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Burning Questions an Emmy Award Winning Documentary About Polish Catholics in the Holocaust

Jan Peczkis|Friday, December 31, 2010

Everyone knows about the 6 million Jews murdered by the Germans during WWII. Who has ever heard of the 3 million Polish gentiles who met the same fate, including a large fraction of Poland's intelligentsia (teachers, professors, priests, etc.)? Is the genocide of Poles part of the Holocaust, a holocaust but not the Holocaust, or some other item in Newspeak?


It is not rare for Polish-Americans to be ignorant of their heritage, and to repeat popular misconceptions about it. Certainly Mishael Porembski, a Polish-American journalist and daughter of a Polish victim, was in this state. Her father, Jan Porembski, except towards the end of his life, did not talk about his experiences. Mishael grew up under the standard Judeocentric curriculum, and had been led to believe that only Jews suffered under the Nazis. In fact, when she first learned that her father had been an inmate in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, she at first thought that her father had been there because he had been mistaken for a Jew!

Gradually, the truth unraveled. Father began to talk about his experiences. In time, father and daughter visited Poland to see a few of the sites of Polish sufferings. The dominant Judeocentric theme of WWII memory not only had caused Poland's Holocaust to be forgotten, but also for Poland's experiences to be framed primarily in terms of the Jewish experiences. For instance, Poles are accused of collaborating with the Nazis in the extermination of the Jews. One of the elderly ladies interviewed pointed out that there were only singular instances of Poles engaged in this kind of conduct, and that good and bad people can be found in every nationality. Also, Poles should not be grovelling before other nations. More power to her!

The Porembskis visited places where the Germans had shot the Poles en masse. The viewer was informed of such things as the extermination of Poland's intelligentsia, the mass deportations of Poles for forced labor, and Hitler's eventual plan to replace Poles with Germans. The account of the Warsaw Uprising, while informative, unfortunately repeats the myth that the systematic destruction of Warsaw by the Germans, after the Uprising, had been done in order to deny living quarters to the advancing Red Army. In actuality, it was cultural genocide, pure and simple. Certainly there was no military reason for the blowing up of Warsaw's historic buildings and the burning of Warsaw's main libraries and archives, causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of priceless, irreplaceable items.

Mishael visits Auschwitz. The viewer is then informed of the fact that 75,000 Poles were incarcerated there (other figures are much higher), and that Auschwitz was one of the places where the Polish intelligentsia was gradually being destroyed by the Germans. Not mentioned is the fact that, as Europe's Jews were being finished off, the Germans planned to greatly expand the Auschwitz facilities in order to destroy many more Poles.

There is an interview with Michael Schudrich, Poland's Chief Rabbi. Schudrich makes some fallacious contentions. He basically excuses the Jewish hostility towards Poles by pointing out that, whereas the Nazis are gone, the Poles are still around to serve as a target. Such reasoning will not do. (If a dog bit me, and ran away, I would not thereby be excused in expressing my anger and pain by hitting the person located nearest to me.)

More significantly, Schudrich points out that each nation must make its sufferings known to others, and that, if its suffering are not known, it is that nation's fault. Certainly Poles should do more to promote their history among non-Poles, but it is ridiculous to suggest that the dominant Judeocentric approach to WWII owes to the Jews making the Holocaust known, and Poles not correspondingly doing the same.

In actuality, there are many works out on Polish WWII suffering (e. g., see the Peczkis Listmania: FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST) but nearly all of them languish in obscurity. The present work, BURNING QUESTIONS, is a prime example. Though it is an award-winning documentary, and has been out for over ten years, it has but three Amazon reviews, and all three are by Poles or Polish-descent reviewers who specialize in Polish matters!

Why, then, has the WWII genocide of Poles disappeared down an Orwellian memory hole? The real reason, avoided by Schudrich, closely relates to influence and power. Poles, unlike Jews, are in no position to make their WWII experiences widely known, much less a significant item in the west's collective historical memory. (For a candid Jewish analysis of this matter, please click on Holocaust in American Life, and read the Peczkis review).
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