Kielce Pogrom Revisited
Review of Reflections on the Kielce Pogrom, edited by Lukasz Kaminski and Jan Zaryn. 2006. IPN, Warsaw.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Much Novel Information, Alongside the Usual Simplistic “Bash Poles as Anti-Semites” Theme
This book is of variable quality: Hence the 3-star rating. Unfortunately, none of the authors attempt to come to grips with the manifold evidences of the Kielce Pogrom being a Soviet-staged event. However, Ryszard Smietanka-Kruszelnicki (p. 28) notes the difficulty of explaining why the disturbance was allowed to go on for hours, at a site in a major city, that was located proximate to, and with unimpeded access from, the headquarters of police and security forces.
Postwar Polish violence against Jews must be placed in the broader context of the lawlessness caused by the brutalities of Nazi and then Communist subjugation. For example, in the Province of Kielce alone, and that only between July 1945 and February 1946, 5 Jews were murdered along with 130 Poles. (Bozena Szaynok, p. 17).
JEWS AND COMMUNISM
The fact that the leadership of the Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government in Poland was very disproportionately Jewish is well known. [For a detailed discussion that documents many specific forms of Jewish-Soviet collaboration, along with contrary examples of Jews supporting Communist-persecuted Poles, see the historian Jan Zaryn, pp. 91-on.]
In addition, formal political Jewish support for Communism went far beyond membership in the Communist Party, or participation in the Communist establishment. For example, according to Shaynok (p. 11), among Zionist organizations alone, the Poalei Zion Right was socialist, while the Paolei Zion Left and the Hashomer Hatzair were Communist-oriented.
Poland’s Holocaust-surviving Jews not only supported Communism, but even did so in an overt, in-your-face manner to Poles. For instance, on May Day in Walbrzych, there was a massive manifestation of Jewish support for Communism. The marchers included members of the Bund, the SZOMRZY (Hashomer Hatzair) in uniform, and members of the Jewish Committee. They all had banners, in Polish and in Yiddish, saying “Long Live Stalin!” No Poles could be heard chanting pro-Communist slogans. (Shaynok, p. 25).
Neo-Stalinist authors such as Jan T. Gross would have us believe that the postwar Communist government in Poland was not particularly solicitous over the Jews, and that Poles and Jews were simply lumped together as “victims of fascism” and the like. Precisely the opposite was true. Szaynok (p. 19) presents several examples of how the Communist government curried favor with both Polish Jews and with what may be called “international Jewry”. While slandering the A. K. (Armia Krajowa), the Communist officials praised the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the Spring of 1945. These Stalinists equated the A. K. and N. S. Z. with Nazism (much as their neo-Stalinist imitators do today, albeit to a softer degree). Communist officials invited influential international Jewish organizations, such as the WJC (World Jewish Congress) to join the attack against General Wladyslaw Anders, and the president of one of the organizations reportedly demanded that General Anders be tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg. (p. 19). Jan Zaryn (p. 99) identifies the influential Jew, Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, the Chairman of the American Federation of Polish Jews, and later author of the anti-Polish propaganda piece, IN SEARCH OF A LOST PEOPLE, as one who tried to persuade Bierut to extradite the “anti-Semite” Wladyslaw Anders to be tried as a war criminal.
In conclusion, it is an undeniable fact that Jews were complicit, and disproportionately so, in the Communist subjugation of Poland. The time for this fact to be widely recognized is long overdue.
Throughout this book, there is a significant emphasis on the reaction (or failure thereof) of the Church towards the Kielce pogrom. A double standard existed. No such moral urgency was given to the Poles being tortured and murdered by Jewish Communists, and no parallel calls were made for influential Jews to condemn the Jewish involvement in the Soviet-sponsored apparatus.
KIELCE POGROM: INSUFFICIENT EXPLANATIONS
Bozena Shaynok bends over backwards to stereotype Poles as anti-Semites. In doing so, she misrepresents and dismisses scholars with whom she disagrees (pp. 129-on). For instance, she mischaracterizes historian Marek Chodakiewicz as one who denies or minimizes Polish anti-Semitism. He does not. He points out that anti-Semitism, by itself, is an insufficient explanation.
Shaynok’s very cursory and dismissive treatment of Umarly cmentarz: Wstep do studiow nad wyjasnieniem przyczyn i przebiegu morderstwa na Zydach w Kielcach dnia 4 lipca 1946 roku (Polish Edition) can be corrected by clicking on the item and reading the detailed English language Peczkis review. Her understanding of Pytania nad pogromem kieleckim (Polish Edition) is no better.
The insufficiency of anti-Semitism as an explanation is illustrated by the fact that Polish-Jewish prejudices went both ways. See the free, online book, TRADITIONAL JEWISH ATTITUDES TOWARDS POLES, by Mark Paul.
Nor does belief in some version of ritual murder, or blood libel, against some group, by itself, cause violence. For instance, Jews believed that Gypsies (Sinti and Roma) kidnap Jewish children for nefarious purposes. Click on Bialystok to Birkenau, read the Peczkis review, and then click on the embedded link in the Peczkis review for another such example.
