No Good Pole Goes Unpunished
by James Ostrowski by James Ostrowski
Three times they saved Western civilization. Does the world realize it? Of course not!
~ Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Distinguished historian Paul Gottfried got me going yesterday with his response to the New York Post’s recent editorial:
Equally outrageous have been other recent attempts to shove the chunks of the past down a memory hole. For example, the neocon New York Post noted yesterday that it was high time Polish President Kwazniewski “beg forgiveness,” as he just did, for Polish contributions to the Holocaust. Apparently Poles mistakenly viewed Auschwitz as a “place of Polish martyrdom” “and Polish schoolchildren were taught erroneously that a million Poles perished there too.” Poles even now remain in denial about their critical role in the murder of European Jewry, for which the assaults on Jews in the Eastern Polish town of Jedwabne (by the Polish anti-German Home Front) is cited as proof. Unfortunately the apology offered by the clueless Kwazniewski did nothing to clarify a clouded event. According to historian Norman Davies, the event being lamented involved a shoot-out between Polish resistance forces and the Soviet secret police, members of which were then harbored by Polish Jewish collaborators. While no one is denying the presence of Polish anti-Semitism, which seems to linger on together with equally bitter anti-Polish Jewish feelings, the Poles and the Jews were both victims of Nazi persecution. The Polish underground, which included rightwing nationalists who clearly disliked Jews, fought the German invaders furiously, suffered hideous losses, including the destruction of Warsaw, and, yes, lost members in Auschwitz. Poles, including my late mother-in-law, saved over 40,000 Jews from the Nazis, although the punishment for being discovered was death. Treating this brutalized people as collaborators in the Holocaust is not misguided but utterly obscene, except in the world inhabited by liberals and neocons.
What is exceptional about this passage is that Professor Gottfried actually makes use of facts to clarify history.
Here are a few more facts about the Poles, the Commie socialists and the National Socialists.
It was not Ronald Reagan who ended history’s most murderous political regime, Stalinism. That’s just a bunch of propaganda from the men Reagan made wealthy and powerful by building up his war machine. No, as predicted by a Polish-speaking Austrian Jew who grew up in heavily Polish Silesia — Ludwig von Mises — communism was doomed by its own contradictions; its inner rot. That inner collapse started in Poland, inspired by a man named Karol Józef Wojtyla and carried out by Lech Walesa and crew. The Poles always knew what a joke communism was: "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work." — they would say.
In actuality, the Poles had been fighting the Bolsheviks almost from the beginning, paying a huge price for it, and getting very little credit for it. (Why?) It starts with the defeat of the invaders in 1920. Then, Soviet Poles suffered severely in the paranoid purges and brutal and stupid collectivization of farms in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Andrzej Paczkowski, in his essay "Poland, the u2018Enemy Nation’," published in the monumental expose, The Black Book of Communism (ed. Stephane Courtois, Harvard University Press, 1999), writes:
"in Ukraine, Polish resistance was fierce and had to be broken by force. According to approximate figures at the time, the population of the regions inhabited by Poles fell by around 25 percent in 1933 alone." 
In 1937, the NKVD (secret police), issued a special order targeting Poles for harassment, detention and extermination.  At least 134,000 Poles were imprisoned and at least 54,000 were shot. 
Paczkowski sums up the impact of the operation:
"The Poles account for some 10 percent of the total number of victims of the Great Purge, and for around 40 percent of the victims of purges against national minorities. The figures are, if anything, understated, since thousands of Poles were deported from Ukraine and Belorussia for reasons unconnected with the u2018Polish Operation.’ It was not only the Polish Communist suites and offices at the Hotel Lux that were emptied, but whole Polish villages and kolkhozy as well." 
