Poles and Jews


With some exceptions among individuals, and with the exception of commercial transactions, Jewish communities in pre-war Poland largely functioned as insular, self-absorbed, elitist, and self-positioned "strangers" in Polish society. The gulf between Polish Christians and Jews was enormous; in pre-Holocaust Poland, for example, the intermarriage rate between Poles and Jews was only one per cent. This ethnic isolation was self-imposed by Jews from the earliest times of their residence in Poland. Most Jews consciously chose not to assimilate into Polish society, many could not even speak Polish, and few had friendly relationships with the non-Jews around them.

"In prewar Poland," notes Wladyslaw Krajewski, a Polish Jew, "... the majority of Jews did not regard themselves as Poles. Growing up for the most part in Jewish environments, they observed only the Jewish customs and religion, spoke only Yiddish at home, and generally spoke Polish poorly." [Krajewski, 96-97] Norman Salsitz describes growing up in a Jewish community in a Polish town and discovering that many Jews did not even know what the Polish flag looked like. [Salsitz, N., 1992, 73] In 1936, Jewish voting patterns in Poland (in their self-governing kehillah organizations) revealed a 38 percent vote for the Bund party (a group emphasizing a Jewish, as opposed to Polish, identity), 36 percent vote for Zionist lists (the return to Israel group), and religious Orthodox (religiously anti-Gentile) and "middle-class" groups at about 23 percent. [Gitelman]

Jewish self-segregation was the norm for most Jews of Eastern Europe. "Jewish separatism," notes Jewish author Eva Hoffman about Poland, "was also an active choice, and it also had its consequences. It meant that Jewish individuals and communities cultivated their own alienness, and that although they were willing to engage in contractual relations with the Poles, they did not wish to enter into a shared world with them." [Hoffman, 63]

Jewish fear of and disdain for Christians is reflected in this account by the best known Holocaust polemicist, Elie Wiesel, here describing his childhood in Romania:

[Christian] rituals held no interest for me; quite the contrary. I turned away from them. Whenever I met a priest ... I would avert my gaze and think of something else. Rather than walk in front of a church with its pointed and threatening belfry, I would cross the street. To see was as frightening as to be seen; I worried that a visual, physical link might be created between us ... All I knew of Christians was their hate for my people [Jews]. Christians were more present in my imagination than in my life. What did a Christian do when he was alone? What were his dreams made of? How did he use his time when he was not engaged in plotting against us?" [Wiesel, 4-5]
Reflecting similar disdain for Christians, one of Jewish novelist Max Shulman's characters in Potatoes are Cheaper recalls: "If [my mother] happened to see [a nun] on the street, she made a circle three times, said Shma Yisrael, and ran to kill a chicken." That isn't really fiction. Jewish mistrust of Christians and of Christian symbols often expressed itself as a literal physical revulsion, as Moshe Rozdial's account of his grandmother illustrates:
If I could be really honest, growing up around holocaust survivors, especially grandparents who had been part of village life in Poland, my clearest memory of anything that relates to churches was the way my grandmother would spit three times, you know, tu! tu! tu!, like in Fiddler on the Roof, to ward off evil spirits, every time she would walk past a church steeple. The cross has really been more a burden to Jews, than for Christians to bear. For my Bubbe, my grandmother, it represented the wrath of Satan, swooping down on a helpless people when they were not vigilant to warding off the evil eye. She saw Nazism as just another version of Christianity, hordes of Aryan barbarians, swooping down with their broken cross, to do the work that the church had laid the foundation for, for a thousand years.

I remember walking down the street with my hand in hers, feeling that tug and knowing, almost instinctively that if I look up I'd see a cross atop a roof, as she reflexively crossed the street to avoid walking directly in front of the church. Muttering, Nevelah! Nevelah! Do you know what that means? The impurity of the dead. Any dead thing. Any dead thing, that by Jewish law, could not be touched in any way, so as not to be defiled by spiritual purity. That's what Bubbe thought of the crucifix and ultimately, the church ... She'd spit three times, more if she was in a dark mood, and walk out of her way to avoid the site. The dead Jew on the cross was a Nevelah to her, a presence that has always defiled her life, Jewish life. A symbol of death and human corruptness, to my people. I know it's not politically correct to say these things to you. We Jews are always watching our tongues, when it comes to Christianity.

