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To live with honor to die with honor: Jewish getto archives

jan peczkis|Tuesday, March 28, 2017

This is THE historical document on the Warsaw Ghetto. Inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto documented their lives on paper. Knowing full well that they would probably not survive the war, they buried the documents in 3 milkcans. After the war, they found two of the three. This book is, as far as I know, the only part of the archive that has been translated in to English and published. Documents include everything from a program of a children's play to studies on starvation and copies of Nazi edicts. Hopefully more volumes will follow.

  Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse 4.0 out of 5 starsCandid Insights into Polish-Jewish Relations. No Black-and-White Dialectic Between "Villainous Poles" and "Victim Jews" ByJan Peczkison March 16, 2007 Format: Hardcover Those readers who are steeped in modern political correctness are advised to avoid this book. Its content doesn't fit the usual categories into which both Jews and Poles are placed. In particular, both Jews and Poles come in for frequent criticism by the authors of these selected articles from the Ringelblum archive.

Nevertheless, Ringelblum commented: "...it must be immediately stated that, in general, the Poles deal with Jews in a reliable and fair manner...The Poles make Jewish existence possible. That is quite true. In the absence of transactions or smuggled goods, Jews [in the Warsaw Ghetto] would have neither money nor food; they would starve to death. But this is of mutual interest." (pp. 616-617).


Contrary to the impression created by Jan Tomasz Gross in his FEAR, Poles weren't the only ones who looted Jewish properties. After some Jews had been arrested on the trains by Germans, the following happened: "At the same time, they [the arrested Jews] lost the remainder of their baggage which many people--even Jews--immediately appropriated." (p. 114).


Ringelblum included mention of the Volksdeutsche when he scorned the Polish Blue Police (the Policja Granatowa): "They are hated among the Poles as well. They come from among former policemen, informers and spies, or half-Poles...The Polish society also casts them out. Nevertheless, its must remarked that they do excellent business on smuggling by the walls, in collaboration with the Jewish policemen. Ambo meliores." (pp. 618-619).


Nowadays, Jewish-Nazi collaboration is often summarily excused on the rubric of "choiceless choices." It was not that simple. Yehiel Gorny, in discussing the roundup of Warsaw's Jews for their journeys to their deaths at Treblinka, confirmed what Hannah Arendt wrote in her EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM: "The impetus led by the Jewish Police of Warsaw to the task of extermination enabled the Germans to employ only about one hundred and fifty men in the entire operation." (p. 95). An unidentified commentator added: "The ignominious role of the Jewish police in laying waste the Jewish community in Warsaw will remain an indelible blot on Jewish history." (p. 280). In addition, Jewish Gestapo agents were blamed for spreading false, mollifying rumors about Warsaw's Jews being transported to labor camps. (p. 589).

Dr. Milejkowski commented: "...imposters, informers, all types of extortionists and those who have the ear of the powerful. This layer of underworld people, these asocial elements, are ever present in all societies. But these categories grow stronger and multiply, particularly in war time, as if inhuman living conditions were the natural substream for the propitious development of human hyenas...The most repulsive aspects of the Diaspora are bared in broad daylight and in concentrated form in the Ghetto." (pp. 744-745). Not mentioned was the fact that, to a less severe extent, Poles were also living under the terror of the Germans. Perhaps the comfortably-situated modern critics of negative wartime Polish conduct toward Jews should cut the Poles some slack in this regard.


In 1936, Polish Cardinal August Hlond characterized Jews as having a tendency towards being "freethinkers, vanguards of Bolshevism", etc. Most books on Polish-Jewish relations condemn him for saying this. However, in a similar vein, Hillel Zeitlin wrote of the prewar drift of Polish Jewry away from God, even among the religiously observant: "Unfortunately, the religious leaders in Poland did nothing before the war to foster religious faith among the masses...Did they explain at all why the dietary law should be observed? No, they did not...They explained nothing, made no-one conscious of what the Sabbath is, its meaning, its significance, its holiness." (p. 735).


There exists in many nations (not only in Poland!) the perception of the greedy, exploitative Jew. Is it solely the product of prejudice, and the equally-stereotyped GOYISH jealously over Jewish successes, or does it also have some basis in fact? The opinions of several Jews interviewed by Ringelblum tend to support the latter (pp. 627-628). In addition, Ringelblum himself wrote: "We must not preach, or condemn commercial morality and lax mores in business, as Jews themselves have, no doubt, much on their conscience in this respect: cheating, indecency, unscrupulousness, all practiced on a large scale. But our main concern is with the Poles now; and they have learned all the methods from Jews, including blackmail (perhaps most frequently) and denunciation." (p. 617).

Finally, H. Rosen wrote: "What is more, we ought to utilize the time we are being forced to spend in the Ghetto to uproot the particular Jewish failings which arouse antipathy in other peoples of the world, pouring oil on the flames of anti-Semitism, such as the widespread striving among Jews to attain the easy life, the pursuit of pleasure and luxury, the `aristocratic' spending time in health resorts, and others." (p. 752).


In contrast to some modern authors (e. g., Jan T. Gross, Anna Bikont), Ringelblum was very candid about the large scale of the 1939 Jewish-Soviet collaboration (the Zydokomuna) against Poles: "Those [Jews] who stayed for some time in Bialystok or Brisk say that Polish Jews behaved disloyally to Poland and Poles, from the beginning. They accuse the Jews of enthusiasm for Bolsheviks; of flattery, in order to gain positions which are disloyal to Poland, such as in radio, editing papers, etc...Local Jews (in Bialystok or Brisk) more than the Bolsheviks, persecute Poles who are known for their patriotic and religious tendencies. They inform against Poles. They offend with impunity their former Polish state with whom they wish to settle old accounts. This usually fits the reports of Jews who have come from Russia. One of them saw in Zamosc `Jewish youth with red bands who disarmed Polish officers'; another one saw in Bialystok a Jew who openly offended a Polish judge." (p. 613). There is also the testimony of a Pole who was described as a sincere friend of Jews (pp. 613-614). A young Jewish Communist had searched him and threw away a Crucifix which the searcher had found. The Pole said that he took this incident in stride, but the impressionable 17 year-old Polish soldier with him may not.
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