Tuesday, January 26, 2016

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Review by Polish-American Journalist Filip Mazurczak

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is funding by US taxpayer dollars. For that reason, among many others, all American taxpayers have an interest, and a voice, in the museum. The USHMM webpage provides the following numbers:

"Base Operating Budget: $90.8 in FY 2015 ($52.4 million federal revised appropriation; $38.4 million unrestricted private donations and investment income)"

According to many, the USHMM disseminates Christophobic material. Indeed, Jewish leaders have protested this Christophobic material. See, for example, "Anti-Christian Film Draws Ire of Jewish Leaders" linked here.

A quote from this article

"Every 14 minutes, about 32 times a day, 363 days a year, in the shadow of the Washington monument, a woman slowly intones her version of history: 'Christianity emerged from Judaism. Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew,' she begins. 'The early Christian Church condemned Jews as agents of the devil, and blamed them for killing Jesus. This accusation was not renounced until the 1960s with the Second Vatican Council.'

She continues, 'Christian crusaders slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews…. The Protestant Reformation brought no end to the anti-Jewish tradition of Christianity.'
After quoting Martin Luther that Jewish homes should be burned, she gets to the present century: 'Enter Hitler, Austrian-born and baptized a Catholic.' Her voice goes deep as she imitates Hitler: 'In defending myself against the Jews I am acting for the Lord. The difference between the Church and me is that I am finishing the job.'

Finally, she warns, 'This is where prejudice can lead,' clearly meaning that Christian prejudice against Jews led to their murder under Nazism.

Every 14 minutes, a clutch of sober visitors listen to this explanation of the Holocaust, but this woman is not just another individual with a cause, wearing a hand-stenciled placard, a common sight on the Washington mall.

She is the voice-over for a film underwritten with federal money produced by the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has been prominently featured in the museum's permanent exhibit for several years."

This US taxpayer funded Christophobia and distortion of Holocaust history is not happening in a vacuum. Christians are the people in the world today most likely to be persecuted for their faith. See here. Mongering hatred against Christians, demonizing Christians and Christianity, are not victimless crimes. 

Further, citing Christianity as the Nazis' guiding philosophy is factually wrong. See here.

In brief:

Nazis did not cite Christianity as their guiding philosophy.

Nazis did cite other philosophies as guiding their actions, including nationalism, scientism, atheism, Social Darwinism, and neo-Paganism.

Nazis targeted, persecuted, tortured and murdered Christians.

Filip Mazurczak is a correspondent for the National Catholic Register and the assistant editor of the journal The European Conservative. He has degrees in history and Hispanic studies from Creighton University, international relations from the George Washington University and public relations from the Jagiellonian University. He has lived and worked both in Poland and the United States.

Filip contributed his review, below, of his visit to the USHMM. I include Filip's comments in full, though I don't agree with everything he says, or the way he says it. I'm grateful that he brings the USHMM's Christophobic material to our attention.

I wrote to the USHMM and asked if they cared to respond. They did not respond to my message.
USHMM Review
by Filip Mazurczak

For at least the next six months, I will be living in Washington, DC. I decided to pay a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and share my thoughts. Because the museum’s website boasts that 38 million people have visited it since its dedication in 1993, few institutions in the world shape how the world understands the destruction of European Jewry so much. People longing for an accurate presentation of Polish history will be happy to learn that the museum honors Żegota, details Nazi atrocities against non-Jewish Poles and sells books about Polish rescuers of Jews. Nonetheless, visitors are misled into incorrectly thinking that the Home Army was “nationalist” and “often anti-Semitic.” Most troubling is the museum’s anti-Christian tone, which inaccurately links medieval Christian anti-Judaism with the Final Solution.

The first thing we see upon entering the museum is the bookstore. In it, we can find many books on Polish Righteous Among the Nations (including a picture book on Irena Sendler, the classic memoir The Cracow Ghetto Pharmacy by Tadeusz Pankiewicz and a book by Krystyna Chiger, a Jewish child rescued by Polish sewer inspector Leopold Socha), books on Polish martyrdom (such as Allen Paul’s book on Katyn and Miron Białoszewski’s account of the Warsaw Uprising) and balanced books on Polish-Jewish affairs (including Władysław Szpilman’s The Pianist, the best book on World War II and one of the best books I have read). On the other hand, Jan T. Gross’s ugly polemic Golden Harvests (one of the most biased books I’ve ever read) was on sale, and the disgusting comic book Maus (which presents Poles as anthropomorphic swine and concentration camp guards at Auschwitz, which they were not) and the anti-Polish, historically inaccurate, poorly written novels Mila 18 and Exodus by Leon Uris were showcased.

