Gross and his lies
Jan Czekajewski, member of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in New York (PIASA), Columbus, Ohio, janczek[at]aol.com
Corrections Piotr Bein to a translation from Polish
In an article titled Gross: Poles helped Jews for profit, published in Nowy Dziennik in New York on January 12, 2011, I learn that J.T. Gross questions the fact of common death penalty in [German Nazi-occupied] Poland for all those who:
1. Gave shelter to Jews
2. Provided Jews with food
3. Sold food products to Jews
4. Transported Jews by any means of transportation
5. Purchased any goods from Jews, etc. etc.
Gross maintains that Getting money from Jews in hiding, calls into question the accepted truth of postwar Polish historiography that harboring Jews during the Nazi occupation has been unconditionally punished by death, also of all family members.
Gross’s statements transgress not only moral but also legal limits. British historian David Irving has been jailed in Austria in 2006 for questioning the existence of gas chambers in the Auschwitz concentration camp. In Poland, police has escorted the same David Irving, and his publisher, out of the International Book Fair at the Palace of Culture in Warsaw. Dr. Dariusz Ratajczak from the city of Opole, who had self-published 200 copies of a brochure quoting Holocaust revisionists like Irving, was tried in Poland for a similar offence under Article 55 of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN).
Personally, I am against this kind of methods against lies. A lie is fought with truth, not with a police truncheon. However, if such laws have been established, they must be enforced equally to all, including Gross, who so far has been appearing on Polish TV, esteemed by government institutions and universities. (In 1996, Gross has received the Knight’s Cross of Merit of the Polish Republic from President Kwasniewski).
Gross’s statement undermines the well-known truth documented with thousands of victims: whole families of Poles have been murdered for any help to Jews. His words qualify as THE CRIME OF HOLOCAUST DENIAL and should be treated as such, while Gross stands trial during his next visit to Poland or Israel. He should be punished in accordance with governing local laws. Similar legal consequences should be applied to the publishers of his books.
In Israel, 6,195 trees were planted in memory of Poles called in Israel the Righteous Among the Nations — those who had saved Jews in the Holocaust, without any material gain. It is high time to erected a monument in Warsaw to commemorate Poles honored by Yad Vashem Institute, as well as thousands of nameless others, who could not be awarded this honor because the Germans had murdered them together with the Jews. (According to Israeli law, the application to Yad Vashem for the title of “Righteous” must be a submitted by a saved person.)
Many if not most of these nameless “Righteous” have been Polish peasants. Not all of these unfortunate persons have died with the Jews. Sometimes their blue-eyed, fair-haired little children have been spared and sent to Germany for Germanization. Many of them never learned the circumstances of their parents’ death, nor that they were Polish.
Those Polish, Catholic heroes have earned the respect, in human memory at least. Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has posthumously honored many of them, including my two friends. Their descendants feel not as much offended as bespitted by Gross. Two of them are my close friends and have “adopted” Jewish sisters, rescued by their mothers, who, by exposing own families to the risk of death, took the Jewish girls out of the Warsaw and Czestochowa Ghettos.
One of my friends is Professor Karol Pelc from Michigan Technological University, who in an interview for U.P. Catholic magazine of January 5, 2001, relayed his life as a child during the German occupation and the story of his “adoptive” Jewish sister, Irene. This interview is on the university website. The other friend, Dr. Szwarocka-Priebe, a native of Warsaw and a veteran activist of Kosciuszko Foundation, lives in Houston, Texas.
I reproduce two two copies of German posters that refute Gross’s lies. One of them announces to Warsaw residents that even minimal assistance to Jews would be punished by death. Dated on September 5, 1942, it is signed by the Head of the SS and Police for the District of Warsaw in accordance with the October 15, 1941, decree of Governor General, Hans Frank, file number (VB1 GG. S. 595). The other poster with similar content is from Czestochowa , a city of my, Professor Pelc and his Jewish sister residence during the war.
[…] In 1943, the Germans began emptying the Jewish ghettos. Many residents went to their deaths, while others were diverted to work as forced labor. One such couple had a young daughter, and sympathetic Poles contacted Pelc’s mother and asked if she could take the child. “Otherwise, she could be sent to the camps,” he says. His mother said yes, she would take care of her.
“Irene was introduced as the daughter of a cousin from another town, and she called my mother Aunt Kamilla,” Pelc says.
It was something of a stretch, particularly in those times. “Irene was three-and-a-half years old, very beautiful, and had a very typical Jewish face,” he said, with her big, brown eyes, prominent nose, and dark hair. Fortunately, the Pelc’s also had dark hair, so the deception, if not seamless, certainly bordered on the believable.
To help assure her safety, Kamilla Pelc asked a priest to forge Irene’s birth certificate. “He risked his life to do this,” he said. “Anyone who helped the Jews was punished by the death penalty–Poland is the only country in Europe where the Germans had such a law.
“So my mother was risking her life, my life, and the neighbors’,” he said. “We lived in a courtyard, with twenty families all looking at each other. They all could have been held responsible for not reporting Irene. Forty people risked their lives.”
Several years ago, Pelc’s wife, Ryszarda, began pressing him to have his mother declared “Righteous among the Nations” by the state of Israel, a designation reserved for those who risked and often lost their lives helping Jews during the Holocaust. At first, he was reticent.
“My mother didn’t do it for an award,” he notes. “She did it because of her religious faith, that she should help people and love your neighbor as yourself. But my wife thought we should do it to document what she and other people did on behalf of the Jews in Poland, and now, I think she was right.”
In 1999, six years after they began the process, Pelc went to Chicago to receive the award on behalf of his late mother. Irene, who is now a sociology professor in France, provided important testimony on behalf of her “Aunt Kamilla.” Miraculously, Irene not only survived the occupation but was also reunited with her parents, who were among the few lucky Jews to live through the Holocaust.
Many Polish children were not so lucky. And those who did survive were changed forever. “I consider myself to be a Holocaust survivor. There is some strength that comes from this kind of experience,” Pelc said. “You know you can survive in very hard conditions.”
And you receive a blessing, a certain rare and irrevocable clarity of vision.
“You know,” Pelc says, “that the knowledge you’ve been given is the only thing they can’t take away from you.”