Fighting the phrase “Polish death camps” with education, not censorship

child survivors of Auschwitz

While it is completely understandable that Poland wants to stamp out the misleading and offensive phrase ‘Polish death camps’, this should be done through education, not by threatening prison sentences for those who use the term, as the government has proposed. Even more worryingly, the new draft law on this issue – combined with a threat to withdraw a state honour from historian Jan Gross – has the potential to be just the opening salvo in a far broader attempt to impose the ruling party’s historical vision, potentially impinging on academic freedom, argues Daniel Tilles, a British historian based in Kraków.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has long  made clear that it wishes the country to pursue – in the words of President Andrzej Duda earlier this week – an ‘aggressive historical policy’, with the dual aim of fostering a greater sense of patriotic pride at home while enhancing the country’s image abroad.

As an historian, I am inherently suspicious of such policies, clinging on to the naive hope that history can be treated as an academic subject rather than an ideological tool. This means accepting that the facts revealed by historical research can induce shame as well as pride, and acknowledging that there will always be a variety of interpretations of the past, rather than a singular, simplistic narrative.

Yet I also understand that in most countries, history – particularly through its teaching in schools and its presentation in popular media – is used as a means of shaping societies and the citizens that populate them. Britain’s current government has certainly pursued such an approach since coming to power in 2010; and the ‘history wars’ between Japan, South Korea and China show how such policies have the potential to significantly impact upon domestic politics and international relations.

Gross: ‘A Traitor to His Homeland’

Jan Gross - Neighbors book cover
Gross’ claims in the book Neighbours aroused controversy in Poland, prompting an official investigation by the Institute for National Remembrance

However, where a line has to be drawn is when governments threaten to infringe upon the freedom of academic historians. And this appears to be the direction in which Poland’s government is heading, following two announcements made over the last week. Either one on its own would be worrying enough, but taken together they raise the spectre of concerted government interference in historical research.

First, it emerged that President Andrzej Duda has asked the Foreign Ministry to explore the possibility of stripping historian Jan Gross of the Order of Merit he was awarded by Poland 20 years ago. Gross, of course, is a controversial figure. His work on Polish antisemitism and its tragic consequences during and after WW2 has won acclaim for bringing little-known episodes to greater attention, but also acute criticism from many Poles, who feel that Gross offers a one-sided, distorted view of events, casting Poland in an unjustly negative light.

Duda’s move will therefore be welcomed by PiS’ conservative base. One party MP declared with evident delight that ‘such a gesture would show… that Gross is the enemy of Poland’, a ‘traitor to his homeland’. Yet it has provoked condemnation from the academic community, both Polish and foreign. Agata Bielik-Robson, professor of Jewish Studies at Nottingham University, points out that a ‘democracy has to have a voice of inner criticism, speaking in the name of minorities and different interests’. She fears that PiS ‘want to eliminate [such] voices, to produce a uniform historical perspective. The trend is deeply worrying.’

Five Years in Prison for ‘Polish Death Camps’

German Death Camps posterThe second development is the publication by the Justice Ministry of a draft law stipulating penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment for anyone who ‘publicly and contrary to the facts associates the Polish Republic or Polish nation with participation in, organisation of, or co-responsibility for the crimes of the Third Reich’. The measure is aimed in particular at stamping out use of the phrase ‘Polish death camps’ to describe the institutions that were established and run by the Nazis in German-occupied Poland during World War Two.

In itself, this is a worthy cause: suggesting that Poles were responsible for the camps is both false and deeply offensive, given that they were, after Jews, the primary victims of the camps. There has in recent years been a very active and high-profile campaign to prevent use of the phrase in international media. This has been enormously successful: newspapers have changed their style guides; respectable publications rarely use the term; if one searches Google for ‘Polish death camps’, virtually all the results relate to the campaign against the phrase rather than genuine instances of its use.

This success, however, is precisely why the new law is so unnecessary: use of the offending term – which mostly stems from ignorance or carelessness rather than any malicious intent – is best fought by education and publicity, not criminalisation. Threatening offenders with imprisoned is to wield a sledgehammer when a scalpel is required. (For the record, I am equally opposed to laws that criminalise Holocaust denial: if someone says or writes something that is false, the best response is to demonstrate that they are wrong, rather than make them into a martyr and draw attention to their idea by putting them on trial.)

Academic Freedom Under Threat?

However, while the ‘Polish death camps’ issue has attracted all the headlines, the draft law has potentially more far-reaching, and worrying, implications. Its wording appears open to rather broad interpretation. This is perhaps best demonstrated by a theoretical example, using the work of Gross himself.

The proposed law envisions Poland’s Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) being the arbiter of whether historical statements are ‘contrary to the facts’. Back in 2000, the IPN was tasked by parliament with producing an official report on the Jedwabne massacre, following the outrage caused by Gross’ book on the subject, Neighbours. Its findings, while in many regards confirming Gross’, differed in important aspects. Whereas Gross claimed that 1,600 Jews had been slaughtered, the IPN declared this figure ‘highly unlikely’, and suggested the real number was at least four times lower. And whereas Gross wrote that ‘half of the population of the town murdered the other half’, the IPN found that the majority of the non-Jewish population were merely ‘passive’ onlookers to the crime, which was committed by a couple of dozen men, ‘inspired by the Germans’ who were occupying the town.

So, in this instance, the IPN effectively argued that Gross’ work exaggerated the extent and nature of Polish involvement in a crime committed under German occupation. It is not hard to imagine some arguing that this meets precisely the criteria, outlined above, for punishment under the new law. So, it appears theoretically possible that works of genuine scholarship could face punishment.

Of course, one may dispute some of Gross’ findings – and many historians, Polish and otherwise, have done so. But that is precisely how academic history is supposed to work: in many cases – Jedwabne being a perfect example – historians can never hope to prove beyond doubt precisely what happened. Rather, they merely endeavour to get as close to that truth as possible by seeking out and piecing together whatever fragmentary sources are available – archival documents, the memories of witnesses, archaeological findings – assessing their reliability, interpreting their meaning, balancing them against one another, and then drawing conclusions. Such a complex process inevitably results in a range of interpretations of the same events, which can often stand in complete contrast to one another.

The Neighbors Respond book cover
The Neighbours Respond: how historical debate is supposed to work

But the resolution of such disputes is best left to the academic community itself, not to the whims of politicians or prosecutors. The government may claim that it has no intention of pursuing the law in this manner, and that it will only act in the most egregious cases. And perhaps that really is what they intend (though their attempt to strip Gross of his Order of Merit suggests that the type of work he produces is within their targets).

But even the theoretical power to criminalise genuine academic research will have a chilling effect, discouraging researchers from working on certain topics or publishing certain ideas, thereby stifling important and necessary debates. Such policies are the realm of autocracies, not the type of free, open democracy to which PiS claims to aspire.

As much as I disapprove of any government-led historical policies, if PiS feels it must meddle in the academic sphere, there are ways this can be achieved that are less harmful: adjusting criteria for state research funding; sponsoring academic conferences on neglected topics; promoting research that fits the desired narrative. A perfect example is the current touring exhibition, initiated under Poland’s previous government, which has travelled around Europe and North America, raising awareness of Poland’s role in cracking the German Enigma code.

Such initiatives do far more to portray Poland and its past in a positive light than clumsy efforts to punish historians the government doesn’t like. Within the last week alone, the Enigma exhibition has attracted numerous sympathetic articles in international media, whereas the threat towards Gross has met with an almost uniformly negative reaction. It is a sad irony that PiS’ historical policy, which explicitly aims to ‘defend the good name of Poland’, in fact risks doing great damage to the country’s international reputation.

This article originally appeared on Notes from Poland (link Facebook)

98 thoughts on “Fighting the phrase “Polish death camps” with education, not censorship

  • February 28, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    No! Speaking of “Polish Death Camps” is not covered by freedom of expression or academic freedom. It is simply a cowardly and mean expression intended to hurt and offend Polish people, hoping they are too far to be able to retaliate.

    To recall, towards the end of war (WWII) it was condition for acceptance of any country into the United Nations that that country was in a state of war with the Axis powers. The main reason for this condition was that Nazi Germany, Japan and their allies (e.g. Croatia and Rumania) were committing genocide – often in death camps they created.

    By the time this UN condition became known around 600,000 Poles were fighting the evil Axis powers, primarily Germany. They were fighting in the West, in Russia and in the Polish underground. Most were volunteers.

    The issue of antisemitism in Poland is entirely separate, far from the genocidal death camps.

    Yes, prewar Poland had ugly restrictions on admission of Jews into universities. But so did many American and Canadian universities, including Harvard and McGill. But, prior to WWII, Poland accepted many Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Nazi occupied Austria. At the same time, America turned away ships with Jewish refugees. They were forced to go back to Germany and … obviously perished.

