How it really was - and is: J'accuse: Polish Guilt

There is a reason the Germans set up death camps in Poland. In addition to logistical considerations, the Nazis knew that the Catholic Poles would make no protests.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during the Holocaust in Markowa, Poland, on February 2, 2018 (photo credit: JUSTYNA PAWLAK / REUTERS)
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during the Holocaust in Markowa, Poland, on February 2, 2018
(photo credit: JUSTYNA PAWLAK / REUTERS)
The Polish Catholic Church, the Polish nationalist movement and the National Democratic Party are guilty of promoting the genocide of Jews. The Polish state between the two world wars fostered a Judenrein Poland.
People of Poland, in 1919, your reborn state was granted independence because your representatives signed a treaty promising equality and religious freedom without discrimination to all its citizens. Your representatives signed in bad faith and without the slightest intention of honoring these promises. The major signatory was that of the father of modern Polish antisemitism, a proto-fascist Jew-hater, about whom will come more in this column. These terms were embodied in the “little Treaty of Versailles” enabling the reborn Poland to rise as a sovereign and independent state.
That state is guilty of official antisemitism.
The Jew-hating groundwork was laid by the reactionary Polish Catholic church preaching that the Jews were killers of God, a cursed people, who used the blood of Christian children in their Passover matzas.
The Polish people, with too few but admirable exceptions, thus were brought up on a diet of Jewish deicide and the blood libel, for which the Jews must be punished.
Many leaders and prominent spokesmen of today’s church continue to perpetrate this brainwashing of the Polish public.
The threats against people who dare say this or write it, embodied in a new Polish law, mean one simple thing: the present Polish government is guilty of burying the truth.
Having said that, I dare the present Polish government to put me on trial. I am the son of Jewish Polish immigrants who fortunately reached Canada in the 1920s. You may consider me a Polish citizen once removed.
A public trial will provide an excellent opportunity to reveal the truth. In your rush to wash blood off the hands of your history, you have made your Holocaust law a cause célèbre. The trial will only publicize the inherent Polish antisemitism fanned by prelates and priests, politicians and professors before 1939, and by sermons, press, radio and TV – from cardinals down – to this very day. If the Polish ambassador in Israel permits me to present this article to him in the embassy – that is Polish territory – I will thank him and await my subpoena.
THERE IS a reason the Germans set up death camps in Poland. In addition to logistical considerations, the Nazis knew that the Catholic Poles would make no protests. Over three million Polish Jews were murdered in German camps in Poland.
Yes, the present Polish government will point to the close to 7,000 Poles who saved Jews, always putting themselves and their families at risk of their lives. These people deserve our total respect. There are also further thousands or tens of thousands of fine Polish people who helped Jews in large or small ways; scholars cannot agree on the number. But the majority were ready to burn Jews as in Jedwabne, or denounce them and turn them in to the Nazis for rewards or their pillaged-by-neighbors homes. It is also true that three million non-Jewish Poles were murdered by the Nazis. We mourn them too. But I fail to see what that has to do with the crimes committed by Polish governments against their “fellow” Jewish citizens.
During World War II, a Polish government- in-exile was located in London, headed by General Wladislav Sikorski.
David Ben-Gurion was then in London. It was 1942, the war was going badly for the West and the Soviet Union. An Allied spy revealed to BG what members of the Polish government-in-exile had told him. They relied on Hitler to solve the “Jewish problem” in Poland by the end of the war. “If he doesn’t, we’ll finish the job. No Jew will remain in Poland.”
The proof came in 1946, as Jews came out of the death camps to return to their homes. Eyewitnesses have told me of squads marching through trains in motion, carriage by carriage, and throwing Jews out to their death. It came in Kielce in the same year under nascent Communist rule: based on the old blood libel rumor, spread because of the temporary disappearance of a Polish child, deliberately staged by his family. The Primate of Poland at the time, Cardinal August Hlond, turned down three requests to calm down the antisemitic fervor before that pogrom. Hlond is now up for beatitude – that is sainthood – by the relevant Vatican authority.
