Comments on John Tomas Gross's Ghastly Decade 1939-1948 by Prof. C.I. Pogonowski

Who is Prof. Ivo Cyprian Pogonowski?

I will only quote from The Sarmatian Review: "Pogonowski is a truly remarkable American of Polish background, a genuine role model who combines Benedictine devotion to work, fidelity to the best ideals of Polish history, and an ability to achieve some success in American public life. A recipient of a recent Polish American Prize, Pogonowski is one of those ‘bright points of light’ which every ethnic community has to have to remain viable and to justify its existence in a broader spectrum of American society.

He is the author of" Poland: A Historical Atlas" [1987] and "Jews in Poland: A Documentary History" [1993]. His forthcoming Polish-English and English-Polish Dictionary enlarges and updates all Polish-English dictionaries in existence. The biggest Unabridged Polish - English Dictionary that he is an author contains200 000 words on 3936 pages. It is called "a monument of the Polish language in America".

During the WWII he was a prisoner in such concentration camps as Auschwitz and Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen. He survived the terrible "death march", when SS open fire to the Polish prisoners.

He wrote critique on the John Tomas Gross’s book "Ghastly Decade 1939-1948" that analyses how and why Mr. Gross writes his books, and what tactics he is using to achieve the outcome that he desires.

Below is excerpt from this work.

Comments on John Tomas Gross's "Ghastly Decade 1939-1948"

Matters related to compensation for Poles and Jews for damages suffered under Nazi and Soviet occupation.

Reuters Agency reported from Buenos Aires, Argentina on Fri, 19 April 1996 (14:50:17 PDT) on The World Jewish Congress.

Israel Singer, General Secretary of the World Jewish Congress stated that "More than three million Jews died in Poland and the Polish people are not going to be the heirs of the Polish Jews. We are never going to allow this. (...) They're gonna hear from us until Poland freezes over again. If Poland does not satisfy Jewish claims it will be "publicly attacked and humiliated" in the international forum.

Today some Jews are estimating the value of Jewish assets lost in Poland and vicinity in the billions of dollars. Descendants of the Holocaust victims obviously could not hope to extract billions of dollars from descendants of the Polish gentile victims of war. Aware of these difficulties, some Jews have promoted a myth about Polish complicity in the Holocaust. Obviously it would be easier to extract money from descendants of the guilty rather than descendants of innocent Co-victims.

Jan Tomasz Gross wrote three essays in the spirit of this kind of myth. They were published in Kraków in 1998 by Universitas under the title of "Upiorna Dekada, 1939-1948. (Ghastly Decade 1939-1948)." On 118 small-size pages the author accuses the Polish Nation of complicity in the genocide of the Jews. This propaganda effort is surprising when coming from a writer of serious works.

A symbolic buzzard eating dead flesh is shown on the cover the Ghastly Decade 1939-1948. It resembles communist propaganda posters, especially the famous "spit-soiled dwarf of reaction of 1945." The decade "1939-1948" does not represent any distinct period in the Polish history. It does, however, include the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the exodus of Jews from Eastern and Central Europe, which resulted from pogroms staged by the Soviets in the area of all the satellite states. Stalin exploited the Zionist movement in order to abolish the British Mandate in Palestine. In the process, he created a window of opportunity, to use the words of Paul Johnson, for establishing the State of Israel. The Polish Nation had no complicity in these events.

Gross falsifies quotations in order to make his points. On page 56, he changes the meaning of a sentence in the diary of Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski (Dziennik z lat okupacji Zamojszczyzny - A diary of the years of occupation of Zamojszczyzna). Gross insinuates that in October 1942, Poles murdered some 2300 Jews while the Germans deported for execution 934 other victims. The deception is achieved by the omission of quotation marks; this changed the meaning of a crucial statement in the original diary, in which reference was made to locally stationed German gendarmes.

Self-defence and national identity under the occupation.

