Monday, January 20, 2014

"Poland, a Nation of Anti-Semites, Complicit in the Holocaust" Response by Michal Karski to Jacob Flaws

Blog reader Michal Karski wrote to ask if I would post his reply to the brute Polak stereotype as it appears in an MA thesis by Jacob Flaws.

I said I'd be happy to post Mr. Karski's reply.

Jacob Flaws' 2011 MA thesis is entitled "Bystanders, Blackmailers, and Perpetrators: Polish Complicity During the Holocaust." According to internet records here, it was submitted to Iowa State University in 2011 by Jacob Flaws.

Its title gives you the main idea of the document. Poles during World War II and the Holocaust are best characterized as "bystanders, blackmailers, and perpetrators." Poles are complicit in the Holocaust. Poles are not heroes; Poles are not victims.

This image will be familiar to anyone who has read "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture." This is the dominant and standard image of Poles in American media, academia, and journalism. Poles are not taking effective action to change it. Thus, this image thrives.

Michal Karski's response to "Bystanders, Blackmailers, and Perpetrators" is below.

A Few Thoughts on the Master's thesis by Jacob A. Flaws
entitled "Bystanders, Blackmailers and Perpetrators:
Polish Complicity During the Holocaust"

by Michal Karski

To begin with, I'm in no position to question the scholarly methods employed by Mr. Flaws or to cast doubt on his scholarship in general. The thesis looks to my untrained eye like a solid piece of writing, backed up with careful research and thorough, if perhaps, by definition, selective, use of evidence. My contention here is that only one side of the picture is being presented. The very nature of his chosen subject, as described in the title, makes it necessarily biased. We cannot expect the person representing the case for the prosecution to indulge in defending the accused. And the accused, in this case, is the entire Polish nation.

The essence of his argument, to put it in its simplest form, is that Poland, a nation of anti-Semites, was complicit in the Holocaust. The thesis goes on to attempt to substantiate this proposition, predominantly by means of some shocking and truly disturbing survivor testimonies. As in Claude Lanzmann's harrowing and monumental documentary film "Shoah", the result makes for very depressing and uncomfortable reading by any person with Polish connections. The overall impression is of a nation with an allegedly ingrained hatred of Jewish people, at best indifferent to the plight of their Jewish neighbors and at worst happy to see their destruction.

No one would expect any examples of courage and selflessness by Polish individuals to be offered by way of counterbalance in a prosecution statement. But, as in Lanzmann's epic film, the large-scale omission of any mention of acts of common human decency, let alone examples of heroism, such as those of Witold Pilecki, for example, tends to distort the whole picture, especially when the tone is set by overwhelmingly negative witness statements.

Mr. Flaws gives the general pre-war background of Christian-Jewish relations in Poland and alleges large scale sympathy for the Nazi anti-Jewish agenda, which, according to him, inevitably led to collusion in the German Third Reich's extermination policy.

The contention here seems to be that the involvement of Polish people in the Holocaust was just a question of degree, ranging from passive acquiescence to active participation. Exceptions to allegedly overwhelming Polish anti-Semitism are rarely mentioned.

Collusion takes the form of ill-treatment of Jews or simply the unwillingness to help. Individuals and groups stand accused of actual involvement in perpetrating murder. The Armia Krajowa (Home Army) is mentioned in this thesis in an extremely negative light, (just as their image has been tarnished in the recent German television series "Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" aka "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" or "Generation War").

No doubt there were rogue elements and people deserving of the death penalty for collaboration, which is what the orders of the Polish Government in Exile explicitly stated, but the participation of Jewish fighters in the ranks of the AK, especially after the collapse of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, might have been worth a mention, as is the very fact that in a supposedly anti-Semitic society, patriotic Jewish soldiers wore Polish uniforms and fought with the Allies against the Germans at various battlegrounds all over Europe on many fronts, from North Africa to Norway.

Readers of Jewish ancestry will probably know already that many Jewish soldiers are honored at Polish military cemeteries such as the one at Monte Cassino in Italy. What may not be quite so well known is that several hundred Jewish officers were among the twenty-two thousand and more Polish soldiers who were murdered by the NKVD in the summary executions which go by the collective name of the Katyn Massacre.

In this context, an essential, candid and quite unflattering account of Polish-Jewish relations in the Army can be found in Salomon Slowes's book "The Road to Katyn: A Soldier's Story" (London 1992). Slowes was a Polish officer who survived Soviet captivity and missed being executed at Katyn. He then went through the Middle East with the Anders army, and, despite having the opportunity to remain in what was later to become Israel, as some of his fellow Jewish servicemen did, continued to fight in the Italian campaign alongside his Polish compatriots.

