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


  1. The issue of quarrelsomeness needs to be examined. Consider the Jews. They even have a joke among themselves: “Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions.” Yet they unite behind many common causes. Perhaps a better challenge for the Poles would be to back their own, in spite of disagreements or quarrels.

    I find it very difficult to entertain the notion that Poles are obsessed with defending their good name. Consider the phenomena of speech codes and political correctness, notably in academia, where, ironically, free discourse should be the most encouraged. Most certainly, it is not the Poles who have created all this. Furthermore, I doubt if the Poles would silence any criticism of Poland, through such things as speech codes, political correctness, hate-speech laws, and the equivalent of the criminalization of Holocaust denial--even if they had the political power to do so.

    As for the “there is no such thing as national honor” premise, I think of it as a left-wing construct. Left-wingers do not like national pride, and American leftists love to run down America at every turn. Polish leftists do the same thing to Poland.

    In addition, this entire notion strikes me as a Germanocentric, or at least, German-serving, construct. Since the Germans have done such horrible things, they very much would like us to forget, or at least relativize, their conduct through ideas such as “All nations have done bad things”, and, better yet, “There is no such thing as national honor.” This reminds me of the Aesop’s fable of the fox who lost his tail. He tried vainly to convince his fellow foxes to cut off their own tails on the contrived premise that the tail-less condition is a good one.

    As for such things as “confronting demons”, notice that we Poles are supposed to do it over Jedwabne, while the other side feels not the slightest inkling over the same relative to Naliboki, Koniuchy, etc. Why should Poles not raise the latter? Apart from the obvious selective indignation and double standard over Jedwabne, how can this situation be anything other than a form of intellectual and moral dishonesty? Why on Earth should Poles even consider agreeing to be part of such a system? Furthermore, if such things as the “Jedwabne affair” are based on an anti-Polish agenda, then it is all the more reason that Poles should be no part of it.

    1. Jan P,
      Thank you for your comment.

      You write:
      “The issue of quarrelsomeness needs to be examined. Consider the Jews. They even have a joke among themselves: “Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions.” Yet they unite behind many common causes. Perhaps a better challenge for the Poles would be to back their own, in spite of disagreements or quarrels.”

      I am familiar with that joke. There is a equivalent: Where there are two Poles discussing politics, automatically there are three political parties organized.
      Your last sentence in that part, I totally agree with.

      Jan, you write:

      “I find it very difficult to entertain the notion that Poles are obsessed with defending their good name....

      Jan, whenever Jan T Gross is about to publish a book, the anti-Jan T Gross forces in Poland mobilize. Some of them even want him to be prosecuted for his blasphemy and smearing the good name of Poland. Who knows how it would have been carried out if the party Law and Justice ruled in Poland? Perhaps Jan T Gross would have been prosecuted. Didn’t prosecutors from Krakow examine his book Fear? Personally, I believe such actions are absurd. (Nor do I think laws forbidding the denial of the Holocaust are the right path in democratic societies.)

      You write:

      “As for the “there is no such thing as national honor” premise, I think of it as a left-wing construct. Left-wingers do not like national pride, and American leftists love to run down America at every turn. Polish leftists do the same thing to Poland.”

      Why do you politicize something which is not political? This has nothing to do with left-wing or right-wing. And I do not write anything about running down on Poland. History should and must be studied objectively, without emotions, without any goals to “honor” or “run down on”.

      You write:

      “In addition, this entire notion strikes me as a Germanocentric, or at least, German-serving, construct. Since the Germans have done such horrible things, they very much would like us to forget, or at least relativize, their...

      I do not really understand how my text makes you to draw such conclusions. You are making exaggerations.

      You write:

      “As for such things as “confronting demons”, notice that we Poles are supposed to do it over Jedwabne, while the other side feels not the slightest inkling over the same relative to Naliboki, Koniuchy, etc. Why should Poles not raise the latter? Apart from the obvious selective indignation and double standard over Jedwabne, how can this situation be...

      Again, you read selectively. Poland has demons from the past which must be confronted and according to me Poland has done well in this area. Far better than most former East European countries has done. Poland examined the massacre at Jedwabne and put all cards on the table. Nothing was hidden. That is a sign of great maturity.
      As for Naliboki and Koniuchy, has the Polish Institute for National Remembrance published any reports?
      As I see it, Jedwabne and Naliboki/Koniuchy are two different things.