    The record shows that in the times of Hitler, the government of Poland (including the wartime Government in Exile) acted far more decently towards Jews than did Britain, USA, Canada or Switzerland, all of who blocked Jewish refugees from coming in when they were running for their lives. Britain also blocked them from seeking refuge in Palestine.

    On the individual level, under Nazi occupation Poland was put to a test that these countries, luckily for their Jewish citizens, were not put. France was put to such test and failed it. It deported its Jewish citizens to Nazi camps

    In occupied countries, such as Poland, Jews were outlaws, in a very weak position. Thus many fell prey to criminal elements.

    Deplorable, but not extraordinary for humans. Notably, when the Japanese were overrunning the Philippines, many civilian Americans were robbed, raped or killed by local criminal elements.

    So, yes, the expression “Polish Death Camps” is so grossly unjust that it calls for legal steps to combat its use, just as expressions of antisemitism do.

    • March 14, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      I agree with the sentiment but find the solution troubling. From a US perspective any law that abridges freedom of speech is inherently problematic. The PiS government is taking a page from Western Europe’s regrettable decision to criminalize speech that questions the Holocaust or that creates “ethnic hatred” etc. However, such laws are, by reason of human nature, extremely susceptible to selective abuse. Moreover, anyone with a grievance will want to embody their particular grievance in law whenever they hold power. Either we have free speech or we do not. When people say stupid things, you should properly challenge them – not criminalize their verbiage. The desire to “forbid” something has an ugly side to it even if the view that is forbidden is itself ugly. Protests, boycotts, etc. smack of unhealthy criteria. Given the state of hysteria directed at PiS, their actions here are understandable but, in the end, it is freedom that suffers.

    • April 7, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      Yes, “Polish death camps” is protected by freedom of speech. And Poles did participate in the Holocaust. So get over your attempt to lily white Polish history. Everyone has sinned.

      • April 8, 2016 at 12:59 am

        Roderick S. Beck writes:
        Yes, “Polish death camps” is protected by freedom of speech. …

        I have a sense that in his case the S. in the name stands for SOB. In Polish “sukinsyn”, a description of character, not of whether his unfortunate mother was married. One of those obnoxious types, who likes to offend others from afar. A courageous man, our Roderick S.

    • November 27, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      The issue isn’t who is at fault or who committed atrocities and who were victims. The issue is the government putting someone in jail for using words the government doesn’t like. This crushing of expression always results in people being persecuted for their beliefs and words instead of allowing free conversation. The way to fight history repeating itself is to allow ALL voices to be heard and to trust the citizens to decide what is right and what is wrong. It is always wrong for the government to step in.

  • February 28, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    It is criminal to call the death camps “Polish” — these were built in occupied land, anyone with half a brain would know that.

    • April 7, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Beliefs, mistaken or not, are not criminal in themselves.

  • February 28, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    No easy answers to this, by any means. Excellent article by Daniel Tilles, but also very good points made by Alex Wolf. If it was only a matter of good will, then there would be no problem and anyone would see that the “Polish death camp” formulation can be considered offensive and can also be used as a not-so-subtle means of shifting responsibility for genocide from the German Third Reich, so there is a great temptation to legislate to prevent this happening.

    The problem with legislation is the aspect of enforcement. Since hardly anyone in Poland is likely to use this formula, then it may well be a matter of trying to extradite recalcitrant foreigners who might insist on using the phrase in order to prove their own right to freedom of expression in whatever country they might be living.This might prove an international embarrassment for the current Polish government.

    I’m not offering any solutions here, only pointing out possible flaws. This needs to be thought through by some sharp legal minds.

    • February 29, 2016 at 4:34 am

      To Random Tourist —

      First, it would be preferable that you identify yourself when writing on such a topic.

      Second, I am well aware that in most cases persons responsible for defaming Poland would not voluntarily come to the Polish jurisdiction. Still it would not help their careers if they were found liable in Poland. In some cases a libel suit in their countries of residence would also work.

      An example may be taken from the Jewish Anti Defamation League.

      Third, for the record, I am no fan of many (perhaps most) things that the PiS government of Poland does. Yet, I support it in this matter. And I wish it would not be intimidated by the “international embarrasment” you threaten in effect.

      • February 29, 2016 at 10:17 am

        OK, Alex. I have no wish to be rude and I suppose, from your point of view, it might seem like you were talking to someone wearing a gorilla suit. Personally, I would haver no objections to entering into a discussion with someone wearing a gorilla suit on this or any other topic, but since you insist, it’s Michal Karski at your service and I’ve commented here before. In fact, I’ve been accused of commenting too much, hence the metaphorical gorilla suit.

        Coming back to the topic – let me give you a hypothetical scenario. You may be familiar with the name Debbie Schlussel. In case you’re not, this is a right-wing American columnist who is not known for her pro-Polish views. The last time she pronounced on Polish matters, she received a barrage of abuse. Her original post was hateful but so was the response she received. If this legislation goes through, then I could well imagine a scenario in which she or someone similar might write: “Polish death camps! Polish death camps! Polish death camps! There – I’ve said it! Come and get me, Lech Kaczynski, if you dare!” What happens then?

        • February 29, 2016 at 10:31 am

          Another apology: that should have read Jaroslaw, of course, and not Lech. That was my mistake and I wouldn’t accuse Debbie Schlussel, for all her anti-Polish opinions, of making such a deliberate error.

          But you understand what I’m saying, Alex?

    • April 7, 2016 at 8:01 pm

      I am not sure why your folks are so obsessed by this phrase. Is it because the Polish have lingering guilt? Poland was highly anti-Semitic.

      • April 8, 2016 at 12:48 am

        Roderick S. Beck suggests that you have to be guilty of something to be offended by being so called. This is a twisted reasoning. It would mean that if someone calls him a pedophile, he would be offended only if he is one.

        As for Polish antisemitism, sure it existed and still does, though it is much weaker than it once was. The saddest thing about it, is that it is much more common in many countries than one would wish.

      • April 22, 2016 at 8:41 am

        If Poland was highly Anti-Semitic than why did millions of Jews willingly settle there? Perhaps because it was less Ant-Semitic than almost any other European country, including Great Britain. A sense of proportion is needed. Lets not forget that Anti-semitism was socially acceptable in virtually every western nation, including the USA up until and even after World War 2.

  • February 29, 2016 at 8:29 am

    1. The proposed law is not necessary. And will work opposite to intended. Any “Polish death camp” reference recently got promptly corrected and apologised for. Voluntary apology works MUCH better as a tool to make people worldwide understand these camps were not “Polish”. The information that a 5-year prison sentence awaits the author of such a stupidity in Poland will make some people think “they have something to hide”.

    2. This law is for a domestic consumption I think. It is very useful to have the Polish population think that “everybody says it is the Poles who were the murderers”, and then heroically fight such slanders. Obviously PiS is the best (the only?) defender here, we sure should vote for them. And actually people who are against the proposed laws are traitors themselves.

    3. I think that even in the USSR, if a foreign Moscow correspondent would write something negative about Soviet Union, he/she would be just deported. Not imprisoned.

    4. The other part of the law (“it is a criminal offence to accuse Polish WWII resistance of mass murders”) means that the history should be researched according to the Penal Code voted by a current Parliamentary majority. Am I the only one who thinks it is a slightly bizarre concept?

    5. There is a law in the Russian Federation criminalising any claim that during WWII any member of the Soviet Army possibly could have done anything less than stellar. Sure it made the worldwide perception of the Soviet Army of the period uniformly positive, as is justly deserved.

    6. Of course my 2 references to the laws and/or practices of Soviet Union/Russia are completely without merit. We Poles are (and always had been) the good guys. “They” – the opposite. So it is very appropriate for us to have set in the law that we are the good guys, and penalise worldwide any dissent, in any manifestation.

    • March 14, 2016 at 11:48 pm

      I would agree except that free speech is already criminalized in Poland either as to denial theories or hate speech or others, I would think that adding one more – in this case that protects Poles themselves – should not be controversial. Or rather, if we have laws that require shutting people up then why not in this instance? I would agree with your views if you were willing to work to decriminalize the other forms of censorship in the country,

      • April 7, 2016 at 8:02 pm

        One more wrong is more wrong.

  • February 29, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I am a huge sympathizer of Poland and believe that the country receives unfair stereotyping as a land of anti-Semites, while its wartime suffering and contribution to the anti-German war effort, and the hell it went through because of Yalta, has been neglected.

    Yet I am also a strong believer in the right to free speech that the Germans and Soviets took away from the Poles.

    This law would erode that right to free speech once again, and would simply provoke me into protesting against it by using the phrase “Polish death camp.”

      • March 1, 2016 at 9:29 am

        Congratulations, I am using the phrase Polish death camp. Where is your BS now?

