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Apr 20, 2024

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Polish Americans Find Help In
War On Holocaust Ignorance

Brooklyn, N.Y…Despite America’s key role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II and preventing Adolf Hitler from creating what he called a “1,000-year Reich,” the degree of ignorance that exists about this period of world history is disturbing.

Contributing heavily to this state of Holocaust illiteracy is America’s entertainment industry. Its ceaseless production of fictional films, theater, books and radio/TV opinions confuse their audiences who try to distinguish between truth and falsehood.

Such is the opinion of the Holocaust Documentation Committee of the Polish American Congress which began operations 25 years ago because, “nowhere else is Holocaust history as distorted and as misrepresented as it is about Poland.”

The recent Holocaust views expressed by conservative TV commentator, Glenn Beck is a good example. Beck commands a loyal band of admirers and followers who can listen to him every day by subscribing to his personal BlazeTV network.

Back in September, Mr. Beck irked some of his Polish American fans with a preposterous allegation against the Polish people during the time they were under wartime German occupation. In his monologue deploring the excessive concern of today’s Americans with small and insignificant matters at a time other problems facing the country are enormous, Mr. Beck took an unjustified and irresponsible slap at the Poles. “We’re turning into the Poles. The smoke is billowing from the chimney …. . They’re burning Jews right down the street,” Beck said. He insinuated the Poles were indifferent to the tragedy their Jewish neighbors were suffering at the hands of the Nazis and the Poles were doing nothing to help them.

Mr. Beck’s statement is not true. The Poles did just the opposite, according to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Yad Vashem bestows the “Righteous Among the Nations” award to those individuals who helped rescue Jews in the Holocaust. Of all those honored this way, Poles are the largest number despite the fact Poland was the only country in German-occupied Europe where the Nazis declared a death penalty for doing it.

This information is readily available on these institutions’ websites. To make it even easier for Mr. Beck, the Polish American Congress sent him the English translation of a book written in 1968 by Szymon Datner, former director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, titled “Forest of Polish Heroes, Poles Murdered by Germans for Saving Jews During WW II.”

The book will enable Mr. Beck to quote a respected Jewish source the next time he wants to refer to Polish-Jewish relations in the Holocaust, according to the Congress. The book conveys the sense of gratitude that existed in 1968 among Jews who survived the war only because many Poles risked their lives to save them. The following are some excerpts from Dr. Datner’s book:

“Poles, when confronted with the Jewish problem, behaved with grand, national and human dignity. The Polish nation never accepted what the Germans were doing with the Jews,” Datner wrote.

With Poland being the only German-occupied country where the Nazis ordered death for anyone who broke the law by helping a Jew, Datner noted, “The Poles could have lived with the German ‘law’ if they had been willing to observe it and let the Jews die. They did not want to. Many of them paid the highest price – the price of life.”

Datner also observed: “…if millions of Poles had been willing to obey these occupation orders and collaborate with the Germans, then no Jew, or almost next to none, would have survived.”

Dr. Datner’s heartfelt appreciation of the help the Poles gave was most evident when he wrote, “Owing to the large-hearted help of the Polish society, its best sons and daughters, 100,000 Jews were saved in the hardest possible conditions …. This heroic aspect of heroism during the Nazi occupation is poorly researched when it comes to those who were saving human lives and luckily survived, and primarily when it concerns those who lost their own lives while saving the others.”

Close to the ghetto, “The Church of All Saints in Warsaw was located next to the ghetto. The church, whose parish priest was the late Father Godlewski, became the shelter for almost 2,000 Jews who, with his help, managed to escape from the ghetto.”

Recently, a major American newspaper published a story about the Warsaw Zoo where Jews were hidden by the Polish zoologist and his wife. It was a well known story even when Dr. Datner wrote about it in his 1968 book. “The Jews were hidden in animal cages and the Zabinskis provided them with food and looked after them with care, risking their own lives.”

Dr. Datner devoted a whole chapter in a special tribute to the Poles who endured Nazi and Soviet Communist occupation in Poland’s Bialystok Region which included the municipality of Jedwabne.

Being a Jewish historian, he hoped the help Poles gave Jews would receive proper recognition and appreciation. “The question of aiding the Jews in Poland during the Nazi occupation, both in the Bialystok region and in other parts of the country, is still waiting for systematic and thorough research. This beautiful page should be added to the latest history of the Polish nation as soon as possible.”

Dr. Datner died in Warsaw in 1990 and did not live long enough to witness the current efforts of anti-Polish elements to discredit and demonize the Polish residents of Jedwabne and blame them for the 1941 murders the Germans committed against the town’s Jewish population.

There are many other statements in the Datner book Glenn Beck could quote to correct the misinformation he gave his BlazeTV audience.

Although he has not yet given the Polish American Congress Holocaust Documentation Committee the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of the book, there has not been any report of Beck repeating any misleading statements about the Holocaust.

The Polish American Congress formed the Holocaust Documentation Committee prior to the 1993 opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. It was headed by the late Michael Preisler, a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz. The committee’s purpose was to provide the U.S. Holocaust Museum personal testimony and memorabilia from Polish survivors and rescuers of Jews for exhibition at the museum. After the museum’s opening, the committee redirected its efforts to defending the history of the Polish people against false accusations and other misinformation.

– Frank Milewski