Poland faces up to the horror of its role in the Holocaust

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Davey Boy
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Poland faces up to the horror of its role in the Holocaust

Post by Davey Boy » 22 Dec 2002 13:05

Poland faces up to the horror of its own role in the Holocaust

Sylvie Kauffmann
Thursday December 19, 2002
The Guardian

In May 2000 Polish historians were staggered by revelations in a book, Neighbours: The Destruction Of The Jewish Community In Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton), written by Jan Gross, a Polish academic who had emigrated to the United States.
In the book he demonstrated, with evidence to prove it, that in July 1941 the Jewish population of Jedwabne, a village in northern Poland, had not died at German hands, as the official version would have it, but had been slaughtered by fellow villagers.

The revelations had the effect of a time bomb. The facts, confirmed by investigative reporters on the Warsaw daily, Rzeczpospolita, took months to sink into the Polish subconscious. This was partly because the capital's other leading daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, decided to join the fray only six months later, after initially dragging its feet at the behest of its editor, Adam Michnik, a man torn between his double identity as both a Jew and a Pole.

Once it had gathered momentum, the controversy came to dominate the Poles' social and political life, upset their received ideas, forced them to face up to their history of anti-semitism, drove the Catholic church into a corner and prompted President Aleksander Kwasniewski to apologise to the Jewish community during an official ceremony in Jedwabne.

The US-educated Polish historian Pawel Machcewicz believes it to have been "the most important debate about contemporary history" since the fall of Poland's communist regime in 1989. The controversy has been given a new lease of life by the publication of a 1,500-page report, Wokol Jedwabne (On Jedwabne), drawn up by historians and researchers headed by Machcewicz.

The report is remarkable, not least because the idea of commissioning it came from the National Remembrance Institute (IPN), an independent body set up by the Polish parliament in 2000 to succeed the Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland. That this newly fledged historical institute should have been given as its first task the job of investigating Gross's research in a climate verging at times on hysteria is a sign there has been a sea change in Polish attitudes.

"It's a courageous piece of work," says the political pundit Aleksander Smolar, who in June 1987 contributed an important article on the Jewish-Polish question to the French magazine Esprit. "For many intellectuals here it was an opportunity to reassess the image of Polish history," says Machcewicz, "an image which we ourselves created, and a martyrology that had been questioned in some quarters."

The second remarkable aspect of the IPN report is that it shows that the scale of the pogroms committed by Poles was much greater than was thought: on top of those in Jedwabne and Radzilow, which occurred within three days of each other and resulted in the greatest number of deaths, the report reveals a score of other villages in the region where Poles attacked their Jewish neighbours between June and August 1941.

Konstanty Gebert, editor of Midrasz, a Jewish monthly, says: "Jedwabne is no longer the aberrant exception that people have tried to forget. The IPN closes the debate on one essential point: from now on, denial will be impossible. And it will also be impossible to accuse the Poles of not facing the facts."

But the IPN investigators did more than give a description of events; they put them in historical context. The IPN historians discovered that in several cases German army commandos had actively encouraged the Polish population to attack the Jews; that the region of Lomza, where the pogroms took place, was an area where the rightwing nationalistic movement Endejca had been active in the 30s, thus preparing the ground for anti-semitism; and, above all, that the two very difficult years of Soviet occupation just endured by the region had aggravated relations between Jews and Poles because the latter often regarded the former as having collaborated with the Soviet occupying forces.

Another revelation comes from documents relating to about 60 trials held in northeastern Poland from the end of the 40s to the beginning of the 50s, previously unknown to historians. It is a mystery why the trials, which were mounted with the backing of the communist regime, were covered up. "It was the Stalinist period," Machcewicz points out, "and the trials were organised locally against people who had collaborated with the Germans. But neither the communists nor the local authorities had any interest in publicising them. Everyone wanted to forget."

The controversy has had a spectacular effect, not only on Poland's collective conscience and post-communist left, but on the Catholic church, whose attitude remains "very complex", according to Smolar, or "at best, highly ambiguous", in Gebert's words.

Work by historians on what happened during and just after the war has not yet been completed. Anna Bikont, a journalist who has just finished a book on Jedwabne, predicts there will be other grim revelations that will even taint "our great national hero, the symbol of all that is good about Poland, Armia Krajowa" - the famous army of the interior that resisted the Soviet invader, but which, according to Bikont's researches, "killed Jews in the northeast at the end of the war".

"In any country the debate about the collective memory is part of democratic culture," says Smolar. "The IPN's report was attacked by virtually no one - the right has run out of arguments."

