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For Your Freedom Through Ours: Polish American Efforts on Poland's Behalf, 1863-1991

Jan Peczkis|Friday, June 25, 2010

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.

    For Your Freedom Through Ours: Polish American Efforts on Poland's
                        Behalf, 1863-1991    

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-Conquered Eastern Poland, June 25, 2010 This review is from: Shtetl Jews Under Soviet Rule: Eastern Poland on the Eve of the Holocaust (Jewish Society and Culture) (Hardcover) 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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  1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars WWII as Experienced by Specific Polish Persons: With Historical Flashbacks, June 23, 2010 This review is from: World War II through Polish Eyes (Hardcover) This work describes the events surrounding WWII through the eyes of specifically-named Polish individuals who experienced the events, or talked with those who did. It includes an extensive bibliography for further study.

The taking of a tiny disputed border area of Zaolza (Trans-Olza, of Cieszyn: Teschen), during the 1938 Nazi-sponsored dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, has at times been misrepresented as a Polish aggressive act. In contrast, Szonert understands this event as follows: "His (Beck's) defenders argue that his annexation of Zaolzie was aimed at the Munich policy and Germany's increasing power rather than at Czechoslovakia as such. If not Poland, then Germany would take over Zaolzie with its sizable Polish population and strategic industrial base with the largest steel mill in Europe. Colonel Beck makes this bold move to prevent the German penetration of Poland's southern borders vital to Polish defense." (p. 25).

The events up to the 1939 German attack included German fifth-column activities. These are well described. (e. g., p. 70). The brutalities of the German occupation are featured. There is an extensive account of a Polish prisoner at Auschwitz. Projected to live no more than 3 months, he survived. In time, he was released.

Holocaust-uniqueness proponents have argued that Polish prisoners could sometimes be released from Nazi custody, but Jews never. [Actually, some Jews were released--such as the 1,500 in the Kastner-Eichmann deal.] Szonert's data (p. 258) makes it obvious that, while it is true that Polish prisoners could be released, this also was very exceptional. Of several tens of thousands of prisoners at Auschwitz in 1941, some 300 were released, amounting to less than one percent.

Szonert puts the Nazi system in perspective, going beyond the usual Judeocentric approach. She comments: "Between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis built or set up about nine thousand concentration camps including main camps and their auxiliaries. It is estimated that about 18 million people from 30 nations went through these concentration camps." (p. 271).

Throughout this book, seldom-mentioned information is included. For instance, Szonert cites sources that estimate that the Germans employed the same number of soldiers to crush the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 as they had in Rommel's North Africa Campaign of 1941-1943. (p. 341).

Szonert's work also includes brief flashbacks to earlier times in Polish history. The szlachta, or Polish nobility, ranged from magnates that owned vast estates and even their own armies, down to petty gentry that worked the land like the peasantry. The szlachta at times reached the unheard-of 15% of the Polish population--the largest noble class in any country at the time. (p. 324).
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  1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars A Broad Sweep of 20th Century Polish History: Details of Pre-WWII German Provocations, and the Post-WWII Communist Terror, June 21, 2010 This review is from: Null and Void: Poland: Case Study on Comparative Imperialism (Paperback) This work covers many topics: WWII battles, Katyn, the deportations of Poles into the USSR and Nazi Germany, the Soviet-betrayed Warsaw Uprising, the Roosevelt-Churchill betrayal of Poland, the Soviet-imposed Communist puppet state, the illusory Gomulka "thaw", the election of Pope John Paul II, the Solidarity movement, the Jaruzelski-imposed martial law, the fall of Communism, and the first decade of post-Communist Poland.

Two things stand out about this work. One of them is the detailed description of the provocations against Poland conducted by Nazi Germany, as well as Poland's German minority, in the year or so before the 1939 German-Soviet conquest of Poland. (p. 15-on). Another is the detailed descriptions given to the Communist terror in Yalta-betrayed Poland, and the sufferings of the people under Communism.

The author is candid about the very disproportionate number of Jewish officers in the hated Communist security forces (the UB, U.B., or Bezpieka). She writes: "The entire managerial cadre of the Public Security Ministry came with the Soviet Army from the East. Initially, the decision makers in the newly formed Polish administration were only Russians; many of them didn't even speak Polish. Polish Jews together with a few Poles, all of them trained in Moscow, occupied the second tier of the managerial structure. The ordinary Poles were working mainly in the lower levels of the administrative structures. By 1948, most of the Soviets returned to the Soviet Union, leaving the Polish Jews firmly in charge. Stalin favored Jews over Poles. He trusted them more because the Polish Jews were less likely to be connected with the patriotic movement, were outsiders towards Polish history and tradition, and had no ties to the Catholic Church." (pp. 112-113).

WARNING: The accounts of Communist tortures are graphic, and may upset the sensitive reader. In summary, Szonert cites sources that affirm the following: "It is estimated that between 1945 and 1948 at least 2,500 death sentences were handed down, while another 10,000 people were murdered during barbaric interrogations, not even reaching trial. In addition to those murdered, between 100,000 and 150,000 people were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, many of them died in prison of inhumane conditions and lack of medical care; some of them were brutally murdered by prison killers, so called URKAS..." (p. 126).
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