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Red Shadow: A Physician's Memoir of the Soviet Occupation of Eastern Poland, 1944-1956For Your Freedom Through Ours: Polish American Efforts on Poland's Behalf, 1863-1991

Jan Peczkis|Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This work is a natural sequel to the author's diary of life under the German occupation: Diary from the Years of Occupation 1939-44.

     
         
 

Both the retreating Germans and the arriving Soviets looted the Poles. (p. 7). This was followed by numerous arrests and executions of Poles by the Soviets (p. 34), including people who had never been involved in Underground or political movements. (p. 32). Villages experienced pacification terror at the hands of the Communists just as they had earlier under the Nazis. (p 71). Finally, there were Communist units (sometimes called pozorny) that pretended to be Polish guerrillas. (p. 122).

Locals who had collaborated with the Germans, especially the Volksdeutsche, were brought to justice. (e. g., p. 40, 97). So was a Polish policeman who had victimized both Poles and Jews on behalf of the Germans. (p. 79). Women who had consorted with the Germans had their heads shaved. (p. 9).

Members of the A. K. (Armia Krajowa), though never ordered to fight against the Communists, sometimes killed Communists on their own. (e. g., p. 22). A Jewish Communist, Sawicki, was among those assassinated. (p. 25). Later, after the A.K. was disbanded in January 1945, successor independentist organizations, such as W.I.N., were formed.

Rampant banditry among Poles is frequently mentioned in this diary. (e. g., p. 9, 26, 47-48, 72). The perpetrators were commonly members of the A. K. (Armia Krajowa). (e. g., p. 9, 10, 33-34; including its officers: p. 39, 40). They had fought against the Germans for Poland's freedom, but Poland got no freedom. The author comments: "Most of the officers and soldiers of the Home Army are extremely depressed because of the uncertainty. The organization is falling apart." (p. 10). Also: "During the last several days there have been many cases of robbery in our region. There seems to be a direct connection between the demoralization evident in the circles of former underground soldiers and the robberies. Some of them cannot sit still without any action, and without ongoing military discipline they look to robbery for both excitement and fulfillment of their daily needs." (p. 13).

In addition, as had been the case under the German occupation, there were many "forest people", consisting this time of the likes of deserters from the Berling Army (p. 25, 64), and formerly upstanding citizens who had become bandits. Klukowski remarks: "Today I have encountered en example of how the forest, alas, sometimes causes a breakdown of morality and produces bandits." (p. 72). People were afraid to go out at night. (p. 72). A wealthy Jew, Luft, was liquidated by the forest bands for unstated reasons. (p. 83).

Klukowski writes: "The fight against banditry is very difficult. Today's authorities are helpless. The underground tolerates the situation and is not involved in any actions to eliminate the guilty parties." (p. 48). The author fails to mention the fact that the Soviet-imposed Communist authorities were so pre-occupied with repressing political dissent that they seldom could bother with banditry. The Underground was struggling for its very existence. How could it deal with banditry?

In his FEAR, Jan T. Gross drew exaggerated attention to the postwar killings of Jews by Poles (some 600 out of 300,000 Holocaust-surviving Jews; less than 1%). Most of the killings, though routinely blamed on anti-Semitism and a supposed guilt complex for having acquired post-Jewish properties, actually occurred under unclear circumstances and motives. Although Klukowski mentions the killings of Jews only twice (cited above), the circumstances he describes makes it easy to comprehend the perpetrators as pozornys, demoralized A.K. men acting as bandits, "forest people", and anti-Communists.

Poles have been portrayed as having an acquisitive complex when it came to Jewish properties, even to the point of desecrating Jewish graves. It turns out that this was an all-round phenomenon. A formerly upstanding citizen, "Podkowa", known to Klukowski, robbed a church, tearing up the floor to locate a hidden valuable. (p. 39).

Although only about 1% of Poland's post-Holocaust population consisted of Jews, they represented a significant fraction of the leadership of the hated Communist security forces (the UB, U.B., or Bezpieka). While under arrest, Klukowski repeatedly encountered Jewish U.B. agents and functionaries. (p. 117, 122).
Comment Comment | Permalink     For Your Freedom Through Ours: Polish American Efforts on Poland's
                        Behalf, 1863-1991    
       
  This review is from: For Your Freedom Through Ours: Polish American Efforts on Poland's Behalf, 1863-1991 (Hardcover) This comprehensive work details the life of Poles in America going back to colonial times. Much biographical and historical information is included. FDR's lies told to Charles Rozmarek, at the time of the Yalta betrayal of Poland, are featured. The texts of speeches by US Presidents (e. g., Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, etc.), regarding Poland and Polish Americans, are also included.

