Volume 1
Issue #2
Sept. 1997
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ONLINE MAGAZINE FOR POST-HOLOCAUST ISSUES
ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
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GENERAL - INDEX

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REMEMBRANCE
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The Shtejtl
World Collapses
The Russians.
Shtejtl survives
First Kaddish.
Out of the Grave
Yom Kippur Action
The Baby
Bunker Building
Bunker Collapses
I Almost Killed ...
Ghetto Escape
In Hiding
The Liberation.
UNDERSTANDING
The Killings
Why Jews?
Organizers
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War against Jews
Anti-Semitism
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The Worst Camp
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Schindler.
Courageous Christians
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Shlojme the Balagule
The Fall of Sevastopol
MISCELLANEOUS
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The Verdict MAGAZINE
Vol.1 - Issue #1
   

THE BYSTANDERS - POLAND

by Alexander Kimel

The Poles were without doubt the victims of the Nazi oppression, they were persecuted, driven out from their land, abducted for slave labor in Germany, thousands of Poles were murdered by the Germans, but generally they retained the right to live. The Nazis in their boastful conceit, kept the Poles in low esteem, and prepared to enslave them and keep as an inferior slave cast. Goebbels in his diaries wrote:

The Fuhrer's verdict on he Poles is damning. More like animals than human beings, completely primitive, stupid and amorphous. As a ruling class that is an unsatisfactory results of mingling between the lower orders and an Aryan master race. The Poles dirtiness is unimaginable. Their capacity for intelligent judgement is absolutely nil.

The Germans ruthlessly killed and liquidated the Polish leadership, the professionals, and the artists, writers, to bring them down to a level of savagery. Hans Frank, the Governor of Poland notes in his diary:

The man capable of leadership in Poland must be liquidated. Those following them...must be liquidated in their turn. There is no need to burden the Reich with this....no need to send these elements to the Reich concentration camps. ..They would be put away, right away there in Poland. Franks Diary TMCW VII PP468-69

On October 3, 1939, Frank informed the Army about the new order decreed by Hitler for Poland:

Poland can only be administered but utilizing the country through means of ruthless exploitation, deportation of all supplies, raw materials, machines, factory installations, etc., ...The Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater German Reich. NCA, VII PP.420-21

The Germans robbed the Poles of their political rights, but the German extended some of their rights and gave them some opportunities. They gave them the right to abuse the Jews, to become Jew Hunters, to enjoy a spectacles of Jews being driven to their deaths, or being burned in the flames of the Ghettos. Hitler had an effective policy of sharing spoils with future victims and he corrupted the Poles with the opportunities to take over the Jewish businesses, properties, apartments, and their personal belongings.

In Poland, 3 million of Jews were killed, and only 40-50,000 Jews survived in Poland, the majority (about 240,000) survived in exile in Russia or in German concentration camps. 3 millions of Jews could not have been killed in a short span of 18 months without the active help of the Polish population. The dehumanization of the Jews made them easy prey. There was a saying among the Poles under the occupation: " The Germans will throw stones at Hitler dead, because he brought about the downfall of the German people, but the Poles will bring flowers to his grave as a token of gratitude of his freeing Poland from the Jews.

Helping the Executioners

Dehumanization:

In the initial process of dehumanization and breaking down dignity and humanity of the Jews, some of the Poles extended an helping hand to the Nazis. Mary Berg, describes this in her diary:

Another hazard was the activity of those ...Polish 'Hoodlums': young men 'who beat and rob every Jewish passer-by', and who led Nazis to the apartments of well to do Jews, and participated in the looting. These same rowing gangs had also beaten up some Poles 'not blessed with Nordic features'. For many days " a middle-aged Polish woman, wrapped in a long black shawl and a stick in his hand, has been the terror of Marshalkowska Street. She has not let a single Jew by without beating him, and she specializes in women and children. The Germans looking on and laugh.

Negative attitudes

The Polish leadership was more concerned with the idea of retaining of all Jewish properties and businesses than with helping their unfortunate compatriots.

