Jewish Journal

What was the Holocaust for the “people’s government”?

Michał Zajda

March 19, 2013 | 7:45 am

First, one must ask the question, what was the so-called people’s government in Poland? Right after the Germans yielded, I am purposely avoiding the word ‘liberation’, the Soviets dictated their way of running the country. The system, which was forced on Poland, wasn’t Lenin Bolshevism anymore, not to be mistaken with Marxism, but a Stalinist totalitarian emanation of it. The Stalinists got rid of the opposition very quickly, by putting them in jails, or exterminating them physically, callously and ruthlessly suppressing the smallest forms of resistance. Until Polish October (or Gomułka’s thaw – ed.) in 1956, soldiers of the underground resistance were being destroyed, their fight against the Nazi invaders marginalized and they were attributed with the biggest war crimes.

The Holocaust, globally the largest crime in human history, was slowly becoming a weapon in the fight against Polish patriots. If someone spoke of bandits in the forest, they couldn’t have meant anybody else than the Armia Krajowa (Home Army – ed.) or the National Armed Forces. They were accused of collaborating with the enemy, which was the official basis for trials and later sentencing of the leaders of the Polish Underground State (PPP) to death. Unfortunately, such thinking still lingers in the minds of the unreflective part of society, which repeatedly looks for signs of supporting the Holocaust in PPP’s actions. This is, and must be made completely clear, wrong - from the ground up. PPP’s aim was to protect citizens against the German aggressors and as is known, Jews were full-fledged citizens of the pre-September Poland, that is, until this country was invaded and then swept away by the Nazi-Soviet machine of destruction!

But the Polish state, meaning the civic community, has suffered most in the war. Nearly four million people were killed (the number is impossible to determine, yet according to statistics Poland was populated by around 35 million people in 1939, that number fell to 24 million) and thirty percent of the national wealth was destroyed or stolen. Poland lost nearly seventy-seven thousand square kilometers of land! What more is there to say, just look at a photo of post-war Warsaw… After the year 1956, the routine use of force against Polish patriots stopped, but the verbal bashing continued until the regaining of sovereignty in 1989. Then, the perception of responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust was subject to a more pragmatic view. Yet the mental effects dug into the Polish awareness very deeply, filling out the guilt with a kind of negation of certain historical facts. Why? From the very beginning, the so-called socialist historiography, in other words – propaganda, stuffed the Polish society with very specific “truths”, which passed for reality. Quite clearly, they suggested that the Pole, as inherently good, guided by their own worldview could not allow the szmalcownictwo (blackmailing for profit) and other war crimes against the Jewish people. He had evil and deceitful leaders! How nice and pleasant for all, easier to accept.

Quite an interesting observation seems to be a semantic fact, used mostly by non-democratic systems. Please note, that whenever the word “truth” is abused it often legitimizes the “untruth”. So the more one seeks to know the truth, the more he/she does not want to know it. Also, I have the impression that today this principle refers to certain specific cases. The Smoleńsk wreck is crowning proof – without bowing in any direction, it is clear that in this case, the “truth” is a political tool in the hands of both sides of the conflict over “the truest truth”. Nobody wants to reach it, because the lack of knowledge gives a lot of leeway which is very convenient for both sides. Just divagations about the service of “truth” in the world of “untruth”… so much on this topic, I’ve written too much anyway!

The tragedy of the Holocaust became a powerful, ideological weapon in the hands of the communists. We should keep in mind that the main arena for the crimes of the Nazi genocide were lands that are in accordance with the Yalta order, that prevailed at the end of World War II, in the Soviet sphere of influence. The communist propaganda twisted the facts, mainly by giving imaginary numbers of victims – these actions usually concerned Auschwitz, as a symbol of the Nazi crimes. Why? Many times during the “real socialism” or “communism with a human face”, as party notables used to call the PRL (People’s Republic of Poland – ed.), one could hear of about six million murdered in Auschwitz, or more accurately, yet still far from the truth, information about three million murdered. On the basis of reliable historical research, we can now say that this number is believed to be around one million one thousand. It is known to anyone interested in the matters of genocide by the Germans in 1942-1945, that the camp in Auschwitz couldn’t have murdered the number of people mentioned earlier.

What was the purpose of these manipulations then? The Federal Republic of Germany in the Cold War propaganda was presented as the primary enemy of the Republic of Poland, because it combined the long-standing aversion towards Germans as the eternal adversary of Poland, besides it pointed to FRG as the direct ideological heirs of the perpetrators of the tragedy of war. The effect of such thinking about the „revisionists from Bonn”, as the inhabitants of Western Germany were commonly called in the media east of the Elbe, was assigning them the will to change the Oder-Neisse border. That is where, according to eastern propaganda, Nazi war criminals were hiding. Again, that is where the gains of Nazi eugenics were used and the money stolen from Poles, as well as Jews, was being laundered. It was the border agreement created on December 7, 1970 that "calmed down" the propaganda and began to slowly and timidly, regulate the relations, diplomatically, as well as economically.

So the tragedy of the Holocaust was a bargaining chip in the hands of the communists, in shaping domestic policy. It served to drag the families affected by this disaster onto their side. For a limited time. In 1968 the myth burst like a bubble and the delusion of a good communist gave way to cold-blooded, cunning, political calculation. Jews weren’t needed anymore. They changed from victims and became a partner, standing at the side of the class enemy, the American imperialist. The rhetoric of “backstabbing” could be used again as an irreplaceable antidote for all injustice. Of course, an escalation of violence could not happen again, yet twenty years after the war, people were going through an ideological déjà vu… A simple man could have thought, WE helped you disinterestedly, and this is how YOU repay us? To Israel, we don’t want you here in Poland anymore. Such thinking from a simple man was expected by the “people’s government”!

History has come full circle…

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