Thursday, January 17, 2013

UC Berkeley Professor John Connelly Responds. Polonia Must "Read;" Stereotypes Are Not a Problem; Stop Being So "Riled Up."

Recognize yourself, Polonia? Are you all "riled up?" Have you done your reading?
Why should a scholar waste time talking to you? 

In a previous blog post, I reviewed Halik Kochanski's "The Eagle Unbowed."

I mentioned UC Berkeley Professor John Connelly's review of "The Eagle Unbowed" in "The Nation."

Subsequent blog reader comments mentioned John Connelly's review of "The Eagle Unbowed," as well. Those blog reader comments are visible beneath the review, linked below.

John Connelly's review came up in a subsequent guest blog post, also linked below.

I believe in dialogue. Dialogue is important. If I want my voice to be heard, it is only fair that I hear others' voices. Also, given how highly volatile Polish-Jewish relations is, it is important that each side hear the other, and not overreact. There is great potential for misunderstanding. We must strive to hear each other fully.

Given that Prof. Connelly's review was mentioned on the blog so frequently, by myself and others, I sent him an email inviting him to interact with concerned readers here. Here's what I wrote:

"I would really love it if you would drop by and respond. My blog readers are for the most part serious and concerned people. One is a published novelist who has published books about WW II, and will publish more in 2013, one is a Polish professor, living in Poland, one is the child of a WW II veteran, etc."

Prof. Connelly declined. I received his emails ten days ago and I delayed responding to them or mentioning them here. I delayed because I became upset when I read his emails. I wanted to give it time, to see if I was misinterpreting what he wrote.

I've given it time, and reread his emails, and they still upset me.

Prof. Connelly told me that it would not be worth his time to interact with a group of "riled up" people who "haven't done the reading." "The issue is not stereotypes." "You really have to do the reading." "I don't see a purpose in engaging critics of my review." "Those interested in the subject should read the basic literature and then we could have a conversation. I get requests from students all the time for opinions on matters from the past, but always refuse if the student has not first done some requisite reading." "I just cannot spend precious time going (sic) through that blog of yours and correct all the misconcpetions (sic)."

There you have it, blog readers. You have not done the reading. There is nothing about stereotypes here. Your words reveal your many misconceptions. And stop being so riled up.

Polonia is losing the war on the Brute Polak stereotype because Polonia is fighting it incorrectly. This response from John Connelly is acceptable because Polonia has failed to do exactly what Linda C Wisniewski tells Polonia to do in her guest blog post. Chauvinist Polonians insist that the Brute Polak stereotype is just about "Poland's good name." It is not. It is about the universal struggle for human rights and human dignity.

Polonia has not communicated that, and so a UC Berkeley professor can decide that anyone who argues that Poles are not essential brutes is a brute him or herself, someone who does not read, someone who is laughably or frighteningly "riled up" – worthy of being smeared, but not worthy of interaction.

The initial blog post that mentions John Connelly is here.
The subsequent blog post that mentions John Connelly is here.
Blog reader comments are found beneath each blog post.
Prof. Connelly's UC Berkeley webpage is here.

PS: I was a grad student at UC Berkeley. On that campus, years ago, one of my fellow grad students, Nick Schoen, told me I could not be Polish because I *do* read. 


  1. I did have a brief email correspondence with Dr.Connelly - friendly and polite (at least I hope he would have found it so).

    He did acknowledge that my question about what would or could be embarrassing to disclose to Allied Powers who had (and have) no problem with what the Stalinist regime in Russia had done was a reasonable one.

    He didn't really answer it though.

    His review did acknowledge some of the horrors all Poles were going through at the time, and of course I realise that he has to work within the rules of Political Correctness set by American Academe.

    Yet perhaps no-one has done more reading round this subject than you Danusha, so he could safely talk to you under his own rules. I admittedly have not yet plucked up the courage to read "The Eagle Unbowed", but I hope I will.

    If Dr.Connelly had joined in the conversation here, I would have liked to ask him why he feels that stereotyping is not the issue. And to illustrate why I think it is, I would ask him this: If a proposed textbook for use in his department depicted, say, Mexicans, the Chinese, or African-Americans, as pigs/swine, would he find it acceptable?

