Journalism, so they say, is the first draft of history, and our perception of history is both our reckoning of our reality, and the prism through which we imagine the future. Nothing is of greater consequence than historiography. And if this enterprise is to have any meaning then we must have the truth, whatever the cost.
And from Deutsche Welle, German state media, we didn't get it.
All history is distorted. It is written, as Voltaire noted, by the victors, and serves their interests. No history is more distorted than war history. No conqueror has ever emerged from the a successful campaign with a confession, a mea culpa, it just doesn't happen. The vanquished are always the guilty aggressor, and are made to pay for it, whether they deserve it or not.
No era in history has ever been more distorted than the Nazi era. This is not to suggest that the public perception of them as vile monsters is undeserved, it isn't, they were loathsome, but many a faction which supported them, allied with them, and even funded them, have since the war's end been reinvented as anti-Fascist crusaders, with the best example being the Zionists who came to agreement with the Nazis and supported Hitler right up until the very end. Nazi Germany's anti-Semitic policies forced Jews to emigrate, with many going to Palestine, consequently the Zionists endorsed the Enabling Acts and other anti-Semitic laws as it worked to their advantage. The leader of the German branch of the World Zionist Organization, Joachim Prinz, wrote an ebullient open letter to Adolf Hitler in which he lauded the Nazi leader and likened Zionism to National Socialism (Naziism). This history was conveniently rewritten and after the war the Zionists posited themselves as the vanguard of Jewish resistance to Nazi butchery. What we are taught nowadays on this topic is precisely the opposite of the truth.
And it isn't just the Zionists who were embarrassed by their all-too-cozy relationship with the Third Reich. Many captains of American industry, the Bush family included, were ardent Nazi loyalists. Henry Ford actually accepted an award from der Fuehrer.
It is against this backdrop that the events in Poland must be viewed. The facts are very much in dispute (they always are), but that is not the impression one would get from reading DW's account. Scholarly dissent has become "denial."
It is difficult to extract the truth as all players in this drama had a reason to lie, and did. But it appears quite likely that about 300 Polish Jews were murdered in Jedwabne in 1941. Who killed them and why is what is at issue. The conventional explanation, one happily endorsed by DW, is that the Jews were massacred by Poles, and the motive was very simply anti-Semitism. This interpretation plays very well in the post-WW2 version of history offered by the Allies (who now include the the Zionists). After all, we know that Poles are crazed, blood-thirsty, natural-born Jew-killers, and we know it because Steven Spielberg has told us as much, so believing that they pounced on their fellow citizens the first chance they got comports nicely with the anti-Polish racism we've been force-fed by interested parties since the war ended. But history is seldom as simple as that, as this case illustrates.
What follows is a presentation of the facts such as I remember them. I have not attempted to re-familiarize myself with every detail. If interested, you can do some research on your own.
In the 1930s, there was great apprehension in Poland over the rising militarism of Germany and Russia. War was in the air, and many Poles expected that an invasion would come sooner or later. While just about all wanted their homeland free and independent, some hoped Germany would prevail, others the USSR. The Jews (most of them were not Zionists in this period), for obvious reasons, favored Moscow.
In 1939, Poland was invaded simultaneously by the Nazis from the west, and the Soviets from the east, and partition resulted. Jedwabne fell into the latter's domain.
Being apprehensive as to what Germany's long term plans might be, the Kremlin appointed to important administrative posts those people it thought were least likely to collude with the Nazis, namely the Jews. Some Poles speculated that the Jews had been in cahoots with the Soviets all along and blamed them bitterly for the occupation. As far as I know, there is no evidence that the Jews conspired with the Russian in advance of the invasion. Likewise nothing suggests that, at least initially, resentment of the Jews was widespread.
Poles in both the German and Russian spheres organized themselves for resistance. In the east, as many government posts were given to Jews, it was they who were tasked in many cases with suppressing revolt against Russian rule. The Soviets formed Jewish militias and armed them to the teeth. These, under the direction of the NKVD, did intelligence work, arrested suspected rebels, and oversaw the deportation of a great number of "disloyal" Poles to Siberia. Many thousands of Polish patriots were exiled from the Jedwabne area.
Predictably, hostility between Christians and Jews did follow. Jews rightly could see nothing but misery from German hegemony over Poland. The Christians for their part were quite understandably outraged that in Poland's great hour of crisis, the people with whom they had shared their homeland for centuries had sided with Poland's traditional enemy, and were actively engaged in the perpetuation of the occupation. The Poles, like any people would, felt betrayed, and not without some justification. For them it wasn't a question of who was the more tolerable foreign overlord, they wanted them both out.
In 1941, Germany cleared eastern Poland as it pushed forward to invade the USSR. Now the Nazis ruled Jedwabne. They then set about eliminating those who worked for the Soviets and very many of them were Jews. Poles were only too happy to identify collaborators, Jewish and Christian.
