Happy New Year to all.
I have expanded and updated my detailed resource on Polish-related materials. Please click.
Some of the new reviews by Jan Peczkis
Review of Hitler’s Police Battalions: Enforcing Racial War in the East, by Edward B. Westermann. 2005. University of Kansas Press. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
WWII in Eastern Europe as a German Racial War Against Jews and Slavs
Most books on WWII in Europe typically dwell on the Holocaust, and any mention of non-Jewish victims of the Nazis is an afterthought. They also tend to dichotomize the military actions of Hitler’s regime and its genocidal policies. This work, in contrast, shows that the war-making and genocidal actions of the Nazis formed a seamless garment, as did German attitudes and actions against Jews and Slavs. Instead of focusing on leading Nazi personages, the SS, Gestapo, or even the Wehrmacht, Westermann examines the ordinary German police forces as killers.
In the early 20th century, westerners commonly depicted the Hun as innately warlike, even going back to the FUROR TEUTONICUS of Roman times. Interestingly, the Germans themselves cultivated such a characterization. For instance, well before WWII, Wilhelm Kube, the eventual Reich commissar for Belorussia, commented as follows: “Kube began his article by noting that the love of bearing arms had been in the blood of a northern people like the Germans for thousands of years.” (p. 75). All this was part of the unmistakable trend elaborated by Westermann: “The march towards `social militarization’ did not go unnoticed by contemporary observers. In a diary entry of September 10, 1934, William Shirer, an American radio correspondent in Berlin at the time, reflected that militarism `is something deeply ingrained in all Germans.'” (p. 59).
Although the author does not fall for Goebbels’ propaganda regarding the “Bloody Sunday” events at Bydgoszcz (Bromberg), his citation of “over 1,000” German deaths, including that of innocent bystanders, is still wide of the mark. See the Peczkis review of: Dywersja niemiecka i zbrodnie hitlerowskie w Bydgoszczy na tle wydarzen w dniu 3 IX 1939 (Polish and German Edition).
The German occupation of Poland was far more intense than that of any other German-conquered nation. Westermann thus writes of the situation in August 1940: “In fact, the ratio of policemen to inhabitants ranged from 1:400 in the annexed Polish territories and 1:860 in the General Government to 1:3,323 in the Netherlands.” (p. 87). For comparison: “The ratio within the Reich (including the Sudetenland) was 1:475 with the inclusion of the 91,500-man Police Reserve.” (p. 264).
Westermann discusses the expulsion of Poles from those regions of German-conquered Poland directly annexed to the Third Reich. The victims, mostly women and children, underwent transport, for days, in 30 degree below zero weather (C), in cattle cars lacking lavatories, water, or heat. The death toll was very high. (p. 150).
The author also mentions the Germans’ destruction of the Polish intelligentsia and those suspected of involvement in resistance activities (e. g., p. 111, 159), but realizes that Germans murdered Poles, at whim, under any pretext. (e.g., p. 158, 227). [This refutes the Judeocentric notion that “Whereas Jews were killed because they were Jews, Poles were killed because it was war.”]. However, Westermann does not begin to do justice to the scale and genocidal scope of the 2-3 million non-Jewish Poles murdered by the Nazis. (See the Peczkis Listmania: FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST…).
This book devotes most of its attention to German conduct against the conquered population of the Soviet Union. The scale of Ukrainian-Nazi collaboration was staggering. By the end of 1942, out of some 300,000 auxiliaries serving the Germans in the German-occupied portion of the USSR, there were some 100,000 Ukrainians alone. (p. 196).
Westermann examines and rejects many of the exculpations advanced to excuse Nazi conduct. For instance, against the “atrocities happen in every war” notion, he cites the racially tinged Japanese-American Pacific War, in which individual atrocities did take place on both sides. However, at no time did Presidents Roosevelt or Truman order or condone the indiscriminate slaughter of Japanese. (p. 234). As for the BEFEHL IST BEFEHL (An order is an order) notion, the author comments: “There is not a SINGLE documented case of a policeman being shot or imprisoned for refusing to kill Jews in cold blood.” (p. 236; emphasis his).
