Thursday, February 28, 2013

Guest Blog Post by Gary L. Krupp of Pave the Way Foundation

Meredith and Gary L. Krupp. Source

Bieganski the Blog is honored to host a guest blog post by Gary L Krupp. Mr. Krupp is head of the Pave the Way Foundation.

Mr. Krupp's biography, from the Pave the Way Foundation website, is below:

"Gary Krupp is the only Jewish man in history to be knighted, by Pope John Paul II, raised in rank by Pope Benedict XVI to the Order of St.Gregory, and invested by permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth as an Officer Brother in the Anglican Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Being a trusted member of the Papal household has enabled him to act as a catalyst in initiating changes and eliminating many obstacles to the furtherance of Judeo-Christian relations."

Here is a portion of the statement of purpose of the Pave the Way Foundation, from their website:

"Pave the Way Foundation is a non-sectarian organization dedicated to achieving peace by closing the gap in tolerance, education and the practical relations between religions, through cultural, technological and intellectual exchanges. We strive to eliminate the use of religion as a tool which, historically has been used, by some, to achieve personal agendas and to cause conflicts."

The Pave the Way Foundation website is here.

Gary L. Krupp's December 28, 2009 New York Post editorial, "Friend to the Jews: Pius XII's Real Wartime Record" is here.

A March 7, 2010 New York Times article about Gary L. Krupp, "Wartime Pope Has a Huge Fan: A Jewish Knight," by Paul Vitello is here.

The Media as a Tool for Evil
by Gary L. Krupp

Human history contains many horrific events that seem unimaginable. Brutality has been committed against innocents, totally devoid of any empathy or remorse. How can this happen, in a world of civilized societies?

When we observe historical acts of genocide, we find that, without exception, the perpetrators utilize the media to capitalize on our human weaknesses, driving hatred and bigotry. It is an unfortunate reality that the general public is totally blind to this while the ruling class is fully aware of the media's power to achieve an objective.

History is replete with examples of propaganda by the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and so on and so on. Utilizing this tool of disinformation, these regimes could demonize and fix false blame on certain groups, making them scapegoats for all of the ills of society and the focal point for national retribution. These false biased media reports have always been used to incite hatred and ultimately to encourage nonviolent citizens to commit violent acts. This practice has universally been the precursor to genocide.

Media manipulation is also the tool used to push a political or a social agenda. If an individual has unlimited resources he can literally buy an election or enact his cause. The continuous effectiveness of manipulating the weak minded where they always believe what the media feeds us, proves that Albert Einstein was right with his definition of Insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

We who live in the 21st century believe that our level of sophistication, advanced technology and communication, makes us immune to these negative forces, but we are wrong. We are no different than our cave-dwelling ancestors. If we are mindful that this ability to kill our own species is in our DNA, than we must at the very least, take action to try to expose the use of this deadly tool.

Biased, unsubstantiated television, print and Internet reports, and even artistic performances can be the fuel that drives the engine of hate. We must invent fresh, innovative methods to de-legalize and disprove biased media and their false reports at the very moment they are published. The general public needs some mechanism that will help them discern the truth, in the mountain of reporting we see every day if we are ever to become an enlightened international society.

In the world of "hurray for me and the heck with you" It appears that "thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" is taken more as a suggestion rather than a commandment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

May Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind Dress as an African American Basketball Player on Purim?

Dov Hikind is an Orthodox Jew, a child of two Holocaust survivors, and a Brooklyn Assemblyman. At a recent Purim party, he dressed up as an African American basketball player. Purim is a holiday devoted to fun. Hikind's costume is in keeping with that tradition. 

New Yorkers are now debating whether or not Hikind's costume was a racist act.

I'm saddened by this conversation. From what I've seen from the photos on the web, the costume does not seem malicious in any way. Further, I am Catholic, and I have repeatedly seen people dress up as Catholics, often in costumes designed to offend ... and I don't make a federal case out of it. 

Curious as to what blog readers think. 

Dov Hikind
Photo of Dov Hikind in Purim costume
Photo from The Gawker, critical of Hikind. Source
Just one of the tamer examples of people dressing up as Catholics for comedic purposes. Father Guido Sarducci, Don Novello, Saturday Night Live's most frequent comic character. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Seth MacFarlane's Anti-Semitic Academy Award Jokes: Your Thoughts?