Kielce Pogrom Staged: Jewish Author
Review of My Century, By Aleksander Wat. 1977. 1988. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Endek Nonhostility. Communist-Related Personages. Unfounded Anti-Semitism in Anders Army. Kielce Pogrom Staged
The author, a Communist, had a large number of opinions of various prominent individuals and nationalities. Since the reader is likely to be unfamiliar with many of the personages mentioned, a biographical glossary is provided in the back of the book.
Aleksander Wat was a nonobservant Jew. Wat’s father had been a Hasid and Cabalist [Kabbalist]. However, the father not inculcate this in his children. Wat’s siblings were atheists, and that created the environment in which Aleksander grew up in. (p. 95, 153, 293). Otherwise, the 1920’s-era children of religious Jews, as young as five or six, “begin memorizing whole pages not of the Bible but of the Talmud with all its casuistry.” (p. 68).
Interestingly, Wat, a Jew, did not experience unilateral hostility from Endeks. Far from it. In describing his life in Poland in the 1930’s, Wat reported that, (quote) And so personally I never felt any anti-Semitism on my own hide—but what does that prove? I had good relations with a great many NDs [National Democrats, or Endeks], old NDs. A few of them looked askance at me, but those were rather the young ones. (unquote)(p. 90).
Wat gives many details on his experiences while a deportee in the Soviet Union during WWII. He realizes that the Soviet authorities had balked at allowing Jews to join Anders’ Army. (p. 340). He also notes that the post-“amnesty” disparate treatment, by some Poles against Jews, did not necessarily owe to anti-Semitism. He describes his investigation of a Polish delegate, who allegedly had made anti-Semitic remarks, as follows, (quote) And the delegate said, ‘Yes, I did give the Jews less than the Poles, but not because they’re Jews’…He gave the Jews less, sometimes considerably less, because the Jews had come there mainly from settlements, and they were in quite bearable condition. Some even had some capital. This was confirmed. The Polish families, however, were mostly people who’d been in the camps or the widows of men who’d died in the camps…My conclusion was that the accusations of abuses and discrimination against Jews had not proved true. (unquote)(p. 342).
In an interview with Czeslaw Milosz, Aleksander Wat shared his suspicion that the Kielce Pogrom had been a Soviet provocation. Wat commented, (quote) He [Spychaj] was in charge of Kielce in 1946 when the pogrom took place there…On the basis of what I’ve heard from many quarters, the pogrom was launched—launched isn’t the word, more like provoked—by the Kielce security forces (there wasn’t a policeman in sight that day). Spychaj was in charge of these forces. It should be remembered that Spychaj had an older brother in the NKVD who hadn’t returned to Poland. This is all conjecture of course but the instructions must have come from the Soviets. In other words, the younger Spychaj was acting on orders…Spychaj was supposed to stand trial but was transferred instead. And sometime in 1956 or 1956 when Poland started letting the first Jews to emigrate to Israel, that same Spychaj was in charge of the security department that issued visas to the Jews. As an expert in such matters. (unquote)(p. xxviii).
Aleksander Wat came to see Communism and Nazism as having many similar gestalts. (p. 83). He also noted the irony of Communism relying on many of the same scapegoats (e. g, “enemies of the people”) once used against Jews. (p. 201).
New Jan T. Gross-edited anti-Polish Book
Review of The Holocaust in Occupied Poland: New Findings and New Interpretations, edited by Jan T. Gross. 2012. Peter Lang. Frankfurt, Berlin
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Nothing New. Dubious Sources and Scholarship. Not Objective
The reader, having seen the catchy title, and expecting something novel (as I initially did), will not find it. It hardly presents new findings and certainly no new interpretations. It is the same-old, same-old, written by the same small circle of mostly-Judeocentric authors. For instance, Jan Grabowski is honored with the Oppenheim Chair at Yad Vashem in Israel. (p. 127).
Scholars with differing viewpoints are systematically ignored, and their works are not even mentioned in the bibliographies. This is notably true of historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. See, for example, the Peczkis review of: Golden Harvest or Hearts of Gold?: Studies on the Wartime Fate of Poles and Jews.
This work presents a stilted view of Poles who cooperated with the Germans in the apprehension of fugitive Jews. For a much more detailed–and decidedly more objective–work on this subject, see the free online book by Mark Paul, titled: PATTERNS OF COOPERATION, COLLABORATION, AND BETRAYAL.
A prominent theme of this book is acquisition of Jewish property as a major motivator in Polish denunciations of fugitive Jews. The drift is unambiguous. The perceptive reader may well ask if the Holocaust Industry, and its massive extortion of “reparations” money from Poland, are not far behind.