        • March 1, 2016 at 10:24 am

          @ Bob – I’m with you up to the point where you say you’d protest against this proposed law by deliberately using the phrase “Polish death camp”. How would that be helpful? You might as well stand in the Rynek and shout “The Earth is Flat!” to all the tourists simply because it’s what you consider to be your freedom of speech. If you don’t believe it, why say it?

          • March 1, 2016 at 1:10 pm

            “You might as well stand in the Rynek and shout “The Earth is Flat!” to all the tourists ”

            The difference is that I might do that if they criminalized saying that the Earth is flat, which that have not done.

            In the meantime, Polish death camps, Polish death camps , Polish death camps. Down with police states, fascism and communism. Long live Poland.

        • March 1, 2016 at 10:52 am

          If an anti-Polish blogger used the offending phrase to defy any proposed law, then that’s one thing, but why would you want to use an anti-Polish phrase when the rest of your post seems to be very much pro-Polish? Just to prove a point?

          That actually rather proves the difficulty of policing this proposed law. Will the justice ministry be reading everyone’s comments and prosecuting anonymous commentators who use the phrase?

          • March 1, 2016 at 1:03 pm

            @michal karski

            “That actually rather proves the difficulty of policing this proposed law.”

            That is my point.

          • March 14, 2016 at 11:51 pm

            Perhaps Bob can also bravely write about how he thinks it was 5.9 million not 6 million or how all Arabs are thieves? Easy courage is just that – easy.

  • March 1, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    These are not Polish jokes, these are German jokes in Nazi occupied Poland.

    • March 1, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      The guy, calling himself Bob, is unwilling to reveal hid full name. While cowardly hiding in the Internet he spits on us and taunts us — now openly using the phrase Polish Death Camps.

      He would not say this, face to face, to a Polish man because he knows there is a good chance he would get his teeth knocked in.

      I have lived long enough in the West to know what motivates him. He has a sadistic pleasure of beating up on someone who he thinks cannot defend himself. The same holds for “people” who torture animals or beat women. In our case he will be “courageous” until he faces justice.

      No one here should believe for a moment that “Bob”, or any one using the phrase Polish Death Camps, has any favorable feelings, or even neutral feelings, towards Poland. He hates us. He came to this forum to mock us from the safety of his hiding.

      Now, why does he hate us? This is what I think.

      First he is a sadistic coward. This is absolutely certain. This would come out in court. A good lawyer would make mince-meat of of him.

      Second – I speculate now based on history and human nature — he probably is a descendant of Polish Jews, who perished in the Holocaust. He has a strong need to hate. I doubt he is professionally very successful or popular with the ladies – most haters are poorly adjusted. The postwar trials of Nazi death camp guards have shown this.

      Now, logically, if he must hate, one would think he would hate Germans, but no. He clearly prefers to hate Poles. He is probably still in awe of Germans, because of their former military prowess.

      If I may speculate a little further, I would say that there were grown up men in his family who during the Holocaust did not want to lose their lives fighting the Nazis and instead hid in the face Nazi murder. I would say, he is ashamed of this and transfers his shame into a hatred of Poles. Like a drunkard, who is fired by his boss, and vents his shame by beating up his wife and children.

      • March 1, 2016 at 7:20 pm

        “Alex Wolf”

        All names on the internet forums are freely chosen and unverified and therefore irrelevant. Nobody here has produced any proof that they are using real names. As it happens Alex Wolf is German or English. If you had chosen the name Aleks Wilk you might have come across as less of a hypocrite – so stop throwing stones, as the Good Man said.

        By the way, it is you as a purported Pole calling someone who you don’t like a Jew that gives the rest of us Poles a bad name. It preserves the anti-Polish stereotype and by doing that you are being profoundly unpatriotic and undermining our nation – shame on you.

        If I were to now use your logic I would dismiss you as a German or Russian provocateur posing as a Polish anti-Semite in order to make the world hate Poles. But I’m not going to: it’s high time for Poland to become a country where we base our conclusions on proof rather than theory.

      • April 7, 2016 at 9:26 pm

        My name is Roderick Beck and “Polish Death Camps” is protected by freedom of speech. Your “Polish Patriotism” will inevitably become a whitewash of the country’s darker moments.

        • April 22, 2016 at 8:50 am

          Yep, Poland was terribly to the Jews. Thats why at the outbreak of World War 2, 24% of the population was Jewish. Polish Jews were prosperous and able to freely practice their religion. Jews in Poland appeared to be much happier and safer than Arabs in Israel.

  • March 1, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    @Alex – I think Bob is taking the PiS Like a little kid being naughty and seeing how much he can get away with until someone belts him. But this is the problem with making the phrase illegal. You’ll get people like him, safely anonymous, supposedly testing freedom of speech but actually being a pain just for the sake of it.

    Or – to put it a different way – a provocateur, don’t you know….maybe even from Trollheim? Who can tell these days with everyone either anonymous or wearing gorilla suits.

    But you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions, though. A “descendant of Polish Jews”? Good grief – why? There are plenty of other nationalities who seem to dislike Poles – have a look at the comments on Polish stories at the Guardian sometime. Germans, Russians – you name it. Some Irishmen have had it in for Poles lately for some reason. Ignorance knows no national boundaries.

  • March 1, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    @ Bob: you may have been joking about the “Polish joke”, but actually the Nazis did use so-called ‘Polish jokes’ to denigrate Poles.

    @ Wawrzyniec: who can tell who is using real names and who is sham on these forums? (“fora” – if you’re pedantic). It’s a bit of a guessing game and sometimes the comments sections can be quite interesting. I have no doubt the occasional genuine troll might be found – paid or even unpaid – and the agenda may well be – as you say – to give Poles a bad name.

    @ Guy the Gorilla: don’t you think you’ve taken this monkey business as far as it can go? I’m sorry I even mentioned the gorilla suit. But you’re right about some of the comments over at the Guardian. Poland seems to be the target of a lot of negative stuff at the moment.

    @ michal karski: someone accused you of talking too much before. Didn’t he actually have a point?

    • March 1, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      Michal, keep talking.

      That Bob feller is malicious, he needs to be identified and punished, criminally or civilly or both. Well, we will put a little effort and a little money into identifying and locating him. God willing he will be caught.

      Wawrzyniec – Urodziłem się i wychowałem w Polsce. So much for your theories about my ethnicity.We have German name for around 400 years in Poland. Not worth changing I think. Alex Wolf (I) is easily located on the Internet. BTW, when “Bobby the defamer” is sued you can volunteer as a character witness for him. But it will not hold water.

      Something inside Bobby drives him to spit on Poland, and it certainly ain’t pretty. What it is will come out in court.

      As to The Guardian, the English are often a spiteful bunch. It probably comes from losing the empire to what they called “the lesser breeds” . And, my God, the amount of evil that Island did to the world for hundreds of years, including the Slave Trade ! On many slave ships half of slaves transported died (in the so called ‘tight packs’). And they actually they started death camps under Baden-Powell (as I recall 35% of Boer civilians in their camps died). But they do not speak of English Death Camps, right? Nice people!

      • March 1, 2016 at 11:49 pm

        Most countries prefer to highlight the positive things about their histories. You mention the slave trade. I could say that it was Britain and specifically people like Wilberforce who brought an end to that particular barbarity. I am rather fond of this little island since I was born here, but I wouldn’t close my eyes to the dark side of its history and I think people here generally are able to accept criticism if it’s justified. There’s a certain amount of myth-making, just as in any other country, but any chauvinism or jingoism is on the whole rather alien to the British psyche: there’s a tradition of healthy skepticism which I actually think is missing from the Polish national debate from what I can see. Poland does seem very polarized (pardon the pun) at the moment with two hostile camps hurling recriminations at each other.

        It’s not so much the articles in the Guardian which are the problem as the hordes of commentators who seem to delight in bashing Poland for whatever reason. But even some legit journos in the Guardian and other left-of-centre papers can sound very patronizing about Poland and I can see why a lot of people here might be very defensive. But coming back to the topic of this article, I really don’t think legislation is the answer for the reasons I’ve given – mainly the difficulty of policing any breaches, especially abroad. Someone has already pointed out that President Obama would have fallen foul of this proposed law. What would the Polish justice ministry have done in that case? Issued a libel writ? You can’t legislate for good will.

        • March 2, 2016 at 12:26 am

          Michael – You are right about Wilberforce. I respect your views and in part I have to bow to them. You seem to be a rare decent human being.

          I am very active, but already 65 , that is probably much older than most people on this forum. And one very important thing that age teaches us — is that many people are mean bastards and that you cannot fend of mean bastards by decency alone. A certain amount of toughness is needed for this.

          As for Obama, he is not god, he certainly can be tried at least by the court of public opinion. It has been said: A faint heart never laid a fair lady.

  • March 2, 2016 at 6:14 am


    You’ve misrepresented what I wrote and you’ve ignored a question that you’ve been asked by another commentator. If you really cared about the truth you would not do this.

