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Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Jan Paczkis|Thursday, July 16, 2009

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and "Abundant" Polish Arms, Jews Helped or Killed by Poles, etc., July 9, 2009

by Kazimierz Iranek-Osmecki
Edition: Hardcover

  5.0 out of 5 stars Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and "Abundant" Polish Arms, Jews Helped or Killed by Poles, etc., July 9, 2009 Although this book was published decades ago, its information is timely because the same tired accusations against Poles, answered in this book, keep being repeated to this day. For instance, Reuben Ainsztein accused Poles of collaborating with Germans in the extermination of Jews. (At present, Jan Tomasz Gross (Jan T. Gross) is the most recent "incarnation" of Ainsztein). Polish Jews such as Lucian Blit, Michal Borwicz, Mieczyslaw Jastrun, and Joseph Lichten refute Ainsztein's attacks (pp. 290-292). While not overlooking the alienation of Jews from prewar Polish society and certain negative personal experiences with Poles, they all strongly repudiate any notion that most Poles were hostile to Jews, much less that Poles collaborated with Germans to any significant extent. They also point to the fact that Poles were also victims of the Nazis.

Accusations against Poles even lead to legal fireworks. Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, the leader of the AK and the foredoomed Warsaw Uprising, was accused of being an anti-Semite. He sued and won. The MANCHESTER GUARDIAN published a communiqué on March 26, 1959 in which it apologized to Bor-Komorowski, repudiated this libel, and agreed to pay his legal costs (pp. 292-293).

Iranek-Osmecki begins his analysis of Jewish-Polish history in the 19th century. In Austrian-ruled Poland, Jews in business were given preferential treatment over the Poles in an obvious divide-and-conquer strategy (p. 7). In Russian-ruled Poland, large numbers of Jews were forcibly settled in the Pale of Settlement in the late 19th century. Large numbers of Russian-speaking Jews, the Litvaks, settled into Polish areas: "The new arrivals were hostile to Poland, and their antagonism strained the relations between the Polish and Jewish communities for years to come." (p. 10).

It is striking that, during the Nazi German rule over Poland, much of the west's Jewish press spent more time attacking Poland and the exiled Polish Army than the Nazis and their treatment of the Jews! (pp. 182-184, 195-196).

The statements of Shmul Zygielbojm, a Jewish member of the Polish Government-in-exile in London, are recorded. In September 1942, in reference to German-occupied Poland, Zygielbojm spoke of "...crimes so monstrous, in the face of which the worst barbaric acts of the past ages appear mere trivialities" (p. 190). Embittered by the lack of action of the Allies in forestalling the extermination of the Jews, Zygielbojm committed suicide in May 1943. In his last written statement, he simultaneously praised the Polish Government-in-exile for publicizing Jewish deaths and condemned it for doing nothing extraordinary in this regard (p. 216). It is unclear what Zygielbojm had in mind. He probably had a greatly exaggerated sense of its geopolitical power. After all, it soon proved powerless in preventing the western Allies' betrayal of Poland, the giveaway of Poland's eastern half, and the imposition of the Soviet puppet state. And, since the Polish Government-in-exile could not prevent the murder of 2-3 million Polish gentiles by the Germans, how could it possibly have prevented the murder of 3 million Polish Jews by the same?

The Polish Underground gave more military assistance to the armed Jewish Underground than is commonly realized (pp. 151-168). At the time of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Polish Underground had very few arms to spare (pp. 156-158). In fact, in early 1943, the AK had so few weapons that it could not even conduct effective diversionary activities, let alone uprisings (p. 156).

Iranek-Osmecki devotes some attention to the Jewish members of the AK (pp. 110-115). This adds to the refutation to the scurrilous claims of Yaffa Eliach, who accused the mainstream Polish Underground (AK) of concocting and then implementing some sort of secret plan to kill-off Poland's remaining Jews. There was one unit that did kill fugitive Jews. Leon Szymbierski "Orzel" was court-martialed and executed for this crime by the Polish Underground in June 1944 (p. 262).

The author also examines other situations where Poles killed Jews who were evading the Nazis. As a consequence of the brutality of German rule, banditry was rampant in the countryside of German-occupied Poland, and the Germans did nothing to stamp it out. At times, fugitive Jews became victims of these bandits. Other fugitive Jews joined pre-existing Polish bandit bands or created bandit bands of their own (p. 61). The AK liquidated such bands whenever possible, regardless of their ethno-religious composition (pp. 259-261).

Periodically, the Polish Underground is faulted for not fighting the szmalcowniki (blackmailers) more energetically. Such criticism is misplaced: "When a blackmailer learned that he was being investigated he could place himself under German protection or betray the identity of the agents working on the case...After they were sentenced, blackmailers often moved, disappeared, or changed their names to escape execution. Implementation of sentences, therefore, often had to be delayed or abandoned." (p. 259).

A unique feature of this book is its analysis of the Polish ultra-nationalist O. N. R. (ONR)(pp. 245-250). Pointing to such things as the past history of the German-Jewish symbiosis at Poland's expense, and the recent widespread Jewish-Soviet collaboration (the Zydokomuna), it saw the Jews as Poland's enemies no less than the Germans and the Soviets. For this reason, the ONR opposed Polish aid to Jews, and recommended that all remaining Polish Jews be forced to emigrate after the war. However, the ONR and similar groups had only a small following among Poles and still less in the Polish Government-in-exile.

Soon after the German conquest of Poland, an organization of Polish barristers rejected a German-sponsored drive to have it disbar its Jewish members (p. 120). Otherwise, any open protest by a Pole against the way that the Germans were treating the Jews was a good way to get shot on the spot (p. 268).

Iranek-Osmecki provides detailed examples of Polish assistance to Jews. Zegota is discussed, including its activities in Warsaw, Krakow, and Lwow (pp. 146-147). Numerous testimonies are given of Poles who rescued Jews and of Poles who were murdered by the Germans for rendering such assistance.
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