The Holocaust and Polish-Jewish Relations: Selected Issues
By Martyna Gradzka-Rejak and Adam Sitarek (eds.),
Reviewed by Jan Peczkis
The media-touted Jan Grabowski has gone around presenting his voodoo numbers of 250,000 Jews that purportedly fled the German-made ghettos, and of which some 200,000 were allegedly denounced or killed by Poles. Grzegorz Berendt (p. 25) points out that the actual numbers cannot even approximately be known.
A second fallacy in Grabowski’s narrative is the one wherein that the imaginary 250,000 Jewish fugitives, once outside the ghettos of the German-controlled urban areas, had placed themselves essentially out of reach of the Germans, and were totally at the mercy of the Poles. This is doubly nonsensical. This blockbuster book discusses the unappreciated German gendarmes, which usually had posts in Polish rural areas. It is these German gendarmes, and not the Poles, that killed a large fraction (perhaps majority) of the ghetto-evading fugitive Jews!
CHARACTERISTICS AND DEPLOYMENT OF THE GERMAN GENDARMES
Sebastian Piatkowski writes, “There is also no analytical study devoted to the participation of members of individual formations in the process of extermination of the Jewish population. This situation concerns, among others, the German military police (Gendarmerie), which had a network of permanent posts in the entire GG area, located in towns and larger villages…They have written a tragic chapter, as perpetrators of extermination activities directed at the Poles, Jews, Romanys [Romani], and Soviet POWs.” (p. 147). He adds that, “There were 38 permanent Gendarmerie posts in the Radom District during the German occupation.” (p. 148). In addition, “Each Gendarmerie post was usually manned by 8-12 men. The positions of commanders and their deputies were usually held by Germans from the Reich. Their subordinates included many gendarmes who had lived in the Polish Republic before the war…and have then signed the Deutsche Volksliste (‘German nationality list’) following the German invasion.” (p. 149). In other words, the lower ranks were mainly Polish-speaking Germans (Volksdeutsche).
THE GERMAN GENDARMES WERE EAGER JEW KILLERS
Piatkowski continues, “Their attachment to Nazi ideology, their contempt for everything non-German, and their tendency to show off to impress their superiors at Radom, were often combined with negative personal qualities: brutality, contempt for human life, and a tendency to abuse alcohol. All this made the Gendarmerie (and especially the post commanders and their deputies) the ‘masters of life and death’ in their subordinate territories.” (p. 151).
The Polish role in the hunt for the Jews, apart from the fact that Poles had no choice, was marginal. Piatkowski states, “Beginning in the autumn of 1942, the Gendarmerie opened another chapter in the history of the extermination of the Jewish population of the Radom District. They were the principal executioners of the Jews caught in forest hideouts, arrested during patrolling of villages and roads, or brought to the posts by the Poles. Their killings continued ceaselessly, albeit at varying intensity, until the end of 1944. Poles often became witnesses to the execution of ghetto escapers.” (pp. 156-157).
Piatkowski concludes, “Although most of the murders committed by gendarmes on ghetto escapers were not recorded in documents, surviving evidence indicates that the number of killings was significant…As already mentioned, numerous escapers from ghettos were also murdered in cemeteries, woods, and other places.” (p. 160).
THE POLISH BLUE POLICE (POLICJA GRANATOWA) WAS TIGHTLY CONTROLLED BY THE GERMAN GENDARMES
Piatkowski comments, “In the Radom District the Gendarmerie structure was based on platoons stationed in county (powiat) towns…This formation had strict control over the Polish ‘navy blue’ police, based on a network of posts located in most communities (gmina) and in several so-called mobile posts, whose members regularly visited trade fairs to combat illicit trafficking.” (p. 148).
With reference to Markowa, Mateusz Szpytma writes, “The German Gendarmerie, who arrived every few days, ensured that the orders were executed precisely. The gendarmes monitored the conduct of the ‘navy blue’ police, as well as the execution of the occupation forces’ orders by the village headman and his subordinates, that is the area leaders, the guardsmen and the hostages.” (pp. 210-211).
The Germans even took hostages to enforce compliance. Szpytma comments, “The Germans realized that a part of the population may carry out some of the regulations with reluctance or only pretend to do so. To terrorize the population and force the observance of the occupant’s legislation, they additionally applied a specified personalized collective responsibility. They named groups of hostages who would guarantee with their lives the complete execution of the authorities’ orders. The hostages among the villagers were designated by the ‘navy blue’ policemen or by the village headman.” (p. 206).
This can be extended. Martyna Gradzka-Rejak relates that, “The story of denouncing the Jews from Wzdol also shows a picture of the war in the countryside: ubiquitous fear, continuous intimidation, mutual control, and constant presence of the Germans. German police picked hostages from among the local population…” (p. 78).
