"It's difficult to admit the obvious"
political world

Between Fear and Hope

Jan Paczkis|Friday, October 30, 2009

A Surprising Resemblance to Jan T. Gross' FEAR, October 24, 2009 Is Jan Tomasz Gross' FEAR (2007) largely a clone of this 1947 Communist-like hatchet job on Poland? There is the one-sided portrayal of Poles rejoicing at Jewish deaths during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (p. 74). Kazimierz Wyka is quoted as saying that the absence of a Quisling under the German occupation had prevented anti-Semitism from becoming discredited among Poles (pp. 45-46). Accounts of Jews killed by Poles are elaborated, and always presented without verification and in a contextual vacuum. Poles are portrayed as unilaterally resisting postwar Jewish re-acquisitions of their properties. The so-called Kielce Pogrom is naively presented as the outcome of Poles acting on their belief in the blood libel. The church is blamed for its "slow" and ineffective response, and the Pogrom is magnified into a horrible blight upon all of Poland.

One of the factors behind the Kielce Pogrom was the arrival of Jews from Russia with their privileges under the new Soviet puppet state. Without probably intending to, Shneiderman corroborates this: "Quite different is the attitude of the Jewish refugees who returned from Russia with the new Polish army and were given important positions in the government." (p. 45).

Shneiderman provides other possibly-useful information about the Kielce Pogrom. This includes the disarming of the Jews living on Planty Street just before the ostensibly-spontaneous mob action: "When the excited crowd began to gather in front of the community house, he [Jehiel Rosenkranz] related, two uniformed men came inside. Claiming that they represented the military authorities, they ransacked the house. They found a few pistols which they confiscated, together with some money and other valuables." (pp. 90-91). Armed units were also responsible elsewhere in Kielce: "When we left the police building, we learned about an additional pogrom that had taken place while the slaughter in Planty Street was coming to an end. This new pogrom was the work of four members of the Kielce police--the militiamen Stefan Mazur, Kazimierz Nowakowski, Jozef Sliwa, and Antoni Pruszkowski. Realizing that some Jews living on Leonarda Street had been forgotten by the mob, they decided to do their `patriotic duty'" (p. 95).

The following account of the murders of Jews in trains near Kielce, if accurate, speaks of an obvious, clumsily staged event: "When the train was approaching the station, a man wearing an armband with the English inscription, `Poland', suddenly appeared in his car. (Such armbands are worn by the soldiers of General Anders' Army). The soldier spoke to the passengers, encouraging them to murder all the Jews on the train because fifteen ritual murders had been committed in Kielce." (pp. 97-98). Can anyone be naïve enough to believe that a pro-Anders soldier would actually dress in this way and in English at that!

Shneiderman describes the Jewish reaction to Kielce: "There were rumors that the underground forces had seized Jewish hostages and threatened to murder them if the Kielce death sentences were carried out. These fantastic rumors were believed, and the idea that Jews were being held as hostages seemed somehow more terrible than the fact of the pogroms." (p. 158). If accurate, this shows that Poland's Jews readily accepted Communist propaganda. And, just as some Poles were ready to believe anything negative about Jews (e. g., the blood libel) so evidently many Jews were ready to believe anything negative about Poles--no matter how grandiose.

All along, Shneiderman displays his undisguised biases, as by calling the Lublin government a "progressive" one (p. 116), by praising Hilary Minc (pp. 36-37), etc. Not once does he mention the tens to hundreds of thousands of Poles murdered by the Communist terror police (the UB). Not surprisingly, Shneiderman uses the phrase "Polish fascists" quite liberally. Otherwise, he often repeats stock allegations straight out of Communist propaganda: That the anti-Communist forces were terrorists (p. 15), that the N.S. Z (NSZ) habitually killed Jews and other innocent people (p. 202), that the Holy Cross Brigade had fought on the side of the Nazis (pp. 212-213), that Polish nationalists were responsible for the Kielce Pogrom (p. 86), etc.

The author describes the fate of Janusz Korczak as follows: "When the Nazis ordered the establishment of the ghetto, Korczak's Polish friends offered to hide him on the `Aryan' side of Warsaw, but he preferred to stay with his charges. He often risked his life crossing the ghetto wall to obtain food for the children, from his Polish friends." (p. 68). Shneiderman has the following opinion of the Jewish ghetto police: "The `Jewish police' whom the Nazis had succeeded in recruiting from the Jewish underworld and the assimilated strata of Jewish professionals, had played in hideous role in the manhunts." (p. 64).

Shneiderman, in contrasting postwar with prewar Poland, alludes to the former role of Poland's Jews and the tacit reality of prewar Jewish economic overlordship: "Every peasant and artisan personally brings his wares for sale. Gone is the traditional Jewish middleman who used to bring the peasants' produce to the city and the most essential industrial articles to the village. The role of the Jewish middleman has now been taken over by inexperienced peasants, city workers, and intellectuals, who seem intoxicated by their new roles as businessmen and who, in their helplessness, create a much greater noise and bustle in the streets of Warsaw than the Jews ever did." (p. 23). One can perhaps comprehend why many Polish peasants saw the disappearance of the Jews as a liberating thing.

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