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Kielce

A Study by prof. Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski


Pogonowski is a renowned author of books and articles about Poland and is particularly knowledgeable about the history of Jews in Poland. As reference material for this writing he has referred extensively to "Poland, Communism, Nationalism, Anti-Semitism" by Michael Checinski, "Poles, Jews, Communism-- The Anatomy of Half-Truth 1939-1968" by Krystyna Kersten and "Pogrom of Jews in Kielce, July 4, 1946" by Bozena Szaynok. He also credits the Information Services of the Canadian Polish Congress for special materials and help.
Part 1 of 5
PUTTING TO REST WORLD WAR II'S SPIRIT OF HATRED
World War II was a war of hatred: institutionalized hatred, ethnic hatred, popularized hatred. Born of this hatred, monstrous actions taken by ordinary people resulted in, among other things, the mass-murder of millions of civilians. Long after the guns have been silenced, the spirit of animosities energized by World War II between peoples, between cultures, and between religious groups stays alive within some people's hearts. World War II and its spirit of hatred will continue to live on until reconciliation between these groups is complete.
Young people born a generation or two after the end of World War II generally have little natural interest in nursing animosities born of earlier eras. These animosities, in order to live on, have to be carefully cultivated in younger people by those who may feel their interests are served by doing so. Surprisingly, there have been systematic attempts by some to keep these animosities alive by devising mythological accounts of what happened preceding World War II, during the War, and in the aftermath of the War. Even more surprisingly, some of these mythologies have been advanced by people from groups who were victimized in the War, people who should have the strongest vested interest in the truth being propagated.
There are many versions of these mythologies, but one in popular currency in mid-1990's North America distils roughly to this: an outside force known as the Nazis forcibly gained control of Germany and under totalitarian military rule forced a policy of war and ethnic hatred and extermination on a frightened but generally unwilling German populace. According to this myth, the real story of genuine ethnic hatred can be found among Jewish people and gentiles who lived in Poland, whose alleged long-standing animosity pre-dated the War, and extends beyond the end of the War to this day. The myth-speakers claim that the Polish nation was the true anti-Jewish state, and that atrocities perpetrated on countless Jewish people on Polish soil in German-occupied Poland were carried out with great relish by a willing Polish populace that was tired of dealing with a Jewish sub-culture that had been already relegated to ghettos prior to the War. The existence of the myth of non-support by the German people of the actions of the Nazi regime even motivated the title and thesis of a recent doctoral dissertation turned into book by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1996.) Goldhagen documents the involvement of ordinary Germans in carrying out what today are referred to as Nazi atrocities.
As Goldhagen was clarifying the role of the Germans, others were perpetuating the myths. In April, 1996, propagation of the anti-Polish myth was advanced by the film "Shtetl," shown on Public Television in the United States. The film falsely suggests Polish complicity in the Holocaust. Through its own baseless and malicious claims about Polish people, the film is unwittingly a study of the encouragement of ethnic hatred by Jewish people toward Polish gentiles. Israeli students in the film are shown making a series of claims, sometimes gleefully, about alleged Polish involvement in the Holocaust, including attempts to shift the blame for Nazi crimes from German people to Polish people. The students even mocked Polish rescue efforts, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Germans punished Polish gentiles collectively for providing any form of assistance to Jewish people, or even for not turning them in.
The film "Shtetl" focused negatively on the local Catholic church and priest several times. In actual well-documented fact, Polish gentiles helped Jewish people in Poland extensively during World War II. This assistance included the hiding of tens of thousands of Jewish people in the homes of Polish gentiles, which put the gentiles' entire families at risk of death. Several thousand Polish gentiles, including men, women, and children, were burned alive or otherwise summarily executed for the crime of hiding or assisting Jews. As an example of local Catholic Church involvement, it is ironic that the wartime pastor of the very Catholic church that was featured in the film was murdered because he was assisting Jews. His name was Father Henryk Opiatowski of Bransk. Yet, Father Opiatowski was never mentioned in the film! In no other country during the war were people subjected to death in this way for providing assistance to Jewish people. These students of the Holocaust were certainly taught how anti-Semitism produced six million Jewish deaths in the Holocaust; apparently they did not also learn how anti-Polonism produced three million Polish gentile deaths during the occupation--the Polish aspect of the Holocaust. Since the students in the film Shtetl were not eyewitnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust, they may very well be a window into the way the Holocaust is being taught in some Jewish homes and schools. If the purpose of teaching about the Holocaust is to never forget how ethnic hatreds can be nurtured to the point of destroying a people (and it should be), then Holocaust teaching will fail if along the way it teaches young Jewish people to hate Polish people.
