When will they ever learn…
Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson (1960):
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Where were we, Americans, before?
Where are we, Americans, now?
Where are we, Americans, heading for?
Are we smarter now?
My dear colleague and Jew, Norbert, whose mother and father survived WWII in Poland, once told me that his family was of the opinion that Poles were worse than Germans during the war. My response to this dear friend was that it is hard to debate with emotions and opinions, but it is the fact that Germans, not Poles killed the Jews in Poland during WWII. I reminded him that for a millennium Jews found refuge in Poland. They could freely profess their faith and live wherever they wanted. They were free in Poland since Ibrahim ibn-Yacub1, merchant from Tortosa (Moorish-controlled Spain-Andalusia) brought in 966 around 200 Jewish families together with Princess Dobrava (of Bohemia) in her wedding entourage to Mieszko I, sovereign of Poland. “Polin” was the place where the Jews could “rest” and live peacefully.
Why suddenly in the 21st century the situation is reversed, as claimed by some?
The World War II started on September 1, 1939, when unprovoked Germany attacked Poland. Sixteen days later Stalin ordered his herds to fulfill the promise he made to his comrade-in-arms, Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of the Third Reich Germany. Soviet troops entered Poland from the East. The brutality of both enemies had no parallel in history. German “air-knights” with no remorse delivered bombs to almost every city that was on their way. Poland couldn’t manage the attack, especially from both sides.
We, Americans learned about Russo-German accords of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact three weeks before the fighting started. We even had a copy of the agreement, when it was signed in Moscow, thanks to Hans Harwarth von Bittenfeld2. The United States entered before into an agreement on the cooperation with Poland regarding the exchange of intelligence information. We were supposed to warn Poland about imminent German and Soviet attacks. We did not pass any information to Polish diplomats, or politicians. More, we played naïf (French for “naive”), when the subject was brought up during Nuremberg Trials.
Hans von Bittenfeld passed the copies of the accord to both English and French as well.
No “ally” bothered to tell the Poles about such a serious and imminent threat. No remorse!
Within six weeks Poland fell. Both attackers, since the very beginning, cooperated very closely and coordinated their “efforts” to exterminate the Poles. Their first “goal” was to kill Polish intelligentsia. Mass arrests took place on both sides of the demarcation line. Both aggressors already had the “extensive experience” with eliminating any kind of opposition, even hypothetical. The gulag system was already invented and operating, and Germany had the KL system in place3.
KL Stutthof4 was the first Nazi concentration camp set up outside German borders in World War II, in operation from 2 September 1939. It was also the last camp liberated by the Allies on 9 May 1945. It was set up to exterminate Polish intelligentsia from Gdansk Pomerania. After two weeks it’s population was 6,000 Poles. Meanwhile, the fighting between Poland and Germany was still going on …
On November 16, 1939, the patients of a mental hospital in Kochanówek, near Łódź were killed by gas. On February 21, 1940 Heinrich Himmler ordered the construction of a concentration camp for Poles from Silesia (in Polish “Śląsk” – annexed by Third Reich) and from German occupied territory (GG – Generalgouvernement für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete) KL Auschwitz. On June 14, 1940 a first transport of 729 Poles was delivered to this inhumane camp (including Winter Olympian, Stanislaw Marusarz from Zakopane, Tatry Mountains).
On May 1, 1940, Litzmannstadt Ghetto of Łódź (the second largest city in Poland) was established and guarded by the infamous 3rd Waffen SS “Totenkopf”5. This division soon developed a reputation for brutality, participating in war crimes, such as the Le Paradis massacre in 1940 during the Fall of France.
In October 1940, the French government of WWI hero, Marshal Philippe Pétain, made a decision to intern “the foreigners of Jewish race”. In 1944, the French volunteers (40,000) formed the 33rd Waffen SS Division Légion Volontaire Française, nicknamed “Charlemagne”. The French were very famous for taking their Jewish “neighbors” by the hand to the concentration railway station. From those concentration places the Jews were transported to the KL system.
On November 15, 1940, the Warsaw Ghetto is set and guarded by SS and the police. The Jewish “Judenrat” and Jewish police is formed in Ghettos.
Since March 1941, the sterilization of women, “genetic” research and medical “experiments” take place in KL Ravensbrück and KL Auschwitz.