I'm here to ask Bieganski the Blog readers what you thought of Seth MacFarlane's anti-Semitic jokes at the Academy Awards.

His "We Saw Your Boobs" song was offensive to many women, of course. His joke about John Wilkes Booth getting into Abraham Lincoln's head was disgusting. 

His "jokes" about how one must pretend to be Jewish and donate money to Israel in order to work in Hollywood was, ime, anti-Semitic and unfunny.

Wondering what y'all thought. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

USDA Sensitivity Training Scandal

A still photo from the USDA sensitivity training session. This trainer has been paid millions of dollars by the US government to train employees to have approved responses to various ethnic groups.  Who wins, who loses? Pilgrims are bad. "Bam!" -- a required response. I'm not kidding. 
This is NOT a still photo from the USDA sensitivity training session.
"The Manchurian Candidate" 1962. Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh.  Director: John Frankenheimer. BTW, Laurence Harvey was Lithuanian-Jewish.
I know this blog is read in other countries, and I know readers in other countries express shock at how identity politics in the US works. 

If Polonia wants to eliminate the Bieganski, brute Polak stereotype, it will have to understand how identity politics works in the US. 

There is a small scandal in the US right now -- I say small because only right-wing outlets are paying much attention. USDA employees have gone public to talk about sessions they have been subjected to, where they were required to chant negative slogans about the Pilgrims, and about themselves. They were required to chant that they were racist, and required to chant uplifting slogans about members of other ethnicities. They were also required to shout "Bam!" after the sensitivity trainer made a point. This was in lieu of "Amen," which was perhaps perceived as too religious. 

There have been films of this training on youtube, but as the day has gone on, some have been removed. 

You can easily find news coverage of the scandal by googling "USDA Sensitivity Training." I won't post a link because I haven't read through all the sites and I can't recommend one or the other above any other. They are all pretty much saying the same thing. I base what I wrote, above, on the youtube videos I saw, which were later removed. 

Who Can Resist These Hamantaschen?

Traditional Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen unchained!

Gotta try these marble coconut Hamantaschen

Anything flavored with peanut butter and chocolate is all right by me! 
Just a fabulous selection of Hamantaschen recipes can be found on buzzfeed, here

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Racist Language in German Children's Books: Dialika Neufeld in Spiegel

A German Children's Book 
Germans murdering Poles in Bochnia. Source

In Spiegel Online, Dialika Neufeld argues that Germans should remove offensive terms from German children's books. I read this article in English. The word "negro" is identified as an offensive term. In current American English, "negro" is not offensive, merely old fashioned. The offensive word is "nigger." I'm not sure if "negro" is a flawed translation for "nigger." In any case, Neufeld argues against using offensive terms for black people in children's books, and she mostly focuses on black people. 

Germans, of course, victimized Jews and Poles much worse than they victimized black people, at least in the past century. I wonder at the focus of her article. If Germans are going to upgrade their level of sensitivity, ought they not upgrade their level of sensitivity toward Poles? Jews as well, of course? But Germany has been working on improving relations with Jews for some time. How about Poles and Poland? Are we on their Politically Correct radar? If not, we should be. 

She does mention offensive terms for Poles in passing: "People in the second category -- those who deny the problem exists -- claim that everyone nowadays knows not to use words like "Negro," "Gypsy," "Polack" or "Slit-Eyes," these terms that seem to come straight out of some handbook of discrimination. But their view holds little weight, given that I regularly find myself having to explain to adults why they shouldn't use the words "nigger" or "Negro" -- and certainly not in my presence."

On the one hand, it is easy to agree with Neufeld. I would not read the word "nigger" to a child. I would not have the book containing that word around, or, if I had to read it, I would delete the word.

On the other hand, German literature is full of nasty images of Poles and others, including women. The Grimms' Tales are replete with sadomasochistic and misogynist tortures. I wouldn't read those to a child, either, but their existence is part of our cultural heritage. Censoring them attempts to change the world into something it is not. 