    2. Your comment about how much Poles have done to "come to terms with the past" only reinforces my point about the refusal of the other side to do so. The IPN in this case is relatively irrelevant. The perpetrator nations, of the crimes at Koniuchy and Naliboki, are the very ones who should be taking the initiative to confront their crimes in full, instead of ignoring, denying, or making excuses for them.

      As for relativizing German conduct, I think that it is fairly obvious. It is clearly in their interest to promote the absence of tails (in this case, the concept of national honor) as a desirable state. And, yes, the denigration of national honor is very much a left-wing trait.

  2. Dear Arthur, certain amount of quarrelling and back stabbing is nothing but a mark of a healthy political life. As one notable British parliamentary observed many years ago: " ...as I sat in my front bench a realization came upon me, that in front of me, on the opposite side, are my adversaries, but my real enemies, ready to stab me, are at my back" The only calm places upon this globe, where nobody argues, are cemeteries. Poles argue, quarrel, fight, stab one other's back and whatever else they do - they are not really different in this regard from other nations. There is a number of plausible explanations for the fall of Polish first republic in 18th century, and putting it on internal discord is somewhat vague. Not a place here to discuss it at length.
    The number of political parties in Sweden is now around 76. For a population of roughly half of this of Poland. In Germany it's in vicinity of 30. In the UK about 60. In Italy they've lost count long ago. It does not matter at all. What matters is how many parties make it to the parliament. The less - the better. And a huge progress has been made in Poland in the past twenty years.
    In my view the main enemy of Poles is the fact, that why they quarrel and stab each other, they do it about silly things. They do not really reason rationally, but rather use plenty of emotions and engage in thinking going along the lines "us vs. them" And "them" could be anyone, favorites being, of course, Jews, naturally, Germans and Russians, or just the few of us, who were just plain lucky or smarter than average. The frustration growing from such envy is still a fuel for the extensive studies on the thickness of one birch-tree near Smolensk, or researching the family history of this or that public figure.
    Obsession with history has a relatively small impact on an average Pole, who in most cases knows next to nothing, only a few unrelated facts picked a la carte to support the thesis which he/she is holding to like a drunkard to a street lamp. The few who can argue their case reasonably using historic arguments do not make any harm at all to the image of Poles as a whole, quite contrary. So obsession with Polish history is not that bad thing, specifically, if you compare it with the historical awareness of the average person living in the Western Europe. History here is being taught like WW2, WW1, Reformation, Romans, Dinosaurs, period.
    Regarding our obsession with protecting so called good name it is only a mark of deep provincialism. It will pass when the country will gradually grow up to the larger role in Europe, which will surely happen, as the process is clearly visible even now as we speak.

    1. T.L,
      Interesting comments, thank you!

      This caught my eye instantly: according to what list are there 76 political parties in Sweden. I live here and I am not aware of this at all. I know there are at least 30, but 76?

      You write:
      "Obsession with history has a relatively small impact on an average Pole, who in most cases knows next to nothing, only a few unrelated facts picked a la carte to support the thesis which he/she is holding to like a drunkard to a street lamp. The few who can argue their case reasonably using historic arguments do not make any harm at all to the image of Poles as a whole, quite contrary. So obsession with Polish history is not that bad thing, specifically, if you compare it with the historical awareness of the average person living in the Western Europe. History here is being taught like WW2, WW1, Reformation, Romans, Dinosaurs, period."

      You do not really have that experience. In my view the average Pole knows slightly more about History, both Polands and Europes, than the average European.
      And, I also believe that historical research is much more popularized in Poland than in many other countries. Polish professional historians actually write books for a wider audience and get them published. How many actually do read them, well, I do not know. Also, seminars/lectures/talks on historical subjects are organized frequently and as I understand it, quite many people visit those gatherings.
      That is also a healthy sign.


    2. Arthur, read again what I wrote, what you say is exactly what I said, average Pole knows plenty more about history than average dweller of Western Europe. Of course, I cannot support this with any other research but my own life experience.

      Regarding the number of political parties in Swe, where have you got the number for Poland? I've got my numbers from Wiki, and they are about of the same relevance as your number for Poland



  3. Just a short comment.

    When I first began working on Polish Jewish relations, and negative stereotyping of Poles, and bigotry against Poles, I thought that the problem was external, and that Poles needed to change the world out there.