    As I wrote, I don’t have any assumptions about anyone’s ethnicity and made a point about proof and theory. I said “if I were to use the same logic as you” – to illustrate that you are jumping to conclusions about ethnicity.

    A Bloke in a Gorilla Suit asked you: ‘A “descendant of Polish Jews”? Good grief – why?’

    It is conspicuous that you failed to give him an answer.

    It is Poles making comments like yours about Jews that biases people around the world against Poles, and achieves exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve in our efforts to get a fair hearing about the Holocaust.

    • March 2, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      Wawrzyniec – I did not respond to every line, simply because I did not have time. I m 65, work 80 hour weeks and must find time to keep fit – or my babe (my wife, my age) may look for a younger model to replace me. Happened to a friend of mine. But, yes, I will respond more fully, to give peace to your overly suspicious mind.


  • March 3, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Wawrzyniec –

    I said I will complete my response, and I am doing this now.

    Yes, I speculated (and explicitly used the word “speculate”) on the reasons that drive that fellow (I think, he calls himself “Bob”) to repeat, repeat and repeat again “Polish Death Camps” — when he knows the phrase is false, defamatory and causes us pain. Yes, pain.

    At age 65 and after many years in business, I have enough experience to know that some very strong feelings (and most likely repressed) are motives are behind such HATEFUL conduct. Read up on Freud if you do not see this. Further, I postulated more what this hater’s (his or her) motives may be. That is all.

    FYI, it would not be the first time that such motives as I speculated on are behind hatred of Poles. This, of course, is not “similar acts evidence” because the actors are not the same.

    If, as I hope, this defamer is tried, his motives will come out. I am starting to discuss this matter with attorneys in Poland. You can be sure that this defamer’s motives will not make him or her look good.

    The person behind the moniker “A Bloke in a Gorilla Suit” does not see my reasoning. Well, it is his / her right. Everyone is entitled to his opinion, yes. But different opinions on the same subject are not equally sound and are not entitled to equal weight.

    Further you wrote “It is Poles making comments like yours about Jews that biases people around the world against Poles, … “. Nonsense! In America, Polish people are regarded well. AND an innocent Jewish person has the right to be protected from defamation, but so does an innocent Polish person, by the way, an innocent German person, or innocent Russian person, too. Everyone!

    Since some of you on this forum hail from UK, let me add that in English law, a false derogatory statement is defamatory and entitles the victim to redress, unless one of the special defenses applies. The attitude of the defendant after being called to desist and retract is a big factor in determining both liability and damages.

    I add, that I sense that some of you feel that because “people around the world are biased against Poles” we need to keep our faces down. I disagree, the world does not respect people who do not stand up for themselves.

    • March 3, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Again, you’ve avoided the question:

      ‘A “descendant of Polish Jews”? Good grief – why?’

      • March 14, 2016 at 11:58 pm

        Maybe it’s a guess based on the company he comes across at the bocce alley :-)

  • March 3, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Wawrzyniec — No, I answered it. Twice, I think. You need to read carefully.

    I answered out of courtesy, but I feel no need to continue a discussion that has run its course. If you do not want to read carefully, also fine with me. Cheers.

  • March 3, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    @Alex Wolf. What do you mean “she”? Since when is a bloke a “she”? But you’re right. I think this discussion is probably running its course.

    @Michal – I didn’t mean to be disrespectful by putting on the suit. It’s just a metaphor, don’t you know.

    @everybody: someone somewhere on this topic raised a really good point. We call them “Roman” ampitheatres whether they’re in Italy or Greece or Turkey or Sicily. By the same logic we should call them “German” death camps, wherever they are, or at least “Nazi” camps, but never Polish.

    • March 3, 2016 at 9:50 pm

      The “Commentator Formerly Known as ..” —

      Until a person’s identity is disclosed, I do not assume that they are one gender or another, simply because they say they are.

      The point about Roman ampitheatres is logical and generally good. HOWEVER, to be precise, during WW2 at least 3 nations operated death camps: Germany, Croatia and Romania. Only the The German death camps are well known. They were operated by Germans and Ukrainians.

      The first mass murder in German death camps was of Russian POWs. Around 3.4 million of them were starved to death by the Wehrmacht in late 1941 and early 1942.

      The Croatian death camps were set up in Croatia to kill Serbs and Jews. The least known are Romanian death camps. They were near set up primarily in Russia, near Odessa to kill local Jews. Neither the Croatian nor the Romanian death camps were operated by Germany or by Germans.

      According to a Canadian historian, whose name now escapes me, the Americans and the French starved to death over a million German POWs in their camps, located in France, right after WW2 ended.

      There was not one single Polish death camp during WW2..


  • March 18, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Those of us who are living here in Poland as guests from other countries must remember at all times that while we may have opinions that differ from the government at any given time it is not our place to tell Poles what is right for Poland. In the United States people are free to say anything and everything, regardless of how malicious or fictitious their words may be. The result is that it is very difficult to distinguish between what is true and what is false on numerous issues.

    With freedom comes responsibility. The role of the historian is to attempt telling history as it actually was, objectively. Objectivity requires claims to be supported by evidence. Too often those with ulterior motives, whatever they may be, feel free to fabricate or distort events for their own personal gain. It is so out of control in the United States that individuals running for political positions within the government frequently lie outright and they are never held accountable because they hide behind the concept of “freedom of speech” as do others making up things about them. But freedom of speech or expression was put in place to challenge the powers that be with legitimate criticisms, not to manipulate the masses (or smaller subcultures within the larger populace), by assaulting the nation through deceptions. That is the equivalent of using abusing democracy to vote in Shariah law. Aldous Huxley in Brave New World said that in his dystopia thought crimes would be unnecessary because nobody would have anything worthwhile to say. Similarly when people are saturated with various forms of misinformation how can one identify the real? It is like the old saying, “The devil hides his lie between two truths.” Except precisely the opposite with the truth being hidden between multiple lies.

    I’m not well read on this particular topic but I do know enough to reject the idea of blaming Poles as a collective nation for the actions of individual Poles or even a single town. The ignorance on the topic is pervasive enough that Obama while President of the United States actually used the phrase. When Harvard educated Presidents are ignorant to the issue it is unreasonable to expect the majority of citizens who have never known a Polish person or even met anybody from Poland to be better educated. In the US the only thing most Americans know about Poland is WWII and the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The ignorance is so profound that if you asked many Americans to find Poland on an unlabeled map they might think it is somewhere near Israel. While Jewish people were targeted specifically it was Poland that was invaded, not Israel. There was no Israel as a state then. Israel exists today as a state because of WWII and was a deal brokered with Britain specifically to ensure that it never happens again. It is important to remember what happened but to forget that it was also happening to Poles is outrageous. To blame Poland is criminal and in my opinion treason for anybody from Poland. It is similar to blaming Native Americans (Indians) for the European American enslavement and atrocities against African Americans. Some Natives may have tried to assimilate to European American culture and taken slaves but Native Americans as a whole or even a majority didn’t.

    After visiting Schindler’s Factory I actually tried to watch the movie and was unable to get through the first hour. There were no Poles in Poland in the movie, only Nazis and Jews with the exception of a few Polish women portrayed as prostitutes to Schindler’s sexual appetite or Nazi soldiers. 1,000 of the workers in the factory were Jewish. 750 others were Polish. Yet none of the Polish employees appeared in the movie. This is an example of the rewriting of history that has been going on in the West and it is unacceptable. The reason is understandable – Jewish people were telling their stories. But those stories were in Poland. Were there some Poles who took advantage? Of course. There are always humans who will seize opportunities to get rich. Prescott Bush sure did banking Nazi gold in the US. But if Poles weren’t helping Jews just as often there would be no survivors to tell those stories, would there?

    I don’t know whether this is the appropriate action or not but individuals who are intentionally distorting a nation’s history for whatever reason should be viewed as enemies of that nation by the people of that nation.

    • March 18, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      The post by Jonathan Rex is solid, based on many facts. And above all, there is a sense of fairness in it.

      • March 19, 2016 at 1:36 pm

        An interesting and thoughtful post from Jonathan. Perhaps the key to alleged distortions of history is the motive. There will undoubtedly be people who will intentionally distort history for reasons of their own, but very often these distortions arise out of sheer ignorance or an incomplete knowledge of the true facts.

        The example of the film about Schindler is pertinent. Spielberg followed Keneally’s book quite faithfully so if anyone ought to be charged with “rewriting history” then it should be not so much the film director but the author of the original book, although of course, a cinematic image is so much more memorable than a paragraph of print.

        In Keneally’s defence I’d say that it is not a question of rewriting so much as highlighting. Keneally mentions the bravery of Pankiewicz the pharmacist, for example – as does Spielberg – but otherwise any Poles who are presented are shown rather negatively. So, on the whole, he tends to accentuate the negative (to paraphrase the famous song).

