by Dr. Gerhard Falk
In July of
2000 the Polish historian Jan Tomasz Gross published a book called Neighbors.
The contents of this book are in no sense surprising to the Jewish community
since the author describes one of the many mass murders committed by the Polish
population against its Jewish neighbors. This and other documents prove in
detail the Polish complicity in the Holocaust and in the brutal persecution of
Jews in Poland for centuries before and after that German instigated nightmare.
this is recorded in detail in a book by Celia S. Heller called On the Edge of
Destruction in which the author summarized the treatment of the Jewish
minority by the Christian majority in Poland by writing that the Jews in Poland
were treated “like the blacks in Mississippi before the civil rights
this has been confirmed again and again by the Jewish survivors of Polish
atrocities, the current debate concerning the book by Gross concerns his
description of the mass murder of 1,600 Jews in the village of Jedwabne in
Poland on July 10, 1941. On that day a Polish mob forced all of the Jews of that
village into a barn and set the barn on fire after pouring kerosene over the
barn. The corpses of the dead Jews were then robbed of their rings while the
gold fillings in the teeth of the dead Jews were removed for additional profit.
The Poles then seized all of the Jewish property including the homes of the
slaughtered Jews. The Poles live in these homes with impunity to this day.
is described in the book Neighbors by Gross. Polish reaction to this book
today has been, in the main, critical and denunciatory. The so-called Professor
Bender of the University of Lublin pretended in an interview with a local
newspaper that Gross engages in “anti-Polish” falsehoods and that the book
is “sensationalist” and “superficial”. Others called the book a series
of “horror stories”. The Polish “primate” or highest placed Polish
priest or Cardinal, Joseph Glemp, admitted the massacre but said he was opposed
to the Polish nation accepting responsibility for it. Others blamed the Germans
for these mass killings although the Germans, in this instance, did not do that
massacre. Nevertheless, the German invaders did authorize Poles to murder Jews
at will, a permission which the Poles followed most assiduously.
It is of
course true that the German government, and not the Poles, set up the murder
camps in Poland. It is however also true that the vast majority of Poles were
more than happy to participate in these killings despite the fact that some
Poles saved the lives of some Jews.
the Germans treated the Poles most brutally but compensated the Poles for this
brutal treatment by allowing them to murder and rob Jews at will.
Lest it is
believed that the slaughter of Polish Jews at Jedwabne was an isolated incident,
it needs to be recalled that similar horrors were perpetrated by Poles on their
Jewish fellow citizens in numerous other places. Most notorious among these
killings was the mass murder of the Jewish population in Kielce on July 4, 1946,
long after Germany had been defeated and there were no more German
military on Polish soil. There can be no doubt that the Kielce slaughter was
entirely a Polish undertaking.
for the slaughter of over 40 death camp survivors was the pretense that Jews
were murdering Polish children in Jewish homes. The old “ritual murder”
accusation was recently revived by the same Saudi government which pretends to
seek peace with Israel. That accusation is of course an insidious banality which
needs neither comment nor refutation.
in these murders were units of the Polish police and army. Those who did this
also organized murders of Jews in Rzeszow in 1945 and in numerous other Polish
towns and cities. Therefore, the few Jews who had returned to Poland after the
German carnage also left that land of hate and bigotry so that there are hardly
any Jews in Poland today. Remember that before September 1939 Poland was home to
3,300,000 Jews. Only a few thousand survive now.
clergy too applauded the slaughter of Jews. Priests incited their parishioners
to attack Jews and praised the German invaders for their killing of Jews, which
they called “a good job.”
home army killed innumerable Jews. Instead of fighting the German invaders that
“army” spent almost all its time hunting and killing Jews who had escaped
the German organized “ghettos” (The word ghetto is derived from the Italian
word for an iron foundry where Jews had to live in medieval Venice. It may also
have been derived from the Hebrew word “get”, meaning a divorce or
the Germans offered food to the Poles for hunting Jews and delivering Jews to
the Nazi killing machine, many Poles took advantage of that offer and fed
themselves by collecting rewards from the Nazi invaders after capturing one or
more of their Jewish fellow citizens and turning them over to the Gestapo
(abbreviation for Geheime Staats Polizei or secret state
police). Therefore, Poles organized “Jew hunts” which they justified
by claiming that “the Jews tormented Christ.” How someone living in 1941 can
torment someone living over 1900 years earlier was not explained.
enjoyed the spectacle of seeing Jews jumping from the burning buildings in the
Warsaw ghetto during the assault on that enclave by the Nazi killers in 1942.
Particularly popular was the sight of a Jewish mother or father jumping to his
death with a child in his arms. The Poles applauded such sights vigorously.
of course some signs that some Poles will yet make an effort to join the ethics
of Western morality and renounce their long history of hate and violence against
the children of Israel.
there is the Polish born Pope, Karol Wojtyla or John Paul II. Born in Krakow, he
was a young seminarian during the Nazi occupation of his homeland. There can be
no doubt that he then and there helped Jewish families survive and that he did
all he could to live by those Christian ethics which he sought to teach others.
During his papacy John Paul II has made a considerable effort to eradicate the
age-old anti Jewish bigotry once taught by his church. His Declaration of
Prague, his visit to the synagogue in Rome, his visit to Israel, his repeated
denunciation of anti-Judaism (do not use “anti-semitism” as we are not
Semites) and his public sorrow at the Holocaust all indicate that there are of
course Poles who have nothing to do with the common hatreds of the average
examples of the willingness of the present Polish pope, John Paul II, to extend
love and friendship to the Jewish people are his “Request for Forgiveness”
on December 1999 and the earlier declaration called Nostra Aetate. The
“Request for Forgiveness” says, among other things, that: “…the Jews are
out dearly beloved brothers,” that “the Church draws sustenance” from the
Jews and that repentance is necessary. The text uses the Hebrew word
“teshuva” and calls on Christians to “keep a moral and religious memory of
the injury inflicted on the Jews.” The second example is the papal declaration
Nostra Aetate (in our day) which denounces bigotry against Jews and
reminds the followers of the Polish pope that the church came from the Jews.
On the 10th
of July of last year, 100 Polish Catholic bishops apologized to the Jews for the
president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, eager to have his country admitted
to the European Union, “asked forgiveness on behalf of his country for crimes
committed by the Polish people against the Jews during the Holocaust.”
there is an effort on the part of some Poles to recognize the horrors inflicted
on our Polish parents, grandparents and ancestors by the Polish population of a
bygone day. Such recognition in of course welcome. It cannot of course restore
to lives the 3 million Polish Jews murdered there between 1939 and 1945.
it is possible that those who are truly sorry for theses crimes will do the one
thing that an honest Baal Teshuvah can do. Support Israel now. Those who claim
they are sorry for the blood they shed have one more opportunity to redeem
themselves. Support Israel now. That is their only chance before they disappear
from history as had the Phoenicians and the Philistines, the Spanish Inquisitors
and the Nazi hierarchy.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications,
including Stigma: How We Treat Outsiders.