Most of the articles in this book are based on the trials of Poles at the hands of the immediate-postwar Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government. This deprives them of credibility. Even though the trials themselves were generally not Stalinist show trials, they nevertheless took place in an atmosphere of rampant Communist terror. Thousands of Poles were being arbitrarily arrested, incarcerated, or murdered at the time. All opposition to the Communist authorities had been outlawed. People (not only anti-Communists) were framed. Accusations of Nazi collaboration were a standard Communist technique for slandering and destroying Polish freedom-fighting organizations, such as the A. K. (Armija Krajowa) and the N. S. Z. (Narodowe Sily Zbrojne), and for intimidating the population in general. How could fair trials possibly exist under such circumstances?
Only a few of the authors allude to the dubious evidentiary value of the court records of the early-postwar Communist trials. Krzysztof Persak acknowledges that the Communist police (U. B., or Bezpieka) used brutal interrogation techniques, and that defendants’ complaints that they had been forced to testify after a beating cannot be ruled out. (p. 40). Andrzej Zbikowski notes that admission of guilt was indeed forced by the investigators “in a certain percentage of cases”. (p. 177). Alina Skibinska discusses a few of the many irregularities during the trials. (pp. 92-93). The defendants, in practice, were not in a position to remain silent. (p. 93). Usually, the defendants were the only eyewitnesses to the accused murders of Jews. (p. 109). This, of course, facilitated their lying against each other. However, the authors largely ignore or rationalize away the credibility-killing implications of all these facts.
The authors of this volume tend to avoid in-depth research, especially if it were to lead away from the dialectic blame-the-Pole, Jew-as-victim mindset. For instance, Jan Grabowski fails to analyze legitimate reasons for killing Jews as he describes the alleged, well-planned A. K. killing of a handful of Jews hiding in Redziny-Borek (Miechow District, Krakow area). After WWII, Boleslaw Krzyszkiewicz “Reginski” was charged with the crime, and imprisoned. He had pointed to the order coming from his superiors, and this was related to Jews robbing the people. (p. 121). Not surprisingly, Grabowski does not explore the frequent Jewish banditry against Poles (in part on their own, and as part of the “revolutionary banditry” of Communist GL-AL bands)–a banditry candidly discussed in many Jewish memoirs.
To be fair, some authors do briefly examine alternatives, but let us stress the word briefly. Thus, for instance, Barbara Engelking recognizes that Polish fear of draconian German reprisals, directed against whole villages, was valid, and a real factor in Polish denunciations of fugitive Jews. (p. 70, 114). Andrzej Zbikowski accepts the fact that the severe German impoverishing of Poles, especially after the Fall of 1942, and backed up with terror and the isolation of larger cities during harvest times, tended to drive Poles to obtain Jewish belongings and to rob Jews. (p. 175).
A rare piece of wisdom is provided by Omer Bartov, who warns that, “There is no reason to believe that official contemporary documents written by Gestapo, SS, Wehrmacht, or German administrative officials are any more accurate or objective, or any less subjective and biased, than accounts given by those they were trying to kill.” (pp. 132-133).
To the extent that the Communist court-case based findings are valid, the authors fail to put them into proper numerical perspective. Thus, for instance, the 92 Kielce-area defendants came from a relatively large base of population from five named counties and several adjoining villages. (Alina Skibinska, p. 87). In one of the villages in which Poles allegedly denounced Jews, the Poles doing this could be counted on the fingers of one hand with fingers to spare. Pointedly, the entire village had earlier known about the Jews being hidden, yet no one had betrayed them. (Skibinska, p. 105, 109). All of the foregoing are consistent with the unmentioned fact that Polish denouncers of Jews were very uncommon–some fraction of 1% of the Polish population. Even the cases of Polish Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA) denouncing fugitive Jews, mentioned a number of times in this volume, must be put in context of the fact that there were already 9,600 Blue Police, along with 1,173 criminal police, in the GG, by March 1940. (Zbikowski, p. 166).
Some of the authors repeat the nonsensical mantra about Poles, in the past, having been too preoccupied with their heroic narrative of resistance to the Nazis (or Poland as the Jesus Christ of Nations). Fact is, Polish sources, including the most nationalistic ones, have always discussed Polish collaborators. Such rotten apples can be found in any nationality and in every war. This, too, is nothing new.
Joanna Takarska-Bakir (pp. 205-on) quotes a selection of remarks, allegedly made by Polish onlookers, during the Rzeszow and Kielce Pogroms. In addition to the remarks alluding to the strong Jewish overinvolvement in the new Communist puppet government, some of them accuse Jews of engaging in ritual murder. From this, Takarska-Bakir would have the reader believe that this proves that Poles at the time still widely believed in the blood libel, and that this motivated the pogroms. Her non sequitur ignores the fact that, during intense ethnically or racially charged conflicts, participants commonly make standard racist statements, as an expression of their anger, that they do not actually believe.
While describing a discussion on Polish-Jewish matters, Benjamin Frommer cites Antony Polonsky in downplaying the role of Jews in the Soviet NKVD. (pp. 234-235). The “purge” of Jews before 1940 had been far from complete and, regardless of the degree of direct Jewish complicity in the Katyn murders of Polish officers, this subject deserves objective attention. See the Peczkis review of: The Jewish Century.