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Run East: FLIGHT FROM THE HOLOCAUST

jan peczkis|Sunday, August 28, 2011

The author lived in Radzyn, Poland. Soon after his birth in 1918, his family went through pogroms, which he describes as follows: "The violence was unpredictable. Sometimes, it would move across an entire region like a storm rumbling across an open plain. Other times, it was local, contained within a city or town. Sparked by a single incident, an unkind word, a bad business transaction, a simple rumor, the violence would flare for days." (p. 5). [The American reader can see close parallels with past episodes of U.S. racial violence. It could be local or nationwide. Nearly always, it was some perceived "us vs. them" incident, such as a black harming a white, or a white harming a black, that triggered it.]


         


Later, however, Pomerantz moved beyond a strictly "Jews as victims" mindset, acquiring a broader view of violence, which included the Jew-on-Jew variety: "I didn't know it then, but my life in Radzyn was very safe. There were fights on the streets between Christians and Jews, between radical Communists and the Bund party, the Zionists, and other political parties." (p. 12).

As was the case with most Polish Jews of the interwar era, the author grew up in an environment of self-imposed apartheid (my term): "Jews in Radzyn had a separate community and culture...Jews spoke Yiddish rather than Polish...For a while I went to Hebrew school, but, like many Jews in Radzyn, I never learned how to read or write Polish." (p. 10, 12).

The author repeats the well-worn myth of Polish cavalry using lances in essentially suicidal runs against the German forces during the 1939 war. (p. 13). In common with countless Polish and non-Polish eyewitnesses, Pomerantz describes the Luftwaffe terror bombing and strafing of defenseless civilians. (pp. 2-4). German planes even shot farm animals in the fields. (p. 4).

The German-Soviet conquest of Poland was completed. Although the author does not discuss the Zydokomuna (Jewish-Soviet collaboration), he provides information refuting one common exculpation for it--that of mortal Jewish fear of falling into the hands of the Nazis (of that time). He writes: "When the Russians published a decree promising to repatriate all Jewish refugees from German-controlled Poland if the Jews registered, Moshe and his wife, Bransha, and their daughter, Bella, promptly signed up to return to what remained of Poland, as did my sister Serke and her family." (p. 23). Obviously, were the Jews particularly afraid of the Nazis of 1939, it would have been unthinkable for any of them to choose to return to Nazi-occupied Poland from Soviet-occupied Poland! Yet they did. However, it was a trick. Instead of being repatriated westward to German-occupied Poland, these Jews were deported eastward to Siberia. [This confirms historian Jerzy Robert Nowak.]

Pomerantz also ended up in the USSR. He eventually joined a Polish Army being formed there. It is unclear if he was involved in Berling's Army. The Polish Army he joined included Polish soldiers who had fought in the 1939 war, but also had numerous non-Poles in its ranks, including Jews. (p. 121). Many of its officers were Russian. (p. 110).

As the Red Army drove west, Pomerantz' unit encountered the mounds containing the bodies of Jews that had been shot by the Germans years earlier, and which the Germans had not gotten to burn to hide the evidence. He saw manifestations of the Ukrainian fascist-separatist OUN-UPA genocide of Poles, which he misunderstood as primarily an attack on mixed marriages: "Several times, we entered small Polish cottages in Ukrainian territory to find their owners nailed to the wall, spikes through their wrists and feet, throats cut in the most brutal kind of savagery. Often these dead Poles had married Ukrainian women." (p. 127). The described creative cruelty of the OUN-UPA rezuny [cutthroats] corroborates Polish sources.

The troop movements then took him to the environs of Maidanek (Majdanek), and later he spent vexing months stalled east of east-bank Warsaw while Stalin was giving the Germans time to crush the Poles' Warsaw Uprising (1944) and systematically destroy Warsaw. He subsequently was part of the drive that advanced westward towards Berlin.

Meanwhile, his sister Genia survived the Holocaust in Lwow (Lviv) by hiding in the sewers. A group of Polish workers aided them for a period of time. (pp. 163-on). After the war, the author emigrated to the USA.
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