Conservative Liberal

FDR would have been a Republican today.

My response to a comment on my first book review

I recently wrote a review of a book I have read: "Two Flags: Return to the Warsaw Ghetto" by Marian Apfelbaum. I submitted this review to the latest Jewish Blog Carnival. That is probably how a commenter by the name of Sultan Knish found me. His comment is 3rd there. He is a typical Jewish Conservative, with views very similar to my own. His blog is very good and nicely done. So it was very strange to read in his comment assertions typically coming from leftist Jews, not unlike frequent accusations of Christian Right of anti-Semitism. Although, I suppose I should not be surprised: I’ve heard many times from fellow Jews, including the ones from the former Soviet Union, who are usually on the Right, that anybody could potentially be an anti-Semite. So I would like to respond to his comment on the front page of this blog. I have to preface my response with this: Sultan Knish and I agree on more issues than we disagree on. In fact, we probably agree on almost everything. So this is a minor disagreement between friends (I am pretty sure we could be friends, had we met).

Sultan Knish begins his comment by asserting: "The Home Army was indeed anti-semitic". What is the basis of this assertion? Or, more to the point, what does it mean? Does it mean that Polish Home Army was an anti-Semitic organization, conducting anti-Semitic policies? Or does it mean that many its members were anti-Semites? Well, I have no doubts that many members of the Polish Home Army were anti-Semites. But so were many members of the US Army, and other Allied armies for that matter. Patton was known to say anti-Semitic things. But that does not make US Army anti-Semitic. As for the Polish Home Army policy regarding the Jews, that was most definitely not anti-Semitic. There is evidence that they did what they could under the circumstances. That includes evidence presented in the book I reviewed.

Sultan Knish also says that much of Poland was anti-Semitic. Again, it is true that anti-Semitism in Poland was rampant. But it is not fair to single out Poles for that. People often talk about Polish anti-Semitism, but forget about the Vichy French, who ran their own concentration cam in Drancy. People forget about Latvians serving in Arajs Kommando, Estonian SS Division, Lithuanian Nazis and Ukrainian SS Division. People forget about Dutch SS and Belgian SS. I am deliberately listing Nazis from the Allied countries. And those Nazis were quite numerous. So, in light of this, singling our Poles does not seem fair. Especially given the fact that among Righteous Gentiles Poles outnumber everybody else. This is really not surprising, since the Jews comprised about 10% of Polish pre-war population and since most of the Holocaust happened on Polish territory. But this also means that there were a lot of people willing to risk their lives to help the Jews, despite rampant anti-Semitism.

Finally, Sultan Knish brings up the notorious Kielce pogrom that happened after the war to prove general anti-Semitism of the Polish population. But there is no need to prove this: I agree that anti-Semitism was rampant in Poland. I mentioned that I read in a Russian-Jewish magazine an article that suggested that the Kielce pogrom was instigated by the Soviet intelligence (this is disputed in the Wikipedia link I referenced above). Even if that pogrom was indeed instigated by the Soviets, it does not mean that there were no Poles perfectly willing to kill the Jews in Kielce. Quite the opposite. The name of the magazine I read that article in is Alef (sorry, the link is in Russian). It is published by Chamah in New York. The author of the article was Vilen Lulechnik, a Jewish military historian from Russia, living in the US (sorry again, the link is in Russian again). But whether that pogrom was instigated by the Soviets or not, it is very hard to suspect the magazine and the author of the article in Polish nationalism. Suggesting that NKVD was involved in the post-war pogroms does not whitewash or excuse the original crime, but merely adds another set of criminals to already existing ones. Comparing my mention of an article in a Jewish magazine to Holocaust denial was a bit offensive (understatement here). It certainly was not my intent to whitewash the crimes of Polish anti-Semites. I am merely attempting to give credit where credit is due. Besides, the times have changed. After all, it was the Polish Members of the European Parliament who boycotted anti-Israeli anti-Semitic hatefest organized by UN. So, while condemning Polish anti-Semites, we should be grateful to those Poles who helped the Jews, who were and are on the side freedom, decency and Western Civilization.

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November 4, 2007 - Posted by | History


  1. Firstly I find your statement that “these assertions typically coming from leftist Jews” to be outright odd, as is a comparison with Conservative Christians in America. The two could not be more dramatically different as even a short read of the history of the Jews in Poland vs that of the Jews in America should make clear. And it’s insulting to American conservative Christians to make that comparison.

    This is not a right vs left issue. Anti-semitism in Poland, of the most vicious kind, was a reality for Jews regardless of political background. If anything it was the left that was more likely to minimize it in favor of a happy common future for Jews and Poles under communism or socialism and Jews on the right who embraced nationalism and escape from Poland to Israel.

    The Jewish nationalist right under Jabotinsky was more likely to share a common language with Polish nationalists than the Jewish socialist left… but it was only because that common language was ultimately premised on Poland for Poles and Israel for Jews ending in the departure of Jews from Poland. It’s the same kind of discussion that can be had with some white nationalists who are okay with the idea of Israel but not with the idea of Jews in America.

    Anti-Semitism in Poland was pervasive, it still remains an obsessive issue even with Poland virtually empty of Jews. Poland’s political support for Israel today exists apart from general Polish feeling toward Jews and has more of a commercial basis than anything else, similar to Israeli ties with Latin America in the 50’s along with a certain element of whitewashing that was an issue and remains an issue in ties between Israel and Germany.

    You’ve linked to a Wikipedia article on the Home Army which rather blatantly whitewashes the reality and consists of apologetics. That’s not unusual in ethnic sections of Wikipedia. The rejection of Jews had nothing to do with a concern for Jews being identified and everything to do with a general distrust of Jews. When it came to Jews there individual initiative that did result in scattered aid to Jewish resistance, but as with the Catholic Church this did not represent an overriding policy.

    There were many Poles who risked their lives to help Jews but unfortunately this was something like a margin of 100,000 to 1 of those willing to help kill Jews… which allowed the Nazis to achieve a kill ratio virtually unseen anywhere else. The Poles were not the only ones who did this, but outside of Croatia, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania, Poland was about the worst.

    The NKVD conspiracy theory is up there with the Mossad bombed Jews in the Middle East to make them move to Israel theory. Such attacks happened on an individual level, well beyond the point where it could have been contrived and even when they occurred on a larger scale, they were really individual attacks exploded on to a mob scale as the narrative I cited demonstrates.

    There are currently Russian military historians with better credentials claiming that Hitler was a Soviet agent who had been put into place as part of a vast conspiracy to bring down Germany.

    Comment by Sultan Knish | November 4, 2007 | Reply

  2. […] discussion of the book review Sultan Knish, with whom I was having a friendly dispute over my recent book review responded to me several days ago.  So, here is my reply.  I’ll try to keep it short because […]

    Pingback by Continued discussion of the book review « Conservative Liberal | November 11, 2007 | Reply

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