Monday, January 31, 2022

Poles, Jews, Double Standards, and World War II


In April, 2021, Cornell University Press published a new book, ""Warsaw Ghetto Police: The Jewish Order Service During the Nazi Occupation," by historian Katarzyna Person. On August 11, 2021, The Times of Israel published an article about Person's book. The article had this lengthy title: "Interview: 'We Need to Understand Why They Acted As They Did'" New book dredges up Warsaw Ghetto ‘police’ who sent fellow Jews to their deaths. Polish historian Katarzyna Person quotes firsthand accounts to reveal the bleak reality that set the stage for the creation of the infamous Jewish Order Service."

The article, quite overtly, makes the following points:

1)    Nazi occupation was horrific. Luckier people like us have never experienced these horrors and could never understand them.

2)    Under these horrific conditions, a minority of Jews collaborated with the Nazis and contributed, in however small a way, to the Holocaust. We must understand and forgive what people did under horrible circumstances.

"WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHY THEY ACTED AS THEY DID" the article announces, in its opening lines, in all capital letters, quoting Person.

From the Article: "People acted differently," she said. "We have to understand it." When the call to join the Jewish Order Service first went out in 1940, there were more applicants than positions filled. "At that point, no one had any sort of employment for one year" … "In Warsaw, as in other ghettos, the Jewish police played a part in deportations," Person said. "Members of the Jewish Order Service tried to round up people, bring them to the place where most people were taken to the death camp." [Jewish Police had to fill Nazi quotas of Jews brought to the deportation site.]

Of the quotas, she said, "It really became a choice between the life of their family and child and somebody else's child. There was no way out."

3)    These volunteers who worked for the Nazis did not know what was to come. They didn't know that the Holocaust would occur, and that most of Europe's Jews would be killed. In this sense, their ignorance of the larger project exculpates them from any guilt.

From the article: "[The] key point is that when [the Jewish Order Service] was set up, nobody knew how it would end up. Nobody knew about the Holocaust, that the ghetto would be closed. Nobody really knew what was going to happen in a year and a half."

4)    To point out that Jews, again, in however small a way, contributed to the Holocaust is itself an anti-Semitic thing to do. When we talk about Jews who volunteered for Nazi service, we must always mention what pressures caused them to do so.

From the article: Although she said the existence of the Jewish Order Service is "something really pretty well-known," she added that "it's part of an antisemitic narrative, as well, in my country … It's a symbol of collaboration. I'm trying to dispel the myth of the story," Person explained.

5)    It's not true to say that Jewish collaboration facilitated the Holocaust, even though Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto said as much in their memoirs. The Nazis would have murdered most of Europe's Jews with or without Jewish collaboration.

From the article: Person said that some Jewish voices from the ghetto maintained that the deportations would not have happened if the Order Service had refused to participate. She said this is "not true." "It would have happened nevertheless, it would have just required more force and been carried out differently," she said. "The deportations, the Holocaust and the death of the Warsaw Ghetto would have happened whether the Jewish police were involved or not."

6)    For a long time, no one wanted to talk about this; this book is a new contribution to Holocaust scholarship, 76 years after the end of WW II. No one talked about this even though, in the post-war era, Jews conducted trials of Jewish Police.

From the article: "I felt it's something we should talk about," she said. "Nobody has really carried out a proper look into it," Person says…after the war, many could not escape coreligionists who had documented their actions and brought them before Jewish honor courts. Internal communal trials were conducted in Poland before the phenomenon spread to Austria, Germany and even, in the 1950s, the newly independent State of Israel.


The article illustrates points of my own book, "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype." Poles and Jews are treated differently.

Compare how Poles are treated in relation to the six points, above.

1.) Critics of Poles insist that the horrors of Nazi occupation should not be invoked in discussions of actions committed by criminal Poles. No, those Poles committed the crimes they committed against Jews because they are essential Polish, Catholic, peasant, anti-Semites. Their very essence dictates their behavior, not any changing and changeable historical circumstance. People insist on this even though there are Poles who were heroic in one instance and criminal in another, defying any essentialist explanation for their behavior.

Critics of Poles insist that when Poles invoke the horrors of Nazi occupation, they are merely self-pitying and immature.

2.) Any attempt to understand and forgive Polish criminals would be dismissed as obscene.

3.) Critics of Poles insist, falsely, that Poles not only knew about the Final Solution, Poles wanted the Final Solution before, and more than, the Nazis did.

4.) Criticism of the Jews who joined the police is anti-Semitic. The most egregious condemnation, not only of criminal Poles but of a posited evil Polish essence, is not only moral, it is mandatory. Poles committed crimes because Poland, and its majority religion, Catholicism, are sick and evil.

