May 2016 Traditional Jewish Attitudes Toward Poles



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See Michael Lerner, “Mourning the Parisian ‘Humorists’ Yet Challenging the Hypocrisy of Western Media,” January 9, 2015, Huffington Post. Peter Beinart acknowledges: “As a force in American journalism, we certainly have. Jews edit The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Vox, Buzzfeed, Politico, and the opinion pages of The New York Times and Washington Post.” See Peter Beinart, “How The New Republic Stopped Being a Jewish Magazine,” Haaretz, December 10, 2014. Arguably, any concentration of power in the hands of group in any field where influence can be wielded is detrimental. It is interesting to note how the results of such polls are interpreted by mainstream commentators. Writing in Haaretz, Chemi Shalev mused: “Sort of makes you wonder if their real gripe isn’t that the Nazis simply weren’t thorough enough.” See “Ten Comments on ADL’s Global Survey of Anti-Semitism (It’s not all bad),” Haaretz, May 13, 2014.

569 See the following empirical surveys by Robert Cherry: “Contentious History: A Survey on Perceptions of Polish-Jewish Relations during the Holocaust,” in Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, vol. 19 (2007): 338; “Measuring Anti-Polish Biases Among Holocaust Teachers,” in Cherry and Orla-Bukowska, Rethinking Poles and Jews, 69–79. Robert Cherry concludes, in the latter study, that: “The evidence presented strongly suggests that complaints in the Polish American community about the anti-Polish stereotypes found among non-Polish faculty who teach Holocaust-related courses are well-founded; not surprisingly, these stereotypes are strongest among non-historians. … Jewish faculty teach Holocaust courses throughout the country, courses that enroll tens of thousands of students annually. They organize conferences and influence museum presentations of historical events. … By contrast, Polish academicians do not have a significant forum to promote their views to the general public.” Ibid., 76–77.

570 Anna Morgan, “Jewish kids embracing Halloween,” Toronto Star, October 28, 2007.

571 Giles Coren, “Two Waves of Immigration, Poles Apart,” Times (London), July 26, 2008.

572 Candice Krieger, “Coren Launches His Own Assault on Poland,” The Jewish Chronicle, August 14, 2008. The Economist assailed Giles Coren and the Times in the following words (“Unacceptable Prejudice: Don’t Be Beastly to the Poles,” August 14, 2008):
It is a fair bet that no British newspaper would print a column that referred to chinks, coons, dagos, kikes, niggers, spics, wogs, wops or yids. Indeed, a writer who tried using these words would probably find himself looking for a new job before the day was out. Yet Giles Coren, a leading light of the Times, last month referred to “Polack[s]” in a piece about his great-uncle's funeral, and seems entirely unrepentant about it. … Mr Coren seems truly to dislike Poles … For many people, ethnic prejudices are unshiftable. Sometimes they are harmless (Scots who will applaud any country that beats England in a sporting contest). Sometimes they are loathsome or even lethal. The real issue is why the Times, a respectable mainstream newspaper, permitted the slur to be published; and why, once it had been printed, nobody felt the need to apologise. The answer is that anti-Polish prejudice is still socially acceptable, in a way that anti-Jewish prejudice, say, is not. That is partly a legacy of Soviet propaganda, which liked to portray all east European countries as benighted reactionary hotbeds that had been civilised by proletarian internationalism. It is partly a knee-jerk reaction of people who dislike the Roman Catholic Church, and particularly the last pope (described contemptuously by a leading British scientist as “an elderly Pole”, as if that disqualified him from having an opinion). It is mostly because being rude about Poles carries no risk.


573 In fact, the Borat character on occasion uses Polish dialogue in the film, a fact that undercores the anti-Polish bigotry of its author, who is also of Jewish origin. Borat repeatedly sings two Polish phrases: “I speak and read in English” (Czytam i mówię po angielsku) and “Could you speak slowly please?” (Proszę mówić wolniej).

574 Giles Coren, “Today I Am Make First Column in Polski,” Times (London), February 2, 2013.

575 “Reactions to Giles Coren’s Column,” The Times, February 5, 2013.

576 Jerome Ostrov, After a Trip to Poland,” Internet: .

577 Moshe Zimmerman, “Land der Täter und Verräter: Junge Israelis identifizieren Polen mit den Nazi-Verbrechen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 3, 2007. Zimmeman recorded the following comments by an Israeli student who joined a March of the Living trip to Poland: “Poles were the main culprits, and the Germans only supplied the wagons.”

578 Irek Kusmierczyk, “A Polish-Canadian Calls For Healing Between Poles and Jews,” August 10, 2009, Internet: .

579 Stewart Stevens, The Poles (London: Collins/Harvill, 1982), 317.

580 A belated retraction of sorts came from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, during his state visit to Poland to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. On April 20, 1993, while in Warsaw, Rabin stated: “I do not like to comment on statements made in Israel from abroad, but I would have preferred that this statement had not been made.” See “Gore Congratulates Poland on Its Democracy,” The New York Times, April 21, 1993. Rabin was also reported to have said later at Auschwitz: “In the first place—and it is always necessary to remember this—Auschwitz was a German death camp, built by German criminals on Polish soil. Whoever cannot make a distinction between these two things and links the camp at Auschwitz with Poland, commits a cardinal error.” When a delegation of the Polish Seym (Parliament), headed by its Marshall Józef Oleksy, visited Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Institute on December 7, 1994, Avner Shalev, the director of the Institute, stated: “We do not accuse Poles in any way of taking part in the Holocaust of the Jews. We do not concur with the views which are sometimes expressed that Poles were responsible for the death camps that were built on Polish soil. That does not mean that there weren’t individuals and small groups who collaborated with the Germans.” See “Oleksy: Polacy nie byli winni,” Gazeta (Toronto), December 8, 1994.

581 “Bobker Replies: More On ‘The Polish Question,’” B’nai B’rith Messenger (Los Angeles), June 7, 1991.

582 “War of words heats up over Auschwitz ceremonies,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), January 24, 1995.

583 Yoram Sheftel, The Demjanjuk Affair: The Rise and Fall of a Show-Trial (London: Victor Gollancz, 1994), 290.

584 Abraham I. Katsh, ed., Scroll of Agony: The Warsaw Diary of Chaim A. Kaplan (New York: Macmillan; and London: Collier-Macmillan, 1965), 19–21. Kaplan peppered his wartime diary with anti-Christian remarks directed at Poles. Ibid., 47, 133.

585 Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Shapira, Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939–1942 (Northvale, New Jersey and Jerusalem: Jason Aronson, 2000), 294.

586 Published in the The Jewish Press (Brooklyn), August 13, 1993. Rabbi Lau also explained why Poland—“the land of the death camps”—and the Poles are a “cursed” nation: “There are people who are suitable for a particular country and not for another, and there are lands than can absorb one type of people and not another. A case in point is the Land of Israel. … It is suitable for the Jewish People. … This proves there is a bond between the people and the land – to each land its nation. … The land flourishes only when we dwell here.” Adapted from a Dvar Torah on Arutz 7, cited in The Jewish Press, Brooklyn, December 22, 1995.

587 Rabbi Sholom Klass, “Polish Anti-Semitism Raises Its Ugly Head Again,” The Jewish Press (Brooklyn), June 30, 1995.

588 Dan Mangan, “Hell on earth: ‘You never believe it, you can survive,’” The Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut), April 10, 1995.

589 Yair Weinstock, Holiday Tales for the Soul (Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications, 2002), 127.

590 Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Jewish high schoolers picket Polish consulate in NY to protest ‘Holocaust whitewash’,” May 5, 2016. Fortunately, Rabbi Friedman’s fanaticism met with a response from the Jewish side. Jonny Daniels, the British-Israeli founder of From the Depths, an organization that honors Holocaust rescuers, challenged the protesters, saying he “cannot agree with inflammatory speech filled with falsehoods against the Polish government, which is reminiscent of the way Israel is singled out for criticism in some circles.”