There is another example of an obstacle to Jewish-Polish goodwill that is perhaps more significant and potentially longer-lasting in promoting ethnic hatred by Jewish people towards Polish people than the film Shtetl. It is an exhibit in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., that falsely presents events that occurred in Kielce, Poland in 1946 as part of the Holocaust. It refers to the clearly Soviet-staged violence in Kielce as a "Polish pogrom." [The Museum has changed the text since this writing.] To many visitors of the Holocaust Museum, the exhibit by its very inclusion seems to suggest that after the end of World War II, a liberated Polish populace chose to continue Hitler's work of exterminating Jewish people. The study you are now reading examines these events in Kielce, and shows that the suggestions of a Polish-led extension of the Holocaust are patently false. The Kielce Pogrom had nothing to do with the German-engineered Holocaust. It had everything to do with the Soviet-engineered strangulation of the Polish nation.
Like all effective myths, those related to World War II have some elements of truth underlying them. In conjunction with the construction of these myths, though, actual facts and events have been distorted or misrepresented, and certainly the contexts within which they occurred have been falsely stated. Sadly, the distortions, misrepresentations and falsehoods are sometimes purposely and systematically advanced by those who feel a need to humiliate the Polish nation and members of the Polish ethnic group from around the world. Those who today seek to humiliate or destroy people because of their ethnic association are kindred spirits to those who sought to humiliate or destroy people because of their ethnic association in the World War II era. Let me say unequivocally: anti-Semitism in the World War II era or now is wrong and it is evil. On the flip side of the coin bearing the image of anti-Semitism is the image of anti-Polonism. The coin of anti-Semitism cannot be melted down and destroyed without also melting down and destroying anti-Polonism.
I will state up front that I have a vested interest in the truth about World War II and its aftermath being clearly illuminated. I am a veteran of 64 months of imprisonment in Gestapo prisons, concentration camps, and death marches. My own ordeal, and the suffering and death of many of my Polish and Jewish friends and prison-mates, not to mention the sacrifices made by the young men who fought and died as soldiers, will have been rendered meaningless if the hatred of Jewish people by the Nazi leadership and various members of the German nation are simply replaced by hatred of Polish people by Jewish people, or vice-versa. Those who even today perpetuate myths and misconceptions about animosities associated with World War II and its aftermath are not merely bearing false witness--they are willing accomplices to the spirit of hatred of World War II, a frightening spirit embodied in its purest evil form by Adolf Hitler.

I have seen, first hand, the disgusting, murderous results of ethnic hatred. I have devoted the latter part of my life to writing about the long-term coexistence of Polish Jews and gentiles within Poland, and am committed to trying to help diffuse animosities stemming from World War II. In this spirit of friendship and respect, I wrote and had published earlier this decade a documentary history entitled "Jews in Poland: The Rise of Jews as a Nation From Congressus Judaicus in Poland to the Knesset in Israel." If World War II presented any lessons to the people of the world, it showed what can eventually happen if ethnic animosities are allowed to fester and grow.
The study you are now reading is a quest for Polish-Jewish reconciliation. For it to be successful, those who would join this quest must have one thing in common: respect for the truth. As part of this quest, I will address how Jewish-Polish animosities have been cultivated in the aftermath of the War, and in particular how Soviet actions and Soviet-induced events and situations contributed to or drove the process of cultivating the animosities. In particular, I will take the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Kielce Pogrom to discuss this event in detail and use it as a basis for discussion of the larger geopolitical situation. This study deals primarily with the results of Soviet-institutionalized hatred and the Soviet crime of provoking situations purposely designed to sour Polish-Jewish relations. In general, the public in Western countries knows very little about the specifics of these types of Soviet misdeeds.