Full article is here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Polish Stations of the Cross

Came across a webpage exhibiting what it called "Polish" Stations of the Cross, though the artist, HAP Grieshaber, was German. The web page states that the stations were meant "originally to adorn the Church of the Atonement in Auschwitz, a project which never saw the light of day."

The web page exhibiting these Polish Stations of the Cross is here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

University of Wisconsin-Superior: White Skin Is Unfair

The University of Wisconsin-Superior is allegedly teaching its students that it is unfair to be white. 

Full story here



Thursday, February 14, 2013

Polish Tennis Player Agnieszka Radwanska Allegedly Called "Catholic Slut" in Israel

Agnieszka Radwanska. Source
There are allegations that Polish tennis player Agnieszka Radwanska was called a "Catholic slut" while playing in Israel. "There are allegations" is a woefully vague phrase. It reflects the tone of the news articles about this event. There is a palpable hesitation on the part of reporters to report the event in question. One can see that in the news item linked below.

A cautiously-worded news article, "Radwanska Disappointed by Fan Reaction in Israel," is followed by posts protesting the cautious wording. As one put it, "I don't understand this article. There is no information whatsoever. It basically says that something has happened. It's completely useless." Another says, "They cannot say what happened, because that would be considered anti-semitism if they said that Israeli fans behaved bad." That article is found here.

It's interesting to see how the Bangkok Post describes the event. It's not about the alleged word "slut," but, rather, Polish anti-Semitism: "This time though, in the context of reports that sections of the Israeli crowd made noisy allegations about anti-Semitism in Poland, Radwanska's remarks had a far more sombre tinge." That story is here.
How about the Polish press? I'm saddened by this inappropriately breast-beating comment, below. If Radwanska was verbally abused as is alleged, it is she who deserves an apology, not Israel; it is the Israeli fans who are at fault, not Poles or Poland. 

"I believe that Israel is a beautiful country, great tradition, great people, great history. We always need more to understand them for what they encountered on our territory without our fault, but it happened. We should not make a fuss over what happened on the court, because if someone is going to read about it in New York or Toronto, or Paris, you think that in some way our team, we Poles, were not without fault" source

Thank you to Hanna for informing me of this story. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poles Are Their Own Worst Enemies: Guest Column by Historian Artur Szulc


What I am about to write will be regarded as offensive to some Poles, and that's fine with me. This text is also difficult for me to write, because I am a Pole and I truly love Poland. I do not love it in any chauvinist way. I simply love Polish food, Polish people who I find admirable, loyal and honest. I love the diversity of Polish culture, its traditions and its history. Yes, I love Polish history.

But there are certain things, certain traits of characters in the Polish soul, which to put it plainly, disturb me. Perhaps those traits are not exclusive for Poles, but frankly I do not care about the characters of French people, or Germans, Greeks, Russians and so on. I am a Pole and write about Poles.

First, an introduction.

My name is Artur Szulc. I am a Polish-born Swedish historian and writer. I was born in Szczecin but I have lived in Sweden over thirty years. I travel to Poland every year, either to visit my family or to conduct research in archives, mainly in Warsaw. I have written four books and a fifth is on its way to be published in one of Sweden's biggest and most prestigious publishing house. I also write articles for major Swedish historical magazines. Enough about me.

So, what do I mean by writing that Poles are their own worst enemies?

One of the negative traits in the Polish soul is our tendency to engage in small-minded criticism and quarrels.

I am not talking about constructive criticism here. That is only healthy, but I refer to a kind of backstabbing criticism. It is a national sport in Poland and among Poles. Poles do this also in public, on the international arena, without thinking about the consequences, how negatively such behavior impacts on Polish possibilities to change stereotypes about Poland and Poles. Such behavior weakens Poland and there are historical examples to prove my point.

One reason behind the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century was that Polish leaders and nobles quarreled among themselves and this was used by foreign powers.

Polish commanders quarreled during the January Uprising in 1863.

Polish politicians quarreled in the years following 1918 and Pilsudski regained power in a coup in May 1926 because of this.

Polish politicians in exile quarreled during the War 1940-45. The commander-in-chief and premiere minister Władysław Sikorski was highly criticized and stabbed in the back by several Polish politicians. These kinds of public quarrels didn't improve Poland's reputation and worsened the government-in-exile's ability to be seen as an important ally.

