Sunday, October 28, 2018

In Solidarity with the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On October 27, 2018, an anti-Semite murdered eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This horrific assault has been called the worst attack on worshipping Jews ever to occur in the US.

Good people of every faith stand in solidarity with the Tree of Life congregation and with Jews everywhere.


Some assume, without reading it, that my book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype is an anti-Semitic book. Some assume that Poles and Jews are destined to be at odds.

These assumptions are false. There is a long tradition of Polish-Jewish cooperation and mutual affection. That tradition is cited in the book and documented on this blog, for example in this series of blog posts entitled "Poland's Importance to Jews; Jews' Importance to Poland."

Rather, there are people who monger hatred. Such people can come from any ethnicity. One such person is Donald Trump. In a 2016 blog post entitled "My Top Twelve Reasons for Not Voting for Donald Trump," I gave as my very first reason Trump's hate-mongering. Another reason was his evident personality disorder. People with personality disorders see themselves in combat with the world. They recreate around them situations of chaos and conflict. They monger hatred of one for the other, in order to create chaos and hostility. Trump does this with his words. He encourages Americans to hate each other.

The synagogue shooter voiced disapproval of Trump online. The shooter said that Trump did not go far enough.

But Trump did allow anti-Semites to support him. Three times, on camera, in an interview with Jake Tapper, Trump declined to disavow David Duke of the KKK. Trump's closing campaign ad was a video of an anti-Semitic fantasy, a dystopian American where George Soros and other Jews made life impossible. Trump supporters condone his hate-mongering.

One of my most anti-Trump acquaintances is Otto, who wrote Ripples of Sin about growing up with a father who served, with distinction, in the Wehrmacht during WW II. Because Otto is acutely aware of the forces that contribute to the rise of evil, he feels it necessary to speak out about Trump's hate-mongering. I feel the same way. To write Bieganski I spent years of my life studying hate, atrocity, and WW II. It's my duty to apply my knowledge and speak up against hate-mongering.

Scholars far more prominent than I feel the same way. Christopher R. Browning, author of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland has just published "The Suffocation of Democracy" in the New York Review of Books. In this article, Browning writes, "As a historian specializing in the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and Europe in the era of the world wars, I have been repeatedly asked about the degree to which the current situation in the United States resembles the interwar period and the rise of fascism in Europe. I would note several troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling difference."

Yes, decent people everywhere extend their sympathies to the congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue. But we must do more. We must speak out against the hate-mongering of America's current president. We must speak up when Facebook friends insist that the synagogue shooting never happened, that it is a false flag, that it was orchestrated by George Soros to manipulate the masses. 

We must speak up when friends engage in that Soviet propaganda topic, "Whataboutism." Rather than address Trump's hate-mongering, they attempt to render speech impossible with endless changes of subject. What about this or that hateful thing that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama allegedly said?

We must be brave to do this. Our courage is the least we can offer. My father's courage was exercised in risking his life, fighting fascists and racists in World War II. I should be at least as brave as he when confronting liars and hate-mongers on social media.


  1. Mass murder is mass murder, but I did not see this kind of outpouring of sympathy for those Christians murdered in the Texas church massacre last year. Rather, they were treated more or less as generic "victims of gun violence" and exploited by the gun-control crowd.

    I will not be surprised if this synagogue massacre leads to calls for even more Holocaust education in American schools. That way, the Polokaust and other non-Jewish genocides will become even more marginalized than they are already.

    My post is not about whataboutism. It is about exposing the double standards in our society. And these double standards are wrong.

    1. Dear Mr. Peczkis

      You should be ashamed of yourself.

      Chris Helinsky

    2. I thought that we are not supposed to get personal on this blog.

      But that's fine with me. Just which individual or group needs to be ashamed? And of what?

  2. "I did not see this kind of outpouring of sympathy for those Christians murdered in the Texas church massacre last year. Rather, they were treated more or less as generic "victims of gun violence""

    The Sutherland Springs shooter may have shot congregants at the church because his ex-wife attended the church. I can find no evidence that she shot his victims because they were Christian.