I had read about the conflict related to the foundation of the Holocaust museum: should non-Jewish victims be included as well? Ultimately, the decision to honor the martyrdom of other groups was made. Thus I was pleased to see that the museum made it clear that Roma were also locked in ghettoes along with Jews by the Nazis, and that the Nazis also wanted their extermination. An exhibit detailing Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles is included. With regards to the September campaign, it is explicitly said that the Poles fought “bravely,” but received no military assistance from France and England, whose declaration of war against Nazi Germany was just a declaration.

It was refreshing to see the museum commemorate the suffering of non-Jews like ethnic Poles and acknowledge the West’s failings. These failings are also acknowledged when the display explains that the Roosevelt White House refused to increase immigration quotas to allow Jewish refugees to escape to the United States, and that the American Department of War failed to bomb the crematoria of Auschwitz. Although I knew about Roosevelt’s callous attitude towards the Holocaust, I didn’t think that the museum would acknowledge these inconvenient facts. I also was pleased that the museum mentioned other genocides (such as Darfur and the abuses of Pol Pot, although it didn’t have the courage to mention the Armenian Genocide). Some promote a ridiculous, chauvinistic doctrine that the Holocaust was “unique.” Genocide is a tragedy, regardless of what group it affects. I’m glad that the museum avoided this balderdash.

Another pleasant surprise was that in the section on rescue, in addition to much information about the bold Danes who endured a mild occupation and were allowed to maintain their parliament and king and at one point didn’t even incur punishments for aiding Jews, there was a display on Żegota. It features photos of Żegota’s founders, and next to it is a copy of the flyer distributed across Poland by the Nazis stating that Poles aiding Jews would be threatened with the death penalty. Thus visitors to the Holocaust Memorial Museum learn that despite such drastic punishments, there were Poles who aided Jews (however, the display says that Żegota helped secure false papers and hiding spots for 4,000 Jews; the actual number was ten times that – did someone forget a zero?).

Shortly after the tribute to Żegota, however, is the most anti-Polish part of the museum. It mentions that “[i]n Poland, the nationalist Home Army was often hostile to Jews.” Next to this display, there is information about Jews serving in the resistance in Yugoslavia, Slovakia and France. In reality, between several hundred and a couple thousand Jews fought in the Warsaw Uprising, and probably more Jews fought in the ranks of the Home Army than any other anti-Nazi resistance across Europe.

The Home Army wasn’t “nationalist”; it was anti-Nazi and anti-communist and loyal to Poland’s government-in-exile. Its members’ ideologies ranged on a wide scale, including both nationalists and socialists. Recently, Joshua Zimmerman of Yeshiva University published an excellent book disproving the stereotype that the Home Army was anti-Semitic. Zimmerman writes that the Polish underground’s attitude towards the Jews varied. While in northeast Poland it issued a pronouncement to fight “Jewish bandits,” in Hanaczów it saved the town’s entire Jewish population from Germans and Ukrainian nationalists. The Home Army had a department devoted to aiding Jews led by Henryk Woliński, and the Home Army’s new newspaper, the Information Bulletin, was edited by a Righteous Gentile, scoutmaster Aleksander Kamiński, and featured frequent condemnation of German atrocities, but also of Polish anti-Semites and blackmailers of Jews.

While I consider Timothy Snyder to be an overrated and unoriginal historian, he is correct when he writes in his Black Earth that the Home Army only occasionally killed Jews and that the far-right National Armed Forces did so much more frequently. Snyder writes that the accounts of anti-Semitic Home Army partisans in many Holocaust survivors’ accounts were often National Armed Forces partisans, and survivors confused the two. I would encourage individuals of good will to write a petition to the museum asking to change the historically incorrect statement insulting the Home Army.

What I found most troubling about the museum was its blatant anti-Christian tone. At the beginning of the exhibit, there is a fifteen-minute documentary film titled “Anti-Semitism” that is on loop. The film immediately starts with Christian anti-Judaism, despite the fact that Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman persecutions of Jews predated Christianity.