5.) One must not say that Jewish collaborators played any role in advancing the Nazi project. One must say that every criminal Pole who robbed a vulnerable Jew played an essential role in the Holocaust, and that, without those Poles, the Holocaust never would have happened. Thus, the Holocaust is very much a Catholic project, because Poles were largely Catholic.

6.) That a book about the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Police is just coming out now is a great thing. No one will question its appearance 76 years after the end of WW II, even though Jewish survivors conducted trials of Jewish collaborators after the war. No one dare imply that a delay in scholarly attention to this topic reflects badly on Jews.

On the other hand, thorough scholarly attention to Polish criminals who killed, robbed, and tormented vulnerable Jews did not gain attention in the West until after the fall of Communism. This delay is proof positive that Poles are morally corrupt, cowards, insane nationalists, brain-dead Catholics, and incapable of keeping their own moral house in order.


How does this moral double standard justify itself? One prop for it is emphasizing Jewish suffering, and downplaying Polish, non-Jewish suffering.

As the my book and blog have repeated many times, Jews, as a group, suffered more than Poles, as a group, in Poland during WW II. That reality must never be forgotten. But the extraordinary suffering of Jews should not be used to erase the devastation suffered by Polish non-Jews and the country itself.

Critics of Poles and Poland insist on doing exactly that, though. They downplay Polish suffering. Polish criminals didn't do the horrible things they did because they were in a hellscape of limited choices. They did the horrible things they did not only because they themselves were bad people, but because Poland, Poles and Catholicism are all essentially evil. One finds such conclusions in scholarly books. No such conclusion about Jews would ever find its way into a recent scholarly book, nor should it.

Too, it is undeniable that many Polish criminals who victimized Jews were anti-Semites. Polish anti-Semitism is a real thing. For these criminals, Jews were outside of the "Universe of Obligation." Katarzyna Person insists that the Warsaw Ghetto Jewish police lived under a peculiar set of circumstances and made their choices, choices that horrify us, based on those peculiar circumstances. She demands that readers understand those circumstances and those choices.

Just so, students of history should understand the peculiar historical and socioeconomic circumstances in Poland that pushed some Poles to regard Jews as outside their universe of obligation. Without that understanding, any conclusions one reaches about the actions of Polish criminals is of questionable worth. And we refuse, again, to learn from history.


"Nazi Occupied Germany" English Newspaper

 An English newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press, has referred to Nazi Germany as "Nazi occupied Germany." Link to the article here.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Jan Grabowski in New York Times: Poland Is Erasing Key Holocaust History



On January 29, 2022, Jan Grabowski published an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that Polish people are promoting a "new wave of Holocaust revisionism." These bad Poles must be exposed and humiliated before the world.
Grabowski's first paragraph offers a brief description of his, Grabowski's, visit to the site of the Treblinka death camp, where Nazis murdered "close to 925,000 Jews." Grabowski visited on a "sad, wet day in November." Grabowski saw tiny bone fragments in the "tainted earth of Treblinka after the rain."


Grabowski writes,


"I saw Magdalena Gawin, the Polish deputy minister of Culture and National Heritage at the time, speak at the Treblinka train station flanked by a Polish Army honor guard, a Roman Catholic bishop and other distinguished guests, including Yehoshua Ellis, an American-born rabbi. They were assembled in Treblinka, a couple of miles away from the former death camp of the same name, to unveil a monument honoring Jan Maletka, a 21-year-old Polish railroad worker. Mr. Maletka, Polish researchers say, was shot in 1942 by the Nazis for giving water to the Jews as they waited in locked cattle cars idling outside the camp."


This event, Grabowski writes, is "the most vivid example of a dangerous new threat that is spreading rapidly today in Eastern Europe: Holocaust distortion. A false equivalence of victimization is but one hallmark of the new Polish historical revisionism. Another hallmark is a state-sponsored effort that downplays antisemitic terror at the hands of the Poles, though such incidents are well documented in the historical record."


Treblinka survivors allege that Poles sold tiny amounts of water to extremely thirsty Jews in exchange for cash or valuables. Grabowski also describes gangs of Poles who hunted down and robbed Jews, and then handed them over to Nazis.


The Maletka monument is wrong, Grabowski argues, because Poles committed horrible crimes against Jews, and because Poles did not suffer as badly under the German Nazis as Jews did. Better forget Maletka and focus on the rotten Poles who did bad things.


