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Devil's Luck: A Tale of Resistance in Wartime Warsaw,;The ARMIA KRAJOWA, Kedyw Actions, A. K. Ethics, Warsaw Uprising, anti-Semitism

jan peczkis|Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Stanislaw Aronson ("Staszek", nom de guerre "Rysiek"), was an openly Jewish member of the ARMIA KRAJOWA (A. K.), specifically in the elite Kedyw unit. He was the colleague of a fellow Jewish member in the Warsaw Kedyw--Stanislaw Likiernik. Please click on By Devil's Luck: A Tale of Resistance in Wartime Warsaw, and read the detailed Peczkis review.



"Staszek's" grandparents knew both Yiddish and Polish, but he knew only Polish. He grew up fully assimilated to Polish culture (p. 29), and his observance of Jewish customs was occasional. (p. 35). Aronson was always nonreligious and an unbeliever, and considered himself a Pole of the Jewish persuasion. Only later, in Israel, did he think of Jews as a nationality. (p. 25). "Staszek" did not go to a Jewish school. He went to one that was 60% Jewish and 40% Polish. He came to identify with the Pilsudski-style Polish patriotism. (p. 37).

During WWII, "Staszek" and his family fled to eastern Poland, which fell under Soviet occupation. The author speaks of a rush for permission for Jews to return to the German-occupied General Government, notably in May and June 1940, and "Staszek" describes the Soviet ruse of promising such Jews transport there, and instead deporting them to Siberia. [pp. 53-54]. [Historian Jerzy Robert Nowak wrote of this also. The willingness of Jews to relocate to Nazi-held territory vitiates the "mortal fear of Nazis" exculpation for some Jews collaborating earlier with the Soviets.]

In time, "Staszek" was in the Warsaw Ghetto, and he escaped the deportation to death at Treblinka. He joined the Polish Underground. As a member of Kedyw, he was involved in operations that included sabotage (pp. 75-on), the blowing up of a German train (p. 98), etc. His unit also liquidated collaborators and participated in the Warsaw Uprising (both elaborated below). He fled Warsaw disguised as a civilian, and later left Communist-ruled Poland for Palestine (eventually Israel). Decades later, he repeatedly revisited Poland.

Some special topics:

THE "ALL POLISH GUERRILLA MOVEMENTS WERE BANDITS" MYTH

The Communist GL-AL bands are well known for its wanton murders and banditry. There are those who argue, in an obvious attempt to whitewash the GL-AL, that "They were pretty much the same" (whether GL-AL, OUN-UPA, A. K., or NSZ), and "They were all bands" in terms of onerous conduct. This is false. The authors note, for example, the high standards expected in the A. K. They comment, "Special rules govern wartime, but Staszek's commanders, Rybicki and Zajdler...placed such an emphasis on the moral aspects of clandestine warfare, stressing the difference between murder and liquidation on the orders of a court, or between banditry and the confiscation of means for the Underground struggle. (unquote). (pp. 105-106). One Kedyw member, CYGAN, a close friend of Staszek, was executed by the A. K. for banditry. (p. 106).

LIQUIDATING COLLABORATORS: UNAPPRECIATED SEVERE CHALLENGES

"Rysiek" summarizes the anti-collaborationist activities of the Kedyw. He writes, (quote) The life we led was intense in terms of morals, psychology, and nerves. We carried out more than 60 combat operations in the last 15 months before the Uprising. Many of them were liquidations, and I'd prefer not to talk about them. Every operation involved preparation and reconnaissance of the target and the surroundings. It was risky, it took a lot of time, and it didn't leave us much time for rest. The losses were incredible. We lost about 45 percent of our unit's total strength in clandestine operations. (unquote). (p. 93).

Other factors came into play. It took some time for the Polish Underground court to evaluate the accusation against someone accused of Nazi collaboration. (p. 109). The one accusing someone of serving the Germans could be a German agent himself. (p. 103). It was very difficult to stalk a suspected collaborator without being noticed doing so (p. 99), and the Germans could apprehend Kedyw men waiting around for the target of an execution to appear at the scene. (p. 100). For the sake of safety and effectiveness, a failed assassination attempt should not be followed by a repeat attempt for some time. (p. 99). Collaborators sometimes worked in groups, and the successful execution of one collaborator endangered the executioners to denunciation to the Germans by a surviving collaborator. (p. 104). Finally, there was the ever-present danger of making a tragic mistake. Even decades after the war, there were accusations of innocent Poles falsely accused, and executed, for collaboration with the Germans. (p. 101).

Let us consider some implications of all this. The Polish Underground is often accused of "not doing enough" to eliminate Poles who denounced fugitive Jews. Although the authors do not discuss this, it is obvious that this contention is misplaced. Identifying and liquidating Poles who collaborated with the Germans was a very difficult and dangerous task.

Jews were not the only targets of extortionists, and the Kedyw targeted extortionists of various kinds. Aronson (p. 103) discusses the liquidation of a POLICJA GRANATOWA official who blackmailed Jews for money, as well as the liquidation of a Polish couple that allegedly took money from Poles over false promises of being able to free relatives from the Gestapo.

1944 WARSAW UPRISING

Aronson describes his combat actions in the Warsaw Uprising. However, he seems to show emotion as he evaluates the Warsaw Uprising as a needless tragedy that had no chance of success, and even as an event that should not be commemorated. (pp. 119-120). This seems to partake of blame-the-victim thinking. The criticism and anger should be directed at Soviet perfidy--a shameless perfidy that ordered the Red Army to halt on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw, and to do so for months. It should also be directed at the perfidy of Churchill and Roosevelt, who had already under-handedly betrayed Poland to Soviet intrigues at Teheran, and would do so again at Yalta.

POLISH-JEWISH RELATIONS, AS IN THE A. K.

Consider Polish anti-Semitism. "Staszek" recalls two shops in Zakopane with "Buy from your own" signs, but did not sense anti-Semitism among the highlanders, and neither apparently did his parents. (p. 40). He marginalizes violence against Jews as not daily occurrences. (p. 37).

Aronson then describes his experiences in the A. K., alluding to Rybicki, his commander (quote) In our detachment, or in our group or under Sosabowski, there was never even the slightest manifestation of anti-Semitism. I have the impression that Rybicki would not have stood for it. After all, he was the one who gave Stanislaw Likiernik the pseudonym "Machabeusz", the Polish word for Maccabi. Still, it is possible that our unit was an island unto itself, in a not particularly favorable sea. (unquote). (p. 85). He also points out that his 1994 letter to GAZETA WYBORCZA, about the dubious validity of Cichy's accusation of the A. K. killing Jews during the Warsaw Uprising, does not mean that he is suggesting that such incidents never occurred. (pp. 288-289).

POLES AND JEWS: RECIPROCITY OF PREJUDICES

Prejudices go both ways. Aronson is candid about how mainstream (and not only extremist) Israeli Jews egregiously misrepresent Poles. He writes, (quote) A significant part of the public in Israel was not even aware that Poland had fought on the Allied side during the war, that there was a resistance movement, or that Poles fought against the Germans. All they knew was that Poland meant the death camp, that the Poles were partners with the Germans in the Holocaust, and that they collaborated in the German war effort. (unquote). (p. 284).
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