The ethnic Poles considered German and Soviet invaders as equally dangerous, while many Jews searched for security on Soviet side. The Poles were naturally preoccupied with saving their nation, which was exposed to massive executions starting two years before the Holocaust. From the beginning of the war, the Germans were committing mass murders on the Polish civilian population, especially throughout western Poland newly annexed by Germany. They brought with them lists of victims prepared long before the invasion of Poland. The Soviet NKVD prepared a list of 21,857 people of the Polish leadership community, all of whom were executed during the Spring of 1940. Mass execution of the Jews in German gas chambers was begun two years later.

Gross does not recognise the fact that helping Jews was a part of the resistance against the Nazis. Illogically he cites the fact that more Poles were engaged in the armed resistance, than in saving of the Jews as a proof of Polish anti-Semitism.

In order to understand the desperate struggle of the Poles in the face of the greatest catastrophe in Polish history and the general disinterest of the ethnic Jews in the fate of the Polish state, one can quote statements by the Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) in New York's Forverts of Sept. 17, 1944. Writing under the pen-name Iccok Warszawski, under the title "Jews and Poles Lived Together For 800 Years But Were Not Integrated" he stated: "Rarely did a Jew think it necessary to learn Polish, rarely was a Jew interested in Polish history or politics. (...) Even in the last few years it was still a rare occurrence that a Jew would speak Polish well. Out of three million Jews living in Poland, two and half million were not able to write a simple letter in Polish and they spoke [Polish] very poorly. There were hundreds of thousands of Jews in Poland to whom Polish was as unfamiliar as Turkish." In the same paper, he wrote on March 20. 1964: "My mouth could not get accustomed to the soft consonants of [Polish] language. My forefathers have lived for centuries in Poland but in reality I was a foreigner, with separate language, ideas and religion. I sensed the oddness of this situation and often considered moving to Palestine." (The above quotations are from Chone Shmeruk's Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bruno Schultz published in the Polish Review Vol. XXXVI, 1991, p.161-167.) Bashevis Singer suggests that Jews in Poland were a self-segregated separate ethnic or national group.

Death penalty for helping Jews was unique to Poland.

The essence of the policies of the Nazi government at all times was the implementation of the doctrine of the Lebensraum, or "German" living space. The aim of the Berlin government was to seize Slavic lands and replace the Slavic population with what they considered "racial Germans." Thus, Poland was to be colonised by Germans and the Polish nation eradicated. For this reason, the Nazi-Germans used every opportunity to kill Poles. One of the examples of this policy was the death penalty and immediate execution of entire Polish families and neighbourhoods for helping Jews. At the same time, for example, in Denmark, which the Germans did not intend to colonise, no one was executed for helping any of the few Jews whom lived there.

Gross disregards these facts, and on the page 41, he gives the following illogical title to a chapter: On the fact that the prevailing Polish anti-Semitism also was the reason why the Poles who helped Jews were brutally and totally murdered by the Germans. Then on page 60, Gross writes: "how was it that the people who sheltered Jews during the war, did not like to admit it after the war. (...) It was believed that anyone helping Jews got rich" and therefore could be robbed or repressed for "breaking the local code of behaviour." Gross does not mention the fact that it often was difficult to admit to one's neighbour that by sheltering a Jew one was risking one's neighbour’s life without his knowledge -- it was easier not to tell one's neighbour about the "time bomb" next door and therefore not to celebrate the fact that it did not explode.

One could consider how much more Polish gentiles could have done to avert the tragic fate of the Jews in a situation where Polish gentiles could not prevent the killing of millions of Polish Christians, and when the Polish Nation itself faced genocide. It is difficult to find a Polish gentile family which did not experience the loss of close relatives under the German and Soviet occupation. In central Poland, which the Germans turned into killing fields, called by them the General Protectorate, there were eleven million Polish gentiles and two million Polish Jews. The cultural barrier described by Bashevis Singer separated them. Thus, for each Polish family there was one Jew that desperately needed help. The presence of the prewar German minority and of "racial Germans," recruited locally by the Nazis, further complicated the struggle for survival of both Polish gentiles and the Jews.

