Friday, November 23, 2012

Beata Chomatowska Commemorates the Jews of Muranow and a Disgruntled Pole Complains

Photo: Adam Galica. Source
NBC news just published "The Ghosts of Muranow: A Journalist's Mission to Illuminate Poland's Haunted Past," by Donald Snyder. Snyder's article records Polish journalist Beata Chomatowska's efforts to bring attention to Jews who were murdered in Muranow by the Nazis. Muranow is a district of Warsaw.

The full article is linked, below.

There are comments below the article.

One of those commenting wrote:

"Yes, it is nice to remember history, but not to falsify it. The woman remembers Jewish history, but not Polish history which I know a lot better than she.

I lived only a block from there and have seen the destruction myself. I lived through German occupation, the bombings, the extermination of Polish population by the Germans and then the Soviet under Jewish leadership of Jakub Berman.

'Communist rulers.... purposely erased its Jewish history ' what b.s. ! The Communist rulers were Jews sent by Stalin who were too busy exterminating Polish patriots who fought Germans and who were being hunted down like dogs by the Jewish Communist mafia with Stalin's blessing.

This women so concerned with Jewish propaganda forgets the suffering of her own people (if she is Polish at all ) that she has no clue what actually happened.

I find this article disgusting because I have seen the suffering first hand and remember freezing and being hungry within 500 ft. of the picture. The Jewish whining about being victims and forgetting their part in bloody extermination of Poles is beyond my comprehention [sic]. All this Jewish propaganda is to try to justify killings of Palestinians, for which there is no excuse. One crime does not justify another."

My response to this person.

If you want people to remember Polish history, you have to do what Ms. Chomatowska and others are doing to educate people about Jewish history.

You have to read books, buy books, and get books on syllabi. You have to unite with your fellows, organize, and act strategically. In short, you have to do this.

The world is tired of Poles who do not get their own story out there, or support those who do so, but who do manage to sit on the sidelines, complaining bitterly, when others tell their story publicly. The person who posted the above message is like the dog in the manger. He isn't doing the work necessary to commemorate his own history. He spitefully rants against those who commemorate a history he does not value as part of his own. By his anti-Semitism, he shames his own history.

Link to the Donald Snyder's article about Beata Chomatowska commemorating the murdered Jews of Muranow is here.

Thank you to Otto Gross for sending this in. One of Otto's previous blog contributions can be read here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bieganski on The Big Bang Theory

Still photo from the television show, "The Big Bang Theory." 

Bieganski made an appearance on a television comedy show entitled "The Big Bang Theory." A joke depended on the Bieganski stereotype. Thanks to Otto Gross for sending this in.

Below are excerpts from an online site "explaining" the joke, and the Bieganski stereotype.

Begin excerpts from online site:

A viewer asked: "so when Bernadette said that her ancestors and Howards ancestors were neighbors in Poland is the assumption that they were on opposite sides? Or that both were persecuted? Or something else I am clueless about?"

[A Polish character is] extremely right wing and has some anti-semitic tendencies

Persecution of Jews was endemic in Poland - Bernadette's ancestors would have ignored the persecution or participated in it.

An unspecified pogrom or two. It's all the explanation the joke really needs.

End of excerpts.

I've repeatedly said here on the blog that Polonians need to respond to the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype by uniting, supporting each other, organizing, and acting strategically. A three-part blog post on the Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization and Vision outlines this plan of action.

So far no Polonians have taken up this challenge. Most Polonians do nothing. Some write individual leaders to those they perceive as being responsible for our problems. One such person wrote a letter to a website devoted to "The Big Bang Theory." That letter is copied and pasted below. Believe me, this letter will do nothing to lessen the power of the Brute Polak stereotype.

Full text of a letter written to a website devoted to "The Big Bang Theory:"


You know why there was so many jews in Poland prior to war? No? It's beacuse poles were the most tolerant people in whole Europe. When in all over the continent jews were attacked by angry mobs, they fled to Poland, only sanctuary they had for almost 8 or 9 centuries. Poland was the first country to resist Nazi Germany and only one ever invaded both by III Reich and Soviet Union and what we get? The same crap that we are responsible for holocaust.