591 It is informative to trace the reactions of Jewish students who take part in the March of the Living and how it has evolved, or rather, for the most part, failed to evolve, over the years. Writing in Tikkun (“The Future of Auschwitz,” November/December 1992), Professor James E. Young, a member of the International Auschwitz Council, described the painful experiences of a Polish camp guide who related how she had been verbally abused by angry Jewish youth groups visiting at Auschwitz. “We tried to explain to [the guide],” writes Young, “that for many of the Jewish visitors, the nearest objects of rage and frustration were too often their guides, the surrounding Polish population, and the country itself.” The same was true for visits to other camps. When a group of rowdy Jewish students arrived at Majdanek (often misspelled as Maidanek), one of them scaled the chimney of a crematorium and hung an Israeli flag on it, laughing at the museum staff who asked him to take the flag down. When a female Israeli student set fire to a carpet in her hotel room, her teacher was quick to justify the student’s behaviour to the alarmed hotel staff: “That person [i.e., staff member] shouldn’t be angry. Before they burned us, and now we’re just burning a few of their things.” See Henryk Pająk, Żydowskie oblężenie Oświęcimia (Lublin: Retro, 1999), 206.

There is abundant evidence, however, that there is nothing spontaneous about this misdirected rage. Reporting on young marchers from Florida, a 1990 Jerusalem Post article noted the dichotomy the participants were deliberately encouraged to see between their stay in Poland and Israel. Leaving Poland for Israel was for one girl like going “from Hell to Heaven, from despair to joy.” “Everything in Poland was Hell,” said a male participant. “We couldn’t find anything good there.” See Greer Fay Cashman, “The March of the Living,” Jerusalem Post, May 15, 1990. Professor Young alluded to part of the real problem when he wrote, “We also resolved to improve the preparation of Jewish groups to make sure they knew enough of the Polish narrative to distinguish between Nazi killers and Polish victims.” (“The Future of Auschwitz,” Tikkun, November/December 1992.) Around that time (1992), Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, of Spertus College of Judaica in Chicago, made the following pointed observations in an interview published in the Warsaw Catholic monthly Więź (“Dialog to wysiłek tłumaczenia symboli,” no. 7 [1992]: 8–9):


Americans always need an enemy, something or someone with whom they can be at odds. American Jews have a typically American mentality in that regard. We need to find anti-Semites … Poland is that natural enemy because of longstanding stereotypes which I already mentioned. Israelis have a similar point of view, but for completely different reasons—essentially because of their Zionist ideology. The foundation of that ideology is the belief that the life of a Jew outside Israel is intolerable. For them the fate of the Jews in Poland and the Holocaust are proof of the validity of Zionist ideology that in the diaspora, outside Israel, there are only two roads open for Jews: death or assimilation. Jews from Israel who think along those lines thus have a stake in fostering a negative image of Poland. A year ago at a symposium at the Academy of Catholic Theology [in Warsaw] on the theology of the Holocaust, I referred to a statement by a woman from Yad Vashem who led a tour of Israeli teenagers to Poland. She told them that they travelled there for three reasons: one, to see where and how Jews perished; two, to understand why the State of Israel is a necessity; and three, to see how Poles participated in the murder of Jews.
More recently, Rabbi Sherwin again spelled out the implications of this approach: “The students were hearing a chronicle that one could hear in Israel or in America, a chronicle that makes any rapprochement between Jews and Poles impossible, that obfuscates the spiritual achievements of Polish Jewry.” See Byron L. Sherwin, Sparks Amidst the Ashes: The Spiritual Legacy of Polish Jewry (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 82. The following passage from Tom Segev’s The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), illustrates the same phenomenon in practice, even on those rare occasions when some haphazard corrective measures were attempted:
I had visited Yaakov Barmor, at his home. “Jew hatred is as natural in Poland as blue is to the sky,” the former diplomat told me; he had said something similar to his son’s students. Shalmi Barmor knew all there was to know about Polish anti-Semitism. He tried to explain its background to his students. He did it the hard way, presenting his students with copies of a recent Haaretz article by Shabtai Teveth, Ben Gurion’s autobiographer … “The Polish nation,” Teveth wrote, “is the victor in the end, and it has despoiled Jewish property and inherited its suffering and its Holocaust; it has made them into a commercial venture.” The students read the article and agreed. Many of them clearly identified the Holocaust with Poland. … Shalmi tried to explain to the students that the Poles were not guilty of the murder of the Jews. Indeed, the Poles had been defeated in the war—they had traded the Nazi conquest for a Soviet occupation. Anti-Semitism in Poland should not be ignored, Barmor told his students, but he emphasized that the Poles considered the mass murder of the Jews as part of their Polish national tragedy. The students argued with him. “Someone, after all, has to be guilty of the Holocaust,” one of them said. “We have to hate someone, and we’ve already made up with the Germans.” (Ibid., 491–92.)
Another strong critic of the March of the Living is Peter Novick, whose book The Holocaust in American Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), was reviewed by Eva Hoffman in The New York Review of Books (“The Uses of Hell,” March 9, 2000). According to Hoffman’s account of that important study (see p.160),
While in Poland, the students are accompanied by armed guards and told they are in constant danger from the surrounding population and that the Maidanek gas chambers could within a few hours be put into operation once again.

Novick is particularly offended by the blatant propaganda implicit in the sequence of the tour, “from Holocaust to Redemption.” But representatives of the Jewish community in Poland, no less than non-Jewish Poles, have been distressed by the paranoid atmosphere created by the marches, by the hostility of the young visitors to the local population, and by the reductive account of the Polish-Jewish past. Indeed, the marches have been perceived as part of a highly ironic phenomenon: the exportation of the “Americanized” version of the Holocaust back to Europe.

The recognition that Jewish groups visiting former German camps in Poland are on the whole not properly prepared for the experience appears to have surfaced some time ago. Yet one has to wonder what, if anything, has been done about ensuring that Jewish groups, especially impressionable young students, receive adequate preparation before their trips. First of all, it is not at all clear why the March of the Living starts in Auschwitz, rather than in Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, or Berlin, where Kristallnacht was unleashed. Further, what has or can be done about false or misleading perceptions of Poles nurtured over the years by a great deal of tendentious writing and narrating about the Holocaust, so much so that these perceptions have become, in the words of one Jewish community leader, “ingrained”? Writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail (“Poland striving to shake off an anti-Semitic past,” May 29, 1992), Steve Paiken, at the time a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) anchor-reporter, commented with some optimism: “The signs of change are even prompting some to challenge the long-held view that Poles are just about as guilty as the Germans for the Holocaust. That view is ‘ingrained,’ says Nathan Leipciger, chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress Holocaust Committee, and a survivor of Auschwitz. ‘How can you say that? I was in camps where 90 per cent of the inmates were Poles. … Most of this [anti-Polish] feeling is just based on myth.’” Has much really changed since those encouraging words were written in 1992? The notion that Poles continued to live “next door” to the concentration and death camps, and sat by idly while atrocities happened in their own “backyards,” was a constant theme reiterated by March of the Living organizers and repeated by Jewish teenagers. A 16-year-old female participant made the following comments on a radio show aired on the CBC on May 18, 1990, after visiting Auschwitz and Majdanek: “At the risk of sounding prejudiced … if it was not for the Polish people, the Holocaust would not have happened.” “You can’t plead ignorance when you’re living one mile from the camp,” said a 15-year-old in a Jerusalem Post story. See Jessica Kreimerman, “Israel Is Now Part of Us,” Jerusalem Post, May 15, 1990.

