Polonophobic Archetypes in Jewish Memoir Literature

Poles/Jedwabne; Jews/Communism: Should Jews Apologize?
Today is Pulaski Day in Illinois.

Here is my review, recently appearing at Amazon. Interestingly, two Jewish authors suggest a juxtaposition of Poles having taken collective ownership for Jedwabne, and Jews taking collective ownership for past Jewish over-involvement in Communism.

Review of Dark Times, Dire Decisions: Jews and Communism. Edited by Jonathan Frankel (2004).OxfordUniversityPress. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis

Jews and Communism: A Middle View. Should Jews Apologize?

This work avoids each extreme: 1) Anti-Semitic fantasy, and 2) A manifestation of the Jewish attempt to rule the world. Space limitations limit my discussion.

In theUSSR(where Jews constituted 1-2% of the population): “Nonetheless, it was during the years 1918-1920 that the full implications of the association of Jews with the revolution, and specifically with the Communist revolution, first became apparent. With a striking number of Jewish-born individuals in the Bolshevik leadership—Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Sverdlov, and Uritsky to name just the most conspicuous—it was inevitable that the new regime should find itself branded as being dominated by Jews.” (Diner and Frankel, p. 5).

What about the western nations? “Throughout the era of Communism, Jews were both influential and disproportionately represented in Communist parties. The Communist Party of Great Britain (CP) was no exception to this. By the 1960’s two out of the three most important positions in the party were held by Jews…In the 1940’s, nearly a third of all district party secretaries were Jewish. By the early 1950’s, between 7 and 10 percent of the Communist party’s activists (its cadres) were Jewish, even though Jews accounted for less than 1 percent of Britain’s national population…Almost all Jewish Communists came from an Eastern European immigrant background.” (Heppell, p, 148, 151).

Now consider the USA: “Reliable statistics are difficult to obtain, but my own research on the party rank and file as well as secondary leaders of the Communist-led literary movements in the mid-century indicates that nearly half of those who published persistently in party-affiliated venues or who joined party-led organizations such as the John Reed clubs…were of Jewish origin. This is a remarkable aggregate, considering that Jews constituted a mere 2-3 percent of theU.S.population at the time.” (Wald, p. 136).

Here’s more on American Jews: “The substantial Jewish presence on the Left was, of course, nothing new—Jews had been prominent in the European and American socialist movements before the First World War, and in the wake of the Russian Revolution, many had joined the Communist movement…Much more surprising is the large number of Jewish artists.” (Mendelsohn, pp. 99-100). Obviously, this long preceded the appearance of fascism and Nazism, refuting the premise that Jews were supporting Communism as “the lesser of two evils.”

Contentions about Jews being drawn to Communism out of idealism, or as a reaction to anti-Semitism, injustice, and poverty, all beg the question about other groups (e. g., the Poles) in a comparable situation yet supporting Communism at negligible levels. Also, heavy Jewish support for Communism was hardly limited to Jews who faced “dark times/dire decisions”. (see Diner and Frankel, p. 9).

We sometimes hear that Communist Jews were “not true Jews”. That’s like saying that Russian Communists were “schismatic Russians”, not “real Russians”, a notion criticized by Solzhenitsyn. (Diner and Frankel, p. 12).

Actually, Communist Jews (like all Jews) can be unambiguously defined as those born to a Jewish mother or father, as done by Heppell (p. 165). Moreover, many Communist Jews actively identified with their Judaism. In fact, the very term Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism), which is misrepresented by some (including Schatz, p. 20,32) as a pejorative term implying Judeo-conspiracy, was actually coined and used by Polish Communist Jews (including Adam Michnik-Schechter) in reference to themselves.

Britain’s Jewish Communists, notwithstanding parental attitudes, hardly came from Jewish-marginal backgrounds: “Very few of them came from the ultra-Orthodox community, but not many grew up in assimilated or atheist homes either.” (Heppell, p. 155). InPoland, prewar Jewish Communism was very much part of Judaism, albeit as a secularized mutation of the same. (see the Peczkis review of THE OLD COUNTRY [link]). Cardinal Hlond’s much-maligned 1936 Jews-as-freethinkers statement did have a Jewish-mainstream factual basis: “This rejection of religion was not exclusively Communist. The Bundists and a significant part of the Zionist movement were also against ‘Jewish clericalism’.” (Schatz, p. 36).

Jan T. Gross has a pathetically-bad chapter that is essentially a synopsis of his FEAR. For example, his obsession with Polish acquisitions of post-Jewish properties ignores such things as the fact that millions of Russians and Ukrainians acquired post-Polish properties.