The Report from the Homeland to the Government in Exile (Report #5 of June 1943, p. 135) contains the following remarks: The Jewish population of entire villages and towns, big and small, has been shot down, sometimes-it is rumored- in a bestial way. But to hear about this from afar is not the same as to see it. And we have said to ourselves, at least some of us: 'These methods are horrible, the dishonor falls on these ruffians, on the murderers of women and children, " but ... in the political perspective of our future internal relations in Poland, this is liable to be quite positive importance, because we certainly had a disproportionate high number of Jews". Another document states that the Homeland understands that the Government has to have a pro- Jewish policy; the Government must realize, however, that the concerns and the property cannot be returned to their former owners, because the population would forcibly oppose this.

A Jewish partisans Joseph Cynowiec, heard a pronouncement of a priest at a meeting of the Home Army in Ostrow Lubelski: "In my hiding-place I heard everything that was said. One of those present asked a priest, who was also taking part as a member of the Home Army. What one's attitude ought to be regarding the Nazi treatment of the Jews? The priest's answer was that as a cleric he had to say that human being were involved here and that it was wrong to exterminate them mercilessly; but on the other hand, from the political point of view, the Germans were doing a good job. (Joseph Cynowiec's report. Yad Vashem Archives, File 0-3/3009)

Help in Identification

Aryan papers

The Poles extended a helping hand to the Nazis in identifying escapees from the ghettos. "{Polish} Police agents and police in uniforms have made great progress in spotting Jews. As far as men are concerned, it is not difficult matter: the trousers are pulled down and there is the evidence, and the trousers are pulled down at every turn without ceremony...The Agents have much more trouble in spotting Jewish women. But Agent find ways here too. A Jewish women of even the "best" (Aryan) appearance can rarely give references about her family. The agent also know of another weak point of Jewish women, namely their purely superficial knowledge of Catholic religions rites. To the question "What does the priest do after the confession?" very rarely will a Jewish woman answer that he taps the confessional. Sometimes a Jewess is trapped and ruined by so simple a question as, "When is your nameday?" The newly christened Maria or Stefa has not yet had the time to look up a calendar to check when he nameday is."

The Jewish escapees from the ghetto were subject to extensive blackmail or denunciations, all condoned by the Underground Polish leadership and the general population. "The blackmailers have sophisticated methods of operating and characteristic ways of trapping Jews. One of them is to publish advertisements in the press offering vacant rooms. A gang like this was operating in Senatorska Street, advertising vacant rooms in the papers. If a Jewish family turned up as a result of the advertisement, other members of the gang presented themselves and forced the Jews to escape by threatening them with denunciation-naturally the Jews had to pay a large amount of money and leave all their belongings behind. After they disappeared, a new advertisement was published, and so it went on."

Blatant anti-Semitism was rationalized by a variety of misdeeds attributed to the victims. "The united anti-Jewish front of agents, uniformed police, blackmailers and schmalzowniks gets considerable help from the anti-Semitic propaganda which has built-up the ideological base for the disgraceful deeds of these unified scoundrels. Anti-Semitic propaganda provides those gangs with material, which, in the eyes of the Polish population, mitigates the criminal nature of handling over Jews to the Germans. With regard to this propaganda material, these are hard times for anti-Semites. They are now short of prey for their pro-Nazi, anti-Jewish propaganda. There are almost no Jews left in Poland and those who remain are locked up in S.S. camps or are in hiding on the Aryan side. It is now difficult to reproach the Jews with buying up all the food, with being responsible of the high cost of living, of taking away bread from the Poles, of taking over all the jobs, etc. And still, the Polish anti-Semites would like to help the Gestapo by exposing the Jews, would like to carry out Hitler's program a hundred percent. That is why they still look for arguments against the Jews. Thus a variety of stories are invented and inflated about Jewish partisans who rob the Polish peasants and strip them of their belongings."

A Holocaust Survivor tells how his friend was recognized and blackmailed: "Moshe told me how he had been recognized by so-called Schmalzowniks. They were Poles who specialized in finding Jews to extort or to turn them over to Gestapo. They recognized him as a Jew and when he denied it, they dragged home into alley where he was forced to pull down his pants. He was, however, able to redeem himself with 10,000 zloty. This was our life in Warsaw."

"Some (Jews) tried their luck disguised as Poles; and registering voluntarily to Germany; others tried to hide in the big cities. In all cases we were dependent on the support of the Polish population whose assistance unfortunately was rare. To the contrary, the power of the Nazi was based partly on the considerable support which anti- Jewish laws received among the Polish population. It was not by chance that Poland was chosen as the place for the extermination of the Jews."