For this study, the book "Poland, Communism, Nationalism, Anti-Semitism" by Michael Checinski (New York: Karz-Cohl Publishing, 1982) is an important source of information for the Cold War period. I will use Checinski's book as a resource to help illuminate the events and situations in the aftermath of World War II that relate to Polish-Jewish relations. Checinski's book details the relations between Poles and Jews in the postwar "People's" Republic of Poland and the damage done to these relations under the conditions created by the Soviets. Checinski was an insider of the Soviet-controlled terror apparatus. As a Jew who survived the Lodz Ghetto, Checinski was naturally very sensitive to Soviet policies which fomented and used anti-Semitic excesses in the satellite empire to serve Soviet purposes of the time. Checinski's book shows Soviet methods used to bring the destruction of law and morality to Poland and other satellite states. I also draw heavily on material from a book by Krystyna Kersten, "Poles, Slavs, Communism: The Anatomy of Half-Truth 1939- 1968." (Warsaw: Independent Publishing House, 1992) and also from "Pogrom of Jews in Kielce, July 4, 1946 by Bozena Szaynok (Warsaw: Bellona Publishing, 1992). Along the way, I will include some necessary background information relating to World War II. Overall, through this study I hope to help unravel some of the root causes and dynamics of Polish-Jewish relations after World War II, and how these ate strongly affecting Polish-Jewish relations even today.

THE KIELCE POGROM IN A NUTSHELL
A "pogrom", a Russian word that translates to "devastation, " is defined as "an organized massacre, especially of Jews in Russia, such as 1881, 1903, and 1905." (The New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, 1989.) Anti-Jewish violence in Russia was usually started with 'a false accusation that a ritual murder had been perpetrated on Christian children by local Jews. Violence directed against Jewish people that occurred on July 4, 1946, in the town of Kielce, referred to as the Kielce Pogrom, is aptly named for several reasons. For one, it was indeed organized. And as it will be explained in detail, it was organized by the Soviet-controlled terror apparatus in Poland, a captured country which was under Soviet occupation at the time. This pogrom, although not on Russian soil, was arranged by a totalitarian leadership centered in Russia and it was started with the same technique of planting a false accusation that a ritual murder had been perpetrated on Christian children. And as even the common dictionary definition shows, this is not the first time Russians have instigated this type of activity.
In the Kielce Pogrom, an uprising occurred over the span of many hours that resulted in the death of 41 Polish citizens: 39 Jews, and two gentiles. It was a horrible crime, and regrettably, there was some complicity among a very small number of gentile Poles in this inexcusable violence. These Polish criminals, as will be pointed out, were tried and convicted for their crimes. The reports, however, of the involvement of a mob of 15,000 cheering Polish citizens are completely untrue. Also, the idea that the uprising was of a spontaneous nature is also untrue. As it will be shown in this study, this event was carefully provoked and staged by the Soviet occupiers at that time. This event was staged to achieve specific political purposes dictated by Moscow's global strategy including Europe and the Middle East.

THE SOVIET-NAZI PARTNERSHIP
Why would Soviets want to stage an uprising that would embarrass Poland? After all, didn't both Poland and the Soviets fight alongside of Britain and the other allies in World War II? Didn't Hitler's German army invade both Poland and the Soviet Union, and isn't "the enemy of my enemy my friend?"
There is general public awareness that the United States and the Soviet Union were World War II partners in the Allied fight against Nazi Germany. Many fewer, however, are aware of the nearly two-year Nazi-Soviet partnership embodied in the German-Soviet Boundary and Friendship Treaty, which was signed on September 28, 1939. It divided all of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union and contained secret provisions for the mutual extermination of potential Polish opponents of both Germany and the USSR. Both Germany and the USSR agreed to control their respective parts of Poland. This meant taking all necessary measures to contain and prevent the emergence of any potential Polish actions toward either Germany or the USSR, and then communicating with each other on the progress made toward the goals of the treaty. The treaty lasted until Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Soviet hostility toward Poland and the desire of the USSR to control as much Polish territory as it could continued beyond the German invasion of Poland.
