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he Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (Documenting Life and Destruction: Holocaust Sources in Context)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Editor Wendy Lower provides the background for the situation facing the Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians of Peremyshliany (Przemyslany) in eastern Galicia under the German occupation. She annotates the diary with helpful comments, and then describes the 1960's trials of some of the Nazi war criminals involved.

4.0 out of 5 stars Insights into Nazi Genocides, Property Acquisition, De-Moralization of Jews and Non-Jews: The Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (Documenting Life and Destruction: Holocaust Sources in Context) (Hardcover)

While helpful, Wendy Lower's comments often distort Polish-Ukrainian and Polish-Jewish relations. As an example of the latter, she quotes Jan T. Gross on Jedwabne as gospel truth. In actuality, and contrary to media reports, the investigative IPN Commission did not "prove Gross right" on Jedwabne. Please click on the IPN Proceedings volume, Wokól Jedwabnego, and read the detailed English-language Peczkis review.


Unlike some Jewish diarists, Samuel Golfard did not survive the Holocaust. He was, for a time, protected by a Pole, who later also helped bring Golfard's diary to light. The Germans killed Golfard in a labor camp, in June or July 1943, after he allegedly obtained a firearm and shot at a German.

Golfard's diary itself runs from January through April 1943. Here are some points:


In contrast to the modern practice of treating the victimhood of Jews and Poles as qualitatively different, Golfard does not. Of course, he internalizes the obvious differences between Nazi policies against Poles and Jews. Even so, he writes that, (quote) I am constantly writing about the martyrdom of the Jews. But I know that not only we are suffering. In the camps, the flower of the Polish nation is perishing. Millions of Poles in Germany do the work of hard labor convicts. Tens of thousands have perished in camps. Suffering hunger and disease, the whole nation gives itself with blood for the "contribution"...Moreover, they [the Jews] bear a grudge against the Poles for not being fellow sufferers in misery and brothers in misfortune. They forget that the Polish nation is defenseless. Reports arrived from the province of Lublin about the murder of [Polish] peasants who refused to be resettled. There are more gloomy and bloody reports from the Zamosc area. (unquote). (pp. 63-64).


Unlike neo-Stalinists today, such as Jan T. Gross, who belittle the German-imposed death penalty for the slightest aid to Jews, Golfard does not. He comments, (quote) The thing of greatest consequence is that there is general passivity dictated by weakness. No one can save his neighbor. Everyone's life is threatened. And if in a moment of great danger someone is in a position to save the life of someone else, he cannot do so while being in ghastly fear for his own life. (unquote). (p. 64).

As for allegation that some Poles were grateful to the Germans for making Poland JUDENREIN, Golfard quips, "I believe there are few such people". (p. 64). In addition, he compares accounts of Poles, who were utterly indifferent to the sufferings of Jews, with Jews who were utterly indifferent to the sufferings of other Jews, giving several examples of the latter. (pp. 64-65).


Golfard rejects the dialectic of Jews as victims and Ukrainians [and Poles] as victimizers, and alludes to the de-moralization caused by Nazi policies. He comments, (quote) They can be found in each nation, even among the Jews, who in the past were famous for being repulsed by bloodshed. While in camp, I saw human beasts among Jewish group leaders [GRUPENFUHRERZY], the Ukrainian militia, and the German Gestapomen. It is they who are guilty of letting loose man's most primitive animal instincts as the war made human life worthless and all morality a museum relic. (unquote). (pp. 82-83).


Recently, Jan T. Gross has portrayed Poles as "greedy and anti-Semitic" for wanting to acquire Jewish property. In contrast, Golfard realizes that the Germans were the primary Jewish-property-seekers, and he even juxtaposes the conduct of certain Jews and Germans in this regard. He comments, (quote) With this "action" the Jewish militia participated actively for the first time, breaking into hiding places, seizing children, young people, women, and old men in the streets. For thousands of zloty and for dollars they saved certain people. In this respect, they were not better or worse than many Germans, who for a bottle of vodka or a can of sardines spared one's life. They [Jewish militia] were just somewhat cheaper. (unquote). (p. 55).


Towards the end of his diary, Golfard appears to lash out at everybody for their conduct during the Holocaust: the Germans, the Ukrainians (and, to a lesser extent, Poles), his fellow Jews, the Catholic Church, Britain and the USA, etc. In the end, however, he praises his Polish benefactor, Jankiewicz, and ends with a positive note about Poles, (quote) Among the Polish people there has always existed an immeasurable wealth of kindheartedness, which has been purposely stifled. These Poles [who have helped me] have restored my faith in the Polish people, and let it be to their credit. (unquote). (p. 95).
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