    Now, after over twenty years, I realize that the problem is, primarily, in Polonia. Yes, there are bigots out there. Polonians are not handling that challenge as well as they might, and that is what needs to be changed.

    How? See the blog post on "The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision."

  4. Jan Peczkis, you write about "the other side."

    Whom do you mean by that?

    In my own life and work against stereotypes of Poles, I have been supported by Arno Lowi, Jewish, Robin and Mark Schaffer, Jewish, Antony Polonsky, Jewish, Brandeis University, Jewish. "Bieganski" was published by a Jewish publisher.

    I and my work, including "Bieganski," have been attacked and undermined by more Polish men than I can name here. I don't want to give them publicity.


    Decent people who value truth

    Destructive people and cowards.

    One can be on either side, regardless of ethnicity.

  5. Of course they can, but that is not the point.

    Since you raised the question directly, I will answer it directly. The point is that, just as Poles played a role in the murder of Jews at Jedwabne, so also Jews played a role in the murder of Poles at places such as Naliboki and Koniuchy. (In fact, this is verified even in some Jewish memoirs that I had reviewed, one of which can be accessed by clicking on my name in this specific posting.)

    As I had said earlier in this blogpost, and elsewhere, I expect a single standard for all peoples. Thus, if Poles are to "confront their demons" and "come to terms with the past", then also Jews should do so with their crimes against Poles. With rare exceptions, the latter is not happening.

    1. Isn't it the continuing and blatant double standards that demonstrate the politics here? And I am wondering how others would deal with it if put in the hot seat - and acknowledging Artur and Danusha's point that we are not coping well. I'm wondering if anybody could though?

      If this was about what anybody had done or not done during WW2, then the countries that supported the Axis would be coming in for constant vilification. I am glad that they are not by the way, given that both sides did such dreadful ungodly things. But if it was about that, they would be.

      Dealing with it? I can personally recommend the way set out in the Inspired Scriptures. As they promise, they set everything straight, if we let them.

      For one thing, they are a perfect protection against being goaded into retaliating in kind, which I suspect is the purpose of some of this.

      And we need not to fall out with each other. Once again, the Bible shows us how. It teaches us not to be quick to take offence, and to cover over the faults of others with love.

    2. Jan,

      Regarding your comparisons between a German crime perpetrated with the assistance of local polish population (forced and voluntarily) and the killings of Polish civilians in Naliboki and Koniuchy? Did Jews (Polish Jews, Russian Jews??) act entirely alone in those places, with the sole purpose of exterminating Polish Christians? Has the Polish Institute for National Remembrance examined those cases?

      In an earlier comment, Jan, you write:

      "As for relativizing German conduct, I think that it is fairly obvious. It is clearly in their interest to promote the absence of tails (in this case, the concept of national honor) as a desirable state. And, yes, the denigration of national honor is very much a left-wing trait."

      Nobody is relativizing anything and you seem reluctant to realize that. The Holocaust was planned, implemented and governed by the German Nazis. Without them, NO Holocaust.
      Still, they could not have done it without the help of local collaborators from all over German-occupied Europe. Nobody is without guilt here, regardless of who was the main culprit.

      One of the Polish main heroes from the War is Jan Karski. Check out the interview with him by Bob Lewandowski in Chicago. Its on Youtube.


  6. Regardless of what the IPN did or did not do, a recent historian's analysis demonstrates the validity of what happened at Naliboki and Koniuchy. To see this, please click on my name in this posting.

    Consider intent. The Holocaust was just beginning in mid-1941, and the Poles participating in the crime at Jedwabne had no way of knowing that their act would eventually be part of the Germans' murder of 5-6 million Jews. So what happened at Jedwabne, and at Naliboki and Koniuchy, are thus functionally equivalent, as neither was an attempt to exterminate an entire ethnicity of people.

    Although academics make a big deal about intent, I think that it is irrelevant. Murder is murder, whether done by Poles to Jews, or done by Jews to Poles.

    Whether or not the Germans could have accomplished the Holocaust without the aid of collaborators is an open question. Probably it would only have taken more German manpower. In any case, the crimes of the collaborators should not be relativized with the crimes of the Germans.

    Finally, collaborators should not be lumped into one mass, because that itself is a form of relativization. The numbers of Polish collaborators were small in relation to the numbers of Jewish, Ukrainian, and Baltic collaborators.

    Finally, the comment "Nobody is without guilt here..." is very true. It is true of Jews and their crimes against Poles, no less than the reverse.