"Whatever the reason behind the passivity displayed by the Poles and recorded by Jewish survivors," writes Mr. Flaws, "the idleness of millions of local Polish inhabitants helped the Germans carry out the Holocaust."

This probably goes to the crux of the argument. "Idleness" is certainly a rather unusual term to be using to describe a population living under the Nazi jackboot, unsure whether they themselves were going to be executed on the street at random by a German patrol for any sign of support for Jews.

However, no sane Polish person could ever deny that there were – and still are – active anti-Semitic extremists in Poland; people whom Flaws describes in his thesis as a "small percentage of "super" anti-Semitic Poles" (80).

"The number of perpetrators was comparatively small in relation to bystanders" says Flaws on page 2. "Bystander" is a term which I believe was first used by Lanzmann in his above-mentioned film. The word can be misleading. A bystander is someone who sees what is going on but chooses not to get involved. The implication is that the motivation for inaction is either cowardice, indifference or a tacit acquiescence in what is happening.

On page 39 Mr. Flaws writes: "To determine why many Poles remained indifferent throughout the Holocaust is a difficult issue. Individual reasons certainly vary, but there are a few plausible theories as to why so many Poles complied with indifference when many more could have theoretically intervened."

He continues: "One major reason why Poles did not help was because of fear. The Poles were often motivated to remain silent 'simply by fear of reprisals' from the Germans. One of the strictest measures passed by the Germans upon invading Poland was to issue the death penalty for any Poles caught hiding or otherwise assisting Jews. Furthermore, the Germans' new laws regarding Polish citizens established the death penalty in almost every paragraph...for all offenses, including the most trivial."

"Poland was the only country during the war where such forceful laws were in place, and the fear they generated was palpable amongst Polish citizens."

It takes an unusual human being to risk his/her life in order to come to the aid of a complete stranger, when the penalty for doing so is certain death. It seems to me that this overriding reason for the so-called "complicity" is not emphasized nearly enough.

There are other accusations in the thesis. Mr. Flaws examines levels of "complicity" in the crimes of the German invaders, ranging from indifference through to actual murder.

Naturally, as mentioned before, the reader does not expect any positive aspects of Polish-Jewish relations to emerge in a piece offered by the prosecution. (Perhaps the term should more accurately refer to Christian-Jewish relations, since the Jews discussed here were Polish citizens.)

Chapter Four, "Scavengers, Blackmailers and Extremists" makes for particularly depressing reading, where actions of people are described, who, although they did not themselves murder individual Jews, certainly (at best) took advantage of their plight and, at worst, betrayed them and thereby sent them to a certain death.

However, on page 57 Mr. Flaws writes: "While anti-Semitism existed throughout Polish society, the essential idea is that it was likely a small percentage of 'super' anti-Semitic Poles who utilized blackmail and extortion to gain advantage from the situation."

Did anti-Semitism really exist "throughout" Polish society? The word makes it seem that it was widespread and prevalent. Mr. Flaws cites the discrimination against Jewish students in pre-war Poland but fails to mention any positive aspects of Christian-Jewish relations.

At this point it might have been appropriate to point to the Jewish contribution to the cultural life of pre-war Polish society. Just one single example might suffice; and this would be the person of the hugely popular and intensely patriotic Marian Hemar. Perhaps a more accurate word would be "in" Polish society rather than "throughout". Racism, for example, exists in many contemporary western societies but is not widespread and prevalent. Anti-Muslim sentiments exist in many contemporary societies, but are not widespread and prevalent.

On page 80 Mr. Flaws says: "It is very likely that this small percentage of 'super' anti-Semitic Poles constituted the majority of those Poles who actively perpetrated the Holocaust."

It is noteworthy that Mr. Flaws in the introduction to his thesis writes that the pre-war Jewish population in Poland was 3.3 million (over half of the entire Jewish population in Europe at the time). I may be mistaken, but I don't recall reading anywhere in the thesis precisely why there should have been such a concentration of Jews in one particular country.

The answer to that, of course, as many people have noted over the years, is that Poland was seen as a safe haven for persecuted religious minorities from the times of the late Middle Ages onwards, particularly when the rest of Europe was convulsed by religious wars.

In his last chapter "Conclusions", Mr. Flaws offers this summary: "By far the most widely practiced form of complicity was the bystander phenomenon. The reason most Poles were bystanders was because the Holocaust happened on such a large scale."