Do you have any idea how many political parties there are registered in Poland today? I believe it's well over fifty. Now, is that a sign of diversity and democratic progress, or simply a sign of the Polish inability to unite?

Then there is the Polish obsession with the past.

Yes, to a certain degree Poles are obsessed with the Past. I do not blame them at all, but what can the past do for Poland TODAY? Several years ago I was in Sopot, a beautiful small city at the Baltic Sea, between the big cities of Gdynia and Gdansk. My brother, my mother and I were walking on the pier in Sopot. I stopped to buy sunglasses and the salesmen asked if we were from Sweden. I answered yes, but added that we are Poles. He then said something about the common Swedish-Polish history. Bboth countries had the same king for a while in the late 16th century. And then the man said that Poland had been a great power in the past. I only replied, yes, and went on. But in my mind I thought: so what? So what that Poland had been a great power in the past? How did this help Poland in the 21st century? The obvious answer: it does not help at all!

Now, do not go crazy here! As an historian I love history, of course. But I study history and write about it because I believe it helps us to understand the present. To me history is simply a science in the field of humanities. It must not to be used as a weapon against political enemies or to raise sympathy for certain causes. It must not be used as a way to build national pride. We can only be proud of ourselves and our own accomplishments. Polish heroes, like captain Witold Pilecki, should and must be honored, remembered and respected, and taught about in schools. But their deeds belong to them, and them alone. How absurd would it be of me to think that what Pilecki did reflects on me, simply because I am Polish?

I think that is was Józef Piłsudski who said: "A nation that does not respect its past, does not deserve the respect of the present and does not have the right to future."

I agree with this, but not totally. We have all the right to the future, we only have to understand that the future is not build with the help of the past. We cannot always look in the mirror.

Respect the past, protect it, but stop living in it!

The Polish obsession with protecting Poland's good name doesn't help us, it hurts us.

Yes, some things I read about Poles and Poland makes me mad, really mad. When I was younger I just wanted to shred any critic of Poland, which I wanted to defend at all cost. I felt I had to protect Polish "honor", the good name of Poland or something like that. I still have those feelings. But as I started reading, researching and writing I realized that Poland has not been an innocent victim in the past. Poland has done some things which deserve strong criticism. But there are also many myths surrounding Polish history. Now, my main task is not to defend any "honor" or "good name", because that is an absurd notion. My main task is to write history as objectively as possible and as factually as possible. Books by Jan T Gross make me mad, not because they smear the good name of Poland, but mainly because they distort Polish history. At the same time, Gross has woken some demons in the Polish past and they must be dealt with, and they have. But some Poles cannot simply accept certain facts and move on. It is not always constructive to relativize events by putting forward other tragedies. "Yes, Poles did this, but look at what others did…" is a common defensive position, and I wonder, so? Does two wrong doings eliminate each other?

There is no such thing as the good name of Poland. Nations simply "are." They are not honorable or not honorable, honest or dishonest. The honor or good name of Poland is an emotional notion which cannot provide any strong argument in a debate with facts. Those who feel they want to protect Poland's past, do it with an open mind, with facts, with knowledge obtained from many different kinds of sources. Acknowledge the fact that Poland and Poles, like any other nations and ethnic groups, sometimes acted terribly badly and sometimes acted with courage, honor and sacrificed a lot. Nations are like people with pros and cons.

Finally, I want to add one thought. The inability of Poles to unite among themselves is also well illustrated by the fact that Dr Danusha Goska's book, "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture" has not become a best-seller in the Polish-American community. It should be.

At the end I want to return to my claim that Poles are their worst own enemies. Yes, that is true and I provided at least three reasons why I think I am right on this. But, at the same time, Poles are also the most loyal and sacrificing people I know. It´s just sad that they turn on that noble trait only in case of emergency and not prior to it.

Artur Szulc

Monday, February 11, 2013

Red Wire Blue Wire? Good German, Bad German? Bieganski and "The Guns of Navarone"

Stereotypes of Poles? What stereotypes? 
This is a good German. The plot hinges on his goodness. 
This is a bad German. You can tell because he is so pale. He will be defeated by the Good German.
Otherwise, no Marshall Plan, no NATO. 

