LIES AND DISTORTIONS
prof. JERZY ROBERT NOWAK
translated by: Lesław Kawalec
Jedwabne and the atrocities in former eastern Poland ( subsequently referred to as East Poland ) in 1939 - 1941
DISTORTIONS AND ILL-FOUNDED STATEMENTS
This is, not surprisingly, used to create defamatory generalisations that place Poles as accomplices of Germans in the Holocaust, which can help Jews extort huge sums of compensation Poland would be supposed to pay for the former Jewish assets. Let us bear in mind that Jews have already received billions of dollars worth of restitution for damages whereas Poles have neither been paid any by Germany nor obtained anything from Russia. Interestingly enough, Gross' tendentious and slanderous texts, which arouse justified criticism, have been hailed by the very influential philo-Semitic lobby in the Polish media as revelatory and demonstrative of Poles needing to repent as a nation in sackcloth and ashes once and for all. Maciej Łętowski wrote in his article Przedsiębiorstwo Pokuta / Atonement Inc./ ( Tygodnik Solidarność of 9 Feb. 2001 ): '' I am repulsed by the behaviour of 'national flagellants' who use every opportunity to whip their backs in the limelight so effusively that I am getting unsettled about their sanity (...).May it not prove that some of my fellow countrymen are setting up Atonement Incorporated.''
Also, what is a particularly sombre grotesque is that the most exclamatory demands for Polish contrition to make up for the alleged sins towards the Jews of Jedwabne are being voiced by the most needy of remedial education in the Polish history if not to say sheer ignoramuses in the subject ( like the polonophobe David Warszawski, the well-known tendentious Semitophile Rev. Michał Czajkowski, the philologist Maria Janion, the sociologist Jacek Kurczewski, the Wprost 'pen-hoodlum' publicist Jerzy Stanisław Mac or the sci-fi writer Stanisław Lem ). I will elaborate on their extravagances in a further issue of Głos in a text titled Parada kłamców i dyletantów / Parade of liars and dilettanti . Still, it is worth analysing in detail Gross' polonophobic mendacity on Jedwabne and East Poland 1939 through 1941 to show the extent to and presumptuousness with which the historical truth in Poland 2000 / 2001 AD is being distorted in an anti-Polish fashion.
How Gross twists facts
The historian Piotr Gontarczyk writes in Życie of 31 Jan. 2001 about Neighbors by Jan Tomasz Gross: '' Poles are depicted as the accomplices of Nazis in the Holocaust. They are worse than Germans, and murder Jews - their neighbors - in a gruesome manner. The only place that warrants a degree of protection from the Polish mob turns out to be a German gendarmerie post.'' In putting forward these most serious accusations Gross relies on a Jedwabne massacre Jewish survivor Szmul Wasersztajn's single testimony that is notorious for having been published in two versions differing about the facts reported. Wasersztajn's claims also contradicted the factual data gathered by the prosecution and reported by prosecutor Waldemar Monkiewicz in charge of this case. Monkiewicz said the Jedwabne massacre had been perpetrated by more than 200 ( to be precise 232 ) German gendarmes. Wasersztajn reported only 8 Germans partaking of the murder ( an immense difference ) and contended that they were just on-lookers of the massacre allegedly committed by the local Poles. The Monkiewicz files attribute a decisive role in it to those 232 ( not 8 ) German gendarmes whereas the group of auxiliary policemen of Polish descent participated only in secondary operations such as bringing the Jewish victims out to the market square and escorting them. The whole case ought to be reinvestigated - and it is under scrutiny of IPN ( the Institute for National Remembrance ). Any hasty generalisations based on a single dubious unsigned testimony ( by Wasersztajn ) and, at that, so divergent from the prosecution's settlements should be discarded offhand.