        I’m not qualified to comment on the claims of Jan Tomasz Gross, since I haven’t read his books, but it does rather look as if he is being used as a political football. One government awards him a prize, the next one is talking about taking it away. Regardless of the merits or otherwise of his claims, taking away a prize does seem rather extreme. By the same token, does anyone seriously expect that the Pulitzer Prize will ever be taken away from Art Spiegelman because of his portrayal of Poles as Nazi-saluting pigs? Now there’s a distortion of history if ever there was one. One could even make the claim that Spiegelman has caused more damage to Polish-Jewish relations because of his simplistic vision than someone like Gross, whose statistics can at least be challenged. How do you undo the damage caused by Spiegelman’s pigs? Visual images are difficult to erase.

        • March 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm

          I think more often than not those who are narrating our reality through a political prism, distorting and reflecting the light in partial fragmented ways, know exactly what they are doing. That is what makes their behavior criminal. Taking away awards to me is childish. If somebody is given an award for one thing and later does another thing that doesn’t erase the prior thing they were awarded for.

          However, I do think that if somebody is from a country (any Nation) and chooses to leave that nation and then actively propagates misinformation against the nation and the people of that nation it seems appropriate to ban them from re-entering that nation. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Those who nurture division within their own nations among their own people are agents of destruction and chaos. Viewing them as such makes perfect sense to me.

          I doubt very much that real Polish people who were born and raised in Poland, identifying as Polish, would ever use a phrase like this regarding the camps. But there are many individuals in New York, London and other places writing against Poland. These individuals are not Polish so their opinion on how Polish people live and govern Poland doesn’t matter. If they come from Poland then just take away their citizenship and they can be wherever they are. What Polish person would ever use this phrase?

        • March 19, 2016 at 3:50 pm

          Jonathan – I agree that intentional slander of any nation by its citizen living abroad should result in loss of citizenship.

          But in view of Gross’s slander of Poles (inter alia he said that during the Holocaust Poles killed more Jews that the Nazis) the medal given to Gross for contribution to Polish history is a travesty. This needs to be corrected.

          • March 19, 2016 at 8:18 pm

            I didn’t realize that there were moves to strip Gross of his Polish citizenship. Is this true? This would have echoes of the post-war communist regime taking away the citizenship of people such as General Wladyslaw Anders and the poet Marian Hemar.

            Taking away a medal could be explained away, I suppose, even if it would appear rather petty and vindictive, but removing someone’s citizenship? As I said, I can’t really comment about his work, although on the face of it, the claim about Poles killing more Jews than Germans seems preposterous.

            I’m inclined to agree with the above article. Claims and counterclaims need to be made in the academic sphere. And what exactly did he say? That the Poles killed more Jews than the Nazis did or that the Poles killed more Jews than they killed Germans? The first would be patently untrue and the second needs some statistics for verification and seems very unlikely, considering the different theatres of war where the Polish army fought between 1939 and 1945.

          • March 20, 2016 at 8:55 am

            His father Zygmunt Gross was Jewish. In 1969 he and his parents emigrated out of Poland to the United States as a Jewish family. He is not Polish. He is Jewish. He’s not a Polish Historian, he is a Jewish Historian with American Citizenship telling a Jewish narrative of Polish history that is clearly tainted by a personal vendetta. Konstanty Gebert is another example of a Jewish man pretending to be Polish and doing nothing at all but trying to tear Poland down. His father was the Communist Official, Boleslaw Gebert – the man who helped create the Communist Party in America.

            I am speaking as a Natchez Indian (Native American) and a direct descendant of Tsiyu Gansini (Dragging Canoe). Although I live in Krakow with my Polish wife, intend to become a Polish Citizen and one day adopt Polish children to raise here with I will never be Polish. Even if I die defending this land in battle or grow old and die naturally I will never be Polish. If I’m buried here and 1,000 years from now my bones are dug up and Mitochondrial DNA is extracted from my maternal X Chromosome then the results will show that I am Native American.

            I have nothing at all against Jewish people. Jewish people in the U.S. and Britain do have a grudge against Polish people though. They refer to Poland as a graveyard. As if Poland came into existence with their arrival and ended with their departure. When King Mieszko I allied himself with the Czech King by marrying his daughter Dobrawa and protected the Polish Kingdom as the first Christian King of Poland it was to prevent an invasion by the Roman Empire. There was a Sephardic Jewish merchant working as a spy in Poland named Abraham Ben Jacob (Ibrâhîm ibn Ya`qûb). Mieszko I knew this and by making Poland part of the Holy Roman Church he prevented the Holy Roman Empire from invading Poland. Abraham’s espionage wasn’t just in Poland. He also was a spy against the Czechs and Vikings. Journalists and Historians who have clear political and religious ties are propagandists and “propaganda all is phony”.

          • March 20, 2016 at 9:39 am

            Also . . . I have seen there has been a discussion over names used on here so in an attempt to be transparent:

            The name I am posting under is the name I inherited from my father. He is of European background. Our Rex line began with Hans Jurg Reger who immigrated to Pennsylvania (U.S.) about 1700 and helped establish Germantown. In the U.S. he changed his name Jurg Reger to George Rex when the German born George I became King George I of England. Hans Jurg Reger was a relative of King George I and supposedly a descendant of King Hrothgar. Rex, of course, is Latin for King and is used on the wall of the Wawel Cathedral (and around Europe) for this reason.

            My father’s mother was Scottish of the Mowat Clan and a great-granddaughter of Sir Oliver Mowat of Canada. The Scottish Mowat Clan traces back to a Ioseph ben Iudea de Monte Alto who was said to be a personal doctor of A Caesar in the 200’s whose family line left Jerusalem in 70 AD. How true this is I’m not sure but that is the story.

            Jonathan was chosen by my parents because they liked the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and named me after the main character.

            My Tsalagi (Chala’gi or Cherokee) name is Yonahweyuhi (short) or Yona’ugaweyuhi (long). Yona and Woyi are nicknames. Yona means “bear” and “Woyi” is a phoenix. Ugaweyuhi means Chief or King. The name has multiple meanings depending on context and use. It can mean “Bear King” or “Bear King reborn out of the dark like an Owl (or ashes like a phoenix). Translating it fully is difficult.

            My mother is Natchez-Cherokee and among our ancestors are Tsiyu Gansini and Principal Chief Charles R. Hicks.

            I have nothing to hide. If I’m not willing to speak honestly I won’t speak at all but if I do speak it is only what I believe to be true. If at any point I am shown to be mistaken or wrongly speaking then I will correct myself.

          • March 20, 2016 at 4:05 pm

            Jonathan – As usual I like and support your comments.

            Your reading of Gross’s motives – a personal vendetta – is an unavoidable conclusion. However, he is NOT a real historian, for his purpose is to distort history. He is quite a lot like the Marxists “historians” or the Nazi “historians”. They fabricated lies for which their regimes paid them. Gross found a market for his lies, too.

            Therefore, Gross is also not a “Jewish historian”. He is a forger passing himself off as a historian.

            I have different take on who can be Polish. The genes are not everything. I believe it is possible for a person to immigrate into a country and to join that country’s nation, not only via the documents — but as as decision of the heart. For generations, millions of new Americans have done just that.

            Also, it so happens I do business with some descendants of Polish Jews living in the USA, Canada and and elsewhere. While most of them do not consider themselves Polish, some do. Further, from my reading I conclude that prior to WW2 most secular Jews in Poland considered themselves to be Poles of Jewish extraction (Polacy pochodzenia zydowskiego), their friends and acquaintances also regarded them as such.

          • March 20, 2016 at 1:40 pm

            @ Jonathan – I’m not proposing to defend either Gross or Gebert for the simple reason that as an outsider, I don’t know enough about them, but I’ve got to take issue with your phrase “a Jewish man pretending to be Polish”. It is a great pity that the distinction “Polish” and “Jewish” is so often made. It is worth remembering those Polish Jews who were great Polish patriots. I have already mentioned Marian Hemar, but there were very many others over the years: Berek Joselewicz, Artur Rubinstein, General Bernard Mond, to name only a few…

          • March 20, 2016 at 8:42 pm

            Are you both Polish and if so how do you both define Polish?

            I am a Nativist, not a Nationalist. A Nation is an idea. A Native is a reality. Africans are Native to Africa, Asians to Asia, Europeans to Europa and Americans (Indianie) to the Americas. Europeans are people who have been in Europa for over 20,000 years. Same with Asians in Asia, Africans in Africa and Americans in America. Within those races the divisions become Tribal. I’m not a Tribalist so those arbitrary tribal differences to me are irrelevant.

            What is Polish within the European category. Western European or Slavic? When the Ottomans were kidnapping millions of Slavic women and children and selling them as Slaves or Slaves were Poles not viewed as of that distinct people? When the Romans were attacking and calling Slavic people Barbarians were Polish people not those individuals they were attacking?