FUCK YOU TBBT. You have one fan less to worry about.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Bohunk in the Ivory Tower, Continued

Sarah el Yafi. Facebook

Polonians, including Polish-Americans, often complain about distortions of Polish history and stereotyping of Poles. Polonians have not yet organized to change these distortions and negative stereotyping. A three-part blog post, "The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision," offers a roadmap. Polonians can end the "Bieganski, Brute Polak Stereotype." All that is needed is the will.

One of the steps Polonians will have to take once they decide to take action against the Bieganski stereotype: Polonians will have to decide to support their own scholars.

Fund scholarships and fellowships for students working against the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype.

Organize to socially support Bohunk scholars in the same way that African Americans support African American scholars, Jewish Americans support Jewish scholars, gay rights groups support gay scholars, etc. More on this in the first "Bohunk in the Ivory Tower" blog post.

Employ scholars who have contributed to the fight against the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype.

Make sure that books like "Bieganski" and "The Auschwitz Volunteer" and films like "General Nil" and "Man of Marble" are on syllabi.

Mount effective protest against the use of books like "Maus" to teach the Holocaust.


Many who do not spend time on campuses assume that campuses are places where the objective truth is valued, and where those who discover and speak the objective truth are rewarded.

That is not the case. Politics fashions what can and cannot be said on college campuses. Current politics do not allow the elimination of the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype. Rather, they create an environment where that stereotype is necessary to support popular historical revision. Two recent events illustrate this.

According to a youtube video, on October 25, 2012, Grover Furr, a Montclair University professor, to applause, publicly denied atrocities committed by Communists, including Joseph Stalin. That video is visible here.

On November 9, the Jerusalem Post reported that Harvard student Sara el-Yafi protested Harvard's identifying couscous and hummus as Israeli foods in a food court devoted to Israeli foods. Israelis do eat both couscous and hummus. Harvard never identified the foods as exclusively Israeli. Harvard never identified Jews as the inventors of couscous or hummus. Harvard just set up a food court that offered Israeli food and included couscous and hummus, as, indeed, both foods are frequently eaten by Israelis.

Here's the amazing part of this story – Harvard actually publicly apologized for identifying couscous and hummus as Israeli foods. Harvard did not want to offend Arabs.

Remember – a comic book that depicts Poles as pigs is used to teach the Holocaust to young people. That's okay. But offering couscous and hummus on an Israel-themed menu requires a public apology from Harvard to Arabs.

Polonia, if you want to change the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype, you must organize, support each other, and act strategically. You exercise zero influence right now. Hummus is a bigger issue to American colleges than the complete historical rewrites that the Bieganski stereotype facilitates.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Polandball: The Bieganski Internet Meme. A Guest Blog Post

There is a particularly influential form of the Bieganski stereotype, and it is among the youth on the internet. It is known as Polandball. They are comics featuring small talking spherical entities that represent nations and peaked on the internet around 2010, although comics are still being created. While there are comics featuring all nations, it started as a satire of Polish internet users from a British perspective. There is a Facebook group about Polandball. I invite you to Google this internet meme and see for yourself.

At a fundamental level these comics dishearten me. Many of them are the same chauvinist mockery of everything Polish, yet are dressed up and presumably treated as intelligent, necessary satire. As 'wit'. My reaction is conflicted to this; I have been taught to laugh at these things, and in many cases I do, as "Poles are too defensive and think they are victims." We should just laugh at the Polack jokes and shut up, right?

But I still see underneath these comics the same old Bieganski: nothing witty or clever, or satirical, but simply the same old reinforcement of prejudice from ages past, a celebration of mockery of the other in cartoon form, an absurdist endorsement of the same old gray status quo, the ritual humiliation and dehumanization of the Bohunk. A reactionary distortion of satire: instead of the marginalized and embattled skewering the elite, here the elite skewers the marginalized and laughs. Can that really be called satire?