As early as on 13-14 May last year when interviewed by Nasz Dziennik I pointed to Gross' scholarly inadequacy since in insisting on a version of events levelled against the Poles he had failed to mention any relevant Polish findings. I was particularly outraged at his complete omission of the accounts published by prosecutor Monkiewicz, former director of a Okręgowa Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich / County Commission for Nazi Crimes Investigation, who had researched the whole case thoroughly. Gross did not mention the above apparently because otherwise Prof. Monkiewicz's accounts would have shattered the edifice of lies that the author had laboriously constructed on the basis of the Wasersztajn's touched-up testimony.
Almost six months after this interview Gazeta Wyborcza of 18-19 Nov. 2000 published an interview by Jacek Żakowski with a reputable researcher of WWII Prof. Tomasz Szarota. He too voiced his reservations connected with the complete omission of the Monkiewicz settlements. '' Gross has skipped all Monkiewicz accounts,'' says Prof. Szarota, '' and I have doubts if Monkiewicz could have just made up those 232 Germans, the trucks and the person of Birkner himself ( i.e. the German Hauptsturmfuehrer SS said to have been in charge of the Jedwabne massacre - J.R.N.).'' Responding to Gross in Gazeta Wyborcza of 2-3 Dec. 2000 Szarota writes ''The name that often appears in his ( Gross' ) polemic is one of Waldemar Monkiewicz. This man has published several texts ( I know five of them ) on the Jedwabne atrocity. Gross says '' I had not come across Monkiewicz accounts before I wrote Neighbors and I don't wish I had.'' Whether Gross likes it or not the texts by Monkiewicz belong to the references of the subject and a researcher is obliged to acquaint himself with them before he passes any judgement including their rejection.''
Let us add that the scholarly approach of Gross as a sociologist is astounding. Apparently, he has no idea whatsoever how to investigate historical truth when he says he does not regret failing to familiarise himself with the writings of a prosecutor who had researched a case to which Gross dedicated his book. This is a pure bungle !
Gross' extremely tendentious generalisations have also been criticised by Dr Stanisław Radoń, historian, director of Archiwa Państwowe w Krakowie ( the State Archives in Krakow ), and since 4 October the chairman of Kolegium IPN ( board of the Institute for National Remembrance ). A Polish Press Agency PAP dispatch of 21 Dec. 2000, held back by the majority of the most powerful media, quotes him as saying at a press conference about Neighbors by J.T. Gross: '' in terms of investigating the truth it is dishonest.'' In an interview with Roman Graczyk titled Pochopne sądy Grossa / Gross' jumping to conclusions / in Gazeta Wyborcza of 20-21 Jan. 2001 Radoń gives a detailed account of his critique of the methods Gross has used, and charges him with scholarly unreliability. Radoń is critical of the fact that: '' Gross mostly relies on the 1949 and 1953 investigations testimonies. You need to bear in mind how administration of justice worked in those years, how witnesses and the accused were terrorised, how easily one was pronounced guilty. In all probability Gross had neglected to verify all kinds of facts in German archives, e.g. the role of W. Birkner, the commander of Einsatz Kommando Bialystok. Radoń, critical of Gross' bias, goes on to say: ''I protest against placing the Polish people alongside Germans as perpetrators of the Holocaust.'' and warns that ''The book is due for publication in the USA and Germany and there is justified concern that once more the public opinion in the West will be shaped by a simplistic image that is really unfair to Poles.''
Gross tendentiousness was strongly criticised by another Polish historian, currently resident in America, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz ( Kłopoty z kuracją szokową / Problems with shock therapy/ in Rzeczpospolita of 5 Jan. 2001 ), who blames Gross for ''virtually restricting himself to examining Jewish memories and some Polish testimonies including those obtained from people who had been subjected to tortures by the security apparatus ( UB ) (...).'' Referring to a 1988 study by a Jewish author Icchak ( Henryk ) Rubin, Chodakiewicz quotes: '' the functionaries of Jewish Committees appointed by the communist party who took these testimonies indicated who the guilty were and what they deserved. Thus nearly all of the documents show identical judgement and are stereotypical in content and the way they were written. They give an impression of having been dictated. Their authors sought to ingratiate themselves with the organisers of testimony collection and quite often they were simply afraid of writing anything else than had been suggested.''