Just finished rewatching "The Guns of Navarone," a big, loud, all-star, World War II action adventure film. It's about an international team of Americans, Brits, and Greeks defeating the Nazis in World War II.

Nazis. You may have heard of them? They started World War II. No, really.

"Bieganski" argues that America – and Israel – needed to make peace with Germany very quickly and thoroughly after World War II, for several cultural, financial, and geopolitical reasons. Popular culture reflected this in films that made it clear that a minority of Germans were bad, and that most Germans were good. These films made it very clear that evil was not the German essence.

"Guns of Navarone" does this work as well. The plot of the film hinges on the goodness of some Germans, and the badness of others. There is a good German officer, who is humanitarian and polite. There is a bad SS man, so pale he could glow in the dark. Sadistic. Wants to torture a British officer who has gangrene. The bad German bangs on the Brit's broken, gangrenous leg. He is stopped – by good Germans. The film states very clearly: there was evil in Germany. It was a clearly demarcated minority of the population. In fact, you could pick the bad guys out in a crowd. They were all really white and pale. The good Germans kept them from doing too much harm.

The concept of good, civilized German Nazis is so key to the plot that the team leader, Gregory Peck, leaves a member of his team, the injured, gangrenous British officer, to be captured by Germans, because he knows the Germans will offer expert and compassionate medical care to the captured British officer. Really. REALLY.

Um, how to put this. Humanitarian? Compassionate? Nazis? Mmmm … maybe not so much.

Anyway. All the hate and disgust that WW II and the Holocaust generated had to go somewhere. As a young Israeli I quote in Bieganski put it: "We have to hate somebody, and we've already made up with the Germans." Whom do we hate, then? People who are not like us. The Germans, like us, are clean, modern, formally educated, largely secular or Protestant. We need to hate someone different, someone "backward," someone dirty and "primitive." We select Bieganski, the Brute Polak, as the target of our righteous rage and disgust.

My beloved Polish brothers and sisters try to combat this stereotype by quoting this or that fact about WW II – the number of trees planted for Poles at Yad Vashem, the heroism of Irene Sendler or Jan Karski. These efforts are doomed. It's like trying to put out a fire by taking vitamins. Taking vitamins is a good strategy, but taking vitamins has nothing to do with fires. To fight stereotypes, you need to understand stereotypes, and the activism that defeats stereotypes. You've heard me say this before. Polonia, read the book, and take up activism

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Salute to Julian Tuwim. A Guest Blog Post

Tuwim Street, Chrzanow. Source: Wikipedia 
Tuwim by Witkacy. Source: Wikipedia 

I once read Julian Tuwim's children's poem "Lokomotywa" to my creative writing class. I read it in Polish. Though they were Americans, and did not speak a word of Polish, they understood that this was a poem about a locomotive. Tuwim so expertly captured, in words, the sound of a train. You can read his poem here.

Julian Tuwim was Polish and Jewish and a poet. He lived during the twentieth century. He wrote a famous essay, "We, Polish Jews" about being both Polish and Jewish.

The text about Tuwim, below, is from an anonymous Amazon post. I know the author, who prefers to remain anonymous, but who has kindly granted permission that that text be reproduced here.


Julian Tuwim's essay, "We, Polish Jews" is about Tuwim's double identity as a Pole and as a Jew. In "Kwiaty Polskie," he wrote a lot about the fate of Poland. He was convinced that the new Poland would be free of the vices of the past, purged by its wartime experience:

"Cause us to bless the conflagration
That destroyed our property, if it
Proves to be a purifying fire
For our souls touched with decay.
As for Poland of any size-let her have greatness:
To the sons of her spirit or her body
Give a greatness of hearts if she's great, And a greatness of hearts if she's small . . ."

At the same time, the crimes of the Germans were so appalling that even dogs would seek revenge:

"And you, Warsaw dogs, on Judgment Day
Fulfill your canine duty-
Howl yourselves into a running pack
To wreak fierce vengeance for your victims.
For dogs torn by exploding bombs,
That perished under the shattered home,
For those that howled over their master
As they scratched his lifeless hands; and for
Dogs that exercised a hopeless charm
To curry favor with dead bodies;
For the death of puppies still at play
In their basket in the basement . . .

