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) 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.