"It is essential to understand that Mr. Maletka’s actions occurred within the broader experience of exploitation and murder. To identify and shift focus to Mr. Maletka serves not only to elevate a heartwarming story about a young man but also to marginalize the hundreds of thousands of mostly unnamed Jewish victims. Indeed, the sign on the monument devotes equal spaces to the Polish railway worker and the Jews who perished in Treblinka."


My response.


1.) I have never encountered the Poland that Grabowski describes. I visited EE for the first time in the 1970s and most recently ten years ago, and several times in between. I've spent a lot of time among Poles and Polonians in various internet environments. I have never, ever, encountered any Poles, including those who make the most controversial statements, who deny that there were Poles who behaved in a criminal manner during the Nazi occupation. We universally, no matter our political differences, condemn criminal Poles.


I'm aware of numerous scholarly books and official statements by Poles, including John Paul II, who condemn and express shame at Poles who were silent and/or who committed crimes.


2.) I do not live in Poland and I cannot comment on the accuracy of Grabowski's assertion that the current Polish ruling party wants to erase important aspects of Holocaust history and replace it with a fake narrative of nothing-but-heroism.


3.) That Grabowski was given space in the New York Times to vent his spleen is telling. Reporting that *Poles* are re-writing the Holocaust is definitely something that the New York Times wants to report. The New York Times would *never* grant space to me or anyone else who has objected to the Bieganski Brute Polak stereotype, and the amply documented role that this stereotype plays in re-writing Holocaust history.


Grabowski never acknowledges that forces far more powerful than a handful of Poles have been rewriting the Holocaust for decades, and were suppressing the truth of the Holocaust even as it was happening. In fact none other than the New York Times was one of those forces that rewrote the Holocaust even as it was happening. See Laurel Leff's 2005 book, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper. See also Peter Novick's excellent The Holocaust in American Life. After you read that book, you will realize that Americans do not occupy any moral high ground.


Grabowski is upset because a certain percentage of Poles, responding to poll-takers, refer to Auschwitz as a place of Polish suffering. Of course far more Jews suffered and died at Auschwitz than Polish non-Jews, and Poles should know that. But Auschwitz was very much a place of Polish suffering. See here.


Would the New York Times publish my research that showed that educated, modern, American Jews do not know that *any* Polish non-Jews were at Auschwitz? Would the New York Times publish my mention, in my book, Bieganski, that James Carroll's hugely successful and influential book, Constantine's Sword, lied to the reader about the number of Poles who suffered and died at Auschwitz? James Carroll, his fans, and people like him exercise vastly more influence than the small monument to Jan Maletka ever will.


American school students, if they know anything about the Nazis and the Holocaust at all, often report that the Nazis were Christians and the Holocaust was a Christian project. They often do not know that the Nazis' first and final victims of a formal, mass extermination program were handicapped people. American school students often have no idea that any Slavs at all were experimented on, tortured, starved to death, and mass murdered by the Nazis, and that groups of Slavs and Baltic people were to be all but wiped out in something called Generalplan Ost.


Very few people know that Dachau was known as "the priests' barracks" because of the clergy imprisoned there. Very few people know that Nazism's goal, as documents show, was to eliminate Christianity.


Prestigious academic publishers have told me that there is fact after fact after fact that I cannot mention in published works. Mention of Nazi brutality to Slavs is one of those things one is not to mention.


Thus, when one lends an ear to the vox populi, and visits discussion boards and comments sections, one finds one Jewish poster after another insisting that the "Polaks" were "worse than the Nazis" and that Nazism was just another expression of "2,000 years of Christian anti-semitism."


Jan Grabowski is quite selective in his outrage. Holocaust revisionism has been ongoing for decades. Why the small Maletka monument irks Grabowski so much and the miseducation of the world on numerous aspects of the Nazi era doesn't cause Grabowski to lose a wink of sleep is a question for his therapist.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

For Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2022, A Post-War Photo from Lodz


Lodz, Poland, 1948, A Hanukkah celebration at the Coordination Committee Orphanage. All the children in the orphanage had been hidden by non-Jewish families during the war

Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany, 1945, Celebrations of the first Hanukkah after liberation, in the DP camp

Yes I know it's not Hanukkah, but I find both of these photos very moving for different reasons, and I've been wanting to post them for a while. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Muslim Attacks Synagogue: Deborah Lipstadt Knocks Christians


Sri Lanka 

 A Muslim attacked a synagogue in Texas. Wikipedia summarizes the incident:

On January 15, 2022, Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British Pakistani citizen armed with a pistol, took four people hostage in the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, United States, during Sabbath services. Hostage negotiations ensued, in which Akram demanded that Aafia Siddiqui, an alleged terrorist convicted of multiple felonies, be released from prison. He let one hostage go after six hours, and the remaining three hostages escaped 11 hours into the standoff. Tactical officers from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team then entered the synagogue, and Akram was fatally shot.