On September 19, 1940, Polish officer, major Pilecki volunteers during a street “roundup” (in Polish “łapanka”). He was sent to KL Auschwitz and given the number 4859. He organized an underground movement. He documented the situation inside the camp. To name Pilecki a HERO seems hopelessly inadequate. Powered by the determination that almost defies description, Pilecki made the most of every opportunity during his 30-month imprisonment at Auschwitz. Despite bouts of stomach ailments, typhus and pneumonia, lice infestations, backbreaking labor hauling rocks, extremes of heat and cold, and relentless hunger and cruelties at the hands of German guards, he formed an underground resistance group, the Union of Military Organization (Związek Organizacji Wojskowej, ZOW). His initial reports of events and conditions within Auschwitz were smuggled out and reached Britain in November 1940, just two months after his detention began. Using a radio transmitter in 1942 that he and his fellow ZOW conspirators built, he broadcast information that convinced the Western Allies that the Germans were engaged in genocide on an unprecedented scale. What became known as “Pilecki’s Report” was the first comprehensive account of the Holocaust from a firsthand witness. He made sketches and drawings of the KL Auschwitz layout, with railway tracks and the station with ramps.
In 1942, Jan Karski of the Polish Home Army (Polish resistance movement) personally viewed the concentration camps. On July 28, 1943 Jan Karski personally met with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Karski delivered emotional and factual evidence in the Oval Office, but our president refused to believe him. This dramatic evidence and plea for the bombing of the railway tracks leading to KL Auschwitz remained completely unanswered by US administration throughout the entire war. The Polish Government-in-exile in London, UK made several attempts to convince the allies to destroy the camps, particularly KL Auschwitz and KL Auschwitz-Birkenau6.
It has been evidenced that Americans of German descent served during WWII in German armed forces. It is unclear, how many of them served in disgraceful Waffen SS Divisions. About 500,0007 volunteers and conscripts from various countries served in those heinous units. There were both volunteers and conscripts from Albania (7,000), Belgium (40,000), Bulgaria (600), Croatia (20,000), Denmark (6,000), Estonia (20,000), Finland (3,000), France (20,000), Hungary (20,000), India (2,000), Italy (15,000), Latvia (80,000), Netherlands (55,000), Norway (6,000), Romania (50,000), and many individuals from Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States (many Americans of German descent volunteered in various German/Nazi war units), and Yugoslavia. The Russian general Andrei Vlasov formed an army from Soviet POWs that sustained Nazi Germany in WWII.
In dealing with our European partners, we need to remember how they behaved during WWII. We need to remember that there were no Polish SS units. German records indicate that when they indicated the willingness to form a Polish unit only about a dozen of German-Polish renegades volunteered. As a result of this failure, Germany abandoned the idea of having Polish SS.
Poland never formed any pro-German government.
The worldwide symbol for Nazi sponsored collaboration is “Quisling”, named after Norway’s Prime Minister , Vidkun Quisling, who was most accommodating for Nazi Germany among all Axis Pact countries. Italy, Hungary, Japan, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, were following the path, both politically and militarily. They enlisted tens of thousands volunteers and conscripts for SS units.
Polish population before WWII was 34,849,000 people, as of December 31, 1938. The first census after WWII was showing only 23,930,000, as of February 14, 1946. The net loss of almost 11 million taxpayers was very difficult to rebuild. Out of those 11 millions we lost almost 3 millions of Jewish population. Despite the heroic help of the non-Jewish population during the German occupation, Poland is going to be for Polish Jews the place they will always remember as a source of incredible misery, tragedy, loss, murder, genocide, and extermination. Out of 3.5 million, close to 500,000 did not speak Yiddish, nor Hebrew, according to last pre-WWII census.
One should remember that the inclusive Polish culture influenced many Jews to convert to Catholicism8. Nazi Germany still considered them as Jews. Members of the families that became Christian in 16th, 17th century went to the gas chambers first, per decision of Warsaw Judenrat.
Despite the German and Soviet occupation of Poland, Poles formed fourth size WWII armed forces. Whether in the air, on land, or sea, they were our comrades-in-arms. They defended English skies during the Battle of Britain, identified and got involved in the battle with German super cruiser, “von Bismarck”. They landed in Normandy on “Juno” Beach, and stopped escaping VII Panzer Army of von Kluge Group Army B at Falaise9. They opened the road to Rome by winning the German paratroopers defending the fortress at Monte Cassino. Later they liberated Ancona and Bologna in Italy. They were also in Belgium, Holland and Northern Germany, ending the heroic path at Bremen and Wilhelmshaven, the big German Navy base, equipped and ordered to fight until the rounds of ammo existed. The brilliant attack of 1st Polish Armored Corps under the command of General Stanislaw Maczek left no option for Reichmarine, but to capitulate.
