How does Mr Gross slander the Church

Jerzy Robert Nowak

In the summer of 2006, the book entitled ‘Fear’ by Jan Tomasz Gross was published in the U.S.A. The book was a publication slandering Poland and Poles to a greater extent than ‘Neighbours’, the previous book written by this American Jewish sociologist. The majority of critics explicitly accused Gross of various lies, anti-Polish and anti-Catholic ones, undermining the scientific worth of his book. Suffice to mention the reviews of Polish professors living in the U.S.A John Radzilowski and Marek J. Chodkiewicz as well as the well-known activist of the Polish immigrants’ community in Canada lawyer Ryszard Tyndorf. In the autumn of 2006, my 300-page book entitled ‘Nowe klamstwa Grossa’ [The New Lies of Gross] was published in Warsaw. It unmasked the extremely slanderous, anti-scientific and lampoon-like character of Gross’s publication (you can order my book form the publishing house MaRoN, phone numbers: 0-608-854 215 and 0-503-538 606). It is meaningful that the lampoon written by Gross met a severe, overwhelmingly negative, critical opinion written by Dr. August Grabski, a well-known researcher from the Jewish Historical Institute (Kwartalnik Historii Zydow, issue 3, 2006).

Anti-Polish and anti-Catholic book

The extremely negative opinions of the lies included in Gross’s ‘Fear’ delayed obviously the publication of the Polish version of his book, which appeared over one year and a half after the American edition. Gross, obviously fearing the Polish reaction to his book, made significant changes, including many fragments that were criticised in my response to his lampoon. The characteristic cynicism and dishonesty of his approach to the subject – Gross did not inform his readers about his considerable abridgements and alternations, weaken the still embarrassing expression of the arguments that preyed on Poland and Catholicism. For example, Gross removed one of the most spiteful anti-Catholic slanders from the American edition of ‘Fear’ (p. 162) accusing the Catholic clergy of the ‘ritual murder’ of the Jewish children. Gross wrote, ‘As far as the accusation of the ritual murder is concerned we can clearly discern a different practice that has never been discussed as a controversial problem of the Polish-Jewish relationships. I mean ‘the ritual murder’ of the Jewish children by the Catholic clergy, the crime committed every time when a Jewish child was baptised without the explicit request or authorisation of the child itself or its parents.’
Let me remind you that hundreds of Jewish children were left at the gates of Polish monasteries, and the monks and nuns who provided shelter for the children risked their lives if the Germans had learnt about their Jewish charges. Are these types of accusations of those who risked their own lives hiding Jewish children brought by Gross not examples of extreme anti-Catholic fanaticism?
The various drastic cuts in Gross’s ‘Fear’ could not cover the vulgar anti-Polish and anti-Catholic meaning of his book. My astonishment was even bigger when I learnt that such a lampoon was published by the Publishing House ‘Znak’ in Krakow. In order to image the scale of Gross’s slanders I am going to quote some examples of his anti-Catholic calumny form the Krakow’s edition of ‘Fear’, leaving the anti-Polish lies to my different publication. Attacking the Polish clergy for their attitude towards the Jews Gross wrote (p. 137) about ‘theological cannibalism of the majority of the Bishops’ Conference’ in Poland.’ He accused the Polish clergy of ‘deep anti-Semitism’ during the war (p. 205), claiming that the Polish Church was reputed to play the role of ‘a collaborator through nonfeasance’ (p. 315). The slanderous attacks of Gross against the Catholic Church are vulgar slanders, completely contrary to the historical truth and the authentic testimonies of the Jews who survived the Holocaust. I want to mention the wonderful and moving memoirs of the outstanding Polish mathematician of Jewish background Stefan Chaskielewicz. In his book ‘Ukrywalem sie w Warszawie, styczen 1943 – styczen 1945’ [I was hiding in Warsaw, January 1943 – January 1945] Chaskielewicz wrote, ‘Another chapter, relatively less known, was the wonderful attitude of the Catholic clergy’ (p. 188). I also refer you to the objective testimony of the well-known British columnist Steward Steven, published in his book ‘The Poles’ in 1982. Among other things Steven wrote about the attitude of the Catholic Church towards Jews during the war, ‘The Church showed unique courage in spite of the fact that even the monks and priests were not exempt from persecutions by the authorities. It was determined that almost every monastery in Poland cared for its local Jews, hiding thousands of people, mainly women and children ...Individual acts of heroism of priests are too many to enumerate them here ...Fr Urbanowicz from Brzesc on the Bug River was shot by the Germans in 1943 for helping some Jews. The Rector of the Theological Academy in Warsaw was sent for the same ‘crime’ to the concentration camp in Majdanek, where he was tortured and died in October 1943. The dean of the parish in Grodno and the prior of the Franciscan order were shot for helping Jews.’