This incident has received relatively minor attention in American media. Had a white supremacist done what Akram did, the event would have received more attention. Had a white supremacist done what Akram did, but had that white supremacist done it to a black congregation, the event would have received saturation news coverage and would frequently be mentioned years later. 

Further, new coverage and even presidential statements have been skewed. News outlets like NPR and the Washington Post insisted on identifying Akram as a "British man," though he is clearly a jihad terrorist. President Joe Biden said he had no idea what Akram's motivations might have been. The FBI said that anti-Semitism was not involved. Wajahat Ali, a New York Times columnist, insisted that Muslims were the real victims, because America is so Islamophobic that Muslims cannot be safe in America. 

Deborah Lipstadt published a New York Times op ed commenting on the jihad attack. The New York Times identifies Lipstadt thus: "Deborah E. Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University. She has been nominated by President Biden to be the State Department special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism abroad."

In Lipstadt's op ed, she never once uses the word "Muslim" or "Islam" even though the attacker was a Muslim with an Islamic agenda. Lipstadt writes, "In London, a phalanx of cars moved through Jewish neighborhoods chanting 'Kill Jews, rape their daughters.'" 

This misstatement is informative. "Cars" do not "chant." Who chants "Kill the Jews; rape their daughters"? Muslims. The cars were dressed with Muslim Arab flags. 

Lipstadt can't bring herself to type "Muslim" or "Islam" in an op ed about a jihad terrorist attacking a synagogue with the goal of freeing "Lady Al-Qaeda," but Lipstadt can write the following: 

We look across the street at the big church and can’t help but notice that there are no guards there. A couple of summers ago, I was in the Berkshires on a Sunday morning driving through one of those innumerable picturesque small towns. Along the way, I passed a large church, right on the main street. It dated back to Revolutionary times. Something seemed off to me. The four large entry doors were wide open. Congregants stood happily greeting people as they entered. Then I realized what was discordant. No armed guard. No security check.

Deborah Lipstadt did not identify Islam or jihad because she is dishonest and she is a coward. She insisted that Christians don't get killed because she is ignorant and insensitive. 

Deborah Lipstadt, you are not telling the truth about so many things. From Wikipedia:

The Sutherland Springs church shooting occurred on November 5, 2017, when Devin Patrick Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas perpetrated a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Kelley killed 25 people and wounded 22 others before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The attack is the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history, and the fifth-deadliest in the United States.[2][note 1] It was the deadliest shooting in an American place of worship in modern history, surpassing the Charleston church shooting of 2015[3] and the Waddell Buddhist temple shooting of 1991 

There have been many more shootings at houses of worship in the US. A list is here.  

I was on the scene at a deadly shooting at a house of worship. A crazed man left hate pamphlets in Bloomington, Indiana driveways. His pamphlet included hatred for Christians and Jews. He shot Won-Joon Yoon just as Yoon was entering a Christian church. Unaware of any of this, I walked past the church shortly thereafter. When his family arrived I attended the funeral and met with his sister, who was a very lovely person. 

Internationally, there is an endless roll call of Muslims murdering Christians in churches. Father Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest, was murdered on the altar by ISIS terrorists Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean. They cut his throat, as commanded by the Koran. 

On Easter Sunday, 2019, 267 people were murdered in Sri Lanka, including in attacks on three churches. 

Nigerian Christians are regularly murdered in churches by Muslims. See here

I could go on (and on and on and on) but Lipstadt and others like her would not hear me. If the horror of Christian churches being bombed on Christmas and Easter doesn't affect her, nothing I write here will. 

Jews need to educate themselves about anti-Semitism. The old canard "A 2,000 year old hatred" needs to be put to rest, for many reasons, primarily because it is inaccurate and unhelpful. 

Jews need to read the Koran. 

As for my country, whose press, FBI, and president all chose to close their eyes to Islamic Jew-Hatred, I can only shake my head. 

I despair. 

You can read Deborah Lipstadt's op ed here

Monday, January 17, 2022

Who Betrayed Anne Frank?


A new book documents an investigation into who betrayed Anne Frank and her family. The book goes through several suspects and decides that one suspect is more likely than others. The New York Times writes

Eventually the team wends its way to Arnold van den Bergh, a prosperous Jewish Dutch notary fingered in an anonymous letter to Otto Frank that was uncovered in the 1963 investigation and is given new forensic scrutiny in these pages. The argument the investigators make for van den Bergh’s culpability is convincing, if not conclusive.