Two texts by Prof. Tomasz Strzembosz, the most notable Polish expert in the Polish war-time history, have turned the tide in the controversy surrounding Neighbors: the interview in Gazeta Polska of 17 Jan. 2001 and the article in Rzeczpospolita of 27-28 Jan. 2001. In the former, titled Szubienica i huśtawka / The gallows and the swing he called 'unacceptable' the methods Gross had used in drawing accusations against the Polish community of Jedwabne for the murder committed on the Jews. Prof. Strzembosz charged Gross with ''drawing too far-reaching conclusions (...) on the basis on scarce accounts.'' Particularly that these are of the kind that ''one can have doubts regarding their full credibility.'' Like M.J. Chodakiewicz, Strzembosz too criticised Gross for ''relying on communist security materials.'' According to Strzembosz there is evidence that the massacre in Jedwabne was perpetrated by Germans and not Poles, as maintained by Gross. Prof. Strzembosz also targeted his criticism at those ( individuals, as I previously stated, whose historical learning is close to zero ) who mindlessly accepted Gross' version of events ascribing the atrocity to the Polish community of Jedwabne. Strzembosz suggested much more in-depth studies of the factual records of those times including taking up issues rarely spoken of which had had a profound impact on the deterioration of Polish-Jewish relations. He pointed to the military collaboration with the Soviets of bolshevik Jews in East Poland in 1939. In this context he spoke of an anti-Polish ''Jewish military rising in Grodno and the surrounding lands in Sep. 1939.''
The 27-28 Jan. issue of Rzeczpospolita featured a lengthy and thoroughly supported article by Prof. Strzembosz titled Przemilczana kolaboracja / Held-back quislingism ( on pro-Soviet activities of red Jewish communities in East Poland in the aftermath of the 17 September 1939, including their armed sabotage and murdering Polish soldiers and civilians who were fleeing east [ it had been extensively presented in Głos in a commentary by Antoni Macierewicz ] )
Prof. Strzembosz's text, very firm in tone, greatly facilitated clearing the paths leading to this difficult and shameful taboo that was withholding the emergence of truth about Polish-Jewish relations in 1939 - 1941. Just a few days later ( 30 Jan. ) Życie came out with an excellent text by a young historian Piotr Gontarczyk, author of a recently released brilliant myth-busting book about an alleged pogrom in Przytyk. Polemic towards Gross' conspicuous attempts to sanitise the behaviour of Jews under Soviet occupation Gontarczyk writes that the relations between the Poles and the Jews were very strained there, and apparently the pro-Soviet Jews were at fault. According to Gontarczyk: '' The picture presented in the preserved Polish (and also some Jewish!) testimonies is rather dramatic: the humiliating treatment of Poles, denunciations to the NKVD, participation of the "red militia" consisting of Jews from Jedwabne in Soviet terror. There are also descriptions of Jews stripping their Polish ( sic ! ) neighbours of their clothes on their way to gulag. (...) According to the Belorussian historians latest findings based on the extant documents from the years 1939-41 the Soviet administration, especially the units dealing with economic issues, contained a high percentage of Jews, sometimes exceeding 70%. It is worth remembering that the Jews quite often took over the positions of the arrested or deported Poles.''
Gontarczyk also attacks Gross for using poor and tendentiously selected ''sources, not having carried out due critique, repeated introduction of ill-founded statements and facts, omissions and distortions of whatever does not fit his preconceived theses, construction of historical narration built on stereotypes, prejudice and hearsay, failing to abide by logic and academic objectivity in scholarly argumentation, and finally passing groundless and unscientific metaphysical-ideological judgements. Due to the above failings the book by J.T. Gross cannot serve as basis for a serious discussion of our history and of the Jedwabne mass murder in particular.''
