Friday, February 26, 2021

Tomasz Greniuch Steps Down from Institute of National Remembrance after Fascist Salute Photo Emerges




Vanessa Gera

February 22, 2021

Polish State Historian Resigns After Far-Right Past Revealed


WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish historian resigned Monday from the government’s historical institute after controversy erupted over his past ties with a far-right organization and photos of him making the stiff-armed fascist salute.


Tomasz Greniuch was recently appointed to head the Wroclaw office of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a state organization whose role is to document Nazi and communist crimes carried out on Polish soil.


Outrage had been mounting over the appointment in Poland, a country that suffered enormously under Nazi German rule in World War II. However, the fact that Greniuch was even named to the role was seen by some as evidence of right-wing extremism becoming mainstream, under Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice party.


The party has sought to prevent other right-wing parties from cutting into its base, which has led leaders to sometimes try to appeal to ultra-nationalist voters.


Greniuch also authored a book, “The Way of the Nationalist,” published in 2013, which glorifies Léon Degrelle, a Belgian collaborator of the Third Reich, according to the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.


President Andrzej Duda had awarded Greniuch in 2018 with the Bronze Cross of Merit, a state decoration awarded for his scholarship on the so-called “cursed soldiers.” Those were Polish resistance fighters who opposed communist forces in the later stages of World War II and in the war’s aftermath.


Greniuch, who is in his late 30s, issued a public apology Friday for his past behavior.


“I have never been a Nazi. I apologize once again for the irresponsible gesture from several years ago and I consider it a mistake,” he said. He described his past behavior as “youthful bravado” and said he had never meant to glorify any form of totalitarianism.


Outrage in Poland has grown as images have been published of Greniuch making the stiff-armed salute years ago, and participating in demonstrations as a young man with the National Radical Camp, a far-right group that traces its roots to an anti-Semitic and openly fascist movement that existed before World War II.


See full article here

Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Perfect Pole: Henryk Jedwab by Lukasz Klimek


Rest in Peace Lieutenant Jedwab. Thank You for Your service.

So many heroes, so little attention. In researching my book "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype," I read many hair-raising, heartbreaking, inspirational stories of Poles who behaved heroically in the face of impossible odds. The vast majority of these heroes are unknown to the wider world. I met people who pooh-poohed sharing their own heroism. They felt that there were so many Poles who did the utmost, but who would never be recognized.


Blog reader Lukasz Klimek offers, below, the tale of one such remarkable Pole – a man Lukasz calls "A Perfect Pole." You probably won't read about Henryk Jedwab anywhere else, so please read about him here. And thank you.




The man who came to be known by the more typically Polish first name of Henryk was born with the more traditionally Jewish name of Haim Joel Jedwab on April 15th, 1918, in Kalisz, Poland. Henryk's father, Lejb Leon Jedwab, and his mother, and Ella, née Lipska, were wealthy and culturally assimilated. At a time when most Polish Jews named Yiddish as their first language, Henryk never learned to speak Yiddish. He once wrote, "I managed my life without that language."


The very same year of Jedwab's birth, 1918, was also a momentous year for Poland. Poland was reborn as a political entity after World War I. Before that, Poland had existed as a colony of Russia, Prussia, and Austria for 146 years. During that time, Russia and Prussia expressly stated that they hoped to obliterate the very concept of Poland. Their goal was cultural genocide. Polish language was often forbidden in schools. For a time there was a ban on Poles erecting permanent dwellings, even on their own land. One Pole, Michał Drzymała, became internationally famous after he turned a wagon into his home. He would move the wagon every twenty-four hours to avoid the law. In the late nineteenth century, illiteracy may have been as high as between sixty and seventy percent in Russian Poland. Austrian Poland was notorious as a site of widespread poverty, famine, and alcoholism. Rebuilding Poland as a viable nation would take hard work. Little did the jubilant Poles celebrating the rebirth of their nation in 1918 know that an even more horrific catastrophe, Nazi invasion and occupation, would begin in just twenty-one years, in 1939.