    The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter was an open anti-Semite who left a record of extreme anti-semitic statements. He shouted that all Jews should be killed while shooting and after his arrest.

    His social media posts show that he was immersed in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, among the theories supported by Republicans in power, including House Majority Leader McCarthy. See here:

    "exploited by the gun-control crowd. "

    To say that those of us who want mass shootings to stop, and who hope to create more rational legislation, are exploiters, is simply perverse.

    The stance opposite our stance is to argue that mass shootings should continue or get worse. That stance is monstrous.

    "I will not be surprised if this synagogue massacre leads to calls for even more Holocaust education in American schools."

    American children need more Holocaust education. See here:

    "That way, the Polokaust and other non-Jewish genocides will become even more marginalized than they are already. "

    Polish Americans have failed to unite, organize, and act strategically to get their story told. Polish Americans can change this whenever they choose to do so.

    " It is about exposing the double standards in our society. And these double standards are wrong."

    Jews are victims of double standards. People decide to murder Jews for no other reason than because they are Jewish. I would not want to be the target of such a double standard.

    1. I would like to clarify the difference between the synagogue and church shootings. The synagogue shooter declared his intent, so his act was a hate crime (by direct intentionality). The church shooter in Texas did not declare his intent, but is still guilty of a hate crime (by oblique intentionality), because 1) Unlike the case of, say, a shooting at a shopping mall, the church shooter knew, or should have known, that his victims were virtually guaranteed to all be Christians; 2) The shooter knew, or should have known, that the site of the murder (a church) is a specifically-Christian space (as recognized by both Christians and non-Christians), and 3) The shooter knew, or should have known, that he was violating the Christian-specific sanctity of the church sanctuary. So yes, the Christians were murdered because they were Christians.

      Finally, if we are willing to transcend the question of what is and isn't a hate crime, we should keep in mind that the murdered Christians and the murdered Jews are both equally dead.

  3. The usual stuff which everyone has come to expect from Mr Peczkis, by way of promoting his own doctrinaire agenda. Is there a note of sympathy for the victims or their families in among the sophistry and verbiage? I must have missed it.

    1. Michal it is nice to hear from you.

      Please note that this is said to be the worst attack on Jews in American history.

      One of the victims was 97 years old. It boggles my mind. A man with an assault rifle murdering a 97 year old for no other reason than the person is Jewish.

      This attack happened during the same week when a bomber sent bombs to the leadership of the Democratic Party. And a white supremacist murdered two black people in a Kroger's parking lot.

      All in one week.

  4. Yes, I noticed the ages of most of the victims on a list. Unbelievable.

    Didn't President Trump say something about reviewing gun control after a previous shooting? What happened to that? If not now - when?

    1. Yes, this is the kind of guy that would not have been willing to break the law to get his hands on guns - makes sense.

  5. I thought that we were not supposed to get personal on this blog. Oh, well...

    "doctrinaire agenda" "sophistry" "verbiage" wow

    Perhaps someone needs to read my posts more carefully, and see where compassion enters in. And appreciate the very real problems (and compassion-nullification) of arbitrary "hate crime" designations and laws. And learn the difference between direct intentionality and oblique intentionality (a matter of law, not "sophistry" or "verbiage").

    And my previous posts on this thread were all about compassion--equal compassion--for Poles as well as Jews (as per the Polokaust and Holocaust), and for Christians as well as Jews (in sanctuary shootings). Is this too much to ask?

    Finally, if compassion should be the main issue, then we must ask how much genuine compassion [as opposed to "verbiage"] there is, in American public life, for the over 4 million Polish victims of the Nazis. Virtually none, I am afraid.

    Real compassion can only be equal compassion. It is no more complicated than that.

    Enough of my "sophistry".

    1. Jan someone who lurks on this blog but does not post sent me a message saying, "The bodies are not yet cold and all he cares about is that American students might receive Holocaust education."