Mop-up and active killings

It is a tragic paradox, that the Polish Home Army, nominally under the Allied Command, didn't fight the Germans because of atrocious counter measures, but spent most of their energies to fight their nominal allies - the Russian P.O.W. and their own compatriots, the Jewish escapees from he Ghetto, hiding in the forests.

The victimization and the dehumanization of the Jews was successful in the brutalization of the Poles, they watch the Jews being led to their death by the thousands and the majority malignantly enjoyed the spectacle; to some degree all segment of the Polish society cooperated with the Germans; the Blue Police killed the Jews, the Shmalzowniki blackmailed them and denounced them, the Home Army cleared them from the forests. A Holocaust Survivor comments:

As the time passed we realized that it would be impossible to survive in Radzyn. In order to save themselves, many Jews went to the villages and forests where they tried to establish contact with the partisans. Supposedly there were previous Russian prisoners of war and also Poles in the woods. When the Gestapo noticed that many Jews had fled, they offered to the Poles a reward of one kilogram of bacon and one of sugar for each Jew turned in. After that, it often happened that Polish framers caught a Jew, tie him to one of their flat wagons, and like taking a pig to the market, turned him over to the Gestapo for his reward.

Increasingly, Jews were found who had been stabbed, beaten, and robbed. For this reason, many Jews returned to the Jewish quarters (ghettos) with their spirits broken.

The Nazi terror, as well as the anti-Jewish attitude of the Home Army exercised negative influence on the peasant population. Peasants who hid Jews, without reward, with personal risk, as the war dragged on, many of them changed their attitude, gave away Jewish hiding places, and even sold Jews for a kilo of sugar.

Outright Killing

Dr. Klukowski, a Polish Historian, wrote about the liquidation of Jews in Szcebrzeszyn, in his Diary on October 21, 1942: " Many people took an active part in hunting down the Jews. They pointed out the places where the Jews were hiding; the boys even ferreted out little Jewish children, whom the Polish police then killed on the spot in front of everyone. (Zygmunt Klukowski, Dziennik z lat okupacji Zamojszczyzny, Lublin, 1959, p. 290)

On the next day Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski, noted in his diary (October 22, 1942) about the liquidation of the Jews in the town of Szczebrzeszyn, : The gendarmes from the outside and the S.S. men are gone. Today, 'our' gendarmes and the Blue (Polish ) police are at work; they have been ordered to kill every Jew they can catch on the spot. They are executing this order with great zeal. Since morning, they have been bringing the corpses o the Jews killed from different parts of the town, mostly from the Jewish quarter.

At the end of 1942 Detachment of N.S.Z. (National Armed Forces) began a campaign to clear the forests from Jewish partisans and fugitives, based on the order of the Commander- Czeslaw Oziewicz:

The partisan forces can and must act at once and energetically to cleanse the country of the destructive and criminal bands from among national minority formations hostile to us, and to launch counter-attacks (within the framework of self-defense) when the punitive operations of the invader are strikingly unjust and repressive...

Different units of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) also frequently attacked Jewish partisan groups..A commander of the Gwardia Ludowa (leftist Organization) wrote in his report of June 1943: " Our detachments now have to fight on two fronts. The Command of the underground struggle (Home Army) is organizing detachments whose task is to liquidate 'Communist bands, Soviet POW and Jews'. They openly admit that these are their tasks and these are the basic principles they are ordered to act on. They are excellently equipped with arms and they act half openly. The Germans do not attack them, they do not attack the Germans.

Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski, whose Diary has been already quoted, wrote in his entry of November 26, 1942:

Among the bandits (partisans) are many Jews. The peasants, for fear of repressive measures, catch Jews in the villages and bring them into town, or sometimes simply kill them on the spot. Generally, a strange brutalization his taken place regarding the Jews. People have fallen into a kind of psychosis: following the German example, they often do not see in the Jew a human being but instead consider him a kind of obnoxious animal that must be annihilated with every possible means like rabid dogs, rats, etc. 206

During the short lived and abortive Warsaw Uprising in 1945, many Jews that were recognized were killed by the "Polish Fighters". The abyss of the cancerous anti-Semitism came to light in 1945 when after the liberation, the remnants of Jewish Survivors were slaughtered by Polish mob in the town of Kielce. Poland is the only country in the world where a pogrom occurred after the Holocaust.

