cited above.

Dmowski was an antisemite in every possible sense of that term, but we need not even dwell on that here. After all, he was hardly the only person in early 20th century Europe to express views that we would today find deeply offensive. Although the virulence of his hatred of the Jews put him towards the extreme end of the Polish ideological spectrum, even that doesn't set Dmowski apart.

What made him so important in his own day—and what makes his memory so troublesome even today—is that he linked his ethnic and racial antipathies with a pseudo-Darwinist conviction that all nations were necessarily and inevitably locked in a struggle for survival in which every gain for one nation had to equate with a loss for another. Based on this starting point, Dmowski saw all universal values as empty slogans as best, deliberate plots to weaken the nation at worst.

He was particularly hostile towards the messiness and contestation of democracy, because (as he put it in an article from 1903), internal dissent turned Poland into "an incoherent, loose mob" when in fact the nation needed to be "a strongly organized, disciplined army." For the same reason, he was an opponent of all forms of diversity, be they ethnic, religious, or ideological.

Dmowski was not a Polish patriot in the sense of being proud of his nation. In fact, he rarely said anything good about his fellow Poles, whom he considered culturally backward and fatally weakened by diversity and democracy. He hated Nazi Germany because it was German, but he expressed admiration for what he perceived to be its cohesion, unity, and determination.

Dmowski did not love the Poland that actually existed, with its distinctive cultural landscape or its rich multicultural past. He wanted to create a new Poland, one in which individuals were subordinated entirely to the goals of the nation. He explicitly and often repudiated the slogans of the 19th century Polish national movement, particularly the well-known cry "For Your Freedom and Ours." That line, Dmowski argued, encapsulated everything that Poland should reject, because it implied that everyone could be and should be free. Instead of fuzzy ideals like liberty, he believed, Poles should strive for victory.

If some would like to rehabilitate Dmowski today, let them do so with a full recognition of what he actually represented. There are those who would continue to honor his memory precisely because of his extremist views, but they are a small minority in Poland today, and their views have only shallow roots in the broader political tradition of their nation. And that is a reason for Poles to be truly proud.


I thank Prof. Brian Porter-Szucs for the above essay.

I would like to add the following three news clips, just a few accounts of many to be found. These events occurred in 1935 and 1936. The thugs were "Endeks," followers of Roman Dmowski.

1935 and 1936

Warsaw, Dec. 15 (JTA) –
Renewed anti-Semitic rioting flared in the University of Warsaw today when Nationalist (Endek) students attempted to segregate Jewish students in the mathematics college. Two Jewish students were severely beaten. The university was recently reopened after having been closed two weeks as a result of anti-Jewish disturbances. Deputy Emil Sommerstein today demanded of Minister of Education Swietoslawski that he force the Polytechnicum Institute to rescind its order obliging Jewish students to sit in "Jim Crow" sections of the classrooms.

Poznan, Poland, Nov. 25 (JTA) –
Twenty Jewish students in the chemistry and medical faculties of the University of Poznan today attacked and severely beaten by Endek students, members of the anti-Semitic National Democratic Party. The university rector refused to close the schools, declaring that the excesses were of a political nature. He advised the Jews to remain absent for two days.

LWOW, Poland, Sep. 27 (JTA) –
Anti-Semitic Nationalists today beat several Jews and raided Jewish-owned shops, breaking windows and stealing goods. They halted a trolley car on Zyblikiewcza Street, and, after forcing Jewish passengers to alight, beat them in the street.

Source for these clips: Jewish News Archive.


A Social Darwinist like Roman Dmowski must reject the Polish motto, "For your freedom and Ours," "Za naszą i waszą wolność." It is the position of this blog that defeating the Bieganski stereotype is part of that Polish tradition. Defeating the Brute Polak stereotype is part of a larger universal struggle against hate, and for truth and equality and human dignity. Further, it is clear that no believing Christian can adopt Dmowski's Social Darwinist views. The Catholic Church was Social Darwinism's greatest enemy. The Pope himself wrote, 

"Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds." Source

Flag of November Uprising 1831 Source: Wikipedia 

Flag raised in Belarus, 2010 Source

Exhibition pamphlet. Source

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"There Should Be No Tolerance for Enemies of Tolerance." Sebastian Rejak Guest Blog Post

Source: Medieval Panda Photography

Sebastian Rejak is the author of Jewish Identities in Poland and America: The Impact of the Shoah on Religion and Ethnicity.  He has been kind enough to offer the following blog post, below.

