Sunday, September 23, 2012

Polish Prisoners Tend Jewish Graves; How Even Something Beautiful Can Serve the Bieganski Stereotype

Photo: Służba Więzienna – Polish Prison Service

On September 18, 2012, The Krakow Post ran an article, "Reconstructing Attitudes to Judaism in Poland" by Nissan Tzur. The article describes a program that trains Polish prisoners to tend Jewish graves in Poland.

The project is entitled "The Tikkun Project." According to the article, it was proposed by Jewish leaders in Poland. Excerpts:

"Thousands of prisoners from all over Poland participate in the project…In Krakow alone there are over 1,500 prisoners taking part …The prisoners clean Jewish cemeteries and repair broken headstones. They also visit museums featuring Jewish exhibits, tour extermination camps and sites of Jewish heritage and eagerly watch plays and films about Jewish life in Poland. One prisoner, who helps at a museum in Chrzanów, has even compiled a list of the names of the 1,500 of the city’s Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

Wacławek is proud of his role in helping to organise the Tikkun Project together with the Jewish community. He argues that the programme has introduced inmates to a whole new world of tolerance and shown them how prejudice can lead to tragedy

Krzysztof is aware that Poland has a reputation for anti-Semitism in some quarters, and believes that this is because Poles do not know enough about Jewish culture. For this reason he encourages fellow prisoners to take part in the Tikkun Project."

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The Holocaust happened because Poles are in the past, and of the past; they are ignorant, they "do not know enough about Jewish culture." Poles need to be introduced, as the article states, to a whole new world of tolerance. They need to have their attitudes "reconstructed," as the headline states.

There is a book that analyzes this constant, ubiquitous, thoroughgoing rewriting of Holocaust history. It's called "Bieganski." It will be a good thing when Polonia wakes up and discovers that book and acts on the issues outlined in the series of blog posts on the Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization and Vision, accessible here.

Until that day comes, it will continue to be common knowledge that Polish identity, not Nazism, is responsible for the Holocaust. It will continue to be the case that even the most positive stories about Poles and Jews will be told in a way that communicates the Bieganski stereotype.

I thank Otto Gross for bringing this article to my attention. Otto's previous blog entry on Enigma can be found here.

The full text of the article cited above, about prisoners tending Jewish graves, can be read here.


  1. A breathtakingly patronising article - and the expression "reconstructing attitudes" is chillingly ThoughtCrime. But then we do live in the "1984" world that George Orwell saw coming.

  2. "Thousands of prisoners from all over Poland participate in the project…In Krakow alone there are over 1,500 prisoners taking part
    Thats very cool. Let me tell You far away from where I live there is a former Jewish graveyard. It had been decaying for nearly 50 years and only the work of ONE person (the major) saved it from total decay. Not in Poland.In Germany.But who cares? The Germans have been forgiven and s.o must be hated for Nazi German crimes. Than again, this is happening in Germany:ßlich-durch-neonazis-geschändet&Itemid=410
    "Stolpersteine" are elevated (yes,this can become dangerous-stolpern means "to stumble over") stones placed in the ground with inscribed pieces of information about former Jewish residents.Today, several of them were defaced-metal plates bearing the names of SS! criminals were glued on top of them-the perpetrators are still unkown.Germany anno 2012.
    And ghis there happened yesterday!ür-nazi-opfer-in-hamburg&Itemid=410
    A memorial event in Hamburg commemorating,among others, Polish forced labourers.There was a delegation from Poland,also several former forced labourers.They were seated in the first row. And their were attacked by a German neo-nazi with lacryminous gas,8 of them had to go to the hospital after.Germany, in the year of our Lord 2012.