After Poland was reborn, nationalism ran high. Some Poles regarded anything not 100% Polish as an enemy. Polish anti-Semitism reached its height during the interwar period, that is, between 1918 and 1939. Polish chauvinists demanded a quota system in higher education. Their justification was that Polish Catholics were underrepresented in the professions, while Jews were overrepresented, and Polish Catholics were overrepresented as impoverished peasants. As the 2018 book Against Antisemitism records, "77 percent of Jews were urban dwellers … Jews accounted for 56 percent of doctors, 45 percent of teachers, 33 percent of lawyers, and 22 percent of journalists."


It wasn't just an understandable desire to elevate Polish Catholics that inspired the push for quotas. Antisemitism was newly energized by an international wave of social Darwinism in the sciences. Another factor fueled antisemitism: the previously mentioned nationalism and chauvinism typical of a formerly oppressed people suddenly gaining self-rule. Racists demanded that Jewish medical students not be allowed to dissect the corpses of Christians. Tragically and wrongly, Polish chauvinists did beat up Jews on university campuses.


Jedwab attended a middle school named after the nineteenth-century Polish poet Adam Asnyk, and went on to the military academy in Brześć (a city that is now named Brest, and is in Belarus). He embarked on the study of medicine at the University of Warsaw. Because of anti-Semitic violence, he and his younger brother left Poland and continued to pursue their education at Nancy-Université in France. When Hitler threatened Poland, Jedwab returned to his country, regardless of the wrongs he suffered, to defend it against the Germans.


Jedwab served in 84th Polesie Rifle Regiment. On September 1st, 1939, when Nazi Germany began its blitzkrieg against Poland, thus beginning World War II, Jedwab was commanding soldiers. They were dug in on defensive positions. Suddenly Jedwab saw enemy soldiers emerging from the mist. Germans were running straight for his concealed position. At first Jedwab was caught off guard and was unable to speak. When the enemy was really close, he overcame his initial shock, and ordered the machine-gun crew to fire. Later that day his CO praised him for his sangfroid in combat.


Reborn Poland was no match for wealthy, highly industrialized, Nazi Germany. In fact, no single nation was. Great Britain and the United States, much larger and wealthier than Poland, fought the Nazis for years. Too, under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, Poland was invaded by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in September, 1939. Both were massive, genocidal powers determined to obliterate Poland once and for all. Poland never formally surrendered, but by October 6, 1939, Germany and Russia had full control of Polish territory.


During eleven days of fighting against overwhelming odds, Jedwab's 84th regiment suffered heavy casualties and was almost completely destroyed. On September 27th, Jedwab crossed the Prut river on the Polish-Romanian border as Soviet soldiers fired at him.


Carrying no food, papers, or money, Jedwab travelled through Romania, Yugoslavia, and Italy to France. He received help from locals, including Italians, even though Italy was allied with Germany. Once in France, Jedwab rejoined the Polish Army and became an instructor in the Cadet School in Camp de Coëtquidan. "My French career began. It was an eye-opener. One has to be an idiot to count on the French. The Germans got bored with the Phony War and they decided to end this fun," he later wrote.


During the Fall of France, Jedwab was a commander of an anti-tank battalion. His unit covered the retreat of the French Army. For his bravery, Jedwab was awarded, three times, with the Croix de Guerre.


One day in Paris, Jedwab took a nap. When he woke up, Paris was already overrun by the Germans. They took him prisoner, but he escaped from the POW camp after eight days. Jedwab crossed the French-Spanish border by train. To be specific, he rode the rods underneath the passenger car. From Spain he traveled to Gibraltar and then to Great Britain.


Jedwab wanted to return to Poland. He was worried about his parents. He volunteered to join the Cichociemni That is, "The Silent and Unseen." The Cichociemni were an elite Polish anti-Nazi unit with a high casualty rate. During training, Jedwab broke his arm. Frustrated with what felt to him as inactivity, he caused disciplinary problems. A sympathetic Polish colonel send him to the Special Operations Executive, a secret British espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance unit.


Because he was a fluent French speaker, Jedwab was parachuted into France twice to organize the French resistance. The details of his assignments were classified and Jedwab never spoke about them.


