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Poland, the knight among nations byLouis Edwin Van Norman;Kosciuszko. Polish Women Drive Patriotism. Prussian Rule Thwarted. WWI and WWII Predicted. Polish-Jewish Relations

jan peczkis|Thursday, November 16, 2017

This 1908 book, written by an American who had lived in Partitioned Poland, is head and shoulders above the usual Anglo-American schlock written about Poland today. It is a mini-encyclopedia on Polish history, customs, achievements, and (yes) shortcomings. As an example of the latter, author Van Norman quips, “Unity is not a Polish virtue. Neither is subordination for the common weal. Everyone must lead.” (p. 25).

This work has a wealth of information. For instance, the author remarks, “The union, in 1569, of Poland, Lithuania, and Ruthenia, was the first voluntary confederation of independent powers in Europe.” (p. 11).


Van Norman realizes that, “It did not come about by an oppressed class violently overturning society to obtain its rights. It was the voluntary renunciation, from patriotic motives, of exclusive privileges by a powerful class of nobles. But it was then too late, despite the heroism of Kosciuszko.” (p. 24).


The author sets the record straight by quoting none other than Kosciuszko, “In a letter written to the French Count Segur years after Maciejowice (October 31, 1803) the Polish leader said: ‘When the Polish nation called upon me for the defense of the territorial unity, the dignity, the glory, and the freedom of the fatherland, it knew well that I was not the LAST Pole, and that with my death on the field of battle, or elsewhere, Poland cannot and shall not end…Poland herself remains immortal, and that it is not permitted to anybody to repeat the grossly insulting words: “FINIS POLONIAE [POLAND IS FINISHED]”…attribute to me a blasphemy against which I raise a protest from the very depth of my soul.’” (Emphasis is Kosciuszko’s) (pp. 174-175).


In a very moving tribute, Van Norman says it all, “If Polish soldiers of all ages have fought in the ranks of all the armies of the world against the hosts of tyranny, it has not been because they were bred soldiers, but because with their mothers’ milk they drank in patriotism; because the Polish mothers sang into their very lullabies the love of liberty and fatherland, that will never die out of the Polish heart. No people can ever be lost when its women place patriotism above their own comfort and pleasure, above everything else they hold dear.” (p. 221).

[A personal aside. Jerzy Bazylewski (1912-2001), a 1939 War veteran and long-term leader of the HARCERSTWO (Polish Scouts) in Chicago, whom I had known from childhood practically as a next-door neighbor, eventually asked my adult self this question, “Is it from your mother that you acquired this intense love for Poland?” Clearly, he was on to something!]

The author elaborates on some of the heroism of Polish women. For instance, he writes, “Then there was Chzanowska, who defended Trembowla against the Turks. With her own hand she loaded and aimed the cannon and threatened to kill her husband and herself if he yielded, until, finally, Sobieski came to her rescue. Claudia Potocka and Emilia Szczaniecka, during the revolution of 1831 [the unsuccessful November Insurrection], gave up their immense fortunes to the Polish cause, nursed the sick and wounded on field and in hospital, and sealed their patriotic devotion by exile to Siberia.” (p. 225).


Author Van Norman goes into considerable detail about the KULTURKAMPF. For instance, he comments, “The Poles simply will not sell their land except under the severest need, and even then the sale of Polish land to a German is regarded as a crime by the Poles.” (p. 89). In addition, “The Prussian Poles have an organization which is a sort of ‘counter-irritant’ to the Hakatists. Its work consists in aiding poor Polish nobles, who, without its assistance, might be tempted to part with their lands to Germans." (p. 90).

The author also summarizes one of the aspects of organic work. He writes, “This is gradually weaning the Poles away from their old prejudice against trade, and furnishing them with the nucleus of a strong, patriotic, and respected middle class, the lack of which has been heretofore one of the weakest spots in Polish national life.” (p. 90).

Van Norman then touches on how the Poles handled Teutonic arrogance and what later turned out to be Nazi-anticipating racism. He quips, “The Poles refused to be dominated or cajoled…” (p. 93). “The Poles must accept German civilization, because it is infinitely superior to theirs. This brusque treatment of the Poles by the Germans as a much inferior people who ‘must be protected against themselves,’ is very exasperating to a proud, sensitive nation that had a university before Germany ever had one.” (p. 96). Hear that, Angela Merkel?


