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The Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger (Life Writing)

jan peczkis|Monday, December 9, 2013

Insights into Paid Polish Rescuers of Jews, the Later Secrecy of Jew-Hiding, the Dark Side of Oskar Schindler, Israel (nicknamed Srulik) Unger was a young child during the Holocaust. He and part of his family survived the Nazis when some Poles hid them behind a false wall in an attic of a flour mill in Tarnow. It is unclear how many Poles knew about the Jews in hiding, yet not one of them denounced the Jews to the Germans. Gammon and Unger at first estimate about ten Poles in the know p. 15), but then suspect that the existence of the fugitive Jews in hiding was an open secret among the Poles. (p. 199).

This book is really three books. The first one deals with Srulik's childhood recollections (and statements from adults), the second deals with his postwar life in Canada, and the last deals with his recent visits to the relevant sites in Poland (and the archives therein).


Paid Polish rescuers have commonly been condemned as ones exploiting the defenseless Jews. Although the Polish rescuers of the Unger family did not require payment from the Jews, it is easy to see why some Polish rescuers did. Srulik comments, "...food was so scarce, for non-Jewish Poles too." (p. 14).

Srulik categorically repudiates insinuations against paid Polish rescuers of Jews. He writes, (quote) If you helped a Jew you were dead. But why shouldn't you benefit from it? I don't think it was immoral or unethical. You're sorry to see what is happening to these people; you're going to help them, but you need some help too. So why should it not be symbiotic? I don't have anything against that. (unquote). (p. 14).

Even though a Polish rescuer of Jews faced death from the Germans if caught, regardless of circumstance, some Jews actually WANTED to pay Polish rescuers. That way, the rescuers would be complicit in the "crime" of the Jews, and thereby would be accomplices. (pp. 13-14, 18).


Srulik describes, in considerable detail, his life in Canada. The reader learns that anti-Semitism existed even in this nation.

Unger insists that Polish Jews are definitely Poles. (p. 73). At the same time, he repeatedly states that he does not consider himself a Pole. (e. g, p. 72, 155). It appears that Srulik wants to have it both ways.

The authors shed light on how the Holocaust is presented in Canada. Marlene, Srulik's wife, tried to get a Holocaust-denying teacher, Malcolm Ross, removed as a school teacher. (pp. 136-on). Later, she was active in having the Holocaust taught, as a mandatory topic, in Canadian schools, and resisted later policies that tended to reduce the time spend on this subject.


The authors of this work had an interesting discussion with Aleksander Dagnan. He had been a teenager during WWII, and his father had been a business associate of the Unger family.

Neo-Stalinist Jan T. Gross has alleged that Poles who rescued Jews were unwilling to talk later about it because of the strong anti-Semitic disapproval of other Poles. The actual explanations are much more prosaic. Some Poles feared the Jewish returnees reclaiming their properties. Others thought of the rescue of Jews as their civic duty, and thus nothing worthy of attention. (pp. 168-169).

Still other Polish rescuers of Jews were fearful of bandits [rampant after the war]. The authors comment, "Conversely, when Carolyn asked Aleksander Dagnan why not more was said about the Jews in hiding after the war, he said that no one spoke about it because, if it were known you had helped Jews, then people would assume you had been paid to do so and had lots of money...After the war nobody would talk about it because one could be suspected of having become rich and be a target for other Poles." (pp. 168-169).


When visiting Poland in 2009, the authors met Kalman Goldberg, a fellow Holocaust survivor from Tarnow. He indicated that, after the Germans had liquidated the Tarnow ghetto, they dispatched him to the concentration camp at Plaszow, and he ended up on Schindler's list. Goldberg stated that the movie, SCHINDLER'S LIST, is inaccurate, and that Oskar Schindler raped a girl, in the factory, whom Goldberg knew. Kalman Goldberg also stated that he informed Steven Spielberg about this, and that Spielberg accepted the account, but wanted to know nothing more about it. (p. 176). Comment Comment | Permalink     The Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (Documenting Life and Destruction: Holocaust Sources in Context)   The Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (Documenting Life and Destruction: Holocaust Sources in Context) by Wendy Lower
Edition: Hardcover Price: $42.51   36 used & new from $31.45
4.0 out of 5 stars Insights into Nazi Genocides, Property Acquisition, De-Moralization of Jews and Non-Jews, December 3, 2013 This review is from: The Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (Documenting Life and Destruction: Holocaust Sources in Context) (Hardcover) 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.

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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