The main chapter onPoland’s interwar Jewish Communists (Jeff Schatz) has a defensive and apologetic tone, and contains the same shortcomings as his book. (see the Peczkis review of GENERATION [link]). In particular, most Jewish support for Communism was nonpolitical and latent, becoming openly manifested only duringUSSRactions againstPoland. (e. g., 1920, 1939, 1944).

The hypocrisy of Communist claims of fighting fascism, yet collaborating with Hitler, is mentioned by Mendelsohn (p. 119): “The Soviet-Nazi nonaggression pact of the summer of 1939, whose secret protocol called for the division of independent Poland in the event of war, was supported by Communist parties throughout the world, including the American party and its Jewish affiliates.”

Should modern Jews apologize for past Jewish support for Communism? Schatz (p. 13, 33) scoffs at it. Diner and Frankel are more thoughtful, seeing the logic behind it as they ask: “If, for example, the entire Polish people is to be held in some way responsible for the Jedwabne massacre carried out by Polish villagers, does it follow that the Jewish people should share in the guilt incurred by the murderous acts of Jewish NKVD/MVD operatives?” (p. 10).


Polonophobic Archetypes in Jewish Memoir Literature

Here is my review, recently posted at Amazon. It is amazing how similar the usual anti-Polish motifs are from memoir to memoir. For this reason, I have concluded that they have assumed the status of Polonophobic archetypes.

Review of Living in Fear on the Aryan Side, by Halina Zawadzka. 2004. Heritage Books,Maryland. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis

A Story of Flight and Terror–with Standard Polonophobic Archetypes

Halina Zawadzka described her pre-WWII life as one in which her parents were atheists, hostile to religion, including Judaism. (p.122). She never observed any of the Jewish holidays. (p. 108).

During the Nazi occupation, Zawadzka was confined with her fellow Jews to the Ghetto in the town of Konskie. She fled in time before the “resettlement”, which she describes as follows: “At the beginning of November [1942], Germans and Latvians liquidated almost the whole Ghetto there. The Jewish population of about nine thousand people was transported by freight train from Konskie in an unknown direction. Although Poles were not allowed to approach the Ghetto or the railroad tracks at the time, it was well known that terrible things happened there.” (p. 101). Even though Zawadzka makes no assertion of Poles gathering to cheer the Jews being shipped to their deaths, as some other memoirs have claimed, it is obvious from her testimony that this would’ve been physically impossible. The Germans wouldn’t have permitted any such gathering and gawking!

Interestingly, the author, for a time, believed that Polish warnings about Jews being gassed and cremated by the Nazis were simply another manifestation of Polish anti-Semitism, on par with the blood-added-to-matzo tales. She wrote: “Though the story was different, I saw an analogy between the accusation of Jews of ritual murder and the theory of gassing people in a death camp. To me, the name of the similarity was anti-Semitism.” (pp. 125-126). Could it be that many of the manifestations of Polish anti-Semitism alleged by this author are actually projections of her own hostility towards Poles?

A number of accounts in this book come up so often in Holocaust memoirs, and are so stereotypically similar to each other from memoir to memoir, that one wonders if they have not assumed the status of Polonophobic archetypes. There is the one about the fugitive Jew overhearing a conversation between seemingly-benevolent Poles discussing plans to kill the Jew. (p. 15). There is also the one, really overdone in this memoir, of the incognito Jewish fugitive repeatedly encountering Poles who verbalize a wish for a monument to be built to Hitler in tribute for his destroying ofPoland’s Jews. (p. 21, 149-150, 196). [Poles suffered very greatly under Hitler, and, regardless of their attitudes towards Jews, it is not even imaginable that any of them would want a monument constructed to honor Hitler.]

After fleeing the Konskie Ghetto, the author hid among gentiles, and eventually settled with Karolina Slowik and her daughters Olga (Dzuinia) and Maria (Kamer). These benefactors were honored posthumously by Yad Vashem.

The Slowik household became a staging point for the AK (A.K., or Armia Krajowa) (pp. 137-on). For a time, Zawadzka worked for the AK. At one point, she claims that an AK commander spoke of ordering a fugitive Jew in the forest shot for “safety” reasons. (p. 156). Later, after her Jewishness became known to the AK members who frequented the Slowik household, she was threatened with death if she betrayed them or the organization. (p. 198).