  3. But,back to the article:
    Poland has a reputation for anti-Semitism in some quarters, and believes that this is because Poles do not know enough about Jewish culture.
    Our problem is also that Poles start to,not,rather,ARE MADE TO BELIEVE,that they are kind of more "anti-Semitic" or "racist" while,in reality (just ask foreigners or people of Jewish faith living in Poland) it is THE OTHER WAY ROUND. For the record-Germans,French&British know virtually NOTHING,ZERO AND NADA about Judaism.Apart from the circumscision thing,and of course ritual slaughter.Sorry for the caps-lock,but I was always thinking that I still know way too little about Judaism,it turned out, that I actually,compared to people in Western Europe know very,very much.Gosh, I even gave a lecture at my student club about Judaism...Ergo,its not about "knowledge" its about s.o having to pay for Nazi German crimes-
    ///About:Poles need to be introduced, as the article states, to a whole new world of tolerance.
    No,we do not need to be introduced to the fake,crony "tolerance" or rather, ideological relativism/laissez-faire of the glorious,self-indulgent West.Because,after all, "multiculturalism is a failure" (Cameron)
    ///positive stories about Poles and Jews
    Its not about reality,but about what is suiting certain people/groups.Right now,it would be awesome for Western Europe if Poland could just shut the hell up and become a provider of cheap labour,without a national identity,with a huge inferiority complex,eager to please "civilized countries" like f. Germany-irony intended- (along with the rest of the former Warsaw pact states).If you do not dance along,like for example Hungarys Orban,well, than you are considered a "populist" and attacked relentlessly (no problem,btw, as most newspapers are in Western European hands anyway). So, what could be done? Personally I believe we need a change of heart, the right people in the right place,a new constitution (like the Hungarian one, which is stressing national pride and pride in Hungarys contribution to European culture).We must regain our pride (not in a nationalistic way,just a patriotic one)-because there is much to be genuinly proud of as Poles.Also, to aid in this endevour-we must expose the blatant hypocrisy of other countries (like I did above) and debunk myths.It will be a hard way but there are people on our side (also foreigners sympathetic to Polish causes).You are one of them,Goska, plz do never give up :-)

  4. "Multiculturalism is a failure" - well thanks for quoting that well known expert on the issue David Cameron. How do you know it's a failure apart from quoting an "authority" like Cameron? All societies that depend on migration have to be multicultural and the one I live in, Australia, works pretty well. As does Canada. In fact, the person who developed the multicultural policy adopted here was a Pole, a sociologist called Jerzy Zubrycki. Not everything about multicultural societies works, clearly there are problems. However, angry ranting and raving such as yours doesn't provide any answers for anything.

    If you think Orban is anything but an opportunistic, nationalist ideologue you don't know what you're talking about, and if you want Poland to adopt a constitution such as the one Orban has overseen in Hungary then you are nothing but an authoritarian, anti-democrat because that constitution isn't democratic. Oh, sorry I forgot that you think PaTrIoTiSm ////? iS MoRe: &&&& is more important than democracy. I think you need help - get some

    1. Peter, I very much appreciate your contributions to the blog, and you always have a point to make. You know a lot and that's a good thing. You contribute our knowledge.

      I dislike your snideness, negativity, and ad hominem attacks. You often try to say something negative about the person to whom you are speaking and you lose me at that point.

      Example: "I think you need help - get some"

      That's just a pointlessly petty, nasty thing to say.

      I regret this not only because of this one post, but because of the overall tone of Polonian to Polonian discourse.

      People who choose to be snide and verbally abusive hurt any cultural advancement for Polonia.