A yeshiva student, Rachmiel Frydland, recounts how it was growing up Jewish in the pre-war town of Chelm: "I had no contacts with Christianity at all. On the way to school we passed a Roman Catholic church and a Russian Orthodox church, and we spat, pronouncing the words found in Deuteronomy 7:26, ' ... though shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.' Why should we say such horrible words? The [Christian] people looked so pious. They came from surrounding villages to worship, and they never bothered us." [Frydland, 55]

[Needless to say, the venerable Jewish tradition of spitting before Christian Churches and in the presence of the Cross did not endear Jews to their Christian neighbors. For further information, see (off-site) Israel Shahak's Spitting on the Cross. (Irmin)]

Abraham Sterzer grew up within a Jewish community in Eastern Galicia. "Our rabbi," he says, "insisted that we Jewish children spit on the ground and utter curses while passing near a cross, or whenever we encountered a Christian priest or religious procession. Our shopkeepers used to say that 'it was a Mitzveh (blessed deed) to cheat a Goy (gentile).'" [Piotrowski, 39] Anna Lanota recalls that her Jewish community in Poland "had a somewhat unfavourable attitude toward other nations -- maybe even contemptuous. There prevailed the feeling that we were the chosen people." [Piotrowski, 39] The first prime minister of modern Israel, David Ben-Gurion, once recalled his childhood among non-Jewish children in Poland: "Somebody would perhaps throw a stone, or start an argument, and very often it was the Jews who started first. We used to get the upper hand." [Kurzman, 50]

Jewish commentator Elias Tcherikower describes the nature of Jewish shtetl (Jewish community) culture in Eastern Europe:

Jews were not regarded, nor did they regard themselves, as Russians or Poles who differed in religion and occupational concentrations from the majority population ... Jews constituted an autonomous, isolated, self-enclosed, and collectively responsible social entity. The goings-on in the outside world certainly impinged upon the Jewish community, but were regarded as being as the same order as natural events; most often, as natural catastrophes. There was, relatively speaking, little social interaction that mattered between Jew and non-Jew. What was of significance was what went on in the Jewish world, in the world of the shtetl ... Above all, the shtetl was a community of rigid religious orthodoxy ... The shtetl's frame of reference was the Jewish community. Outside was the world of the goy, the alien ... Loyalty to this hostile, alien world was nonexistent. [Neusner, 4-6]
As Jewish Holocaust survivor Nechama Tec notes about traditional Jewish separatism, self-imposed estrangement from non-Jews, and resistance to assimilate into Polish culture (which had virtually insurmountable consequences when any Christian Pole sought, at constant risk of his or her life, to hide Jews from the Nazis):
In 1939, of all the European countries, Poland had the highest concentration of Jews. They made up 10 per cent of the country's population. As the largest community of Jews in Europe, Polish Jews were also the least assimilated. They looked, dressed, and behaved differently from Polish Christians ... In prewar Poland, more than half the Jewish children attended special Jewish schools. Enrollment in religious school, in turn, discouraged mastery of the Polish language. Thus, in answer to a 1931 census inquiry, the overwhelming majority of Jews mentioned Yiddish as their native tongue (79 per cent) and only 12 percent gave Polish as their first language. The rest chose Hebrew. Jews and Poles lived in separate and different worlds, and their diverse experiences made for easy identification. It has been estimated that more than 80 percent of the Polish Jews were easily recognizable, while less than 10 percent could be considered assimilated. [Tec, 12]
Jewish anthropologist Samuel Heilman notes that the Hasidic ultra-Orthodox literalist movement, founded in the eighteenth century, became the dominant Jewish world view in Eastern Europe. "In several generations," he observes, "[the Hasidic movement] absorbed huge numbers -- perhaps a majority -- of the region's Jews." (Heilman refers here to the "region" of Eastern Europe, including Podolia, Volhynia, Galicia, Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine.) [Heilman, 21] In 1992 Heilman wrote a book about the Hasids in Israel (whose ancestors were from Eastern Europe) and, even there, the Hasidic movement's profoundly separatist and ethnocentric world view is still reflected by 11- and 12-year olds in the Hasidic school system. Showing a school class a map of Israel, Heilman recounts,
I asked each boy if he could tell me what lay to the east, the south, the north, and the west [of Israel], each time pointing my pencil to the area in case they did not know the bearings of the compass. Again, no one knew ... Next I asked each boy to tell me the names of the surrounding countries, without necessarily specifying where they were in relation to Israel. In response, one boy began to list cities in Israel ... Perhaps the most revealing answer came from one youngster who, in reply to the question of what bordered on Israel, confidently answered that Israel was surrounded by chutz la'aretz. Chutz la'aretz is the Hebrew expression that most Israelis use to refer to the rest of the world. Literally, it means "outside of the Land (of Israel)," abroad. In this boy's mind the world was neatly divided. Just as there were goyim and Jews, so similarly there was Israel and chutz la'aretz ... It struck me that in the world they inhabited, the information I had asked them was simply not important. They had a different map of the world ... The large territories were not Russia, Germany, or Poland. They were named after cities of importance to the hasidim of Zvil: Apta, Lublin, Mezerich, Berdichev, Chernobyl. Cities had become countries." [Heilman, 233]
Stephen Bloom's 2001 book about an ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclave (the Chabad Lubavitchers, founded in Lithuania) in Postville, Iowa, gives a clear example of what relations must have been like between many Jews and Poles and Eastern Europe before the rise of the Nazis. Jews in the Iowa town, Bloom reports, do not want to touch Gentiles, they resist eye contact with them as they walk down the street, they have no knowledge or interest in Gentile life around them, they appear "obnoxious and imperial" to local people, they cheat local merchants, and they use oil in their candelabras because oil, which doesn't mix with other liquids, symbolizes Jewish separateness from all non-Jews. "Wherever we go," one Chabad leader said, "we don't adapt to the place or the people. It's always been like that and always will be like that. It's the place and the people who have to adapt to us." "Postville people, by and large, were tolerant," says Bloom, "... [but the Hasidic Jews] were downright rude. They seemed to go out of their way to be obnoxious, especially when it came to business dealings ... At first, the locals welcomed the Jews, but even the simplest offer -- a handshake, an invitation to afternoon tea -- was spurned. The locals quickly discovered that the Jews wouldn't even look at them. They refused to acknowledge even the presence of anyone not Jewish." [Bloom, passim]

