Friday, October 3, 2014 "Nazi Poland"

Erica Morris, managing editor of, entitled a recent page "Famous Picture: Observing Yom Kippur in Nazi Poland." You can see that Bieganski headline at the following link, unless Morris has changed it by the time you get there. Link


  1. Is it just my imagination, or are these egregious Holocaust-related attacks on Poland becoming more and more common?

    1. I don't know. We should know. Polonia should commission serious research to find out. Where is the funding for that research? Where is the dedication to stick with one question from beginning to end?

      Polonia will get all worked up about this latest Bieganski eruption, send out a flurry of protesting emails, and then lose interest and move on.

  2. On the face of it, this looks like a glaring case of defamation. However, it could also be a case of terrible editing, nothing more sinister than a faux pas of the first magnitude based on ignorance.

    There may well be a role here for Polonian organisations, but shouldn't the Polish embassy in the US be looking out for Polish interests? If I were working at the embassy, I'd be writing to Erica Morris in the first I nstance and would respectfully ask her to include the word "occupied" in the title of her piece, so that it should read "Nazi-Occupied Poland".

  3. In fact, considering the previous comments, this could be an example where any of us could theoretically ask the Anti-Defamation League to intervene. I have no doubt they would do so, since they do not restrict themselves to dealing with instances of anti-Semitism, but it would be a sad reflection on our own apparent inability to be able to turn to any equivalent Polonian organisation, which is why I mentioned the Polish Embassy.

    If anyone can point to a Polish or Polonian equivalent of the ADL, then I'd be happy to stand corrected. At the moment, the nearest we have to any kind of permanent watchdog looking out for Polish interests is this blog itself and the occasional comments over at the Kosciuszko Foundation.

  4. To answer your question, Michal, yes, there was a sort of Polish equivalent to the ADL. In fact, the ADL threatened a lawsuit because it wanted "defamation" to be a proprietary term in this context.

    The Polish organization to fight defamation was sponsored by the PAC (Polish American Congress). It fought against the typical Holocaust-related attacks on Poland. Unfortunately, owing to the dominance of the Holocaust in American education and media, its impact was very small.

    To read more about this, please click on my name in this specific posting. It is my review of a two-volume work on Polish Americans in California.

    1. To my knowledge, the PAC still exists, although it does seem fragmented, with chapters in individual states rather than a national leadership.

      As for the ADL, I don't really know enough about their history or the way they operate to be able to comment, but the concept of an organisation which fights instances of defamation is sound in itself.

      The particular case of the "Nazi Poland" headline would no doubt take on a different complexion if the people responsible were made aware that they could be facing an organisation with the resources to take legal action.

      I hope I'm proved wrong, but as it is, it doesn't look as if the headline is about to be amended.

  5. I thought this was the first-ever use of the "Nazi Poland" construction, but apparently the Los Angeles Times used it in a review of a play about the childhood of Jerzy Kosinski back in June 2010.

    The LA Times corrected the phrase to emphasise German occupation in response to protests from readers. Maybe there's still hope that Jspace will do the same but I'm not holding my breath.

    1. How wrong can I be? What a result! Good work, Danusha, for picking up on this! Thanks to Erica Morris for the correction and great work to all the people who wrote in. Altogether some positive news for a change! Great!

  6. Who Were the Nazis?

    There's a scene in the thoroughly fictional sixties WWII warhorse "Von Ryan's Express" where one of the Brit escapees (look away now if you haven't seen the film), who is in fact the Army chaplain, impersonates a German officer. He does it very convincingly and berates a harassed Wehrmacht clerk so that the clerk breathes a sigh of rellief once the padre has gone and exclaims to his colleagues: "Nazis - Mein Gott!"

    The point here, of course, is that there were Nazi Germans and non-Nazi Germans, as we all know. Or do we?

    I've been wondering lately if there are people in the western education system nowadays who do not necessarily appreciate that the word Nazi is an acronym derived from the "Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei" (the National Socialist German Workers' Party - NSDAP for short), and therefore do not even know that the Nazi movement originated in Germany.

    So even "Nazi-Occupied Poland", although correct, does not tell the whole story. Would "German-Occupied Poland" be any better? We tend to shy away from that particular formulation by way of acknowledging what the Germans have done in their efforts at confronting their past. "German-Nazi-Occupied Poland" perhaps? Strictly more correct but a bit cumbersome. Bearing in mind that not all Germans were Nazis but that the army occupying Poland was that of the Third Reich which included, for instance, Austrians, then how about "Third Reich Occupied Poland"? It gets complicated.

    "Nazi-Occupied Poland" will have to do. Providing we all remember exactly who the Nazis were.