The 2 February issue of Życie contained a remarkable interview with Bogdan Musiał, one of the most distinguished young German historians. Musiał appraised Gross' book with strong criticism pointing to the many omissions and absurd theses, and criticised the tendentious generalisations that held the whole Polish society accountable for the Jedwabne massacre. He also reproached him for the pervasive whitewashing of the Jews ''responsible for the communist felonies, '' whose role has received due attention from much more impartial Jewish researchers, such as Ben-Cion Pinchuk.
I am glad that it was in Głos ( of 3 Feb. ) that the so far most interesting reaction to Prof. Strzembosz's text has been published - a lengthy article by Antoni Macierewicz with full support for the theses of the Polish historian who had protested against obscuring the picture of the Polish-Jewish relations. I have referred to Macierewicz's statements in Niedziela. I think that one of his main conclusions is of particular significance: ''The facts leave no doubt - Jews in Jedwabne like elsewhere under Soviet occupation constituted the core of the machine of terror, yielded until the very last moment Polish patriots to the NKVD and were preparing consecutive deportations to Siberia.''
I consider it extremely significant that Macierewicz condemned the so called ''Polish school of historiography'' some circles of which readily lay foundations for anti-Polish historiosophy while the others keep cowardly silent. I fully share his views, which are critical of 'a methology' of such historians as Andrzej Paczkowski, Krystyna Kersten or Jerzy Holzer, all profound whitewashers of communism. On my part I can add Andrzej Garlicki ( whom I have already condemned in Głos ) a true expert in obscuring and distorting the picture of Polish-Jewish relations, Jerzy Tomaszewski, and many more. While I agree with the point that Macierewicz makes, and which is the disgraceful general silence on the part of Polish historians, which obviously deserves condemnation, I do want to show a few exceptions to that rule ( other than Strzembosz, of course ). To name but a few: Prof. Ryszard Szawłowski with repeated publications of Wojna Polsko-Sowiecka 1939 / The Polish-Soviet War of 1939, Prof. Rulka from Bydgoszcz, or several younger generation researchers e.g. the mentioned Jan Marek Chodakiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, but also Marek Wierzbicki and Leszek Żebrowski with their valuable contributions. Let me remind the readers of my own publication of a year and a half ago titled The Forgotten Atrocities about the felonies perpetrated by bolshevik Jewish communites in the years 1939 - 1941. Besides, in two press texts - an interview in Nasz Dziennik, and an article in Nasza Polska and another book Spory o Historię i Współczesność / Disputes on the Past and the Present I reacted to Gross' and his applauders' calumnies. That still does not make much of a difference though, and means no major reversal in the overall commonplace falsity and defamation since the names just mentioned are only a fraction of the total in the field. The stronger then the indignation which one must feel towards those pseudoscientists who, in Macierewicz's words ''bring dishonour on the profession'' since '' instead of settling facts [they] take part in a witch-hunt that victimises the Polish nation and attempt to blame Poland for the extermination of Jews under German occupation, 'forgetting' that its true perpetrators were Germans. ''
Gross - a relapsing liar
In the next issue I will have a closer look at the Jedwabne massacre and the prior felonies committed in East Poland 1939 through 1941. Now I will focus on his biography and his gradual evolution to polonophobic libellous practices as illustrated in examples. Born in 1947, when in high school Gross was amongst the founders of Adam Michnik's Contradiction Searchers' Club. Since 1965 he studied physics and then sociology at the Warsaw University and in 1968 he was arrested for his involvement in the so called 'March events' and subsequently expelled from university. Having emigrated from Poland with family in March 1969 he received a PhD in sociology in the USA where he went on to become Professor of Sociology, and later of Political Sciences. His first book published in 1983 titled W Czterdziestym Nas Matko na Sybir Zesłali/ 1940 They Exiled Us to Siberia Mother did by no means foreshadow the Gross of today - a fanatical mud-slinger. This collection of accounts by deportees to Siberia, co-authored by Irena Grudzińska-Gross, was a valuable source of historical reference. At that time Gross cared about impartiality in his writings and did not negate the problem of quislingism of large sections of Jewish communities collaborating with the Soviets in 1939 - 1941. This very book describes many instances of Jews denouncing Poles, victimising them, fanatical Komsomol ( communist youth ) Jews devastating wayside shrines, and casts light on the role the red Jews played in Soviet administration. All that later evaporated from his publications, which in turn took on an increasingly polonophobic and slanderous character.