As Norman Salsitz notes about his Jewish youth in Poland:

Most Poles were devout Catholics, and we Jews followed in the path of orthodox Judaism. Poles who were Catholics were automatically Poles; Poles who were Jewish were never referred to as anything but Jews. In look, in dress, in behavior, there was usually no mistaking the Pole and the Jew. Then, too, Poles all spoke Polish, Jews mostly Yiddish ... Acquaintances among Poles and Jews were common, indeed nearly inevitable in a town the [small] size of Kolbuszowa; but close friendships were practically nonexistent. [Salsitz, 242]
"The Poles never thought of us as Poles," says prominent Yiddish novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer, "and we didn't either."

Poland was invaded by the Nazi war machine in 1939 and totally overcome and decimated in a matter of weeks. The Nazi blitzkrieg consisted of 1,800,000 soldiers, 2,500 tanks, over 2,000 aircraft and naval warships. Three million Polish Christians died during World War II, a figure equal to that of Polish Jews who perished. 40% of the national wealth was destroyed, 10% of the non-Jewish population was killed. How were Poles to save Jews when they had first to struggle for their own lives and families?

In 1989 Stephan Korbanski, the last surviving leader of the Polish Underground State during German occupation, wrote a book complaining that "the charges leveled by the Jews against the Poles for allegedly sharing responsibility for the Holocaust by not preventing the slaughter of the Jews are groundless, unfair, and slanderous. An individual or a nation can be blamed for denying help which could be given, but not for failing to do the impossible." [Korbanski, vii]

Meanwhile, while the Poles were invaded and occupied from the West by Germany, communist Russia attacked from the East. Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland resulted in the confiscation of everything from banks to sawmills. Churches and other religious centers were closed or destroyed. Over a million Poles were deported, mostly to Asiatic Russia. Among the deportees, some 500,000 ended up in labor camps where many died. Members of Poland's religious and political infrastructure were executed; Stephan Korbanski notes that up to 100,000 Polish political prisoners were murdered by the Soviets by mid-1941.

Korbanski, as a leader of the Polish underground, and others began to report to the outside world what was happening in Poland, including the situation of the Jews. They even had a Jewish liaison in the Warsaw ghetto. Members of the Polish "Home Army" even made a number of attempts to blow up the walls and open the Jewish Warsaw ghetto, but were repelled by German defenses. [Korbanski, 57]

In a review of Korbanski's book by David Engel, a Jewish professor at New York University, Korbanski's first-hand account of the suffering of the Polish people) was summed up with these final sentences: "Mr. Korbanski will never have to deal with the problems raised by the book; he passed away shortly after it was released. How sad that the final work of a man with so much to his credit is a splenetic diatribe, falling at times far below acceptable scholarly standards to the level of gutter literature." [Engel] What especially grates Engler is this kind of comment from Korbanski:

"The [Jewish] consensus which emerged (in the early periods of Nazi occupation) was the unanimous belief that only total submission to all the Nazi orders and industrious work for the Germans might offer chances of survival until the end of the war. The [Jewish] watchword was: "This is not our war; it's the war of the Poles against the Germans." All the Jewish problems were to be dealt with by the Jewish Council (Judenrat), headed by former Polish senator Adam Czerniakow and formed by Germany themselves. That doctrine of submissiveness remained in force for two years, during which the Jews in the ghetto did not ask the Poles for any help or weapons." [Korbanski, 44]
Korbanski's frank indictment the Jewish communists who filled the secret police agencies post-war Poland would also be offensive to anyone who accepts the myth of eternal Jewish victimhood. Korbanski writes:
To realize his plan of seizing total control of Poland, Stalin formed two teams: one to satisfy appearances and the Western Allies, the other to actually rule Poland. The first was headed by the Polish communist Warda Wasilewska and the other by Jacob Berman, who knew Stalin well. The choice of Berman was connected with his Jewish origins, which exonerated him from suspicion of Polish patriotism and advocacy of Poland's independence. Stalin regarded the Jews as cosmopolites, whose loyalties would be to Zionism rather than the country of their residence. [Korbanski, 73]
The principal instrument of Berman's power was his total control of the Ministry of State Security, which began -- under Stalin's instructions -- to liquidate all centers of Polish opposition, often by simply murdering persons suspected of advocating Poland's independence. [Korbanski, 74]

Jewish historians Pawel Korzec and Jean-Charles Szurek also "admit [that] the Jewish youth and proletariat played an important ('although not exclusive') role in the apparatus of oppression." [Bartoszewski, 18] One Jewish veteran, Wladyslaw Krajewski, of the earlier pre-World War II Communist Party (KPP), estimated that half of its leadership was of Jewish origin. [Krajewski, W., 94] With Jews representing about 10% of the Polish population that was mostly Catholic with relatively little interest in communism, "in the large cities the percentage of Jews in the [Communist Party] often exceeded 50 per cent and in the smaller cities, frequently over 60 per cent. Given this background, [the] statement that 'in small cities like ours, almost all communists were Jews' does not appear to be a gross exaggeration. [Schatz, 96]

In Warsaw about 65 per cent of the Communist membership was Jewish. In 1930 "Jews constituted 51 percent of the [Communist Union of Polish Youth], while ethnic Poles were only 19 percent. (The rest were Bylerussians and Ukrainians)." [Schatz, 96] In 1932 Jews were 90 percent of the International Organization for Help to Revolutionaries. [Schatz, 97] They were also 54 percent of the communist field leadership, 75 percent of its propagandists, and "occupied most of the seats" of the Central Committee of the Communist Workers' Party and Communist Party of Poland. In pre-World War II Poland, many communist activists were jailed. Polish researcher Andrzej Zwolinski found that "in Polish court proceedings against communists between 1927 and 1936, 10 percent of those accused were Polish Christians and 90 percent were Jews." [Piotrowski, 36] [Schatz, 97] Not surprisingly, the formal positions of the Polish Communist Party included a "firm stand against anti-Semitism." [Schatz, 100]

Furthermore, the symbolism of three very high level Jewish officers -- Minc, Berman, and Zambrowski -- in the oppressive institutions of post-war Communism "became a lasting part of anti-Semitic vocabulary." [Schatz, 206] "All three communist leaders who dominated Poland between 1948 and 1956, [Jacob] Berman, Boleslaw Bierut, and Hilary Minc, were Jews." [MacDonald, 63] As the Catholic Primate of Poland, Cardinal Hlond, noted in 1976, ethnic Polish anti-Jewish sentiment was now "due to the Jews who occupy leading positions in Poland's government and endeavor to introduce a governmental structure that the majority of Poles do not wish to have." [Schatz, 207]