Slander against Cardinal Sapieha

The slander against Cardinal Sapieha, Metropolitan of Krakow, one of the greatest figures of the Catholic Church in Poland in the 20th century, spread in Gross’s book, is especially base. On page 206 of the Polish edition of ‘Fear’ we read the opinion concerning Cardinal Sapieha, which Gross quoted, ‘Cardinal appeared to be an evil man, merciless man ... And he was an anti-Semite.’ On page 314 of the Polish edition Gross ‘creatively’ supplemented his slanders against Cardinal Sapieha, included in the English edition, ‘Even Cardinal Adam Sapieha, whose attitude towards the occupant authorities was praised after the war, did not lodge any protest against the Nazi action of murdering the Jews with Governor Frank. Neither his statements nor the statements of other hierarchs of the Polish Church – recollects Fr Stanislaw Musiol in the interview that was published just after his death – have any traces of compassion or concern. This is horrifying.’
One finds no justification to refer to Fr Musiol’s opinion. The late Fr Musiol did not have any deep knowledge about the history of the Polish-Jewish relationships. But he was known for his bias texts, contrary to the stand of the Church concerning the relationships between Christians and Jews. Furthermore, the Primate of Poland Cardinal Jozef Glemp called him a representative of the Jewish option and the Jesuit Society sent him a letter containing the command ‘not to speak about the matter of the Oswiecim crosses and similar topics.’ Cardinal Sapieha of Krakow, whom Gross accused of being an Anti-Semite and who did not show ‘any traces of compassion or concern for Jews’ in accordance with the words of Fr Musiol and Gross, was actually the main organiser of the secret help offered for the Jews living in the region of Malopolska during the war. Jerzy Slaski wrote about the significance of the help for the Jews given by the Metropolitan of Krakow, ‘Cardinal Adam Sapieha of Krakow, who many a time appealed to Frank to stop terror against the Jewish population, was a model for the clergy in this respect (help for the Jews). When his appeals failed he personally directed the rescue action. He provided birth certificates to the Jews, asking his diocesan priests to do that. He opened the gates of religious orders for them. He placed Jewish children in boarding schools and orphanages run by religious congregations. The main helper of the Archbishop was Fr Dr Franciszek Machay from the Blessed Sacrament Church in Krakow-Zwierzyniec, a known social activist and preacher.’
In his book entitled ‘Zaglada Zydow w Krakowie’ [The Holocaust of Jews in Krakow], (Krakow 1985, p. 38) Aleksander Biberstein, a Jewish physician and director of the Jewish isolation hospital in the Krakow’s ghetto, wrote about the interventions of Cardinal Adam Sapieha with the German authorities in 1940. Unfortunately, the only reaction to that intervention, as Biberstein writes (op.cit, p. 223), was the imprisonment of three rabbis who dared to ask the Cardinal’s help and their transport to Auschwitz.’ As we can see, in spite of Gross’s lies, Archbishop Adam Sapieha intervened with the Governor General Frank as early as in 1940. His attempts failed. On the contrary, the appeals caused the criminal German retorsion against the Jews. Would any further attempts make any sense? Cardinal Sapieha focused on the most effective activities: to organise on a wide scale help for the Jews in his archbishopric, the help that was very much appreciated and exposed by authentic historians and not by jealous men and impostors like Gross. In his latest work published in the book entitled ‘Wokol pogromu kieleckiego’ [Around the Pogrom in Kielce] Prof. Jan Zaryn, a historian working in the Institute of National Remembrance and the most outstanding expert in the history of the Catholic Church during the war, wrote about the great merits of Archbishop Sapieha in organising the dangerous actions of rescuing the Jews, ‘The Archbishop of Krakow, in spite of the German ban, let his priests baptise Jews and falsify their certificates as well as he personally intervened in the cases of the Jewish Catholics.’