Review of Masters of Death: The SS Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust, by Richard Rhodes. 2003. Vintage Books, New York. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
The SS Killings in German-Occupied Poland and the USSR in Broader Context
This book mixes theory and history. It covers the development of Nazi ideology, details about the Einsatzgruppen operations in the wake of Operation Barbarossa, the unfolding Holocaust, biographical details of top Nazis, etc. It contains many photos.
The author points out that Hitler was severely beaten as a child, and otherwise tries to find a link between being violent and having experienced corporal punishment, from parents and schoolmasters, while a child. However, he realizes that multitudes of people who experienced violence do not themselves become violent against others. [In addition, what about all the violent revolutionaries who came from privileged backgrounds?]
The author devotes more biographical detail to Heinrich Himmler than to any other Nazi. Himmler became involved in the occult. He believed in reincarnation and mental telepathy. (p. 82).
Long before the Nazis came to power in Germany, various Germans thought of dispossessing the Slavic peoples for purposes of German LEBENSRAUM. (pp. 82-87). Shortly after the conquest of Poland in 1939, the Germans murdered over 16,000 Polish citizens, mostly ethnic Poles. (p. 6).
The author believes that the “11 million Jews’ figure in the Wannsee Accords was probably a Nazi fantasy. (p. 237). Against the common misconception that most of the 6 million murdered Jews died in gas chambers, Rhodes showed that most of them died from privation and shooting. (p. 156). Although most of the victims of the Einsatzgruppen were Jews, the author does not fixate himself in a Judeocentric mindset. He realizes that the Nazi policies towards Jews went beyond anti-Semitism. They followed from a mentality that divided peoples into “worthy” and “unworthy”, with the latter including not only Jews but also the handicapped, etc. (p. 95).
In fact, Jews constituted one-third of the victims of the Nazis. The Slavic untermenschen were the main victims–3 million Poles, 7 million Soviet citizens, and 3.3 million Soviet POWs. (pp. 156-157). Himmler’s initial plans for the conquered USSR included death by starvation of 20-30 million Jews and Slavs. (pp. 17-18; see also GENERALPLAN OST, pp. 239-243). However, the German defeat at Stalingrad forced the discontinuation of systematic genocidal plans against the Slavs. (p. 264).
The Nazi priority of killing Jews stemmed in part from Hitler’s belief that Jews were “the mightiest counterpart to the Aryan”. (p. 95). [The informed reader may realize that, among Europeans, Jews and Germans were rivals for first and second place in many economic, industrial, and scientific endeavors.] Many Jews in the USSR were unafraid of the Nazi invaders because they had remembered the WWI-era Germans as benevolent towards the Jews (pp. 149-150), because the Soviet press had avoided any negative publicity of the Nazis during the time of the 1939-1941 German-Soviet pact (p. 173), and because news of the Jew-killings travelled slowly.
Unfortunately, Rhodes uncritically accepts Jan T. Gross shoddy research and his exclusive blame of Poles for the Jedwabne massacre. (p. 122). In actuality, according even to some Jewish sources, the Germans were the main killers of Jedwabne’s Jews. See the Peczkis review of The Warriors: My Life As A Jewish Soviet Partisan (Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust), and follow the link within the review.
For the first six weeks after the start of Operation Barbarossa, the Einsatzgruppen units mainly killed Communists and Jewish men. The order to expand the shootings to include Jewish women and children did not come until late July 1941. (p. 164).
Review of Hitler’s Bandit Hunters: The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe, by Philip W. Blood. 2006. Potomac Books, Inc. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
On Lebensraum, Nazi anti-Partisan Warfare, & Biographies of Nazis. Poles Fought Alongside Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Hitler discussed Lebensraum in his MEIN KAMPF. (p. 97). However, the concept long predated Hitler. For instance, around the time of WWI, various German thinkers thought in terms of Germans colonizing surrounding territories and cleansing them racially of their current inhabitants. (p. xiii).
During WWII, Jews were not the only ones facing systematic racism. Thus, the Nazis referred to Russians as “Europe’s Negro”, etc. (p. 100). Escaped British or American POWs, who were Slavs or French, were automatically put to death in accordance with PLAN KUGEL. (p. 118).
