Dr. Rusty Walker just posted a review of Bieganski on Amazon. You can see his review here.
I just finished the book, "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture (Jews of Poland)," written by Dr. Danusha Goska. The author investigates the origin and inaccuracy of the stereotyping of Poles and Poland, and much more.
The book is an excellent read in presenting new revelations about this complex subject. The author examines the wide-spread stereotyping of Poles, as well as Poland, Polish Christians and Polish Jews that will be an expansion on what the reader might presume. It is extremely well-written and absorbing, while the facts revealed are sometimes horrifying.
The “Interview” chapters include narratives that afford the reader insights we cannot ignore if we care about inaccurate but accepted history of Poland, so often infused with biases derived from half-truths, myth and folklore. The theme, the Bieganski - the image of Pole as brute – is readily proven inaccurate and the origin of the label is explained. Dr. Goska, in her gifted writing style, and scholarly citing of sources, proves uncomfortable realities about both the Jews and the Polish before and after WWII in Poland that most writers have not had the courage to divulge. She, at once, concedes anti-Semitism of some Poles in Poland, while reminding us of many more heroic Poles who saved Jews. We are reminded that Poles were also sent to the ovens of Auschwitz, a fact that is resisted by many who wish to retain certain stereotypes.
Dr. Goska’s accounts of elite Poles antithetic to peasant Poles, and Israeli Jews mocking Holocaust survivors are shocking to read, but reveal her determination to root out the truth. Jews reached out to the Allies prior to the “Final Solution” and during it, to Israel, American Jews and the Jewish Councils who we find disbelieved it and eventually ignored it. Many knew, but separate themselves from Jews destined for extermination as this horrific event unfolded unimpeded. Indeed, we learn that FDR and the American government are not blameless in allowing the Holocaust. This is but a glimpse of what is difficult to acknowledge with regards to shared blame.
The book was not written to place blame. I find that it is more to acknowledge the unforeseen consequences of silence and inaction, and dangers of relying on myth and perceptions instead of insisting on factual accounts.
I recommend this book as one of the few that allows us to discover truthful pre-WWII and Post-WWII Polish, German, and Russian interaction and the resultant legacy. It is no wonder the book is controversial among Jews and Poles, but also Americans, including publishers. Non-biased truth is often hard to read, let alone accept.
There are the accounts of scapegoating, the need for shared victimization, dropped responsibilities among U.S government leaders, Americans, American Jews all of whom were aware of the Holocaust.
Both Jews and Poles are proven to be victims of the Nazis at Auschwitz, but we find through Dr. Goska’s research that this presented a diluting effect necessary for sustained victimhood resulting in the suppressing of the role of Poles in assisting Jews.
In light of copious adversarial revelations I have touched on above, it is heartwarming that the book ends well. There is a touching story where the reader surely agrees that, nevertheless, there remains an "ineluctable bond between Poles and Jews."
Dr. Rusty Walker- Collins College, Provost, retired.