The Soviets implemented their part of the German-Soviet Boundary and Friendship Treaty by executing 21,857 members of the Polish leadership community, including many Jewish people. Katyn, in what is now Bielarus, contained the graves of 4443 such men and became a symbol of the mass execution of members of the upper echelon of Polish society in the Spring of 1940 At the same time Germany ran a parallel operation with the code name Aktion AB [Auserordentliche Befriedungsaktion, which translates to "extraordinary pacification"], culminating in the execution of about 20,000 Polish professionals.
Because of the German-Soviet Treaty to divide Poland among themselves, the Eastern half of Poland was under Soviet, not German, rule from September, 1939 to mid-1941. During that time, there were many Jewish people who collaborated with the Soviet terror apparatus against the conquered Polish State. Among the many eyewitnesses to those events is the famed Polish courier Jan Karski, who was made an honorary citizen of Israel for his efforts to worn an unresponsive West about the fate of Poland and Polish Jewry. In February, 1940, Karski reported: "Jews are denouncing Poles to the secret police and are directing the work of the communist militia from behind the scenes. Unfortunately, one must say that these incidents are very frequent." (Report to the Polish Government-in-Exile in London.)
Hundreds of published accounts, including Jewish ones, confirm that Jews were involved in the roundups of Polish soldiers and officials (e.g., at Rozyszcze and Kowel), the jailing and executions of Poles (e.g., at Lwow and Czortkow), and in policing the deportation of Poles, in cattle cars, to the Gulag (e.g., from Gwozdziec). By the time the Germans attacked their erstwhile Soviet ally in mid-1941, over one million Poles had been deported to distant and probable deaths from towns like Bransk. All of this occurred before the Jewish Holocaust got underway. Naturally, these events had a significant impact on Polish attitudes, though that was not the only factor influencing them
GERMAN OCCUPATION OF POLAND AND CONTROL OF JEWS
By mid-1941, Germany gained control of all of Poland and the Germans continued the establishment of Jewish ghettos that the Germans had started in 1939. Germans formed the Jewish ghettos by evicting hundreds of thousands of gentiles from their homes and then crowding many more Jewish families there than the space could reasonably accommodate. There were no Jewish ghettos in Poland before Germany started creating them in 1939. It is ironic that some people not well acquainted with the history of the ghettos have mistakenly thought that the ghettos were formed by a bigoted Polish population who spitefully wanted to segregate the Jewish population to selected areas. Instead, the real truth is that Polish people were unwillingly removed from their homes by the Germans to form the ghettos, and then the Polish people illegally aided the Jews by bringing them substantial amounts of food and other supplies.
In terms of living conditions, the ghettos formed by the Germans bore a haunting similarity to the concentration camps that the Germans had been organizing since 1933. The Polish Armed Resistance reported that 500,000 Jews were crowded into the Warsaw Ghetto: 600 people per acre. Hunger, and unspeakably poor hygienic and sanitary conditions resulted in the spreading of tuberculosis and other contagious diseases. The Central Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against Polish People reported: "The isolated ghetto is restricted to internal trade, consisting of people's private property, clothing, and household goods which are sold at low prices for extremely expensive food ... There is no heating fuel in the ghetto ... The health and sanitary conditions are beyond description--there is a monstrous hunger and poverty ... Overcrowded streets are full of aimless, pale, and starving people ... People die in the streets ... An orphanage is being overcrowded with daily arrivals of newborn babies ... The Germans' plunder of once-affluent Jews continues ... as well as the treatment of Jews in an exceptionally brutal manner ..."
Each ghetto had its own Jewish Council [Judenrat] which oversaw day-to-day affairs and a Jewish police force which carried out German orders to supply laborers and, as pointed out by Jewish historians such as Isaiah Trunk and Hannah Arendt, to round up Jews for deportation to death camps. Thus, relatively few Germans were needed for such "Aktions," or official actions by the German government against the Jewish people. Nor did their success involve any type of cooperation from Polish gentiles. Because the system set up by the Germans did not rely on Polish police, even the opportunity for the Polish police to aid the German roundup of the Jews was marginal or non-existent, as pointed out by Raul Hilberg, the foremost Holocaust historian, in his important work, "Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders." Conditions in the Bransk ghetto have been described in Isaiah Trunk's "Judenrat" (New York: Macmillan, 1972) and in "Bransk: Book of Memories" (New York: Shoulson Press, 1948).