Recently Mr. Rejak and I were discussing comments appearing in the comment section of the blog.

Comment moderation criteria are here. Comment moderation is imperfect.

I strive not to edit comments for substance. I regularly post material with which I do not agree. My reasons for doing so are here.

I reproduce Sebastian Rejak's response because I think it makes for interesting food for thought. I will continue to allow those with whom I disagree to post blog comments, if the posters otherwise adhere to criteria. My comment moderation will continue to be imperfect. I really do think "jaw jaw is better than war war."

Here is Sebastian Rejak's response:


I took the time to read the guidelines for guests wishing to have their comments posted on the blog. Comment moderation criteria they are called.

"Your comment is more likely to be posted if: Your comment includes a real first and last name. … Your comment uses Standard English spelling, grammar, and punctuation."

One might infer from that that not mentioning one's name or using "non-standard" English spelling, punctuation etc., could make it less likely for one's comment to be posted. What should one think of the punctuation (not to mention the coherence and sense) of a comment like this one:

"(interestingly, homosexuals don't care about African or Arab all. and Blacks don't even care about a Black being voted into the Sejm.or the low rate of rascist crime in Poland)- this is strange. Im wondering if the persecuted have become perpetrators? Perhaps You can make out of this idea-like, I don't know, if f.e formerly persecuted groups can use the Bieganski/Bohunk stereotype to boost their newly found egos?"

I assume "f.e" stands for "e.g."… (haven't found it here though: But, more importantly, what the sense of putting "homosexuals, African and Arab people, Blacks, the Sejm, the persecuted and perpetrators" in a comment? I fail to understand.

I have read all the comments in this blog's section on "Poland: A Living Deathscape of Diaspora Jewry". Probably an extremely interesting book – the eye-catching title indicated it would be a good read. What kind of comments do you get in this section? This:

"Or is the Polish government in some kind of Targowica-like secret agreement with those who would abuse Poland for their own ends?

These people, Radek and friends, will not do anything about Poland being defamed and pushed around? Why? Because that would be 'chauvinistic', so old-fashioned. They want to be 'modern'.  They believe that critizising ones own country all the time is in and of itself 'modern'.Western leftist elites say so. They have very low self-esteem.   These 'elites' are not true elites, ones, that deserve to be at the top. These 'elites' are the creatures of Soviet social-engineering. These people and their children and their children, they knew/know that they are not legit as elites.Them being 'elites' rested on Moskow, towards which they had an inferiority complex.  about Radek Sikorski-he just had no time to promote Your insightful book. He had to promote his wives books,f.e a book on cooking  -They do not understand the term 'national interest' 'national reputation' 'patriotism'.  Lets hope the next foreign minister will be different.If you can vote-plz vote for a better option.  restitution for heirless or communal property which, according to normal law all over the world, was inherited by the Polish/other nation This is where the Holocaust Industry comes in. They come to Poland with deep pockets and claim, with no legal basis whatsoever, that they are 'owed' compensation [actually, tribute] on behalf of all the murdered Jews, since the Holocaust was 'special'. Since this has no legal basis whasoever, they are willing to resort to extortion. They want to so shame Poland, through defamation, that the weak-willed Polish government caves in to their demands, and pays them off."

Nothing of the above is my invention. These are actual comments.

I've been called someone who "sounds elitist," someone who might asses others as "low class people like those lumpen proletariat who read and comment on the blog" and "recommend[s]" elitism.

[Danusha Goska here – I confess that it was I who alleged that Mr. Rejak's criticisms sounded elitist to me, and it sounded to me as if he were assigning blog posters to a lower class status. I apologize for offending him but I continue to be concerned about an approach that divides people up into "those worth talking to" and "those not worth talking to," into "those who are allowed to post" and "those who are not allowed to post." But I should shut up now, as this is his guest blog post! Mr. Rejak's blog post continues, below:]

I'm sure some people would call me a leftist, self-hating Pole, someone whose ambition to become a modern European is more important than his duty to be a patriotic Pole. I am none of the above. Nor am I somebody calling those with whom I disagree "lower class" or "lumpenproletariat". I never did that – not on this blog, nor in any other public space.

I think this blog is not about political views, so I will not talk about that. I can only say I grew up in a family where anticommunism was obvious and the word "leftist" was always used as offensive. Which does not mean I would use it today as such. But I certainly am not a leftist, (post)modern, Moscow-and-Brussels loving anti-patriotic Pole devoid of any sense of ethnic identity. On the other hand, I am even more opposed to intolerance, tribalism, chauvinism, nationalism and xenophobia – no matter whether Polish, Jewish, Russian, German or Flemish.

