Friday, January 4, 2013

Poles Depicted as Subhuman; "The Wall Speaks."

Man with a Hoe. Jean Francois Millet Source: Wikipedia 

Anna Walters, an undergraduate student of history at the University of Florida, wrote to me to ask for help with a project she is working on. She is working with artist Wojtek Sawa to bring to her campus his installation, which presents the oral histories of survivors of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising in an interactive multi-media exhibit. The name of the project is "The Wall Speaks."

Anna wrote that part of the project would be to display bricks imprinted on one side with examples of Polish people being put into the role of "untermensch" – less than fully human. The other side of the bricks will be blank in order for visitors to write down their own experiences of being treated as inferior The bricks will be inscribed with quotes from German, Russian, British and American directives which portrayed Poles as "untermenschen."

Anna offered this example: Himmler's May 1940 directive regarding the education of Poles. "The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one's name; and the doctrine that it is divine law to obey the Germans … I do not think that reading is desirable".

It was very easy to find quotes to send Anna. The only problem was selecting which among many such quotes to send. A quick skim of Bieganski, the Brute Polak offered the following:

From Tenessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire."

"He acts like an animal, has an animal's habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There's even something – subhuman – something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I've seen in anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is – Stanley Kowalski – survivor of the Stone Age!"

From "Two Glimpses of the New England Pole" by Harry Shipman Brown

"Under the full glare of a cruel sun, a Pole and his wife. In a dilapidated baby carriage straight from the junk heap, a tiny baby, crying drearily. In their bare feet and scant clad limbs and bodies, labor the man and woman on their knees, weeding those never-ending rows of onions. Animals, they work under the sun and in the dirt; with stolid, stupid faces."

From Senator Henry Cabot Lodge:

"Russians, Hungarians, Poles, Bohemians," threaten a "great and perilous change in the very fabric of our race"

Kenneth Roberts in the Saturday Evening Post

"For the most part they are dirty people, and the stench that rises from them is strong enough to be used as a substitute for gasoline. The workers in the [American] consulate frequently become ill from the odor ... they sleep in wretched hovels with sheep and cows and pigs and poultry scattered among them."

Harvard and Yale Professor Robert M Yerkes, founder of the Yerkes Primate Research Center:

"Of natives of England serving in the United States Army only 8.7 percent graded D or lower in intelligence; of natives of Poland, 69.9 percent. In the English group, 19.7 percent graded A or B, and in the Polish group, one half of one percent."

Edward Kirk Titus "The Pole in the Land of the Puritan":

"Alien in thought, grotesque in manner of life ... slow to learn even simple English, unable to express in our tongue any abstract ideas; one can only conjecture his inner life and mental attitude. His part in the drama of conflicting races has thus a silent, pantomimic effect. It is not lacking in sinister suggestion ... expressionless Slavic faces ... looked as if flattened against a board at birth ... stunted figures ... bespoke grinding toil"

I am always saddened when I come across Poles and Polonians who repeat falsehoods and misconceptions about stereotyping of Poles. These are often folks who have not read "Bieganski." Without knowledge, they become convinced that stereotyping of Poles is a Jewish, post-Holocaust phenomenon.

Neither belief is true. The Brute Polak stereotype is not a Jewish product, and the sooner Polonia puts that canard to rest, the better. And it did not originate after World War II. The quotes, above, are not in reference to WW II, and most originate before it.

Polonia, if you want to know about the Brute Polak stereotype, please read "Bieganski."


  1. Amazed! Isn't this an extraordinarily unPC project for Academe?

  2. The idea that Eastern Europe, and especially Poland, were all the things we associate with the Bieganski stereotype, is, like you imply Danusha, much older than WWII and it was not a Jewish invention.
    It began much sooner than that, perhaps as early as the 17th or 18th centuries.

    But still, I can not fully grasp what makes people from the West, still today, think that they are superior culturally, intellectually and socially to Poles? For me, its racism, pure and simple.

  3. This is an excerpt from a post received in 2012 from my Missouri Gen Web List St. Francois County the locale for the 1917 Lead Belt Riot in response to my posting about my ancestors in response to another post I will decline to copy here:

    But Bieganski is alive and well! have no doubt.

    Christina Pacosz

    Post by a member of genweb list follows:

    They therefore imported low class, Non educated, dregs out of Eastern Europe
    o put the AMERICAN worker out of their jobs.? IN ADDITION, these dregs brought
    ith them ALL kinds of diseases!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!? That INCLUDED the
    readed SMALLPOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. As the grandchild of Polish peasant immigrants who came to the US in the early 1900s, I know that both my grandparents had had limited access to education, perhaps due to the occupying governments during the partitions. Remember serfdom only ended in Russia in 1861. It ended in Prussia in 1807 and Austria and Hungary about 1850. Poland did not exist from the late 1700s until 1918 and was occupied by these other countries.
    Nevertheless, after overcoming the language barrier, both had successful businesses. My grandmother even had enough mathematical ability to rapidly catch on and help my father with college calculus. The next generation went as far as college and some graduate degrees, and my generation has many who have doctorates.

  5. Doesn't the fact that Poles blames "the Jews" for Polish stereotyping CONTRIBUTE to the stereotype of Poles as dumb savages?


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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