    1. Hi Michal, Yes, I see what you are saying. These mysterious Nazis... who were they? These days, your guess is probably as good as mine. From some articles now you would assume they were Poland, Poland and Poland.

      And one way (in my opinion) you can spot a political agenda here is the way that the other nations that actually did fight on the Axis side are never even mentioned. Its not that i want them to be, or that I want them to be vilified. I don't. Isn't the truth about WW2 that both sides did some terrible ungodly things? But doesn't it show that this constant vilifying of Poland is not about what actually happened. Its politics.

      However, in spite of that, I am fine with the expression "Nazi-occupied Poland". The world can decide that the Nazis were Martians if it wants (given there is still no one living on Mars, of course). Do any of us children of Adam have the moral high ground here from which to be judging each other?

      But I do object to Poland being moved into the Axis camp and being held responsible for Nazi crimes. And I hope to continue to speak out about it, but always always politely - trying to keep "the law of loving kindness" on my tongue.

  7. The famous judgements at Nuremberg were one of the few occasions where a few people were justified in assuming the moral high ground (in my humble opinion, Sue).

    But, as we know, the unresolved case of Katyn, for example, made these trials imperfect. All the same, there's no doubt that the Allies were engaged in trying to destroy what is commonly considered one of the most evil regimes which ever existed.

    I don't dispute that ruthless methods were used by both sides to achieve their ends, but the Allies were fighting to preserve the civilised world from utter darkness.

    You have said elsewhere, Sue, that the countries who chose to stay neutral might have chosen the safer path, but of course in the case of Poland, overrun by both Nazis and Soviets, neutrality was never really an option. It was a case of fight or disappear as a nation.

    People do need to be reminded of Polish Allied commanders such as Generals Sikorski, Anders, Maczek, Sosabowski and many others whose soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with the Brits, the Americans, the Canadians, the Free French, the Italian partisans, the Aussies and New Zealanders and South Africans and others in a list of nationalities all of whom sacrificed many lives in fighting the evil of German Nazism.

  8. As I had mentioned in another blogspot, I do not dichotomize German and Nazi.

    With reference to Michal's question about how to portray this matter, I do it in the following way in my reviews: I usually use the phrase "Nazi German", or simply "German". If I use "Nazi" by itself, it is always juxtaposed with "German". That way, I avoid the increasingly-amorphous connotation of the term "Nazi".

  9. You're probably right to stress the German connection, Jan, unfortunate as it may be. Nowadays it seems it has become necessary. Whereas back in the days of "Von Ryan's Express" and "The Great Escape" everyone knew that the Nazis were German, today it seems that can't be taken for granted, and in the case of Poland, any suggestion, even if unintentional, that there was any kind of collaborationist regime is particularly galling if you consider that Poland, unlike one or two other European countries, never contributed any units who fought for the Nazi war effort and whose population was regarded as "subhuman" (Untermenschen) by Hitler's Third Reich.

  10. Absolutely! The Nazis may as well be beings that came from another planet, and then disappeared into thin air in 1945.

    I wonder if all this is intentional. Those into conspiracy theories (I am not) suggest that there is a deal between Germany and Israel, wherein the Germans pay reparation payments in exchange for the Jews promoting the contrived dichotomizing of Germans and Nazis.

    True or not, the trend is unmistakable. The vague connotation of the term "Nazi" is the same, conspiracy or not. Meanwhile, the blame for the Holocaust is increasingly shifted unto Christianity and the Poles, either intentionally or coincidentally.

    I use various descriptive phrases in my reviews: "Nazi German-made Holocaust", "Nazi German aggression", "Nazi German death camps", "Nazi German atrocities".

    Also, I consistently use the phrase "Soviet-betrayed Warsaw Uprising", to deal with the contrived ambiguity about the Red Army halting on the outskirts of Warsaw, from August 1, 1944 until January 17, 1945. This gave the Germans the luxury of over five months of time to suppress the Uprising, murder at least tens of thousands of Polish civilians, and systematically burn hundreds of thousands of items of irreplaceable Polish cultural treasures.

  11. Up above Michal talks about Polish watchdog groups ...

    I have repeatedly written to the Polish American Congress over the years and I don't think I've ever received a reply to any communication I have ever sent them.

    I have repeatedly begged the Kosciuszko Foundation to invite me as a speaker and they don't respond, either.

    Alex Storozynski (sp?) stood next to me after giving a talk in Poland and declined to speak to me.

    I asked a group fronted by Maja Trochimczyk (Sp?) to host a talk by me and she wrote back to tell me that my work is without value.

    I don't understand any of this. I really don't. My impression is that Poles are weirdly hostile to each other, and refuse to support each other.

    I have gotten much better receptions and cooperation when interacting with other groups on other matters.