Remember, this book was published in 1908. So here are the eerily-prescient words of author Van Norman, “In this first decade of the 20th century, what is Germany trying to do? What is the idea and ideal which is engrossing all the energy and intellect of the German people? A study of the career of the German Emperor can scarcely fail to show that Germany is aiming at nothing less than the Germanization of the world.” (p. 76).


Van Norman recounts these little-known facts about the Wild East of the Russian Empire, “The vice-president of the Manchurian Railroad is a Pole. The leading civil and military engineers on the Siberian and Manchurian Railroads are Poles, as are also most of the directors of these roads. The directors of the Russo-Chinese Bank are Poles...The chief of the railroad works in Irkutsk also is a Pole.” (pp. 102-103). Considering the fact that railroads were “high-tech” in the 19th century, this says a lot.


Unlike modern works with their standard “blame it all on Poles” approach, this one is balanced. On one hand, Van Norman exculpates Jewish conduct on the basis of the premise that Jews were forced into “parasitic” occupations. [However, this is a half-truth. The original Jewish abandonments of farming and turn to commerce, a thousand or so years ago, was largely voluntary. And, while Jews were subsequently often banned from “productive” occupations, they did not turn to farming in appreciable numbers even when they were permitted (and furthermore encouraged) to do so. See comments.] Van Norman also recounts Jews as victims of humiliations and pogroms. (e. g., p. 256-257).

On the other hand, Van Norman realizes the harm being done to Poles by ongoing Jewish conduct. For instance, he writes, “There can be no doubt that by his business shrewdness and unscrupulousness, the Jew does keep many of the peasants, and not a few impecunious aristocrats, in virtual servitude. For this he is hated.” (p. 250). Van Norman adds, in accordance with his personal experiences, the following, “Almost half of the population (35,000) of Tarnopol [now Ternopil] are Jews, and the Jew market in this city is the most unsavory place I ever saw.” (p. 256).

Already by 1908, the assimilated Jew in Poland was out of step with Polish ways. In fact, the author anticipated, by nearly three decades, Polish Cardinal Hlond’s much-maligned 1936 statement on “Jews as freethinkers.” Thus, Van Norman wrote, “The intelligent Polish Jews, today, mainly class themselves with the liberals, who are indifferent in religious matters, or anti-clerical.” (p. 251). [Note that “anticlerical” is often a euphemistic synonym for anti-religious.]


Nowadays, Jewish and LEWAK authors raise a big stink about the fact that Poles once boycotted Jews (as a means of ameliorating Jewish economic dominance). Recall, for instance, Jan Jelenski, Roman Dmowski, and, later, the ONR between WWI and WWII. Polish anti-Semitism (what else?) was at work. What horrible, primitive people those Poles were!

In reality, the boycott was a standard self-defense procedure at the time, and hardly something awful that “Poles did to Jews”. Consider, for example, the situation in Prussian-ruled northwest Poland. Van Norman writes, “German professional men who have tried to practice in Posen [Poznan] complain that they cannot live for want of patronage, and a German merchant is boycotted if there is a Polish tradesman near.” (p. 89). 2 comments|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse| Permalink   Comment Jan Peczkis1 day ago (Edited) Report abuse .

MYTH: Jews Dropped Farming, and Became Merchants and Usurers, Because They Were Forced to Do So:
 The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492 (Princeton Economic History of the Western World)

JEWISH ECONOMIC PROTECTIONISM and How it Led to the Much-Condemned Endek-Led Boycotts of Jewish Businesses: Tradition and Crisis: Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages (Medieval Studies).

How Poles Suffered Under Jewish Economic Dominance, and Why Boycotts of Jewish Businesses Became Necessary: See my English-language review of: Przez druty, kraty i kajdany: Wspomnienia partyzanta NSZ (Polish Edition)



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Journey to a Nineteenth-Century Shtetl: The Memoirs of Yekhezkel Kotik (Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology)

Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882

Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews: The transformation of Jewish society in Russia, 1825-1855

Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire (The Modern Jewish Experience)

A World Apart: A Memoir of Jewish Life in Nineteenth Century Galicia (Judaism and Jewish Life)

Poland; an historical sketch

The Polish Peasant in Europe and America: A CLASSIC WORK IN IMMIGRATION HISTORY
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