  5. Hi Peter,
    long time no see- look, I know the failure connected to multiculturalism from my very own experiences. A part of my family is living in a major French city, in Loraine. I am visiting them every year,often several times. When I first came there, the quarter was pretty mixed-now, over 20 years later,my family is one of only several Christian-European families left-everyone else has left (if he/she could only effort it) a long time ago.The only people left are from Africa (no, I am not talking about Afro-French people here!) and Arabian countries. I am,of course, not blaming everyone from these countries (not even the whole of them alone) but several things have changed for the worse-the quarter has become much dirtier, I,as a women,do not feel exactely safe when I am confronted with groups of men (most of them unemployed) strolling aimlessly at night and treating me like a whore because I do not don a veil. Am I an islamophob? No. Are these people at fault? Partly. Most blame is, in my personal opinion, to be placed on a misguided ideology, called multiculturalism. It sounds nice (after all, people of all cultures mutually enriching each other-what could be greater?) but in reality leads to moral relativism (because treating every culture as morally equal is insanity-some "cultures" encompass f.e female genital mutilation, or marrying your first-grade cousin like in Pakistan-yet, these practices do very often NOT stop in host countries).People always want to belong to a group (f.e the immigrant wants to become a member of the host country, to participate in what is basically his/her own interest)-but, what if the host country does not constitute a defined group in which one could become a member? Because it has become "cosmopolitan"? In Poland, without gloryfing it over-the-top, during the Rzeczpospolita, political refugees from Inner Asia (the Tartars) came to Poland and were given citizenship. They did not assimilate a 100% (they retained their faith, Sunni Islam, f.e, build mosques,have names such as Salmanowicz) but they became Polish Tatars-with Polish Culture being the leading culture everyone was using as a positive benchmark.
    You are also writing: All societies that depend on migration have to be multicultural
    I do not agree.In Europe, Switzerland is dependent on migration but not multicultural-you are awarded firstly the citizenship of the Kanton (after around 10 years during which you have to proof that you are Swiss enought),afterwards Swiss citizenship.Swiss Culture is the leading culture and you are expected to adhere to it.And it works. In Britain, where you are allowed pass the test for your drivers license even in Urdu it does not.


  6. Also, Peter, I think that You should not compare Poland (or any European state,for that matter) to Australia- A country basically founded as a penal colony for crooks (no offence, I think thats pretty neat because it shows that people are not necessary determined by their past/ancestors) not that long ago.A country which is its own continent,a country of immigrants (what happened to the real ancestral culture of Australia? Thats another chapter). But even in Australia, there are tentions between different groups (there is a great book about how such tensions can arise- Amy Chuang "World on Fire").
    About Orban-you are writing: anti-democrat because that constitution isn't democratic.
    Very interesting-please explain WHY-I am not being sarcastic, but I have been hearing this a lot (mostly ,people just repeat what they are reading in "honest" "objective" newspapers.Please explain why it is "authoritarian...undemocratic". Personally, I dont believe marriage should be between men and women only and I dont think mentioning "life imprisonment for severe crimes" should be written in a constitution,also, I think abortion should be legal (although not laudable).This is my criticism of the Hungarian constitution-which I have read myself,have You?. Here is an example of what I really like in it:
    We are proud that our people has over the centuries defended Europe in a series of struggles and enriched Europe’s common values with its talent and diligence.

    The nationalities living with us form part of the Hungarian political community and are constituent parts of the State.
    Note: "Civilized" France does not support any minorities and has expulsed Romanian Gypsies, Germany is financially starving the Sorbs. Orban has proposed a program to substantially help the Gypsy minority to help themselves (through education and occupation).

    We commit to promoting and safeguarding our heritage, our unique language, Hungarian culture, the languages and cultures of nationalities living in Hungary,

    We believe that our national culture is a rich contribution to the diversity of European unity.
    Note: European unity?! Yes,you will not find this in ANY other constitution!

    We hold that human existence is based on human dignity.
    We hold that individual freedom can only be complete in cooperation with others.
    Note: "with others"? Sounds probably "fascist" to some -irony-

    We hold that we have a general duty to help the vulnerable and the poor.
    This is important as it allows to have communist perpetrators face justice at last, the foundation of every healthy society: We do not recognise the suspension of our historical constitution due to foreign occupations.
    We do not recognise the communist constitution of 1949, since it was the basis for tyrannical rule; therefore we proclaim it to be invalid.
    Your turn,Peter-please be as kind as to answer my question-why is this "anti-democratic"?

    1. I'd like to apologise for the tone of my response to your post Hanna. It was over the top and completely unnecessary. Best wishes.