On August 23, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a secret agreement to carve up Poland.  The Russians attacked Poland on September 17, 1939, following German troops by 17 days. According to Paczkowski, the Soviet socialists set about to wipe out the remnants of the Polish army fleeing east away from the National Socialists. Many Polish POWs were turned into slave laborers. They were the lucky ones. The Bolsheviks murdered at least 14,587 Polish Army Officers in 1940 at Katyn, Kharkiv and Kalinin. They were shot in the neck and buried in mass graves. Sound familiar? Then, the Bolsheviks compounded their crime by blaming the Nazis. The Soviets knew how stupid Western intellectuals, reporters and politicians were. They thought they could get away with this lie and they did get away with it for many years. The U.S. government helped. Thank you.
After the war, of course, the Soviets would take credit for "liberating Poland." This was another lie, and a bold one given the Soviets’ twenty-five year war against Poles. When one slave master takes the place of another, the slaves have not been liberated!
Another little known fact is the fate of Poles who fled eastward to escape the Nazis. Were they liberated? Only if you consider being imprisoned as liberating you from the cares of daily life. At least 145,000 Poles were imprisoned and seven thousand were shot.  The Soviets also deported 60,000 Poles to Kazakhstan in horrible conditions. And they deported many Poles and Polish Jews back to the German sector with predictable results. 
Pazckowski sums up the Soviets’ first "liberation" of Poland:
"During the two years of Soviet rule in the eastern half of Poland, approximately 1 million people (ten percent of the population) were directly affected by Soviet repression in one form or another: execution, prison, the camps, deportation or forced labor. No fewer than 30,000 people were shot, and another 90,000 to 100,000 died in camps or en route in railway convoys." 
The Bolsheviks’ next treachery against the Poles was their refusal to assist the Polish Home Army in 1944. They waited across the river while the Nazis slaughtered poorly equipped Polish troops and civilians. They went even further and imprisoned Polish troops. Just as the Nazis sacrificed their military goals to kill Jews, the Soviets placed a higher priority on fighting Poles than fighting Germans. Hmmm. The truth is, Stalin never forgave the Poles for kicking his ass in the early 1920’s. [p. 364]
After Germany’s defeat, and due to the Soviets’ war on the Polish army, the Soviets controlled Poland. After "liberating" Poland, they were nice enough to keep 178,000 square kilometers for themselves, forcing the Poles out. The Soviets controlled what was left of Poland for the next 45 years. Typically, the Poles never passively accepted this tyranny. I was surprised to learn that the Poles fought the Bolshevik invaders until the early 1950s. The fighting was "bloody and brutal."  We hear about Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, but nothing about the Poles’ earlier efforts. What else is new?
After the Polish underground was wiped out, "The Catholic Church was the principal independent institution that remained."  The Soviets imprisoned priests and bishops and even Cardinal Wyszynski.  I will skip over the more recent and familiar history of Polish resistance to Soviet tyranny and conclude this particular discussion by noting that the Poles were on to the scam, sham and flimflam of communism early and often, long before the West or Western intellectuals, some of whom are still clueless. All in all: a pretty good record for which they have of course been given little recognition.
Speaking of World War II, let’s talk about who did the fighting on the ground. Who was that war’s greatest American soldier? Audie Murphy right? You know, the guy who became a movie star. Not! No, it was a Polish guy from Buffalo, you know, what’s his name? What, no movie deal for Matt Urban? What’s up with that? What did Matt do?
"Urban landed with the first American troops in Africa, leading his battalion in capturing Hill #409 in the Sedjanne Valley. He then single-handedly destroyed one of Rommel’s two largest radio transmitters in the world. Urban commanded his troops in six major campaigns in Africa and Europe, receiving his seventh Purple Heart after being shot through the throat in Belgium. He led the 3rd Army breakout from the hedgerows of France and subsequently was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor." (Robert W. Boven, Most Decorated Solider in World War II (2000)).
Many other Polish-Americans fought bravely in that war. My father, Judge William J. Ostrowski, graduated from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute early to enlist in the Army. They made him a grunt on the ground with a gun. No problem. He and his young colleagues fought crack German troops in the Vosges Mountains in pitched battles and whipped ‘em. What thanks did he get? His Army buddies and his regiment’s own yearbook say he won the Silver Star for almost single-handedly holding off a German advance. We’re still waiting for that one, 60 years later. Naturally, my father doesn’t care. Oh well, it took them thirty-five years to give Matt Urban his Medal of Honor. He didn’t care either. He knew he had been nominated for the Medal of Honor but never picked up the phone in thirty-five years.
