I am writing in response to the article entitled “In Warsaw, elderly Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust have a free taxi service” by Cnaan Liphshiz that was published on 4 February. There are some deficiencies in the article, which I address below.
“But another part of it, according to some critics, owes to a preference by many citizens and the country’s current government to highlight the heroism of the non-Jews and downplay the prevalence of Poles who collaborated with the Nazis and betrayed their Jewish neighbors.”
Contrary to Mr. Liphshiz’s implication of misconduct, there is nothing wrong and everything right with presenting historically factual acts of heroism that were brutally suppressed by the communist regime. For Mr. Liphshiz’s information, these brave acts, i.e., fighting the Germans as well as rescuing Polish Jews, were done by Poles, not “non-Jews”, and were always done risking certain death.
As for “the prevalence of Poles who collaborated with the Nazis and betrayed their Jewish neighbors”, Mr. Liphshiz parrots a popular bogus meme among uninformed Jewish media writers. Polish officials have publicly and repeatedly acknowledged that some individuals denounced fugitive Jews to the Germans. Contrary to Mr. Liphshiz’s claim, such public acknowledgements do not “downplay” historical fact. As for “downplaying” uncomfortable historical facts, Mr. Liphshiz needs to ask why Israeli and Jewish officials, in contrast to Polish officials, are loath to publicly acknowledge Jewish collaboration with the Germans and Soviets.
Mr. Liphshiz would do well to read the history and examine Jewish collaboration with the Germans, which resulted in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of his co-religionists. Immediately following Hitler’s attack on Poland, Jewish leaders ceased all forms of contact with Polish government officials and negotiated the conditions of collaboration on the administration and operation of the ghettos, which is detailed in Emmanuel Ringelblum’s “Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto”. Jewish authorities actively followed the Germans’ commands to gather up Jews from small towns and villages and concentrate them in larger urban areas. Once confined in the urban ghettos, Jewish authorities followed the Germans’ commands to keep Jews convinced that they are being deported to work in German-designated areas in the East. Jewish authorities then followed the Germans’ commands by forcibly rounding up ghetto Jews and loading them onto the trains destined for the death camps.
“His remark was in defense of a controversial law passed that year which outlawed accusing the Polish nation of complicity in Nazi crimes, even though historians agree that many thousands of Poles killed Jews during or shortly after the Holocaust.”
As is typical of Jewish media writers, reporting on the Polish anti-defamation law is invariably distorted. There are two components to the law. The first component made it a crime (now a civil offense) to state publicly that the Polish Nation or State, i.e. the Polish government-in-exile and the Polish Underground, was responsible or co-responsible for the crimes against humanity committed by the German Third Reich. The second component exempts academic research and artistic activities. Academic research that reports the actions of individuals is not an offence. Mr. Liphshiz has not sufficiently researched this subject.
As for Mr. Liphshiz’s claim that “historians agree that many thousands of Poles killed Jews during or shortly after the Holocaust”, he unsurprisingly parrots another bogus meme popular among Jewish media writers and, like his colleagues, avoids naming even one such historian. And of course, no mention is made of the many hundreds of thousands of Jews delivered by the Judenräte and Ordnungsdienst Police to the Germans for transport to the death camps. As Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg has correctly asked, why didn’t they resist and make the Germans do their own dirty work? This is clearly a topic worth examining by Mr. Liphshiz.
Gene Sokolowski, PhD
I don’t know how Dr. Sokolowski conveyed his feedback to the JTA, given that there are no comments allowed in the article nor is there a “Letters to the Editor” feature. However, I’d like to add something to his “Once confined in the urban ghettos, Jewish authorities followed the Germans’ commands to keep Jews convinced that they are being deported to work in German-designated areas in the East. ”
My mother, half-Jewish, thought she escaped the German dragnet by moving to Lwow, where her Polish half of the family lived. Long story but she got arrested, spent 2 weeks, tortured, in a Gestapo cell, and then was dropped off at a platform at the Lwow train station. There was a large group of Jews from the Lwow ghetto there, plus a few others, beaten to a pulp, whom the Germans probably considered particular enemies. SS soldiers were all around them. The assembled were following orders to take off their outer garment and proceed in their underclothes to a waiting cattle train.
The train’s destination was Belzec –merely the single worst death factory in the entire Nazi system, but described to the assembled as a work camp where they’d be washed & issued new clothing. No one yet knew what Belzec was, but the Polish crew of the train had made that trip before, and they suspected. They were leaning from the locomotive, my mother relayed, and shouting several times loudly enough to be heard: “People, don’t get on that train; they will kill you in Belzec.”
My mother believed them, the rest of her people-crammed car did not. She tried to convince a Jewish lawyer she recognized to jump with her from the train, but he refused, predicting that she would be killed while attempting to flee, and he would survive in the German work camp.
My mother jumped from the rolling train — again, a long story– and survived even though SS guards were shooting at her. It’s a virtual certainty that everyone else on that train was murdered in Belzec within a few hours from arrival.