The problem with this analysis, it seems to me, is that the above statement omits the simple explanation – which Flaws himself had offered previously – that the so-called "bystanders", who were for the most part unarmed civilians, were terrified for their own safety and for their own lives.

Any defense of Poland might offer as examples not only the actions of exceptionally brave individuals such as Irena Sendler and many others who risked their lives and those of their families to aid Jews, but also organizations such as Żegota, which was specifically framed for this purpose. The counter-argument which is often made at this point, is that these people were exceptions; that the general population was, as contended in this thesis, overwhelmingly anti-Semitic.

It is difficult to summon witnesses for the defense who might be able to disprove this allegation, and who could demonstrate that many ordinary Christian individuals and families took enormous risks, to their safety and their lives, by sheltering their Jewish friends and neighbors. Many of those people who might have given evidence were killed by the Nazis. There are documented instances of villagers who dared to give aid to Jews being executed and their villages burnt down by the Germans.

Mr. Flaws cannot be held responsible for the extreme views of commentators who quote his thesis to support their claims, but his marshalling of the evidence to present Polish-Jewish relations in the worst possible light does seem to extend an invitation for some intemperate commentators on both sides of the Polish-Jewish divide to generalize (and worse). The entire subject needs to be handled with honesty on all sides. And perhaps the slightest suggestion of charity.

- by Michal Karski


Further comments added by D Goska, taken from Wikipedia:

More about Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter "Generation War." "The Economist stated that hardly any German TV drama ever caused that much public debate. While some critics commended the series as well-crafted, many critics were enraged by parts of the story, including the portrayal of Polish anti-Nazi resistance, the trivialization of the persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany and the whitewashing of the difference between non-German victims and German perpetrators…

In Poland the series has caused additional controversy, with many commentators stating that the screenwriters sought to slander the Polish anti-Nazi underground army of Armia Krajowa. In particular, the Polish resistance is shown as anti-Semitic, and according to some critics, even more so than the Nazi German characters. The Polish ambassador in Austria, Jerzy Marganski, and the Polish embassy in Germany sent a letter of complaint to the German broadcaster ZDF. The broadcaster issued a statement that it was regrettable that the role of Polish characters had been interpreted as unfair and hurtful: "The deeds and responsibility of the Germans should in no way be relativized."

The Polish ambassador to the USA, Ryszard Schnepf, sent a written complaint to Music Box, who had bought the US rights to the series. He was supported by the director of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, Łukasz Kamiński, who is afraid that in America people unfamiliar with European history may convince people that Armia Krajowa members were anti-semites. Plans to broadcast the series in the UK led to a demonstration of Polish activists in London." Source

"Bystanders Blackmailers and Perpetrators: Polish Complicity During the Holocaust" is available for purchase and review on Amazon, here.


  1. Michal Karski's points are all valid. One should also realize that the preponderance of evidence shows that only a small relative number of Poles turned against Jews, and that most of these incidents were not animated by anti-Semitism, but by circumstances arising by the brutalities of the Nazi German occupation. In addition, just as Poles were sometimes complicit in Jewish suffering, so also Jews were sometimes complicity in Polish suffering.

    There is a much more detailed recent book, on alleged Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It is HUNT FOR THE JEWS, by Jan Grabowski. To read my detailed analysis of it, and the issues it raises, please click on my name in this specific posting.

  2. Are politics transferring Poland into the Axis camp? It seems political to me in that even countries that were actually on the Axis side don't come in for this constant vilification. (Not that I am wanting them, or anyone, to be vilified by the way).

    However, IF the crimes of the Allied side come to have any political weight,will we find ourselves back in the Allied camp at the speed of light?

    In fact, I can envision a scenario in which WW2 is fought between the savage Axis Powers of Poland, Poland and Poland and the fearsome Allied Powers of Poland, Poland and Poland,until, with one mighty bound, America, America and America...

    I think I had better go and lie down. Or better still go and do my studying for the day.

  3. Michal, I should have thanked you for writing this when I posted above and do want to do so now. You, Jan above, Danusha and many others are, or have been, tireless workers in the field.

    But its a very difficult field. Its clearly not about what Poland did or did not do. If it were a question of that, then the nations that actually did form part of the Axis Powers would come in for endless criticism and vilification. And most probably so would the nations that managed to stay neutral and stay out of it - even though subsequent history seems to show they were the smart ones.