Polish readers may be interested in this because accusers, like Andrew Kornbluth, author of The August Trials, insist that Polish essence is responsible for Polish crimes committed during the Holocaust. Some respond by mentioning Jewish betrayers and Jewish collaborators. No one says that they committed crimes because  of some corrupt Jewish essence. Rather, they committed crimes because the Nazi occupation created a Hell on earth that made human dysfunction inevitable. 

Read about "The Betrayal of Anne Frank" here.  

Thanks to Jerzy for bringing this book to our attention. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

"Germany was magically transformed from a genocidal Reich to a place where there were barely any Nazis to be found": New York Times

 One of the main arguments of my book Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype is that guilt and blame that should have fallen on German Nazis did not, because Germany was central to the West and to Israel in a way that Poland was not. After the war, Germany was rehabilitated in the public mind and in popular culture. Numerous blog posts on this blog comment on sexy, heroic, and otherwise appealing Nazis in films and TV. See for example the following posts 
Why Poland was chosen for blame is a long story, one told in the book. 

Harald Jahner has published a new book, "Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich: 1945-1955." Jennifer Szalai published a review in the New York Times on January 9, 2022. 

The review begins, 

It was a startling disappearing act, one for the ages. Right at the moment when Hitler killed himself in his bunker on April 30, 1945, Germany was magically transformed from a genocidal Reich to a place where there were barely any Nazis to be found.

“No one was a Nazi,” the journalist Martha Gellhorn wrote about the end of World War II in Europe, mordantly recalling how all the Germans she met insisted they had hidden a Communist or were secretly half-Jewish. The photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White heard the phrase “We didn’t know!” with such “monotonous frequency” that it sounded “like a kind of national chant for Germany.”

In “Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955,” the Berlin-based journalist Harald Jähner is similarly skeptical, describing how the majority of surviving Germans were so preoccupied with their own suffering that the dominant mood was one of self-pity. “They saw themselves as the victims,” he writes, “and thus had the dubious good fortune of not having to think about the real ones.”

The pointedness of this sentence is quintessential Jähner; he does double duty in this fascinating book (translated into English by the gifted Shaun Whiteside), elegantly marshaling a plethora of facts while also using his critical skills to wry effect, parsing a country’s stubborn inclination toward willful delusion. Even though “Aftermath” covers historical ground, its narrative is intimate, filled with first-person accounts from articles and diaries. The original German title was “Wolfszeit,” or “Time of the Wolf.” The postwar Germans were fond of animal metaphors. Those who stockpiled supplies were “hamsters,” while those who stole from the hamsters were “hyenas.” One could never be sure what the wolf was up to, “since the ‘lone wolf’ had just as frightening a reputation as the whole pack,” Jähner writes.
You can read the full review here.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Would "They" Really Call You "Christ Killer"?


Catholic school girls. Source

The other day I had an unhappy exchange with two beloved Facebook friends. The exchange disturbed me a great deal and I want to devote a more detailed post to it later. For now, this.


A Jewish friend, "Bob," made a disparaging comment about Jewish Christians. I don't know much about Jewish Christians. I'm one of those wacky, eccentric outliers who actually thinks that I should know something about a topic before I spout off about it on the internet, so, as part of conversing with Bob, I read up on Jewish Christians.


Within about twenty seconds of beginning my internet search, I received a perky chat from Jews for Jesus.


Was I a Jew or Gentile?


Well, I've never liked the word "Gentile," but if those are the two choices, I'm a Gentile.


Are you a believer in Jesus? The chat bot asked me.


Yes, I am.


Would you like more information about how to witness to your Jewish friends?


Hell no. My powers of charm and persuasion are such that if I began witnessing to anyone, the world population of Christians would crash.


Even so, the chat bot sent me some links on how to witness to Jewish friends. But never answered the specific question I asked. Oh, well. My question was one of terminology. So I'm still not sure what to call "Jewish Christians," so for now I'll stick with "Jewish Christians." Others prefer "Messianic Jews." To me that phrase sounds like Jews with a Messiah complex.


I began watching testimonials by Jewish Christians posted on YouTube. I am really enjoying these testimonials. They are brief, dramatic, personal, intimate, and very well produced. I wish more movies displayed the qualities of these testimonials.


I noticed themes. The testimonials present Jewish identity as highly desirable and a source of the speaker's pride. They make clear: they love being Jewish and would never want to be anything but Jewish. Jews win Nobel prizes; Jews are God's chosen; Jews make great chicken soup; Jews survive persecution; Jews have charming grandparents.