Although some members of all nationalities collaborated with the Nazis, the scale of Ukrainian-Nazi collaboration was staggering. In November 1942, in German-occupied Russia, Hans-Adolf Prutzmann had at his disposal 15,665 Ukrainian Schuma (Schutzmannschaften) and 55,094 full-time and part-time Ukrainian Hilfspolizei. (pp. 131-132).
The author inadvertently attests to the relatively low rate of Polish collaboration. He writes: “Over the period of the war, 158 Schuma battalions were raised in the Baltic States, 23 in Russia-Centre, 65 in the Ukraine, and 11 in the General Government of Poland.” (p. 142). [Even this does not tell the full story. Many if not most Poles in the 11 units had been recruited by the Germans under duress, and deserted at the first opportunity. In addition, there were very many non-Poles in these 11 units.]
One obvious characteristic of this book, to the informed reader, is its spotty coverage of relevant WWII events. For instance, it elaborates on partisans in the German-occupied Soviet Union. However, apart from a few paragraphs that include the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, it ignores the extensive scale of Polish guerrilla warfare and the savage German actions in attempting to stamp it out. [See Peczkis Listmania: GUERRILLA WARFARE…]. Heinrich Himmler compared the ferocity of the house-to-house fighting in the Warsaw Uprising with that earlier in Stalingrad. (p. 240).
The author discusses the Jews’ 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Interestingly, he quotes Franz van Lent, a Dutchman who served with the SS before being captured by the British. Lent writes about the German cruelties against the Jewish insurgents, and adds: “`Six Poles of the Polish Underground movement who had tried to help the Jews were arrested and shot…'” (p. 221, 358). This confirms the oft-ignored fact, mentioned in the The Stroop Report: The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is No More!, that Polish guerrillas fought alongside the Jews. [Of course, Lent’s figure does not include those Polish guerrillas who had died earlier in the combat, or had managed to escape.]
The biographical details of this book, though centered on von dem Bach-Zelewski, include many other SS personages, if only within short-paragraph accounts in the back of the book. The Polish reader may be stunned at the number of high profile Nazis, known to have committed atrocious crimes against Polish civilians, who lived to a ripe old age and escaped justice for their crimes. These included Otto Hellweg, Fritz Kattzman, Bach-Zelewski, and Heinz Reinefarth. (p. 240, pp. 298-299).
O Pogromy Ludu Polskiego (Rola Social-Litwactwa W Niedawnej Rewolucji), by Juljan Unszlicht. 1913. Krakow. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
Polish Jew Analyzes Jewish Disloyalty, Under Tsarist Russian Rule, Towards Polish National Aspirations
ON THE POGROMS AGAINST THE POLISH PEOPLE (THE ROLE OF THE SOCIALISTS-LITVAKS IN THE RECENT REVOLUTION) is the title of this Polish-language book. It gives insights into the Zydokomuna (Bolshevized Judaism) between the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, as well as the true causes of the emerging Endek enmity against the Jews. However, the author hardly ever mentions Dmowski, and is in no sense pro-Endek. He considers them reactionary and cowardly (p. 365), and (incorrectly) pro-tsarist. (p. 294).
Author Julian Unszlicht (whose brother, Joseph, was an ardent Communist) identifies himself as a Pole, and only a Pole, of Jewish background. (p. 30). However, his continued tie to Judaism is indicated by the fact that he dedicated this book to those Jews who remained loyal to the Polish cause (p. 4), for better or worse. (p. 7). Writing in what turned out to be soon before Dmowski would launch his retaliatory boycott of Jews, the author concluded that, “Jewry has betrayed Poland. That is an indisputable, unlamented, and aggravating fact.” (p. 5).
Litvak (Litwak) publications (for specific citations, see, for example, pp. 127-129) made very derogatory remarks about Poland. Moreover, Unszlicht cited statements from the respected assimilationist Jewish periodical IZRAELITA, which echo Litvak positions, in stating that Polish culture is “a stinking pond”, “a corpse”, “a bankrupt cheater’s playing card”. (p. 5). Unszlicht went further than Dmowski and the Endeks later would: He called the “assimilated Jews become Poles” notion a total farce. (p. 5). The “Polish corpse” innuendo was a common feature of Jewish publications. (e. g, p. 19, 38, 58, 121, 127-128).
