Contra Jan T. Gross on Buying Jewish Properties from Nazis, etc.

Review of In the Polish Secret War, by Marian S. Mazgaj. 2009. MarFarland and Company, North Carolina, London
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Polish Guerrilla Action in Great Detail. Clarifies Polish Acquisitions of Post-Jewish Property
Ironic to the fact that the author was eager to join the 1939 Polish Army, and became a brave guerrilla fighter, his last name means “crybaby” in Polish. It also means “anointed forest” in old Polish. (p. 5). This book is one of the most detailed English-language books on Polish guerrilla warfare that I have read, and I have read quite a few of them. (See the Peczkis Listmania: GUERRILLA WARFARE…).
Mazgaj grew up in the villages of the Sandomierz region. Many Germans lived in the villages, and some of them engaged in fifth-column activity as the 1939 war neared. Mazgaj writes: “During the final months of 1938, Polish police agents uncovered a secret shortwave radio station, which was operated by German colonists in the tower of the Lutheran church in the village of Mikolajow.” (p. 8, 10). During the actual 1939 war, German 5th-column activity including the proclamation of false panic-encouraging messages (p. 13) as well as sabotage. (p. 14).
Locally, in the 1939 war, the Polish Army drove the Germans out of the village of Osiek. (pp. 28-29). However, being out of ammunition, the Polish forces had to retreat.
The author remembers the prewar Jews positively. As unbelievable as this may sound, some Jews actually welcomed the 1939 Nazi invaders, as noted by eyewitness Mazgaj when near Janow Lubelski: “All of a sudden a group of men appeared from behind a brick house. There were about six men in the group. They wore long black topcoats and black hats. One of them carried a loaf of bread on a tray and another a dish of salt, symbols of hospitality. They were representatives of the Jewish community in the city who waited to welcome the first soldiers of the Nazi army entering the city. When they heard our footsteps on the street, they thought that we were the German soldiers. After discovering their mistake, they were embarrassed and returned behind the building to wait for the Germans.” (p. 16).
Mazgaj notes that Jews were rarely farmers. (p. 6). Later, the Jews’ usual inexperience in heavy manual labor made it very difficult for them when the Nazis forced them to perform such labor. (p. 35). During the later deportations to the death camps, one popular Jewish doctor, Kaplan, refused his Polish patients’ offers to hide him for the duration of the war. (p. 57).
In his ZLOTE ZNIWA (GOLDEN HARVESTS), Jan T. Gross portrays Poles as hyenas eager to acquire Jewish properties. Mazgaj, on the other hand, characterizes as “shady characters” (p. 66) those Poles who took the shoes and clothing off the bodies of Jews (who had been shot by the Germans while attempting to flee the November 1942 deportation of Klimontow’s Jews). Members of the Polish Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA), sometimes unilaterally mischaracterized as Nazi-collaborators, shot at Poles who were attempting to loot the now-unoccupied Jewish homes. (p. 66). Finally, Polish participation in the Nazi-sponsored auctions of Jewish properties was far from universal. Mazgaj comments: “As an eyewitness of the auction, I know for sure that no one in our village of Jeziory or in the neighboring villages bought anything at that auction. Our good people were saying, `Why should we buy Jewish property from the Nazi criminals? As soon as they liquidate the Jews, they will begin liquidating us.'” (p. 58).
What about Jews in the A. K. (Armia Krajowa, the Polish Underground Home Army)? The author reports an openly Jewish person, Jerzy Bette (“Papcio”) asking to join and being provisionally accepted. (pp. 164-165). Bette’s weapons were of suspicious origin, and claims about his past experiences were eventually found to be untrue. He later disappeared, joined the Soviets, and finally became a member of the Polish Communist Radio. Mazgaj comments: “When Sowa accepted Bette, he was not aware of the Nazi secret organization called Zagiew (Firebrand). The membership of this organization was composed of Jewish collaborators who were forced to serve the Gestapo. These Jewish collaborators were trained by the Gestapo and sent to infiltrate Polish underground military units as spies and provocateurs.” (p. 165).
The author’s guerrilla activities began with the bicycle deliveries and distributions of ODWET (REVENGE), an underground newspaper. (p. 40). His Jedrus “Andrew”) unit shot a group of Germans who had been brutally terrorizing the Polish farmers and confiscating their goods. (p. 61). The Nazis retaliated with a pacification of the village of Struzki, systematically burning the buildings, murdering 74 civilians regardless of age or gender in cold blood, and committing atrocities such as the throwing of people into the burning buildings. (p. 62-on). A Jedrus unit attacked the Germans, allowing a few of the villagers to escape in the commotion. (p. 63).
The procuring of weaponry assumed high priority. His unit disarmed some Polish Blue Police (p. 81) and then, together with other A.K. units, engaged in the disarming of large groups of Germans. (pp. 97-121). Other actions included the destruction of German grain-confiscation records, an attempt to blow up a German ammunition-loaded train, and a spectacular theft of money from the Germans. Mazgaj was also involved in an eventually-successful assassination of local Gestapo leader von Paul, who was targeted for the following reason: “Through his network of informers, whom he recruited by means of terror, blackmail, and money, von Paul was responsible for the imprisonment and death of many Polish patriots.” (p. 132). Finally, Mazgaj’s A. K. unit fought in Operation Burza (Tempest) on behalf of the advancing Soviet Army.

By piotrbein