Machcewicz, who points out that more than 2 million non-Jewish Poles died during the second world war, is not afflicted by doubt: "As a historian, I reject the way the German press has interpreted this debate: it has claimed that we somehow share responsibility for what happened. No, the Poles were indisputably victims of the second world war. But that shouldn't stop us recognising the horrible truth of the pogroms."


http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/ ... 20,00.html

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Post by michael mills » 22 Dec 2002 14:42

The whole Jedwabne incident has been blown up out of all proportion; it really is just a storm in a tea-cup.

What happened is that the villagers took the opportunity of the flight of the Soviet occupiers and the arrival of the German troops to take revenge on the local Jews for real or perceived collaboration with the occupiers. In that respect, their actions are comparable with the countless acts of revenge taken in countries occupied by Germany against persons accused rightly or wrongly of collaboration with the German occupiers when Allied forces arrived.

We are familiar with the images of female French "horizontal collaborators" having their heads shaved, but in many cases popular revenge against collaborators was at least as deadly as what was done at Jedwabne. For example, in France in the summer of 1944 at least 100,000 persons accused of collaboration were summarily executed, sometimes by members of the "resistance", sometimes by their neighbours, as at Jedwabne.

But ho-hum, the people lynched by their neighbours for real or presumed collaboration with the German occupiers were not Jewish, and that I suppose is what makes all the difference.

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Post by Dan » 22 Dec 2002 15:10

What does the Jewish leadership in Poland think about Shlomo Morel? Are they pushing to have him extradited to Poland from Israel?

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Post by Charles Bunch » 22 Dec 2002 17:04

Mr. Mills wrote:
The whole Jedwabne incident has been blown up out of all proportion; it really is just a storm in a tea-cup.


The Jedwabne incident most certainly is not a minor affair. As has been pointed out, it is but a single incident of murderous antisemitism carried out in Poland, by Poles, during the second world war.

But Mr. Mills is always sensitive to a discussion of crimes committed against Jews, even though he posts in a forum whose topic is just that.

What happened is that the villagers took the opportunity of the flight of the Soviet occupiers and the arrival of the German troops to take revenge on the local Jews for real or perceived collaboration with the occupiers. In that respect, their actions are comparable with the countless acts of revenge taken in countries occupied by Germany against persons accused rightly or wrongly of collaboration with the German occupiers when Allied forces arrived.


Except the Jews of Jedwabne were selected because they were Jews.


We are familiar with the images of female French "horizontal collaborators" having their heads shaved, but in many cases popular revenge against collaborators was at least as deadly as what was done at Jedwabne. For example, in France in the summer of 1944 at least 100,000 persons accused of collaboration were summarily executed, sometimes by members of the "resistance", sometimes by their neighbours, as at Jedwabne.


But none of the French accused of collaboration were so accused because of their religious or ethnic background.

But ho-hum, the people lynched by their neighbours for real or presumed collaboration with the German occupiers were not Jewish, and that I suppose is what makes all the difference.


But those "neighbors" were not lynched for who they were.

That does make a difference, to all but antisemites.

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Post by Charles Bunch » 22 Dec 2002 17:05

Mr. Mills wrote:
The whole Jedwabne incident has been blown up out of all proportion; it really is just a storm in a tea-cup.


The Jedwabne incident most certainly is not a minor affair. As has been pointed out, it is but a single incident of murderous antisemitism carried out in Poland, by Poles, during the second world war.

But Mr. Mills is always sensitive to a discussion of crimes committed against Jews, even though he posts in a forum whose topic is just that.

What happened is that the villagers took the opportunity of the flight of the Soviet occupiers and the arrival of the German troops to take revenge on the local Jews for real or perceived collaboration with the occupiers. In that respect, their actions are comparable with the countless acts of revenge taken in countries occupied by Germany against persons accused rightly or wrongly of collaboration with the German occupiers when Allied forces arrived.


Except the Jews of Jedwabne were selected because they were Jews.


We are familiar with the images of female French "horizontal collaborators" having their heads shaved, but in many cases popular revenge against collaborators was at least as deadly as what was done at Jedwabne. For example, in France in the summer of 1944 at least 100,000 persons accused of collaboration were summarily executed, sometimes by members of the "resistance", sometimes by their neighbours, as at Jedwabne.


But none of the French accused of collaboration were so accused because of their religious or ethnic background.

But ho-hum, the people lynched by their neighbours for real or presumed collaboration with the German occupiers were not Jewish, and that I suppose is what makes all the difference.


But those "neighbors" were not lynched for who they were.

That does make a difference, to all but antisemites.

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Post by Dan » 22 Dec 2002 17:13

Mills wrote

Quote:
What happened is that the villagers took the opportunity of the flight of the Soviet occupiers and the arrival of the German troops to take revenge on the local Jews for real or perceived collaboration with the occupiers. In that respect, their actions are comparable with the countless acts of revenge taken in countries occupied by Germany against persons accused rightly or wrongly of collaboration with the German occupiers when Allied forces arrived.


Bunch wrote

Except the Jews of Jedwabne were selected because they were Jews.