As early as in 1981 Stefan Korboński, one time deputy Prime Minister of the war-time Underground Polish State and Government in Exile's Envoy to Poland, exposed anti-Polish lies of Gross in a large text for the Parisian Zeszyty Historyczne / The HistoryFascicles / journal ( vol. 58, pp 176 - 184 ). This little known text was about a book Gross had published in 1979 and which was chiefly meant for the English speaking readership pretty ignorant about Poland. It was titled Polish Society under German Occupation and contained lots of nonsense which he would not have dared to repeat in a book targeted at the Polish readers. It was then that his manner of overemphasising the martyrology of Jews and the simultaneous downplaying of Polish heroism and suffering found its conspicuous expression. To this end he set out to convince his public that the war-time Polish conspiracy was not particularly hazardous; on the contrary - it took place in very liberal conditions ( sic ! ). Korboński ridiculed a nonsensical claim that truly compromises Gross and which holds that ( p. 240 ) '' Yes, paradoxically, Poles enjoyed more freedom in 1939-1944 than throughout the century.... I think that you can safely assume that the multitude of underground organisations and conspiracies ought to be attributed in a large measure to the General Protectorate's war-time policies of political freedom. One may doubt whether underground organisations could have been set up and thrived had it been otherwise.''
In other words - Gross deems the greatness of the Underground Polish State and conspiracy to be no particular Polish achievement. We were so free under German occupation, weren't we ?! True, Poles did owe Germans an unheard-of extent of freedom in one respect - in ways of dying: of a bullet, noose, chopper, with plastered mouth etc...
Stefan Korboński discusses much more nonsense of Gross' generalisations about the Underground Polish State and concludes that in wondering about the motives that pushed individuals into conspiracy Gross brings the whole issue down to the benefits it entailed. He contends that passivity was no protection from the occupant terror whereas underground membership made people more cautious, secured better identity documents, and in case one was exposed they were assisted in finding a new shelter and given fresh identity documents. Put differently, those people were driven by cool calculation. Finally , professor Gross having ventured into contemplating the underground budget informs the reader that the Home Army ( AK ) paid its soldiers a salary ( pay ? ), the highest amounting to 800 zlotys i.e. approx. US$ 18.
This reasoning betrays Gross' ignorance about the reality of the Underground. Keeping out of it indeed did not protect you from, say, forced labour for the occupant in the General Protectorate or Reich nor did it prevent you being caught in the street or arrested in retaliation. However, a Pole deprived of freedom as a result of these operations was one of a mass and did not feel the very personal burden connected with their relationship with the underground. A mere suspicion of underground membership brought on you long-lasting investigation, tortures, prison and sometimes death, or a concentration camp at best. These were the ' benefits of belonging to the underground'
As regards the 'salaries' paid by the AK they were paid to those who had to devote all their time to conspiracy and were unable to provide for themselves or their families. The pay was very modest and enough to satisfy the most basic needs. It was not equivalent to $ 18 but $ 6 - 18.
As can be seen from the above Prof. Gross is in favour of the 'materialist', though not Marxist, interpretation of the drives that determine human behaviour and puts the way people act down to a hope for benefits and money. His inquisitive mind of a sociologist did not notice such self-imposing simple motivation as patriotism, spontaneous desire to fight German invaders, courage, devotion or love of homeland.
Korboński was fiercely polemic with the charges, pervasive throughout Gross' book, that hold the whole Polish society guilty of anti-Semitism and indifference to the Holocaust. As a summary of his critical remarks Korboński wrote: ''Gross joined the circle of those American writers who feel under solemn obligation to accuse the Polish Nation of what it has never committed.''