Polish blood was shed from Norway to North Africa and from Russia to Gibraltar. They even gave us a gift of no parallel, a copy of the Axis cipher machine – Enigma. Their mathematicians broke both German and Soviet codes. Polish nuclear scientists worked in the Manhattan Project, where Dr. Stanisław Ulam of Lwów Politechnical University by the words of Dr. Oppenheimer was a real father on the A-bomb, together with Dr. Lawrence.
When Polish troops were escaping from murderous Russia through the Middle East, over two thousand of them, mostly Polish Jews, deserted in Palestine. One of them was Monahem Begin10 future Prime Minister of Israel. Commanding General Anders gave Polish Jews amnesty since they wanted to stay in the Holy Land, instead fighting against Germany. He did not treat them as deserters of the Polish Army, at a time when desertion was treated with the death penalty.
We need to remember, that the United States did absolutely NOTHING to help stop the extermination of European Jews. This guilt cannot be condoned and “transferred” to the sustaining nation, Poland. In fact our business community was closely cooperating with businesses in Hitler’s Germany. Thyssen, First Bank of New York, and many others were selling products to Nazis (Germany). President Roosevelt, during his reelection campaign was telling Polish-Americans fairy tales, making empty promises he never wanted to fulfill. When he promised “too much”, he immediately ordered his Secretary of State to call Joseph Stalin and explain to him the situation and assure Soviets that USA would never do it.
There is overwhelming evidence to millennium-long presence of Jews in Poland. When persecuted in other countries, like Germany, Spain, England, France, or elsewhere, they migrated to Poland. There, they could live in peace, prosper and profess their faith. Many of them became the administrators, managing nobles’ estates. Many settled in the eastern part of Poland. One should remember that in 1900, Warsaw had the largest Jewish population in Europe, larger than in all of Germany. Some of the Jews became politicians. Ioann Awram Ezofowicz11 was in charge of the Lithuanian Department of Treasury by the end of the 15th and beginning of 16th century in the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom. The family of Ashkenazi Jews provided a large number of merchants, scholars, historians. General Bernard Stanisław Mond12, one of the heroes of the 1939 Polish campaign of WWII bravely defended Pszczyna (Southern Poland) against the overwhelming German war machine13.
In contrast to Polish-Jewish patriots mentioned above, one should remember those, who played a negative role in Polish-Jewish relationships. By the end of the 18th and beginning of 19th century, Russia resettled many Russian Jews to Polish territories under Russian control14. Obviously, they felt loyal to Russian tsars, rather than Polish neighbors. They served in the Russian military during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia (massive participation of Poles in Napoleon’s Big Army was in contrast to Jewish intelligence assistance to Russia).
When Poland fought against the invasion of the Red Army in 1920, the Jewish population was divided. There were those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield and those, who embraced communism and tried to support Dzierżyński and CzeKa effort. While communism was rejected by the majority of Poles, it was popular among many Jews.
When the Soviets invaded Poland in 1939, many in the Jewish population welcomed their entrance. Some of them, like Monahem Begin were imprisoned by the USSR and sent to the Gulag Archipelago. Others, like Berman, Różański, Wolińska and Fejgin were active participants of the new regime.
The novel House of Ashes15 by Oscar Pinkus gives evidence about the above. When the Soviets invaded Poland, some of them joined Soviet police and identified Poles opposing communism. Those Poles were sent to Siberia and prisons. Some were executed in massive murders. When war broke out between Germany and Russia in 1941, the Jewish family was kept in hiding in the dugout hiding place by the Polish Catholic farmer. They stayed the entire war, hidden by the farmer and his family. Despite having many children, the Poles split their crop with the hidden Jews. When Germans requested contributions from Poles, the farmer asked his guests if they had any valuables, jewelry, etc. He had no money to buy them any food. Regrettably they contributed from that day on. The Author leaves no sympathy for the farmer and in his narration judges Poles as selfish. He claims, that only his last name was noble – Dobrucki. The Jews hidden by the Dobruckis don’t feel grateful for the years of support and survival from extermination.