Stephan Korbanski also notes that the Soviet Communist secret police

team assembled by Berman [whose brother Adolf was chairman of the Jewish Committee in Poland till 1947, when he immigrated to Israel] at the beginning of his rule were all Jewish -- Vice Minister Natan Grunsapau-Kikiel (Roman Romkowski) [who once interrogated Korbanski], and other high officials like General Julius Hibner (David Schwartz), Anatol Fejgin, security police chief Joseph Swiatlo, Joseph Rozanski (Goldberg), "Colonel Czaplicki," and Zygmut Okret. These were not the only Jewish officials who oppressed Poles in the name of communism. Victor Klosiewicz, a member of the Communist Council of State, has stated that "it was unfortunate that all the department directors in the Ministry of State were Jews." [Korbanski, 78]
"Jacek Rozanski," notes Polish author Jacek Borkowicz, was "director of the Investigative Department of the Polish State Security Ministry" and was "sentenced in 1955 to five years imprisonment" -- a later trial in 1957 sentenced him to fifteen years -- for "using inadmissible means of persuasion during interrogations ... Son of a prominent Warsaw Yiddish-language journalist (on the pro-Zionist 'Hajnt'), Rozanski was a dedicated communist who ... maintained his Jewish identity until the end." "All the detainees described [Rozanski] as an exceptionally cynical and sadistic psychopath who liked to torture prisoners needlessly," notes Jewish author Michael Checinski, "... Rozanski's Jewish origin was then common knowledge, in spite of his Polonized name." [Checinski, 80]

Checinski notes the post-World War II case of Semyon Davidov who

held the relatively modest post of head of Soviet advisers in Poland. But no serious operational decisions on any question pertaining to political provocations or police terror could ever be taken without Davidov's consent. On the one hand, Davidov and his personal network supervised the activities of the Soviet advisers in all the mainstays of real power in Poland (the armed forces, security service, party apparatus, state administration, and industry). But he also was responsible for overseeing the entire Polish apparatus of terror. [Checinski, 51]
Abel Kainer (a pseudonym of Stanislaw Krajewski, a Polish Jew) adds:
The archetype of the Jew during the first ten years of the Polish People's Republic was generally perceived as an agent of the secret political police. It is true that under Bierut and Gomulka (prior to 1948) the key positions in the Ministry of State Security were held by Jews or persons of Jewish background. It is a fact which cannot be overlooked, little known in the West and seldom mentioned by the Jews of Poland. Both prefer to talk about Stalin's anti-Semitism ... The machinations of communist terror functioned in Poland in a manner similar to that used in other communist ruled countries in Europe. What requires explanation is why it was operated by Jews. The reason was that the political police, the base of communist rule, required personnel of unquestionable loyalty to communism. These were people who had joined the Party before the war and in Poland they were predominately Jewish. [Korbanski, 79]
"The feeling that Jews are oppressors probably sounds absurd to many westerners," wrote Stanislaw Krajewski, under his own name. "The only sense it has derives from the Jewish participation in the oppressive rule in Poland, and in particular the fact that a lot of Jews looked favorably at the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in 1939." [Krajewski, 50] Most Poles, on the other hand, did not look favorably at Soviet occupation. In their eyes World War II was a struggle on two fronts -- in the West against the Nazi fascists, and in the East against the Russian communists.

Even a Jewish scholar/polemicist like Robert Wistrich, who expresses astonishment that one-third of West Germany after World War II still felt that anti-Semitism was primarily caused by "Jewish characteristics," concedes that

After the Polish communist seizure of power in 1948 there were indeed a number of Jews like Jakob Berman, Hilary Minc, and Roman Zambrowski, who did play key roles in the party, the security services, and economic planning. No doubt they were considered by Moscow as being less susceptible than the Catholic majority to Polish nationalist feelings, though in the eyes of many Poles they were little better than agents of a foreign, semi-colonial power ... the anti-communist underground was convinced that Jews were deliberately betraying Poland. [Wistrich, 271]
In communist Poland, according to Pinek Maka, the Jewish Secretary of Security for Silesia, the number of Jewish officers in the dreaded OSS (the secret police organization) was 150 to 225 (as much as 75% of the total) -- merely in his own jurisdiction. [Sack, 175] Another Jewish OSS officer, Barek Edelstein, estimated that 90% of the Jews of Kattowitz disguised themselves with Polish names. Josef Musial, the Vice Minister for Justice in Poland in 1990, suggested that most officers in the OSS throughout Poland had been Jewish. [Sack, 183]

In 1992 Shlomo Morel, a Jew still living in Poland, was interrogated by Polish authorities who were looking into his past as the commandant of a brutal post-World War II communist concentration camp for Germans and nationalist Poles. "Shlomo went home, wrote a cousin in Israel, asked him for $490, and the next month, in January 1992, took the first plane that he could to Tel Aviv," leaving his Catholic wife behind. [Sack, 166] In an interview with Jewish journalist John Sack, Morel advised him that he must not write about the story of Jewish dominance and brutality in the OSS "because it would increase anti-Semitism." [Sack, 169] Israel, despite its professed mission to bring war criminals to justice, has persistently rejected Polish requests for Morel's extradition.