Make Poles odious to make money
In his text published in Tygodnik Powszechny of 11 Feb. 2001 titled Mrs Marx's pillow J.T. Gross argues with the statement I used when interviewed by Nasz Dziennik that his texts contribute to the creation of a favourable context in which the Jewish claims for restitution for the realty and assets they lost in Poland would have a historical rationale. In an ironic tone he writes: ''I wasn't taken aback by this argument since in the ideological milieu close to Nasz Dziennik compounding Jews and money is quite common.'' Firstly, I am not a publicist of Nasz Dziennik but of Niedziela and Nasza Polska. Second, opinions that numerous attempts, including ones that use blackmail, are under way to justify incredible tribute squeeze to be imposed on Poland are being overtly voiced by some honest Jews too ( as opposed to the distortionist Gross ), e.g. Prof. Norman G. Finkelstein from the USA, ex-leader of the Jewish religious community of Gdansk Jakub Szadaj and others. Third, the first publicist to expose the true Gross' motivation in the Polish press was Prof. Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski writing for the Krakow-based journal Arcana ( vol. 5 / 1998 ). Reviewing Gross' Upiorna Dekada / Ghastly Decade 1939-1948 / Prof. Pogonowski suggests what could be his true objective: '' promoting 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.( ... ) On 118 small-size pages the author accuses the Polish Nation of complicity in the genocide of the Jews. 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. ( ... ) Gross, despite his scientific credentials, is practising propaganda in the spirit of the statements made by the Secretary General of the Jewish World Congress [Israel Singer]. (... ) 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."( original text in English found at this web site, L.K. )
Prof. Pogonowski proved that Gross had inter alia consciously falsified quotations. He writes that Gross has deliberately manipulated a piece of text by Dr Klukowski taken from his Dziennik z lat okupacji Zamojszczyzny / A diary of the occupation years of the province of Zamojszczyzna. Klukowski wrote about mass murders perpetrated by German gendarmes - 'ours' i.e. resident in Szczebrzeszyn and others who'd arrived from other cities to kill ). Gross, quoting the word 'ours' left out inverted commas '...' so that it would seem it was our Polish gendarmes who had murdered the Jews. Prof. Pogonowski writes: ''There were no Polish gendarmes during the war ! ( ... ) By ridding a word of quotation marks Gross distorts the text and suggests it was the Poles who perpetrated the genocide. It is a telling comment on the credibility of his book.''
Despite Gross' repeated denial the hidden agenda of his tendentious 'writings' is all too conspicuous. Even a leftist politician such as Ryszard Bugaj in his Prawda historyczna a interes materialny / Historical truth and material interest ( Gazeta Wyborcza of 6-7 Jan. 2001 ) writes that '' Another thing that will contribute to creating a black picture of Poland in the West will be the book by Gross ( ... ) Upholding claims about anti-Semitic Poland is also useful to justify demands that Poland pay restitution for damages (... ) The conviction that the poor Poland must under pressure from Jewish circles shoulder the huge financial burden ( and unjust reputation that hurts) can seriously harm Polish-Jewish relations.'' The issue was also raised by Maciej Łętowski in the previously reported quotation from Tygodnik Solidarność of 9 February 2001. His warnings included the deplorable consequences that its [Neighbors] publication in the USA will entail because it will strike a blow to Poland's 'image of victim' of the war-time genocide. In Łętowski's words '' in order to lay hands on the Polish cash the American attorneys must attack this image. Gross' book was a godsend (...) The Polish crimes will make it to the news. This news will inevitably have its moral impact on the New York judges investigating the complaint versus the Polish government.''
( PS as of next week Niedziela will be publishing a series of articles subjecting more then 60 Gross' lies published in his various texts to a detailed analysis )
JERZY ROBERT NOWAK
translated by Lesław Kawalec