After WWII, the majority of the Jewish population which survived the war in Poland (ca. 500,000 people) embraced communism and worked hard to enforce it. Izaak Fleischfarb, vel Józef Światło16, after his escape to West Berlin and USA, disclosed many details regarding communist apparatchiks. In his radio Voice of America and Radio Free Europe interviews, he provided details about Communist political inner circles and the apparatus of repressions – the inhumane Ministry of Public Security/Ministry of Interior Affairs (MBP – in Polish Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego). He was a very close collaborator of Kremlin’s Lavrentiy Pavlovicz Beria. Światło disclosed how the Polish secret police was involved with organizing the Kielce Pogrom. He disclosed that a Rabbi along with 8 other Jews and 2 Poles were shot to death with military assault rifles by the snipers from Special Forces. The sharpshooters were never identified.
Salomon Morel was a Stalinist official and an accused war criminal. Immediately after the end of World War II, he became commander of the Zgoda (concentration) labor camp in Świętochłowice. During the communist times, Morel acquired the rank of colonel in the political police, MBP, and commanded a prison in Katowice.
In 1994, soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Morel was investigated by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the “revenge killings” of 1,500 ethnic prisoners from Upper Silesia (most of them Polish Silesians and German civilians). After his case was publicized by the Polish, German, British, and American media, Morel fled to Israel and was granted citizenship under the Law of Return. Poland twice requested his extradition, once in 1998 and once in 2005, but Israel refused to comply and rejected the more serious charges as being false and again rejected extradition on the grounds that the statute of limitations against Morel had run out, and that Morel was in poor health.17
Republic of Poland is a country, which belongs to Western civilization for over a millennium. Roman law and Christianity paved the legal system, which is based on individual property ownership law, not the tribal property law. If someone dies without leaving descendants, successors, his property goes to the state, similar to the United States of America, United Kingdom, Republic of France, Republic of Germany, and many others. It does not matter if he/she is Jewish, Catholic or Roma. The US Senate bill 447 and House bill 1226 have no effect on Polish legal system. It builds false impressions, it is unjustifiable and very bad for American image overseas.
How do our Senators and members of the House look now, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Gabriel reassured that their country, Germany and German Nation bare sole responsibility for Jewish Holocaust? Do they look smart? Many think they goofed.
What is this all about? IPN – in Polish stands Institute of National Remembrance. Polish Parliament passed the law and President Andrzej Duda signed into law, that any claims and publicized charges against the Republic of Poland, as the State, or against the Polish Nation for participating as the accomplices German Holocaust of Jewry is going to be persecuted. Those found guilty will be fined, or imprisoned for three years. This means, no lies about “Polish Death Camps” and “Polish Nazis”. At the same time, the Parliament expressed disappointment that some individuals behaved badly. Some were charged and sentenced since the WWII by the Polish underground and after the war as well. Some escaped justice by joining the Communist Party, like General Grzegorz Korczyński18. He was Jewish himself, but was hunting for Jews in hiding, finding them, robbing and killing them.
USA – Poland facts
In communist times, Poland went through incredible pressure and social reorganization. For example, all Warsaw real estate was confiscated by the government, per President Bolesław Bierut (real name Bolesław Biernacki, NKVD agent) decree of 1946. Later, the communist government sold real estate in Warsaw to other people. After abandoning the communist regime in 1989, which lead to political changes all over central Europe, Poles elected new people into parliament and started the transformation to the free market economy. US President George Bush advised them to elect infamous general Wojciech Jaruzelski (who imposed the state of war – marshal law upon his own nation). Bad advice! Only one politician, Antoni Macierewicz, was advocating for a full restitution of properties, especially LAND. Not a legend, but a communist mole, Lech Wałęsa couldn’t do it, and former apparatchik of Central Committee of Polish Communist Party (PZPR), Aleksander Kwaśniewski and his Foreign Affairs Minister Bronisław Geremek (both declared themselves to be of Jewish heritage) didn’t want to pursue this path as well.
In 1960, Poland entered into the international agreements with other countries, including USA to regulate the financial remuneration for the citizens of those countries for properties lost in Poland as a result of the communist governments’ regulations since 1944. Poland deposited to the US government $40 million for this purpose.
In 1997, Polish parliament (Sejm) passed the law, under which real estate and other properties were passed to the Jewish religious entities. This was a transfer of resources worth together almost $8 billion. From these funds, those communities were obligated to rebuild and support all religious objects they deem necessary for the Jewish community in Poland.
As recently as in January 2018, the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage transferred almost $40 million to the foundation established by two Poles to sustain the restitution of the old Jewish cemetery in Warsaw.