  7. Hej Jan, thanks for voicing everything I was more or less thinking. I also believe that the whole must face their demons thing must be way less important to Poland than good PR! France is doing it- why should the face their demons of Vichy collaboration? They aren't stupid after all! Let the poles face theirs will blame them for our part indirectly too. btw yesterday the polish tennisplayer and devout catholic radwanska was insulted by Israeli watchers as a catholic sl-t. One of the polish officials was like ahhh let's not talk about this! Otherwise people will think that we provoked it somehow--- this is how much poles are afraid! To me this is an outrage and should be addressed by the polish foreign minister- otherwise people will think that this is acceptable behaviour. Its called "shaming" and was also employed against racism. What Poland needs is to stand up and talk about being great-As with lies after the 100th time people will believe it. Also, as people feel as part of a community that stretches in 2 directions- the past and the present-they are feeling in a way connected to people like pilecki- everything else seems to left-wing utopia to me. After having visited the suburbs of Stockholm back in 2010,even more so. I hope the swedes will realize this asap

    1. Hello Hanna, the double standards are so blatant that its hard not to get angry, because I do understand that, if this did happen as reported, what a Catch 22 it puts Polish officials in. Won't any protest be drowned out by cries of "Four legs good. two legs bad, AND you horrible people shot Bambi's mother!!"?

      Its very difficult. What do they do?

      Probably the best thing, in the short term, is to publicise it as much as possible, but without comment.

      In the long term, we can safely trust in the God of Abraham with all our hearts. I can only keep recommending Psalm 37 -the advice is so perfect it sends chills down my spine. And so reassuring and so comforting.

  8. An added note.

    When Artur first sent me his guest blog text, it contained this:

    "I do not understand why she has not been invited to talk about her book in every Polish-American cultural, political, social or educational organization."

    I deleted that ... but i want to address it now.

    I've been invited to speak about Bieganski at Brandeis, University of Wisconsin Madison, WPUNJ, Hillels, a Unitarian Church, libraries, and other venues.

    I've received almost no invitations from Polish organizations.

    I wrote to the Polish embassy; they told me to send them a free copy of the book. the Polish museum of America also demanded a free copy of the book. The Kosciuszko Foundation never wrote back. Polish Studies Center at IU never wrote back (I spoke there earlier but not after the book was published.) One Polish group I approached wrote back to say, "there was no interest - with the subject being too heavy, too negative."

    In other words ... non Poles have been able to see value in a discussion of negative stereotyping of Poles. But Polonian organizations have shown almost no interest.

    1. Because the book is a study of Polish-Jewish relations, they may well be worried about the accusation of "anti-semitism". That is a serious one, with serious political consequences. Anti-polonism is not a problem in that way.

      Though given that we are called "anti-semitic" whatever we do or say, I think they might as well go ahead.

      However I can understand the worries about the bleakness of the subject matter. And, as you know, when I recommend that people read "Bieganski", as I do whenever I can, I also recommend that they read Psalm 37.

      Writing under the inspiration of God's holy spirit, the Psalmist shows us that our Creator knows just how the horrors of this system of things are going to make us feel; He shows us how to deal with them in the right way; and very importantly, He tells us what He is going to do about them.

      As I said in my Amazon review, I found "Bieganski" a very difficult read - and was only able to read it in small bits at a time. And not because its not well written. It is. Its the bleakness of the subject matter.

      Is there much hope that we can change this? Don't the Hebrew Scriptures warn us that "it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step"? We cannot put right what has gone wrong on the earth.

      What may change - on the instant if necessary - is the political agenda. Suddenly we may become "our gallant Allies the Poles" again. If so, I can only hope we will, politely and kindly, stay out of whatever war or crusade it is we are being recruited for.

      I can understand how personally painful it is for Poles - especially, perhaps, American Poles - to deal with this subject matter. To be honest, I couldn't myself, if it weren't for the constant teaching I am getting through the Christian congregation.

      So in a way I am not surprised by your post above Danusha. However, on the positive side, we are now talking about it. Your book is published, and out there - an amazing achievement in itself. And, above all, we can pin our hope with complete confidence in the incoming Kingdom of God.

  9. I cannot, of course, discern the motives of other people, but I strongly suspect that prominent Poles have failed to support Dr. Goska's BIEGANSKI because of the pervasive spirit of fear and "shaming" which Hannw has perceptively brought up. That is why they say that her book is "too negative". It is much easier to bury their heads in the sand.

