Communism in Poland

Here is my recently-made list of self-reviewed books on Communist rule in Poland, especially its early stages. –Mr. Jan Peczkis, Chicago
Review of Poland 1945: A Red Cross Diary, by Russell R. Johnston. 1973. Dorrance and Company, Philadelphia.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Insights into Early Post-WWII Soviet Occupation of, and Communist-Imposition on, Poland. Polish Expellees Also Mistreated
This diary covers the Middle East, Russia, and Poland. My review is limited to the latter.
The author’s stay in Poland lasted from end-August 1945 through April 1946. When he first arrived at the ruins of Warsaw, he was less than a year removed from the Germans’ systematic destruction of Warsaw that had followed the Soviet-betrayed Warsaw Uprising, and only several months removed from the Red Army’s “liberation” of Warsaw’s ruins. He stayed at the Polonia Hotel (p. 110), one of the locally few remaining usable structures. When the wind blew, he could sense the dust of bricks and smell the sweet-sickly odor of tens of thousands of decomposing corpses. (p. 112). Constantly collapsing walls were killing hundreds of additional Poles.
Shortly after his arrival in Warsaw, Johnston assessed the situation. He remarked: “The Poles were a volatile, friendly people who deserved far better from their allies than to be turned back to the Russians now, without a right to choose.” (p. 110). “I’ve been in Warsaw just two weeks, but already I’m convinced it is a captive city–that the Russians have taken over and are here to stay. The evidence is grim and everywhere to see.” (p. 118). In many large towns and cities, the Soviets were building long-lasting concrete obelisks with Hammers and Sickles, and to the likes of Stalin. (p. 122, pp. 134-135).
No sooner had the Russians entered Poland than: “A reign of terror followed, and opposing patriotic groups and political parties were manhandled, murdered, and deported.” (p. 159). New restaurants in Warsaw, open by early 1946, were the scene of arrests by the NKVD of Poles attempting to communicate with foreign visitors. (p. 153). Johnston adds: “And, most significant and tragic, I’ve seen the hurried groups of white-faced citizens of the so-called upper class being hustled through the early morning streets by the Russian NKVD.” (p. 118). The author describes how the NKVD arrested a young man engaged to marry one of the foreigners, and sent to a labor camp, for being born in the “wrong” class and for have once been a member of the Polish Underground. (pp. 151-152). On top of all this, General Anders was now branded a traitor, and the families of his soldiers were forced to attempt to flee Poland. (pp. 153-154).
The privations of the people shocked the author: “The worst in Europe, in fact. The people on the farms especially had little or nothing to carry them through the winter. First the Nazis and then the Russians had taken about anything and everything that could be moved. Besides that, most of the fields were still planted with land mines.” (p. 111). The systematic sacking of Poland by the Soviet “allies” was blatantly obvious. Every day, Johnston saw truck caravans going eastward, carrying looted Polish goods that included everything from bicycles to heavy machinery to farm animals. (p. 118). When in former East Prussia, he saw that: “…the Red Army soldiers stationed here have helped themselves to everything that could move.” (p. 136). According to investigations by the American Red Cross, overall, over two and a half million Polish children were dangerously undernourished, five million children had inadequate food, and the infant mortality rate was a staggering 25%. (p. 168).
German revanchists commonly complain about the conditions facing the German expellees from the Recovered Territories. It turns out that the Polish expellees from the Kresy did not have it easy either. While learning of the expellee Poles set to arrive in former East Prussia, he writes: “Those riding in boxcars will have to pay a fee of two hundred zlotys, while those who can’t pay this fee must ride on open flatcars exposed to the wind and snow. The only belongings they’ll be allowed to bring with them will be what they can carry…The poor devils on the flatcars will be living like that for days, maybe weeks–who can say?…They’ll literally freeze to death…others will contract pneumonia and die later on. Polish winters can be hell…” (pp. 136-137).
While Johnston does not discuss the postwar Polish killings of Jews, he does touch on the atmosphere that made it possible. For instance, while in former East Prussia, he commented: “Banditry, Tang tells us, is on an increasing scale, and no man’s belongings are safe from thieves, or from Russian soldiers.” (p. 136).
