"I saw Magdalena Gawin, the Polish deputy minister of Culture and National Heritage at the time, speak at the Treblinka train station flanked by a Polish Army honor guard, a Roman Catholic bishop and other distinguished guests, including Yehoshua Ellis, an American-born rabbi. They were assembled in Treblinka, a couple of miles away from the former death camp of the same name, to unveil a monument honoring Jan Maletka, a 21-year-old Polish railroad worker. Mr. Maletka, Polish researchers say, was shot in 1942 by the Nazis for giving water to the Jews as they waited in locked cattle cars idling outside the camp."
This event, Grabowski writes, is "the most vivid example of a dangerous new threat that is spreading rapidly today in Eastern Europe: Holocaust distortion. A false equivalence of victimization is but one hallmark of the new Polish historical revisionism. Another hallmark is a state-sponsored effort that downplays antisemitic terror at the hands of the Poles, though such incidents are well documented in the historical record."
Treblinka survivors allege that Poles sold tiny amounts of water to extremely thirsty Jews in exchange for cash or valuables. Grabowski also describes gangs of Poles who hunted down and robbed Jews, and then handed them over to Nazis.
The Maletka monument is wrong, Grabowski argues, because Poles committed horrible crimes against Jews, and because Poles did not suffer as badly under the German Nazis as Jews did. Better forget Maletka and focus on the rotten Poles who did bad things.
"It is essential to understand that Mr. Maletka’s actions occurred within the broader experience of exploitation and murder. To identify and shift focus to Mr. Maletka serves not only to elevate a heartwarming story about a young man but also to marginalize the hundreds of thousands of mostly unnamed Jewish victims. Indeed, the sign on the monument devotes equal spaces to the Polish railway worker and the Jews who perished in Treblinka."
1.) I have never encountered the Poland that Grabowski describes. I visited EE for the first time in the 1970s and most recently ten years ago, and several times in between. I've spent a lot of time among Poles and Polonians in various internet environments. I have never, ever, encountered any Poles, including those who make the most controversial statements, who deny that there were Poles who behaved in a criminal manner during the Nazi occupation. We universally, no matter our political differences, condemn criminal Poles.
I'm aware of numerous scholarly books and official statements by Poles, including John Paul II, who condemn and express shame at Poles who were silent and/or who committed crimes.
2.) I do not live in Poland and I cannot comment on the accuracy of Grabowski's assertion that the current Polish ruling party wants to erase important aspects of Holocaust history and replace it with a fake narrative of nothing-but-heroism.
3.) That Grabowski was given space in the New York Times to vent his spleen is telling. Reporting that *Poles* are re-writing the Holocaust is definitely something that the New York Times wants to report. The New York Times would *never* grant space to me or anyone else who has objected to the Bieganski Brute Polak stereotype, and the amply documented role that this stereotype plays in re-writing Holocaust history.
Grabowski never acknowledges that forces far more powerful than a handful of Poles have been rewriting the Holocaust for decades, and were suppressing the truth of the Holocaust even as it was happening. In fact none other than the New York Times was one of those forces that rewrote the Holocaust even as it was happening. See Laurel Leff's 2005 book, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper. See also Peter Novick's excellent The Holocaust in American Life. After you read that book, you will realize that Americans do not occupy any moral high ground.
Grabowski is upset because a certain percentage of Poles, responding to poll-takers, refer to Auschwitz as a place of Polish suffering. Of course far more Jews suffered and died at Auschwitz than Polish non-Jews, and Poles should know that. But Auschwitz was very much a place of Polish suffering. See here.
Would the New York Times publish my research that showed that educated, modern, American Jews do not know that *any* Polish non-Jews were at Auschwitz? Would the New York Times publish my mention, in my book, Bieganski, that James Carroll's hugely successful and influential book, Constantine's Sword, lied to the reader about the number of Poles who suffered and died at Auschwitz? James Carroll, his fans, and people like him exercise vastly more influence than the small monument to Jan Maletka ever will.
American school students, if they know anything about the Nazis and the Holocaust at all, often report that the Nazis were Christians and the Holocaust was a Christian project. They often do not know that the Nazis' first and final victims of a formal, mass extermination program were handicapped people. American school students often have no idea that any Slavs at all were experimented on, tortured, starved to death, and mass murdered by the Nazis, and that groups of Slavs and Baltic people were to be all but wiped out in something called Generalplan Ost.
Very few people know that Dachau was known as "the priests' barracks" because of the clergy imprisoned there. Very few people know that Nazism's goal, as documents show, was to eliminate Christianity.
Prestigious academic publishers have told me that there is fact after fact after fact that I cannot mention in published works. Mention of Nazi brutality to Slavs is one of those things one is not to mention.
Thus, when one lends an ear to the vox populi, and visits discussion boards and comments sections, one finds one Jewish poster after another insisting that the "Polaks" were "worse than the Nazis" and that Nazism was just another expression of "2,000 years of Christian anti-semitism."
Jan Grabowski is quite selective in his outrage. Holocaust revisionism has been ongoing for decades. Why the small Maletka monument irks Grabowski so much and the miseducation of the world on numerous aspects of the Nazi era doesn't cause Grabowski to lose a wink of sleep is a question for his therapist.