Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision: Updates

A group calling itself the Polish Anti-Defamation League is now demanding that the feature film "Ida" be accompanied by explanatory text that they demand. The text will offer their view of World War II in Poland. 

You can read more about this misguided effort here.

This effort is pathetic and chances are it will produce no positive outcome. It makes the Poles involved look unsophisticated.

Feature films are feature films. They are a different experience than polemical pamphlets. 

Few people will ever see "Ida," and those who do see it probably already have their own view of World War II. 

The film itself is not pro-Polish or anti-Polish. It makes no pretense of offering a comprehensive, non-fiction summation of World War II in Poland.  

Too, if the Poles involved want different stories to be told, they should tell them, and they should support those who are telling them. 

I am a Polish-American writer and many of the people I know through Facebook are Polish-American or Polish-British or Polish-Australian writers and artists. 

We struggle to find funding, book-buyers, and venues. 

I receive almost no invitations from Polish groups to talk about "Bieganski." I'm scheduled to talk about "Bieganski" next in April; the host is not Polish. 

I'm part of a Facebook page devoted to Polish-American writers; we are a resource for anyone who wants to get the Polish story told. Why are those who want the Polish story told not contacting us, hosting us, buying our books, reviewing our books, getting our books on their school curricula and library shelves? 

Polonia, you don't get your story told by complaining to those who are producing art. You get your story told by supporting the art, authors, filmmakers, poets, books, movies, documentaries, museum exhibits, and school curricula you like. 

In other news ... 

This article reports that Witold Pilecki's daughter was left out of the 70th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. 

I found this incomprehensible. I asked about it online and Sebastian Bartos responded, 

"Pilecki is very well known in Poland and the absence of his daughter was deliberate for political reasons. It is due in a large part to the ideological conflict within the Polish political elite over Auschwitz's identity and specific historical figures as role models. There has been a serious attempt to discredit or redefine Polish patriotism, brand it as an instrument of the imagined raging nationalists and prove it as irrelevant or simply foolish. Pilecki has unfortunately been a victim of this movement."

While John Guzlowski pointed out that the USHMM honored Pilecki in 2013. Read more about that here.

If you'd like to read more about what Polonia can and should do to get its story told, read this.


  1. I have read the link, and I strongly disagree with you.

    Fiction, no less than non-fiction, shapes public opinion. People commonly see something on TV and reinforce an opinion based on it. And public opinion is slanted to believing that only Jews suffered and/or that Poles were somehow responsible (or co-responsible) for the Holocaust.

    What the leftist GAZETA WYBORCZA says is entirely predictable.

    Polish efforts to "get the word out" go nowhere because the public is already pre-conditioned to hold to false beliefs about Polish history. "Ida" is just one example.

    What the Polish Anti-Defamation League did was long overdue. I hope that they keep up their efforts. More power to them!

    1. Well said Jan, and if the Polish Anti-Defamation League received MORE support, then their campaigns and efforts would obtain a higher visibility - and eventually a greater impact. The old maxim of "Silence is assent" is as true as ever. It is our obligation to protest against the lies, slurs and did-information that we notice. I, for one, will not simply "give up" and roll over.

      Danusha, Action is better than Inaction - and more needs to be done on MANY fronts. So, stop trying to undermine those who are actually DOING something just because it doesn't suit your personal style or whim.

    2. Dan Zamoyski "Danusha, Action is better than Inaction - and more needs to be done on MANY fronts. So, stop trying to undermine those who are actually DOING something just because it doesn't suit your personal style or whim."

      So in addition to being an antisemitic conspiracy theorist you are also unintelligent and rude. Please stop reading my blog.

  2. The effort makes Poles involved look unsophisticated is a very delicate way to put it. The effort makes Poles involved look like morons and reflects badly on the rest of us. This stupid, stupid protest has already been reported on by the Guardian, NYT, Times of Israel etc. The idiots never learn.

  3. Stupid, huh?

    Do Jews look stupid because of their Anti-Defamation League (ADL)?

    Do Jews look stupid when they dignify Holocaust denial by making it a crime in many nations?