    Poland fought and resisted Hitler from day 1 to the last day of the war. That is usually defined as A Very Good Thing (except, apparently, when Poles do it).

    I can do nothing about the politics, as I don't even vote. I am trying to be "no part" of the world, to stay out of its divisive politics and cruel wars.

    I find Psalm 37 of immense help in dealing with this, and I hope you will too. For one thing, is assures us that God is going to deal with things- in the right way, at the right time. What else is Armageddon for?

    We - the children of Adam - cannot put right what went wrong in Eden. But He can - and will.

  4. Thank you, Prof. Goska, for posting my essay above. I have to admit I have yet to read your 'Bieganski' book about stereotypes, but I imagine it will be as thoughtful and constructive as your posts on this blog.

    It's right that those of us of Polish descent should try to do what we can to correct misconceptions and resist the damage done by stereotyping (whether intentional or not), but personally, I wouldn't go as far as some Polish-American commentators who have said, for example, that Hollywood has been unremittingly negative in its portrayal of Polish characters.

    I've just been watching a film from 1989. This may sound rather flippant, especially in the context of this discussion, but the main character has a Polish name. He may not be the most sublime example of a Polish-American, but he is certainly no brute stereotype. I mean the character of Wayne Szalinski as portrayed by Rick Moranis in the Disney comedy 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids'. He's a rather likeable, eccentric scientist, after all.

    Things are never quite as bleak as they might seem. Best wishes, MK

  5. Also, just a quick note to say I appreciate the positive remarks from the above correspondents.

    I've just had a quick check on Mr Flaws's bibliography and there is a notable omission. It's something which I'm reading at the moment, and which should probably be required reading on European history courses: Timothy Snyder's 'Bloodlands'. To be fair to Mr Flaws, his thesis is dated 2011 and the above book was published the year before, so perhaps he didn't get a chance to consult it, but I would certainly recommend it to any Holocaust scholar for a bit of context. As Danusha Goska says in her intro to my essay above, there needs to be much more acknowledgment of Polish (and others') victimisation. This is by no means to downplay the horrendous crimes against the Jewish people and the unique industrial-scale terror of the Nazi killing machine, but the crimes of Stalinism are not etched on Western consciousness to the same extent, with the result that the suffering of Polish and other victims tends to get marginalised in the West.

    Mr Peczkis (above) suggests there may have been some Jewish complicity in Polish suffering. Perhaps individuals were culpable. But personally I would hesitate before talking about any Jewish complicity per se. There is always the danger of going down the same road as Mr Flaws, that is, using the crimes of individuals to taint an entire group, which seems to be the general tenor of his thesis.

    Some Polish people who grew up in the Communist or post-Communist world may not be quite aware of the huge contribution made in the pre-war years by the Jewish community. I wonder if Mr Flaws knows that one of the prominent names on the list of the victims at Katyn is that of Baruch Steinberg, Chief Rabbi of the Polish Army?

  6. Here's Anne Applebaum's excellent review of 'Bloodlands':

  7. One of the reasons I retired this blog, and retired from Polish Jewish relations, was that I saw no point in having the same conversations over and over again, especially since I didn't know a single person who had any interest in taking effective action to change the Brute Polak stereotype.

    So many made so many big vows, big promises. We're going to take on "Maus" ... we're going to take on Pier 21 ... we're going to get our story in curricula ... and none of that every happens.

    Michal reports, above, that though he is concerned enough about the Polak stereotype to write the above essay, edit it several times, seek me out and ask me to post it, he has not read the only scholarly book currently available that addresses the stereotype in question.

    I encountered that unwillingness to read books on a topic one says one cares about again and again among Polonians. I don't think that that approach is helping Polonia.

    Michal goes on to recommend "Bloodlands." "Bloodlands" states the obvious -- Hitler and Stalin were brutal people who killed many using the most ruthless methods.

    Everyone knows this. Everyone knows that the Poles suffered greatly.

    Saying, "The Poles suffered greatly under Hitler and Stalin" says absolutely nothing, zero, about the brute Polak stereotype. Knowledge of Poles' suffering under Hitler and Stalin absolutely co-exists comfortably with the brute Polak stereotype. There is no reason why not.

    It saddens me that people can't see that.

    But I've had this very same conversation hundreds of times, and it has never gone anywhere. As long as Polonia chooses to seethe ineffectively and declines to take effective action, nothing will change.