Even Vatican II and later the efforts of that great Pope, John Paul II, the saintly Polish Karol Wojtyla, establishing the Church’s changed attitude towards the Jews – even these were unable to sway many noted Polish church leaders from their antisemitism.
A pastoral letter was sent to all the priests with the new information. I assume this was issued by Polish church bureaucrats to cover up reality.
THE OLD church-inspired and nationalist- fanned antisemitism endured, and was used again by the communist regime in 1968-69 to expel 20,000 Jews from the tiny remaining community. Naturally, the present government in Poland apologizes for the “Communists” expelling Jews. But, no Polish government can wash its hands clean of the pre-1939 period. The bloodstains are unmistakable. The hands of church, nationalists and governments are impure.
Let’s take a step back in time. After centuries of the Polish Church preaching hatred of Jews, “Christ-killers,” and of cardinal after cardinal in the 20th century spouting antisemitic “truths” and supporting boycotts of Jewish businesses, it was easy for Polish racial nationalism to grow. Scholars would put it in these terms: historical theological Jew-hatred over centuries was blended with modern racial, political antisemitism.) The new political teachings were formulated and propagated in the last century by Roman Stanislaw Dmowski: only Polish- speaking Catholics could be true Poles.
In the independent state of Poland there would be no ethnic Slovaks, no Germans (even if Catholic), no Ukrainians and – above all – no Jews. Judenrein was not a Nazi invention.
Until Poland would become Judenrein, stern measures should be taken against the Jews. As early as 1912, Dmowski called for boycotting Jewish stores and shops in Warsaw. A historian has written: “The boycott also quickly gained the support of the Catholic clergy. Some went so far as to label any form of economic interaction with the Jews “a great sin.” ... It was also mainly the Catholic clergy who worked to spread the boycott beyond Warsaw and especially into the countryside.
Dmowski’s disciple, Wladislaw Grabski became both prime minister and minister of the treasury 1923-25. He enacted tax laws falling so heavily upon the Jews, that 40,000 left and came to Israel in the mid- 1920s. Thus the Fourth Aliyah was known as “Grabski’s aliya.” Dmowski, the mentor, tried to introduce Italian-type fascism into Poland in 1926. He also believed there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy against Poland, and that Zionism’s real aim was to establish a state which would then rule the world.
ON AUGUST 7, 1934, this was what Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s chief European correspondent, Boris Smolar wrote from Warsaw: “The air in Poland is permeated with antisemitic hatred; with a thirst for Jewish blood and Jewish destruction.
This feeling of hatred grows stronger from day to day. It is openly stimulated by the strong Polish political party, the National Democratic party, commonly called the “Endeks.”... The present Polish administration hates the strong Endek party but it must reckon with it… and deems it wise to maintain silence…. [the Endek] propaganda campaign hints of possible pogroms, both in the press and in the open, at secret meetings and at public gatherings. ... The war on Jews is one of the Endek’s chief commandments.”
The more moderate government of Marshall Pilsudski ruled Poland from 1926 to 1936. For fear of losing popularity it did not have the courage to stop antisemitic legislation.
In 1934, when Poland signed a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany, antisemitic acts became even more prevalent. The Endeks (NDs) had hit squads and spin-off youth groups of inflamed Jew-haters, who often would block access to Jewish businesses and who attacked Jews, sometimes killing them outright.
Dmowski claimed that too many Jews and ethnic German citizens of Poland were wealthier than Catholic Poles. The solution was simple: just confiscate the “non-Pole” money and then spread the wealth among the “real Poles.” However, this never became law. Another solution to cleanse Poland of Jews was to have the entire Jewish population of Poland transferred out. In 1938, the Polish government sent a threeman commission to Madagascar to explore the possibilities of settling Jews there.