Let the armies of the lesser dog
Avengers fall on them when they're down,
Tear them to bits so that even their
Mothers never shall know where to look
For their parts, scattered over the earth . . . !

For ours could not find them either,
Their babies' heads, little legs and fists . . ."

Tuwim was aware of the gulf created by the war between those who experienced it first hand and those who did not. He felt great guilt at his escape and the comfortable conditions under which he experienced the war. His words also speak for us:

"And when, O Necropolis, we approach your suburbs,
Quarantined we will kneel in the field,
Full of hope and anguish:
Hope – that friends will come to meet us
From the City of the Crosses,
Bearing forgiveness in their eyes
And tears of happiness, not reproach.
Anguish – that these tears, this kindness, these greetings
Will be of no avail . . .
the silent thing will rise between us-

A dreadful phantom."

It is true that he became increasingly preoccupied with the fate of Polish Jewry, and of his beloved mother, who had a nervous breakdown under the impact of the war and withdrew to a sanatorium in Otwock near Warsaw. In 1941 he moved to New York. There he became convinced that only with the help of the Soviet Union could the Nazis be defeated. This led to a breach with another Skamander poet, Jan Lechoń, who had also made his way to New York and who wrote to him in May 1942 severing all relations because of Tuwim's "blind love for the Bolsheviks." Of the Skamander poets, only Antoni Słonimski, now in London, shared his view that without the Bolsheviks victory was impossible.

It was now he produced what was his last great work, the prose-poem My, Żydzi Polscy (We, Polish Jews, 1944). Suspecting the fate of his mother, who had already been murdered by the Germans, he dedicated it "To my Mother in Poland or to her beloved Shadow." He began by explaining why he now identified with the Jews of Poland:

And immediately I can hear the question: "What do you mean – we?' The question, I grant you, is natural enough. Jews to whom I am wont to explain that I am a Pole have asked it. So will the Poles to the overwhelming majority of whom I am and shall remain a Jew. Here is my answer to both.

I am a Pole because I want to be. It's nobody's business but my own. I certainly have not the slightest intention of rendering account, explaining, or justifying it to anyone. I do not divide Poles into pure-stock Poles and alien
stock Poles. I leave such classification to pure and alienstock advocates of racialism, to domestic and foreign Nazis. I divide Poles just as I divide Jews and all other nations into the intelligent and the fools, the honest and the dishonest, the brilliant and the dullwitted, the exploited and the exploiters, gentlemen and cads. I also divide Poles into Fascists and antiFascists . . ."

He went on:

"I am a Pole because it was in Poland that I was born and bred, that I grew up and learned; because it was in Poland that I was happy and unhappy; because from exile it is to Poland that I want to return, even though I were promised the joys of paradise elsewhere . . .

Above all a Pole-because I want to be."

He then explained his Jewish allegiance:

"All right," someone will say, `granted you are a Pole. But in that case, why "we Jews"?" To which I answer: because of blood. "Then racialism again?" No, not racialism at all. Quite the contrary.

There are two kinds of blood: that inside of veins, and that which spurts from them. The first is the sap of the body, and as such comes under the realm of physiologists. Whoever attributes to this blood any other than biological characteristics and powers will in consequence, as we have seen, turn towns into smoking ruins, will slaughter millions of people, and at last, as we shall yet see, bring carnage upon his own kin.

The other kind of blood is the same blood but spilled by this gang leader of international Fascism to testify to the triumph of his gore over mine, the blood of millions of murdered innocents, a blood not hidden in arteries but revealed to the world. Never since the dawn of mankind has there been such a flood of martyr blood, and the blood of Jews (not Jewish blood, mind you) flows in widest and deepest streams. Already its blackening rivulets are flowing together into a tempestuous river. and it is in this new jordan that i beg to receive the baptism of baptisms; the bloody, burning, martyred brotherhood of Jews."

Perhaps naively, he believed that the sufferings of Polish Jews would so arouse the sympathy of their compatriots that antisemitism would disappear.