    1. I have to disagree with you on the point of 'Bloodlands'. One of the major problems with teaching history in the West, and particularly in the US, is that many people do not seem to know about the crimes of anyone except the Hitler regime. The 'Bloodlands' narrative may be obvious to most historians and academics, but many outside that circle are not that well informed.

  8. Knowledge of Polish suffering will do absolutely nothing to weaken the brute Polak stereotype. "historians and academics" who know everything about Polish suffering already still believe in and promote the brute Polak stereotype. That is an undeniable reality.

    Articulate knowledge of stereotyping and how it works, especially in relation to Poles, in combination with effective organizing, might weaken the brute Polak stereotype. Unfortunately, Polonia has not taken that tactic, ignoring the existing scholarship on the topic, and declining to organize. For that reason, we cannot know if knowledge of stereotyping and effective organizing might work, because Polonians, by their own admission, have declined to gain that knowledge, or engage in that strategy.

    Rather what we have again and again are disgruntled Poles who issue rants and then move on. No organization. No knowledge of stereotyping. No long term commitment.

  9. Hello Michal, I know Anne Applebaum is one of those who has tried to bring Stalin's crimes to public attention. And many thanks to her for doing so. But the politics are against it. There is a gigantic Omelette Carpet under which Stalin's victims are conveniently swept - (He may have killed millions, but after all You Can't Make An Omelette Without Breaking Eggs).

    The blood does seep through the carpet now and again, How could it not, given how much there is of it? Hadn't he killed at least 7 million Ukrainians before WW2 even began?

    That does not in the least prevent him being an official Goodie in the current WW2 narrative though - and that does at least demonstrate that the problem for Poland/Polonia is a political one, and is nothing to do with anything Poland has done, or not done.

    But, as you know, its not something I can change. I don't even vote. I think it would change on the instant though if the politics changed. But that wouldn't make any difference to my continuing to want to be "no part" of the current world system of things. In fact, if it suddenly turned out that we aren't, after all, more horrid than anyone else in time and space, and, gasp!, we did not shoot Bambi's mother, I would just be sorry for the next group of people to be put in the "Unter" slot. It seems there always has to be someone.

    I try to do a little bit regularly with a group called Polish Media Issues. We concentrate on the way Nazi concentration camps are being re-defined as "Polish", and we do have a fair amount of success at getting things changed. Every little helps. And it does give me occasions to witness. I am a Jehovah's Witness, and a housebound one at the moment too.

    You ought to read Dr.Goska's "Bieganski". Its quite an eye opener. It explains the politics clearly, and she has an excellent chapter on Hollywood. I do review the book on the Amazon page. She's got some excellent reviews. Do go to the page and see if it makes you want to read the book.

    And if you do read it, please review it too.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Sue. Well done for your 'Nazi concentration camp' campaign. That was something the Kosciuszko Foundation can take credit for as well. There was an issue that united - and continues to unite - Polonia. As for Dr. Goska's book, I didn't say I was unwilling to read it, only that I haven't read it yet. Best wishes, Michal

    2. And here's something positive for you that I've just come across. German historians have condemned the use of the term "Polish death camps".

  10. BLOODLANDS is indeed a fascinating book, and it provides details on the genocide of Slavs. (See my review on Amazon by clicking on my name in this specific posting.) What's more, it is a widely-read work, as evidenced by the fact that it has 234 Amazon reviews so far.

    The inaction of Poles is indeed frustrating. However, I think that discussions can be productive, even if they often go in circles, in that they keep the issues alive.

  11. I now have reviewed BYSTANDERS, BLACKMAILERS, AND PERPETRATORS, by Jacob A. Flaws. To read my review, please click on my name in this specific posting.

    This thesis by Jacob A. Flaws is even more deficient than the commentary by Michal makes it seem.

    1. Jan I read your review of "Bystanders" and I left a comment.

    2. Thank you, Dr. Goska, for your comment. I have addressed the issues you raise.

  12. There is another review of "Bystanders" on Amazon by Tom K. Tom K is one of the purveyors of the Brute Polak stereotype.

    Tom K begins his review with these words: "Poland suffered terribly during the Nazi and Soviet occupations."

    In this, Tom K proves my point about the folly of insisting that the book "Bloodlands" should be used to fight stereotyping of Poles.

    Yes, people can know that Poles suffered horribly during WW II and still accept and perpetuate the Brute Polak stereotype.