I find amazing the meme of Polandball. It's more or less a meme for the internet to project their complexes and fantasies into Europe's most politically correct effigy: Poles. This would have never been tolerated by the masses on the internet if it were any other number of countries: There would never have been a Africaball, Israelball or Mexicanball meme on the level and acceptance that Polandball has become.

I can't be offended by this, not just because I'm American and just have Polish heritage but I find alien the whole mindset of those people who enjoy cranking out these comics. Not the fairly clever ones, but the blatantly provoking ones. This schadenfreude must be a sweet indulgence because kids know they can get away with it. The imageboards would have only taken so much tolerance if this had been Niggerball, Spicball or Kikeball; though it wouldn't be as taboo as posting child porn, it would have ended up fairly close.

It reveals attitudes of UK economic chauvinism and a post-Cold-War ignorance of world affairs. It's supposedly justified by Poles' alleged kneejerk nationalism. I don't deny that exists; I've seen it plenty of times, but it has become a convenient scapegoat of sorts, as though the Poles are on some completely exceptional level when it comes to that sentiment.

Overall the whole meme provides the paradox of giving the user a feeling of politically incorrect rebelliousness – "Stick it to those foreign fuckers!" – while at the same time, as far as mainstream media is concerned, being perfectly politically correct; Poles are considered to be classified under the clumsy Anglo social construct known as "white," but they also "Eastern," so not exactly on the highest tier of "white," so at once they have the cultural stigma of both being depicted as alien, foreign and unwelcome yet not exotic or different enough to be taken seriously if they get offended by the way they're depicted.

I can't feel anything other than constant morbid curiosity and guilt about the whole thing. Guilt because I "ought to be offended" but I feel like it's some kind of karmic crime, too. It seems that something meant to sting and humiliate only seems to inspire me in many ways to understand the thought processes of these people that spread the meme.

Your book "Bieganski" connected with me on a profound level as it explained and made lucid a nameless dilemma that has lurked in my mind my entire life. It is eye-opening to deconstruct a lie that I see all around me culturally, one that is corrupt at the core.

The author of this blog post has chosen to remain anonymous. He has submitted the following examples of Polandball:

Poland isn't always the butt of the joke, though, the guest blogger reports:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Exculpating Germany *During* World War II (!): Bosley Crowther on "The Seventh Cross"

Bosley Crowther

Thanks to the inadequacy of President Barack Obama, Governor Chris Christie, and Mayor Jeff Jones, Paterson, New Jersey's third largest city, and one of the nation's most historic, has left a good number of its citizens without power for the sixth day.

We are cold, we are hungry, and we are worried.

And I've been unable to blog in that time.

But I have been thinking about Polish-Jewish relations.

And I came here to a public library that actually has power to share some thoughts.


Readers of "Bieganski" will fully understand the significance of the below-quoted Bosley Crowther, New York Times film review of 1944's "The Seventh Cross."

"Bieganski" describes how guilt for the Holocaust, which properly belongs to German Nazis, is often displaced onto, not just individual Poles, but onto a posited Polish archetype, the Brute Polak.

At the same time, German Nazis can be depicted as sexy. And German Nazis can be exculpated for their guilt through a variety of rhetorical strategies. The chapters on Bieganski in the Mainstream Press and The Necessity of Bieganski talk most directly about the process of exculpating Germans and/or Nazis, and implicating Poles qua Poles, and the clever rhetorical strategies that make all that ethical legerdemain viable.

One previous blog post talks about part of this process in a review of a film, "Decision before Dawn."

While camping out in my dark and cold post-Hurricane Sandy apartment, and reading through my massive clip file on Polish-Jewish relations, I came across Bosley Crowther's review of "The Seventh Cross." Crowther was the New York Times' film critic for twenty-seven years. He had influence, and he reflected the opinions of those who have influence.

