Poles,Jews and holocaust;A History of American Jewish Polonophobia Through the 1980'sTuesday, November 22, 2016
Although this book was written almost 20 years ago, it retains its significance. Its author was one of the last surviving leaders of the Polish Underground state under German Nazi occupation, and was honored at Yad Vashem for his aid to Jews (p. 104). He not only gives a firsthand account of Polish-Jewish relations during WWII, but also traces many mischaracterizations of this history in the American press through 1989. The informed reader can also appreciate how little has changed since then.
Poles have at times been unfairly blamed for segregating Jews into ghettos. In actuality, before WWII, most Jews chose to live apart from Poles. Nor does this self-segregation necessarily imply discrimination by the majority. Korbonski cites the Zionist Jabotinsky (Jabotinski), who compared the self-segregation of Polish Jews to that of Europeans living in Shanghai, China (p. 8).
Before WWII, the National Democrats (the nationalists, Endeks, or Endecks) believed that Poland's Jews were an inimical factor in Polish life owing to the non-assimilated state of most of them, along with their dominance of the economy. But whether or not in agreement with them, one has to recognize that the Endeks or Endecks, contrary to common portrayals, didn't represent the majority of Polish opinion. Korbonski estimates that less than 20% of the Polish population supported them (p. 19).
After WWII, a very disproportionate share of the Communist government forced on Poland was Jewish. In time, many of these Jews emigrated to the US and misrepresented themselves as victims: "The ten years of Jewish rule in Poland could not be easily forgotten. It was an era of the midnight knock at the door, arbitrary arrests, torture, and sometimes secret execution. Most of those responsible for that reign of terror left Poland and upon arrival in the West represented themselves as victims of Communism and anti-Semitism--a claim which was readily believed in the West and earned them the full support of their hosts." (p. 86).
Going further, Korbonski attributes the 1968 purge of Jews from the Polish Communist Party to a Soviet reaction to the Israeli victory in the June 1967 war and to popular Polish support for the Jewish side at the time (p. 85). Polish cardinal Stefan Wyszynski offered a prayer for Israel on June 5, 1967 (p. 92). Among leading Polish émigrés, General Wladyslaw Anders sent a letter of congratulations to Israeli General Moshe Dayan for his brilliant victory, to which Dayan responded favorably (p. 92).
Many recurrent Polonophobic themes, which first started emanating from certain sectors of the American Jewish population decades ago, are addressed and refuted by Korbonski. These include accusations of Polish collaboration with the Germans in the extermination of Poland's Jews, universal Polish indifference to Jews, etc. Again, how disappointingly little has changed since then!
Korbonski shows that there was much more Polish aid to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising than commonly believed (and infinitely more than shown in Holocaust films!). The Polish Underground not only supplied scarce firearms to the Jewish fighters, but also fought alongside them (p. 59). There were also two unsuccessful attempts by the Polish Underground to blow holes in the walls surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto, both of which ended in the deaths of the attacking Poles. The Polish Underground was responsible for evacuating the Jewish combatants through a tunnel after the fall of the Uprising. One may also be surprised to learn that Mordecai Anieliewicz did not have to commit suicide: An open escape route still existed.
In full candor, Korbonski discusses the rare cases where Poles killed fugitive Jews, and even killed two Jewish commanders in the AK. The perpetrators were a tiny extremist faction within the NSZ (p. 66). More recent evidence suggests that the perpetrators were not the NSZ, and that many fugitive Jews were killed by bandits, some of whom had earlier been recruited by Communist bands (the AL and GL).
Already since the 1960's, Korbonski had been writing letters to newspapers and magazines protesting the use of misleading terms such as "Polish death camps", "Polish gas chambers", etc. Again, how little has changed since then! Korbonski also answered the anti-Polish attacks of Abraham Brumberg (pp. 93-96), Elie Wiesel (p. 117), and others.
Korbonski elaborates on the 1985 anti-Polish film SHOAH, by Claude Lanzmann. Lanzmann used only 9.5 hours out of 350 (p. 115), choosing the scenes that fit his transparent anti-Polish agenda. Following this film, there was a formal Polish-Jewish dialogue (p. 118-on). It seems that little of lasting value was accomplished by it.
Decades ago, arch-Polonophobe Jan Tomasz Gross (Jan T. Gross) had already been writing mendacious attacks on Poland. In his book, THE POLISH SOCIETY UNDER GERMAN OCCUPATION, Jan T. Gross made sweeping accusations of the Polish Home Army (AK) being anti-Semitic (what else?), to which Korbonski retorted: "Yet he knew very well that many Jews fought in the ranks of the Home Army, including several officers at its headquarters." Stefan Korbonski responded to that unfounded accusation in his review of Gross' book in the ZESZYTY HISTORYCZNE publication. (p. 93). The informed reader can also appreciate how little has changed since then, as seen in the media's recent lionization of Jan Tomasz Gross and his scurrilous attacks on Poland, as exemplified in his NEIGHBORS and FEAR.
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