    I hope I can assume he would not, any more than any of us would. Why, therefore, is "Maus" acceptable, and lauded and applauded?

    Isn't it because of what Danusha defines as the "Bieganski stereotype"? Isn't it is used to signal that we are "unter", and can safely be insulted?

    I have read "Maus" by the way.

  2. Considering all the groups that frequently complain about the way they are treated, I wonder if John Connelly would also characterize them as "riled up".

    Ditto for those who consider themselves stereotyped. Also, would Connelly consider it an accident that his portrayal of Poles is so similar to those who attack Poland?

    Finally, those who have criticized Connelly surely have read what he had to say about Poles and Poland.

  3. Oh, you two, stop being so riled up. And go read something for heaven's sake.

    [/sarcasm off]

    Jan Peczkis, I disagree with you about many things, but for heaven's sake, you have 1,688 reviews on Amazon.

    You Have Read.

  4. I am sorry, but I could care less what a UC Berkeley professor says or if he describes me as a riled up Polish man. His judgements mean nothing to me, since 1) I do read, a lot and 2) I am a published writer, with four, soon five, books published. Four of them in one of Swedens finest and biggets publishing houses.

    I can give the professor right on one thing: I do not write about Polish history to defend its "good name" since that would be absurd. No country has any "good name" to defend. I write about Polish experiences during WWII beacuse I want to educate people and force them, if they want to judge Polish behavior, than at least they can do a well-educated judgmeant and not one that smells of racism or anti-Polish smears.

    We can not change history, we can only try to change the present and we can work for a better future. History is fixed, carved in stone, trying to remould it for political or any reasons is pathetic.

    Thats what I do, I read books and look for anti-Polish writing in them, since thats moulding of history for certain reasons, political, emotional and in fact, racial. These kind of writings has nothing to do with the objective study of historical events.


    1. Artur maybe you'd like to do a guest blog post talking about your books.

  5. So a book about Poland and Poles, once again has to be about Jews? That is the essence of this review. (But surely, the blog author was aware the review was in the Nation? Not exactly a normal paper).

    The whole discussion about the why didn't P save more J is tinged with racism - of course, the Bieganski stereotype was prevalent before the war (indeed even hundreds of years before). Is Messr. Connelly not aware of that? Was he also not aware that Poles were in fact aware themselves of how they were perceived? Why would a farmer risk his life for someone - a stranger - who was, likely, to think him as much an untermensch as the German would (if not expressing such feelings through explicit violence - at least so long as not wearing a hat with a red star on it)?

    Although this discussion is couched in terms of "we are all human after all", it reeks of another sentiment.

    In some ways, the whole argument is one of frustration - how many great people/how much potential was eradicated - all true - but the underlying feeling is a much darker one - one that is implied, if not spoken out loud - one which, if vocalized, would ask, surely the lives of these peasants were as nothing compared to the lives they would have been saving?

    The demand for doing more by the Poles then simply becomes a demand to sacrifice a simple peasant life for a more sophisticated, valuable, more human one.

    If a Pole helps then a Jew may or may not survive but if a Pole does not help then a Jew will not survive. Clearly, any sophisticated calculus sets the first option as better - assuming you discount the value of a Pole (and his family) surviving to close to zero.

    The frustration, of course, is that the Poles by failing to act, also failed to understand that. This failure is often, presented, as proof of Polish stupidity. This is false, however. The real frustration is a frustration that the Poles did not prove as stupid and doltish as was demanded of them.

    1. Not so long time ago a book about polish airmen was published ("Question of honor" if I remember correctly). And guess what? Some wise guy wrote a review in which he criticized book's authors. Let me quote: " In addition, this retelling of the Polish national saga has some rather peculiar aspects. The emphasis is on non-Jewish Poles; references to anti-Semitism or the Holocaust are minimal."
      I wonder, what role have those polish airmen played in the Holocaust?

    2. Lukasz, that is so perfect. I'm going to have to devote a blog entry to it if I get around to it.

    3. Full text of that review is below. There are also responds from book's authors and Mr. Bartoszewski.

    4. Dear Henryk, You wrote:

      The demand for doing more by the Poles then simply becomes a demand to sacrifice a simple peasant life for a more sophisticated, valuable, more human one.

