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Reconstructing Memory: The Holocaust in Polish Public Debates (Geschichte Erinnerung Politik)

jan peczkis|Sunday, February 23, 2014

This is more of the same coming out of left-wing academic circles. It is almost entirely a rehash of things written many times before. I give it two stars because of its comprehensiveness and its relatively objective portrayal of the doubts about what actually happened at Jedwabne, as well as the implications of the Holocaust Industry. (See below).


Author Piotr Forecki seems to harp on the nonsensical argument that Poles are unwilling to recognize "dark chapters" in their history, imbued as they are with the "heroic narrative" of combat against the Nazis. As every informed reader knows, Polish WWII narratives, including the most nationalistic ones, are full of admissions of Polish-German collaboration and other forms of ignoble Polish conduct. The real problem is the unmistakable propaganda style of common recent accusations, as well as their service for transparently Polonophobic agendas.

Throughout this work, Piotr Forecki repeatedly complains about Poles who speak out on the anti-Polish tone of accusations related to the Holocaust. Does he suppose that Poles are just supposed to embrace the one-sided innuendo, falsehoods, and defamation directed against them?

The author presents a fairly objective picture of the Holocaust Industry. (pp. 185-on). He realizes that this consideration goes far beyond the book by Norman Finkelstein. Various Poles with no inclination towards any form of belief in the existence of the Holocaust Industry recognize the fact that the current climate, created by the tone of existing Holocaust-related discourse, itself facilitates the proliferation of property-restitution claims.


The author heavily promotes the oft-repeated theme that, until 1989, there had been a Polish amnesia, moreover a deliberate one, about the murdered Jews. To embellish this some more, he repeats the contention (also stated by neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross) that this presumed amnesia had been largely motivated by Polish guilt over having acquired post-Jewish property. [Are the Poles also supposed to feel guilty over having acquired post-German property in the recovered territories? For that matter, are the Ukrainians, Russians, etc., supposed to feel guilty over having acquired post-Polish property in the former Kresy?]

The entire amnesia-about-Jews theme is very dubious. [I have reviewed numerous books from the Communist era, and these sources do NOT simply lump all the victims together as "Polish citizens" and "victims of fascism". They unambiguously identify Jewish victims as Jews, as well as the fact that the Nazis had targeted them as Jews. In addition, I had visited Poland in 1973, and had found numerous young and old adults fully cognizant of the fact that the vast majority of the victims of the death camps had been Jews.]

As a corollary, Piotr Forecki repeats the myth that the 4 million Auschwitz victim figure had been a falsification in order to hide or downplay the Jewish deaths. (p. 11, 61). It was not. The inflated figure originated from Jewish sonderkommando survivors. Please click on Auschwitz Nazi Death Camp, and read the Peczkis review.


The author is somewhat fair in presenting both sides of the issue. He gives a hearing to various scholars, including Tomasz Szarota, Tomasz Strzembosz, Piotr Gontarczyk, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Bogdan Musial, Leszek Zebrowski, Marek Wierzbicki, Adam Cyra, Slawomir Radon, and Krzysztof Jasiewicz. (e. g, p. 153). However, his analysis of historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, relative to his After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II (East European Monograph), is very biased. (pp. 225-on).

Unfortunately, Forecki misrepresents the investigative IPN commission as having proved Gross essentially correct because, according to Forecki, it could not be proved that the Germans had committed the crime or forced the Poles to murder the Jews. (p. 211). Excuse me. The burden of proof is on the accuser (Jan T. Gross), not the defendant (Poland). The German role is ambiguous, and therefore Gross' thesis that the Germans played no role in the massacre and only took photographs (p. 141), is what is unproved. Please see the first comment, and read my review of WOKOL JEDWABNEGO, the Proceedings of the IPN investigation.


The author recounts the soul-searching following the publication of Blonski's article, as if only Jewish deaths took place, or only Jewish deaths mattered. Why were Poles supposed to find the Nazi murder of Jews so morally profound when millions of Poles were also being murdered by the Nazis?

Forecki creates a contrived ambiguity about the motives behind Claude Lanzmann and his SHOAH. In actuality, based on Lanzmann's statements to the press, he is an unreconstructed Polonophobe.

In summary, every single theme raised by Piotr Forecki can be turned around. Thus:

Was the majority of Poles indifferent to the fate of Jews, or was the traumatization of Poles at the hands of the German terror the problem? Do Poles truly lack appreciation for Jewish suffering at the hands of the Germans (Nazis), or is this much truer of Jews relative to Polish suffering under the Nazis? Considering the mountains upon mountains of strongly Judeocentric Holocaust educational materials and media in existence in the West, is the problem one of Poles insufficiently emphasizing the (presumed) specialness of Jews' genocide, or is this much truer or Jews relative to the genocide of Poles? Is the problem one of Poles unwilling to consider ideas that disturb national myths, or is this much truer of Jews and their Holocaust/Israel-rebirth myths? Do Poles really have problems seeing themselves as victimizers as well as victims, or is this much truer of Jews? Are the Poles in denial about their past wrongs against Jews, or is it much truer of Jews being in denial about their past wrongs towards Poles? If Poles are to assume collective responsibility for Jedwabne (pp. 142-143), why should the Jews be exempt from assuming collective responsibility for the Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism)?

Finally, I could not help but notice that the publisher of this book is German. Is this coincidental, or is it because Germans like books that tend to relativize German guilt for the Holocaust?
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