Auschwitz, it should be noted, was built and run by the German invaders of Poland. It started operation in June 1940 as a concentration camp intended for Polish political prisoners (i.e., primarily Christian Poles). Of the main camp’s more than 400,000 inmates, approximately 140,000–150,000 were Poles, about half of whom perished. It was not until mid-1942 that Jews began to arrive in any significant number at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. Even during the war, the more informed (educated) Jews in occupied Poland recognized this reality. Franciska Rubinlicht, of Warsaw, wrote in a letter, dated March 21, 1943, to her family in the United States: “There is another place, in Auschwitz, where the condemned are burned. There, many of our relatives and friends, and Jews in general, have been murdered. However, it is mainly a mass-execution place for Poles.” See Howard Roiter, Voices from the Holocaust (New York: William-Frederick Press, 1975), 117. For the most part, Jews were directed to the newly built death camp in nearby Birkenau. It is now believed that almost one million Jews perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau, of at least 1.1 million sent there. After Christian Poles, the next largest groups were 23,000 Gypsies, of whom 21,000 perished, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, almost all of whom perished, and 25,000 prisoners of other nationalities, of whom 10,000–15,000 perished. See Auschwitz museum historian Franciszek Piper’s essay “Auschwitz Concentration Camp: How It Was Used in the Nazi System of Terror and Genocide and in the Economy of the Third Reich,” in Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck, eds., The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed, and the Reexamined (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998), 371–86; Franciszek Piper and Teresa Świebocka, eds., Auschwitz: A Death Camp (The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, 1996), 189–95. It is also worth noting that between July 1940 and the early part of 1941, the Polish population was evicted from several villages surrounding the Auschwitz camp complex, covering an area of twenty square miles (forty square kilometres) which was recognized as coming under the camp’s jurisdiction. See Józef Garliński, Fighting Auschwitz: The Resistance Movement in the Concentration Camp (Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett Crest, 1975), 34; Piper and Świebocka, Auschwitz: Nazi Death Camp, 25–27.



There is something terribly askew when, after visiting a camp like Majdanek, which was not originally built for Jews and where thousands of Christian Poles also perished, and about whose existence the Polish underground and government-in-exile earnestly informed an unresponsive Western world, young Jewish students who participate in these marches come back with impressions such as these: “The camp of Maidanek (sic) was like nothing I had seen before … I had very negative feelings toward the Polish people. I saw them as mean, almost inhuman, wondering how they could ever let this happen;” “Where were your [Polish] parents, I thought, your grandparents, 50 years ago? … Safe in this house while the prisoners were taken to the gas chambers? Did they sing while 6,000,000 of my people were burning? Had they told someone what was happening, could lives have been saved?” (The Canadian Jewish News, September 24, 1992.) Two years later, the same views were being instilled into Jewish students preparing for their trip to Poland: “You look at the ovens, you look at the mound of human ash at Majdanek and the homes next door, you know there were people living in those homes who did nothing as Jews were being killed and you cry.” (Gazette, Montreal, April 5, 1994; Spectator, Hamilton, April 5, 1994). “I needed to understand how a whole country and millions world-wide could be involved in an attempt to destroy an entire nation, why we were so hated. … We must not only look to the past but at the present and the future—because the vandals in Warsaw are the Nazis of today and tomorrow.” (Gazette, Montreal, April 8, 1994.) In May 2005, an American Jewish group leader spoke about the houses surrounding Majdanek and their “vile” Polish occupants: “Look at this, he said, disgusted, “these people were just sitting in their backyards barbecuing while this mass murder was taking place!” See Carolyn Slutsky, “March of the Living: Confronting Anti-Polish Stereotypes,” in Robert Cherry and Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, eds. Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future (Landham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 195. Sidney Zoltak, a Holocaust survivor who frequently speaks to students about his experiences, writes in a similar vein in 2013: “The Christian community living in Lublin claims ignorance. However, the camp is only a few kilometres from the centre of town, and it’s obvious they were able to see the smoke of the crematoria and smell the burning flesh.” See Sidney J. Zoltak, My Silent Pledge: A Journey of Struggle, Survival and Remembrance (Toronto: MiroLand, 2013), 235. In 201, Hugh Pollack writes: “in the death camps of Majdanek disturbingly situated with prewar homes and parks all around it as if it was just any business, in full visibility of the town’s population which could never claim innocence [sic] of not knowing what was going on, a camp which could easily in days be up running again churning out its acrid smoke from burned bodies.” Further: “Our guide at Auschwitz was a young Polish woman who like her husband is a regular guide there. … She and her husband feel passionately about confronting the reality of their [sic] past in hopes for a very different future, one in which such atrocities could never happen again.” See Hugh Pollack, “Death and Life in Poland Today,” December 26, 2014, Friends of JCC Krakow, Internet: . What exactly were (are) these Poles guilty of? Clearly, influential members of the Jewish community who spread such perverse stories refuse to appreciate that it was the Germans who chose to build the camp in proximity to the city of Lublin, imprisoning thousands of non-Jews before Jewish prisoners began to arrrive, and that the postwar Communist-era housing developments standing near the camp were not in existence at the time Majdanek was operational. As a former Jewish prisoner recalled, “On my first arrival there in April of 1943, the camp had been situated in the outskirts of Lublin. As far as the eye could see, sprawling fields encircled it on all sides.” See Eli Pfefferkorn, The Muselmann at the Water Cooler (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2011), 62. What is more amazing still is that these and other such comments spewing hatred are being published, and applauded, as proof of the success of the trips, prompting one concerned person to ask pointedly:
Do the Jewish youngsters and their leaders on the March of the Living know that Poland was occupied by the Germans after the brief but bloody struggle that precipitated World War II? Do they know that under the German occupation, Poland was subjected to a reign of terror, directed against both Christians and Jews, that resulted in the deaths of 3 million Poles? Do they know that it was the Germans, followers of Hitler, and not the Poles, whose pursuit of the “final solution” led to the Holocaust and the deaths of 6 million European Jews? The remarks attributed to one of those who was on the March of the Living two years ago indicated to me that they do not. (Letter, Gazette, Montreal, April 15, 1994.)
One also has to wonder whether the students’ remarks differ significantly, on an ethical plane, from statements expressing various forms of Holocaust denial. After all, suggesting that Poles were responsible for the Holocaust, and for the existence of the very camps in which they too perished by the hundreds of thousands, is not only blatantly false, it is a moral assault directed at the Polish people. The negative portrayal of Poles in much of the writing and teaching on the Holocaust is not solely to blame for this state of affairs, however. The students receive extensive “briefings” from the organizers of the marches before they are sent to Poland in which the identity of the true culprits are scarcely mentioned, if at all. The spring 1993 issue of Intercom, a quarterly bulletin published by the Canadian Jewish Congress, featured a message to student participants of the March of the Living by its international chairman, Abraham Hirchzon, where he stated: “Everywhere, we will be surrounded by the local Polish people … We will hate them for their involvement in the atrocities.” Nor is it surprising to see advertisements geared to attract Jewish students to join these trips reinforce this focus: “Be one of a dynamic group of young people from across Canada to experience this historic 10 day mission as we encounter the legacy of our tragic past in Poland and celebrate the revival of the Jewish People in Israel.” There is grassroots pressure at work too. Ann Kazimirski, a woman who managed to survive the war by hiding in attics and barns of Poles and “relying on the goodness of total strangers,” ran into a “few hurdles” when she decided to accompany a group of students from Montreal on a trip to the Nazi camps in Poland, “from people expressing bitterness that she, a survivor, would consider contributing a single cent to a country that did nothing to help during the war, and now capitalizes on the Holocaust for its tourist trade.” Kazimirski stated: “I was heavily criticized by some people who said how dare I go back to this country—to Poland. I know a person here in my building, she was a good friend. She doesn’t want to talk to me, ever.” See “She brings a dark past to light,” The Gazette (Montreal), March 2, 1998. That the attitude of the student participants is not without some bearing on their reception or perceived reception during their visits to Poland, is attested to by Isadore Burstyn, a Jew who was sheltered by Polish villagers after escaping deportation to Treblinka: “The Edmonton man said he did not run into overt anti-Semitism during his 10 days in Poland. ‘My feeling was that anti-Semitism there is about the same level as it is here in Canada,’ he said. ‘I walked along the streets with Rabbi Shmuel Mann of Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton who was wearing a yarmulke and no one on the streets took any notice of us. But I can understand that the young people in the March of the Living would be greeted in a rather hostile way because they were kept away from the Polish people. I talked to policemen, to garbagemen, to taxi drivers and did not run into any hostility.’” See “Edmonton survivor returns to Poland,” The Canadian Jewish News, August 2, 1990. But many, if not most counsellors, have a different agenda. Writing in the Canadian Jewish News (May 11, 1995), Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka of Ottawa, a March participant and student chaperone, stated: “On the other hand, how can one go to Poland, to the country so steeped in anti-Semitism that it eagerly cooperated with the Nazis in the cold-blooded murder of the Jews?” Frank Bialystok, of the Polish Jewish Heritage Foundation, forwarded the following timely retort: “What is most disturbing about Rabbi Bulka’s account is that he participated in the March of the Living, a trip for Jewish students to learn about the Holocaust. I would advise the organizers of this program to be more mindful in preparing both the chaperones and the students with respect to historical accuracy. The emotion of this experience must be balanced with facts.” (The Canadian Jewish News, May 25, 1995.)