          • March 20, 2016 at 8:59 pm

            I do wanna be clear though. I’m not saying any group of people are better than another but Natives to a region are people who developed very distinct features within a specific region.

            Nordic people are Native to Northern Europe. Mediterranean People do not look Nordic. Anglos do not look Slavic. Jews (real Jewish people) have distinctly Jewish features and do not look like Sub-Saharan Africans. People who have been in a region long enough to develop distinct features Native to that region in my opinion have the only rightful claim to that region of the world. All others are guests and should acknowledge that. If everybody respected this and lived accordingly there would be no issues with multiculturalism. People should know where they are from and know where they are guests. Donald Trump is not real Americans. Mexicans are. Having a clearly Non-Native American talking about building borders up in America to keep real Americans our of certain parts of America because they do not have numbers issued to them by occupying governments is criminal.

          • March 20, 2016 at 10:33 pm

            It would be good to suppose, in this twenty-first century, that we could emphasise our common humanity, whatever our backgrounds, and maybe see ourselves as citizens of the planet rather than anything else.

            But in answer to your question, I’m a Brit whose parents were from Poland.

          • March 21, 2016 at 1:20 pm

            Idealistically that would be nice. In order for that to come about in the future though there does need to be acknowledgement of how we exist today.

            You are speaking from a very Eurocentric perspective. Had you grown up in the United States as a Native American in a country where your people are constantly misrepresented by an occupying race and mocked through mascots for sports teams and had white hipsters dressing in your cultures regalia while children dress up like your ancestors for Halloween costumes you might see things differently. Europeans are not “from” the Americas. Yet they feel entitled to the lands. The idea that the world is open to Europeans comes from nations like the British who colonized the United States, India, Africa, Asia and Australia as if the whole world were theirs to take and do with as they please. When Native Americans have zero representation within the governments that control Native American lands and Europeans are digging up our cemeteries and displaying our ancestors in museums for profit we’re not going to just hold hands and sing “we are the world” with you. “We” aren’t being equally represented in our own world and are being inaccurately represented in your part of the world so how are we to believe that your people (Europeans) actually view us as the same? We are only treated the same if we assimilate into your cultures and adopt your religions, speak your languages and dress as you dress. That is not equality. That is subjugation.

  • March 21, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    When people from around the world visit the United States they see what white people have built in Native lands. How many visit Reservations like Pine Ridge or go to a Pow Wow like the “Gathering of the Nations” and experience the United States from the perspective of a Native American? The first film footage ever made was of Native Americans. The field of Visual Ethnography began with Edward Curtis taking photos of Western Native people. Hollywood repeatedly portrays Native people in a past reality that no longer exists and because of that the whole world thinks we no longer exist. Google “Gathering of the Nations Pow Wow” or check it out on youtube. We are not an extinct people. There have been Native American prima ballerinas such as Maria Talltree and a Chickasaw NASA astronaut. Yet movies such as that new garbage with Leonardo DiCaprio continues to be made showing us as victims of the past. In the history of Hollywood thousands of movies have been made about our people and not a single Oscar has ever been awarded to a Native actor. Actors like Wes Studi have done numerous films and continue to shoot in places like Ireland. When the Irish were starving to death the Choctaw donated money to help feed them. The Irish built a statue to the Choctaw Nation to say thank you.

    In the U.S. there are zero Native American holidays. Columbus was a rapist, murdering slaver and he is still celebrated by Americans when he landed in Cuba and never stepped foot in America. Native American History Month is a joke. There should be National Native Festivals such as the Green Corn Festival or New Moon Celebrations but there isn’t. There is Thanksgiving, a celebration of European arrival when Natives crashed the party, provided food, taught the English peasants how to survive and were rewarded by being killed later. This is reality. What you are talking about is a world that does not exist. Tourists from around the world travel to see Mt. Rushmore. The mountain was selected by a member of the KKK who blew faces of white men into the most sacred mountain of the Lakota Nation on purpose as a way of giving the Lakota a huge middle finger. I’m not saying white people should feel guilty for what they didn’t do but if they continue to celebrate what other white people did do and maintain the systems they put in place then they are becoming active participants in the crime.

    • March 21, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      I am learning for this post, Jonathan.

      • March 21, 2016 at 2:17 pm

        Apologies if I went off topic. I just see parallels between our people and the Polish people (one group of Slavic people). If I am accepted in the future as a Polish Citizen it will be an honor to me. As a writer (I’m currently creating children’s books about Native American characters in Polish and working on other projects as well) if I am one day read by Polish people and viewed as a brother that would be incredible to me. But I can never and will never be Polish. To me that would be disrespectful to even claim. Not just to your people but also to my own. Acceptance does not require Appropriation.

        Jewish people have their own unique culture, language, history, etc. All over the world real Jews share that in common. Identifying with the lands and cultures of the places they are living is silly to me. People should be proud of who they are and not pretend to be anything other than what they are. A Polish person is Polish wherever they are and a Non-Polish person to me can never be and should never pretend to be Polish.

        • March 21, 2016 at 8:31 pm

          Except for the little fact that people do not magically just hang out with their own kind only… Some do – you apparently do – but I’d be interested to see the data on, e.g., Polish intermarriage with non-Poles in Britain or, for that matter, Native American intermarriage with non-Native Americans in the US/Canada (off reservation).

          I think most people would agree that if you are a guest in someone’s house you should not rearrange furniture but you seem to think that your children with the local wife would also be guests – or do you propose different rules for people of different blood percentages? :-)

          • March 24, 2016 at 11:04 am

            I missed this post by you earlier.

            To me whatever the mother is the children are. It is the mother who carries the child in her womb as part of her body. It is the mother who is God to the child when it first enters the world. Brothers and Sisters are only genetically related through their mother’s X Chromosome. But I come from a Matrilineal Clan culture so this is my view. My children with my wife will be Polish because she is Polish.

            Not all people agree with this or live by it though. In fact, most don’t. Patriarchal Cultures identify by the father. If others choose to identify with their father and not their mother that is their business and I’ll respect it, of course. But one cannot be two different people. That is a form of schizophrenia. If Gross identified as Polish and not Jewish it would be highly unlikely he would have written what he wrote.

            I don’t care if he’s Jewish or Polish but I do believe people should be honest about where their loyalties lie. I am Native American. I will die Native American. My children will be Polish. They’ll be taught about my background but it will be mine and not theirs. I admire the achievements of my father and his ancestors but I can’t possibly identify with them just as my children will never have experienced immersion in the language and culture of my people. They will live in Poland, speak Polish, live Polish culture.

            You don’t have to agree with my way. It is mine and not yours. I don’t agree with your way but it is yours, not mine to live. We don’t have to agree but you have no authority to claim a right to tell me my way is wrong and your way is right just as I have no right to say the same to you.

            I view him as Jewish. You can view him as Polish if you like but he doesn’t strike me as having a Polish identity.

  • March 21, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    From my point of view Poland survived attempts by Germany and Russia to do to them what was done to our people. Like us they are still here just as we are despite it all. They were targeted as a Slavic people and now the EU is trying to force Islamic assimilation into their culture and many Polish people are saying, “Absolutely not!” Those attempts to introduce people who have zero intention of assimilating to Polish culture are attempts to destabilize the country so that nations such as Britain and the US can seize control over Syria through puppet governments that will funnel resources out which then can help nations like Israel prepare for their future war with Iran. People aren’t as stupid as some folks seem to think we are. We see what is happening. Especially those of us who have already survived it in the past.

    • March 21, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      and we have left the stratosphere…

      • April 8, 2016 at 12:37 am

        Hmm. Yep, Could be …

  • March 21, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    “His father Zygmunt Gross was Jewish. In 1969 he and his parents emigrated out of Poland to the United States as a Jewish family. He is not Polish. He is Jewish. He’s not a Polish Historian, he is a Jewish Historian with American Citizenship telling a Jewish narrative of Polish history that is clearly tainted by a personal vendetta. Konstanty Gebert is another example of a Jewish man pretending to be Polish and doing nothing at all but trying to tear Poland down. His father was the Communist Official, Boleslaw Gebert – the man who helped create the Communist Party in America.”

    I do not know about Gebert – I don’t read him. However, why do you think that Gross is Jewish? Because his dad was? What about his mother – does she not count? Same for Bronislaw Wildstein? If his mother were Jewish and his father Polish, would you also say that he is Jewish? Say, Dawid Wildstein (assuming his father were Jewish)? So if a Polish (or any other) person marries a Jewish person, are the offspring automatically Jewish in your eyes? That’s curious. With a view like that, no wonder there will always be Jews (at least so long as people keep having sex). I don’t mean to be coy – of course, his particular parentage may make him more sensitive to some issues – but that hardly makes him Jewish. What he wrote and said was unforgiveable but the answer here is not to relabel him as “Jewish”. I also do not have a problem with either stripping him of his prize (for his subsequent statements) or of Polish citizenship.