Isn't that what Mills said?

Bunch wrote

But those "neighbors" were not lynched for who they were.


Who's the revisionist now? I thought that Germans were murdered in the east for being German.

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Re: Poland faces up to the horror of its role in the Holocau

Post by wildboar » 22 Dec 2002 18:01

HETMAN wrote:
Poland faces up to the horror of its own role in the Holocaust

Sylvie Kauffmann
Thursday December 19, 2002
The Guardian

In May 2000 Polish historians were staggered by revelations in a book, Neighbours: The Destruction Of The Jewish Community In Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton), written by Jan Gross, a Polish academic who had emigrated to the United States.
In the book he demonstrated, with evidence to prove it, that in July 1941 the Jewish population of Jedwabne, a village in northern Poland, had not died at German hands, as the official version would have it, but had been slaughtered by fellow villagers.

The revelations had the effect of a time bomb. The facts, confirmed by investigative reporters on the Warsaw daily, Rzeczpospolita, took months to sink into the Polish subconscious. This was partly because the capital's other leading daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, decided to join the fray only six months later, after initially dragging its feet at the behest of its editor, Adam Michnik, a man torn between his double identity as both a Jew and a Pole.

Once it had gathered momentum, the controversy came to dominate the Poles' social and political life, upset their received ideas, forced them to face up to their history of anti-semitism, drove the Catholic church into a corner and prompted President Aleksander Kwasniewski to apologise to the Jewish community during an official ceremony in Jedwabne.

The US-educated Polish historian Pawel Machcewicz believes it to have been "the most important debate about contemporary history" since the fall of Poland's communist regime in 1989. The controversy has been given a new lease of life by the publication of a 1,500-page report, Wokol Jedwabne (On Jedwabne), drawn up by historians and researchers headed by Machcewicz.

The report is remarkable, not least because the idea of commissioning it came from the National Remembrance Institute (IPN), an independent body set up by the Polish parliament in 2000 to succeed the Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland. That this newly fledged historical institute should have been given as its first task the job of investigating Gross's research in a climate verging at times on hysteria is a sign there has been a sea change in Polish attitudes.

"It's a courageous piece of work," says the political pundit Aleksander Smolar, who in June 1987 contributed an important article on the Jewish-Polish question to the French magazine Esprit. "For many intellectuals here it was an opportunity to reassess the image of Polish history," says Machcewicz, "an image which we ourselves created, and a martyrology that had been questioned in some quarters."

The second remarkable aspect of the IPN report is that it shows that the scale of the pogroms committed by Poles was much greater than was thought: on top of those in Jedwabne and Radzilow, which occurred within three days of each other and resulted in the greatest number of deaths, the report reveals a score of other villages in the region where Poles attacked their Jewish neighbours between June and August 1941.

Konstanty Gebert, editor of Midrasz, a Jewish monthly, says: "Jedwabne is no longer the aberrant exception that people have tried to forget. The IPN closes the debate on one essential point: from now on, denial will be impossible. And it will also be impossible to accuse the Poles of not facing the facts."

But the IPN investigators did more than give a description of events; they put them in historical context. The IPN historians discovered that in several cases German army commandos had actively encouraged the Polish population to attack the Jews; that the region of Lomza, where the pogroms took place, was an area where the rightwing nationalistic movement Endejca had been active in the 30s, thus preparing the ground for anti-semitism; and, above all, that the two very difficult years of Soviet occupation just endured by the region had aggravated relations between Jews and Poles because the latter often regarded the former as having collaborated with the Soviet occupying forces.

Another revelation comes from documents relating to about 60 trials held in northeastern Poland from the end of the 40s to the beginning of the 50s, previously unknown to historians. It is a mystery why the trials, which were mounted with the backing of the communist regime, were covered up. "It was the Stalinist period," Machcewicz points out, "and the trials were organised locally against people who had collaborated with the Germans. But neither the communists nor the local authorities had any interest in publicising them. Everyone wanted to forget."

The controversy has had a spectacular effect, not only on Poland's collective conscience and post-communist left, but on the Catholic church, whose attitude remains "very complex", according to Smolar, or "at best, highly ambiguous", in Gebert's words.

Work by historians on what happened during and just after the war has not yet been completed. Anna Bikont, a journalist who has just finished a book on Jedwabne, predicts there will be other grim revelations that will even taint "our great national hero, the symbol of all that is good about Poland, Armia Krajowa" - the famous army of the interior that resisted the Soviet invader, but which, according to Bikont's researches, "killed Jews in the northeast at the end of the war".

"In any country the debate about the collective memory is part of democratic culture," says Smolar. "The IPN's report was attacked by virtually no one - the right has run out of arguments."

