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A Fugitive Jew, Member of the Armia Krajowa (AK), and Participant in the Polish Warsaw Uprising (1944

Jan Peczkis|Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In beginning with his teenage years in pre-WWII Poland, Lando wrote: "I have not experienced anti-Semitism personally, but in Poland it was tangible." (p. 21). This is in reference to "occasional reports in the papers" of incidents. So Lando joins the ranks of those Polish Jews to whom anti-Semitism was something that happened to someone else, adding refutation to the premise that Polish anti-Semitism had been a constant and inevitable companion of Polish Jews



Unlike those who bad-mouthed the sanacja after the fact, the author had praises for the prewar Polish government in its attempt to avoid war. He commented: "Our leaders displayed remarkable sangfroid in the face of German pressure." (p. 23). But German aggression came anyway in 1939. In common with countless Polish and Jewish authors, Lando described an experience of the Luftwaffe, flying at treetop level, strafing columns of defenseless civilians. (p. 29).

German propaganda justified the compulsory ghettoization of Jews as a protection from Poles! (p. 71). Lando spent time in the Warsaw Ghetto, and estimated that the population density in it neared 200,000 per square mile. (p. 72). From November 1940 until July 1942, 80,000 of the 400,000 Jews died. Hans Frank, in his diary (August 24, 1941), wrote that 1.2 million Jews are to die by starvation, or anti-Jewish edicts will have to be intensified. (p. 75). The death camps followed, in 1942-on. As for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Lando estimates that 7,000 Jews died in direct combat, 5,000 were burned to death, and another 15,000 were sent to the gas chambers. (p. 13).

Owing to his largely non-Semitic appearance (p. 11)(whence the title of this book), Lando felt relatively safe to be out in the open. His travels across German-occupied Poland took him to Lodz, Krakow, Warsaw, etc. He was aided by a succession of Polish benefactors, and one Volksdeutsche, as well as the AK (A.K.), which provided him false identification papers. (p. 136). He added: "Generally speaking, the Volksdeutsche were feared and distrusted by the Polish population." (p. 97).

Ironic to the current emphasis upon Poles and Jews as "unequal victims", Lando's everyday experiences as a Jew and (fake) Pole were not all that different. He commented: "It was bad enough being a Jew always running the risk of exposure, but in addition I had to share the dangers faced by all Poles. Mass roundups, rare in the first years of the occupation, were constantly on the increase." (p. 171). Also: "With the German appetite for hostages growing insatiable, it was becoming increasingly dangerous to be out in the streets." (p. 183).

Lando devotes a chapter to his combat experience, as a member of the AK (p. 85), in the Warsaw Uprising. In common with many veterans, he described the telltale warning sound of the horrible German nebelwerfer, a six-barreled mortar rocket-launcher: "The sinister noise was like a mixture of a giant rusty clock being wound up, a heavy cupboard being dragged along a wooden floor, and a cow mournfully mooing. " (pp. 194-195). After about a minute of this "mooing", the "roaring cow" would disgorge six deadly explosive or incendiary rockets at 30-second intervals, each one getting closer to the intended target.

The agony of the Uprising continued, the Soviet betrayal became more and more obvious, and the outcome of the Uprising became foregone. Lando ended up in a POW camp at Lamsdorf (pp. 206-208) and was at first afraid that his circumcision would be noticed. But then he concluded that: "Our guards did not care if anyone was a Jew, nor did my companions." (p. 208).

Biographical details of Lando's relatives (and possibly close associates) are included in the book. For instance, Lando mentions Zenon Rychlik, a lawyer, who survived the war and became an officer in the Communist UB. (U. B., or Bezpieka).(p. 223).
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