Why did ‘Znak’ publish the book that preys on Catholics?

Cardinal Adam Sapieha supported ‘Znak’ and ‘Tygodnik Powszechny’ and helped them to come into being and develop to a large extent. Therefore, it is astonishing that in the light of the vulgar slander the chairman of the board of the Catholic publishing house ‘Znak’ that published ‘Fear’, Henryk Wozniakowski did not defend the wonderful figure of the Archbishop of Krakow in his preface to the book. It is amazing that the preface written by Mr Wozniakowski does not include any statements dissociating from the anti-Catholic slanders placed in ‘Fear’. But it is even more amazing that ‘Znak’ decided to publish the book that so much preys on Catholics and Poles. I want to quote, following the Polish Press Agency, the latest commentary of the President of the Institute of National Remembrance Prof. Janusz Kurtyka on the book ‘Fear’ by Gross, ‘I think that Mr Gross can be called a vampire of historiography because his book has little to do with science; above all it uses emotions and a very limited set of sources, which are unilaterally interpreted.’ It is especially shocking that ‘Znak’ published such a valueless lampoon, which brutally attacks the ecumenical dialogue between Christians and Jews, the dialogue that is so important to the Church and to us. Gross’s book favours building new walls of misunderstanding between Poles and Jews, fomenting discords and it is harmful both to Poles and Jews. Let us add that Mr Wozniakowski himself gave totally false information that after the war Poland had been the only country in which Jews felt endangered as Jews.’ Has Mr Wozniakowski not heard about the post-war pogroms in the Ukraine, Slovakia and Hungary? Has he not heard about the criminal anti-Zionist action in the Soviet Union, notabene described by Gross, which resulted in the death of the famous Jewish actor Salomon Michoels, the leader of the Anti-Fascist Committee, the deaths of Zionist physicians and other people?
Besides the especially outrageous slanders against Cardinal Sapieha spread in the book entitled ‘Fear’ we can find various false generalisations concerning such Polish hierarchs as Poland’s Primate Cardinal August Hlond or Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek who was imprisoned and sentenced by the communists during the Stalin’s period. Accusing Cardinal Hlond and the whole Polish Catholic hierarchy (except for Bishop Teodor Kubina) of the lack of public reaction against the crime against the Jews in Kielce in the July of 1946 Gross cynically omits the whole complicated context of the situation in question. First of all, he fails to mention the fundamental thing that the hierarchs had to take into account the possibility that their statements would have been cynically fabricated in the media for the use of the regime and they would have had literary no chances to put it right. There were drastic examples of such falsifications, e.g. the Polish Press Agency deliberately manipulated the course of the talks between the representative of the Jewish Religious Associations Prof. Michal Zylberberg and the Primate August Hlond in the January of 1946. Then the Polish Press Agency informed wrongly that during his conversation with Prof. Zylberberg the Primate had ‘condemned’ the attacks on the Jews and called them ‘criminal activities of the conspirators who attack Jews, fighting against the government (cf. J. Zaryn, Hierarchia Kosciola katolickiego wobec relacji polsko-zydowskich w latach 1945-1947’ [The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in View of the Polish-Jewish Relationships in the Years 1945-1947] in the book ‘Wokol pogromu kieleckiego’, IPN, Warszawa 2006, p. 92). Then the communist authorities did not allow publishing any disclaimer concerning the lies on the pages of ‘Niedziela’ in Czestochowa (cf. p. 92). Gross eagerly refers to the public speech of Bishop Teodor Kubina against anti-Semitism and the pogrom of Jews, presenting him as some kind of ‘the only righteous one’ among the Polish bishops. But at the same time he omits the fact that Bishop Kubina’s appeal was fabricated in the paper for the reason of propaganda by the authorities. The things that were added, without Bishop Kubina’s knowledge, were the political statements, favouring the regime and supporting the authorities, and attacking the independent underground movement. Among other things there were such statements, ‘Today the majority of the society must clearly say that they do not want any crimes and fratricidal fights and they reject the intentions of those irresponsible political factors that favour murders, excesses and riots in the country. The society will muster all possible forces against those factors to defend the order in the country, to defend the lives of fellow citizens and to defend the work of rebuilding the Homeland that has already begun’ (J. Zaryn, op. cit., p. 99). No wonder that seeing such a fabrication of Bishop Kubina’s appeal the Polish hierarchs were critical towards any proposals of public statements concerning the crime in Kielce.