In July, 1942, the British Army formed a commando unit of non-British personnel from Nazi-occupied Europe. It was called the Number 10 Inter-Allied Commando unit. The portion made up of Poles was dubbed Number 6. Jedwab joined that. Upon arriving at the camp in Scotland, Jedwab started to order soldiers around. Suddenly he heard someone saying "That loudmouth must be my brother!". On that day, after three years of separation, he was reunited with his younger brother, Abram Jan "Janek" Jedwab.


In 1942 his company was send to North Africa. One year later they landed in Italy. On the night of December 21-22, 1943, in a town named Pescopennataro, Jedwab's unit was attacked by some 250 German Gebirgsjägers, that is, elite mountain troops. The commandos managed to fend off the attack. For this act, Jedwab's entire company was collectively awarded the Order of Virtuti Militari.


On January 17th, 1944, the company crossed Garigliano river and started taking nearby hills one by one. They repelled several German counterattacks. Jedwab once again showed courage and was wounded by a grenade explosion. He was later decorated with Polish Cross of Valor.


In 1944, Jedwab's fate crossed paths with the legendary Polish II Corps. As previously mentioned, Russia's intentions toward Poland had long been genocidal. When Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded Poland in September, 1939, Russia began an anti-Polish ethnic cleansing campaign in the territory under its control. Hundreds of thousands of Poles were deported. Typically they might be roused from bed in the middle of the night and put on an unheated cattle cars with hundreds of others. They had no idea where they were going, why, or when, if ever, they'd be released. Many died. About crimes Soviet Russians committed against Poles, Jan Tomasz Gross has written, "Very conservative estimates show that [between 1939 and 1941] the Soviets killed or drove to their deaths three or four times as many people as the Nazis from a population half the size of that under German jurisdiction."


From a paper documenting this crime:


The Milewskis counted 27 persons in their car (p. 16). Marysia Wilgut Pienta claims that "we were packed in boxcars in groups of fifty" (p. 21), and so did Adela Konradczyńska-Piorkowska. Jerzy Wroblewski remembers 58 passengers in his cattle car, and there were 40 cattle cars for prisoners and three cars for their escort (pp. 27-28). Anita Kozicka Paschwa insists that "in each boxcar there were from 50 to 70 people" (p. 24). Anna Mineyko recalls that their trip lasted 28 days (p. 26). Urszula Sowińskaís journey took 42 days (p. 68). Stefania Buczak-Zarzycka remembers that during 21 days in transit they received 8 pieces of bread and soup every other day (s. 18). According to Tadeusz Pieczko, "by the time we reached the labor camps of Siberia about ten percent of the people had already died," the old and the very young in particular (p. 19).6  The dead were first stored in a separate flatbed car and then dumped at the next station (pp. 19, 23).


Later, though, after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, a desperate Stalin, recognizing that he needed all the cannon fodder he could get, and willing to let German Nazis kill off Poles, released Poles from Siberia. Władysław Anders was a Pole of Baltic-German ancestry. He was a Polish soldier. After September, 1939, Soviets arrested him, tortured him, and urged him to join the Red Army. He refused. A desperate Stalin allowed him to form and lead the Polish Second Corps of Polish nationals. One of his men's crowning achievements was the capture of Monte Cassino. The Allies lost c. 55,000 men in this capture; about one thousand of the dead were Polish. The song "Red Poppies on Monte Cassino" commemorates their sacrifice:


The red poppies on Monte Cassino
Drank Polish blood instead of dew...
O'er the poppies the soldiers did go
'Mid death, and to their anger stayed true!
Years will come and ages will go,
Enshrining their strivings and their toil!...
And the poppies on Monte Cassino
Will be redder for Poles' blood in their soil.


On April 4th, 1944, No. 6 Troop was transferred to Polish Second Corps. General Władysław Anders had a job for them. No. 6 Troop was needed at Monte Cassino. Jedwab took part in two assaults on Monte Cassino. When one of commandos was wounded, Jedwab decided to help him. He waved the white flag, but Germans kept shooting at him. Nonetheless, he carried the wounded soldier to safety and stopped the bleeding in very unusual way – he softened a biscuit in his mouth and used it to seal the bullet wound.