    2. I am not surprised. Judging by the supercilious statements of the sender, I am all too familiar with the mentality behind them:

      So long as it benefits the Jews, it is good, and to heck with everybody else.

      To heck with the Christian church-massacre victims getting proper compassion (to use Karski's word) as victims of a heinous hate crime.

      And to heck with the 100 million non-Jewish victims of 20th-century genocides.

      That is the crux of the whole problem.

    3. Jan Peczkis, your post, above, is anti-Semitic. No serious person has ever expressed the ideas you post, above. No serious person says that 100 million victims of genocide don't matter. You put words in Jewish people's mouths that they have not said, and you thus defame Jews and make them out to be monsters. Demonizing people is the last step before murdering people.

    4. Amazing.

      So now I am a near-murderer for telling the simple truth about the state of our media and educational system. If you doubt the veracity of what I had said earlier, examine how the two sanctuary massacres are treated, and have a look at the huge difference between how the Holocaust and all non-Jewish genocides are treated. Actions speak louder than words.

    5. "So now I am a near-murderer for telling the simple truth about the state of our media and educational system"

      What you said is untrue.

  6. If a church full of venerable and elderly Polish people had been attacked by a gunman who shot individuals for no other reason than because they were Polish, there would be sympathy - (that's the word I used) - from most sections of society. The majority of people are not callous and insensitive barbarians and would demonstrate their common humanity. Thank God, that scenario has never happened in the civilized West - to my knowledge - and I hope it never does.

    I will sign out because Jan Peczkis does not represent my idea of someone who might engage in a reasonable discussion. I've tried it before on this blog and got nowhere. I felt an intervention was needed on this particular post in case some blog readers might have thought that Jan Peczkis represents Polish mainstream thinking. He doesn't. His views are extreme and I believe he is in a minority.

    1. Michal I'm glad you posted. I wish you and others would not run away. Jan Peczkis doesn't own or speak for this blog.

      We can't eliminate people who think and say things we don't like. But we can refute falsehoods. You can do that. I hope you stick around to do so.

  7. Consider adding Vasily Grossman and his book Forever Flowing to your list.

  8. Michal Karski,

    Mr. Jan Peczkis suffers from a severe case of Zero-Sum Scarcity Mentality.

  9. Jan Peczkis,

    Thought experiment for you: Would you bring up the Sutherland Church shooting case in the Charleston Church shooting case?

  10. Jan Peczkis,

    How do you explain the fact that several states require the teaching of the Irish famine?

  11. Jan Peczkis,

    FYI, the shooter's beef with Jews was precisely over the fact that they allegedly favor a group of non-Jews at the expense of those non-Jews that he favors.

  12. Thank you, Reality Checker, for coming on this blog with your perspectives.

    Bravo to the Irish! Anything that strikes at the bastion of Holocaust supremacism is a step in the right direction...but only a step.

    True Genocide Recognition Equality will not be achieved until all 50 states teach all the genocides, and that with equal intensity of each. And kids are tested to verify that this knowledge transfers.

    As for the motives of the killer, I think that what matters is not the exact nature of the grudge that he had, but the fact that he chose to resort to murder to express it.

    1. Yes, "kids" being the operative word here; because come adulthood, the vast majority won't retain the vast majority of what they learned in school, anyway. I suppose you could say that adulthood is the great equalizer.

  13. Ok- I would like to second Mr Jan here a little bit: An Ukrainian,a Rwandan an an Armenian have told me at some point that their suffering is overlooked,often in a "yeah but it was not as bad as the Holocaust" like does beg the question: are not all victims deserving od rememberance? Imho they are. I also believe that the Holocaust is being exploited politically: in Israel as a negative founding myth (there are Jews who find this psychologically highly problematic like Finkelstein or Atzmon. I believe it would be more beneficial to propagate a positive Jewish/Israeli identity...)in Germany and other countries to defame National identity and to guilt-trip the country into accepting millions of illegal migrants.

    I think that is the reasons why especially leftist governments are mit keen on talking about other genocides. Especially not communist ones.


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.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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