I also do believe in Free Speech and Dialogue. I do.

But I think there are values I deem more important than free speech. These are: respect for other people irrespective of their color and ethnic background.

I could imagine myself running a blog. Of course I would not expect all guests to share my views and to praise whatever I write. Yet I would definitely not publish posts that spread hatred or bigotry. Freedom of speech? – yes, go you all and publish your own blogs and post whatever you like. Sorry for the banal slogan: there should be no tolerance for enemies of tolerance.

It's hard to talk about dialog when some who participates in this dialog claims that others (people who think differently) are unpatriotic, un-Polish, are enemies of Poland, harm her and mis-serve her. I would not post comments for example by this priest who delivered a sermon on Saturday to participants of "The Fifth National Patriotic Soccer Fans' Pilgrimage" at Jasna Gora (Czestochowa). He said for example that they are the group that is today "the most discriminated against in Poland" and that they follow the values of Catholicism and patriotism and that they are paying a high price for "publicly expressing their views". Yes, if those views mean inciting to violence or hatred ("Śmierć garbatym nosom" – death to hooked noses; "White Power"; "Jihad Legia") they may face court trials, which they deserve. The priest also praised football team supporters for their "traditional attitude to the question of tolerance" – I bet that means "traditionally tolerance is no good". The pilgrimage ended with the fans shouting: "Precz z komuną", "A na drzewach zamiast liści będą wisieć komuniści", "Sierpem i młotem czerwoną hołotę". Most of them do not even remember how everyday life under communism "tasted." They want to become teachers of Polishness, patriotism, traditional catholic values.

On my blog there would be no place for comments for people who dream about Poland being a fortress and Poles being turned into medieval warriors fighting all who differ from them. But yes, you're free to preach what you believe in. Just don't use my name.

Of course, this is your blog, not mine.

Not all diaglo will be fruitful. I do not consider myself a member of an elite. All my grandparents were peasants. I myself lived in a village till I was 7. My parents are both university graduates but that does not make them elite people. Also, I do not think I am "elitist" just because I find it hard to discuss with people who believe my values are worthless or that my values are corrupt and antipatriotic. Even if we share the same ethnic background and share the same pain because of Poland being unjustly and excessively criticized, we differ on a lot more things: what they consider treason I consider decency and pragmatic steps taken to enhance Poland's image internationally; what they consider patriotism I consider chauvinism and ideology rooted in 19th century nationalism (we no longer live in partitioned Poland); what they consider love for Poland I consider hate speech and xenophobia. When they say: "if you want to read more on Endek ideology – but of course not the bad things some people attribute to it, wink-wink, nudge-nudge – click here" – I say Endecja bears responsibility for the darkest pages in Poland's interwar period. I could write a lot about those who boast being Dmowski's disciples today and see no problems with publicly commemorating Eligiusz Niewiadomski – the man who assassinated president Narutowicz in December 1922. Take ONR, NOP and Młodzież Wszechpolska as examples of that.


Danusha, you once wrote: "I realized, people aren't attracted to fascism because of what they think, they are attracted to fascism because of how they feel. I could not communicate to him [a certain Daniel – a facebook poster with fascist symbols on his page] a sense of self-worth and empowerment, a sense of feeling a valued part of a valued human race, via an internet post."

I could say I realize people aren't attracted to right-wing exclusionary views and to thinking of themselves as the only true patriots as a result of long years spent on reading historical and political analyses. This has definitely more to do with how they feel about Poland and Polishness. So, I feel I am unable to communicate to these people that one can be a proud Pole Even if some Poles – all too many Poles – turned out to have been villains (and it's not only about szmalcownicy, Jedwabne and things like that). I'm fine with being a Pole even though I don't think Poles as a nation stand out as either victims or heroes. I don't think we're special, I don't think we're a chosen people (a category I very much dislike in general), and yet I like being a Pole.

In sort, I am not surprised Mr. John Connelly refused to respond to some of the comments posted on this blog. I'm not happy saying that, I'm actually upset. I'm upset, Danusha, because your very interesting and worthwhile blog has been hijacked by people who do not realize that what they are doing is a terrible disservice to the Najjaśniejsza Rzeczpospolita.