It is amazing that in his preface the Chairman of the Board of ‘Znak’ Mr Wozniakowski did not muster the courage to include a disclaimer on the slanderous generalisations of Gross concerning the attitude of the Catholic hierarchy towards the crime in Kielce. The tendentiousness of Gross is well illustrated in his commentary to the fragment of the statement made by Poland’s Primate Cardinal Hlond, spoken during the meeting with foreign journalists on 11 July 1946. On page 195 of the Polish edition of ‘Fear’ Gross quotes the words of Cardinal Hlond, ‘I cordially desire that the Jewish question in the post-war world will be finally and rightly solved.’ Gross comments those words of Cardinal Hlond, writing ‘In other words, it would be best if all Jews left Poland.’ Is such a comment not a proof of the maximum of evil will for his part?! The rather special verbal ‘invention’ of Gross is his attempt to introduce new terms ‘katoendecja’ and ‘katoendecy’. According to Gross (op. cit., p. 185), ‘A katoendek, in other words, is a special case of Catholic and National Democrat [a member of the right-wing Polish political party created at the turn of the 20th century] – a Catholic priest who got on to politics in the National Democrats’ way and a National Democrat who prays and backs him up.’ It is that invented ‘katoendencki’ [Catholic National Democrat] ideology that Gross makes guilty of murdering the Jews by the Polish people during the war and after the war. The word ‘katoendek’ assumes extremely pejorative meaning, and even slanderous meaning, in Gross’s book and interviews. Thus it is more shocking that Gross uses the term ‘National Democrat historian’ for of the most leading historian of the Institute of National Remembrance Prof. Jan Zaryn who is known for his accuracy and objectivism. In his book (p. 203) Gross uses the epithet ‘shameless’ to describe Zaryn’s book ‘Hierarchowie Kosciola katolickiego wobec relacji polsko-zydowskich w latach 1945-1945’, which I have already referred to. Gross accuses him of having written an alleged hagiography concerning the Church (p. 202). Let us add that after the publication of his ‘Fear’ in Poland Gross keeps saying venomous Anti-Polish and anti-Catholic slanders in his press interviews. For example, in his interview for ‘Dziennik’, the daily published by the Germans (on 12-13 January 2008), Gross dared to spread an extremely horrifying slander that preyed on Poles, saying, ‘On the basis of testimonies of those who lived in those days one can state that Poles were thankful to Hitler for murdering Jews and they thought that he deserved a monument for that. The Poles’ aggression towards Jews did not only result from their getting used to death but from accepting the Holocaust.’
In another interview for ‘Zycie Warszawy’ on 12-13 January 2008 Gross went as far as to say the extremely anti-Catholic slander: ‘By the way, my opinion about the role of the Church in those events is the worst. The Church was not completely able to behave properly in that situation – neither during the occupation nor after the war. That does not only concern the Polish Church. After all, the Pope did not say a word to defend the Jews during those days. So the model that the Polish hierarchy could follow was the worst one.’
As we can see, on the latest occasion Gross combined his slanders against the Catholic Church in Poland with the calumny against the Holy Father Pius XII who according to the Jewish historian Lapide managed to rescue several hundred thousand Jews during the war.
Another Gross’s prank that preys on Catholics can be found in his interview for the weekly ‘Wprost’ on 20 January 2008. Gross went as far as to say slanderously that the Church ‘morally sanctioned the persecutions of Jews. One can even speak about the collaboration of the Church with Nazism through nonfeasance... For millions parish priests were the only carriers of the moral norm. Not saying straight that one cannot kill Jews, persecutions were sanctioned ... most clergymen did not pass the examination.’ At the same time Gross attacked the great Primate of the Millennium Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. The anti-Catholic statements of Gross evoked the critical response of Archbishop Jozef Zycinski. According to ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ dated 14 January 2008, Archbishop Zycinski stated that Gross’s book ‘hurts and divides, often without any reasons.’

"Niedziela" 4/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: