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Poland's Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present (Paperback)

jan peczkis|Monday, December 8, 2014

To correct the countless errors and omissions of this book would require a book in itself. (For more details, see the first Comment). I can only touch on a few matters in this single review.

The author's Judeocentric bias goes to ludicrous extremes. Joanna Beata Michlic specifically and openly rejects explanations of anti-Semitism in terms of objective contextual factors. (e. g, p. 12). To Michlic, Jews are simply objects of perceptions, and never flesh-and-blood humans who interact with their environment. All she has is a simplistic dialectic, where Poles are the bad guys and Jews are never more than victims. Michlic's trash-the-Poles mindset would have the reader believe that Poles only have the right to say flattering things about Jews, while Jews can say whatever they want about Poles. How dare those rascally Poles disagree with Jewish attitudes and actions! By what audacity do the Poles stand up for their own nation?




JEWS AS THE "OTHER"

The very title of this book is vacuous. The informed reader realizes that, historically, Jews always thought themselves as the "other", and spared no efforts to emphasize their alien-ness. For thousands of years, Jews lived in self-imposed apartheid, and strove not to become contaminated by the ways of the GOYIM. In the 19th century, as Jewish religion declined, Jewish religious-based separatism gave way to an even stronger, politicized separatism--based on Zionism, the Yiddishist movement, etc.

Michlic complains that the Endeks thought that Jewish culture was too old and too developed to ever become part of Polish culture. (e. g, p. 53, 63, 66). However, she fails to mention that many Jews also contended that Polish culture is younger than, and inferior to, Jewish culture, and otherwise unworthy of the Jews. (See first Comment).

The author consistently leaves out facts that are inconvenient to her position. For instance, she dwells on the fact that pre-Endeks and Endeks thought of Jews as unassimilable, and especially that Endeks were arguing that assimilation did not necessarily transform Jews into Poles. However, she fails to mention the fact that many Jews thought likewise. Some Jews supported the premise of a Jewish essentialism that survives assimilation and even conversion, thereby unavoidably making Jews the perpetual "other". She also skirts around the fact that Jews assimilated and converted for a variety of motives, including opportunism. (See first Comment).

AUTHENTIC POLES AND AUTHENTIC JEWS

While admitting that there is no sharp line between civic nationalism and ethnonationalism (p. 282), Michlic harps on the Endeks as ethno-nationalists because they (generally) did not embrace assimilated Polish Jews as fellow Poles. The case of poet Julian Tuwim is instructive. Michlic portrays him as some kind of poor victim of Polish intolerance. Notwithstanding the fact that Tuwim was completely assimilated to Polish culture, and had even severed all ties to Judaism, he ALSO opined that assimilation did not make Poles out of Jews. Pointedly, Tuwim freely admitted that he did not, at some level, feel himself a Pole--thus validating the Endek doubts about him as a real Pole. Please click on Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation's Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968 and read the detailed Peczkis review. [Endek thinking proved prophetic. After WWII, Tuwim came out openly in support of the Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government that had enslaved Poland.]

However, the issue is more basic. If, following Michlic's reasoning, Poles have no right to decide who is and is not a Pole, then who does? Note that Jews very much decide who is and is not a Jew, and merely claiming to be a Jew does not suffice. For instance, Jewish believers in Jesus Christ are not recognized as Jews--even if they identify with their Jewishness and practice many Judaic customs. Neither Jewish organizations, nor the State of Israel, recognize Jews for Jesus as authentic Jews. Now, if Jews can decide who is and who is not a real Jew, then why on Earth are Poles forbidden from deciding who is and is not a real Pole?

CAN JEWS ALSO DO WRONG?

The author bad-mouths historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz on the Jedwabne massacre (p. 277), but--not surprisingly--presents no evidence showing that Chodakiewicz is incorrect. For more on this, please go to JEDWABNE, by Chodakiewicz, and read the detailed Peczkis review.

Joanna Beata Michlic also berates Chodakiewicz for bringing up murderous Jewish crimes against Poles, repeatedly accusing him of trying to create a "zero sum game" between Poles and Jews. (e. g, pp. 216-217, p. 332). If so, why not? Are Jews above Poles? Is the Polish murder of a Jew a horrible event, while the Jewish murder of a Pole is nothing? It certainly sounds like it. She follows an identical line of attack on historian Piotr Gontarczyk and his perceptive analysis of the Przytyk Pogrom. (pp. 110-111). [See POGROM?, by Gontarczyk, and read the detailed English-language Peczkis review.]

Not surprisingly, the author tries to deny the magnitude of Jewish-Soviet collaboration against Poland (which is sometimes called the Zydokomuna). She cites fragmentary statistics on the relative abundance of Jewish officers in the hated Soviet-imposed Communist security forces, the U. B. (Bezpieka). The actual figure, based on a detailed analysis of the relevant archives, shows that at least 37% of Bezpieka officers were Jews, which means that Jews were at least 40-fold over-represented, among these torturers and murderers of Poles, over the Jewish percentage in Poland's postwar population. For details, please click on Aparat bezpieczenstwa w Polsce w latach 1950-1952: Taktyka, strategia, metody (Dokumenty) (Polish Edition), and read the detailed English-language Peczkis review.

WHERE THE AUTHOR IS COMING FROM

Joanna Michlic has been identified as a neo-Stalinist. This is not in the sense of admiring or rehabilitating Stalin, but in the sense of resurrecting Stalinist-era attacks on non-leftist and devout Poles as anti-Semites, fascists, Nazis, and whatnot. This book, without a doubt, fits the bill.

The informed reader may be astonished by the degree of similarity of this book with the books of fellow neo--Stalinist Jan T. Gross. Is Gross a clone of Michlic, or is Michlic a clone of Gross?

However, to her credit, Michlic parts ways with other neo-Stalinists in rejecting the argument that there was no Polish Quisling because the Germans never wanted one. She realizes that, early in the German occupation of Poland, the Nazis unsuccessfully tried to win over the likes of Stanislaw Estreicher and Wladyslaw Studnicki as Polish Quislings. (p. 172).

POLISH-JEWISH RELATIONS: THE REAL ISSUES

Michlic cites Teodor Jeske-Choinski (1854-1920), who made this sage point about Jewish-Polish relations--a perceptive conclusion that is still very much true today: (quote) "Anti-Semitism will cease to exist when the Jew finally understands that living in someone else's home means learning how to be an acceptable guest and how neither to aspire to the role of the host nor to harm the host...After all, our Christian culture is humanitarian." (unquote). (p. 56).

Finally, since this book very selectively focuses on prejudices, the serious reader must realize that prejudices between Poles and Jews very much went both ways. See the detailed, free, online book, TRADITIONAL JEWISH ATTITUDES TOWARDS POLES, by Mark Paul.
Jan Peczkis says: Those readers interested in going deeper into Michlic's many omissions and distortions of facts should consult the following:

I have now read and Amazon-reviewed over 600 books on Judaica (especially Poland's Judaica) out of my over 2,000 Amazon-reviewed items, and have here organized these Judaica reviews into 24 (so far) Amazon Listmania according to the following six chronological divisions:

I. POLES AND JEWS BEFORE POLAND'S RE-ACQUIRED INDEPENDENCE (Pre-1918)
II. POLISH-JEWISH RELATIONS IN THE SECOND REPUBLIC (1918-1939)
III. POLES AND JEWS DURING THE GERMAN-MADE HOLOCAUST (1939-1944)
IV. POLES AND JEWS UNDER SOVIET OCCUPATION (1944-1989)
V. POLES AND JEWS TODAY
VI. FLASH POINTS IN POLISH-JEWISH RELATIONS

(Go to Amazon Listmania, and type-in the name of the indicated Listmania according to a specific topic area for further study):

I. POLES AND JEWS BEFORE POLAND'S RE-ACQUIRED INDEPENDENCE (Pre-1918)

Jews and Judaism in Tsarist Russia
Jews and Judaism in Galicia (Poland, Ukraine)
Judeopolonia: Fact, Myth, or In-Between?

II. POLISH-JEWISH RELATIONS IN THE SECOND REPUBLIC (1918-1939)

Polish-Jewish Relations: Julian Tuwim and the Skamander Poets
Jewish Culture, Jewish History, Jewish Life, Jewish Religion
Jewish Freethought in Pre-WWII Poland
Jewish Political Parties and Politics in Pre-WWII Poland
Pre-WWII Polish Jews Experiencing Little or No Anti-Semitism
Polish Pogroms [Series of Three Listmania]

III. POLES AND JEWS DURING WWII AND THE HOLOCAUST (1939-1944)

Holocaust (Shoah) Misconceptions Corrected
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Myths Vs. Facts
Righteous Among Nations: Polish Rescuers of Jews.........Betrayers Too
The WWII Rescue of Danish Jews in Fact and in Myth
Diaries from the Jewish Ghettos in German-Occupied Poland in WWII
The Treblinka Holocaust Death Camp in German-Occupied Poland
Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, and the Judenrat Controversy

IV. POLES AND JEWS UNDER SOVIET OCCUPATION (1944-1989)

Looting, Grave Robbery, Property Restitution--Not Only Poles From Jews
Historian Marek Chodakiewicz and His Scholarly Works

V. POLES AND JEWS TODAY (1989-on)

Auschwitz (Oswiecim), Kolbe, & Auschwitz Carmelite Convent Controversy
Jewish Landmarks in Post-WWII and Contemporary Poland

VI. FLASH POINTS IN POLISH-JEWISH RELATIONS

Understanding Polish Statesman Roman Dmowski and His National Movement
Exposing Polonophobia: Anti-Polish Bias, as in Holocaust Materials
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