  13. In Chapter 3, ‘The Silent Masses’, Mr. Flaws talks about the ‘bystander’ phenomenon. “...because the size of the Nazi extermination program was so massive, it was impossible for them to keep it concealed. Therefore, many Poles are implicated based on their sheer proximity to the Holocaust. While some Poles simply could not have helped, there were many more who could have offered assistance based on their role in society. Research also suggests that bystanders who become helpers through public opposition to genocide are typically successful in helping victims because the adverse reaction by bystanders “can elevate values prohibiting violence, which over time perpetrators had come to ignore in their treatment of the victim group””.

    Public opposition? Mr. Flaws himself noted that the penalty for helping Jews in Poland was death.

  14. A few paragraphs further down he writes: “In dealing with the Holocaust, being a bystander was the easiest way to comply with Nazi genocide.”

    In the chapter about blackmailers (which I mentioned above as particularly depressing), there is a paragraph on p.57, part of which I had already quoted above. “Since not all Poles were blatant anti-Semites, the evidence contained above does merit a little further analysis. While anti-Semitism existed throughout Polish society, the essential idea is that it was likely a small percentage of “super” anti-Semitic Poles who utilized blackmail and extortion to gain advantage from the situation. Thus, although all Poles are implicated due to the prevalence of anti-Semitism, the level of personal ascription on the individual level is crucial in determining personal action.”

    My mother and father are not implicated. They were not anti-Semitic. And there were very many like them and a great many of those died fighting on the Allied side against the Nazis. It’s a great shame, that in an otherwise extremely rigorous, scholarly paper, Mr. Flaws should allow himself such a damaging generalization.

    1. The term "bystander" is the key. Poles were not bystanders. They had their own battle of survival under the German occupation. Even though Flaws mentions the German-imposed death penalty once, he otherwise scrupulously avoids mention of the terror of the German occupation on Poles.

    2. In this context I think it might make a difference if historians and scholars used the word "witness" instead. It doesn't have the same negative resonance as "bystander".

  15. What is needed, perhaps, is an academic paper, preferably from the Jewish perspective, presenting instances of Polish-Jewish co-operation (dare I even say ‘friendship’?). We could all do with a positive note as an antidote to the seemingly unrelenting bleakness of survivor testimonies.

    PS – It wasn’t my idea to feature Art Spiegelman’s illustration at the top, but it does tie in with the tone of the thesis under discussion, which is decidedly unfavourable to Poles. Perhaps we could also do with something positive on celluloid as well. ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘The Pianist’, brilliant and moving as they are, still do not present the whole picture. The last time, believe it or not, that I saw anything representing Polish-Jewish wartime relations in any kind of positive light was Mel Brooks’s remake of Jack Benny’s ‘To Be or Not To Be’, but that was many years ago.

    1. Actually, many such works exist. For a list of such works, please click on my name in this specific posting.

      Unfortunately, works on Polish-Jewish cooperation do not seem to be stemming the tide of Holocaust-related Polonophobia, of which the Flaws thesis is but one recent example.

  16. PPS - 'Bloodlands' and other books, for that matter, stress that the educated (and therefore dangerous) element in Polish society was targeted and eliminated by both Nazis and Soviets. We don't have the testimonies of this cultured segment of Polish society to know how they felt about Jews in general. Many of them were, of course, Jewish themselves. The vast majority left behind after the mass murders of the Polish educated classes, people whom a commentator once described as 'toothless peasants', were by no means uniformly anti-Semitic. Their profound religious beliefs compelled them to offer assistance in very many cases, at the risk of their lives. There is a project underway in Poland at the moment, to bring to light many of their stories by means of documentary film. (So far only available in Polish).

    1. Have just checked, and it was Snyder himself who used the phrase 'toothless peasants' (in a December 2010 review of the re-released 'Shoah' in the NY Review of Books).

      But - in an article for the Guardian, dated 5 October 2010 - he said this: "Between 1939 and 1941, Stalin was Nazi collaborator number one."

    2. And in 'Bloodlands', pp 405-406, he writes: "Beyond Poland, the extent of Polish suffering is underappreciated."......"More Poles were killed during the Warsaw Uprising alone than Japanese died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

  17. Actually, Dr Goska, would it be possible to substitute something else for the Spigelman drawing at the top of the page? I'd just as soon not have my name associated with his illustration.

    I know you're making a point about the way Poles have been perceived, but do we need any illustration at all?

  18. Correction: that should read 'Spiegelman'.

  19. WHO cares what some unhinged jack*** thinks? The real people who should be thrown out are his thesis advisors:

    John Monroe
    Kevin Amidon
    Charles Dobbs

    These are the real jack***** that feed of the Iowa taxpayer's dollar.


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