General Władysław Anders (left) personally decorated Henryk Jedwab (right) with Cross of Valor after the battle of  Garigliano.

Henryk Jedwab (left) with fellow commandos in Italy, near Monte Cassino.

Later he fought in the Battle of Ancona and the Battle of Bologna. When he was sent on a reconaissance mission near Bologna, he simply crossed the Idice river in his Bren Carrier, a type of light, small, tank-like vehicle. Jedwab drove into the Bologna, and was the first Allied soldier to enter that city. After returning to Polish positions, Jedwab approached Major Bohdan Tymieniecki who described Jedwab's escapade in his book titled "Na imię jej było Lilly" ("Her name was Lilly") as follows:


"Colleague Tymieniecki, I invite You to dinner at Papagallo."


"What's Papagallo?"


"Haven't you heard? Papagallo in Bologna is the best restaurant in Europe."

Photo of Henryk Jedwab taken during Italian campaign. Below are his military medals.

Henryk Jedwab was wounded in action three times. He was decorated for bravery twenty four times. Among his medals was the Virtuti Militari, the Monte Cassino Cross, and the Polish Cross of Valour.


In 1946, Jedwab married a Polish woman, Irena. They chose not to return to Soviet-dominated Poland. Irena was afraid of Soviets after her experience in Siberia. Jedwab had no living relatives left in Poland. His father died of starvation in the Warsaw Ghetto. His mother was gunned down in the streets of Warsaw. Janek, his younger brother, became a popular architect in UK. Jedwab became a textile engineer. In 1950, Jedwab and Irena emigrated to Canada. The couple had one daughter Ewa, who was called "Myszka" (little mouse) by her father. Irena passed away on August 9th, 1978. Years later Jedwab wrote "I got married with the most valuable partner who was my support in the fight for a place in the new world." To his great good fortune, he did fall in love again and married Bozena.

Henryk and Irena

He had an illustrious career in the textile industry and was an active member of many veterans' organizations including the Polish Combatants' Association in Canada, the Canadian Legion, the Commando Association and the American Rangers Association.


On May 24th, 1989 Abram Jan "Janek" Jedwab passed away in London. "I lost my only brother, friend and comrade in arms" Jedwab wrote in an obituary published in a Kalisz newspaper. "He was a man of a great heart and great artistic soul."


In 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, Jedwab decided to help the countries that had been under the Soviet yoke. From 1991 until 1996, he worked as a volunteer consultant helping to build or modernize twenty-four textile factories in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.


In 1997, the Polish director Michał Bukojemski conducted an interview with Jedwab. It was turned into a short documentary film titled "Komandos" ("The Commando").  


On June 11th, 1999, he was honored with the title of "Honorary Citizen of the City of Kalisz".


Henryk Jedwab, one of most decorated Polish soldiers of WWII, passed away peacefully at the age of 87 on September 14th, 2005 at the Ottawa General Hospital. He is buried in the Field of Honour at Pointe Claire, Quebec.


On his deathbed, his doctor asked, "Well, Henryk, what now?" The elderly soldier replied "There's a time to live, there's a time to love and there's a time to die, and my time to die has come."


On September 20th, 2008, a monument dedicated to his memory was unveiled at the Jewish cemetery in his hometown of Kalisz. It is a boulder decorated with the image of young Henryk, with cuts symbolizing four chapters of his life, as well as with inscriptions informing the visitor about his exceptional merits. The names of his family members who were killed in the Holocaust are also listed.


Jedwab was once asked how many Germans did he killed. He responded "Więcej niż liczyła moja rodzina i jeszcze dużo, dużo więcej." One could translate this as, "The number of Germans I killed is much larger than the number of my family members who were killed by Germans."


Jewish cemetery in Kalisz. Monument honoring Henryk Jedwab.

Illustrations from Polish history books. The resemblance is not coincidental.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

"Thank You for My Life"


Wound II by Anna Wojtczak

So my son was on a trip, a semester-long program in Israel, and then they traveled to Poland. And they traveled to Poland for, I think, about ten days. And on this program, he made a good friend, a new friend, named Mason. And when they got to Poland, they were touring some of the centers of Jewish life before the war, and they were also going to the camps. And on the third or fourth day of the time in Poland, Mason disappeared for the day with one of the counselors on the program.