One would wonder what USA did for Jewish-Americans since 1939. One would wonder, if USA did something for the Jewish-Americans, what gave Secretary of State Tillerson the right to criticize Poland for trying to protect her own honor.
Many Americans, including Polish-Americans are shocked and furious at the present attack on Poland and Poles. We hope our President Donald Trump, for whom we voted during the last election, would draw conclusions regarding unprecedented and irresponsible statement by his Secretary of State. It is high time to put action behind the words Trump said at the Old Town Krasinskich Square in Warsaw. Ancient Romans had a proverb: verba volant facta manent, words fly away, facts stay.
What are we, the US, trying to accomplish? Are we withdrawing from the policy outlined so prophetically by Mr. Trump in Warsaw on July 6, 2017? Are we letting Germany and Russia to split Poland’s territory between them? Are we letting China to take our place in Europe, by building so vigorously promoted by them the so called Silk Route? Are we letting China to build this monstrous logistic hub in Poland?
What can we expect from Poland? Are we abandoning them and the Three-Seas Project? If Poland became the hub for the Chinese distribution of goods for Europe, it would have changed their position and it would leverage Polish economy to grow to the level comparable to Japan, or Korea. Are we ready to compensate them for the loss of such an opportunity? Are ready to convince them to abandon such an opportunity, and help them financially to grow, anyway? If we push for the false claims of our private organizations’ benefits, we may be embarrassed with plain refusal and damage, and lose the relationship we was built for over the past years.
Poland is our exceptionally faithful ally. They supported us, when others, traditional allies failed. They proved their value for us many times. We should also envy them, for what they have done to the others.
Have we done the same, that we are this worthy?
1 Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibrahim_ibn_Yaqub
2 Johnnie Herwarth von Bittenfeld and S. Frederick Starr: Against Two Evils: Memoirs of a Diplomat-Soldier during the Third Reich. London: Collins, 1981 and New York: Rawson, Wade, 1981, ISBN 978-0-89256-154-4, ISBN 0892561548; his autobiography
3 On March 8, 1933 Wilhelm Frick, Reich Minister of Interior announced the creation of concentration camps in Germany. On March 22, 1933 KL Dachau was officially “opened”. Until September 1, 1939 well over 100 concentration camps were working with full speed. In January 1935 Wolfgang Langhoff published a book about his 13 months spent in German KL’s (Börgemoor).
5 http://poloniainstitute.net/expert-analyses/security-policy/quo-vadis-germania/; Norman Davies – Europe. A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, Appendix III, Table 100
6 Polish diplomats tirelessly tried to influence allies and neutral countries to help stop the extermination of Polish Jewry. Ambassador Ciechanowski intervened with our State Department numerous times. In archives of the vigorously attacked IPN (Institute of National Memory) evidence is present. There must be evidence in the archives of our State Department as well. Here is the shocking evidence (in Polish only), which should be translated into English. It would shock the chief critic of Poland, Yair Lapid, to find how Polish diplomats were trying to save his grandmother… https://miziaforum.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/tajny-dokument-z-1944-r-tylko-polacy-probowali-ratowac-prababke-najwiekszego-oszczercy-polakow-yaira-lapida-dokumenty/
8 The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth law took Jewish families into nobility when they converted to Catholicism, in Lithuanian Grand Duchy automatically. In Poland they had to face a short legal procedure. This process attracted tens of thousands Jews in Poland. It has been evaluated, that around 50,000 families used this vehicle to promote their social status. This movement was lead by Frank Turski in 17th century (“Frnkists”)
10 Monahem Begin (in Polish – Mieczysław Biegun) was not a deserter. Second officer in command, General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski issued Mr. Begin with “leave of absence without expiration” which gave Begin official permission to stay in Palestine.
12 Andrzej Kunert, Andrzej Przewoźnik. Żydzi polscy w służbie Rzeczypospolitej. Vol. 1. 2002. p. 178
14 Massive invasions and 1772, 1793 and 1795 Partitions of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria wiped out Polish statehood for 123 years.
15 Oscar Pinkus, House of Ashes, Union College Press, 1991; ISBN-10 0912756233
16 Błażyński Zbigniew, Mówi Józef Światło. Za kulisami bezpieki i partii 1940 – 1955, Londyn: Polska Fundacja Kulturalna 1985, ISBN 0-85065-180-8
18 Stefan Kilanowicz – https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grzegorz_Korczy%C5%84ski