After World War II, writes Richard Lukas, "Jews in [Polish] cities and towns displayed Red flags to welcome Soviet troops, helped to disarm Polish soldiers, and filled administrative positions in Soviet-occupied Poland. One report estimated that seventy-five per cent of all the top administrative posts in the cities of Lwow, Bialystok, and Luck were in Jewish hands during Soviet occupation ... The entire character of the University of Lwow changed during the Soviet occupation. Prior to the war, the percentage of students broke down as follows: Poles, 70 per cent; Ukrainians 15 per cent; Jews 15 per cent. After the Soviets, the percentage changed to 3 per cent, 12 per cent, and 85 per cent, respectively." [Lukas, 128]

"The evidence," observed Jewish commentator Aleksander Smolar, "is overwhelming: large numbers of Jews welcomed the Soviet invasion, implanting in Polish memory the image of Jewish crowds greeting the invading Red Army as their liberator." "Thousands of Polish survivors' testimonies, memoirs, and works of history," notes Polish scholar Tadeusz Piotrowski, "tell of Jewish celebrations, of Jewish harassment of Poles, of Jewish collaboration (denunciations, manhunts, and roundups of Poles for deportation), of Jewish brutality and cold-blooded executions, of Jewish pro-Soviet citizens' committees and militias, and of the high rates of Jews in the Soviet organs of oppression after the Soviet invasion of 1939." [Piotrowski, 51]

Testimony to the Jewish Polish response to the Soviet invasion of Poland includes the following Jewish accounts, from the archives of the Yad Vashem Holocaust organization in Israel:

*"When the Bolsheviks entered the Polish territories they displayed a great distrust of the Polish people, but with complete faith in the Jews ... they filled all the administrative offices with Jews and also entrusted them with top level positions." [from the town of Grodno]

*"I must note that, from the very first, the majority of positions in the Soviet agencies were taken by Jews." [from the town of Lwow]

*"The Russians rely mainly on the Jewish element in filling positions, segregating, naturally, the bourgeois from the proletariat." [from the town of Zolkwia]

*"A Jewish doctor recalled how local Jewish youths, having formed themselves into a 'komsomol,' toured the countryside, smashing Catholic shrines." [near the town of Jaworow]

*"Whenever a [pro-Soviet] political march, or protest meeting, or some other sort of joyful event took place, the visual effect was always the same -- Jews." [from the town of Lwow] [Piotrowski, 49]

As Piotrowski notes, these comments have been edited out of an English translation of the source volume, originally published in Polish.

"The victims of the reign of terror imposed by Stalin and carried out by his Jewish subordinates," says Stephan Korbanski, "during the first ten years of the war numbered tens of thousands. Most of them were Poles who had fought against the Germans in the resistance movement. The communists judged, quite correctly, that such Poles were the people most likely to oppose the Soviet rule and were therefore to be exterminated. The task was assigned to the Jews because they were thought to be free of Polish patriotism, which was the real enemy." [Korbanski, 79] Korbanski then goes on to name and detail 29 more Jewish officials (beyond the ones earlier mentioned) of the communist elite that held positions in suppressing Polish nationalism.

"In places like Gleibwitz," writes John Sack, "the Poles stood against the prison walls as Implementation tied them to big iron rings, said, 'Ready! Aim! Fire!,' shot them, and told the Polish guards, 'Don't talk about this.' The guards, being Poles, weren't pleased, but the Jacobs, Josefs, and Pinteks, the office's brass [of the Office of State Security] stayed loyal to Stalin, for they thought of themselves as Jews, not as Polish patriots ... Stalin ... had hired all the Jews on Christmas Eve, 1943, and packed them into his Office of State Security, his instrument in the People's Republic of Poland. [Sack, 139]

All this, of course, as well as the Poles' own struggle for survival under Nazi rule, the role of Jews in the brutal communist oppression of Polish nationalism, and the self-imposed Jewish estrangement from Polish society, is part of the unscholarly "gutter literature" of which the likes of David Engel speak.

In 1984, a Polish journalist, Teresa Toranska, had this interchange with Jacob Berman, the despised Jewish former "Minister of State Security" in post-war communist Poland:

Berman: "I was against too large a concentration of Jews in certain institutions ... it wasn't the right thing to do and it was a necessary evil that we'd been forced into when we [communists] took power when the Polish intelligentsia was boycotting us...

Q: In 1948-49 you arrested members of the [Polish] Home Army Council of Aid to Jews, the 'Zegata' ... Mr. Berman! The security services who were all or nearly all Jews arrested Poles because they had saved Jews during the [Nazi] occupation, and you say the Poles are anti-Semites. That's not nice.