    This tendency of Poles to be hostile to and sabotage each other doesn't help

    1. I had similar experiences, but also some successes.

      I came to know Wojciech Wierzewski, a leading Polish journalist, and high-ranking member of the PNA (Polish National Alliance). We helped each other write reviews on matters touching on the defamation of Poland. I always greeted him with the slogan, POLSKA SILA! (POLISH POWER!).

      During the time that Jan T. Gross was getting a lot of publicity for his Jedwabne-related attacks on Poland, Wojciech Wierzewski arranged for me to speak on Polish radio in Chicago. It was a thrilling experience.

      Later, when I had expressed my desire to do more, and shortly before his untimely death, Wierzewski told me that the PNA had undergone "a new course", and would no longer be defending Poland. The gist of what I got was that the PNA was being taken over, or influenced , by the leadership in Poland, and that this was now a matter of politics.

    2. In reply to Jan, I'm very pleased to hear you're not a conspiracy theorist, Jan, because the alleged shady agreement between Germany and Israel sounds like the creation of someone intent on discrediting both countries.

      Germany, on the whole, has done a great deal to confront its own history and the Germans are understandably peeved when they are constantly identified with Nazism. On the other hand, although many leading Nazis were prosecuted after the end of the war, many others evaded punishment and indeed some went on to occupy key positions either in the new Federal Republic or even in the US itself. (The former was actually alluded to in "Generation War" - in fairness to the otherwise historically questionable German serial - and the latter was brilliantly satirized in Stanley Kubrick's "Dr Strangelove"). One could ask, in this context, exactly how many NKVD operatives were ever prosecuted for the Katyn atrocity? By now, of course, the perpetrators are all probably dead and buried anyway but the names of Stalin's henchmen are not etched on the collective consciousness of the West to quite the same extent as are the names of Himmler, Heydrich, Goebbels, et al.

      We all recognize that Germany is today a flourishing democracy - a multi-cultural society and in many ways an example for others to follow. But their remarkable progress from dictatorship to model democracy was precisely in reaction to the nightmarish stranglehold which the Third Reich exerted over every aspect of everyday life in Germany.

      There is also one other obvious factor which tends to colour the views of people learning about the Holocaust: the simple physical fact that the memorials or traces of the really notorious death camps can, for the most part, be found in places other than in Germany itself. There are exceptions of course, such as Dachau, Buchenwald or Sachsenhausen, but the most infamous of all, Majdanek, Sobibor and especially Auschwitz are forever associated with the Nazi killing grounds which the Germans constructed in Poland. And, as we have been finding all too frequently recently, since Auschwitz is in Poland, many people have put two and two together and made five.

      The question of Polish organizations which Danusha refers to is more difficult for me to comment on, being, as I am, on this side of the pond, but I'm sorry to hear that the Kosciuszko Foundation doesn't seem interested in what you have to say, Danusha. Are they perhaps afraid that you'll be too controversial in any talk you might give? Your book does contain some pretty hard-hitting stuff, after all. However, it has to be said that their former president, Alex Storozynski, does a great job defending Polish interests. He writes well and expresses very articulately precisely what needs to be said. There is room for everyone, it seems to me, in Polonia and everyone should support everyone else. We're all fighting the same battle, some on the frontline and some studying maps. Or, to use another metaphor, people like Storozynski is the paramedic who is first on the scene dealing with an outbreak of disease which threatens to become contagious, whereas Danusha Goska is the professor back at the hospital doing research in order to find a cure for the disease in order to prevent any further outbreaks and trying to stamp it out once and for all. (And research, of course, needs support and funding).

      So much for now before I get carried away with more metaphors.

      The beauty of this blog is that anyone can write in with an opinion. Who knows, maybe you'll even hear from Glenn Beck?

    3. Michal, the way the Kosciuszko Foundation and Alex Stororzynski have behaved toward me is heartbreaking to me.

      Again, I was *right next to him* for over an hour in Poland at a formal event and he refused to so much as speak to me.

      Why? What kind of behavior is that? Is that a civilized human being?

      There is no back story behind this. No previous history.

      I contrast this with how I've been received by Jewish groups, the other demographic addressed in my work. They have been very courteous and supportive.

      This isn't an isolated incident. It's across the board.

      I phoned a Polish American professor to check a fact. I made hundreds of similar fact checking contacts while writing Bieganski.

      This professor, someone I'd never met, someone who didn't know me from Adam, picked up the phone and began screaming invective. Who the hell are you and how dare you phone me I am an important professor with limited time.

      If you are curious who it was, I can tell you in a private email.

      it was bizarre. Laughable, if not so pathetic.