Help in armed resistance

The Polish Underground kept a tight watch for Polish collaborators, many Poles were executed for denouncing Poles, but denouncing Jews was tolerated. The underground paper "Rzeczpospolita" carried many announcements of death sentences carried out for collaboration with the Germans, announcement of death sentences carried out for killing, robing, or denouncing Jews were practically non-existing. The Polish Home Army did not accept Jews, but many Jews served under assumed Aryan names. One of the Survivors Henry Wilner served as a Courier to the Glowny Sztab (Command Headquaters), recalls that the Commander of the Army Gen. Bor Komorowski was asked why they don't accept Jews who having nothing to loose are such dedicated fighters. "They can not be trusted because having nothing to loose they do not withstand the torture of the Gestapo when caught" replied the General. This was another Polish rationalization, the Jews accepted to the leftist organization like Guardia Ludowa, proven themselves to be excellent, highly motivated fighters.

Before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising the Polish Underground supplied the Jewish fighters with 50 pistols and some grenades. Fifty pistols, they could not spare more. Two years later they found weapons to arm thousands of fighters in abortive Warsaw Uprising, when they tried to liberate Warsaw before the Russian troops arrived. They found weapons for a hopeless, senseless political uprising culminating in the total destruction of the Warsaw.

Moral support

Emmanuel Ringelblum, the historian of the Warsaw Ghetto, discusses in his Diary the prevailing attitudes of the Poles toward the exterminated Jews:

Within the sight of the burning Ghetto, where captured victims have been burned alive, amid the constant explosions of dynamite blowing up the bunkers, villainous hoodlums organized Jew-hunt...The April "action", the Germans atrocities, the defense of the Ghetto, the burning of houses and people , formed the subject of conversations in the streets, trams, etc. We quote a number of authentic conversations of this kind: - A pious old granny: " In Holy Week, the Jews tormented Christ. In Holy Week, the Germans are tormenting the Jews." A seventy-year-old priest: A good thing happened, because the Jews had a large military force inside the Ghetto -if they hadn't turned it against the Germans, they'd have turned it against us." . Conversation in the tram: They are burning the little Jews, but the big Jews rule in Americas and after the war they will rule over us." A middle class housewife: "It's terrible to see what's happening in the Ghetto, horrible things! But maybe it's a good thing it's happened this way. The Jews suck our blood. They used to say ."Your streets, our houses."...,

A teacher, an old maid: "One pities a cat. A Jew is a human being, even if he is a Jew."..In all conversations among the Poles about what is happening in the Ghetto, the anti-Semitic note was predominant in general.

Other examples quoted in the Emmanuel Ringelblum: Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War, are as illuminating:

There was a voice of an indignant fireman saying, 'They're not people, they're cattle', because when he called to a Jew standing on the roof of a burning house with a child in his arms and asked him to give him valuables before he jumped into the abyss of fire, the Jew only spat...People stood near the Ghetto for hours on end, looking on at this spectacle unique in his kind. People were burning, children were burning. If even the sight of these children could not move hearts hardened with hate, apparently there no hearts there at all....Could anything be more horrifying than the sight of a father or mother's pushing their own child into the arms of death?

A Polish woman wrote to her husband in German captivity: "The German are solving two painful problems so beautifully at one go-the Jewish problem and the Ukrainian... Our hearts rejoice...The Warsaw Ghetto is burning...The reflection of the flames can be seen even in Sochaczew."

Nevertheless instances of help extended by Poles to Jews were frequent. In Poland under the influence of the ghastly scenes many hardened pre-War anti-Semites had a change of hearts and helped Jews. Some of the liberals extended extensive help, endangering their own lives: " In October 1942, Henry Wolinski, a Polish liberal, organized a group called Zegota, under the auspices of the Polish underground, which was loyal to the London government in exile. Using about 1 percent of the funds transmitted from London to Poland for use of the underground, Zegota was able to save some 4,000 children and adults in Warsaw and to a degree in Krakow. Zegota included in its ranks such Catholic liberals as Wladyslaw Bartoszewski as well as Jewish underground leaders; its secretary was Adolf Berman, a member of the Jewish National Committee."
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