Polish gentiles certainly were not the masterminds who formed the neither ghettos nor collaborators with the Germans on the brutal treatment of the Jews. To the contrary, Polish gentiles sabotaged German plans for the starvation of ghetto inmates. The Polish gentiles made illegal deliveries of food to the ghettos--including about 250 tons of flour per day. Jozef Dabrowski and others were shot by the Germans for making such deliveries. By then the daily food ration in Warsaw was 184 calories for a Jew, 669 for a Polish gentile, and 2,613 for a German. Eighty percent of the food consumed in the ghetto was smuggled in by Polish gentiles. The supply of raw materials into the ghetto was forty times greater than that officially permitted by the Germans, according to the records of the Jewish Council of the Warsaw Ghetto. (I.C. Pogonowski, "Jews in Poland: A Documentary History, pp. 106-107.")
After Germany's invasion of Russia, Adolf Hitler verbally ordered the "Final Solution of the Jewish question," namely the extermination of eleven million European Jews. To work out and communicate the details of implementing the "Final Solution," the Wannsee Conference was held in Berlin on January 20, 1942. At the conference, the leaders of the German civil service established the specific means by which the genocide was to be conducted. As a direct result of the conference, the Berlin government announced an invitation for bids from German industry to purchase equipment for an industrial process to exterminate eleven million European Jews.
According to plans developed at the Conference, terrorized Jewish personnel were to be used in the extermination process. Also, the plans further directed that the extermination camps were to be isolated from the Polish population for maximum secrecy. For this reason, the camp guards were recruited from Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. Despite German terror and German attempts to keep Poles in the dark about the Germans' actions, radio broadcasts made by the Polish resistance regularly informed the West of German atrocities in Poland. (I.C. Pogonowski, "Jews in Poland: A Documentary History, New York: Hippocrene Books Inc., 1993, pp. 110, 119, 120, 121, 124, 125).
Massive deportations from the Warsaw ghetto in the summer of 1942 (to the Treblinka death camp) were not carried out with the assistance of any Polish agency. Indeed, in German-occupied Poland, there was not even a vestige of a Polish government at that time. Instead, the deportations were organized by the Jewish police in coordination with the Judenrat and the occupying German forces. Horrifying descriptions of this Aktion are found in the diaries of Emanuel Ringelblum, the chronicler of the Warsaw ghetto, and elsewhere. These sad events are only a part, but a significant part, of the eventual roundup and execution by the Germans of a large proportion of Poland's Jews in what later came to be referred to as the Holocaust.
On April 19, 1943, a Jewish uprising began in the Warsaw Ghetto as Germans started the final liquidation of the Jews there. The massacre ended on May 8, 1943. Professor Marian Fuks later wrote: "It is absolutely certain fact that without help and active participation of the Polish resistance movement it would have not been possible at all to bring about the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto." ("The Bulletin of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland," July-December 1989, p. 44).
It should go without saying that the German occupation and brutal control of Poland was not welcomed by the Polish people. Unfortunately, neither could the Polish people find solace in the eventual Soviet re-entry into Poland and their consequent program of brutal control. Upon Soviet re-entry into Poland in 1944, the Soviet terror apparatus was systematically liquidating the remnants of the Polish Home Army and any perceived Polish opponents of a Soviet takeover and control of Poland. It is an undeniable fact that many Jews, usually communist functionaries, were collaborating with the Soviets in denouncing, jailing, and executing Poles. (See for example, "Karta," no. 15; Oswald Rufeisen's account in Nechama Tec's "In the Lion's Den"; Wanda Lisowska's 1946 account on conditions in Ejszyszki found in "Zeszyty Historyczne," no. 36.) Poles suspected of having either collaborated with the Germans or of being anti-Semitic could be, and were, executed with impunity. For example, in Drohiczyn, nine Polish gentiles were murdered by local Jews because they were falsely suspected of killing a Jew, a crime in fact perpetrated by the Soviets (Warszawa: Archiwum Polski Podziemnej, Dokumenty, 1994).