Well aware of what had happened to Napoleon when he attempted to wrest Russia from the Romanovs, the Germans created special rear guard troops called Einsatzgruppen, whose job it was to follow the army through pacified territory and stay behind long enough to "cleanse" the area of civilian/partisan resistance. And this they did ruthlessly. As Jews were seen as largely pro-Soviet, many of them were murdered.
In Jedwabne, Jews were sequestered in a barn and it was set ablaze, about 300 died.
Shortly after the war, the Poles, no longer occupied by Russia but under its aegis, conducted an investigation into the incident. They concluded that the Jews were killed by Poles on the orders of the Nazi occupiers, orders they couldn't refuse under pain of death. So this version has Poles doing the shooting, but under the mandate of the Germans.
Unfortunately, this process was marred by controversy. The alleged shooters claimed they had been tortured into confessing. Some years later documents came to light which supported the defendants' claim. And even later a Polish intelligence officer admitted that the confessions were torture induced.
Although as far as I know there is no evidence to support this speculation, nevertheless, some believe that the torture was ordered by Joe Stalin. His motive, according to this theory, was to blame Germany for any and all atrocities committed during the war for the propaganda value, and to garner as much war reparations money for the Soviet Union as possible. This theory is lent considerable credibility by the fact that we know Ol' Joe blamed the Nazis for abominations that he himself had ordered, with the Katyn Massacre being an example.
About a decade later the Germans conducted their own investigation and it too is mired in contention.
[Again, I'm doing this from memory, please excuse the incomplete nature of some of the following information.]
The Jews of Poland formed a national committee after the war and one of its members conducted his own investigation. This man, whose first or last name was Simon, presented his findings which in the main agreed with the other Polish investigation in that it blamed the Germans. He named the man he believed responsible.
The German inquiry was based on Simon's analysis. In a shocking twist, they found no evidence against Simon's suspect despite the ample documentation he had provided, but found a new German suspect, a Gestapo officer named Schaper. The latter was brought to trial, then after a series of postponements which lasted for years, he was found guilty, but then only sentenced to a few years (for allegedly killing 300 people)! And then his sentence was commuted!
Needless to say, this raised more than a few eyebrows. Some conjectured that they were trying to protect Simon's suspect, and the Schaper thing was a ruse.
So it stood until Zion commandeered the issue. A "Polish-American" named Jan Gross published a book about a decade ago with a new theory of the case.
At this point I must confess that I have not read Neighbors. I decided not to after reading Norman Finkelstein's critique, which was devastating. Finkelstein, in whose integrity and academic competence I have confidence, tore it to shreds. He convinced me that like so many other books relating to Jewish history, particularly the Nazi era, it is Zioganda.
Infamously, Gross, who never bothered to read the relevant documents from the German archives, claims that no Germans were present at the massacre in Jedwabne, this despite the eyewitness testimony of locals who testified that their town was "crawling" with Gestapo. Controverting the research of every other investigator, Gross postulates (much to the delight of Tel Aviv) that Poles, acting on their own, murdered the 300 Jews, and did so because they were (you know what's coming, don't you) anti-Semites. His book is racistly reductionist like all Zioganda in that it insists on seeing Jews only and ever as innocent victims, and any group with whom they have come into conflict as mindless, savage bigots motivated by nothing other than blind hatred. This is the sectarian theme of all Zionist propaganda: Jew-good, other-bad.
Previously, all researchers into this affair had put the death toll in the vicinity of 300, Gross increased the tally five- to ten-fold. (It was the world's largest barn, presumably.)
The book was a hit. It got rave reviews from reviewers who hadn't read it, and its critics were denounced as anti-Semites or denialists or just plain kooks. A documentary was made which also was lauded. Gross' version became the official history of the event.
There it stood for several years until Poland, now long free of Moscow, conducted another investigation. While not daring to be too harsh on the Ziogandist, it congratulated Gross for his fine work while at the same time correcting some of his absurdities: Germans certainly were present, and his fictionalized death toll was dismissed.
So now to DW's account.
Poland comes to terms with war-time massacres of Jewish citizens
Ceremonies are taking place in Poland this week to mark the 70th anniversary of a series of massacres committed by Poles against their Jewish neighbors during World War II. But some groups are still in denial.No, it's Deutsche Welle who is in denial. Here they presented theory, discredited in my view, as fact:
A ceremony in the eastern town of Jedwabne, Poland, on Sunday marked one of the darkest chapters in the nation's history. Leading Polish politicians, the Israeli ambassador to Poland and the country's chief rabbi were joined for the first time by a Polish Roman Catholic bishop on the site where Polish villagers turned on and massacred their Jewish neighbors during the World War II.Note the mention of the bishop.
The Soviets occupied the area when war broke out in 1939. After the Nazis attacked the USSR two years later, confusion and mayhem gripped Jedwabne. Historians estimate that the massacres of Jews took place in over 50 places in the region, killing thousands.
They left out the massacres of gentiles, apparently they are not important. Fifty massacres and only thousands of dead?
"The cries of terror coming from the barn haven't gone silent, although decades have elapsed since that tragic day," Mazowiecki said.
"Those guilty of the crime disgraced themselves in the eyes of other Poles when they raised their hand against their Jewish compatriots."