"The Seventh Cross" is a grim, black-and-white Hollywood film that attempts to present to American audiences the horrors of the Holocaust.

That this film tries to do that work is admirable. As my own essay on "Hollywood and the Holocaust" reports, too few took up that work.

What I find fascinating about Crowther's review is his immediate and emphatic emphasis, in September of 1944, on NOT blaming or stereotyping Germans.

Think about it.

September, 1944.

By that point, the Holocaust was all but over. The Lodz Ghetto was liquidated in August, 1944. It was the last ghetto in Poland. The gas chambers of Auschwitz murdered their last victims in October, 1944.

Paris had been liberated. The Battle of the Bulge was in full swing. Allies were advancing east. Soviets were advancing west.

It's remarkable that given those world events, American elites were already pressing against any stereotyping of Germans, were, rather, urging Americans to show "tolerance" to Germans. To see how very differently Poles have been treated, please read "Bieganski."

Excerpts from Bosley Crowther's September 29, 1944, review of "The Seventh Cross."

"'Seventh Cross,' Anti-Nazi Drama, With Spencer Tracy, at Capitol Theater

By Bosley Crowther

It was Edmund Burke, the British statesman, who said many, many years ago that he knew of no way of drawing an indictment against a whole people. (The people to whom he then had reference, of course, were the American colonists.) And it is in this same spirit of tolerance that the modern German people are viewed in Metro's absorbing screen version of Anna Seghers' powerful novel, 'The Seventh Cross.' Without in the least overlooking the bestiality of Nazi brutes nor the miserable self-surrender of German citizens to their black regime, this film, which came yesterday to the Capitol, visions a burning zeal for freedom in some German rebels and a core of decency in many simple folk.

True, the German people which it pictures are not supposed to be those of today. They are specifically shown as German people reacting to a crisis in 1936. And presumably most of the rebels and daring burghers of that day are now dead. But the basic theme, by implication, holds today just as much as it held then. It is that in men—even in Germans—there is an instinct for good that cannot be destroyed.

If you will accept this premise, despite the evidence of recent deeds, then you should be both moved and shaken by the better part of this film. For it tells a truly hair-raising story of a German anti-Nazi who escapes from a concentration camp and runs a gamut of terrible trials in his attempt to flee the land. He sees the men who broke out with him killed or captured, one by one; he feels the blank despair and disillusion which comes from finding loved ones false to him. He knows the primitive terror of an animal ruthlessly hunted down, and he gropes in constant dread and suspicion, like a pitiful creature at bay.

All of these torturing emotions are sharply conveyed through the film, as are the more tensile anxieties of the hero when he finds himself with friends. For the most trying part of his experience—and the most touching impact of the theme—comes with the perilous endeavors of these little people to give him aid. The human response of an old pal, now a comfortably settled family man, to the plight of the anti-Nazi outcast is a fine, ennobling portion of the film.

Credit Fred Zinnemann, the director, and Karl Freund, the camera man, for much of the crackling tension and hard-packed realism that prevails. And credit Helen Deutsch for adapting Frau Seghers' novel with all its monstrousness intact. Except for a wholly meretricious romantic interlude provided for the fugitive at the finish, the whole thing rings stunningly true.

Spencer Tracy gives a splendid performance as the tortured and anguished hunted man—a performance sharply reminiscent of that which he gave in 'Fury.' Hume Cronyn is splendidly bourgeois as the old pal who helps him out, and Jessica Tandy is emotionally devastating as the latter's courageous wife. Other good performances are given in lesser roles by Herbert Rudley, Paul Guilfoyle and Signe Hasso, even though that of the last named is a senseless one at best

The big reservation which this writer holds with regard to this film is that concerning the discretion of its theme at this particular time. Without any question, it creates a human sympathy for the people of a nation with whom we are at war and it tends, as have some others, to load Germany's national crime on Nazi backs. Obviously this picture can make sentiment for a 'soft' peace. It looks as though we are getting a dandy 'thriller' at a pretty high price.'"