      I had to make many such contacts to fact check on Jews. The Jews never behaved that way towards me. They were always professional This includes people I am very critical of: Art Spiegelman, the woman who was using Maus to teach English to Japanese students, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabbi Michael Lerner.

      All these Jews were very polite to me, respectful, fully informative.

      Poles sabotage themselves. They do. We need to change it.

  12. Danusha, I don't know what to say. Not much point in telling me the name of the academic because I don't really know who's who in the world of Polish-American academe, but it does sound like a very strange situation. Do you think it's because you're saying things that not everyone wants to hear? Maybe for your next book, you need to go around Polonia and get interviews and stories from the Polish experience? A kind of Polish reply to Lanzmann? There are so many stories out there that haven't been told.

    1. Michal, as for the why question -- I address it as best I can in the blog posts entitled "The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization and Vision."

    2. I'm repeating personal anecdotes here, and personal anecdotes are of limited value, but look at Polonia. Why are we so easily stereotyped and misrepresented?

      It's because Polonians are ineffectual at representing their own interests.

      That can change. Polonians can change it. Today is a good day to begin.

    3. Just to say that I keep making the odd grammatical blunder - I should have said earlier that "people like Storozynski ARE the paramedics " etc.

      As for telling people what they don't want to hear: I'm not an academic and I've read only a fraction of the books about Poland that Jan Peczkis has, but I wonder if part of the reason for the Polonian cold shoulder is the fact that you seem fairly uncritical of Jan T Gross? I haven't read any of his books but I know he has created quite a stir in Polish circles and has seemed to polarise people. (He has polarised the Poles). I can't think why else your thoughtful study should be meeting such an apparent lack of interest? Except, as I noted in my book review, perhaps people don't relate to Millet's peasant because he doesn't look remotely Polish?

  13. Don't get me wrong, Danusha. I can't comment on any of Gross's books since I haven't read them, but I'm only proposing a possible reason why you may not be enthusiastically embraced by the mainstream Polish community if you appear to be uncritical of someone who is telling Polish people what they would rather not hear. If the crimes are proven, then they must be condemned. As I said, I haven't seen the evidence for or against other than in book reviews (yours included) to be able to form a judgement.

  14. Michal, if you are interested, you can start by reading my review of a very recent new book by Jan T. Gross. Please click on my name in this specific posting.

  15. Having heard about Jerzy Kosinski and having seen the excellent 'Being There' with Peter Sellers, I thought I'd give 'The Painted Bird' a try. I'm halfway through this stomach-churning catalogue of horror stories. I have a suspicion that some people in Polonia were wary of more horror stories when Gross's books came out, considering that Kosinski was exposed as a fantasist and his stories the products of a fevered imagination.

    The case of JT Gross is something different, however. Unlike the troubled Kosinski, Gross is, by all accounts, a bona fide academic. Personally, I'll be taking a break from horror stories and descriptions of atrocities before I read any of his books, but here's a brilliant essay on the subject by the late, great Jan-Nowak Jezioranski, one-time head of the Polish section of the (anti-communist) Radio Free Europe and famous 'Courier from Warsaw'.

  16. I have read the article. Unfortunately, it was written in 2001, and is outdated. Also, the notion that the Poles killed Jews "of their own volition" is not supported by the evidence. Again, I would suggest that you read my review of the item I had linked to in my previous post.

  17. I'll have to start by reading the actual JT Gross books themselves, but it may be a while before I get around to that. As I said, stories of atrocities are pretty tough going and I'll have a bit of a break before I get into this particular controversy. Since I'm not really up to speed with the latest developments in this grim and tragic story, then I'm probably better off not commenting at all and reserving judgement.

  18. could theoretically ask the Anti-Defamation League to intervene. I have no doubt they would do so,

    Dear Michael, You are WRONG-I have send on numerous occasions emails to them informing them about hate-speech,glaring racism ect against Poles. NEVER did I even get an answer. I used even different email adresses. Foxman btw is a holocaust survivor, he survived thanks to a Polish family who risked their lives to save his.On the contrary, the ADL, check this for yourselves, is defaming Marek J. Chodakiewicz, a famous Polish (actual) historian who is also critizising f.e Gross (who is not a historian,but a journalist!) and his lack of expertise. Than, at one point, I wrote them that I am a gay who was verbally abused. Guess what-I did get an answer 4 hours later. Polish dignity is non-existant to these hipocrites. Polish (and all postsoviet states in general) is the new jew. I am not kidding you! In France there have been cases of anti-white racism by Blacks, also against Poles living in France. Parents of affected children called the SOS Racism hotline to get assistance. And, because the world is on a downhill slide towards hell, they were really told:Is your kid black or muslim? no? sorry, we are only handling cases of racism (!!!).


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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