    Far from being obsessed with protecting Poland's good name, Poles in general have done far too little in this regard.

    1. About "shaming"- I was rather thinking of employing the method of "shaming" against our enemies-like, lets show that anti-Polish sentiment and racism are more or less the same and than, on that ground, lets attack bigots as, basically,racist ;-) lets build, with the help of a Poland having a real government, a PDL and lets sue the living HELL out of -censored- writing about "Polish death camps"- like a guy did in Germany (very ironic,isnt it?) -and succeded,as far as I can remember.

    2. Hanna wrote:

      "lets show that anti-Polish sentiment and racism are more or less the same"

      that's exactly what "Bieganski" does. It treats prejudice against Poles as other prejudices are treated.

      I hope Polonia will wake up and embrace the book and the strategy.

  10. Please stop with this left-wing paranoia. I am not a leftist!

    I have never claimed Poles should not react against distortions of Polish history. I do it all the time! I also react against distortions in descriptions of what Sweden did during the War. (Personally, I am geting tired of all those who have not read any Swedish history books but throw all kind of accusations against Swedish behavior during the War.)

    I have never claimed Poles can not be proud of Polish history. Its the notion of protecting "national pride" or the good name of Poland that is problematic. Beacuse, if one believes there is national pride, then there must be national shame. The good does not exist without the bad.


    With all respect for prof Jan Marek Chodakiewcz (I have read several of his book), but the IPN is from my point of view the institute which has most authority regarding these issues, Naliboki, Koniuchy and so on.

    On this matter, we simply disagree, but thats just the way it should be.

    1. one believes there is national pride, then there must be national shame.

      Of course, You are right-the problem is that,for this to work in Polands favour, the whole world would have to believe this, too. Unfortunately, national pride is what the communists tried to destroy (and partly suceeded.If anything, their children (and their children) are continueing their "work". On only need to look on the so-called "left" in Poland...), and, out of my experience, I believe some kind of pride is very important. When I went to Sweden I realized that apparently, Swedes are not very proud of themselves-on the other hands, immigrants from certain places are exceedingly proud, so proud, that they actually told me they are waaaaay better than Swedes who should -censored- off. (Very ungrateful towards the Swedes, I think, who are paying for this privilege with their hard-earned tax money....) Had the Swedes more pride they would call this punks to order, I believe...

    2. Yes, Hanna, I agree, that some kind of national pride is important, but not in historical terms regarding what "nations did or not did". For instance, I am not proud of Pilecki beacuse he was a Pole and I am a Pole. I RESPECT what he did and believe he should be remembered as a true hero and a role model.

      I can only be proud of myself, my family, and I honor my Polish roots, my Polish heritage. You could even say I am a Polish patriot, since I love Poland. But I am not PROUD of being Polish, nor I am PROUD of being born a man, I was just born as a man. Do you understand what I mean?

      Swedes need not to gain more pride, they need to understand the uniting force of patriotism, including patriotism that gives a nation strenght and a stabile ground to stand on, both Swedes and immigrants.

    3. Hello Artur - Yes, we should be neither proud nor ashamed of being Polish/Polonian. It is what we are.

      What I object to are the constant attempts by the most powerful media and academe in the world to make me feel ashamed of the fact that my father was Polish - or to feel apologetic about it. And I note and very much dislike the pressure to make the required Stalin-style denunciation of him and all his generation.

      It makes me rather cross, as I loved both my parents and am very very grateful that I had good parents. And I think it was a bonus to have a Polish father, as, being at the sharp end of "the world" and its politics is a help in keeping spiritually awake.

      I agree with you that we are not dealing with it well, but I don't blame us for the political agenda. And if a group that currently had tip top state of the art PC-protection, suddenly found it gone overnight, and were put in the same position as u, would they deal with it well either?

      There are a lot of things you can successfully do and organise if you have PC-protection that are much more diffciult if you don't.

      The Brits might manage well mind you. They would probably make a brilliantly funny TV series about it.

    4. Sue, you are absolutely right regarding that Poles are made feel ashamed of the fact that they have Polish roots.

      I know several Swedes with Polish roots who do not ever recognize that side of their heritage. Often they have a Polish mother or father who married a Swedish men or women. They were never taught to speak Polish, they never visited Poland, they know nothing about Poland. I blame the Polish parent who wanted to break off with Poland and succumbed to their Swedish spouse.
      According to me a individual should never turn away from family heritage. I have visited my family in Poland every year since 1988.

