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Zaglada Zydow w Krakowie (Cracoviana) (Polish Edition)

Jan Peczkis|Thursday, March 3, 2011

German propaganda portrayed the forced confinement of Jews in ghettos as a protective measure against typhus. When typhus epidemics did not break out, the Germans changed their story. They now said that Jews had a natural symbiosis with lice, which was why they could easily spread typhus while not becoming ill themselves, and for which reason they still had to be isolated. (p. 43). Although the ghettoization of the Jews failed to starve and sicken them out of existence, the mortality rate was nevertheless 13 times that of the natural prewar rate. (p. 50)

    Zaglada Zydow w Krakowie (Cracoviana) (Polish Edition)   Zaglada Zydow w Krakowie (Cracoviana) (Polish Edition) by Aleksander Bieberstein
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  When the forced ghettoization of Krakow's Jews began, many Jews entrusted their properties to Polish acquaintances. (p. 30). The Germans learned about some of these activities owing to both Polish and Jewish informers, which Bieberstein describes as members of the darkest, most demoralized elements of their respective societies. (p. 30). Holocaust-witness Bieberstein thus joins the ranks of Jewish authors who concur with Polish writers, contrary to the opinions of Holocaust-nonwitness Jan T. Gross, that German-serving informers were in fact generally marginal members of society. Also, nowhere does Bieberstein portray Poles as greedy seekers of Jewish property, or ones reluctant to return Jewish property.

Jan T. Gross has also repeatedly accused the Catholic Church in general, and Cardinal Adam Sapieha in particular, of being indifferent to the fate of the Jews under the German occupation. The truth is otherwise. Leading Krakow rabbis Szmelkes Kornitzer, Szabse Rappaport, and Majer Friedrich perished in Auschwitz, already in 1940, for seeking the intervention of Cardinal Sapieha on behalf of the Jews. (p. 223). Sapieha did intervene on behalf of the Jews, but it was futile. (pp. 38-39). [I thank historian Jerzy Robert Nowak for bringing the foregoing information to light, and for mentioning it repeatedly on RADIO MARYJA programs.]

Krakow's Jews were shipped to their deaths at Belzec in mid-1942. Bieberstein states that, by June 1942, the Krakow Jewish community knew (or surmised) what went on in that camp thanks to Polish railway workers, although many Jews still insisted that they were being shipped to a work camp. The Poles had described in detail how the trains went off on a fork in the rails into the forest, and soon returned empty. The railway workers also repeated accounts, from neighboring farmers, of the frequent combustion odors in the forest. (pp. 57-58). Other Poles picked up letters that had been thrown out of the death trains in transit, and delivered them to Krakow's remaining Jews. (p. 75).

Some Jews fled the Krakow ghetto and hid in the Aryan part of town. Polish denouncers of these fugitive Jews are described by Bieberstein as "fortunately rare." (p. 85). Some Jews fled through a canal system, and Polish onlookers were described as sympathetic. (pp. 85-86). (This further contradicts common accusations of Poles mocking suffering Jews.)

Jewish denouncers and Jewish Gestapo agents played a major role in the unmasking of fugitive Jews. (p. 86). In fact, Bieberstein described them as the "most dangerous element" facing Jews, and one that was totally unscrupulous. (p. 171). Bieberstein contended that Jewish informers were more common than Polish ones. (p. 220). The author listed over a dozen Jewish Nazi collaborators by name (pp. 171-174), although he realized that any such list cannot be complete.

About 10,000 of Krakow's Jews were sent to the Nazi German concentration camp at Plaszow. Some 35,000 humans passed through the camp, of which about 5,000 were Poles. Only about 2,000 Jews came out of this camp alive at the end of the war. (p. 146).

Plaszow camp was guarded by Nazi-collaborating Ukrainians. (p. 111). The Polish and Jewish inmates of the camp got along well, and helped each other. (p. 107). Later, in July 1943, separate barracks were built for the Poles. The Poles were treated worse than the Jews, being subject to an inferior sanitary system, and relegated by the Germans to the most arduous forced labor. (p. 133).

Bieberstein discusses Oskar Schindler. He portrays Schindler as one who was free of racial hatred against Jews, who did not believe that Germany would win the war, and one who was clever in his dealings with other Germans.

Countless foreign-language Holocaust books have been translated into English, but not this one. Why not? Could it be because of its objective portrayal of both Polish and Jewish conduct?
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