Generations of early immigrants participated in the struggle for Poland's resurrection. Pienkos comments: "There were several other reasons why [Roman] Dmowski and his supporters would continue to enjoy support in Polonia after 1893. Aside from his stress upon non-violent resistance as the most promising means of eventually gaining independence, a position which resonated well in America, Dmowski's commitment to social uplift and work with the peasant population and his identification with Catholicism in helping shape Polish culture were greatly appreciated by the emigration in the United States..." (p. 39).

American efforts, during the Civil Rights era, to ban discrimination, had an unfortunately ironic effect on Poles. Pienkos writes: "In the early 1960s, Polish Americans, themselves the victims of genuine discrimination in their own efforts to advance themselves over the years, had applauded Federal actions to penalize prejudicial conduct...At the same time, most objected to affirmative action as an unfair type of `reverse discrimination' which lumped them and other ethnic Americans into an otherwise undifferentiated but somehow privileged category of `Whites'...Now, only prejudices of a racial or sexual character seemed to trouble the Government." (p. 159).

In recent decades, Polish Americans also faced the challenges of anti-Polonism. PolAm organizations confronted the Polack joke syndrome, and the tendency of Holocaust materials to elevate Jewish suffering above that of others, and to ignore or minimize Polish suffering. Popular Holocaust materials themselves had an unmistakably anti-Polish slant. Pienkos comments: "General criticisms of `Polish anti-Semitism', furthermore, showed America's nearly total ignorance of Poland's history...American-born Poles were also deeply offended by the anti-Semitism charge. Indeed, Polish Americans who had been living in the United States at the time of World War II could well wonder why they were being singled out for such hostile characterization." (p. 161). [The informed reader will quickly realize that the problem persists to this day. Note the media feeding frenzy over Jan T. Gross and his shoddy NEIGHBORS and FEAR, constant mendacious media references to "Polish death camps", etc. See my Listmania: Exposing Polonophobia. ]

This work overlaps that of an earlier work by Donald E. Pienkos. See the Peczkis review of PNA Centennial History of the Polish National Alliance of the United States of North America.     Shtetl Jews Under Soviet Rule: Eastern Poland on the Eve of the
                        Holocaust (Jewish Society and Culture)          
  4.0 out of 5 stars Partial Insights into Jewish-Soviet Collaboration in USSR-
This is one of the few books, written by a Jewish author, which acknowledges the fact that large numbers of Polish Jews collaborated with the Soviet authorities who had invaded eastern Poland in September-October 1939. Not mentioned, however, is the role which local Jews played in fifth-column attacks on Poles, and the disarming of Poles during the Soviet conquest of eastern Poland. (See Peczkis review of Przemilczane zbrodnie: Zydzi i Polacy na Kresach w latach 1939-1941 (Polish Edition)). Also not mentioned is the fact that large number of Poles were sent to horrible deaths in Siberia as a result of this collaboration. Despite these serious omissions, Pinchuk has provided us an important work.

Pinchuk asserts that, at first, Jews had it better under the Soviets than under the Poles. Perhaps so, but they apparently failed to consider that this advantage was only temporary and that they were willfully overlooking the murderous character of Communism. In any case, those who chose to collaborate with the Soviets also chose to become the enemies of the Poles. Pinchuk also claims that this collaboration was initially caused by Jewish fears of the Nazis. But then he shoots down his own argument when he acknowledges that most eastern-Polish Jews had possessed a high opinion of the Germans and could not even imagine that the Germans would do what they later did. (The reader should furthermore remember that the systematic mass-murder of Jews by Nazis was not to begin for almost another two years!)

There is an interesting irony to those who say that Jewish-Soviet collaboration was driven by prior Polish anti-Semitism. Under Polish rule, Jews faced discrimination intended to limit their economic dominance. They never faced destruction of Jewish communal or religious life. To the contrary--these flourished under Polish rule. Now enter Pinchuk. He actually states that there was no anti-Semitism at all under the Soviets, but then he describes how the Soviets destroyed Jewish communal and religious life. Evidently, Pinchuk has an interesting definition of anti-Semitism: If the destruction of Jewish communal and religious life had been done by Poles or other Christians, it would certainly be considered anti-Semitism. But when actually done by the Communists, he would not call it anti-Semitism. Go figure.

It is unfortunate that this work, as well as my review of it, has been distorted into some kind of justification for anti-Semitism--and even of pogroms! Nevertheless, Jewish enmity against Poles was a very real part of Polish-Jewish relations, and by no means occurring the first time in 1939. It must be squarely faced--not ignored or excused--if there is to be any genuine Polish-Jewish reconciliation.
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