    I also find your comparisons with Native Americans troubling. First of all, the number of Native Americans relative to foreigners was small (and no it was not just because of diseases brought by Europeans – it was because there were millions of immigrants/refugees, etc coming to America). Further, the Indian mascots are no different than the Viking or other mascots (e.g., Irish leprechauns). In those mascots Native Americans are imitated and thereby celebrated – you might say too little too late – but that is a fact. I’ve never known anyone put on a Braves or Redskins uniform who intended to insult Indians (or himself by wearing the outfit!). That costume has nothing to do with the past treatment of Native Americans and it is ridiculous to claim that. Third, Mexicans are from Mexico – they are not native to the US – their only connection is that some of the ancestors may have passed through the US on the way to Mexico – some because some probably came over the ocean directly. When the US annexed the West, for the most part it did not expel locals – whether they be Spanish colonials or local Indians. Those people are here and so are their descendants – they have nothing to do with Mexicans – most of whom (that are actually coming to the US) are from the poorer southern portions of the country anyway.

    Overall you strike me as a provocateur that basically is anti-Jewish, supposedly pro-Polish and definitely anti-American. Where do you think a provocateur like that is likely to come from?.

    • March 24, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      The claim that Native Americans came to the Americas through Siberia is not only contradictory to Native Traditions that the people originated in a Southern Paradise – it is also unsupported by evidence and disproven through genetics.

      In South America the Natives all have O Blood Type. 100% are O Blood in South America. North American Natives have 80-90% O Blood Type. The only part of the world with O Blood at this rate is Africa which is only 80-90% also. Only South America has 100% O among Natives.

      If scientists are correct and Native Americans came out of Africa migrating through Eurasia then Native Americans would have picked up A and B blood along the way. It is impossible that Natives wouldn’t. It is assumed Native Americans are Asiatic because Asians share genetic markers with Native Americans but Asians have high A and B Blood Types mixed in with O. This suggests that Native Americans actually migrated out of the Americas into Siberia and down along the coast and that Asians are actually descendants of ancient Native Americans. B Blood is most common in Indo-Slavic people. A is a predominantly Nordic type.

      Scientists claim that A was first, then O and then B. This is complete nonsense. If all people came from Africa then Africa would have A Blood predominant. O can also donate to A and B but only O can donate to O which means O was the original. A and B came along later. A and B have existed for well over 50,000 years which means if 100% of Native Americans in South America are O there has been zero mixing with Europeans, Indo-Slavs and Asians in South America for well over 50,000 years.

      The migration into the Americas narrative is rooted in already established beliefs that people all came from Africa. It is also an attempt for immigrants into the Americas to justify themselves by claiming all people are really immigrants there. It is a lie repeated so much people believe it is a fact. It isn’t.

      • April 16, 2016 at 6:11 am

        Judaism is a religion.
        Nationality is the country that you are born and defines who you are.
        You can be Polish, American, Mexican, German, etc, etc and be of the Jewish religion, the Catholic religion , the Protestant religion, etc, etc,
        Believing in the Jewish faith does not exclude you from being a national of the country you were born. Neither does it make you less of a citizen of that country.
        So Gross is a POLISH JEW. He is as Polish as anyone else. Not more nor less..
        And for those who do not like it……, I am very sorry. The people of the Jewish faith who are born in Poland are POLISH JEWS.. I repeat. THEY ARE POLISH OF THE JEWISH FAITH.

        • April 20, 2016 at 12:21 am

          You can repeat it as many times as you want but it does not make it so. Poles are a racial group with defined physical characteristics. The same is true for other groups. Moreover, a group that believes that they are descended from the tribes coming out of Egypt (even if this belief is enshrined in their religion) can hardly be Polish, Czech or Italian. Their very own story tells who they are. Please do not tell us Poles, who we are. We have our own club and non-Poles are not in it. I am sorry it’s hard for you to live with that.

          • April 20, 2016 at 12:31 am

            Bad things tend to happen to bad people. Someone with so much anger in their hearts could easily be expected to have a heart attack or not pay attention when crossing the street resulting in an unfortunate truck accident. Then the matter resolves itself and those who look at it from the side can decide for themselves what they think really happened. If anything. Perhaps next time they will think about the consequences of being mean and nasty people.

            On the other hand, having the government protest this is BS, they’re just going to publicize the fuss and make themselves look petty.

            As far as the criminalization of the phrase, sure, you can do that but less talk and more action. This government seems to talk a lot but, as yet, I haven’t seen any arrests.

          • April 29, 2016 at 4:27 am

            Judaism is a religion, one can be a catholic and convert to Judaism and becaome Jewish. His “Polish defined physical characteristics” as you claim will stay the same even though now he is Jewish. Your theory does not make sense. Many Polish Jews are much better looking then catholic Poles…You are simply an Anti semite. Very few countries and very few people in the 21st century think like you. Even in Poland I believe that you are a minority. My friend, like it or not Judaism is a religion and the are many Polish Jews around the world , they are Polish. Moreover many of those catholic poles that you think are “Polish” have jewish blood or may be even 100% Jews. They are babaies and kids that were hidden during the 2nd world war in churchs and convents and were raised as catholics. but they are Jews. YOU MAY BE JEWISH….Did you see the movie Ida????

          • April 30, 2016 at 1:29 am

            Thanks for answering the age-old Jewish question about “who is a Jew” – the world could not wait for an answer and now Roberto gave it one.

            “Many Polish Jews are much better looking then catholic Poles…You are simply an Anti semite.”

            I would not presume to tell Jews (or any other non-Poles – Jews should not feel special) who they are and whether Judaism is just a religion or something else. I for one could not care less as to the answer.

            But I am pretty sure I know who the Poles are and am equally sure being Polish is NOT a religion.

            So let me tell you Roberto (you of such a Polish-sounding name) who Poles are:

            Poles are a people defined by familial relations. For this reason, your (attempt at an) insulting comment regarding Poles fizzles under the weight of its ineptitude:

            The opposite in your example of a Polish Jew or a Russian Georgian or an American Indian or whoever else you may want to concoct is not a Polish Catholic – but a Pole – of whatever faith (or of no faith).

            Therefore, it does not matter whether a Pole converts to Judaism or Protestantism or atheism or Buddhism or Islam or the faith of the Pink Turtle in the Sky – he is still Polish.

            Likewise, if an Arab or German or Jew becomes a Polish citizen or converts to Catholicism, he is still not Polish (whatever else he may be). And no sprinkling of H20 or signing of some piece of paper will ever change that.

            if you can’t live with that, I understand – it’s hard not to be Polish – after all we are the most special people in the world. So I’m sorry for you but hope you can find fulfillment in other ways.

            Also, it’s “than” not “then” – if you’re going to write in English please learn it first.

            If respecting your own people and not coveting others makes me an anti-Semite (you capitalize the “Semite” not the “anti” btw – see comment above about “English”), in Roberto’s book, I can live with that.

            PS you also wrote: “Moreover many of those catholic poles that you think are “Polish” have jewish blood or may be even 100% Jews”. So if being Jewish is a religion, how does one get “Jewish” (there is that capitalization again – I’m almost thinking it is you who may be an anti-Semite) blood? Do they do a transfusion when you join? Do tell.

          • April 30, 2016 at 1:45 am

            Also, my theory makes perfect sense. You just don’t like it so you’re acting like a spoiled little child and having a hissy fit.

            “They are babaies and kids that were hidden during the 2nd world war in churchs and convents and were raised as catholics. but they are Jews.”

            If Judaism is a religion and these “babaies” were raised Catholic, why are they in your view Jews and not Catholics?

            So that’s for theories that make no sense.

        • April 30, 2016 at 1:59 am

          As I re-read your comment, it’s even more bizarre. Gross is Polish because his mom is Polish. On that we are clear. But why do you think he is Jewish? You suggested that Judaism is a religion. His dad may have been Jewish (he was a Communist so by definition not a religious type so even here I am giving your shaky theory a benefit of the doubt) but, last I checked, Judaism claims its children on the mother’s side. Moreover, Gross has repeatedly stated that he does not feel Jewish – nor does he practice the Jewish religion. So, again, what in your strange book makes him Jewish?

          If you’re going to get verbally aggressive and start capitalizing all letters, at least make a bit of sense – otherwise you just come across as a lunatic.

          • April 30, 2016 at 7:27 pm

            To start with I had no intention to be verbally agressive, if you got this impression i am very sorry.

            If you read Diamond Back letter he clearly says that Polish Jews are not Polish. They are just Jews and that jews can not be Italian, Checz, etc..
            My reply was just to explain to him that he is wrong. JEWS ARE POLES, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, AMERICANS, etc, etc.
            You can be a Polish jew, a Canadian Jew, etc, etc.