Tens of thousands of Polish gentiles were executed in repressions that affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Polish gentiles. The foregoing are not invented facts: Both Simon Wiesenthal and Stanislaw Krajewski, vice-chairperson of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, among others, have publicly admitted their shame on this account. Under these types of wartime circumstances, where Jews were successfully encouraged to betray Polish gentiles to the Soviet authorities, animosities toward Jews in the general population were not a matter of anti-Semitism, but simply a matter of survival. Active Jewish collaboration and popular support for Soviet forces invading Poland occurred from the beginning of the War. In the book "Poles, Jew, Socialists--The Failure of an Ideal," edited by Antony Polonsky, et al. (London: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1996), Dov Levin writes "The Red Army entered Wilno [Poland] early on the morning of Tuesday, 19 September 1939, to an enthusiastic welcome by Wilno's Jewish residents, in sharp contrast to the Polish population's reserve and even hostility. Particular ardor was displayed by leftist groups and their youthful members, who converged on the Red Army tank columns bearing sincere greetings and flowers."
Despite these enormous obstacles, and the fact that Polish gentiles also were undergoing their own Holocaust which consumed several million victims, hundreds of thousands of Polish gentiles risked their lives to help Jews. In Warsaw alone, before the uprising of 1944, which resulted in its total destruction, some 15,000 Jews were being sheltered. Emanuel Ringelblum estimated that as many as 60,000 out of the city's 700,000 Christian residents were involved in the rescue efforts. Assistance has been documented at more than 600 Catholic churches, monasteries, convents, and church-run orphanages throughout Poland. Poles form the largest group recognized by Yad Vashem as "Righteous Gentiles," as many as 40% of all those recognized. Yad Vashem is a Jewish organization devoted to honoring those who saved Jews from the Holocaust.
Just as there were some Jewish collaborators during World War II, small numbers of Polish gentiles also collaborated with the Germans. There is no justification or excuse for their actions, and neither was this conduct condoned or tolerated. With the active support of Polish public opinion, the Polish Underground passed and carried out many death sentences against anyone found collaborating with the Germans. It is regrettably true that collaborators, whether with the Nazis or the Soviets, whether Polish Jews or gentiles, were an effective force to contend with. But at the same time, they were tiny, marginal and unrepresentative groups in their respective communities.
Simon Wiesenthal has advocated the following wise and balanced assessment of that tragic period which consumed millions of Jewish and Polish lives: "Then the war came. It is at times like these that the lower elements in society surface--the blackmailers who would betray Jews ... On the other hand, the 30,000 or 40,000 Jews who survived, survived thanks to the help of the Poles. This I know." During the five years of German occupation most of the efforts to shelter Jews ended tragically for the Jewish victims and their Christian friends.
What do the leading Holocaust historians have to say about alleged Polish complicity in the Holocaust? Yisrael Gutman, director of research at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem and editor in chief of "The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust" (1990), has stated authoritatively: "All accusations against the Poles that they were responsible for the Final Solution are not even worth mentioning. Secondly, there is no validity at all in the contention that Polish attitudes were the reason for the siting [sic] of the death camps in Poland." And again: "I want to be unequivocal about this. When it is said that Poles supposedly took part in the extermination of the Jews on the side of the Germans, that is not true. It has no foundation in fact. There was no such thing as Poles taking part in the extermination of the Jewish population." Professor Gutman stated that the percentage of Poles who collaborated with the Germans was "infinitesimally small." He said this in a conversation with Polish Ambassador Dowgiallo (Harvey Sarner, "From Science to Diplomacy: A Pole's Experience in Israel," Brunswick Press, 1995). Richard Pipes of Harvard University, wrote in the introduction to I.C. Pogonowski's book, "Jews in Poland," published on the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: "It must never be mistakenly believed that the Holocaust was perpetrated by the Poles. Nor must it be ignored that three million Poles perished at German hands." Szymon Datner, longtime director of Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute, has been equally blunt: "Poles are not responsible for the crimes of the Holocaust."

5 padziernik 2008

Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski 

  

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