"Liquidate All Polish Traces": 1943 Volhynia Massacre Anniversary

Polish children at play in Volhynia Source: Electronic Museum

"Liquidate all Polish traces. Destroy all walls in the Catholic Church and other Polish prayer houses. Destroy orchards and trees in the courtyards so that there will be no trace that someone lived there... Pay attention to the fact that when something remains that is Polish, then the Poles will have pretensions to our land." (OUN decree quoted in Mark Mazower, Hitler's Empire.)

Just received an email from a very well educated Polish friend who has been made more aware, via recent news articles, of the Ukrainian massacres of Poles during WW II. He calls these massacres shocking and "a clear case of genocide." He points out that under Communism, these massacres were not mentioned. Some of those involved in the massacres are now regarded as heroes. He closes with a recommendation to read the Wikipedia page on the massacres.

Email from Polish friend in Poland:

I just the last couple of days I read extensively on the massacres of Poles in Volhynia, mainly in 1943. This year will be the seventieth anniversary and in the Polish press there have been some comments that prompted me into these readings. These events were invisible in public media during the whole period of Communist rule in Poland, until 1989. Only in the 90s there were some publications and only in 2000 there was a major documentary publication on the events issued. Now I have happened to read some personal stories of survivors which are absolutely shocking, in part due to the brutality and savagery of assaults. I wonder if there are any personal stories available in English.

On the basis of my cursory reading in the last couples of days I think it was a clear case of genocide; it was a planned action to eliminate, that is murder, all members of Polish nation, women and children explicitly included, on this area of the former, pre-war Volhynia voivodship.

Of course, you've heard and probably read a lot of these events (I must admit I had never gone very deep into the details previously - I was aware of Polish-Ukrainian animosities and an escalation of conflict in the years 1943-1946, with a substantial part called 'rzeź na Wołyniu' which was very brutal). Anyway this is such a story that needs to be remembered and reminded all the time, just as Holocaust. And this year it will be definitely a topic coming back. Especially that Poles want to have a very good relations with the Ukraine and Ukrainians, but in the Ukraine the facts of massacres are widely neglected and some perpetrators are glorified as national heroes."

Wikipedia in English here

Wikipedia in Polish is here

Another page in Polish is here

Polish victims of Ukrainian massacre, Lipniki. Source: Wikipedia

Friday, January 4, 2013

Zahava Englard "The Death Camp Debate"

From "The Death Camp Debate" by Zahava Englhard on the Times of Israel blog

"The other night, at my daughter’s school there was an assembly of faculty and students to discuss the annual trip to Poland. I didn’t attend. I saw no point in it. Although I had told my daughter that joining her class on the trip to Poland must be her decision to make and not mine, I’m totally against it.

These organized trips, whether they be through schools or through other organized tour groups do little more than line the pockets of the descendants of those who collaborated with the Nazis. Yes, the Poles today are laughing all the way to the bank each time groups of hundreds of Jewish students at a time embark on Polish Air, reserve rooms at Polish hotels, rent Polish buses and pay the salaries of Polish tour guides as well as Polish security guards that escort these groups."

Full text is here. Thank you to Andrew Golebiowski for sending this in. 

Poles Depicted as Subhuman; "The Wall Speaks."

Man with a Hoe. Jean Francois Millet Source: Wikipedia 

Anna Walters, an undergraduate student of history at the University of Florida, wrote to me to ask for help with a project she is working on. She is working with artist Wojtek Sawa to bring to her campus his installation, which presents the oral histories of survivors of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising in an interactive multi-media exhibit. The name of the project is "The Wall Speaks."

Anna wrote that part of the project would be to display bricks imprinted on one side with examples of Polish people being put into the role of "untermensch" – less than fully human. The other side of the bricks will be blank in order for visitors to write down their own experiences of being treated as inferior The bricks will be inscribed with quotes from German, Russian, British and American directives which portrayed Poles as "untermenschen."

Anna offered this example: Himmler's May 1940 directive regarding the education of Poles. "The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one's name; and the doctrine that it is divine law to obey the Germans … I do not think that reading is desirable".

It was very easy to find quotes to send Anna. The only problem was selecting which among many such quotes to send. A quick skim of Bieganski, the Brute Polak offered the following:

From Tenessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire."

"He acts like an animal, has an animal's habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There's even something – subhuman – something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I've seen in anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is – Stanley Kowalski – survivor of the Stone Age!"