On the other hand, the testimonials are uniform in presenting contemporary American practice of Judaism quite negatively. Rabbis are unsympathetic and abrupt, synagogue services lack spirituality and are more of a social event, there is no closeness with God, Jewish practice involves just going through the motions of a bunch of empty rituals without any thought, feeling, or commitment. Speakers voice a yearning for a richer spiritual life. Mind: it's not I saying this; rather, it is the speakers in the testimonials. I have not researched this topic and cannot address it.


Another major theme of these testimonials is Jewish fear and hatred of, and contempt for, Jesus, Christians, and Christianity. "Jesus deserved to be crucified," one man says his mother told him. Christians are a bunch of ignorant, violent murderers, repeated over and over. To become Christian is to take a lurching step downward on the identity pyramid, most testimonials convey. The speakers report all this as part of their report on how difficult it was for them to become Christian Jews. Their friends and family pressured them not to do so.


Much could be said about all of the above. Obviously, a series of testimonials posted on YouTube are not representational ethnography. But rather than linger on the many questions my summaries might raise, I want to talk, in this blog post, about one feature of the testimonials.


Quite a few of the speakers insist that Christians, typically "Catholics," bullied the Jew publicly and called the Jew "Christ killer." The first time I heard this I felt very sad, and I wanted personally to apologize to the victim.


The umpteenth time I heard this, my reaction was "Wait a minute."


The speaker was from the New York City area, as am I. The speaker was about my age. And he insisted that Catholic school children habitually tormented him by calling him "Christ killer." He didn't say, "This particular boy, who happened to be Catholic, a boy named Joe Schmoe, on September 20, 1975, punched me in the head on the subway and called me a Christ killer." No. Rather, he said, "The Catholic kids would [would indicating habitual action] call me Christ killer."


I'm the person this man is talking about. I grew up near him, at the same time that he grew up. I grew up in a largely, but not exclusively, Christian town. I attended Catholic school. My teachers were pre-Vatican II Catholic nuns with giant, hemispheric headdresses as awesome as satellite dishes.


A Jewish family lived two doors down from us, and my mother often worked for Jews, in one case, for the same Jewish man for years. My mother's Jewish friends visited the house and sat at the kitchen table with us. I dated Jewish boys.


I never heard the phrase "Christ killer," nor the word "deicide," till I began studying Christian-Jewish relations when I was in my late twenties. I didn't hear it from Catholics; I heard it from Jews. They had to explain it to me, and I found it quite fantastic. If "Catholic kids" habitually called Jews "Christ killer" as part of habitual street bullying, how come this all transpired without my having any inkling about it?


Am I saying that I have come to doubt the accuracy of these videos? I regret to say that I am. And if my suspicion is correct, that there is some lack of accuracy here, the question is, why? Why would something that might not be scrupulously true be repeated so frequently in such slickly produced videos?


One day I watched a video featuring, not Jews telling their personal story of how they became Jewish Christians, but featuring, rather, the Jewish Christian theologians behind the videos. They said, and I am not making this up, that the persecution of Jews was carried out primarily by Catholics, and that Catholics had fallen away from Jesus and copied "the world," and that when the Reformation came in, Christians returned to being real Christians and things got better.


Martin Luther, one of the Reformation's superstars, famously wrote some less-than-Christian things about Jews. Christianity Today quotes Luther:


"Set fire to their synagogues or schools," Martin Luther recommended in On the Jews and Their Lies. Jewish houses should "be razed and destroyed," and Jewish "prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, [should] be taken from them." In addition, "their rabbis [should] be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb." Still, this wasn't enough.


Luther also urged that "safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews," and that "all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them." What Jews could do was to have "a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade" put into their hands so "young, strong Jews and Jewesses" could "earn their bread in the sweat of their brow."


True, Luther wrote equally nasty things about Catholics and about peasants who rebelled against their betters. The internet provides a handy way for people alive today to be insulted by Martin Luther's intemperate words (see here). And the idea that Luther's writings inspired the Nazis, who were anti-Christian and lived four hundred years after Luther, is questionable. Julius Streicher, famed Nazi propagandist, did not know about "The Jews and their Lies" till he was 52. But it may make some sense for some Christian Jews to cast Catholics as the bad guys. It might make sense to choose Protestants as the more desirable brand of Christian. Children abused by both parents still often manage to decide that mommy was not as bad as daddy, or vice versa, for their own mental equilibrium.


A further question. If my suspicions are correct, and if the testifiers' reported memories of being constantly bullied by Catholic school kids who go around calling Jews "Christ killer" are not as accurate as they might be, why do the videos repeat this charge?