But wasn’t the Polish Army some kind of a joke? We have all heard that. They laid down their pitchforks and let the Nazis slaughter Polish Jews, right? After being attacked by Germany in 1939, Poland was defeated in thirty-six days while "allies" France and Britain did nothing to help. France, a larger nation with a much larger army, lasted about forty days. Unlike Poland, France did not have to contend with a simultaneous attack from Russia. That’s right, that dunderhead FDR’s new best friend, "Uncle Joe" Stalin attacked Poland after making a secret deal with Hitler to carve up the country. Also, France had help from Great Britain; all Poland got was propaganda leaflets.
Even after being defeated, the Poles heroically rose up and fought the Nazis again and again and again and again. Polish pilots who escaped to England shot down twelve percent of German planes shot down in the Battle of Britain. The Poles were there on D-Day. Poles fought heroically in the battle of Monte Cassino. In 1943, Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, short of firearms, revolted against the Nazis in a near suicidal campaign in which virtually all were killed. In 1944, 55,000 Poles died in yet another uprising in Warsaw against the Nazis that lasted 66 days, while Stalin’s troops watched. Six million Poles — including three million Jews — died during the war, including half a million soldiers.
Polish mathematicians and the Polish underground helped break the Nazi military code — "Enigma." (By the way, why do we hear so much about the French underground, a much smaller operation? Hint: Communists were prominent in the Resistance, but the Polish underground was only three percent red.) The British took much of the credit for the Poles’ labors. Oh well. What else is new? At least the Brits fought to free Poland. But that too was a disappointment as that legend in his own mind Churchill and his dupe Roosevelt sold Poland out to the devilish mass murderer Stalin. That’s right. Stalin, who along with his erstwhile buddy Hitler, started the war by invading Poland, ends up with Poland after, with FDR’s and Winston’s help. Talk about dumb! And it’s not that the West didn’t know what a bastard Stalin was.
Unfortunately, in spite of the Poles’ best efforts to defend their country, mass-murdering atheistic and maniacal regimes — Nazis from the west and Bolsheviks from the east, carved up their country and killed millions with special emphasis on killing Jews. Over time, however, some have confused Poland as the site of the holocaust with Poles as the cause of the holocaust. As historian Neal Pease writes, there is a "widespread belief that the Poles were at least spiritually complicit in the Holocaust." Whatever that means.
What can be said about such views other than that they are a rank historical obscenity? The Poles have been the victims of a historical distortion or inversion. The very reason why the holocaust was focused in Poland was because it had the largest Jewish population in Europe. Over hundreds of years, Jews weighed their options in a hostile world and decided that they were treated better in Poland than in other countries.
About the fate of Poland during and after World War II, we can only say, "Poland got screwed again. What else is new?" Poland did more to fight the Nazis than France did. France gets freedom and a seat on the Security Council. Poland becomes a colony of modern history’s most brutal regime, and, Lenin’s student Hitler being dead, is left with the stigma of a holocaust imposed on it by the largest armies in Europe while the rest of the world slept. When the bullets stopped flying, the timorous critics came out of their bunkers to slam the Poles. Where were you when they needed you?
What have the Poles done to deserve the continual snubs and the subtle and unacknowledged stigma against them? The Poles were magnanimous enough to inform the human race of their location in the universe and they saved Western Civilization lots of times. Not bad for a small, "backward" nation.
No country fought the Nazis and the Bolsheviks — "the culture of death" — more ferociously or courageously. They are the only country I know of that had to fight both at once. Alas, it seems that no good deed — or Pole — goes unpunished.
January 31, 2005
James Ostrowski is an attorney in Buffalo, New York and author of Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including "What’s Wrong With Buffalo." See his website at http://jimostrowski.com.