    Did Jews look stupid when they warned, in dead seriousness, that Mel Gibson's PASSION OF THE CHRIST was effectively going to return us to the Middle Ages by causing the persecution of Jews?

  4. Jan "Do Jews look stupid when they dignify Holocaust denial by making it a crime in many nations?"

    Jan, Jews don't do that. There weren't enough Jews left in Europe after WW II to do that.

    1. Surely Jews did not actually have to live in Europe to influence post--WWII western European politics, especially in view of the sense of guilt of western Europeans, and the moral capital that Jews had gotten from the Holocaust.

    2. The protest looked stupid because it targeted a wrong movie, made very little sense in itself and was absolutely certain to backfire terribly. In fact, many viewers would never see Ida as a story about Polish responsability for the Holocaust, if it weren't for the protest in question. Obviously the protest received disproportional media attention, as it is a perfect pretext to showcase Poles as nationalistic simpletons who prefer to stomp their feet instead of confronting reality. The fact that similar reactions greeted Leviathan in Russia makes it look even sadder and more pathetic.

      I am not a huge fan of Ida, as its substance is too permeated by shallow stereotypes. Yet it definitely does not cross any lines that could justify that amount of outrage. The idea that the movie should be altered by administrative fiat crosses all the lines of common sense.

      There is a case which truly requires attention, as an Austrian (!) newspaper has recently questioned why Poland does not accept its responsability for the Holocaust. The smart Polish anti-defamation league would have sued that newspaper and run a media campaign, forcing them to publicy apologise. Austrians do not have many things to be proud about from that period and they are a perfect target to score some points for us. But of course we picked the wrong battle again.

      The end result is that a truly outrageous action is left with no response and a film which, despite its flaws, could have promoted Polish cinema a little will instead be used as another episode in the story of Bieganski. Well done.

      Also, if you want to write about "moral capital" of the Holocaust, then Poland has no such capital. Some may revolt against that, but it leads only to digging themselves deeper into the stereotypical quicksand.

    3. Piotr I agree with much of what you wrote above.

      The key thing is this. The protest is stupid. It will not be interpreted as its organizers wish it to be. It will be interpreted as the ineffectual and clueless ranting of insensitive nationalists.

      Others may argue all they want about this, but the above cannot be contested. It is simply fact. That is exactly how this protest will be perceived.

    4. I absolutely agree.

    5. Definitely.

      When Poles draw attention to "Ida", it is the same as Jews drawing attention to Holocaust denial by successfully pressing to have it outlawed.

      Yes, of course Polish suffering has no moral capital, and of course Poles who speak up will be seen as nationalistic simpletons, just as African-American civil rights activists were once seen as malcontents and troublemakers.

      This should not stop us. SOME people will listen. If we Poles finally make some noise instead of being so timid, we may eventually be heard.

      In any case, I would rather be seen as a nationalistic simpleton than to tamely submit to the falsification of history at Poland's expense.

      I lately have shifted my emphasis to humor. Example: Yes, we are nationalistic simpletons. In our chauvinistic imagination, Hitler was an Austrian even though everyone knows that he actually was a Pole. How dumb-Polack of us to think otherwise!

    6. Hello Jan, I do think that Polish suffering has moral capital, what I feel is that it has is no political weight. It is not something of any account in the world of politics, any more than the sufferings of the Ukraine under Stalin is.

      And that is not something I can change, as I am trying to be "no part" of the world of politics, and don't even vote. But that does not prevent me speaking out.

      And, yes, a light touch can always help, I think. And I think always always, whatever the provocation, keep "the law of loving kindness" on our tongue, as our Creator, the God of Abraham, has taught us.

    7. I think the problem here is that the Handbook of Political Correctness, which has clearly defined us as "unter", has put us in a clever Catch-22. If we don't protest this ongoing campaign of vilification, then it must be true, or we would have protested it - and/or it is our own fault for not protesting it.

      But when we do protest it, then we are either being idiots and/or proving just how Horrid we are by denying our Horribleness.

      So we are always up for criticism in this area, and my thought is that I might as well, therefore, say what I think, always provided I stick to the Creator's guidelines - truthfulness and loving-kindess.