Berman: ... It was wrong that that happened. Certainly it was wrong ... It was a small group, but very dedicated, and it took enormous risks to look after Jews during the war." [Toranska, 321]

Toranska also talked to Roman Werbel, a prominent Jewish communist ideologue and editor of major Polish communist journals, who discussed the implications of the brutality wrought by Jewish security officers upon Poles in fomenting anti-Semitism: "Beating causes degradation not only in the person who is beaten, but in the person doing the beating as well. So it's better to shoot someone than to beat him ... There are principles you have to stick to in beating, however Johnny has to be beaten by Johnny and not Moshe ... I can see now that there were too many Jews in the security services." [Toranska, 109]

Jewish apologist Michael Checinski (whose world view of Poland is fed by the omnipresent anti-Semitism model, whereby even in the act of oppression of Poles, Jews are themselves considered victims of an anti-Jewish plot concocted by an anti-Semitic communist regime) argues that

while by coincidence or evil design, Jewish officials were often placed in the most conspicuous posts; hence they could easily be blamed for all the regime's crimes ... Jews -- and especially those with Jewish names or striking Semitic features -- could be placed in the most controversial posts (for example, those dealing with Church affairs or the campaign against the political underground) and thus deflect antiregime feelings into anti-Semitism. This policy was implemented not only in Poland, but throughout Eastern Europe, where the new [communist] governments, ruling only with the military support of the Soviet army, were seen by their own peoples as puppets. [Checinski, 62-63]
In 1999, the government of Poland was still seeking to try a Jewish woman, Helena Brus (now living in England), who in the post-World War II communist regime was Poland's chief military prosecutor. Polish investigators, noted the Jerusalem Report, say "that Brus ... played a key role in the trial and execution of a hero of the Polish resistance, General Emil Fieldorf ... The anti-Communist Fieldorf, hanged after a one-day trial in 1953 but posthumously pardoned in 1989, was an intelligence officer in the underground Polish Home Army in World War II." [Winner, 37]

In 1994, the New York Times discussed the case against Marcel Reich-Ranicki, a well-known German Jewish literary critic who had emigrated from Poland. "He was forced to admit his involvement with the Polish secret police from 1944 to 1950," says Carol Oppenheim, "after his name turned up on the front page of a Warsaw newspaper publishing excerpts from a secret Polish intelligence archive." [Oppenheim, 39]

"Hundreds of Jews," writes John Sack, "were operating in all of Poland and Poland-administered Germany ... Many [officers of the OSS] were Jewish boys but few used Jewish names ... The talk was in Yiddish, mostly ... About three out of four of the officers -- two hundred rowdy boys -- in the Office of State Security in Kattowitz [Poland's large industrial city] were Jews ... They used names like Stanislaw Niegoslawski, a name that belonged to a [Polish prisoner]." [Sack, passim]

Despite all the historical conflicts between Poles and Jews, some Poles did rescue Jews during the German occupation. In fact, more than 2,500 Christian Poles were executed for aiding Jews, and over 2,000 Polish Christian citizens are honored as Righteous Gentiles at Israel's Vad Yashem. (This does not include the many that cannot be formally documented.) "Every Polish Jew who survived in occupied Poland," notes Eva Hoffman, "(rather than in the Soviet Union), did so with the help of individual Poles and of organizations set up for the purpose of aiding Jews. This was help offered at enormous risk, since sheltering Jews carried with it the penalty of death." [Hoffman, 7] But few Jews want to hear about Christians who saved Jewish lives. Rabbi Harold Schulweiss, who has lectured on the subject to many Jewish audiences, notes that: "By and large, in most audiences, I found a resistance to my message. What was my obsession with 'them' [Poles] they seemed to ask." [Cerami] (Even Liwa Gomulka, a Jew and the eventual wife of post-World War II Polish communist head Wladyslaw Gomulka, "refused to see an old Polish woman who had hidden her during the Nazi occupation and had come to her for some small favor.") [Checinski, 143]

So where were the Jews, before things got worse for them, who saved a Polish life, in any way in those times? Where is just one? As Norman Davies notes, "to ask why the Poles did little to help the Jews is rather like asking why the Jews did nothing to assist the Poles." [Davies, 264; emphasis added]