      I too have thought about it the exact same way-thank You for voicing you opinion!

      Its horrible, but I think it is true. Let me rephrase it more sardonically: How could the Polacks be so selfish and not risk their worthless lives for such great, saintly people as the Jews?!

      This is wrong on several accounts, two of them being that a. everyone cares about his family in the first place.Always.Everywhere.Period. One must have reached, in my opinion, a very high level of complex stupidity do demand that from anyone.

      2. Jews are humans. They are as good or as bad as me or you. Ask Youself- Yould You risk Your life and the life of Your family in order to save s.o who is an anti-Polish hater? Who thinks You are below him? Probably not.Not because this person belongs to the Jewish faith, but because he/she is a hater.

      I think its even worse- by now, just mentioning that Slavs were also victims of the Holocaust (alongside Jewish people, Gypsies, ect) is "anti-Semitism" because it "diminished the singularity of the Holocaust". I am not making this up! To put it in different terms- The life of a Slavic child that received a poisonous shot right into the heart by a Nazi German "doctor" (f.e see the deportation of Polish children from Zamosc) is de facto less worth, and definitively not worth remembering, than the death of a Jewish child. This is why we Poles must stand up and speak in clear terms about the "Nazi-German genocide of Poles", about Poles being the first victims, about Slavs and Gypsies being planned for annihilation. We also need to speak up about the evils fo communism, speak up about Polish heroism. Im doing that as much as possible-I dont mind being non-PC, which is nothing more than hypocrisy in my eyes.Everyone, I believe, can chip in his effort :-)

    5. Amen to that, Hanna. Well said.

      You wrote: "Let me rephrase it more sardonically: How could the Polacks be so selfish and not risk their worthless lives for such great, saintly people as the Jews?!"

      Essentially the same thinking is exemplified by he likes of Jan Blonski, Michael Steinlauf, and Jan T. Gross. Poles are supposed to be uniquely and permanently traumatized for having witnessed the sufferings of the Jews. What does this say about the nonexistence or unimportance of Poles and THEIR suffering?

      Such thinking leads to Poles being "guilty by observation" of the Holocaust. For more on all this, please see my review of Steinlauf's book. The review can be accessed by clicking on my name in this specific posting.

  6. I love the quote about not wanting to waste his "precious time" - what's he doing? working on the supercollider (or grading term papers/mowing the lawn)?

  7. You are too literal Danusha - he does not mean these people have not "read" - he means they have not "understood" - further lending credence to the stereotype (which stereotype, of course, does not exist...)

  8. Professor Connelly once wrote a partial defense of "Poles" in response to a Klaus Peter Friedrich article besmirching the same.

    Perhaps his latest commentary is less about history than about penance - his Gibsonian Maccabes production.

    A recent review of the same by Norman Davies was more positive (see New York Review of Books). Of course, Davies threw some low level punches at PiS and the Kaczynskis, apparently as part of his own penance, perhaps for earlier sins - like embarassing Stanford's history department (especially the notorious Katz) with disclosures of their virulent anti-polonism.

    1. A Piskorski can you provide us with a link to the text or where we can find it. Thank you.

    2. I think the double standards of American-Academe are pretty blatant - citing the book "Maus" for example - and therefore impossible to defend rationally. So I can see the temptation to side-step the issues. And, if it can be established that we are all as thick as two short planks, then obviously we can't possibly understand the issues involved,and there could be no point discussing them with us.

      Sadly, the issues seem only too clear. They are not, as Basil Fawlty would probably say, a proposition for Wittgenstein.

      What to do? As you know, I can't tell you how beneficial it is, how wonderful it is, to follow in Jesus' footsteps and try to be "no part" of the world and its wisdom.

      I did manage a small witness to Professor Connelly when I wrote to him, putting my point of view about this. I can let it rest now, though would have been very happy to talk to him here.

      And no, following the advice of Psalm 37, I am not "riled up".

      There is no need to be. Jehovah promises that this current system of things on the earth, and its "wisdom", will soon be gone for good. And have any of His promises ever failed?