And he wouldn't tell anyone where he was going, and he came back and he wouldn't tell anyone where he had been. And then he told my son, because they were friends or because my son noodged him a lot to tell him. And this is what he told my son. He said, "My grandparents were survivors. They were married three weeks before the deportation to Auschwitz. And in Auschwitz they were separated, obviously, and he would go every evening to the fence separating the men's and the women's sides of the camps, to bring her a crust of bread or an extra potato if he could, or even just to see her.


"Until my grandmother," he said, "was transferred to a rabbit farm on the outskirts of Auschwitz." The Nazis were doing experiments on rabbits that had to do with finding a cure for typhus. "And the rabbit farm was run by a Polish man who noticed, pretty early on, that the rabbits were getting better quality food and attention and care than the Jewish slave laborers. So he started to sneak in food for the Jewish slave laborers and the inmates.


"And then," Mason told my son, "my grandmother cut her arm on a piece of barbed wire, and the cut became infected. And it wasn't a serious infection, if you had antibiotics. But of course, if you were a Jew in that place, in that time, there was no way you were going to get antibiotics. So what did this Polish man who was running the rabbit farm do? He cut his own arm open, and he placed his wound on her wound so that he would get the infection that she had, and he became infected. And he went to the Nazis, and he said, 'I'm one of your best managers. This rabbit farm is very productive. If I die, you're gonna lose a lot of productivity. I need medicine.' They gave him medicine, and he shared it with her. And he saved her life."


So Mason said to my son, he said, "Where was I, when I left the other day and I disappeared? I went to see that Polish man. He's still alive and living on the outskirts of Warsaw, and I went to say, thank you for my life. Thank you for my life."


Rabbi Ariel Burger


Wound painting by Anna Wojtczak

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A Break Between Two Polonians

Before this week, I'd been in touch with John for at least twenty-five years. We had never met in person, but we remained in contact via the internet. 

We talked, mostly, about Polonian issues. I did everything I could to advance his work, and he advanced mine. We asked each other questions and provided each other with information and tips on how and where to publish Polish-American writing. 

Whenever I talked about Polonians not uniting and not supporting each other, I tried to acknowledge John as the exception. John has done a lot to advance Polonia. He has helped me and others. 

This week, John "unfriended" and "blocked" me on Facebook. I don't think we'll ever speak again. 

This is how it played out:

A new book has come out called "The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive," by Philippe Sands. It's about Otto Wachter. Here's what Wikipedia says about Otto Wachter 

Baron Otto Gustav von Wächter (8 July 1901, Vienna, Austria-Hungary – 14 July 1949, Rome, Italy[1]) was an Austrian lawyer, Nazi politician and a high-ranking member of the SS, a paramilitary organisation of the Nazi Party. During the occupation of Poland in World War II, he was the Governor of the district of Kraków in the General Government and then of the District of Galicia (now for the most part in Ukraine). Later, in 1944, he was appointed as head of the German Military Administration in the puppet state of the Republic of Salò in Italy. During the last two months of the war, he was responsible for the non-German forces at the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) in Berlin.
In 1940 68,000 Jews were expelled from Kraków and in 1941 the Kraków Ghetto was created for the remaining 15,000 Jews by his decrees. On 28 September 1946 the Polish government requested the Military Governor of the United States Zone that Wächter be delivered to Poland for trial for "mass murder, shooting and executions. Under his command of District Galicia more than one hundred thousand Polish citizens lost their lives." He managed to evade the Allied authorities for 4 years. In 1949, Wächter was given refuge by pro-Nazi Austrian bishop Alois Hudal in the Vatican where he died the same year, aged 48, reportedly from kidney disease

And here's a summary of the new book from Penguin, the book's publisher

Philippe Sands pieces together, in riveting detail, Wächter’s extraordinary, shocking story. Given full access to the Wächter family archives–journals, diaries, tapes, and more–and with the assistance of the Wächters’ son Horst, who believes his father to have been a “good man,” Sands writes of Wächter’s rise through the Nazi high command, his “blissful” marriage and family life as their world was brought to ruin, and his four-year flight to escape justice–to the Tirol, to Rome, and the Vatican; given a new identity, on his way to a new life via “the Ratline” to Perón’s Argentina, the escape route taken by Eichmann, Mengele, and thousands of other Nazis. 
Wächter’s escape was cut short by his mysterious, shocking death in Rome, in the midst of the burgeoning Cold War (was he being recruited in postwar Italy by the Americans and the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps or by the Soviet NKVD or by both; or was he poisoned by one side or the other, as his son believes–or by both?)