The film details Christian prejudices against Jews in the Middle Ages, mentioning that they were expelled from many European countries, accused of blood libel and segregated from Christians in ghettoes. Martin Luther’s anti-Jewish rhetoric is presented. Only later does the film discuss secular strands of modern anti-Semitism: the Dreyfus Affair, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Nazi anti-Semitism. However, this is implicitly linked to Christianity. After discussing the Nazi genocide of European Jewry, the film concludes with a statement that the Holocaust made Christian churches reexamine their teachings on Judaism. Thus the viewer can logically infer that the Final Solution was the product of Christianity.

Was there a strong Christian tradition of anti-Judaism? One would have to be intellectually dishonest to deny that. At the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 the Catholic Church decreed that Jews be separated from Christians and wear articles of clothing to distinguish them from Christians. However, the film does not present false information; it presents true information selectively.

For instance, there is no mention that in addition to a strong Christian tradition of anti-Judaism, there was also a Christian tradition of tolerance. It is true that medieval Christians accused Jews of kidnapping Christian children and using their blood to make matzos. What the documentary fails to mention, however, is that multiple medieval popes had issued bulls defending Jews against such charges. Pope St. Gregory the Great was one of the most philo-Semitic rulers of all time, and Renaissance popes employed Jewish court doctors. While Pope Alexander VI may have been corrupt and promiscuous, he invited Jews expelled by the Spanish Inquisition to settle in Rome.

And the documentary makes a big omission. It says that during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Jews were kicked out of England, Spain, Portugal and Germany, “most of whom migrated eastward.” It doesn’t explain where “eastward” was. It completely fails to mention the fact that at the time, Jewish civilization flourished in Polin. While Christian rulers like Isabella I and Edward I kicked Jews out of Spain and England, Christian rulers like Boleslaus the Pious and Casimir the Great made Poland Paradisus Judaeorum.

The film exclusively focuses on Christian anti-Semitism, making no mention of Islamic anti-Semitism. Christian anti-Semitism is a marginal phenomenon today, while anti-Semitism flourishes in the Muslim world. Hitler himself said: “It’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Islam would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” Meanwhile, a dear friend of Hitler was then-mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini, who supported Hitler’s “solution” to the “Jewish question.”

The film’s implicit linking of Christian anti-Judaism to the Holocaust is incorrect. None other than Zygmunt Bauman – a secular, Marxist Polish-Jewish sociologist and philosopher – has argued that it was the Enlightenment and its obsession with rationalism that gave birth to eugenics and pseudo-scientific racism, culminating in the Holocaust. Hannah Arendt and Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (the late archbishop of Paris and a Jewish convert) arrived at similar conclusions. The film makes no mention of the fact that Hitler hated Christianity, and that atheistic anti-Semitism existed in Stalin’s USSR.

In sum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a mixed bag. It honors Żegota and presents the sufferings of non-Jewish Poles under Nazism, although it shows the Home Army’s record on the Jews in a tendentious way. The worst is the documentary on anti-Semitism. At the risk of sounding cynical, I must admit that I had to keep myself from snickering as I watched its lopsided account of history.

Photo credit: Filip Mazurczak
Photo credit: Filip Mazurczak
Photo credit: Filip Mazurczak
Photo credit: Filip Mazurczak

Saturday, January 9, 2016

I Was America's Favorite Immigrant Ogre for One Hundred Years And I Never Became a Terrorist; I Wrote a Book Instead

I Was America's Favorite Immigrant Ogre for One Hundred Years
And I Never Became a Terrorist; I Wrote a Book Instead

This article first appeared on FrontPage Magazine here

I did a lot of driving on December 25, 2015. National Public Radio offered wall-to-wall coverage of a new power narrative. Americans, US taxpayer-funded NPR drilled into its Christmas day listeners, are an ignorant, violent, lynch mob. Muslims are their potential victims. One thing and one thing only might inspire Muslims to become terrorists: Christian Americans saying mean things.

NPR did not attempt to sell this narrative in the old school tones of voice-of-God journalists broadcasting who-what-when-where-why style news accounts. Stentorian newsmen would immediately activate alarms implanted in listeners during their college classes on sticking it to the man, fighting the power, and questioning authority.

Rather, the Muslims-as-victims narrative was entwined into heartwarming stories told by seductively voiced women distributing cookie recipes. It was the unquestioned premise of curl-up-around-the-fire storytelling. It was the relevant unstated undergirding of irrelevant, cardboard-prop "news." Good propaganda is obvious. Excellent propaganda hides in plain sight, and insinuates itself, like a virus, into every organ, including the heart.

On Christmas day alone, NPR features on the hateful American / Muslim victim theme included the following three broadcasts.