I was a working class kid in New Jersey in the 1970s, the heyday of the ethnic joke. There were no social sanctions against ethnic humor that had any impact on our lives. We told the lowest, most disgusting ethnic jokes in Catholic school classrooms, in front of our elders, and to the very targets of the joke. We told ethnic jokes about ourselves. I told Polak jokes.


These jokes relied on the following understandings:


Poles are stupid, big, dirty, and work menial jobs. The women are ugly and mannish.


Italians are greasy, criminal, dirty, and speak a comic pidgin English.


Blacks are lazy, dirty, and sexually undisciplined.  


Jews are smart and are somehow connected with money.


Note that last. Nothing about Christ killing. All about Jews' intelligence and their relationships with money. These stereotypes are rooted not in theology, but in Jews' middleman minority status, a status they occupied in Europe for centuries.


Back in 2000, I conducted a series of interviews with Jews from throughout the US and Canada. I asked them about stereotypes of Jews and non-Jews. Not many said they were ever called "Christ killer." Rather, the harassment they encountered was more frequently associated with middleman minority images. Jews were associated, they reported, with intelligence and money. School kids might throw pennies on the floor and tease a Jewish student about picking those pennies up. Also, harassment manifested in Nazi themes. Someone spray painted a swastika on the side of the family's garage, for example.


When I mention, in public fora, that stereotypes of, and harassment of Jews are more often associated with middleman minority status than with theology, I encounter strong and often insulting resistance. The middleman minority model, some Jews insist, "blames the victim." This is false. There is nothing of victim-blaming about the middleman minority model, a model developed by Edna Bonacich, the daughter of a rabbi.


It is significant that many, Jews and non-Jews, and certainly many Christians, insist that all prejudice against Jews is rooted in Christian theology. I think the "blame Christian theology" approach is rooted in political and sociological concerns rather than in a dispassionate search for the truth.


Yes, there is no doubt that many Christians, including Catholics, believed in and disseminated the deicide charge. Yes, Jews have been murdered in pogroms and harassed in schools with the deicide charge. Yes, it is entirely possible that badly brought up children teased and harmed Jewish children with the deicide accusation.


No, having grown up at the same time as the above-quoted Christian Jew, in the same metro area where he grew up, I cannot believe that "The Catholic kids" habitually bullied him with this accusation. If I could sit down and talk with this man, I'd try to take a full ethnography. Who was the accuser? What kind of home did this accuser come from? How often did this happen? Under what circumstances?


Again, one testimony included mention that the testifier's mother said that Jesus deserved to be killed. The Talmud says the same thing, here. But it would be unethical for anyone to say that "The Jews say that Jesus deserved to be killed." I've never heard a Jewish person say that. I can't imagine any prominent rabbi or Jewish thinker today saying it. If you want, fully, to understand what the above-quoted woman said, you'd have to do an ethnography, to find out how representational her words are, where she got this idea, and if her ideas have any impact on anyone else.


Have Jews called me a stupid Polak? Yes, yes some Jews have. I can give names, and approximate dates, and times. But I would *never* tell of these anecdotes this way: "And the Jews would call me a stupid Polak." I would not do that because I have no interest in smearing an entire group of people – "The Jews" as opposed to one Jew, a Chicagoan, for example, named Neil, who bullied me at a dinner party in 1987 in the Berkeley Hills. And smearing an entire group of people is exactly what is happening in these Christian Jewish testimonials that allege that "the Catholic kids" "would" habitually call Jews "Christ killer."


And, no, it is not inappropriate to question the accuracy of statements made by members of one religious group about members of another religious group. For example, Protestants and Jews both often repeat the falsehood that the Catholic Church officially taught that "The Jews killed Jesus" and that this teaching was not revoked till Vatican II in 1965, twenty years after the Holocaust.


Again, yes, some Catholics in some places at some times under certain conditions certainly said that "The Jews killed Jesus." But to state that this was the Catholic Church's official position is simply factually false. For example, the Council of Trent condemned the deicide charge four hundred years prior to Vatican II. Official Catholic condemnation of anti-Semitism goes back over a millennium before that. See here.


Don't believe me? Believe, then, the New York Times.


"Christ's Passion on the cross was in atonement for the sins of all mankind and it was iniquitous and unjust to accuse the Jews, then or now of any special responsibility. This view has been part of the official church position since the Council of Trent in the 16th century."


And of course Wikipedia here.


I know nothing I've written here will satisfy anyone, and will merely provide more fuel for more argue argue argue.


Someone will say, "You can't use the phrase "Christian Jews"! There is no such thing!"