      But again, I feel no national pride for what Polish citizens did in the past. I can be proud of my own accomplishments, or my families. What I act against and will do so long as I live, is distortions of Polish history. I will honor and remember what Poles sacrified, I will honor Polish heroes, but I will not be afraid of the dark sides of Polish history, the negative things.

  11. Sue Knight and Jan Peczkis, what you are suggesting is that Polonia's leaders are cowards.

    That could be true. I do not know.

    What is evident is that they do not supply adequate leadership to Polonia.

    That would be obvious in any case. The Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype is rampant, and organized Polonian leadership, the very leadership that asks us for our money to support them financially, has done nothing to defeat this stereotype, and their doing something is not on the horizon.

    1. I would like to strongly agree on the "coward" part.
      Look at this here- its about the insults hurled at Agnieszka Radwanska in Israel ("catholic sl-ts"), from their trainer:

      Uważam, że Izrael to jest piękny kraj, wspaniała tradycja, wspaniali ludzie, wspaniała historia. Zawsze powinniśmy bardziej ich rozumieć, za to co ich spotkało na naszym terytorium, bez naszej winy, ale się zdarzyło. Nie powinniśmy robić szumu wokół tego, co stało się na korcie, bo jeśli ktoś będzie o tym czytał w Nowym Jorku, czy w Toronto, czy w Paryżu, to pomyślą, że w jakiś sposób nasza reprezentacja, my Polacy, nie byliśmy bez winy, że coś musiało być na rzeczy. Dlatego ja podchodziłbym do tego spokojniej - dodał były polski tenisis

      Translation:I think Israel is a beautiful country, with a great tradition, wonderful people, a great history. We should always understand them better for what has happened to them on our territory, without our fault, but what did happen. We should not make not make a fuss about what has happened on the tennis-court, because, if s.o will be reading about that in NY,or in Toronto, or in Paris, they will somehow think that our representation, we Poles, were not without fault, that we had s.th to do with it. That’s why I would take it easy on that matter- added the former Polish tennis player.

      About Israel being great and whatever. Hmm, that’s very subjective I believe. But the “wonderful people” and “great tradition” seems nearly like an excuse for Polish people placing their feet on Israeli soil….
      I have read this piece 6 times. I.can.not.believe.this. I mean…..I am speechless, seriously. Who murdered Jews? Apparently, no one. Not the Germans, anyway, they are our “friends” now, according to people like Radek (the Germans are calling Poles “their neighbours”- you know, those pesky people you mostly can not choose and often just are able to bear,more or less). No, we “need to understand that…”- excuse me, what?! Those people were born in Israel, not in Poland- I would be able to understand a survivor who was ratted out by a criminal Pole. But not Israeli youngster,no, no, and no. So, does Agnieszka Radwanska and her sister deserve to be called “catholic sl-ts”? Apparently-YES! Because-there is a saying by a Polish chess master-the opponent will play the way you allow him to. So-dear world! Abusing Poles is totally fine-we have no dignity or what not. Only few outlets are writing about this-very telling. Had this happened in Poland and had Israeli sportswomen been addressed as “Jewish sl-ts”- it would be a proof of “Polish anti-Semitism infused with the mothers milk”- The Times of Israel, Debbie Schlussel, JPost and all those “objective” sources of information would run amok. In my opinion- what should be done is a letter of protest by the Polish Foreign Ministry. And a “shaming” campaign. I would also like to get some help from Orthodox rabbis (as I have realized: the less religious people are the more “fighting” “anti-Semitism” become a supply religion)). This kind of hate-speech must be addressed before it is too late.

    2. I wouldn't want to say cowardly. Political leaders,for example, whoever they are, have to go with the politics, and the politics, at the moment, are against us.

      I'm not wanting to criticise other Polonians and how they choose to deal with this, or not. For example, I think the campaign to try and do something about the continuing re-defining of Nazi concentration camps as "Polish" is worthwhile. And I am grateful to those who are taking action, and try to send an email a month tackling the subject myself.

      Re Tennisgate, Hanna, interesting point about these (apparently) being young Israelis who are responsible. So that speaks volume about what they are being taught.

      As for how to deal with it, its not easy. For any of us.