From "Two Glimpses of the New England Pole" by Harry Shipman Brown

"Under the full glare of a cruel sun, a Pole and his wife. In a dilapidated baby carriage straight from the junk heap, a tiny baby, crying drearily. In their bare feet and scant clad limbs and bodies, labor the man and woman on their knees, weeding those never-ending rows of onions. Animals, they work under the sun and in the dirt; with stolid, stupid faces."

From Senator Henry Cabot Lodge:

"Russians, Hungarians, Poles, Bohemians," threaten a "great and perilous change in the very fabric of our race"

Kenneth Roberts in the Saturday Evening Post

"For the most part they are dirty people, and the stench that rises from them is strong enough to be used as a substitute for gasoline. The workers in the [American] consulate frequently become ill from the odor ... they sleep in wretched hovels with sheep and cows and pigs and poultry scattered among them."

Harvard and Yale Professor Robert M Yerkes, founder of the Yerkes Primate Research Center:

"Of natives of England serving in the United States Army only 8.7 percent graded D or lower in intelligence; of natives of Poland, 69.9 percent. In the English group, 19.7 percent graded A or B, and in the Polish group, one half of one percent."

Edward Kirk Titus "The Pole in the Land of the Puritan":

"Alien in thought, grotesque in manner of life ... slow to learn even simple English, unable to express in our tongue any abstract ideas; one can only conjecture his inner life and mental attitude. His part in the drama of conflicting races has thus a silent, pantomimic effect. It is not lacking in sinister suggestion ... expressionless Slavic faces ... looked as if flattened against a board at birth ... stunted figures ... bespoke grinding toil"

I am always saddened when I come across Poles and Polonians who repeat falsehoods and misconceptions about stereotyping of Poles. These are often folks who have not read "Bieganski." Without knowledge, they become convinced that stereotyping of Poles is a Jewish, post-Holocaust phenomenon.

Neither belief is true. The Brute Polak stereotype is not a Jewish product, and the sooner Polonia puts that canard to rest, the better. And it did not originate after World War II. The quotes, above, are not in reference to WW II, and most originate before it.

Polonia, if you want to know about the Brute Polak stereotype, please read "Bieganski."

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword: Write a Guest Post for Bieganski the Blog

The Letter. Haynes King. Source: Wikipedia 
I received a communication recently from an occasional blog reader who is troubled by what he assesses as "tribal" content of some of the comments in the comments section of the blog. I would use the word "chauvinist" rather than "tribal" to characterize these comments.

I responded to this gentleman thus:

Comments to the blog are moderated, if imperfectly. I am only human and I maintain the blog in my spare time. I gain no income and certainly no glory thereby.

Comment moderation criteria can be found here.

I try not to exclude comments on the basis of their substance. I have posted comments with which I disagree. I strongly disagree with the commentators who argue for the rehabilitation of Roman Dmowski, an early 20th century anti-Semite and Social Darwinist whose Endek followers were notorious for beating Jews.

Similarly, I strongly disagree with commentators who insist that Poles are the world's worst anti-Semites. One can find those comments, as well.

I believe in Free Speech. I believe that Free Speech is an essential ingredient of civilization. I believe that attempting to divide people up into the good, who are allowed to speak, and the bad, who are not allowed to speak, causes trouble.

The reader protesting "tribal" comments protested their "them-against-us" character. I agree. I don't think that "us-against-them" thinking gets us anywhere. Thus, I decline to do that kind of dividing up myself.

"Jaw jaw is better than war war," said Winston Churchill. It is better to talk about things than to fight about things. I think if we talk, we help to prevent fighting.

I invite my disgruntled blog reader, not to stand on the sidelines and take potshots at my efforts here, but, rather, to contribute to my efforts here.

It's funny – when I ask some to contribute to the blog, they say, "I have no time." I received a cancer diagnosis recently. I know how little time we all have. I am using my limited time to do this work.

So, disgruntled blog reader, step up to the plate.

Respond to the "tribal" posters with whom you disagree. Don't demonize them. Don't marginalize them. Don't ostracize them. Demonizing, marginalizing, and ostracizing unhappy people just creates more trouble.

Address them with respect. Take on their stated positions with logic and courtesy. Show them why they are incorrect. Show them how it does not best serve Polonia to adopt chauvinist stances. Show them how much damage we do to our community, and to our own souls, when we adopt chauvinism. Show them what better strategy you have to offer them. Show them better ways to achieve the goal we all desire – the elimination of the Brute Polak Stereotype.


That – bringing them around to your point of view – would be your victory.

Julia Swartz Letter Writer. Source