The illusion that this message has properly registered and that something has changed since was once again shattered the following year. The Canadian Jewish News (April 25 and May 30, 1996) carried statements by March participants that once again indicated an alarming level of ignorance and an insensitivity that can only serve to perpetuate conflict in Polish-Jewish relations. It is shocking that a chaperone, someone who had been rescued by Polish Christians, remarked: “According to the Nazis and Poles, none of us were even supposed to be alive.” Another chaperone, echoing the infamous words of Yitzhak Shamir, added that the hatred of Jews “is fed to them [the Poles] with their mother’s milk.” The Toronto co-chair said of the Polish onlookers: “It was as if many of them felt they had to atone for the sins of past generations.” Writing in the Newsletter of the Holocaust Remembrance Committee of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto (vol. 9, no. 1, Fall 1996), chaperone Howard Driman continued to express the crude propaganda and unsettling insinuations that have been fed over the years to Jewish students visiting Majdanek, oblivious to the fact that many thousands of Christian Poles from the Lublin area also perished there: “Everyone expressed shock at how close this camp is to downtown Lublin, and how totally exposed it was to the city and its inhabitants. One could not help thinking about how their eyes and noses, at least, must have sensed what was going on.” Unfortunately, such views are reinforced by popular writings about the Holocaust, which distort history by omitting any reference to the fate of the Poles under the German occupation or even fail to mention the German occupation itself. A simple reference to “Nazis” means very little to younger generations born long after the Second World War. It is a term so vague in most people’s minds that one of the most frequently asked questions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is, “Who were the Nazis?” In most cases, though, the attempt to link the Holocaust to Poland and the Poles is much rather direct, and intentionally so. It is analogous to a “blood libel” charge. The bitter harvest was gathered once again in the comments of Jewish students participating in the 1996 March of the Living, as recorded by the Warsaw Gazeta Polska (April 25, 1996):

▪ An 18-year-old student from California had been informed by her teacher that original camp barracks were being demolished to make way for a supermarket. The student, who was convinced that Poles built Auschwitz and Birkenau of their own accord, stated: “You don’t like us and would want us not to come.”

▪ A student who asked a guide how much Polish guards were paid for working at the camp (during the war) expressed disbelief when told that there were no Polish guards. “When the students are told about what Poles experienced under the German occupation, they yawn ostentatiously or simply walk away. They don’t know because they don’t want to know.” The guide also commented on the rowdy behaviour of some of the Jewish students.



In April 1998, like clockwork, the Canadian press repeated this familiar chorus by publishing another account of a student participant, who wrote: “A stoic Polish guard stands at attention before me. For a terrifying second, I picture him closing the door behind us. … During the Holocaust, 350,000 Jews were murdered here [in Majdanek] as the citizens of Lublin averted their gaze.” See Barbi Price, “Heaven and hell in this world,” Toronto Star, April 14, 1998. But there were no Polish guards in Majdanek or Auschwitz, or in any other Nazi German camp for that matter, and, in this narrative, the tens of thousands of non-Jewish victims of Majdanek simply vanish into thin air. One can thus justifiably speak of the “judaization” of German mass extermination policies in this context. The residents of Lublin who lived under German oppression and terror for five long years, even those who were brutally expelled from the village where the Majdanek camp was built, are turned into callous and indifferent bystanders, or even co-perpetrators.

In recent years, the March of the Living has met with stinging criticism on the part of some Jews too. In an article that appeared in Gazeta Wyborcza (Magdalena Grochowska, “Kadisz,” May 10–11, 1997), Shulamit Aloni, a former Israeli Minister of Education (she was removed from office for her unpopular views) and co-founder of the Meretz Party, is quoted as saying: “In my time, I recommended that Israeli youth meet with Polish youth. I do not like how our youth are prepared for the visits to Poland and how they behave there. Above all, they must know that Auschwitz was not conceived by the Poles. One cannot turn these visits into victory marches and misuse the loss of six million Jews. Poles should not be treated as the enemy. … One has to travel to Poland with the awareness that not only did six million Jews perish there, but also they were part of Polish life. … It is not true that just because someone has suffered, he or she can better understand the suffering of others. The syndrome of being a victim strengthens ethno-centricism. The trips to Poland are being used to educate our youth in a nationalistic spirit. The sentiment is promoted that because we were victimized we can do whatever we want now.” Uri Huppert, a lawyer and journalist from Israel, who survived the occupation in Poland posing as a Gentile, stated: “These young Israelis are sent to Auschwitz to instill in them the notion that the outside world is hostile toward Jews. They don’t want to realize that not only Jews perished there. They have been raised on the stereotype of the anti-Semitic Pole. … These marches are anti-humanistic because they do not lead to understanding.” An organizer of encounters of Israeli, Polish and German students recently bemoaned the fact the greatest source of misunderstanding between Polish and Israeli students stems from the negative, and often hostile, attitude of the Israeli youth toward their Polish counterparts, yet not toward the German ones. The Israeli students took it as a given that Poles were responsible for the Holocaust. See Zdzisław Krasnodębski, “Jak i komu wymierzyć sprawiedliwość,” Rzeczpospolita (Warsaw), June 3–4, 2000. The above observations are borne out by the attitude and behaviour of the students, and often their chaperones. They have been known to badger Poles who live near the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, having returned to their farms and rebuilt the homes from which they were expelled by the Germans during the war. While being photographed and videoed, these Poles are asked provocative, insensitive and abusive questions: “How could they live there?” “Who built the camps?” (Surely, anyone who does not know the answer to that question has no business being on the trip.) “Why didn’t the Poles rescue the Jewish inmates?” (They are totally oblivious to the fact that 150,000 Christian Poles were also imprisoned in Auschwitz.) After all, “it was no accident that the Germans chose to build the camps in Poland!” David Levy, a banker from Luxembourg and March of the Living participant, openly accused the Poles of being co-responsible for the Holocaust, of collaborating with the Nazis, and of living in a country where everything is ugly. Marsha Lederman, a host of a radio talk show in Toronto, explained in the Globe and Mail (“Going home to Auschwitz,” April 24, 1998) her decision to join the March of the Living, to “this land that was so hostile to my people, to my parents. … Some Holocaust survivors and children of survivors refuse to set foot on German or Polish soil.” Her contempt for Poland and the Poles, which she transfers from the real culprits, is all too palpable.

