Hidden Jews Appreciated Death Penalty More Than Jan T. Gross!
Review of The Wartime Diary of Edmund Kessler, Edited by Renata Kessler. 2010. Academic Studies Press, Boston
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Zydokomuna in Action; Polish Rescuer Hides 24 Jews, and Another Hides 35
This book consists of two parts: The diary and poetry of Edmund Kessler, who was one of the fugitive Jews in hiding, and the narrative of Kazimierz Kalwinski, the son of the Pole who hid the 24 Jews in his bunker. (p. 110). This work centers on Lwow (Lviv), and encompasses the Soviet, Nazi, and renewed Soviet occupations. WARNING: The cruelties of the Germans and Ukrainians towards the Jews are described in graphic detail. This may be upsetting to sensitive readers.
The Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism) is often rationalized as a reflexive Jewish reaction to fear of falling into the hands of the Nazis. In actuality, the Jewish-Soviet collaboration went far beyond any such considerations. The Zydokomuna was an unmistakably active act of treason and enmity against the Polish state. Kazimierz Kalwinski describes what happened when the Soviets occupied Lwow in 1939. “On the main street I saw a hearse pulled by black horses, on which lay an unusually large coffin draped with a Polish military flag. On both sides of the hearse young Jewish boys repeatedly yelled loudly in Polish, ‘We are going to bury rotten Poland.’” (p. 107). At one point, Kalwinski himself was threatened by a red-band-wearing, gun-wielding teenage Jewish boy. Members of the Zydokomuna denounced both Poles and wealthy Jews to the Soviets, causing them to be deported to Siberia, where many of them died. Kalwinski thus commented on all this: “This is how they thanked Poland for accepting their ancestors centuries before.” (p. 107).
As soon as the Germans entered Lwow in 1941, they and their Ukrainian collaborators began a mass campaign of robbery and murder of Jews. Kessler describes this as follows: “The notoriously low degree of education and intelligence of the Ukrainian masses with their narrow-minded clergy and bourgeoisie, do not prevent the mob, poorly educated and gullible, from assuming the role of judge and jury.” (p. 34). Just as innocent Poles (and Jews) had earlier suffered because of the Zydokomuna, so now innocent Jews were to suffer in retaliation for the same.
During the Auschwitz Cross controversy, we were told that the Cross is foreign to Judaism. Interestingly, though, Kessler used Christian terminology (e. g., Golgotha, crown of thorns) as he described the tortures and murders of Jews by Germans and Ukrainians. (p. 37).
Then, for a time, the murders abated. Things settled down to “normal”.
In his diary, Edmund Kessler describes the Judenrat. It attracted all sorts of socially marginal people, including: “…the dregs of society whom the tide of Jewish misfortune raised to the surface like muck after a flood.” (p. 46). The informed reader will recognize the striking parallels (even much the same terminology) used by Polish authors in describing the emergence of the szmalcowniki (blackmailers of Jews), out of the woodwork, during the German occupation.
The Germans commenced the mass extermination of the Jews. Besides his diary, Kessler includes poetry. Its imagery is reminiscent of Elie Wiesel’s NIGHT. (pp. 79-91). It also called for retribution: “When Freedom Bell rings, When the call of revenge is heard, There will be terrible consequences, The enemy’s blood will flow in streams.” (p. 85).
Some Jews went into hiding. Just one kilometer from the Pole Kalwinski bunker holding 24 Jews, there was another bunker, sponsored by a Pole, that held 34 Jews. The latter bunker was eventually discovered when a loud quarrel was overheard by a Ukrainian policeman, who informed the Germans. The Jews and Polish benefactors were publically hanged, and left hanging, for a week, as warning to anyone else who would contemplate aiding Jews. (p. 114, 125).
Kalwinski tells how his 24 hidden Jews reacted to this development: “The news caused the people in our bunker to break down, declaring they intended to leave, so as not to further endanger the lives of our family.” (p. 115). Now contrast this with Jan T. Gross and his fans, most if not all of whom did not go through the Holocaust, and who presumptuously continue their denial attitude towards the death penalty facing Polish rescuers of Jews. The 24 Jews in Kalwinski’s bunker most definitely did not share Gross’ attitude!
The 24 Jews in hiding regained their composure. After some close calls, owing to the extreme proximity of some retreating Wehrmacht units, the 24 survived the war.