"Upon the armbands which you wore in the ghetto the star of David was painted. I believe in a future Poland in which that star of your armbands will become the highest order bestowed upon the bravest among Polish officers and soldiers. They will wear it proudly upon their breasts next to the old Virtuti Militari. There also will be a Cross of the Ghetto-a deeply symbolic name. There will be the Order of the Yellow Patch, denoting more merit than many a present tinsel. And there shall be in Warsaw and in every other Polish city some fragment of the ghetto left standing and preserved in its present form in all its horror of ruin and destruction."

The new Poland to which Tuwim returned in June 1946 and pledged his complete support must have been a great disappointment to him, partly because of the persistence of antisemitism. Three weeks after the Kielce pogrom he received a bitter letter from a Polish Jew and long-time activist in the Communist Party of Poland, who asked him:

"Why must I emigrate from this country? Why is there no place for me here? In this country to which I devoted the whole of my youth. I want to emphasize that I bear no resentment towards the government. Unfortunately, even the appropriate stance of the Polish government towards the Jewish question does not change the nature of the problem. The nation has been poisoned with the venom of hatred and does not want us."

Not knowing how to respond to the letter, he passed it on to Adolf Berman, a leading member of the Centalny Komitet Żydow w Polsce, the main Jewish organization in post-war Poland.

Tuwim cannot have been unaware of the increasingly repressive character of the regime. At times he opposed this repression, approaching Bolesław Bierut on behalf of the poet Jerzy Kojarzewski, an officer in the AK, and five of his associates who had been sentenced to death in late 1945. In the case of Kojarzewski, the sentence was commuted to ten years' imprisonment.

At the same time, Tuwim was determined to ally himself with the new order, writing in 1950 to the poet Mieczysław Jastrun that they needed to talk about "the unimportance of lyricism in the project of the socialization of minds and in general about the exceedingly limited influence of poetry on transformations of historical significance in humanity's history." He composed a sterile "Ode to Stalin," in which he spoke of the revolution as eternal beauty, and of Stalin as an immortal hero, but his muse deserted him and he subsequently devoted himself to translation, editing, and writing children's stories. In one poem he describes the death of his mother, which gives poignant expression to his own grief and perhaps also explains his inability to write after her death:

"At the cemetery in Łódź
The Jewish cemetery, stands
The Polish grave of my mother,
My Jewish mother's tomb.

The grave of my Mother, the Pole,
Of my Mother the Jewess;
I brought her from the land by the Vistula
To the banks of industrial Łódź . . .

A fascist shot my mother
When she was thinking of me;
A fascist shot my mother
When she was longing for me . . ."

Yet it remains a mystery whether his inability to write was because he was numbed by the scale of the Jewish tragedy, whether he soon saw through the illusions of communism but could not or would not articulate his feelings, or whether it was because he needed the stimulus of being hated to spur his literary creativity. He died in December 1953 aged 59. His last words are reported to have been "For the sake of economy, please turn out the eternal light: I may need it someday to shine for me . . ."

Tuwim's Bench in Lodz, Poland. Artist: Wojciech Gryniewicz. Source: Wikipedia
Tuwim's grave, Warsaw. Source: Wikipedia


Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Glimpse at My Hate Mail, or Pole v. Pole in the Gladiatorial Ring

I write about Polish-Jewish relations. I get hate mail on a weekly basis. Has been so for twenty years.

Given that I am, myself, an American of Polish-Slovak-Catholic-peasant descent, one might think that the bulk of my hate mail comes from Jews. Maybe they call me a brute Polak.

I do get hate mail from some Jews. Also, some Jews have said some hateful, stereotypical things to me in in-person encounters. But hate mail from Jews is actually quite rare.

This might surprise you. Most of the hate mail I get comes from men who identify as Polish: Polish-American, Polish-British, etc. They are virtually all men. They all exhibit the same traits in their hate mail. They are so similar, they could all be the same person.

That they are all so similar is also interesting, because they often say completely opposite things.

One man sends me hate mail telling me that I am obviously secretly Jewish, and that I am obviously receiving payments from the Jews.