Review of Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto, by Moshe Arens. 2011. Jerusalem, New York.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
The ZZW in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; Conflicting Argumentation from Authorities
This work focuses on active hostility against the ZZW as the major cause of the ZZW’s neglect. The rift between the Jewish right and the Jewish left was extreme in Warsaw–so much so that it did not bring Jews fully together even in the face of Nazi genocide. (e. g., p. 3, 116, 171). The Revisionists were often dismissed as “Jewish fascists” and, even decades later, much of this attitude persisted. For example, long after WWII, ZOB veteran Marek Edelman openly scorned the ZZW. (p. 301).
Now consider the Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism), which has often been incorrectly marginalized as disproportionate Jewish membership in the tiny Polish Communist Party. Actually, the Communist Party was just the tip of the iceberg. Arens writes: “The years preceding World War II were a time when Socialists throughout the world were preaching the `class struggle’ and `solidarity of the proletariat.’ Many of them, not only avowed Communists, saw the Soviet Union as the pioneer and leader of this `struggle.’ This was also true in Palestine, where the Socialist Zionists had achieved a dominant position in the Jewish community.” (p. 7). The so-called “proletarian” camp included the Socialist Zionists and the non-Socialist Bund. (p. 9). Arens notes: “The Socialist Zionist movements, attached to Marxist ideology…” (p. 44). ZOB leader Anielewicz was a member of Hashomer Hatzair with its “Marxist approach to Zionism”. (p. 113). Hashomer Hatzair and Left Po’alei Zion showed their true colors (pardon the pun) in preferring that the red flag be hoisted over the fighting Ghetto instead of the blue-white Zionist flag. (p. 287).
It got worse. ZOB leader Hersh Berlinski exhibited undisguised disloyalty to Poland as he said that his support was to the USSR over Poland. (p. 142). As for the Warsaw Ghetto rank-and-file soldiers, Arens refers to them as: “…younger generation, their orthodox Marxist thinking giving rigidity to their arguments.” (p. 106). Who can blame Poles for their reluctance to support the Uprising owing to its taint of Communism? (p. 71; 200-201; 226)
Interestingly, sixty-nine Warsaw Jews, holding British Palestinian passports, were released by the Germans, some after the 1942 extermination of the bulk of Warsaw’s Jews, in exchange for German citizens held by the Allies. (p. 125). They ended up safely in Palestine. This adds to the list of known Jews spared by the Nazis. For more, see the Peczkis Listmania: HOLOCAUST MISCONCEPTIONS…
During the actual Uprising, some members of the semi-collaborationist Polish Blue Police helped ferret out escaping Jews. Other members were shot on the spot by the Germans out of suspicion of assisting the Jewish fighters. (p. 239).
Unfortunately, Arens is inconsistent in his use of sources, accepting them when they agree with his views and rejecting them when they do not. He accepts the authority of prominent Holocaust historian Yisrael Gutman in doubting the veracity of accounts of Poles fighting alongside the Jews. (p. 316). Gutman cited “conflicting statements and exaggerated claims”–ironic because Holocaust survivor accounts are rife with these very tendencies, as Holocaust deniers never tire of reminding us.
Arens then turns around and rejects Gutman when it comes to the latter’s reckoning that the ZZW resistance at Muranowska Square, though existing, lasted only one day. (p. 308). We then learn that Gutman was a ZOB fighter and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. (p. 308). [Perhaps Gutman’s quasi-Communist past accounts for both his lingering biases against the ZZW and against the Polish role in the Uprising. It could also account for sporadic Polonophobic remarks throughout Gutman’s many writings.]
Following the same path, Arens finds the STROOP REPORT authoritative as it supports his contention that ZZW resistance at Muranowska Square lasted three days, (p. 309), not one day as allowed by Gutman. Then Arens turns around and rejects the STROOP REPORT for its allusion to Polish fighters among the combatants. (p. 208). He repeats the completely unsupported contention that Stroop invented the Poles because he could not believe that Jews could fight effectively, or because he had to explain why his suppression effort was taking so long. [This nonsense is refuted by the fact that, in his report, Stroop repeatedly admitted that Jews, even when acting alone, were offering tenacious resistance.] Finally, Polish combatants in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising are also mentioned by an eyewitness Dutch SS man. For verification of the last two points, see the Peczkis review of Hitler’s Bandit Hunters: The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe, and then also follow the link in my review to the STROOP REPORT and my review of it.
Review of Stalinism in Poland 1944-1956, edited and translated by A. Kemp Welch. 1999. MacMillan Press Ltd, London.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Includes Fascinating Insights into the Failure of Imposed Collective Farming in Soviet-Occupied Poland
This work has many papers. Owing to space limitations, I discuss only a few.