Award-winning author Diana Abu-Jaber has called America "the belly of the beast," "insular," and has declared that "America is not the final word." On NPR Abu-Jaber wove a homespun family tale, accompanied by a recipe, of cookies baked by a bigoted American Catholic shrew and appreciatively consumed by her model Muslim son-in-law. "Gram didn't approve of her Jordanian son-in-law. She saw him as an interloper. He was this Muslim menace … She would just pick at him and peck [sic] him and … then eventually he'd break down and he'd jump into the fray. 'You'd probably run around like a bunch of savages waving turkey legs.' And my father would say 'Well, actually, the Muslims invented civilization.'"

The NPR storytelling program "The Moth" included Khaled Latif's "Shattered Silence." Latif alleged, without evidence, that he has overheard Americans say, "We need to get all the Muslims together, and send them out of the country, because they are all violent, and they are all terrorists." He also alleged, again without evidence, that an American woman tried to push him down a flight of stairs. "It was a really, really tough situation," he moaned helplessly. Latif spoke quietly of the incredible courage Muslims must muster to live among violent American bigots. Latif made no reference to any hadith or Koran verse that might cause Americans to look askance at fealty to Koranic commands. Latif's absence of evidence matters; Muslims have faked hate crimes.

In rural Wyoming, NPR listeners learned, "anti-Muslim rhetoric" from a "Catholic ex-Marine" is terrorizing defenseless Muslims "with deep roots in the area … they've been in Wyoming since 1960s" The broadcast's antagonist, the Catholic, is a fool. He fears a "problem" with Islam that "can't happen" in Wyoming, according to NPR. The Catholic has stirred up locals who "belittled Muslims and even threatened to throw bacon at the mosque." We all know how many tragic deaths have resulted when bacon has been used as an anti-architecture projectile. "The rhetoric has gotten so bad, so negative, so harsh." NPR assured its listeners that there is no significant difference between Islam and other belief systems. "It's not entirely unlike what I've experienced when I've gone to church … [the Catholic] has no reason to be nervous … Everyone wants to be peaceful and coincide [sic] with each other."

In mid-December, 2015, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai said that it's "really tragic that you hear these comments which are full of hatred, full of this ideology of being discriminative towards others … The more you speak about Islam and against all Muslims, the more terrorists we create … If your intention is to stop terrorism, do not try to blame the whole population of Muslims for it because it cannot stop terrorism. It will radicalize more terrorists."

The power narrative is wrong. Jihadis commit violence for the reason jihadis have always given for committing violence. They are following the commands found in the Koran and hadiths.

Further, being the butt of bigotry does not compel anyone to commit violent acts. I know. I am the butt of bigotry far worse than Malala Yousafzai, Diana Abu-Jaber, Imam Khaled Latif, or Aftab Khan have ever faced. 

I, and others like me, have been America's favorite ogre. We were denounced in Congress by powerful scientists who defined us as quite literally subhuman. We were mocked and demonized in high and low culture. We didn't become terrorists. We put our shoulders to the wheel and we worked to make America great.

Goldstein, Merkel and Biegański by Michal Karski

Goldstein, Merkel and Biegański
Michal Karski

"What's in a name?" asks Juliet in Shakespeare's famous play. The answer must be: "much more than one would at first suppose, my lovely innocent idealist." Just as a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, so a single name, whether it be first name or last name, will usually conjure up many associations. In the case of citizens of Poland, names can often lead to hasty generalisations, if not to immediate and frequently damning judgements.

The trio pictured above, as any sharp-eyed reader who is familiar with pre-war Polish radio will know, is not that of Goldstein, Merkel and Biegański, but they could quite easily have been. Radio and theatre and the arts in general were the milieus in inter-war Poland where ethnic prejudices were for the most part quite irrelevant and where regional and ethnic variety only enriched the sum total of Polish cultural life. One has only to think of the Yiddish humour of the szmonces written by people such as Marian Hemar and broadcast by Lwów radio station "Lwowska Fala". Piłsudski himself was said to have been a big fan of the station's brand of humour.

That Jews were often involved in theatrical life is reflected in Jack Benny's 1942 film "To Be or Not To Be" – a release quite daring in its day, because the outcome of the war was by no means a foregone conclusion – and which was successfully remade by Mel Brooks in the eighties. Although my own opinion is that this is a pro-Polish film – in both original and remake – since its Polish protagonists are presented in a sympathetic light, nevertheless there has been criticism which pointed out that the Polish foreign office officials are portrayed as cravenly wanting to appease Germany by refusing to sanction an anti-Nazi satire in a Warsaw theatre.