  12. A PS to my previous post --

    That Polonian leadership has not significantly supported "Bieganski" -- while others have, including the universities that have invited me to speak -- is a serious matter.


    Because Polonian leadership, from national groups to the leaders of facebook pages and discussion lists devoted to Polish matters -- imply or state that the reason that Poles are stereotyped is EXTERNAL. "There is someone out there out to get us -- someone very powerful."

    The implication is repeatedly raised that the problem is Jews.

    The problem is NOT Jews. The problem is Polonia.

    When Polonia chooses effective activism, the problem will stop.

    Sending emails to concentration camp survivors who accidentally use the phrase "Polish concentration camp" is ... not the best strategy, to say the least. It makes the sender look petty -- this poor ninety year old concentration camp survivor is telling a heart rending story and your *only* response is to get worked up about the phrase "Polish concentration camp"???

    Not an effective strategy.

    To bring this around to Jan's comment about the other side ... there are Jews who have talked about the crimes of Jews who worked for the communist police, and other matters that made it hard for Poles and Jews to get along. Ewa Hoffman, Michael Steinlauf, Agnieszka Holland (who is of partial Jewish ancestry) and others.

    Sitting around demanding this or that from Jews is a losing strategy.

    Polonia, look in the mirror. And look at your leadership.

  13. The whole process of “shaming” is a form of intimidation, a part of political correctness. “Shaming” only works when employed by an academically-recognized and media-recognized “victim group”. Thus, Jews can and do “shame” Poles regarding real and imagined anti-Semitism. On the other hand, Poles are in no position to “shame” anyone, Jewish or non-Jewish, about Polonophobia.

    The problem of Polonophobia is BOTH external and internal. Certainly, Poles should organize, but this is no excuse or license for others to take advantage of the Poles’ weakness by attacking Poles and Poland. Finally, Poles should not have to be in a position to have to constantly defend themselves. On this basis, the onus rests on the attackers.

    The failure of prominent Poles to get involved in supporting Poland is only partly caused by cowardice. Part of it stems from the intimidation of “shaming” and political correctness. The spirit of intimidation has been called “being caponized” (to use Michael Savage’s language). Part of Polish leaders’ inaction also stems from a sense of futility caused by a lack of standing of Poles being a “victim group”. Finally, as pointed out by someone else in another blogspot, it also stems from the legacy of being “bierni, mierni, i miserni” (passive, lowly, and miserable) as a holdover from Communist-era social conditioning.

    Yes, Dr. Szulc and I will have to disagree on the IPN. The politicized aspects of the IPN’s research agenda, notwithstanding the moving-on of leader Leon Kieres, must be factored. In any case, the IPN does not own a monopoly of truth.

    No one is accusing Dr. Szulc of being a leftist. One does not have to be a leftist to reflect the leftist attitudes of academia and media. Thus, for example, the “intent” argument (and corollary meritocracy of suffering), that he had introduced into this blogspot, is an unmistakably leftist construct.

    I, too, have come across Jews who have expressed some form of contrition for Jewish crimes against Poles. However, these have been very rare exceptions, and virtually no Jews of public stature have ever verbalized such statements. In any case, the flow of thinking, scholarship, and discourse continues to overwhelmingly flow in this single direction: Jews are a “victim group” in a position of moral superiority over Poles, who are not a victim group. Jews can and do freely say anything they want about Poles, while Poles better remain silent for fear of the club of accusations of anti-Semitism. That is also why Jedwabne is such an earth-shattering big deal, while Naliboki and Koniuchy, if mentioned at all or left unexcused, are barely a footnote.

  14. Political correctness, leftist construction...Jewish crimes....and so on...soon You perhaps will start refering to cultural marxism.

    You should perhaps, re-read my text.

    One last thing, I have no doctoral degree. I have a simple Master of Arts in History.

  15. Yes, absolutely, now that you bring it up. Cultural Marxism and neo-Marxism are serious subjects, not something that I had imagined or invented. My conclusions are the same after rereading your text.

