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Move Over, JUDENJAGD. A Superb, Detailed, and Objective WWII History of Dabrowa Tarnowska Count

jan peczkis|Sunday, January 24, 2016

THE BLOODY GHOSTS is the title of this Polish-language book. The geographic setting of this work is the same as that of neo-Stalinist Jan Grabowski's anti-Polish book, JUDENJAGD (THE HUNT FOR THE JEWS), which distorts events in a contextual vacuum. Adam Kazimierz Musial's work, which preceded JUDENJAGD, is incomparably better. It tells the full story of what happened in Dabrowa County, to Jews AND Poles, under the German occupation. Unlike JUDENJAGD, Musial's work includes information derived from the archives of the A. K. (ARMIA KRAJOWA). (p. 10, 27)

THE BLOODY GHOSTS is the title of this Polish-language book. The geographic setting of this work is the same as that of neo-Stalinist Jan Grabowski's anti-Polish book, JUDENJAGD (THE HUNT FOR THE JEWS), which distorts events in a contextual vacuum. Adam Kazimierz Musial's work, which preceded JUDENJAGD, is incomparably better. It tells the full story of what happened in Dabrowa County, to Jews AND Poles, under the German occupation. Unlike JUDENJAGD, Musial's work includes information derived from the archives of the A. K. (ARMIA KRAJOWA). (p. 10, 27).

The media frequently has frequently portrayed Poles as so imbued with the "heroic narrative" of fighting the Nazis and that, were in not for the likes of Jan T. Gross, Poles would never confront the "dark side" of their past. Adam Kazimierz Musial's work, which is but one of many ones that feature, in considerable detail, Poles who collaborated with the Nazis, is yet another refutation of that canard.


Musial introduces the reader to the rural population of Dabrowa County. It was poverty-stricken, largely illiterate, and overcrowded. (p. 11). This situation only became aggravated under the brutalities of the German occupation. In addition, the countryside was frequently visited by Germans, who wreaked their murderous, destructive conduct on the population (e. g, p. 88), and showed no respect for Polish life, Polish property, or Polish culture. (p. 176). The Germans also threatened entire villages with "pacification" (destruction). (p. 60). For these and other reasons, demoralization and lawlessness reigned. (p. 30). Small wonder, then, that Dabrowa County became a less-than-hospitable environment for fugitive Jews during the war.

Rural Poles commonly hid their livestock in secret pigsties in order to protect them from German registration and confiscation (p. 115), or else slaughtered them secretly indoors (p. 40, 50, 52). This adds implicit refutation to the silly argument, advanced by the likes of Jan T. Gross, that Poles, while afraid of incurring the German-imposed death penalty for aiding Jews, were unafraid of the same for the unauthorized possession or slaughter of livestock. In addition, the Germans did not impose the death penalty for unauthorized slaughter of livestock until late in the war. (p. 40). Ironic to Gross' fallacious argument, Poles hid Jews in their secret pigsties. (p. 159).


An unknown fraction of the damaging information that Germans got from Poles came about unintentionally. The loose tongues of Poles, in various contexts, definitely led to the apprehension of fugitive Jews. (p. 152). In addition, the Germans tricked simple peasant Poles into divulging sensitive information about other Poles (and presumably Jews).(p. 66).

The Germans promoted the destruction of the Polish nation by encouraging alcoholism among Poles, as by paying them partly in vodka for farm produce. (p. 63, 66). The loose tongues of the inebriated Poles became a security problem. (p. 64). To combat all this, the Polish Underground destroyed moonshine stills, and tarred and feathered those Poles engaged in the distribution of alcohol. (p. 63). The loose tongues of Polish women who consorted with the Germans also presented a security problem. (p. 64). To counter this overall situation, the Polish Underground flogged those Polish women, sheared their hair, and warned them to stay away from Germans. (p. 64).


The Germans extracted information from Poles through torture (p. 160), and they "broke" other Poles in custody, getting them to turn informant. (p. 37). They also got captured Jews to divulge the identities of Poles that had helped them. (p. 161).

Onerous Polish conduct driven by extreme circumstances is not synonymous with collaboration or of joining Hitler's efforts against the Jews. For instance, Musial points out that Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA) would sometimes kill fugitive Jews on their own in order to prevent the Germans from discovering these Jews and destroying the village, with its Poles, in reprisal. (p. 197). It was a life-and-death decision that meant a few lives taken would cause the sparing of many more lives. [The informed reader may compare this with Jews, in hiding, strangling a crying infant in order to save all the others from doom.]

It was not rare for Poles, oppressed as they were by the Germans, to try to protect their livestock, goods, and family members by informing on their neighbors. (p. 67). [This also explains Poles telling on their neighbors' hiding of Jews.] The A. K. would cure such neighbors by flogging. (p. 67).

Fugitive Jews commonly stole Polish feedstuffs. (p. 151). Not surprisingly, Poles denounced Jews to protect themselves.

Compulsory service to the Germans should not be confused with collaboration. For instance, Poles in the Baudienst were forced into it, and they fled and hid to avoid serving in it. (p. 97, 196). As for the Judenjagd, Musial does not use this term, but makes it obvious that Poles were forced by the Germans to assist in the searches for fugitive Jews. (e. g, pp. 186-187).


Author Musial has a chapter (pp. 32-on) specifically devoted to the A. K.'s initiatives in liquidating Polish collaborators. It is instructive.