This drama, with all its attendant anti-Polish ramifications, is being played out in the media, which simply ignores and refuses to confront the very real and systemic flaws of the March of the Living that are all too apparent in its own reporting. From there it makes its way to the classroom, where student participants reinforce a blatantly negative picture of Poland: “In the two weeks I spent in Poland and Israel, I witnessed the contrast between death and life, darkness and light, mourning and pride. … There seems to be an appropriately dark cloud looming over this country [i.e., Poland]. … We are all extremely anxious to get out of Poland and head to Israel.” Curiously, all of this is done under the guise of bringing a “message of peace and racial tolerance.” See Chad Finkelstein, “The March of the Living: a personal journey,” The Canadian Jewish News, June 25, 1998. On their return to Israel, Jewish students of those few parents who still speak Polish at home have been known to take their parents to task for doing so. (“Striptiz po wizycie w obozach śmierci w Polsce,” Polska Agencja Prasowa, November 18, 1999.) Alan Jacobs, an American educator, writes: “I have similar impressions gathered over many years observing and interacting with Israeli youth and their rudeness and demeanor in Auschwitz and in Krakow … I think the Israel kids … came to their conclusions about Poles before they ever went to Poland … their conclusions are based on selective observation, that is, you see what you want to see, based on an inculcated nationalism. And the indoctrination is the result of their adult mentors, teachers and leaders. These Jewish youth are very disdainful of Poles and Poland and somehow feel righteous victims. I assume they think this gives them the right to behave badly. … I don’t see Jewish survivors visiting the camp acting this way. The Israeli adults along with these kids don’t either. Yet they are responsible and need to change this behavior.” See H-Holocaust, posted November 16, 2004. Not surprisingly, when Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers, asked family members of March of the Living participants to write letters to those leaving for Poland, Jair Lapid counselled, in his letter to his son Joav, that Poles were co-responsible for the Holocaust: “The war in Poland was only felt at the beginning and at the end—in September 1939 and at the beginning of 1945. In between was the Holocaust. It occurred in an ordinary country, at the hands of ordinary people. That’s how the Holocaust looked, my child, like those people on the street.” Tomi Lapid, Jair’s father and Israel’s Minister of Justice, seconded his son’s sentiments in his own letter to his grandson: “Remember: the wicked ones could not have carried out the Holocaust, if good people hadn’t remained silent. Ordinary Poles, whom your father writes about, are the descendants of the citizens who knew and remained silent. You’ll see the tranquil villages surrounding Auschwitz. They were also that tranquil at the time when, inside the camp, millions of people were murdered.” See “Niezwykły dialog o Marszu Żywych w Oświęcimiu na łamach izraelskiej gazety,” Gazeta Wyborcza, September 23, 2004. From this exchange, one would never have guessed that Christian Poles were also imprisoned and killed in Auschwitz by the tens of thousands. As mentioned earlier, the local Polish population had been evicted from an area twenty square miles (forty square kilometres) surrounding the camp. Jack Kuper, a Toronto author and film producer who, as a boy, survived the war working as a farmhand (he concedes, in retrospect, that he would have been afraid to hide a Jew, if he were a Pole), has remarked that such contempt for Poles is not typical of Jews who survived the Holocaust in Poland, whose emotions toward Poles are mixed, but rather of their children or those who have no connection to Poland. In their minds, the stories of the older generation have created the stereotype of the “anti-Semitic Pole.” See Jerzy Jastrzębowski, “Dlaczego nas tak nie lubią,” Gazeta (Toronto), May 8–10, 1998. Unfortunately, the accounts cited above do not fully bear that out.

A particularly ugly incident marred the March of the Living of April 1998. A group of young Jews ventured into the gravel pit outside the main camp in Auschwitz, where a Papal cross stands to commemorate the site where Polish Christian prisoners were executed, and yelled obscenities. Some March of the Living participants, however, did not approve of such antics. One young girl, in particular, placed a candle in front of the cross. At a mass celebrated there the following May 1, her gesture was recalled and the flame she ignited was held up as a symbol of understanding between the Jewish and Polish nations, a sign of hope for the future. While many Jews still clamour for the removal of the Papal cross (Poles who oppose its removal are portrayed as rabid nationalists and “anti-Semites”), in private at least, several moderate Jewish organizations assured Poland’s then premier, Jerzy Buzek, that they do not intend to call for its removal. Only time will tell if another incident will explode around the Papal cross, as it has in the past. Unfortunately, imparted views remain long after one’s formative years, as a bleak, unrelenting, and self-perpetuating legacy. As Diana Pinto, an Italian Jew, noted in a thought-provoking essay: “I … met at Harvard American Jews whose thoughts were filled with hatred with respect to Poland, the country from where their ancestors had come. In thinking of their family past, they could only evoke the name of obscure villages, often untraceable on a map, bitter villages where no Chagall-like violinist ever played on the roof, villages which contained not a single joyful memory, no sense of natural and simple life, and not the least trace of what we would call ‘civilization.’” See Diana Pinto, “Fifty Years after the Holocaust: Building a New Jewish and Polish Memory,” East European Jewish Affairs 26, no. 2 [1996]: 82. Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, of Spertus College of Judaica in Chicago, has been particularly adept at exposing traditionally inherited Jewish views:


Indeed, in the months between the arrival of the invitation and my departure for Poland, family, friends, and colleagues urged me not to go. “They are all anti-Semites,” I was told on numerous occasions. “There will be a pogrom and you’ll be killed.” …

Most American Jews viewed Poles as inherently anti-Semitic and Poland as a place that had never welcomed Jews. Polish anti-Semitism had made the millennium of Jewish life there a nightmare. Historically, deep-seated Polish anti-Semitism was not only responsible for the persecution of Jews in centuries past but was also brutally manifested in the twentieth century. Jews had left the Polish lands en masse to emigrate to North America and elsewhere precisely because Polish anti-Semitism was so intolerable. The Poles had collaborated with the Nazis in making the Holocaust possible. After World War II, Poles celebrated the decimation of Polish Jewry and eagerly appropriated Jewish property. The Nazi death camps had been placed in Poland because the Germans knew they could count on the support of the Polish people in carrying out the Final Solution. Pogroms and political actions against the remaining Polish Jews—survivors of the Holocaust—in postwar Poland and again in 1968, only demonstrated that Poles remained unrepentantly anti-Semitic. Even in contemporary Poland, there are virtually no Jews but there is still a pervasive anti-Semitism. (Sherwin, Sparks Amidst the Ashes, 16.)


Following this lachrymose theory of Jewish history, the Holocaust emerges as the almost inevitable climax of centuries of persecution. … Furthermore, the story of a formidable diasporan community such as Polish Jewry may be told according to a narrative rooted in the underlying historical determinism of Zionist ideology. Despite assimilationist trends in modern Polish Jewry, it was unlikely that the Jews of Poland would disappear through assimilation. Therefore, their inevitable fate had to be physical annihilation. The Holocaust is invoked as the demonstration of the validity of this inevitable “law” of Jewish history.

That the Nazi death camps were located in Poland, it is further argued, was not by chance, since the Poles—either actively or through passivity—collaborated with the Germans in the annihilation of the Jews. Those who espouse this view see the Holocaust, in part, as the story of Polish complicity with the Germans in the destruction of Polish Jewry. The pre-Holocaust history of the Jewish experience in Poland is thus recast as a chronicle of anti-Semitism that reached its natural and inevitable result during the years of World War II. While the more dispassionate theory that history is the result of an inevitable unfolding of events would seem—like any form of determinism—to free the actors from moral responsibility, this approach places substantial responsibility for the Holocaust on the Poles. In the popular American and Israeli understanding of the Holocaust, the Poles all but replace the Germans as the perpetrators of the Holocaust, as the archenemies of the Jews throughout the thousand-year Jewish presence in Poland. Indeed, just as this narrative fits available facts into a Zionistic ideological overlay, it is also correlative with cultural assumptions characteristic of the American Jewish mentality. For American Jews, the Europe that their immigrant ancestors had left had to be envisaged as being so intolerable to Jewish life as to have compelled them to forsake it for America. The more inhospitable to Jews Poland (the place of origin of most American Jews) could be portrayed to be, the greater the justification for emigrating to America. Thus, both American and Israeli Jews had a vested interest in depicting the Jewish experience in Poland as a history of persecutions, pogroms, and perpetual anti-Semitic outbreaks. (Sherwin, Sparks Amidst the Ashes, 82.)