  16. Dear Jan- great post, but tell me: how can we achieve to become a protected victim group? My personal idea would be to work towards a conservative roll-back and than show everyone how we were abused and defamed and held back by "progressive" hypocrits.unfortnamely this is along term goal if anything. I guess we need to orgabuse ourselves first-you know who said that only an organized nations is a power worth beholding,... only one with a wrong identity we not fade away ;-) anyways I'd like to hear Your ideals on this :-)

  17. I do not see success in becoming a “victim group”, because that market is already cornered.

    I, however, do some have some dreams:

    I would like to see the Poles develop a national consciousness like never before, and manifested by sustained and massive grassroots activism. Americans of Polish descent form over 20% of the population of some big states. Imagine American Poles launching a massive boycott of newspapers that defame Poles. Since many newspapers are already struggling financially, this, especially if involving some sympathetic non-Polish Americans, could be enough to drive the point about Polonophobia by hurting their bottom line to a noticeable extent.

    Where professors—be they Polish or non-Polish—are denied tenure because of their deviation from politically correct orthodoxy on behalf of Poland (such as Norman Davies), I would like to see massive and sustained Polish street protests that would close those places down until these injustices are reversed.

    In states where the Holocaust is taught by law, I would like to see massive activism, including mass street protests, to see to it that Polish suffering is given equal time. Ditto to equal time to Naliboki and Koniuchy whenever Jedwabne is mentioned.

    Since I do not believe in censorship, I would like to see forceful Polish activism, including massive protests, demanding that the truth-telling counter-MAUS cartoon that I had proposed (see the MAUS blogspot on the Bieganski blog) be taught in US schools whenever the original MAUS is used in the classroom.

    Since the American media would be unsympathetic to such Polish activism, and portray Poles as bigots and troublemakers, I would like to see Poles develop massive alternative media outlets that would inform a significant fraction of the American population.

    I have many ideas for Poland herself. I would like to see Poland get out of the European Union, and to pursue a fully independent political and economic course. I would like to see leaders elected who are fully nationally conscious, patriotic Poles that are tireless activists of Polish interests. I would like to see mandatory sensitivity training, about the truth regarding Poland and WWII, and the full story of past Polish-Jewish relations, as a condition for Israelis being allowed to visit Poland for Holocaust-related issues.

    The foregoing is just a start. I realize that none of the foregoing will probably ever happen, but I like to fantasize from time to time.

  18. Mr. Jan Peczkis is RIGHT about Polish Americans starting there own media outlets to counter act the politically correct anti-Polish media. I have recommended this before.

    One SIMPLE and easy way for Polish Americans to start their own media is by creating multiple Facebook and Twitter acounts which take just a few minutes each to start up. Or just posting a lot of Facebook and Twitter comments that counteract anti-Polish Bias is a good thing. Or just continuing to participate on blogs like this or other blogs is good also.

    We are living in an UNPRECECENTED age where the internet media is surpassing old dinosaur "mainstream media". It would be a SHAME if us Poles and Polish Americans did not jump on this oppotrunity to create our own media and post Pro-Polish messages all over the internet that counteract old anti-Polish media bias.

    1. You can also edit Wikipedia articles about Polish people and Polish culture, eg. Polish jokes.

  19. Jan Peczkis,

    What is the equivalent of the criminalization of Holocaust denial?

    1. The question raised by "Reality Check" sounds like some kind of provocation or wisecrack.

    2. My best guess would be Holodomor denial.

  20. Then there is the Polish obsession with the past - really? You mean like the Jewish "obsession" with the Holocaust, Jewish soul, Jewish "tradition"? You want to talk about Germans? Blacks?

    How are Poles different?

    Good name of Poland? Really? Why don't you say something negative about Israel and see your leftist friends suddenly cringe. (Well, at least the Jewish, non self-hating ones)

    The fact is EVERY nation protects the "good" name of its country.

    When you land in Paris, you are not greeted by apologetics regarding Vichy France, you are told to experience the French, culture, food, history, etc.

    Perhaps you look at all of this through the viewpoint of someone living in Sweden - a country so devoid of national pride - that until now it was basically being eaten alive by nonEuro invaders while at the same time apologizing for not being tasty enough.
    Thankfully, that is changing a little bit but I do not think you are the kind of person who would vote for the parties of "change".

    Finally, this pearl: "One of the Polish main heroes from the War is Jan Karski." While he was a brave soul he was also, frankly, an idiot - please see some of his writings and tell us what you think of his intellect. For example, in one of his expositions he attacked the notion of protecting tradition and the "nation" Why, you say? Because, in his own words, nations will be ok, nations do not die out... A long list of forgotte, exterminated or just extinguished peoples must have been turning over in their graves.

  21. This reeks of ethnic essentialism and collective guilt. I am tired of feeling guilty. I'd rather work for positive change. Let me know what I can do.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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