There is some justice in this criticism, but if films were permitted footnotes, then a little bit of extra information would reveal that the Polish government was indeed under pressure from its western Allies who insisted that Poland should avoid doing anything which would antagonize Hitler. The people exerting this pressure on Poland have largely managed to distance themselves from this uncomfortable truth and Poland's belated mobilization in the face of the German assault has often been characterized as the result of governmental chaos alone, with no diplomatic input from Whitehall or the Quai d'Orsay.

As for the name Goldstein, many readers will know that the name was chosen not so long ago by German broadcaster ZDF for one of the five protagonists of its controversial TV series "Generation War" ("Our Mothers, Our Fathers"). I reviewed it at the Krakow Post.

It might seem churlish to suggest that ZDF could have been a bit more creative in its choice of names for its Jewish character. Then again, the same comment could be made about the name Kowalski as used by Tennessee Williams. "What's in a name?" asks Juliet. "A quick and handy shortcut, my beloved," Romeo might well have replied, "to an entire nation".

The second name in the list above is, of course, immediately associated with that of the current German chancellor. As an aside, it might be of interest to know that Angela Merkel has recently discovered that there was a Polish connection in her family, but the clearly German name Merkel in the title of this piece belongs to a Polish citizen, quite possibly of German descent, but no less patriotic for being so.

It need hardly be stressed that not all Polish nationals who bore German surnames were either Volksdeutsche or at least suspect in their allegiance to the state – one has only to think of army heroes such as Anders or Fieldorf – just as not all Poles who bore clearly Jewish surnames were Bolshevik fifth columnists or those with Ukrainian or Lithuanian surnames would have been happy to see the demise of the Polish Republic. Unfortunately stereotypes persist to this day.

The mention of stereotype brings me neatly to the third in the trio: that of Biegański, the name chosen by William Styron for his repellent, German-sympathizing, extreme nationalist character who is the father of Sophie in "Sophie's Choice" and who also gives his name to the blog you are reading and the book by Danusha Goska about stereotypes. Nowadays a rather classless ethnically Polish surname, it has no particular connotations of either aristocracy nor does it suggest any rural provenance; if anything, it is probably associated with the szlachta, the minor nobility of Poland.

I should now elaborate not only on my choice of illustration above but I should also offer an explanation for the choice of the three names in the title. May I say that since I have no photos of the trio of Goldstein, Merkel and Biegański – who were real people and all Polish citizens – I chose instead to show a photo of Alfred Schütz (composer of the famous Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino), Włada Majewska and Wiktor Budzyński, who were performers at the hugely popular above-mentioned radio station "Lwowska Fala". They are pictured here in Kraków in 1936.

And, you may ask, what about the names in the title? Anyone who has read my previous columns will not be surprised at the revelation that the names Goldstein, Merkel and Biegański – quite clearly not chosen at random – belong to Poles who were victims of the Second World War.

Would the three have known each other before the war? Possibly. They might have been a firm of lawyers, for instance, in Warsaw or in Kraków's Kazimierz district. Would they have socialized before the war? Again, quite possibly. Warsaw and Kraków and other cities were cosmopolitan centres. Contrary to the picture suggested by works such as Lanzmann's epic "Shoah", Poland was not exclusively mired in medieval ignorance and superstition or totally in thrall to backward clerics. It was precisely the cosmopolitan and progressive elements which were targeted for elimination by both Nazis and Soviets when they partitioned the country between them. Goldstein, Merkel and Biegański, citizens and patriots, might have been names found on the lists of victims of Auschwitz or Majdanek or any other of the death camps constructed by the Third Reich on Polish soil.

Instead, Second Lieutenant Salomon Goldstein, reserve officer Zygmunt Merkel, and Lieutenant Tadeusz Biegański were just three individuals among the thousands of Polish army officers who were murdered by Stalin's NKVD at the killing grounds of Katyń.

Farewell and rest in peace, Goldstein, Merkel, and Bieganski, martyred soldiers and representatives of a vanished world, and to borrow from Horatio in Shakespeare's Hamlet, may flights of angels sing you to your rest. 

Polish American Congress Bestows Polonia Award on Jan Peczkis

Jan Peczkis wrote to inform me that the Polish American Congress has bestowed upon him the Polonia Award in recognition of his 2,200 Amazon reviews. 

Let us congratulate Jan Peczkis for his undeniably impressive number of Amazon reviews, and for receiving the award.