  7. I am thinking of posting this in the comments section for the article:

    Thank you for your comments, Anna and Ema. I really do appreciate your taking the time.

    The expression "reconstructing attitudes" has a chilling Thoughtcrime ring, and to me that signalled that this would be a Politically Correct article. And my experience of PC, as a Polonian, has led me to expect that something nasty about Poles/Poland/Polonians would follow.

    And, depressingly, it did.

    And the patronising tone of the article... aaaaaarrrgghh

    Anyway, I think I had better take myself off and read Psalm 37 - and cool down. And on the silver lining side, this makes me more and more grateful for the perfect advice and the wonderful promise of a rescue contained in the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures.

    There is going to be such a different system of things on the earth when we are ruled over by the heavenly government - the "kingdom of priest and holy nation". Then the earth will be ruled by the law of loving-kindness.

    But I am wondering about whether to post it or not - Dr.G, Hanna, Peter, anyone? It is possible that the writer genuinely thinks he is being very positive.... and I am not out to make things worse. But its even more depressing if so, because of the de haut on bas attitude - ... anyway, does anyone have any thoughts,as I am in two minds about this?

    1. Post it, Sue. They should know the effect on some members of the public.

    2. Publish it Sue. They need to know.

  8. Thanks for the encouragement Peter, the comment is done and posted. Whether it will stay there I don't know, as i definitely made it a witness. If I can use these things as an opportunity to give a witness, then I end up feeling positive and full of hope.

    I did end the comment on a very positive note.

    Thanks to Otto Gross for spotting the article in the first place.

    It is extraordinary how all-pervasive the Bieganski/Bambi's Mother stereotype is.

  9. Your welcome Sue. I try and read a mix of newspapers online when I can to see what people are thinking and talking about.
    It also meant a lot to me because I have an old graveyard on my property and spent so much time cleaning it up and making it look nice.


  10. Hello Otto, Yes, I have always liked to read widely round the issues, left, right, centre, to try to get a balanced view. And how nice to know you are keeping up the old graveyard.

    I don't know what to think about forced convict labour though... its certainly better to be doing something constructive than banged up in a cell all day... as I said, I don't know what to think.

    Maybe I read Gone with Wind and Great Expectations too young?

    There are certain risks too. There was a scheme here to put some young people on a sort of workfare system, rather than just pay them unemployment to stay at home all day. And one Autumn, they were put to planting the spring bulbs in the local park. Which is all very nice and useful. But people can and do resent being used as cheap labour.

    Anyway, when those bulbs came up in the Spring, they spelled out something very rude indeed.

    If this convict labour is voluntary - genuinely - then its great they are doing something useful.

    But what do you think about the patronising tone of the article? I can't decide whether the author was deliberately setting out to annoy and make things worse, or whether it betrays a deep seam of unexamined prejudice.

    Either way it makes me grateful for Psalm 37.

    And of course, re graveyards, what I am looking forward to is the time when there will be no more need for them, when the dead will have been woken from the sleep of death to find themselves in the restored earthly Paradise, with life "to time indefinite" before them.

    Maybe then you will get some personal thanks from those whose graves you have been tending?


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.
This blog welcomes comments from readers that address those themes. Off-topic and anti-Semitic posts are likely to be deleted.
Your comment is more likely to be posted if:
Your comment includes a real first and last name.
Your comment uses Standard English spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Your comment uses I-statements rather than You-statements.
Your comment states a position based on facts, rather than on ad hominem material.
Your comment includes readily verifiable factual material, rather than speculation that veers wildly away from established facts.
T'he full meaning of your comment is clear to the comment moderator the first time he or she glances over it.
You comment is less likely to be posted if:
You do not include a first and last name.
Your comment is not in Standard English, with enough errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar to make the comment's meaning difficult to discern.
Your comment includes ad hominem statements, or You-statements.
You have previously posted, or attempted to post, in an inappropriate manner.
You keep repeating the same things over and over and over again.