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TO BE A JEW: DISCUSSIONS WITH DAG HALVORSEN ABOUT JEWS AND THE ANTISEMITISM OF THE POLES.

John Peczkis|Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TO BE A JEW: DISCUSSIONS WITH DAG HALVORSEN ABOUT JEWS AND THE ANTISEMITISM OF THE POLES. In this Polish-language book, Halvorsen asks many questions which reflect popular stereotypes about Poles, and Wroblewski, who is of Jewish background (p. 7), responds to him.

      Byc Zydem: Rozmowa z Dagiem Halvorsenem o zydach i antysemityzmie polakow (Polish Edition)        


Historical trends and events are emphasized. For example, while most peasants were illiterate, Jews were literate for religious reasons. Also, the study of the Talmud led Jews to think dialectically--not only the lawyers, but also the tailors and shoe repairmen. (p. 16). The proscription against Jewish-gentile intermarriage enabled Jews to keep their identity, but also was viewed unfavorably among Poles, and helped create a wall between Jews and non-Jews. (p. 17). One major factor in the emergence of poverty among Jews was the divide that separated the prosperous Jewish factory owners from Jewish commoners. (pp. 38-39).

Wroblewski repeats the claim that members of Haller's Army persecuted Jews. However, he also asserts that there were Poles in Wilno [Vilnius] who hid their Jewish neighbors for protection. (p. 45).

The 1931 pogrom in Wilno began when a Pole, Waclawski, was killed in an altercation with a Jew. (p. 45). [The American reader can recount all of the race riots of the past that began when a white was killed by a black, or a black was killed by a white.]

Let's now focus on the WWII Nazi German occupation of Poland. The author knew a number of fugitive Jews who repeatedly paid-off the szmalcowniks (blackmailers), and were never betrayed to the Germans. (This tends to support the premise that most szmalcowniki, rather than hard-core anti-Semites, were petty extortionists who did not actually follow through on their threats to denounce fugitive Jews to the Germans.) Wroblewski was accosted by a szmalcownik who, after the war, became a member of the hated Communist security forces (U. B., or Bezpieka). (p. 124). [Other authors have reported this phenomenon: Low-character Poles serving the Communists in large numbers, whence the term chamokomuna (Boor-Communism)].

Of course, a fugitive Jew could meet denunciation and death from many quarters. Wroblewski describes the deaths of 11 Poles and Jews thanks to the work of Staszauer, a Jewish Gestapo agent. (p. 121).

The author briefly analyzes Claude Lanzmann (SHOAH) and, while being neutral towards Lanzmann, does point out manipulative tendencies in Lanzmann's work. For instance, Wroblewski points out that the peasant who did the cut-throat gesture was warning (not mocking) foreign Jews about what awaited them at Treblinka. Wroblewski doubts that the peasant's smile, while interviewed, in any way indicates his attitudes at the time the events were actually taking place. (pp. 126-127).

Eyewitness Wroblewski contradicts those who assert that Poles expressed delight, or at least satisfaction, when the Germans burned the Warsaw Ghetto. He found masses of Poles staring vacantly at the event, as if thinking: "Today them, tomorrow us." In any case, there is no basis for insinuating that "most Poles were indifferent." Poles very likely sensed their powerlessness when beholding the fate of the Jews. (pp. 130-131).

As a matter of fact, during his movements across German-occupied Poland, Wroblewski encountered only one obviously Holocaust-approving Pole, who verbalized a "Jews had it coming to them" message. The author appreciates the crushing poverty of the peasants, and interprets the peasant's comment as an expression of envy towards the more-prosperous Jews. (pp. 127-128).

The author recounts the many Poles who aided Jews. Unlike Jan T. Gross and his fans, Wroblewski, who actually went through the Holocaust, appreciates the German-imposed death penalty as a valid and effective deterrent to more extensive Polish aid to Jews. (p. 129).

Wroblewski recounts the fact that some anti-Jewish personages before the war (e. g., Jan Mosdorf, Father Marcel Godlewski) aided Jews during the German occupation. However, he goes further, putting it in broader context in terms of the attitudes of the Polish Right (Endeks): "Many old Endeks severed ties with their relatives when they came across the refrain:`Hitler did the dirty work for us.'" (p. 144).

Although some members of the Polish Blue Police (Policja Granatowa) did cross the line into collaboration with the Germans, the overall conduct of this police should in no way be compared to the actual collaborationist police of other nations. For instance, Wroblewski cites the collaborationist police in Vichy France. Although they were not coerced in any way, they freely and willfully engaged in large-scale roundups of Jews, followed by the shipments to a camp at Drancy, and eventually Auschwitz. (p. 145).

Wroblewski also debunks the canard about the death camps built by the Nazis on Polish soil owing to presumed Polish attitudes towards Jews. It was simply a matter of logistics and minimal transportation. For instance, the Germans built Treblinka so that they would have to transport Warsaw's Jews only 100 km to their deaths, rather than to have to transport them 300 km to Auschwitz, even though one or two more crematory-complexes at Auschwitz would've made up the difference. (p. 145).

After the war, Jews served in very disproportionate numbers in the hated Communist puppet government. Although Wroblewski eschews the term Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism), he does contend that the over-representation of Jews was a mistake worse than a crime. (p. 168). Also, Wroblewski does not think that eventual Jewish privations under Communism even things out. He writes: "There were proportionately more Jews among the executioners than among the victims." (p. 181).
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