Far from being marginal, the Litvaks and their avant-garde, the Socialist-Litvaks (in contradistinction with Polish socialists), were the representatives of Polish Jewry under tsarist Russian rule. (p. 6, 370). Jewish nationalists, whether of the Zionist or Bundist variety (notably the latter: p. 361), actually harmed Jews by keeping them in medieval-like isolation, and in aggressive separatism from, if not enmity against, Polish-ness. The foregoing was the conclusion of not only the Endeks, but also of Polish socialists, as shown in their publication (which, BTW, equally condemned the Litvaks and the Endeks: pp. 183-184).
The most dangerously anti-Polish organizations, controlled by the Litvaks or Jewish nationalists, also included the Marxist so-called Social Democrats (SDKPiL; hereafter SD)(p. 8, 13), often acting in unison. (p. 295). What’s more, SD positions often enjoyed the support of larger Jewish parties, such as the Bund. (p. 58, 361, 284, 368).
The cancer ran deeper. Sometimes, apparent advocates of Polish independence, such as the monthly KRYTYKA run by the Jew W. Feldman in Krakow, turned out to be allies of the SD and enemies of Polish independence. (pp. 27-28).
The Litvaks were agents of Russification, of turning the remaining Jews against Poles, and of trying to turn Poles against their national interests by defamation. (pp. 12-13). Thus, the Polish Eagle was vilified as a symbol of the unchecked power and oppressiveness of the Polish nobility. (p. 127). Polish heroism at the Battle of Grunwald was merely an escapade of one set of kings, nobles, and clergy fighting against another set, with the Pope switching sides to be on the side of the victor. (p. 130). The National Democrats (Endeks) were bourgeoisie reactionaries stifling class-consciousness by turning Polish workers against German and Russian workers, and trying to bring back the pre-Partition Poland of privileged and non-privileged. (pp. 130-131). [Exactly the same Communist propaganda came in handy, four decades later, against the Polish government in exile in London.]
Rosa Luksemburg (Luxemburg), according to Unszlicht, exemplified the influential “Polish” Jew who traveled to other nations and defamed Poland, causing great harm to the Polish cause. (p. 316). She opposed Polish statehood (pp. 304-305) and even attacked Polish socialists. (p. 174).
What of the paradoxical fact that Jews had long found haven in Poland, and continued to do so to escape Russian persecution, yet were pro-Russian and anti-Polish? Unszlicht answers: “There is a strange Jewish psychology which gravitates to the strong and powerful, and looks down on the weak and oppressed…” (p. 12)[Perhaps a similar psychology explains why Jews today are less angry over the 5-6 million Jews murdered by the Germans than they are over the comparatively trivial wrongs by Poles.] Antigoyism was also a factor in Jewish attitudes. (p. 11, 13, 44, 73, 121, 305, 359, 363, 365).
For all its presumed appeals to the proletariat, the SD actually supported Jewish interests. For instance, calls for workers to go on strike primarily targeted the Polish bakeries, even though they paid much better wages than Turkish or Jewish bakeries. (pp. 192-193). Otherwise, attacks on the Polish proletariat essentially served as a foil for protecting Jewish shopkeepers and the like. (p. 295). SD agitators were responsible for driving German and Polish socialists in Lodz against each other (p. 227), and for numerous violent attacks on Polish workers (e. g, p. 255, 263)–whence the title of this book.
Unszlicht characterizes the 1905 Revolution, in Congress Poland, as an essentially Jewish-dominated one. Moreover, it sought to create a Jewish hegemony over Poland that would be essentially a fulfillment of the Judeopolonia utopian ideal. (pp. 361-362).
The Jews’ election of Jagiello to the Duma [otherwise best known for provoking Dmowski’s retaliatory boycotts] further underlined the anti-Polish and pro-Russian sympathies of the Jewish nationalists. (p. 185). Despite being unsympathetic to the National Democrats, Unszlicht realizes that the Endeks, rather than being purveyors of anti-Semitism in the usual sense of the word, were animated by something much deeper–a reaction against the provocative stance by Jews against Polish concerns. (p. 186).