There are signs that, in some quarters at least, the mood is changing. There are people who are working toward dispelling this lachrymose view of the Jewish experience in Poland. Among them is Stanisław Krajewski, formerly the president of the Jewish Forum in Poland and co-chairman of the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, who also served as a consultant to the American Jewish Committee. In reply to Diana Pinto’s call for real dialogue, as opposed to the one-sided litany of alleged Polish faults that usually emerges as the agenda of Polish-Jewish discussions, Krajewski commented on this state of affairs and the many obstacles such dialogue faces: “I too think that the world Jewish memory is fixated on ‘misery, marginality and horror’; that Poland deserves adequate Jewish recognition for the relative freedom and conditions that enabled Jewish creativity to flourish … Quite a few people in Poland, and some abroad, have tried to go in the same direction. … Nevertheless, mass memories are not touched. … I have always felt somewhat uncomfortable that what is termed ‘the Jewish memory’ has virtually become the Western memory. For example, the Polish memory of Auschwitz is confronted by the rest-of-the-world memory rather than by a ‘Jewish’ memory.” See Stanisław Krajewski, “Reflexions of a Polish Polish Jew,” East European Jewish Affairs 27, no. 1 [1997]: 64–66. The implications of this fresh approach were delineated in Claire Rosenson’s response to Diana Pinto’s essay:
Overwhelmingly, Jews refuse to recognize that they have any need to review their conceptions of Poland as a land of bloodthirsty antisemites where Jews lived miserably for hundreds of years. … Many of the questions Pinto raises point directly to the need for Jews to reconsider and demystify their understanding of Poland. … we Jews also need to rectify our own failures of memory. …

I cannot believe that the Poles are in a position to influence the international public’s ‘connotations’ of Auschwitz. Jews have fought long and hard to maintain power over the interpretation of Auschwitz as a symbol. For there to be any change in this regard, we Jews will have to relax our ‘exclusivist vision of suffering’, as Pinto calls it.

Recent surveys conducted by Demoskop for the American Jewish Committee reveal that Poles are very much aware of the victimization of the Jews in the Second World War and believe it is necessary to remember the Holocaust. And yet, how many Jews can say anything at all about Polish losses during the war or even describe their situation under Nazi occupation? In my experience, many Jews are not even able to say whether Poland was an ally or an opponent of the Nazis. …

As an American Jew who has researched Jewish life in contemporary Poland, I am personally very much aware of the hostility of many Western Jews to the idea that there exists a Jewish community in Poland, and that these Jews remain in Poland of their own free will. … The sad fact is that many Polish Jews feel accepted and supported by their Polish friends, while they feel criticized and rejected by Jews who come to visit Poland.” (Claire Rosenson, “The Ball is in the Jewish Court,” East European Jewish Affairs 27, no. 1 [1997]: 66–67.)


Apart from sheer prejudice, there other reasons for perpetuating the calumnies directed against the Poles: It is a way of uniting the Jewish community behind the Holocaust; promoting the maintenance of a Jewish identity (especially in the diaspora); offsetting charges of Jewish passivity during, and even participation in, the Holocaust (via the Jewish Councils and Jewish police); and striking preemptively at Poles, thereby curtailing discussion about such matters as Jewish conduct toward Poles in Soviet-occupied Poland. Added to this is yet another—“politically correct”—layer of the complex and almost impenetrable issue of Christian-Jewish relations in the post-Holocaust era. As explained by Marc H. Ellis, a Jewish-American theologian and scholar,
This complicated scenario within the Jewish world featuring those who criticize Israel as its primary defenders cannot exist and flourish without Christians who feel a need to defend Israel because of the history of Jewish suffering in Europe. The Christian understanding of Jews and Israel is complicated, instructed by more than a millennium of Christian anti-Jewishness as well as interpretations of the Bible that see Jews as central to Christian witness and life. Both the liberal and conservative segments of the Christian community are drawn into the drama of Israel by way of history and scripture. … As since the beginning of Christianity, the Jews are at the center and at the same time are peripheral. The Jews represent the struggle of Christians to define or redefine their own tradition, history, and teleology.

In this process the ecumenical dialogue, promoted by liberal Christians [often post-Christians—M.P.] after the Holocaust, turns into a “deal” whereby Jews demand Jewish self-identification as well as the confession of Christian sins, while Christians are limited to that self-identification and confession. Since both identity and confession involve the support of Israel by Christians, renunciation of the ability to criticize Israel, or even interact critically with Judaism and Jewish life at any level, the deal is sealed with a pledge of silence. Once Jews criticize Israel then Christians can nod in assent but any independent movement of criticism is seen as reneging on the demands that Christians have acceded to. Criticism of Israel outside the parameters of Jewish dissent is seen as retracting to the anti-Jewish position of yesteryear. The reality of anti-Jewishness is seen now primarily in terms of wavering support of Christians for Israel and thus a permanent danger to be monitored by the Jewish community. The penalty of being labeled anti-Jewish is constantly brandished. (Daniel A. McGowan and Marc H. Ellis, eds., Remembering Deir Yassin: The Future of Israel and Palestine [New York: Olive Branch Press/Interlink Publishing Group, 1998], 86–87.)


Unfortunately, traditional views are so imbedded that real change will come about very slowly. In the meantime, the image of Poland and the Poles, who have become a convenient scapegoat for many, will continue to be sullied. As long as the trips originate in Poland, and not in Dachau or Berlin, and as long as the plight of Poles under German occupation is ignored or downplayed, the March of the Living will remain a breeding ground of contempt for Poles.

592 Feldman’s article appeared in Israel Studies, vol. 7, no. 2: 84–114 (2002). See also Jackie Feldman, Above the Death Pits, Beneath the Flag: Youth Voyages to Poland and the Performance of Israeli National Identity (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008). As reviewer Jan Peczkis points out:
To begin with, the perceptive reader will see, in this book, the usual tendency of diffusing responsibility for the Holocaust away from where it belongs—the Germans. For instance, during a prayer at the site of the ruins of the Birkenau crematoria, the leader asks how long Jews will be a prey and victim of the gentiles. (p. xiv). This paints with a very broad brush. With the exception of Haman's Persians, Hitler's Germans were the only gentiles to ever attempt to exterminate the Jews. In like manner, Auschwitz is commonly called a ZIVILIZATIONSBRUCH—a breach of civilization. (p. 1). Was it really a breach of human civilization, or was it a breach of German civilization?

There is also a displacing of responsibility for the Holocaust away from where it belongs—the Germans—and unto the Poles. Feldman (p. 88; see also p. 115) repeats the rather silly contention that this happens (and seems to excuse it) because “the Germans are not visibly present”, and so Poles can serve as stand-ins for the bystanders and even executioners. Ironic to this absurd and insulting scapegoating of the Poles, it is the Jewish side frequently complaining about scapegoats! The dying Jews, smoking chimneys, etc., are also not “visibly present”, and have not been for seven decades, yet this does not prevent the visitors from focusing on them by one iota.

The displacement of Jewish hostility from Germans unto Poles also occurs in various subtle contexts. Feldman (p. 78) even presents a table that makes it obvious. For the visiting Israelis, the inside of the bus or hotel represent an “inside space” of warmth, Jewishness, security, joy, life, and “us”. The “outside space”, Poland, represents the exact opposite: coldness, the Holocaust, danger, tension and sorrow, death, and “them”.