      Think of that amazing Seventy Weeks prophecy in Daniel, for example, which not only told the Jews the exact year the Messiah would appear, but told them what would happen next.

    3. Sue, Prof. Connelly wrote me late last night to tell me that he thinks that you are brilliant. :-)

    4. Danusha, I am speechless - well nearly. Did he really say that?! Of course, what I am hoping is that it is Jehovah's word he is finding brilliant, as I wrote to him through the filter of the Inspired Scriptures, hoping to give a small witness. Maybe he will email me again one day.

    5. Klaus Peter Friedrich- this guy is a German- could You provide me with a link with regards to Poland? Thx in advance!

    6. Hello Hanno,
      I think this will interest You. Link below.

    7. oO! The National Democrats had hoped that the Germans would solve the Jewish Question"- Must be the reason why Jan Mosdorf, founder of the National-Radical Camp (ONR) was so "eager to help" (=refused and was murdered in Auschitz). Also, the emphasis on xenophobia and nationalism. He also mentions "Geschichtspolitik". The Germans are in fact extremely successful at that-see how "nazis" become muddy, not distinctely German, while as Polish collaborators are as Polish as Obamas Polish death camps. Also his suggestion that "Jews" and "Ukrainians" were excluded from the future Polish state-where as this might have been the position of some extreme fringe, lets not forget all those Jewish Poles who fought even within the ranks of the right-wing Narodowe Sily Zbrojne. Interestingly, the German atrocities against Polish helpers is significantly downplayed.

      Note- He is German, this is GERMAN "Geschichtspoltik", powered by German wealth. The goal is to spread the blame, the faster the better.Germany wants to be a "normal" country again. That would include participating in wars. This time because of Auschwitz, not in spite of it.

      Note 2- This conference took place in JERUSALEM. Way to go-the Israelis dont, apparently, mind to have Poland smeared. Germany has become a more valuable ally,after all, and Israeli Hipster just love Berlin. I dont blame the Germans-its human. But we Poles need to stand up for our great history-now!

  9. I posted what I'd sent to Prof. Connelly -- I told him -- you can see that blog readers include PhDs, published writers, children of Polish war veterans, etc.

    And he compares us to his "students" who have not done "requisite reading" and who, therefore, are not worth his "precious time."

    Please note that Brian Porter and Antony Polonsky are very busy men, and high profile scholars in this field, and they have both contributed to the blog in respectful and informative ways.

  10. To Connelly: Dear Mr. Connelly- I am appalled that You are sending f.e Mr. Peczkis, who has definitively done more than his “reading”, to get educated in this subject- Why are You so sure that we, the posters here, did not do “our reading”? I am a Polonian who actually had the opportunity to ask older people in Poland what it was like back than-the black-and-white picture You are teaching to your students is more than just wrong-it’s a an ugly lie. Ask Yourself-if two groups of people are living anywhere side-by-side, be it ethnical groups or, like in this case, religious groups-Christian and Jews-isnt it completely human that some problems might arise sometimes? They always will (see f.e Latinos in the US)-and accusing one group of inherited, plain, spontaneous hatred is really childish I believe. D.V. Goska has, in my opinion, written a book that (especially when read together with World on Fire) could enlighten students more than 5 standard courses ever could. It made me realize, that just accusing f.e the Poles of “anti-Semitism” does not explain anything,not at all, worse, it makes us blind to the real reasons and solutions of strives. Let me give You an example- If Poles were just maniacally anti-Semitic when some of them were smashing windows of Jewish-owned shops during the 20s-are the Italians, who last year in Milano did the very same thing to Chinese-owned stores, are they “anti-Sinicists”? Or the Israelis, who last year did the same to African-owned shops “racists”? Or was the reason for these events different? F.e economical reasons? If so-perhaps one could lessen the tensions in a way that will serve every group? To perpetuate such a misconception like “rabid Polish anti-Semitism”,probably caused by “Polish Catholicism” breeds anti-Polish sentiments (=new racism) and solves nothing. I personally believe that this is what academia should be about-it should enrich our lives and foster our understanding of the world. So, Mr. Connelly, why don’t You want to talk to us? Because we have come to other conclusions than You did? If so- the more should You be interested in a conversation with people having a different opinion than You! At least-this is what, I believe, academia should be. Then again, I remember having once been lectured by an American, who, I swear, did speak not a single word Polish, did not really know anything about Poland, on Polish history-I mean-he had a degree from a prestigious university, so probably my command of the Polish language, me being steeped in Polish culture and tradition and my knowledge of actual Polish history did not account for much. This makes me wonder- American academia-is is more about tenure and giving self-esteem to the students than making them open-minded persons? I do wonder-If I sat in Your classroom, and disagreed with Your opinions (based on sound facts, of course)-would I fail the class? After having read Your reviews-I have come to the conclusion that You are not exactly what one would call a “non-judgemental” type of person…Or, perhaps I am mistaken? It is up to You to proof me wrong- Yours truly Hanna