GERMANS REGULARLY USED POLES IN MANHUNTS AGAINST OTHER POLES, AND NOT ONLY POLES IN MANHUNTS AGAINST JEWS
The Germans forced an astonishing number of Poles to participate in manhunts against other Poles. Mateusz Szpytma writes, “During the German occupation at least 1/4th of the total Polish rural population was forced to take part in raids against themselves.” (p. 208). So much for the myth of the Poles and the hunt for the Jews (JUDENJAGD).
Marcin Urynowicz states that, “One of the most tragic and most shocking cases of mass help is the story of the Lodej family, connected with a partisan group, hiding in a forest…As a result of the manhunt conducted by the German gendarmerie, most of the hiding people were killed. One of the captured persons was forced by the Nazis to indicate other hiding places and the Lodej family.” (p. 313).
MADE-UP MASS KILLINGS OF FUGITIVE JEWS BY POLES: TRANSFORMING GERMAN CRIMES INTO POLISH CRIMES
Mateusz Szpytma examines the crimes against the Jews at Markowa, debunking some of Grabowski’s accusations. He comments, “Inaccurate or misleading details are also found in some Jewish accounts. In one of them, Yehuda Erlich who was hiding in Sietesz wrote that on the day of the crime against the Ulma family, ‘bodies of 24 Jews murdered by Polish peasants were found in the fields’. No sources other than this account mention Jewish bodies found in the fields, but at the orders of the Germans some inhabitants of Sietesz captured about a dozen in a manhunt during 1942. In my opinion, the manhunt or the search for Jews at Markowa in December 1942 and the murder of the Ulmas in 1944 have blended into one in his memory (especially so as he had heard about these, but had not witnessed them.)” (p. 221; Emphasis added).
Szpytma also describes how a German murder of 34 Jews got twisted into “200 Jews murdered by Poles”. He comments, “The low credibility of the information is also suggested by the fact that it also includes a passage about a mass grave at Markowa, which holds ‘bodies of up to 200 Jews from all over the area, who were shot by Poles throughout the time’. In fact, as mentioned above, the bodies of 34 Jews shot by the Germans were placed there.” (p. 222).
THE BOGUS COMMUNIST TRIALS OF ACCUSED POLISH BLUE POLICE (POLICJA GRANATOWA)
Some (e. g, Andrew Kornbluth) have naively accepted the August Trials at face value. They should not be. For instance, Tomasz Domanski cautions that, “Some investigations carried out by the UB [Bezpieka] officers had little in common with justice. It was common to torture the accused policemen to force them to admit to the alleged crimes. This is testified, for example, by…Witnesses were also forced to make statements with added phrases they had not said, or even prompted to sign ready-made reports. There are many such examples.” (p. 92).
THE JUDEOCENTRISM OF HOLOCAUST SCHOLARSHIP DISREGARDS POLISH SUFFERING, EVEN FOR JUST UNDERSTANDING THE JEWISH SITUATION
The following pointed statement is made by Marcin Urynowicz, “The historiography of the Holocaust does not give much importance to the situation of the Polish population, treating it as irrelevant to the situation of the exterminated Jewish population. And yet, factors that affected the Poles are of great importance in my opinion, not only to understand the situation of Jews who tried to survive on the ‘Aryan’ side, but also for the whole of Holocaust research.” (pp. 332-333).
LOOKING BEYOND GROUP IDENTITIES: POLES AND JEWS WERE EQUAL VICTIMS
All we hear is that 90% of Poland’s Jews perished against “only” 10% of Polish gentiles. There is much more to victimization than that. Marcin Urynowicz comments, “I am inclined to assume that in this respect the Polish population was little different from the Jewish one. I wish to say that, although by German decisions the Polish and Jewish fates and the respective degree of threat of losing one’s life or the chances of surviving the war were completely different, there is no doubt that the intimidation and terrorization of both groups were similar.” (pp. 335-336).
POLISH COLLABORATORS WERE MOTIVATED BY FEAR, NOT ANTISEMITISM OR SYMPATHY WITH NAZI OBJECTIVES
Marcin Urynowicz writes, “According to the findings of Jozef Bratko, who studied this issue for Cracow, the informers can be divided into three basic groups. The first and most numerous were those who, when arrested by the Germans, feared being sent to a camp or punished with death and agreed to collaborate or even offered collaboration themselves. The second group included people recruited under pressure and coercion, but also some from the group of arrested ones who were offered freedom in return for certain services. The third, least numerous group included those who, without being arrested, offered their willingness to collaborate.” (p. 337).
Jews and Poles Equal Victims. Collaborators Not Needed for Nazis to Find Jews: German Gendarmes, Not Villagers, Mainly Hunted for Jews. Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA) Forced. Fugitive Jews Betrayed Polish Rescuers. Polish Collaboration Fear-Driven. Jew-Killer Communist Trials a Sham. IPN. Gradzka-Rejak