The “Polish-Jewish dialogue” aspect of the Israeli visits should not be overblown. Feldman notes that, “The meetings with Polish youths (when they do take place) and the presence of Polish guides are structured so that they have little impact. The stories of Polish victims of the Holocaust, as well as the dilemmas encountered by Polish bystanders, are also rarely heard. Even righteous gentiles are encountered as stage figures elevated from oblivion by the State of Israel’s recognition and honor, and not as an ‘other’ to be heard.” (p. 242). Poles serving as guides have been discouraged under various pretexts. (p. 66). Except for a brief time, meetings between Israeli and Polish youth have been minimized—on alleged security grounds. (p. 61). Polish guides at Auschwitz-Birkenau have also been either removed or encouraged to be silent. (pp. 136–137).

Israeli security guards envelope the visiting Israelis. In part, this policy is consistent with visits even within Israel. (p. 93). However, Feldman admits that it also exists in order to reinforce anti-Polish feeling, “The security arrangements enable the students to imagine that they have returned to the scene of the crime, in order to reenact the Polish (gentile)-Jewish situation of the Holocaust. This time, however, thanks to the State of Israel, they are the victors. Beyond its functional role, the highly visible presence of Israeli security forces is an important element in the symbolic world of the voyage.” (p. 71). Once again, the German perpetrators have all but disappeared.

Poles must be thrilled to find themselves in the company of de-Germanized German mass murderers (Nazis) and archetypical murderous ancient pagans (Amalekites). Feldman quips, “In Poland, the [Israeli] flags are directed, not against a current foe, but against a past enemy—the Nazis, the Poles, or Amalek.” (p. 264). …

The agenda behind the Israeli youth visits to Poland is unmistakable. Feldman says, “Among the most important messages of the voyage are that Poland is a Jewish cemetery and a hostile anti-Semitic country, and that the continuation of Diaspora Jewish life is in Israel.” (p. 177).

Some Poles think of the Israeli visits as a provocation. Feldman, using roundabout language, acknowledges that this is not only true, but is intentionally so. She cites a Ministry handbook that affirms that the visits are SUPPOSED to confront the Poles with their “role in the tragedy of the Jewish people”. (p. 73). She adds that, “The prominent display of Israeli symbols and the performance of mass processions through territory perceived as hostile not only affirms common belonging, but announces Jewish-Israeli claims to the legacy and remnants of the Shoah to the Polish ‘other’.” (p. 73).

Poles are a stand-in not only for the German mass murderers. The Poles are also enlisted as a kind of substitute for Islamic extremists, as pointed out by Feldman, “The insular nature of the voyage and the encounters (real or imagined) with Polish anti-Semitism are extended to the Arab-Israeli dispute.” (pp. 274–275).

In this book, there is but one brief mention as “other crimes of the Nazis” (p. 60) by an Israeli critic of the voyages to Poland. There is no evidence that Israeli youth visiting Poland are taught, at least to any significant extent, that the Nazi Germans had also murdered millions of Poles. To the contrary—the prevalent view, not surprisingly, is the standard Judeocentric (if not Judeochauvinistic) one. Feldman comments, “Furthermore, for most Israeli participants, the Poles are not fellow victims, but Holocaust bystanders or perpetrators.” (p. 138).


Opposition to the Marches of the Living was widespread among the Jewish community for various reasons: “Alarm was voiced that Jewish tourism would result in good public relations for Poland and that this would take the focus away from Polish anti-Semitism during and after the Second World War and the current uneasy state of Polish-Jewish relations. … Moreover, it was argued that the trips would benefit the economy of an allegedly anti-Semitic Poland.” See J. E. Berman, Holocaust Agendas, Conspiracies, and Industries? (London and Portland, Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2006), 85.

593 Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, “Poles Apart,” The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto), May 11, 1995.

594 Rabbi Andrew Baker, “Poland’s Progress,” New York Post, January 26, 2005.

595 Kobi Nahshoni, “Rabbi Aviner: Visiting Nazi Death Camps Forbidden,” February 23, 2009, Internet: .

596 Nathan Jeffay, “Religious Zionists Challenge March of the Living’s Value,” Forward, May 8, 2009.

597 Kobi Nahshoni, “Rabbi Melamed Urges Students Not to Visit Poland,” April 21, 2009, Internet: .

598 Edward T. Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum (New York: Viking Penguin, 1995), 117.

599 Matthew Wagner, “Poland Gets 1st Orthodox Rabbis Since WWII,” Jerusalem Post, June 30, 2008.

600 Esther Farbstein, The Forgotten Memoirs: Moving Personal Accounts from Rabbis Who Survived the Holocaust (Brooklyn, New Yor: Shaar Press), 458. Rabbi Weinberg was in Pawiak for all of two weeks; afterwards, as a Soviet citizen, he was interned with Soviet prisoners-of-war.

601 Reb Moshe Shonfeld, The Holocaust Victims Accuse: Documents and Testimony on Jewish War Criminals, Part 1 Brooklyn, New York: Naturei Karta of U.S.A., 1977), 13, 16.

602 Joseph J. Preil, ed., Holocaust Testimonies: European Survivors and American Liberators in New Jersey (New Brunnswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 128.

603 Hoffman, Shtetl, 245.

604 Shimon Redlich, Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians, 1918–1945 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002), 22.

605 Art Spiegelman’s highly popular Holocaust comic books Maus and Maus II depict Poles as bad-tempered, unfeeling pigs who go around saluting in Nazi fashion and greeting each other with “Heil Hitler.” Contrary to all evidence, the kapo function is Auschwitz is assigned exclusively to Polish pigs, who excel in cruelty and especially in tormeting Jews. Not surprisingly, GradeSaver, a popular online student study guide provider, states: “A ‘kapo’ is a Polish supervisor at a concentration camp.” See Internet: . Although touted as an educational tool, the style of Maus is reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda rag Der Stürmer: Poles are invariably brutal bigots, blackmailers and murderers. The use of pigs as symbols of Poles is a lesson that cannot be lost upon the youngest of readers, the very word “pig” being universally used as a term of derision. For Jews, a pig is unclean animal. According to the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center (Internet: ), “There is probably no animal as disgusting to Jewish sensitivities as the pig. It’s not just because it may not be eaten: there are plenty of other animals that aren’t kosher either, but none of them arouse as much disgust as the pig. Colloquially, the pig is the ultimate symbol of loathing; when you say that someone ‘acted like a chazir [pig],’ it suggests that he or she did something unusually abominable.” An Israeli court found a Jewish woman guilty of racism for putting up posters depicting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad as a pig. Pork-eating immigrants from Russia have also been the focus of volatile demonstrations in Israel. After one such demonstration, David Benziri, a leading Sephardi rabbi and brother of an Israeli cabinet minister, said: “There is nothing so anti-Jewish as pig.” At these rallies Christian Russian immigrants are called the “abomination of Satan,” accused of “flooding the land with pork, prostitution, impurity and filth,” and there are calls for their segregation by Orthodox Jews. See Alan Philps, “Pork-eating Gentiles stir outrage in Israel,” National Post [Toronto], November 24, 1999. It is most unlikely that this point would have been lost on Art Spiegelman when he chose to portray Poles as pigs. In the biographical introduction to the excerpt from Maus that appears in the Norton Anthology of American Literature, editors Jerome Klinkowitz and Patricia B. Wallace comment that Spiegelman’s representation of Poles as pigs is ”a dietary contrast with Jews, but also a calculated insult” (7th edition, Volume E, p. 3091). A similar point was made by Harvey Pekar, who describes himself as a Jew with a background similar to Spiegelman’s: “When he [Spiegelman] shows them [Poles] doing something admirable and still portrays them as pigs, he’s sending a mixed message.” See The Comics Journal, no. 113, December 1986. In MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus (New York: Pantheon, 2011), Spiegelman divulged his actual reasons for portraying Poles as pigs: It is to bash Poles. With reference to his father’s attitude towards Poles, he quips, “So my metaphor [mice to be killed outright, and pigs to be exploited and eaten] was somehow able to hold that particular vantage point while still somehow acknowledging my father’s dubious opinion of Poles as a group.” (P. 122.) He adds that, “‘And considering the bad relations between Poles and Jews for the last hundred years in Poland, it seemed right to use a non-Kosher animal.’” (P. 125.) For an in-depth discussion of the treatment of Poles in Maus see “The Problems wirh Spiegelman’s Maus: Why Maus Should Not Be Taught in High Schools or Elementary Schools,” Internet: and the companion Q&A, “Poles as Pigs in Spiegelman’s Maus: Distorting Holocaust History,” Internet: .