There are many profound Holocaust-era facts that the Jewish community vehemently strives to bury. While on the one hand the Jewish polemicists wield the "We Shall Never Forget" injunction about their Holocaust, the facts of Jewish-created mass murder are forcibly covered up. In 1993, for instance, Jewish journalist John Sack published the results of his interviews with 23 Jewish OSS (the communist secret police in post-war Poland) officers and 55 family members or friends of Jewish members of the dreaded OSS. The book, not surprisingly, has been subject to a concerted and massive censorial effort. Sack was shocked with what he found in his seven years of research on the subject: 60,000-80,000 Germans and Poles were murdered in Jewish-run concentration camps, "more than the number of [Jews] who died at Belsen and Buchenwald." [Sack, 14]

"Jews," says Sack, "were sometimes as cruel as their exemplars at Auschwitz, and they even ran the organization that ran the prisons and ... the concentration camps for German civilians in Poland and Poland-administered Germany ... The Jews who committed [atrocities] covered them up ... I learned that in 1945 they killed a great number of Germans: not Nazis, not Hitler trigger men, but German civilians, German men, women, children, babies, whose 'crime' was just to be German ... The Germans lost more civilians [this way than] ... the Jews themselves lost in all of Poland's pogroms. So I had learned, and I was aghast to learn it." [Sack, x]

Sack notes Jewish torturers sticking toads down peoples' throats, whippings, and some victims buried alive in potato sacks. A hundred non-Jews at the Myslowitz concentration camp, for instance, were murdered each day; the death rate in some Jewish-controlled camps was 80%. [Sack, 110, 206]

In the 1980s, Sack paid a visit to Yad Vashem to search for information about the hundreds of Jews who ran the murderous post-war concentration camps, under the auspices of the Office for State Security, for Germans and anti-communist Poles. Virtually all former Jewish OSS members have successfully hidden their pasts and many moved to America. One even became the "vice-president of the United Synagogues of America and a chairman of the United Jewish Appeal." [Sack, 151]

Yad Vashem's repository, writes Sack, "had fifty million pages, five, on the average, per [Jewish] man, woman, and child, a mile-long tunnel of pages, all indexed, all catalogued, so I was surprised it had nothing at all on the Office of State Security [of Eastern Europe] or the Jews who had run it." The director of the Holocaust center told Sack the facts he had thus far uncovered were "imaginary": "'Impossible!' the Director said ... [He glowered] at me as though he would choke me, a man who might someday write that the Jews sometimes killed the Germans [and Poles] when all the fifty million pages said it was the other way around." [Sack, 148]

Sack's investigation at Vad Yashem did turn up, however, the intriguing fact that the vice-chairman of this vast Holocaust propaganda post had himself served as an officer in the notorious OSS. He had even been a torturer, a "heavy-handed interrogator" at the Neisse concentration camp. "I was terrible," he told Sack. "But better not to speak about this." [Sack, 148-149]

Works Cited

Bartoszewski, Wladyslaw T. Polish Views of the Holocaust. The Jewish Quarterly, Autumn 1990, p. 16-19.

Bloom, Stephen B. Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. Updated with a New Afterward, A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc., San Diego New York London, 2000, First Harvest Edition 2001.

Cerami, Charles A. "Half a Million Schindlers. Remembering the Jewish Holocaust," America, V. 171, N11, Oct. 15, 1994: 13 (5 pages).

Checinski, Michael. Poland: Communism, Nationalism, Anti-Semitism. [translated in part by Tadeusz Szafar] Karz-Cohl Publishing, New York, 1982.

Davies, Norman. God's Playground: A History of Poland. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1981.

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Lukas, Richard C. The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-1944. The University of Kentucky Press.

MacDonald, Kevin. The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in the Twentieth Century International and Political Movements. Praeger. Westport, CN; London, 1998.

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Oppenheim, Carol Toll. An Eye for an Eye. [Book Review] The Progressive, September 1994, p. 39.

Piotrowski, Tadeusz. Poland's Holocaust. Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. McFarland & Co., Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, 1998.

Sack, John. An Eye for an Eye. Basic Books, New York, 1993.

Salsitz, Norman. [As Told to Richard Skolnick]. A Jewish Boyhood in Poland. Remembering Kolbuszowa. Syracuse University Press, 1992.

Schatz, Jeff. The Generation: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Community of Poland. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford, 1991.

Tec, Nechama. Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland. When Light Pierced the Darkness. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 1986.

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Wiesel, Elie. A Jew Today. Random House, New York, 1978.

Winner, David. "A Question of Motives." The Jerusalem Report. March 1, 1999, p. 37

Wistrich, Robert. Anti-Semitism in Europe After 1945, pp. 269-296. In Wistrich, Terms of Survival: The Jewish World Since 1945. Routledge, London and New York, 1995.

The preceding text is excerpted and edited from When Victims Rule, online at Jewish Tribal Review. The title is editorial.


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