Although the SD accused the Endeks of being pro-tsarist, it was the SD performing a service to the tsarist authorities by making common cause with the tsar against the Polish national movement. (p. 189). Furthermore, SD agitators and Okhrana worked together to cause 200 Polish worker demonstrators’ deaths in Warsaw. (pp. 59-60). A part of the SD, notably those who assassinated Poles and engaged in other anti-Polish provocations, turned out to be Jewish Okhrana agents–as exemplified by one named Azef, and his son Phillip, responsible for thousands of deaths. (p. 324-329; see also p. 355-on)!
The Polish reaction? Unszlicht comments: “The Polish cooperatives fight with never-before-seen effort against Jewish usury…” (p. 6). On the other hand, there was a surprising nonchalance to attacks on the Polish cause by some Polish leaders. (pp. 24-25) [much like the situation today.]
Review of The Lands Between, by Alexander V. Prusin. 2010. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
A Generally Good Overview History of the Lands Annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944
This book introduces its intended topic, beginning with the events leading up to the WWI-era disintegration of the central-European empires. It ends with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. There is focus on the Baltic States, the pre-WWII Polish KRESY, Transcarpathia, as well as Bukovina and Bessarabia.
The author, for the most part, is even-handed in discussing Jewish-gentile relations. For instance, while discussing Poland in its partitioned state, he comments: “Anti-Jewish sentiments among the nascent Polish middle class and the clergy were exacerbated by the conspicuous indifference of Jews towards Polish national aspirations.” (p. 24). Although Prusin does not use terms such as Judeocracy and Judeopolonia, he makes it obvious why some Poles feared that Jews, already the local economic class, could also become a political ruling class, over the Poles, on behalf of the ruling powers. In discussing the Austro-Hungarian Empire about 1915, he writes: “Having become part of the administrative structure, Jews drew popular resentment upon themselves. Polish political groups were alarmed in particular by the activities of the Zionist organizations that propagated closer links between Jewish and German cultures and advocated the introduction of German in Jewish schools. For the Poles such steps seemed to portend the beginning of the Germanization process in the east…” (pp. 66-67). In any case, the Pole-unfriendly Jewish attitudes persisted: “Conversely, by the end of the First World War many Jews regarded Poland’s independence as the least desirable solution. Such attitudes were reflected in the overwhelming support accorded by the Jewish communities to the Germans in the German-Polish contested regions of western Poland and East Prussia.” (p. 93).
Unfortunately, Prusin departs from his usual objectivity when he discusses Jedwabne. He uncritically cites and accepts Jan T. Gross. (p. 150-on). In actuality, there are Jewish testimonies that point to the Germans, and not the Poles, as the main killers of the Jews of Jedwabne, Radzilow, etc. See the Peczkis review, and then follow the embedded link therein, of The Warriors: My Life As A Jewish Soviet Partisan (Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust).
Owing to the overview nature of this work, many items are not put in proper context. For instance, Prusin mentions Polish leaders seeing Eastern Galician Ukrainians as needing to be “civilized” and “nationally matured”. (p. 80). The reader is not told about the extreme backwardness of these Ukrainians. See the Peczkis review, and then follow the attached links in the comment, of The Ruthenian Question In Galicia.
Especially in a broad-based work of this nature, there are the inevitable errors and questionable facts and figures, of which I mention only a few. Prusin cites only 200,000 Kresy and Eastern Galician Poles deported by the Soviets in 1939-1941 (p. 147), and only 50,000 Poles murdered in the WWII-era Ukrainian fascist-separatist OUN-UPA genocide of Poles, and in combat against it. (p. 199). According to more comprehensive sources, the actual numbers are, respectively, at least three times greater. The Polish guerrilla A.K. combat on behalf of the Red Army, in 1944, was Operation BURZA (Tempest), not Operation Thunder. (p. 204). In spite of these shortcomings, and still others that could be mentioned, this is a fairly comprehensive and objective book.