Another man writes to tell me that I hate the Catholic Church, and all that is holy.

Another man writes to tell me that I am a typical Polish Catholic anti-Semite.

You will note, dear reader, that these three men are saying mutually contradictory things.

Here's the interesting part – these three men, in their style of speech, could be exactly the same person.

I know they are not. I know who they are. I won't post their names here, because they really don't deserve your attention. It may, or may not, surprise you to learn that two of the above writers are or have been college professors. A bit scary, no?

Again, I don't get these emails once in a blue moon. I get them weekly. Predictably. Reliably.

And this has been going on for decades.

The first man to hound me in hate mail accused me of being a Zionist spy. When he wasn't sending me emails proving that I was a Zionist spy, he was denouncing me on a Polish-interest discussion site as a Zionist spy.

After that a Polish man hacked into my email, and sent all my friends defamatory comments about me.

After that a Polish-American man began sending me lengthy emails so full rage I went to a lawyer. She wrote him a letter telling him to cease and desist. He then began denouncing me on a different Polish-interest discussion list. He eventually published an article in Poland identifying me as part of a conspiracy against Poland.

The accusations all hover around these men's obsessions. I'm not really Polish. I'm secretly Jewish. I hate Poland. Alternately, I am a typical, anti-Semitic, Polish fascist.

I'm mentioning this now because I was recently denounced on two different websites devoted to discussion of Poland. The first accusation came from Victor, a man who said that my work is all about "marketing." I'm in it for the money.

The second accusation came from Adrian, a man who said that I am obviously not proud to be Polish, and that no one stereotypes Poles any more, and that I make these non-existent stereotypes worse by talking about them.

Here's an excerpt from Adrian's grammatically incoherent denunciation: "it is with sadness that people like this exist to continually beat dead stereotypes and worsen the image of those getting out from under it." There are so many grammatical errors in Adrian's denunciation that the English teacher in me wants to take a red pen to it, and send Adrian back a corrected copy.

BTW, men like this don't just come after me. They come after my friends and allies. Recently a very brave warrior against the Bieganski stereotype, a woman who, I know, made great personal sacrifice in time, money, and peace of mind in order to join in this work, was driven off the web all together by a man who hounded her relentlessly. He just kept throwing insults and false accusations against her. No one in the internet forums where this occurred (so I was told; I didn't witness it myself) stood up for her.


This much is clear. In the twenty plus years that I've been working on Polish-Jewish relations, a consistent subset of the population has been hostile, ignorant, bullying men who behave like drunken thugs. Their ideas don't really matter. What matters is how they behave.

These men are destructive. They don't advance Polonia.

This much is also clear. These men damage public discussion about the Brute Polak stereotype. They go after women (from what I've seen, it has been men going after women) who speak in an informed and intelligent way about the stereotype. They demand that all conversation be reduced to their level, the Neanderthal level of "Poland Good! Not Poland? Bad!"

As mentioned, one of these thugs drove a very valuable activist against the Bieganski stereotype off the web all together.

Me? Yeah. They get to me. I do want to throw in the towel. You'll notice I haven't posted anything on this blog in a while.

One bright spot. Men have spoken up against at least two of the thugs who send me hate mail. And, after Adrian's grammatically hopeless denunciation of me, a woman spoke up. She said, "I would like to add a word of protest to this action. I admire Danusha. She has devoted her life to debunking some of the stereotypes about Poles. She means no harm. She may not always say what we as Poles want to hear, but by deleting her from this group, you are doing exactly what you accuse her of doing."

The next time a thug goes after another Pole or Polonian, I hope you, dear reader, will speak up.


PS: On this blog, I have maintained the policy of posting a wide variety of views in the comments section. I do not post comments by posters who have adopted ad hominem attack, or statement of false accusations. I do that at least partly because Pole-v-Pole gladiatorial combat sickens me.

I have seen more instances of Poles going at each others' throats, attacking each other, putting each other down, than instances of Poles uniting and organizing strategically to successfully combat the Bieganski stereotype. Polonia, please think about this.

Please don't tolerate these thugs. Please call them out, tell them to stop, and pursue intellectually worthy and socially admirable public work against the Brute Polak stereotype.