Also important was the Soviet policy to nominate Jews to very visible posts in the Communist terror apparatus in order to shift the blame for Soviet crimes to the Jews. This perfidious Soviet policy did not facilitate a postwar admission that one risked one's and others' lives while sheltering the very people whom later became Soviet executioners in Poland. Widespread Jewish complicity in the Soviet terror apparatus installed in Poland speaks volumes about their lack of concern for the existence of a sovereign Polish nation.

Crime during catastrophic events

One can endlessly cite criminal acts and moral failures inside the Ghetto walls and outside of them. The courts of the Polish Home Army (AK) associated with the Polish Government-in-Exile in London condemned to death and executed traitors and criminals. All over the world cataclysms offer an opportunity for people to act on their worst instincts.

In the United States, it is a standard procedure to call on the National Guard to protect the population against widespread looting and crime during catastrophic events. No one in America considers such crimes to be a national disgrace. Anti-Polish propaganda practiced by Gross and others like him demands that the Polish Nation accepts the behaviour of individual criminals to be sins of all Poles.

Reconciliation versus tradition

Traditional Jewish hatred of the Poles developed during the partitions of Poland. It was much more common than Jewish hatred of the Germans. This was mentioned by the Polish writer Zofia Kossak-Szczucka during the Holocaust, when she was appealing to Polish gentiles to sacrifice for the cause of saving Jews within the Zegota program financed by the Polish Government-in-Exile in London.

Today Jewish hatred of the Poles manifests itself in the use of generalisations when dealing with accusations. Jewish students are often taught that the Holocaust would not have taken place if the Poles did not want it. While teaching about the Holocaust, an animal farm rendition of the genocide of the Jews is used ("Maus" by Art Spiegelman) showing Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as swine. Some of the colleges in America include this animal farm as obligatory reading. If ever this cartoon rendition of the Holocaust is translated into Polish and published in Poland, it will offend many that remember how the Nazis referred to the Poles as swine.

In the conclusion of his Ghastly Decade Gross equates Polish anti-Semitism with Hitlerism in Germany, Stalinism in Russia, and legally- sanctioned slavery and racism in the United States. This is highly unfair. Anti-Semitism never was legally sanctioned in free Poland. When Poland was a Soviet satellite the Warsaw regime carried out Moscow's orders whether in Kielce, or in 1968, or at any other time during the entire history of Peoples' Poland.

Gross writes: "The Poles - because of the Holocaust - must study the history of the persecution of the Jews in Poland. Otherwise they will not be able to live in harmony with their own identity." The insinuations included in this statement are in contrast with what Simon Wiesenthal wrote in "Krystyna, a Tragedy of Polish Resistance": "In Polish history, the relations between Poles and Jews never were simple." On his eightieth birthday Wiesenthal said: "I know what kind of role Jewish communists played in Poland after the war. And just as I, as a Jew, do not want to shoulder responsibility for the Jewish communists, I cannot blame 36 million Poles for those thousands of [wartime] extortionists (szmalcownicy) [who were common criminals]."


The separatist Polish Jews described by Bashevis Singer are no more. Today Jews in Poland are a part of the Polish Nation, and they follow the conciliatory advice of Simon Wiesenthal.

During the Second World War Poland was devastated and plundered by the Germans and the Soviets. Jewish possessions in Warsaw were devastated, together with the possessions of all the inhabitants of the Polish capital. After the war the capital was rebuilt from ruins with great effort and sacrifice of the Polish people. So it was in other Polish towns. The Germans and the Soviets systematically robbed the Polish population. All claims for restitution for damages incurred in the years 1939-1989 should be settled without regard to creed or ethnic origin.

Unfortunately, Gross, despite his scientific credentials, is practicing propaganda in the spirit of the statements made by the Secretary General of the Jewish World Congress quoted at the beginning of this text. Gross' propaganda helps those who make demands for ransom to be paid by the Polish Government to compensate for crimes perpetrated in Poland by the Nazis, the Soviets, and by common criminals.

Excerpt from the critique written by

Prof. Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski

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