            Am I a lunatic????

          • May 2, 2016 at 2:29 am

            Rodrick, you are just an ignorant , low life rascist and anti semite.
            By the way, do not criticize my English because your’s is full of erros….Stupid human being.
            Take care and have a good life, but mine is much better, I do not dislike anyone. I ignore people like you.
            And one I go to Poland, even though I do not speak the language well since I left very young, I am treated like a Pole……which I am even if you do not think so…..

          • May 2, 2016 at 6:35 pm

            How about this – anyone can be a “Pole” according to whatever Roberto decides at the moment. However, I am hereby starting a new nation called the Schmoles. The Schmoles include all those people that would be Poles under my definition and no one else.

            Roberto – you are not a Schmole. Can you live with that? Is it hard not be a Schmole? Schmoles are, after all, the best people in the world.

            Good night

  • April 17, 2016 at 11:51 am

    It seems to me that the Polish government, instead of making itself look rather petty and vindictive in the pursuit of someone like Gross, who may or may not be a bona fide historian, but who is certainly of Polish origin, should concentrate on an attack like the one below in the foreign press, where history is being completely distorted by a British author who seems to have only the most superficial knowledge of Polish history. Here is a case of real and unjustified obloquy – and concerns the person of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who, as far as I’m aware, left no family to defend his name. Would Mr Kaczynski, who I understand is an admirer of Pilsudski, consider defending Sikorski, who was Pilsudski’s opponent, but nevertheless an eminent Polish patriot? Here’s the link:

    • April 17, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Disagree, Both matters should be pursued.

      • April 17, 2016 at 4:53 pm

        Alex – I’m not necessarily defending Gross, because – and I may have mentioned this before – I haven’t read his books and the only things I know about him are his occasional sensational pronouncements in the foreign press. It just seems to me it would be far more difficult to actually prosecute someone on the basis of slandering an entire country than of slandering an individual, as in the Scotsman case.

        Let’s face it, if the Polish government wanted to prosecute everyone who “slandered Poland” the list would be pretty long and would include cartoonists who drew Poles as pigs to talk-show hosts in the States who trot out “Polak” jokes.

        The thing about the Scotsman article is that the person of Wladyslaw Sikorski is being traduced and the current Polish government could actually win a case against the author of the article on the basis of a personal libel, it seems to me. Sikorski and the Polish Government in Exile are being maliciously portrayed as anti-Semites when the reverse was actually the case. They were the first to warn the world about what was happening to the Jews back home.

        • April 29, 2016 at 4:42 am

          To my knowledge , the Polish army in exile was not antisemite, on the contrary, It had many Polish Jews in it. Jews and catholics fought side by side as Poles, all equal, all the same.

          • April 29, 2016 at 11:34 am

            Thanks for your comment, Roberto. I have made this point elsewhere, but anyone needs to visit the Polish Military cemetery up at the hill of Monte Cassino to see the Stars of David there.

          • April 30, 2016 at 1:36 am

            As soldiers of the Polish government, sure but not as Poles. Please do not invite yourself into our club. Or do you think that the en masse desertions in Palestine were engaged in equal measure by Catholic and Jewish “Poles”? (The “religious” Jewish Poles most of whom were actually atheists…). Or are the Druse who fight in the IDF Jews? (oh, I forget they are “Israelis” – so let’s come up with another name for the soldiers of the 2nd corps – how about Polcits? They were Polcits but not Poles – happy or not enough for you?).

          • May 1, 2016 at 7:58 pm

            is it just a question of what to call them? How about Polish passport holders? And is that really your name?

          • May 2, 2016 at 2:20 am

            Rodrick is just a low life anti semite.
            You do not deserve any of us waisting our time to read and reply to your repulsive comments on people who sacraficed their lives for their country.

            To finalize the issue;

            Michal Karski, do not compromise your opinion to please this anti semite. They were Poles and of course they had polish passports. They were Poles. Lets work together to free Poland from verms like Rodrick.

            And one more think Rodrick, you can learn a lot how to treat minorities from the example that you gave about the Druse in Israel.

            You are repulsive

          • May 2, 2016 at 1:25 pm

            Don’t worry, Roberto. There is no question of compromise. I think I may have read this person’s comments here before when he had a different name and nothing anyone says will change his views. I wonder how many there are in his “club”? He may well be one of those who considers Obama a foreigner in his own country.

          • May 2, 2016 at 6:25 pm

            Roberto – other than your absurd outbursts, do you have anything to actually say as to address what was written?

            Sorry, but one does not “finalize the issue” by writing in ALL CAPS. No, non-Poles fighting in the Polish army were not Poles – Polish passport holders, sure. And why do you focus on the Jews so much? I am sure there were other non-Poles there too (Armenians, Germans, Ukrainians, etc). They too weren’t Poles but somehow you’re not up in arms about them?.

            “Rodrick, you are just an ignorant , low life rascist and anti semite.
            ….Stupid human being. … I do not dislike anyone.”

            Ehhh…. right… meds running low?

            See, I ACTUALLY do not dislike anyone – but I won’t agree to call a donkey a mule – whereas you, well, I think your words speak for yourself.

            “They were Poles. Lets work together to free Poland from verms like Rodrick.”

            Lovely. So you do not live in Poland but want to free Poland from people like me? “Verms” – I assume means vermin – I think I’ve heard that language before – from your friends the German National Socialists – same mindset it seems as Mr. Bao.

            “Am I a lunatic????”

            Based on your responses, I think you answered yourself more than adequately.

            And one more thing: I think you are a provocateur (“eror”, really?). Maybe you’re really Russian or German. I bet you get paid for this kind of “commentary”.

            @ Karski: well, Mr. Bao certainly won’t change anyone’s mind about anything – other than maybe that one should have a better troll filter.

          • May 4, 2016 at 3:52 am

            Michal karski thank you.
            I am finished talking to this guy Rodrick.

            My best regards to you Michal

          • May 4, 2016 at 2:52 pm

            cheers, Roberto

      • April 17, 2016 at 7:24 pm

        I forgot to add something. I doubt that deep inside Kaczynski has much respect for Marszalek Pilsudski, for he does not follow his policies.

        Pilsudski worked hard to build coalitions and alliances. It was he who obtained the loan of French artillery for the Battle of Warsaw. Kaczynski, on the other hand, works hard to get rid of coalitions and alliances.

        • April 17, 2016 at 7:35 pm

          Quite a talent. We have a few of those over here. They want to leave the EU.

          But Mr K must recognise an insult directed at the Polish government in Exile when he sees one. And that affects all Poles by association.

          • April 20, 2016 at 12:32 am

            Britain should leave the EU

          • April 30, 2016 at 1:50 am

            You’re throwing oil onto a fire – there is no reason to touch that one. One day, that Scotsman will be going home late at night and he’ll just slip. Probably not during Ms Szydlo’s reign though – she’s as creative as Ms. Kopacz.

          • May 2, 2016 at 8:25 pm

            And Mr. Karski: if you want to ask where stories about Polish camps or the Scotsman come from, just go see this.


            My guess is much of the namecalling dregs that come out on the web originate with nutcases like this woman. I would not be surprised if Roberto were a member of her site.

  • June 9, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    I think the government should not get involved with this. But raising awareness that it were indeed German death camps is a good thing. Even though I believe that it is also important for Poles to realize that indeed some of them were directly involved with the Nazis. The french also had to deal with this. I think it builts a Nations character if it accepts and deals with things like this. What Jan T. Gross wrote is important.

  • February 27, 2019 at 9:13 pm


  • March 12, 2019 at 10:14 am

    As if it really needs to be said, when outsiders refer to Polish death camps they’re clearly, for the most part, using a verbal shorthand to mean ‘located on the territory we now know as Poland’. If anyone takes the phrase to mean ‘death camps run by the Poles’ it’s pure ignorance and frankly the fault of the listener and not the speaker. And as one intelligent comment above states, it’s best to combat ignorance through voluntary public apology and good-faith education, not through laws clearly meant to bolster support for an illiberal regime. Even more ridiculous to me is the insistence by Poles that the term ‘Nazi’ is insufficient and even a method to shift the blame from the Germans (!), as if any semi-conscious person who lived during the second half of the 20th century could somehow miss the fact that the Nazis were German. Sure, I guess it’s possible, but you probably would have had to overlook the agreed-upon facts of the war itself, the hundreds of films portraying the Germans as the clear villains (from Casablanca to Saving Private Ryan), and the overwhelming body of historical research (both academic and popular) focusing on the Germans as the antagonists of the war. So, no, Polish internet patriots, we do not need you to ‘correct the record’.

    As for Gross, I’ve read his work (among others), and I have my issues with it. But those Poles who focus on his Jewish heritage as a way to denigrate his work are doing nothing more than proving his point with respect to Poles and anti-Semitism.


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