      Truthfulness is difficult now as the Official History of the war is spun so much, its genuinely hard to know what really happened. And I know I am constantly being goaded into retaliating in kind, and thus "proving" how "unter" I am, and hopefully, with the right teaching, can avoid it.

      That said, I don't agree with the way some are tackling the Ida issue. But think them courageous to tackle it at all.

  5. It's a cliche of antisemitism to imagine that Jews are all powerful and are behind everything that happens.

    If Jews were so all powerful, they could have prevented the Holocaust. If Jews were so all powerful, they could stop the murderous antisemitism they face in Europe now, as yesterday's video discusses.

    No, Jan, I am not calling you an antisemite. I am saying that it is a cliche of antisemitism to imagine that Jews are more powerful than they are.

    1. I propose that it is just as much a mistake to under-rate Jewish influence as it is to over-rate it. I also think it rather simplistic to suppose that Jewish influence had nothing to do with the criminalization of Holocaust denial in Europe.

      I have read some Jews who would like to censor the Internet for unwelcome reference to Jews. However, in the USA, the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution makes it much more difficult to try.

    2. Oh, for God's sake. He's completely obsessed with Jews. He hates hates hates hate hates hate hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates hates Jews. To pretend to fail to notice this takes some serious chutzpah.

    3. Truth is hate to those who hate the truth.

    4. Danusha,

      Re Jewish influence in films, cinema, global media, governments (not just in Israel !) - please don't even try to deny that things like Biscupski's "Hollywood's War on Poland 1939-45" was a mere blip. I expect that you are familiar with that book, a very high proportion of which is factual, verifiable documentation supporting the facts in his book. So, that era was fact in terms of Jewish and Soviet influence on film anti-Polish themes, story-lines, characterisations, and ethnic portrayals. Are you realistically saying that that level of influence had disappeared? Or decreased? Not likely. And, Yes, those powers that be out there, who hide behind elaborate chains of ownership, changed names (lots of that in Poland and elsewhere) and shell companies can pull strings and set policies that are absolutely undetectable - which is exactly how they want it. So, don't under-estimate nor over-estimate Jewish influence in all manner of global activities - but certainly Do Not Deny it is happening.

  6. BTW I will be leaving the computer soon so any comments added in the next little while will have to wait for moderation.

  7. Ida sounds to me like a perfect piece of Bieganski-ing,(but dressed up with a lot of Art and Lovely Camera Angles). I haven't seen it and don't intend to, so I can only go by the reviews and discussions.

    It does, unusually, deal with one of Stalin's willing executioners. However, if I am to judge by the reviews she is treated with understanding and respect. No problem there - our Creator wishes us to treat everyone with kindness and respect, whether we respect what they have done or not.

    But, here is the contrast, and the problem - according to this review.

    "We don’t learn a great deal about the ethnically Polish murderer or his family. We see grinding poverty, misery and fear, which might evoke compassion for their plight, though rather in the form of shuddering pity for benighted beasts. The last time we see the murderer, he is cowering in the empty burial pit, head bowed in penitence, confessing the ugly truth to the daughter of the people he has killed. Paradoxically, he also reveals that he saved Ida’s life by giving her away to the local priest. For the warring critics, this scene is either too cheaply cathartic or potentially libellous in its insistence on Polish guilt. I would argue that Pawlikowski simply doesn’t do enough with this section of the story, using it almost perfunctorily as a ready-made plot element, familiar from other tales..."

    It is very familiar. In fact it seems to be business as usual - very on-message. I assume it will be much lauded and applauded by the world.

    And Jan, I take your point about the anti-defamation league, but don't myself agree with trying to get the movie amended. Let it stand as a witness to a political agenda that many people want to deny.

    Plus we need to be realistic about the politics and the world. I see this as yet more reinforcement of the Bible's warning that "the whole world" is lying in the power of the one who is called "the father of the lie", and it gives me yet more incentive to go on being "no part" of it, as Jesus taught us.

    And, on the plus side, it helped me to get out on the doors with my Bible, on a very cold morning, when all my arthritic joints were telling me they wanted to stay safe at home. And I had a lovely morning out with one of my Ghanaian sisters.