After 1936, a more right-wing government squeezed more taxes out of Poland’s frightened Jews, passed an official numerus clausus to limit the percentage of Jews in university courses, and created a special place for Jewish students to sit in university classrooms and lecture halls. This led to many Jewish students refusing to sit in these spaces and so they stood at the back of the lecture hall, often joined by decent ethnic Poles, mostly courageous liberals and socialists. In 1938 Warsaw rabbis asked the Archbishop of that city, Cardinal Kakowski to stop right-wing Polish students from attacking Jews. He replied that the Jews were poisoning the media with atheism. Of course after that, how could he intervene? During World War II, Jewish partisans fighting the Nazis, often had to defend themselves from General Sikorski’s Armia Krajowa (Home Army) soldiers. It was this nationalist army’s units, which disarmed some survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and then murdered them.
Do you think church and state have changed? Read on.
RADIO MARYJA, the Catholic radio station named for the Virgin Mary, has been scored for outright antisemitism by Polish intellectuals and (more liberal) priests.
The station has a great following and has drawn half-a-million believers to its annual pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, which is a venerated icon crowned “Queen and Protector of Poland.”
The American State Department reported that “Radio Maryja is one of Europe’s most blatantly antisemitic media venues.” A report of the Council of Europe stated that Radio Maryja has been "openly inciting to antisemitism.” The radio station is owned by the Warsaw chapter of the Redemptorist Fathers, and is a consistent supporter of the Law and Justice party, which is in power today.
(Note the word “Law” in the title, and compare with President Erdoğan of Turkey’s party: Law and Development.) Apparently, this radio station does not reach enough people. Therefore Father Henryk Zielinski, editor-in-chief of the Catholic weekly Idziemy, took to Polish National Television last month, in essence to call all Jews liars. Note the smooth tongue, as he is quoted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Jews have “a completely different system of values, a different concept of truth... For us, the truth corresponds to facts. For the Jew, truth means something that conforms to his understanding of what’s beneficial. If a Jew is religious, then truth means something God wants.” In non-religious Jews, “the truth is subjective or whatever serves Israel’s interests,” he added.
Zielinski cited the Passover Haggadah.“ Often these stories have nothing to do with facts.” Here antisemitism colludes with ignorance. Father Henryk, do you know what Midrash (rabbinic allegorical literature) is? Perhaps you will start your studies with the commentary about Balaam’s ass. (Tanhuma, Balak 8-9) Just in the past few week we have endured further insults. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial uses the words “Polish police” to identify the uniformed men who guarded the entrance to the Lodz ghetto under Nazi occupation. Jan Dziedziczak, the deputy director of the Polish Foreign Ministry, recently complained about the text. Fine, we can say French police, Norwegian police, Dutch police collaborated with the Nazis. But Polish police, Mr. D. says never had anything to do with oppressing Jews, guarding them, or turning them over to Nazis. That is obvious.
As obvious as I am at present an inmate of the Bedlam mental hospital.
The father of Poland’s present prime minister is an ex-senator by the name of Kornel Morawiecki. “Do you know who chased the Jews away to the Warsaw Ghetto? The Germans, you think? No. The Jews themselves went because they were told that there would be an enclave, that they would not have to deal with those nasty Poles.” His son, Mateusz, the prime minister of Poland, said some days earlier, that Jews too were responsible for the Holocaust. Next, who will say that Jews went happily dancing to their death, because they knew it would make their neighbors happy? Dmowski, wherever his ghost may be, rejoices.
We close with words from the Jewish partisan’s song. “Geshribn iz dos lid mit blut...” “Written is this song with blood.”
So too, this column is written with blood.
Mine, had my parents stayed in Poland.
My family’s who were murdered in their dozens. My people’s, who were murdered, three million Jewish citizens of Poland. The truth will call out from the earth. It is stronger than any human-made law.
The writer welcomes comments at 2avrahams@