The Good German and the Heroic Brit on PBS, and Bieganski by Omission
Bieganski can appear in a PBS documentary that never so
much as mentions Poles.
"Bugging Hitler's Soldiers" is an excellent PBS
documentary that introduces the viewer to a recently disclosed British program.
During World War II, the Brits imprisoned Nazi generals
and soldiers. Britain, in one of the first acts of surveillance of this kind,
bugged the soldiers and generals. Their conversations were recorded and
transcribed. These conversations reveal how ordinary Germans signed on to, and
committed, horrific atrocities, including the mass murder of Jews and other
victims of the Nazis.
Their testimony is grotesque. One soldier brags about
raping Russian women. Another confesses to sleeping with Jewish women before
they are gunned down and buried in mass graves.
One soldier had been a prisoner in Buchenwald. He talks
about uses made of the tanned human skin of concentration camp inmates.
One of the Nazi soldiers is named Horst Minnieur. The
narrator pronounces his name as "horse manure." Never was there a
better name for a Nazi.
Again, this documentary is excellent. It never mentions
Poles and mentions Poland only once in passing. How does this documentary play
into the Bieganski stereotype?
The Brits are the sole heroes fighting the Nazis. And the
Brits are so very heroic.
The documentary mentions the, in the words of Helen Fry
Sync, "very British, very clever" espionage. The program never
mentions World War II's greatest espionage coup, the Polish
work on Enigma. The documentary lauds "very British very clever"
espionage revealing the existence of the Peenemunde V-1 and V-2 rockets, while
never mentioning the Polish
contribution to that aspect of the war. The documentary praises the Brits
for figuring out that the Holocaust was actually taking place. The documentary
never mentions the work of Polish Home Army soldiers like Jan Karski and Witold
Pilecki in uncovering the horrors of the Holocaust and sending that news
So, you have these really bad guys, Nazis, and you have
these sole, heroic people fighting against them. The Brits.
Yes, the Nazis are saying horrifying things. This
documentary, repeating the transcribed words of German soldiers, reveals that
ordinary Germans DID know what was going on and DID participate in atrocities.
Given how much these Germans are like us – modern, white,
well-educated, Western – this information might be impossible to assimilate.
The documentary makes it all go down much easier by
foregrounding, not evil Nazis, not doomed Jews, not the heroic transcribers,
many of them German Jews, not even British people. No.
The heroes in the foreground are all wearing German army
uniforms. They are two German generals who said critical things about Hitler.
One is General Willheim Ritter von Thoma. The other is General Paul von
Von Thoma dominates the screen throughout this
documentary. The transcript, at the PBS website, reveals that von Thoma's name
is mentioned FIFTY times. In a fifty minute documentary about Nazi horrors, and
about the willingness, even the eagerness and gusto, that ordinary Germans
exercised when participating in atrocities against Russians and Jews, the name
of a HEROIC German general in Hitler's army is mentioned fifty times, and that
handsome, fully uniformed general dominates the screen.
In that narrative vacuum, Bieganski provides an excellent
The end of the documentary is hideous. The documentary
states, "Not one of Trent Park’s prisoners was ever convicted of a single
war crime on the basis of what they said while imprisoned." The excuse the
Brits give for this miscarriage of justice? They wanted to preserve their
Nonsense. They could have avoided admitting that they'd
gathered this info via microphones. They could have said they merely
eavesdropped at keyholes. They could have interrogated the generals and told
them that their cellmates had turned on them and gotten fresh testimony. But
the heroic, clever, wonderful Brits let these animals go.
You can watch "Bugging Hitler's Soldiers" here.
Oh, one more thing. These Nazi soldiers talked a lot about victimizing Poles. For example, one talked about the satisfaction he received, when bombing Poland, in targeting mothers pushing baby carriages. The victimization of Poles doesn't make it into this PBS episode. You can read more about it here.
Unfortunately, it is quite common for British works to ignore or minimize the achievements of the Poles. For instance, consider some British works on the Battle of Britain (click on my name in this posting).ReplyDelete