Elie Wiesel and Alan M. Dershowitz are other prominent exponents of a style of writing about Poles that must surely be placed in that broad category of what French-Jewish intellectual Pierre Vidal-Naquet refers to as “the sort of primitive anti-Polish sentiments that too often characterize those whom I shall call ‘professional Jews’.” See Pierre Vidal-Naquet, The Jews: History, Memory, and the Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 182. As Columbia University historian István Deák has noted, “No issue in Holocaust literature is more burdened by misunderstanding, mendacity, and sheer racial prejudice than that of Polish-Jewish relations during World War II.” See István Deák, “Memories of Hell,” The New York Review of Books, June 26, 1997.



606 Erin Einhorn, The Pages In Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2008), 48–49, 53. Einhorn first visted Poland in 1990, at age seventeen, as part of the March of the Living organized for Jewish high school students. The students visited Nazi concentration camps, but their hatred was directed at and reserved for the Poles. She recalls he own reaction: “I wasn’t shocked by the ovens or piles of hair, which I’d expected. It was the houses. Out there in the field. Houses that looked as though they’d seen what there was to see. Damn Poles! I cursed them. They’d rather stew in the stench of death than to do something to stop it.” Ibid., 50. When Einhorn produced a radio piece, in September 2002, on her new-found perspective to the resentment that lingered between Jews and Poles, her relatives were dismayed by her portrayal of Poland, as were many Jewish listners. Ibid., 263.

607 Wiszniewicz, And Yet I Still Have Dreams, 117–18.

608 Alexander J. Groth, Holocaust Voices: An Attitudinal Survey of Survivors (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books/Prometheus Books, 2003), 35–36, 154, 157.

609 Groth, Holocaust Voices, 158–59, 164. The author, Alexander J. Groth, himself a survivor from Poland, also succumbs to the most primitive biases about Polish conduct during the war and the Poles’ alleged support for the Final Solution. Ibid., 162–63. Yet, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, the author of the famous appeal “The Protest” issued during the mass deportations from the Warsaw ghetto in summer of 1942, has been accused of anti-Semitism for taking note of the fact that many Jews “hate us more than they hate the Germans, and … make us responsible for their misfortune.”

610 Baron, History and Jewish Historians, 88.

611 “Pope begins pilgrimage in Egypt,” National Post (Toronto), February 25, 2000.

612 See, for example, Elie Wiesel, “The Killing After the Killing,” Washington Post, June 25, 2006, and Thane Rosenbaum, “A Lethal Homecoming,” Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2006.

613 “Izraelczycy zaatakowali siostry Radwańskie: Poleciały wyzwiska?”, Dziennik.pl, February 12, 2013; “Ojciec sióstr Radwańskich potwierdza, że w Izraelu wyzywano jego córki,” Dziennik.pl, February 25, 2013; “Tennis: Radwanska Still Seethes Over Israel Fed Cup Row,” Agence France-Presse, February 13, 2013.

614 Marshall Sklare, Observing America’s Jews (Hanover: University Press of New England for Brandeis University Press, 1993), 32–33.

615 Feffer, My Shtetl Drobin, 22.

616 Z. Tzurnamal, ed., Lask: Sefer zikaron [Memorial Book of Łask] (Tel Aviv: Association of Former Residents of Lask in Israel, 1968), 124–25.

617 Cyprys, A Jump For Life, 220–21.

618 Steve Paiken, “Poland Striving to Shake Off an Anti-Semitic Past”, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), May 29, 1992.

619 See, for example, Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski, Zegota: The Rescue of Jews in Wartime Poland (Montreal: Price-Patterson, 1994), 159, and the second revised edition: Żegota: The Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942–1945 (Montreal: Price-Patterson, 1999), 147; Hoffman, Shtetl, 247; Piotr Szczepański (Zbigniew Romaniuk), “Pogromy, mordy i pogromiki,” Kurier Poranny, April 12, 1996 (edition AB).

620 In total, several thousand Christian Poles—men, women and children, entire families and even whole communities—were tortured to death, summarily executed, or burned alive for rendering assistance to Jews. Hundreds of cases of Poles being put to death for helping Jews have been documented though the list is still far from complete (the author is aware of scores of additional cases). See the following publications on this topic: Philip Friedman, Their Brothers’ Keepers (New York: Holocaust Library, 1978), 184–85; Wacław Zajączkowski, Martyrs of Charity: Christian and Jewish Response to the Holocaust, Part One (Washington, D.C.: St. Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, 1987), Part One; Wacław Bielawski, Zbrodnie na Polakach dokonane przez hitlerowców za pomoc udzielaną Żydom (Warsaw: Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce–Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 1987); The Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against the Polish Nation–The Institute of National Memory and The Polish Society For the Righteous Among Nations, Those Who Helped: Polish Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, Part One (Warsaw, 1993), Part Two (Warsaw, 1996), and Part Three (Warsaw, 1997). A portion of the last of these publications is reproduced in Appendix B in Richard C. Lukas, The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939–1944, Second revised edition (New York: Hippocrene, 1997), and an extensive list of Polish victims also appears in Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918–1947 (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland, 1998), 119–23. Some Holocaust historians who deprecate Polish rescue efforts, such as Lucy S. Dawidowicz, have attempted to argue that essentially there was no difference in the penalty that the Poles and Western Europeans such as the Dutch faced for helping Jews. See Lucy C. Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1981), 166. However, the sources on which Dawidowicz relies belie this claim. Raul Hilberg clarifies the situation that prevailed in Holland as follows: “If caught, they did not have to fear an automatic death penalty. Thousands were arrested for hiding Jews or Jewish belongings, but it was German policy to detain such people only for a relatively short time in a camp within the country, and in serious cases to confiscate their property.” See Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe, 1933–1945 (New York: Aaron Asher Books/Harper Collins, 1992), 210–11. Although the death penalty was also found on the books in other jurisdictions such as Norway and the Czech Protectorate, there too it was rarely used. See Nechama Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) 215–16; Zajączkowski, Martyrs of Charity, Part One, 111–18, 284–86, 294, 295. Such laxity was virtually unheard of in occupied Poland, where the death penalty was meted out with utmost rigour. Several Norwegian resistance fighters were executed for helping Jews to escape to Sweden, and a number of others imprisoned. See Mordecai Paldiel, The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust (Hoboken, New Jersey: KTAV Publishing House; New York: The Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers, 1993), 366. Several dozen individuals in the Czech Protectorate were charged by Nazi special courts and sentenced to death. See Livia Rothkirchen, The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia: Facing the Holocaust (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, and Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2005), 218–27, 303–304. Rescuers were also put to death in other occupied countries such as Lithuania. See Alfonsas Eidintas, Jews, Lithuanians and the Holocaust (Vilnius: Versus Aureus, 2003), 326–27.

621 Małgorzata Niezabitowska, Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland (New York: Friendly Press, 1986), 249.

622 Marek Arczyński and Wiesław Balcerak, Kryptonim “Żegota”: Z dziejów pomocy Żydom w Polsce 1939–1945, 2nd revised and expanded edition (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1983), 264.

623 Hanna Wehr, Ze wspomnień (Montreal: Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada, 2001).

624 Cited in Marc Hillel, Le massacre des survivants: En Pologne après l’holocauste (1945–1947) (Paris: Plon, 1985), 99.

625 Hoffman, Shtetl, 247.

626 Mark Smith, “Escape from Treblinka,” The Herald (Scotland), May 31, 2010.

627 Paul Gottfried, “Polonophobia,” Chronicles, January 1997, 12–14.





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