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Dear Gestapo

jan peczkis|Thursday, February 4, 2016

German Occupation: Denunciations to the Gestapo. Insufficient Context. Used Misleadingly by Jan Grabowski in His JUDENJAGD, January 12, 2016
DEAR MR. GESTAPO is the title of this Polish-language book. It features an analysis of surviving anonymous denunciation letters that had been written to the Gestapo, from 1940-1941, in the Warsaw area. However, a major shortcoming of this work is that it admittedly cannot differentiate betrayal letters that came from ethnic Poles, and those that came from non-Poles (such as Polish-speaking Germans, the VOLKSDEUTSCHE). (p. 62).

In common with other like-minded authors, author Barbara Engelking departs from objectivity in that she downplays the severity of the German occupation against Poles. She soft-pedals the cruelties of the Gestapo, and cites their "low" numbers. (p. 53). Pointedly, savage German terror against Poles was wreaked by Germans of ALL organizations, not only by the Gestapo!

The scale of the denunciations should be kept in perspective. Only a small fraction of denunciation letters has survived. On the other hand, the letters came from a huge population base (Warsaw and environs).

Over 90% of the denunciation letters show obvious errors in spelling or grammar. (p. 64). Although not mentioned by the author, this is consistent with the premise that most (though not all) Poles who collaborated with the Nazis were low-character or marginal members of Polish society.

Author Barbara Engelking places collaboration in a broader context. For instance, in German-occupied France, there were an estimated 3-5 million denunciatory letters written to the Germans and the French collaborationist police. (p. 14).

How much harm did the denunciations actually cause? Against anecdotal claims of half (or more) German arrests stemming from denunciations, actual estimates are now much less (17%, all the way down to 2%: p. 27).

Few of the denunciations were potentially motivated by ideological conformity to German Nazism, as opposed to servile obedience. (See p. 61, 105). They instead tended to revolve around personal matters, such as wanting to get to get rid of an unwanted spouse, lover, rival, etc. (p. 17). The denunciations addressed various offenses, such as possessing weaponry, concealing escaped Soviet POWs and Jews, and Poles conducting surreptitious commerce, as with Jews, etc. (p. 20, 30). They also included trivial statements, by someone, against Germans. (p. 35). Barbara Engelking elaborates on these categories in some detail.

Bogus denunciations were apparently common enough to hamper the Gestapo. (p. 25). [Could some of the bogus letters have been written by the Underground as decoys intended to tie-up the Germans, or mislead the Gestapo in order to protect important information?]

Some figures on denunciation letters are instructive. Of the collection available to the author, 107 revolved around political matters, 57 were property-related ones, and 86 involved Jews. The latter was not only for Jews living beyond the ghetto, but also for Jews failing to wear the Star, and for Jews engaged in illegal speculation or smuggling. (p. 29. For comparable figures, showing that only a minority of the denounced were Jews, see p. 100). [These denunciations of Jews should not be conflated with the Nazi extermination of Jews, which came only later. See below.]

The foregoing figures, if representative, demonstrate that Poles did not exhibit any tendency to target Jews preferentially for denunciation. Few denunciatory letters show obvious anti-Semitic sentiments (p. 100-on), as Engelking defines the term, and anti-Semites were not the only ones denouncing Jews. Furthermore, as candidly pointed out by Barbara Engelking, some of the denouncers of Jews (and of Poles) were themselves Jews. (pp. 48-51).

The date of the entries in this book, ending in mid-1941, is important for at least two reasons--none of which are mentioned by the author. To begin with, the Poles ratting on their neighbors to the Gestapo were acting just when Polish morale was at its lowest. Contrary to earlier hopes, the war would have no quick end. Germany had rolled over Europe. Poland's ally France had fallen, and Poland's ally Britain seemed on the verge of being knocked out of the war. The German-Soviet alliance appeared to be permanent. Germany's victory in the war seemed inevitable, and a resurrected Poland looked all but impossible. There was little hope for an improvement in the Poles' horrible conditions under the German occupation in the near future, if ever. The Poles were simply acting like an oppressed people stripped of their dignity (as were Jews, who were acting in similar fashion in the ghettos).

Neo Stalinist Jan Grabowski, in his book on the JUDENJAGD, HUNT FOR THE JEWS (pp. 266-267), cites this book. This is misleading--at least to the average, low-information reader, who is led to believe that these acts of Polish denunciation were connected with the Nazi German extermination of Jews. They were not. They had NOTHING to do with the Holocaust because they PREDATED the Holocaust. Note that the very LAST entry in this book is from June 23, 1941. (p. 5). The systematic mass shootings of Jews, by German Einsatzgruppen units, did not start until late June 1941, and then much further east, with news arriving much later. Systematic Nazi mass gassings of Jews did not begin until very late 1941 (at Chelmno, in German-occupied northwest Poland), and not until Spring or Summer 1942 in the General Government (German-occupied central Poland).

There is more. The German death penalty for Jews caught beyond the Warsaw Ghetto did not begin until November 10, 1941 (p. 46), long after the most recent entry cited in this book. Consequently, Poles who denounced Jews could not possibly, before this date, have been (unknowingly or knowingly) sending these Jews to their deaths! However, author Barbara Engelking does not tell any of this to the unsuspecting reader.
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