    1. Hanna, I hear the passion -- indeed the agony -- in your post.

      I don't think Prof. Connelly is reading here, however, so I'm afraid he can't hear you.

  11. Dear Danusha, (sorry for this long post) as always, You are fighting the good fight- plz consider Yourself to stand in the same line as…lets say, Beecher Stowe-as s.o, who dares to say the truth into the faces of smirking people who are using their intellect to make up, like back than, excuses for things that are evil! Don’t give up- rest assured that young Poles in Poland are waking up, as well!

    Danusha, I want to be honest here-just lets ask ourselves-did we do what Mr. Connelly is accusing us of? I believe that no, not at all- nearly each and every one of the posters here has, in my opinion, more knowledge than any university student would have after attending a simple course. I would rather believe this to be projection- allow me to deconstruct it.

    -“riled up”- who is riled up? See the tone of this whole email- is s.o perhaps angered that his opinion has been questioned?

    -“the issue is not stereotypes”= yes it is,very obviously. But Ill deny it, of course, to mask my condescension .

    -“haven’t done the reading”= actually, I would not read the books you all read, why should I?

    - “I don’t see a purpose”= I don’t want to engage in anything that could alter my precious opinion, that could hurt my ego.

    -“correct all the misconceptions”- whose really? How to engage in a dialog with anyone who already knows that he/she is the bearer of the truth? This is a very,very troubling sign of our times I believe-fundamentalism comes in all colours and shapes. I have myself observed this phenomenon in different countries.

    ///It is not. It is about the universal struggle for human rights and human dignity.

    Ive started to see it that way, too. We have changed places with Blacks, I believe.
    I would like to add that I believe this fight to be a cultural war,too-Against left-wing extremist utopias, or rather, dystropias, where minorities have replaced the proletarian (of course, if You are a Black conservative than be prepared to face the full-blown racism of the “anti-racists”-also in Europe!) and racism is ok,as long as the victim does not belong to a protected group (of course,this is condescending towards the members of these groups as well-they are made to feel weak,entitled and therefore clinging to their benefactors.Which seems to be the whole point perhaps), where culture and nation, fatherland, tradition,religion, family,values all these things are impediments on the road towards a Brave New World. Its communism reloaded, in my view but kind of worse because harder to spot. I think less liberalism and a little bit more conservatism would be great for all societies.Lets make Martin Luther Kings dream come true,at last.

    ///told me I could not be Polish because I *do* read.
    Rest assured that, when the first black student was admitted to a public university s.o told him: Are you really black or pulling a ministrel-type sort of joke? Because Blacks can not read, you know….

    1. Hanna thank you for your kind comment about Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  12. Jan Peczkis wrote:

    "Essentially the same thinking is exemplified by he likes of Jan Blonski, Michael Steinlauf, and Jan T. Gross. Poles are supposed to be uniquely and permanently traumatized for having witnessed the sufferings of the Jews. What does this say about the nonexistence or unimportance of Poles and THEIR suffering?"

    Not true.

    All write about Polish trauma at having witnessed the Holocaust. That is appropriate. They speak about that trauma, largely, with compassion.

    They also speak at length about the suffering of non-Jewish Poles at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets.