Yes I can and yes there is.


And that so many Jews have such a problem with "Jewish Christian" but are perfectly okay with "Jewish Atheist" or "Jewish Buddhist" or "Jewish Communist" says a lot about their attitudes towards Christianity, I think. Maybe I'm wrong. Convince me in the comments section.


Someone will say, "You denied that Christians ever said 'Christ killer' or ever persecuted Jews!"


To that person I reply, "I quite explicitly did not do that, you s--- stirring troll."

Someone will say, "Oh yeah? Well I'm Jewish and I was called Christ Killer by such and such a Catholic!" 

And to that person I say, "Yeah. I have been called a dumb Polak by numerous Jews. And my religion is regularly and erroneously slandered as being co-terminus with Nazism. Is that a statement about all Jews? Or is it a statement about the speaker? We need real study, real ethnography, to work this out. Anecdotes are not conclusive of anything, as you would certainly say if someone compared you to say Jakub Berman." 


I know I've mentioned quite a few different heavy historical topics here, but let me say again. I was a Baby Boomer Catholic school girl in the area around NYC and I never, ever, heard any Catholic or Protestant or indeed anyone raise the concept of deicide. And to insist that some large number of Catholics habitually did this does not reflect any population I've been in touch with in my life. Not saying it didn't happen; saying, "The Catholics would … " is inaccurate and requires explanatory footnotes fully to be understood.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

"A Film Captures Jewish Life in Poland" How the Holocaust Makes Accurate Narrative Difficult

An American man found three minutes of film footage his family members took in Poland during a 1938 visit. That three minutes of footage has been extended in an acclaimed book-length publication and now a documentary film. 

In reading about this new documentary, I cannot help but think of a passage in Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype

The three minutes of film footage shows normal, everyday people living their normal lives. Kids roughhouse, elders squint, women wear fashionable clothes. The devout are in religious gear and haircuts. 

The viewer knows what these innocent souls cannot know -- within a couple of years, most of them will have been murdered by Nazis. The Jewish character of the town is doomed to extinction. 

Given that horror, one must speak of these people in the most reverent of tones, and the surrounding Polish non-Jews will, inevitably, become the sole fly in the ointment. 

One can't speak of real-life conflicts between Polish non-Jews and Jews that were based in real-life concerns, because to do so would be obscene. 

The beginning of the passage from Bieganski is below. One can read the rest of the passage in the book itself. 

"Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead:"

The Difficulty in Treating Polish Jews as Ordinary Humans

            Anne Karpf wrote of the difficulties she faced whenever she felt any discomfort with her parents. "Hating one's parents is a necessary stage of childhood, like becoming potty-trained. We bypassed it. How could you hate those who'd already been hated so much?" Whenever Karpf was a naughty daughter, others reminded her, "Remember what she's been though." Karpf resented this. "I came to abominate what she'd been through no longer on her account, but on ours" (Karpf 38). Karpf's parents' status as virtuous victims defined her as something else. "Their world had been split into good and bad: if you weren't one, you must be the other" (Karpf 40). And virtuous victims they had to be.

It's hard to speak about Holocaust survivors in anything but a reverent tone or without turning their suffering into a sacrament. People expect of them abnormally high standards of behavior, as if a dehumanizing experience might somehow dignify and elevate, and along with their worldly goods, they should also have lost all worldliness. (Karpf 249)

            One of the barriers to seeing Bieganski as a stereotype, rather than an accurate representation of reality, is the romanticization of pre-Holocaust Polish Jewish culture, typified by elite authors like Sholem Aleichem, source of the stories on which Fiddler on the Roof was based, and the post-Holocaust, Margaret-Mead-inspired, Life is with People. In them, Poland's Jews are depicted as saintly. By extension, and through application of The Law of Two to a Scene and The Law of Contrast, these works militate against their large audiences seeing Poland's non-Jews as anything but Bieganski. David Roskies summed up this popular understanding. "Jews danced and prayed all day until the Cossacks came and burned the place down" (18). Antony Polonsky pointed out that "Examples of … elevated nostalgia could easily be multiplied." He quoted that of prominent American rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel.

The little Jewish communities in Eastern Europe were like sacred texts opened before the eyes of God, so close were the houses of worship to Mount Sinai. In the humble wooden synagogues, looking as if they were deliberately closing themselves off from the world, the Jews purified the souls that God had given them and perfected their likeness to God…Even plain men were like artists who knew how to fill weekday hours with mystic beauty. (Polonsky "Shtetl")...

Read the rest of this passage in Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype

Read the full New York Times article about the documentary film here.