In JUDENJAGD, Polish-Nazi collaboration is essentially presented as something Polish aimed at Jews. It was not. For instance, the same spirit of sordid personal gain that motivated some Poles to denounce fugitive Jews for a bag of sugar also motivated some Poles to denounce other Poles for German rewards of land (p. 34), money (p. 41), various privileges (p. 53), etc.

Polish denouncers and bandits could be sadistic not only to Jews, as featured in JUDENJAGD, but also to fellow Poles. (p. 44). For example, the notorious bandit leader Stanislaw Kosieniak tortured his victims for pleasure (p. 138), and sliced up his wife. (p. 93). However, the Germans set the original example for various creative cruelties. (p. 167).

Members of the same elements of Polish society, singled out for denouncing fugitive Jews in JUDENJAGD, also denounced Poles. These elements included peasants, forester officials (p. 36, 40), village mayors (SOLTYS)(p. 49, 51), town mayors (p. 55) and notably members of the Polish Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA)(p. 35, 38, 45, 53, 56). In many cases, Poles executed by the A. K. for denouncing or killing Poles had also done the same to Jews. (p. 37, 38-39, 44, 53, 55-56, 61, 77). How many other Polish denouncers/murderers of Jews were equal-opportunity denouncers/murderers of Poles as well?

The asymmetry between denouncers and denounced is revealing. Musial gives the number of people betrayed, by respective specifically named denouncers, as "many" (p. 36), "forty" (by two denouncers: p. 37), "sixty" (p. 41), "several" (p. 42), "eight" (p. 45), "twenty-four" (p. 49), and "thirty-five" (pp. 99-100). Clearly, there were fewer (likely far fewer) denouncers than denounced. This, in turn, supports the premise that denouncers were a vanishing fraction of Poland's population.

Some Poles in the A. K. were overzealous in accusing and shooting suspected collaborators (p. 59), and Musial, who himself was in the A. K., now thinks that many of those shot for collaboration were innocent. (p. 253). (This, of course, also explains Jews wrongly accused, and shot, for collaboration with the Communist GL-AL bands, especially as an outcome of what is now called ethnic profiling.)

It is imperative that the reader not assume that all, or even most, of those Jews who had been denounced (e. g, those featured in JUDENJAGD) to the Nazis had been betrayed by ethnic Poles. In fact, the A. K.'s efforts unmasked and executed denouncers who were Ukrainian (p. 33, 37, 56, 57, 62). There were quite a few pro-German Ukrainians from the Kresy. (p. 62). The A. K. also executed many collaborationist Polish-speaking Germans (Volksdeutsche)(p. 35-36, 37, 39, 41, 47, 51, 55-56). Some of the latter had signed the Volksliste shortly after Germany's 1939 conquest of Poland. In addition, a large number of escaped Russian POWs were at large in Dabrowa County (pp. 119-120), and they undoubtedly took their own toll on fugitive Jews.


Both Musial (pp. 99-100) and Jan Grabowski (p. 88 of THE HUNT FOR THE JEWS, the English translation of JUDENJAGD) describe about 35 Jews fleeing from Radomysl Wielki and hiding in the Dulcza forest. They were denounced. Both authors rely on the testimony of a then fourteen-year-old Jewish survivor, Amsterdam Jochannan (Herman Amsterdam), who was from Malec. Both authors repeat the allegation that the denouncer was a forester, whom Musial identifies as Jan Fijala. There the similarity ends. Grabowski accepts the Jewish testimony without question, while Musial leaves the manner of how the Germans found out about these Jews, in Dulcza forest, an open question.


In JUDENJAGD, the reader is misled into thinking that Guzdek was Polish. He was not. Regardless of his exact pedigree, his functioning was unreservedly German. He did not collaborate with the Germans: He WAS a German, in every practical sense of the word.

Musial has traced Engelbert Guzdek's roots to Silesia. He was a Wasserpolen. (p. 8). Guzdek also attended a German school, the Bűrger Schule, before the war. (p. 233; see also Photo 49). After conquering Poland, the Germans recognized Guzdek as a fellow German, as evidenced by the fact that they not only allowed him to become a Volksdeutsche, but also readily accepted him into the German gendarmes. (p. 240). [The gendarmes were German (p. 60, 68), and any Pole who collaborated with the gendarmes got the death penalty from the A. K. (p. 31).] Guzdek's rank was oberwachtmeister (staff sergeant). (p. 146).

Engelbert Guzdek's parents had a bad marriage--one afflicted by alcoholism and adulterous affairs. (pp. 239-240). Guzdek's conduct against Jews is well known, and he killed Gypsies (pp. 199-on). Guzdek also murdered Poles (e. g, p. 147, 296), and was widely hated by them. (p. 186).


Musial describes large, well-armed bandit gangs operating in Dabrowa County, especially the one headed by the greatly feared Stanislaw Kosieniak. He freely murdered Jews (p. 77) as well as Poles. When Koseniak fell to an axe-bearing Pole, the Poles rejoiced. (pp. 131-on).

Although not described in this fashion, the severe banditry problem in Dabrowa County undoubtedly made Poles suspicious of, and hostile to, strangers on or near their farmsteads. This could only encourage them to denounce fugitive Jews.

Bandits commonly pretended to be A. K. when robbing Poles. (p. 65). How many incidents of "the A. K. killing Jews' were actually the deeds of such A. K. impersonators?
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