  13. Where is this "speaking at length"?

    At most, I see brief mention of Polish sufferings, and then to minimize them relative to Jewish suffering.

    Also, the notion of Poles being uniquely traumatized by seeing Jews die tacitly presupposes that Polish suffering is inconsequential or, at best, second-rate compared with Jewish sufferings.

    Otherwise, one would reasonably expect that Poles would, most of all, be traumatized by the murderous deaths of their own friends and relatives. This would be even more so considering the fact that the German murders of Poles were conducted publically (shootings and hangings), while that of Jews was mostly done in isolated, top-secret facilities (death camps).

  14. Polish taxpayers (including me) finance tens of Universities, hundreds of historians. As far as I know noone of them has written an interesting book summarizing Polish history of the WWII period and none of the written books can be translated into English to impress non-Polish readers.

    "Wielka trwoga. Polska 1944–1947" by Marcin Zaremba describes some aspects of the 1944-1947 period but it's biased and no other book describing other aspects is available.

  15. "The Bloodlands" by Timothy Snyder should also be mentioned . It's a "mathematical" book about history of Eastern Europe, including Poland. It puts the fate of Poles (including the ones in pre-war Soviet Union) into the context of the Eastern European history, which makes it less vulnerable than any book about Poles only.

  16. Mr. Jan Peczkis writes "the German murders of Poles were conducted publically (shootings and hangings), while that of Jews was mostly done in isolated, top-secret facilities (death camps)." Such "clean" isolation existed only in the West, but not in occupied Poland. Jews collected food outside the ghettos. Later they were hiding among Poles. This period 1942-1944 is being described in recent books (Judenjagd according to Grabowski). Hiding Jews were blackmailed or murdered by German police, Polish police, criminals, partizans and local people. There are no reliable data how many Jews were murdered by Poles.
    "historians agree that roughly 10% of the 3 millions of Polish Jews attempted to escape deportation. Only 40,000 to 50,000 of them were still alive in 1945, having survived by hiding in the territory of the General Government. We can therefore estimate that there were between 200,000 and 250,000 direct or indirect victims of the hunt for Jews. (some died of cold or starvation in their hiding places)" As far as I understand the 250,000 includes victims of German police. The sam German police murdered ethnic Poles, which makes the problem too complicated for some Western academicians.



  18. US-German exchange of anti-Polish stereotypes.

    US historian Norman Naimark has published "Fires of Hatred" and an essay in German „Die. Killing Fields des Ostens“ ( He obtained Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

    Recently an Irish Ray Douglas (Colgate) has published "Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War" (2012). His book was published and prized in Germany (

    The idea is very progessive - to describe the tragedy of victims. Butnot all victims, the German ones. German victims of WWII are described as victims of Poles and Czechs. The Germans are bombed by USAF, torpedoed and shelled by the Soviets but finally the Poles are guilty. The biggest population transfer of WWII in Europe was the Soviet evacuation 1941-1942 which affected probably about 16.5 milion of civilians, many of whom starved later. But Germans claim to be the main victims and they are supported by the two US academicians.

  19. According to John Connelly JT Gross visited pubs in Jedwabne to listen to local people discussing Jedwabne pogrom. JT Gross used Agnieszka Arnolds' scripts of two her documentaries, one of them "The Nieghbours". So the results of his visits were limited.

  20. US doesn't have any problems with the Holocaust, says JEFFREY SCOTT DEMSKY (San Bernardino Valley College). "Full responsibility for the genocide rests with the Nazis and their collaborators". No "St. Louis", no Karski. "This approach obscures".

    1. Dr. Jeffrey Scott DemskyApril 9, 2014 at 8:02 PM

      it was not until the postwar years (late 1960s) that scholars determined the US had "abandoned" Europe's Jews. Prior to that academic judgment, the program of murder that came to be known as the Holocaust was situated as a European issue. Note that in 1961 Raul Hilberg mentioned the US only twice--in his seven hundred page analysis--as responsibility for the destruction of European Jewry was not yet depicted ecumenically. The subsequent "Americanization" of the Holocaust has surely raised levels of awareness and memory, but it is also a manufactured mindset that opens the door to a wide array of methodological complexities.


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.
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