The foregoing incidents are not clarified to the reader. They were life-and-death decisions. The AK feared penetration by enemy agents, both Communist and Nazi, for exposure meant certain torture and death. Jews were, using modern parlance, profiled as potential enemy agents. Although anyone could be an agent of the enemy, a Jew was much more likely to be a Communist than a Polish gentile. Also, the Nazis frequently spared individual Jews and sent them out to spy on Polish guerrillas. Finally, innocuous fugitive Jews who had obtained familiarity with Polish-Underground whereabouts were a security risk because, if they fell into German hands, they would immediately tell the Germans everything they knew in a futile attempt to save their lives.


The anti-Semitism of “other” Polish Jews

Here is my review, recently appearing at Amazon. I have now come across quite a few pre-WWII Polish Jews who reported encountering no anti-Semitism themselves.

Review of Saved by My Face: A True Story of Courage and Escape in War-Torn Poland, by Jerzy Lando. (2002). Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh and London. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis

A Fugitive Jew, Member of the Armia Krajowa (AK), and Participant in the Polish Warsaw Uprising (1944)

In beginning with his teenage years in pre-WWII Poland, Lando wrote: “I have not experienced anti-Semitism personally, but inPoland it was tangible.” (p. 21). This is in reference to “occasional reports in the papers” of incidents. So Lando joins the ranks of those Polish Jews to whom anti-Semitism was something that happened to someone else, adding refutation to the premise that Polish anti-Semitism had been a constant and inevitable companion of Polish Jews.

Unlike those who bad-mouthed the sanacja after the fact, the author had praises for the prewar Polish government in its attempt to avoid war. He commented: “Our leaders displayed remarkable sangfroid in the face of German pressure.” (p. 23). But German aggression came anyway in 1939. In common with countless Polish and Jewish authors, Lando described an experience of the Luftwaffe, flying at treetop level, strafing columns of defenseless civilians. (p. 29).

German propaganda justified the compulsory ghettoization of Jews as a protection from Poles! (p. 71). Lando spent time in the Warsaw Ghetto, and estimated that the population density in it neared 200,000 per square mile. (p. 72). From November 1940 until July 1942, 80,000 of the 400,000 Jews died. Hans Frank, in his diary (August 24, 1941), wrote that 1.2 million Jews are to die by starvation, or anti-Jewish edicts will have to be intensified. (p. 75). The death camps followed, in 1942-on. As for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Lando estimates that 7,000 Jews died in direct combat, 5,000 were burned to death, and another 15,000 were sent to the gas chambers. (p. 13).

Owing to his largely non-Semitic appearance (p. 11) (whence the title of this book), Lando felt relatively safe to be out in the open. His travels across German-occupiedPolandtook him to Lodz, Krakow,Warsaw, etc. He was aided by a succession of Polish benefactors, and one Volksdeutsche, as well as the AK (A.K.), which provided him false identification papers. (p. 136). He added: “Generally speaking, the Volksdeutsche were feared and distrusted by the Polish population.” (p. 97).

Ironic to the current emphasis upon Poles and Jews as “unequal victims”, Lando’s everyday experiences as a Jew and (fake) Pole were not all that different. He commented: “It was bad enough being a Jew always running the risk of exposure, but in addition I had to share the dangers faced by all Poles. Mass roundups, rare in the first years of the occupation, were constantly on the increase.” (p. 171). Also: “With the German appetite for hostages growing insatiable, it was becoming increasingly dangerous to be out in the streets.” (p. 183).

Lando devotes a chapter to his combat experience, as a member of the AK (p. 85), in the Warsaw Uprising. In common with many veterans, he described the telltale warning sound of the horrible German nebelwerfer, a six-barreled mortar rocket-launcher: “The sinister noise was like a mixture of a giant rusty clock being wound up, a heavy cupboard being dragged along a wooden floor, and a cow mournfully mooing. ” (pp. 194-195). After about a minute of this “mooing”, the “roaring cow” would disgorge six deadly explosive or incendiary rockets at 30-second intervals, each one getting closer to the intended target.

The agony of the Uprising continued, the Soviet betrayal became more and more obvious, and the outcome of the Uprising became foregone. Lando ended up in a POW camp at Lamsdorf (pp. 206-208) and was at first afraid that his circumcision would be noticed. But then he concluded that: “Our guards did not care if anyone was a Jew, nor did my companions.” (p. 208).

Biographical details of Lando’s relatives (and possibly close associates) are included in the book. For instance, Lando mentions Zenon Rychlik, a lawyer, who survived the war and became an officer in the Communist UB. (U. B., or Bezpieka).(p. 223).

ADDENDUM: Since writing the above review, it has been brought to my attention, from outside sources, that Lando was a member of the oft-slandered “fascist” and “Jew-killing” NSZ (Narodowe Sily Zbrojne) before most of it became consolidated with, and a subsidiary of, the AK.

By piotrbein