The exact number of those who died during the massacre remains a point of contention among researchers. Even in the best documented Jedwabne pogrom, the numbers vary from 300 to 1,000.
Here the Poles are guilty and the Germans innocent. This is not even the prevailing opinion, just Gross'. And it is only Gross who put the number over about 300, although they did reduce his gaudy total to a mere 1,000, even though, as far as I know, nobody has actually estimated the death count at a thousand.
Denial still common
Although the presence of a high-ranking member of the Polish Roman Catholic episcopate indicates that at least the church is coming to terms with the truth, many of the country's conservative and nationalist circles remain in denial about Jedwabne and similar events.
A series of publications have come out that question the specific findings of those documenting the massacres, while those pursuing such research have been branded unpatriotic. Polish-American historian Jan Gross, who first revealed the truth about Jedwabne, believes it will take time for ordinary Polish citizens to accept the extent to which some Poles participated in war crimes.
The bishop didn't indicate that, DW did. Perhaps it is true that the church buys Gross' dis-history, I don't know, but this is a commemoration of the hideous murder of 3,000 souls, one doesn't need an agenda other than simple human decency to attend such a commemoration, whatever the circumstances.
Unpatriotic! How foul!
"Polish-American"? How many American Jews whose families came from Poland identify themselves as "Polish"? None that I know, they all think of themselves as Jewish, not Polish. Gross is Jewish. A fact not revealed in the article. Making Gross a gentile adds credibility to his charges in that it makes him appear to be a Christian who's overcome his "denial."
So what did happen? It's been a while but I remember thinking that Simon's version was the most plausible. It's impossible to believe there were no Germans in Jedwabne, that the Einsatzgruppen missed that village in the sweep through the area. They killed lots of pro-Soviet Poles, Jews and Christians. It's likely the horror was perpetrated by them or Poles acting on their orders. By the same token, animosity toward the Jewish militias was no doubt sky high, and it's conceivable that the Poles might have acted precipitously in revenge. But given that the Nazis were in control of the area at the time, it is unlikely that an action on this scale would be undertaken without, at the very least, their tacit approval.
Assuming for the sake of moralizing that it were Poles acting on their own who massacred these Jews, were the killings just? Of course not! I doubt very much that the killers fretted too much as to which Jews were partisans and which were non-combatants. And even if they did, these Jews, even the ones that did betray Poland, were faced with a horrible prospect, and did what they could to stay out of Nazi hands. Who could blame them! However guilty some of them may have been of collaboration with the Soviet invaders, or perhaps specific acts of sabotage against the Polish resistance, summary, extrajudicial execution can never be more than an act of murder. Did the Poles have every right to bring those Jews who betrayed Poland to justice? Of course! But mob violence can never be just.
There are important lessons to be learned from this incident, lessons which might help us build those international institutions which might avert such horrors in the future, so that no other human being will ever have to endure the pain and horror of being burnt alive. But, unfortunately, that will not happen. Zionism found favor with the international elite as it established for them a beachhead in the much-coveted, oil-rich land of the Arabs. For the historical moment Zionism is in, and the past is being actively recast in support of their meta-narrative. We could look at the situation in Jedwabne and conclude that both the Jews and Poles acted, in the main, in a reasonable manner. The consequences for Nazi rule were considerably more adverse for Jews than for their Christian counterparts, and this drove them into the arms of the Soviets in much higher numbers than would have otherwise occurred The Poles were entirely justified in their anger at the alliance between the Jews and Poland's ancient adversary the Russians, and the former's treacherous role in the cruel deportations and in suppressing the resistance. Neither side, it seems to me, should be demonized. Each pursued its own interests in a time of great distress, a distress not of either's making. Neither is ultimately to blame for the conflict between them.
But one side is demonized, and the other sanctified. According to the conventional wisdom, no Polish Jew was guilty of anything, and Poles are a race of atavistic Jew-haters. The Poles welcomed the Nazi invaders, and shared their anti-Semitism. Poles were willing accomplices to the German mass executions of the Jews.
This is base, racist propaganda. It is a contemptible defamation of a people with a rather impressive record of liberalism and tolerance. (A far better history in this regard than have the Jews. Heaven help the gentile, ancient or modern, who has had the misfortune to find himself under Jewish rule.) Yet one finds it everywhere. And anyone who tries to rebut this dehumanizing ugliness will in turn be slandered as an anti-Semite (as I will be for writing this).
Hostility between Christian and Jewish Poles was the exception, not the rule. Reconciliation should ensue between the peoples who shared the land of Poland for so long, but not a humiliating reconciliation where Poles are forced to apologize to Jews. What is more unjust than to contrast two peoples on the basis of guilt and innocence, enlightenment and backwardness, good and evil?
If we are ever to have peace and justice, history cannot be fitted by interested parties to the political considerations of the day. Most importantly, it can't be molded to the designs of conquerors. Resistance to this form of tyranny begins and ends with telling the truth, and exposing those who shun it. Next to caring about each other, it is the most emancipatory thing any human being can do.