Machcewicz, who points out that more than 2 million non-Jewish Poles died during the second world war, is not afflicted by doubt: "As a historian, I reject the way the German press has interpreted this debate: it has claimed that we somehow share responsibility for what happened. No, the Poles were indisputably victims of the second world war. But that shouldn't stop us recognising the horrible truth of the pogroms."


http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/ ... 20,00.html


Hetman,
It is good that Poland is trying to come to its past as compared to russia which denies any wrongdoing in stalin era.
what role did NVKD played in this massacare?

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Post by Charles Bunch » 22 Dec 2002 18:13

Mills wrote

Quote:
What happened is that the villagers took the opportunity of the flight of the Soviet occupiers and the arrival of the German troops to take revenge on the local Jews for real or perceived collaboration with the occupiers. In that respect, their actions are comparable with the countless acts of revenge taken in countries occupied by Germany against persons accused rightly or wrongly of collaboration with the German occupiers when Allied forces arrived.


Bunch wrote

Except the Jews of Jedwabne were selected because they were Jews.


Dan
Isn't that what Mills said?


He said their selection was comparable to other selections based on a belief of collaboration. It wasn't. One group was selected because they were Jews.

Bunch wrote

But those "neighbors" were not lynched for who they were.


Dan
Who's the revisionist now? I thought that Germans were murdered in the east for being German.


We're talking about collaborationists.

Please try to keep up if you're going to participate.

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Post by Dan » 22 Dec 2002 18:28

We're talking about collaborationists.

Please try to keep up if you're going to participate.


So the Poles and Czecks didn't consider the ethnic Germans living there collaborationists?

Don't run, now, and please don't engage in "spin".

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Post by Charles Bunch » 22 Dec 2002 19:26

Dan wrote:
We're talking about collaborationists.

Please try to keep up if you're going to participate.


So the Poles and Czecks didn't consider the ethnic Germans living there collaborationists?


No, they killed them because they were ethnically German and they felt the presence of ethnic Germans in their territories had been one of the causes of Nazi Germany's invasion.

Don't run, now, and please don't engage in "spin".


An amoeba wouldn't need to run from you, Dan.

And you don't enough about any topic under discussion in this forum to determine spin from history.

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Post by Dan » 22 Dec 2002 19:39

No, they killed them because they were ethnically German and they felt the presence of ethnic Germans in their territories had been one of the causes of Nazi Germany's invasion.


Notice the method of the spin-meister. In the case of the Poles killing Jews, it had nothing to do with collaboration, it was just a case of Poles acting true to form whenever authority was absent.

But when the Czechs et. al killed Germans, it was simply impartially removing a demographic political threat, nothing to do with revenge.

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Post by Scott Smith » 22 Dec 2002 20:42

The Poles were very anti-Semitic as a people, regardless of who was ruling them. This can't be spinned away. Besides, it is a tempest in a teacup unless "Genocide" only applies to Jews. Murder of German "collaborators" is certainly mass-murder, but hey they are only collaborators of Germany or ethnic-Germans, right...
:)

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Post by Charles Bunch » 22 Dec 2002 23:45

Dan wrote:
No, they killed them because they were ethnically German and they felt the presence of ethnic Germans in their territories had been one of the causes of Nazi Germany's invasion.


Notice the method of the spin-meister. In the case of the Poles killing Jews, it had nothing to do with collaboration, it was just a case of Poles acting true to form whenever authority was absent.


Notice the mental inability to make rather simple distinctions. The Jews of Jedwabne were accused of collaboration because they were Jews, not because they were collaborators.

The acts of the Poles in Jedwabne does not represent the acts of Poles generally, although this hardly represents the only incident of Polish attacks on Jews during this period.

But when the Czechs et. al killed Germans, it was simply impartially removing a demographic political threat, nothing to do with revenge.


There was nothing impartial about it, nor did I say there was.

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Post by Charles Bunch » 22 Dec 2002 23:49

Scott Smith wrote:The Poles were very anti-Semitic as a people, regardless of who was ruling them. This can't be spinned away.


Exactly. And that antisemitism was rife for any excuse to kill Jews among segments of the Polish population.

Besides, it is a tempest in a teacup unless "Genocide" only applies to Jews. Murder of German "collaborators" is certainly mass-murder, but hey they are only collaborators of Germany or ethnic-Germans, right...


Well, a mass murder of some Germans in some countries would not be genocide. But hey, someone desperate to minimize the attempted genocide of Jews might make such an argument in some misguided attempt at a false moral equivalency.

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Post by Dan » 22 Dec 2002 23:52

Notice the mental inability to make rather simple distinctions. The Jews of Jedwabne were accused of collaboration because they were Jews, not because they were collaborators.


And were the Germans killed by the Czechs individually interviewed before being killed? No, the were killed by the Czechs because they were German.

Seriously, Charles, sometimes I think you're the lawyer who got OJ Simpson off the hook for murdering his wife!

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