I posted about the new book on my Facebook page. I "tagged" John, so that he would be aware of this new book that would probably interest him. John's Polish-Catholic parents were victims of the Nazis. He writes about their victimization in his work. 

John said that the Ratlines were run by the Vatican because the Catholic Church is anti-Semitic. John said this on my page and on his own page. I challenged him, and he said, "Danusha Goska the Catholic Church in Germany supported the nazis in power just as the Vatican supported Mussolini. Perhaps it was the anti Semitism of the church. I’ve never looked into it." This is a cut-and-paste of John's post. 

This was an astounding statement. 

In a March 1, 2020 DW article, historian Hubert Wolf says that there are many questions that need to be answered before someone can say "The Vatican ran the ratlines because the Catholic Church is anti-Semitic." 

Here's a quote from that article 

A serious verdict on the contents of the archive will take years, Wolf warns. However, he is still optimistic about gaining meaningful insight into the ratlines. "For example, did the pope issue direct instructions or was it a more general order to help people without papers," Wolf says. "Or is there concrete evidence that the pope, with encouragement from the CIA, thought: 'it would be a good idea to send nationalistic people to Latin America because Communists were actively trying to overthrow the continent'."

Pius XII's fear of communism is well-documented, and was a point of reference for clergy helping on the ratlines. The justification was that whatever the National Socialists did during the war, at least they fought communism and had to be protected from political persecution. Communism was seen as the greatest threat to the Catholic Church.

"It may transpire that the pope knew nothing of any concrete help and that some people ruthlessly exploited that. Or Pius knew all about it, and turned a blind eye," Wolf told DW. So the all-important question that the opening of the archives must answer is: "Was the pope manipulated or did he know about people like Josef Mengele? That would be a whole new dimension."

I said this -- that more research is needed before one can pronounce that "The Vatican ran the ratlines because the Catholic Church is anti-Semitic," and John unfriended and blocked me. 

A woman named Helen Topor (I don't know her at all) said, "Your posts have generally been uncritically pro-Catholicism."

Topor's comment will be quite amusing to those who accuse me of being secretly Jewish and an enemy of the Catholic Church. 

Why write about all this? 

Polonians need to overcome differences and unite, organize, and act strategically. John and I have nothing in common. He's a wealthy and successful man. He lives on a secluded property with bears. He takes cruise vacations. He's very left-wing. That's very much not my life. 

But for decades we were able to ignore our differences and act together for the good of Polonia. That will never happen again. It's a shame. 

Prejudice against Catholics and Catholicism is alive and well. If and when it is discovered that "The Catholic Church ran the ratlines because the Catholic Church is anti-Semitic," that will make headline news. But, if the above-quoted Prof. Wolf is correct, as of right now, no such evidence exists. 

Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal is a confused and disgusting character who did aid major Nazi criminals. That's not the same as John's statement. 

I know that many people don't like Catholicism or Catholics. I've known that for a long time. I think I found out when I was a schoolgirl and participated in Vacation Bible School run by the Dutch Reformed Church. I really loved the crafts, the camaraderie, and the vigorous singing of Vacation Bible School. But when my fellow attendees discovered that I am Catholic, they treated me as if I had cooties. They told me that I was going to Hell. 

Hate is not truth. Hate is not justice. Exploiting the horrors of the Holocaust to service your own hate itch is not a noble activity.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


 If you ever miss me -- and who would not? --  and you are not on Facebook, you can visit my other blog. I post on both. My latest post on the other blog is photos of the record-breaking snowstorm. Morris County got 35.5 inches, breaking a 122 year old record (this must be confirmed). Paterson got about twenty. Photos here.