Dariusz Jarosz has a fascinating chapter on the Soviet attempts to impose collective farming (KOLKHOZ) on Poland.  Communist propaganda did not fool the peasantry. Many of them knew firsthand the poverty-causing effects of collective farming during the first Soviet occupation of the Kresy (1939-1941)(p. 60). Moreover, if collective farms were so wonderful, then why did Soviet soldiers, crossing Poland in 1944-1945, speak about the poverty of their KOLKHOZES, and express envy over the relative prosperity of Polish peasants? (p. 62).
The peasants had various practical concerns. Would officials confiscate their produce, and only return a small amount to them? Could they borrow horses to travel to church services? Would the time of planting and harvest be governed according to the weather and plant biology, or would distant government officials make such decisions, causing crops to rot? Anticipating the later, classic “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work” Achilles heel of collectivist ideologies, the peasants declared that, “Nobody will work as hard for co-operatives as on their own land.” (p. 62).
Polish peasants, notably women, offered fierce resistant to collectivization. They blocked tractors and engaged in other constant protests. (p. 63-on).  Wives physically attacked their husbands for signing papers, and contended that the papers were not binding upon their share of the property. In the late 1940’s, there was a wave of arsons, beatings, and occasional killings of Party officials. (p. 64-65). There were also peaceful protests involving such things as mass letters of protests, petitions, etc.
To counter Communist propaganda, the peasants spread their own anti-collectivist counterpropaganda.  What if women, and not only farms, also become state property, and children were raised by the state? What if elderly people were turned into soap? (p. 66). They also turned openly anti-Communist. Was the Polish ZLOTY to be forcibly converted to the Russian ruble? Was a new Soviet-Polish border to be made along the Vistula River—in effect, a new Partition of Poland? Was Poland about to be incorporated outright into the USSR as the seventeenth Soviet republic? (p. 68) Were the Communists about to destroy all traces of Poland’s religion? (pp. 70-71). Was WWIII on the horizon?
The attachment of the peasant to his land was very strong. Jarosz concludes that, “Peasant behavior towards communist agrarian policy was one of the basic causes which led to the collapse of Stalinism in Poland. (p. 77).
Pawel Machcewicz (p. 108-on) has an interesting account of the 1956 Poznan revolt, and how it became defused so as not to end up a nationwide conflagration and bloodbath like that of Hungary that year. Polish workers went on strike over economic conditions. They also chanted patriotic slogans such as “Down with the red bourgeoisie.”; “We demand free elections under United Nations supervision.” (p. 110). Long before RADIO MARYJA had even been imagined, the strikers also invoked religious themes such as “We want God.”; “We want religion in schools.” (p. 111). Not surprisingly, there were calls for Russians to go home.
This work includes interesting information. For instance, the 1951 change in the Soviet-Polish border was made so that Stalin would get Polish land on which coal had been discovered. (p. 69). On another subject entirely, “Starting from a figure of a few thousand in the nineteenth century, the Polish intelligentsia had increased to 862,000 by 1939. Despite the ravages of the Second World War, it had grown to several million by the mid-1980’s.” (p. 11).
This book is generally free of egregious errors. However, Andrzej Friske (p. 147) repeats the myth that the NSZ (Narodowe Sily Zbrojne) had advocated a totalitarian ideology. Sergei Kudryashov (pp. 32-33), while understanding Polish anger over the Soviets and Katyn, faults the Polish government in exile for expressing hostility towards Stalin, and for not muting its response in the face of the inescapable reality of Soviet power. Does Kudryashov seriously suppose that Stalin would have recognized the Sikorski government as the rightful government of postwar Poland had it been docile on Katyn, and engaged in other unilateral concessions?
Interestingly, Kudryashov (p. 38) cites an archived January 1944 position paper, sent by Maisky to Molotov, in which he notes that, “…we are not interested in the appearance of too big and too strong a Poland.” (p. 38). Obviously, all the talk about such things as the moral propriety of “ethnographic frontiers”, and the rights of Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Lithuanians, etc., had been a mere smokescreen for the Soviet confiscation of the Kresy.
Anthony Kemp-Welch notes that there were no Nuremberg Trials for the crimes of Communism, and suggests that this was in part because Soviet-style Communism was more skillful than Nazism in diffusing moral guilt. (p. 18). How about the fact that, owing to such things as pressures of western intellectuals, Communist crimes never were allowed to assume the same gravity as Nazi crimes in the first place?

By piotrbein