  8. Before I mention the film, can I pick up the point raised by Piotr about the Austrian newspaper. The paper in question is a tabloid called “Heute” (Today) and the article Piotr mentions is by Erich Nuler and is headlined: ‘KZ – überlebender schlägt 11 Gebot vor: “Du sollst nicht Mitläufer sein”. This headline – perhaps the editor’s and not necessarily Nuler’s - stretches the translation of an exhortation by Roman Kent, a Holocaust survivor, that “you should never be a bystander“ . It offers instead the following: “Concentration camp survivor proposes 11th commandment: thou shalt not be a fellow-traveller“.

    So much for the headline itself. The author of the article then goes on to quote the Polish president’s observation at the Auschwitz commemoration that the Germans had made his homeland into an “eternal Jewish cemetery”. Was there a better way of phrasing what is essentially a painful truth? The president’s comments could be understood as an acknowledgment by Poland of the role forced upon the country for bearing the responsibility of being custodians of this same cemetery.

    But, Erich Nuler goes on in the following paragraph - “Eine polnische Mitschuld nannte er nicht” (He didn’t speak of a Polish share of the blame). For this remark Nuler is now getting some well-deserved flak in the comments section. Whether his comment is actually grounds for legal action is up to Polish citizens and diplomats to decide, but the kind of accusation by implication which he uses is difficult to describe as actual libel since it is evasive and relies on an inference drawn from a negative rather than any clear assertion, let alone statement of fact.

    As for the film itself, I’m not qualified to comment since I haven’t seen it. The review mentioned by Sue is a good one and seems to take a balanced view but unfortunately virtually gives away the entire plot. Not so Danusha’s own recent review, which raises some important questions. Danusha writes: “...Stalinist murder does not carry the same taint as Nazi murder. Problem: the millions tortured and murdered in the name of Communism are just as dead as the millions murdered in the name of Nazism.”

    To mark the Auschwitz commemorations, we’ve had documentaries and programmes here in the UK and some have featured truly harrowing photos and film footage of Auschwitz and other camps such as Bergen-Belsen. There is no equivalent visual evidence of the crimes of Stalin’s NKVD and therein lies part of the problem. The world simply does not have an indelible visual image of what the victims of the Gulag actually went through as they froze or starved or were worked to death in Siberia or elsewhere, or were drowned en masse in icy waters or perished in the mines of Kolyma or were beaten senseless and then summarily executed in underground cells or prison courtyards.

    But what makes the crime of the Third Reich’s attempt to destroy an entire people most shocking is not just the industrial scale and the brutal methods used but also the cynical deceit employed. The innocents went to their deaths and some among them no doubt supposed that they were genuinely being resettled, that the countrymen of Beethoven, Goethe, and – yes – Mozart, could never be the architects of what we now know was such unprecedented barbarism.

    1. Michal as ever you offer interesting points in an articulate post.

      About visual documentation.

      I ask my students, why did the Civil Rights Movement occur, and succeed, when it did?

      Answer: American soldiers had just returned from fighting to make the world safe for democracy and against racism



      Americans SAW attack dogs go after little African American children.

      That was that.

  9. I personally think that no one should or could interfere in any independent artist creation of any genre and try to put its own ideas or agendas (right or wrong ones) in someone else's works of art. It isn't an educational movie for the history lessons in the primary schools and it shouldn't be seen as such nor adjusted to be one. It is a story of Ida, a personal vision of the director, story of one particular aspect of those grim and not so distant times, not a full story of course, but should we also ask poets to add explanatory verses at the beginnings of their poems? I don't think so.

    1. I agree Anonymous and would not ask for any changes to be made to Ida. I try to look on the plus side, and feel that it is yet another useful piece of evidence when talking with those who say that the concerns Dr.Goska addressed in Bieganski do not exist. Yes, they do. And here they are.

  10. Dan Zamoyski, I see things completely differently than you do. I don't think it would be productive for us to debate. Your proposed world of secret Jews pulling strings to damage Poles sounds like anti-semitic conspiracy theory to me.


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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