Literature of the Holocaust
maintained by Al Filreis

Are Poles treated fairly today?

Date: Sun, 25 Aug 1996 11:57:34 CDT

Michel Couzijn had written wrote:

Every couple of weeks my wife, a Polish woman born in Krakow in 1966, has to face nasty remarks of Dutch people about 'the antisemitic Poles'. Such is the effect of repeated - incorrect - paintings of Poles as Nazi assistants. It makes her cry, it makes her angry, but she cannot ignore or feel 'neutral' about such accusations (because that is what the remarks are). She will take it personally.

Couzijn and I have similiar feelings regarding our wives. My wife is also Polish. I met her in 1979 when she was assigned to me as a Polish Agency Interpress interpreter during mty first, and then four subsequent trips, to Oswiecim/Brezinka and all the interviews with _Polish_ survivors of the Montelupe, Majdanek, Oswiecim, Brezinka, Mathausen, Dachau and Belsen. She was the person who turned me on to Tadeusz Borowski's _This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen_. She has been stalwart in looking at Polish Jew-hating and also at explaining about those who were rescuers of Jews, including members of her family.Soon we are going to interview a Jewish woman who, as a girl, was hidden by Krysia's family the whole war.

I remember one time going to a Raol Hilberg lecture at a synagogue in a Chicago suburb. He spoke of the Poles as a dead people who were dying because of their Jew-hating. It seemed to me then to be more of a wish than an observation. Here was the great chronicler himself, esposing collective guilt and desregarding people like my wife, who was brought to tears; yes, even someone as dedicated and brilliant as Raol Hilberg.

I remember thinking then that it really takes courage to stand up to those who make these kinds of harteful statements, especially when they are renownwed scholars or authors, and more especially when they are survivors.

Of course I understand the urge, having it myself towards Poles, Hungarians, Lithaunians, Roumanians... By the way the Lithuanians killed 100,000 Jews from Vilna (and surrounding towns) at Pannerai. The SS didn't do it. The Lithaunian fascists did. They also killed 50,000 or so from and around Kovno at the 9th Fort. I have been to these places recently (in the spring)... was taken there by Lithuanians. I work there every year or so... at the Vilnius Psychoneurologic Hospital, training staff in a variety of methods. They have been simply lovely. Do I remember? Am I cautious? Do feelings of disdain and even revulsion bang around in me? You bet. But I am careful to separate the guilty from the innocent. We are all so, quick to condemn the bystander. But it is not so easy to act when terror reigns.

Alan Jacobs http://www.bravenewweb.com/idea

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