Why does Professor Jan Tomasz Gross brutally attack the Church?
Fr Jan Sledzianowski
When the book by J. T. Gross ‘Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz’ appeared in Kielce I bought it at once since the crime committed in Kielce on 4 July 1946 has occupied my mind and conscience for a dozen years. I have written about that event in my book entitled ‘Ksiadz Czeslaw Kaczmarek, Biskup Kielecki 1895-1963’ [Fr Czeslaw Kaczmarek, Bishop of Kielce, 1895-1963], published in 1991. On the 50th anniversary of the crime, in 1996, I experienced, together with other Poles, a terrible smear campaign against our Nation launched by the Jewish circles in the United States and Canada. On that occasion there were many talks and publications about ‘the Polish concentration camps.’ That heated polemical climate in America inclined me to write the book entitled ‘Pytania nad pogromem kieleckim’ [Questions About the Kielce Pogrom] (Wydawnictwo Jednosc, Kielce, 1998, 1999 and 2006). Having read ‘Fear’ I awaited the meeting with Professor J. T. Gross, to be held in Kielce on 21 January 2008. I was not invited to the panel discussion but the local television station and press invited all people for the open public meeting with the author. I arrived at the Zielinski Palace at 5.37 p.m., so I was there 23 minutes before the meeting, which was to begin at 6.00 p.m. Unfortunately, I could not get inside since I did not have a special invitation. I hurried home so that I could watch the meeting with Mr Gross and the invited guests on television. Yet, ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ (issue 19/2008, Wednesday, 23 January 2008) wrote in the article ‘Gross in Kielce’ that ‘there was no representative of the Kielce Curia at the meeting’ (p. 20).
I want to answer ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’, ‘I wanted to come but I was treated as persona non grata (an unwelcome person). In spite of that I want to join the polemical discussion, which Prof. Gross blew up again. In particular, I want to respond to the thesis that the people who are to be blamed for anti-Semitism and the pogrom in Kielce are the following: Poland’s Primate Cardinal August Hlond, Cardinal Adam Sapieha of Krakow, Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek, other bishops and clergy as well as the Catholic society in Poland.
Due to the limitation set by the Editorial Board of ‘Niedziela’ I am going to focus on the ‘epicentre’ of the persecutions of the Jews by the Catholic society (according to J. T. Gross) in Kielce on 4 July 1946. The chronology of the events was as follows.
1. On Sunday, 30 June 1946, in Poland there was the referendum ‘Three Times Yes’. ‘Yes’ for communist Poland, determined and governed by Stalin’s people who were sent from Moscow. ‘No’ meant choosing the London Government and the return to the pre-war political system. It is known that the communists lost the referendum but they did not publish its results at once. They did it only after the so-called ‘Kielce pogrom’, thus turning the world opinion from the referendum and directing it to the tragedy of the murdered Jews. On the evening of 4 July, W. Gomulka announced that the communists had lost the referendum.
2. 4 July is the national holiday in the United States. The communists invited all foreign accredited journalists to the Bristol Hotel in Warsaw where the US Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane lived. He received best wished for the American Nation but at the same time it was regretfully stated that the reactionary underground of General W. Anders ‘finishes off in the remaining Jews in Kielce, those who survived the Nazi Holocaust’. Those correspondents arrived in Kielce and witnessed the funeral of the murdered Jews on 8 July and afterwards took part in the trial that was held in Kielce after the funeral (on 9-11 July). The communists needed them to publicize the crime ascribed to the right wing party, which J. T. Gross sustains today, and the ‘famous’ Adam Humer, questioned by the Chief Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes Against the Polish Nation in the 1990s, stated that all things concerning the involvement of the right wing party in the pogrom were ‘fabricated by the communists.’
3. On Thursday morning, 4 July, Walenty Blaszczyk, who collaborated with the Office of State Security (the UB), a cobbler, woke up his eight-year old son Henryk and ordered him to get dressed (earlier on Monday of 1 July he reported to the police that his son was missing) and brought him to the Police Station at 45 Sienkiewicza Street. The father talked to the policemen whereas the child waited for the father in the yard, together with Jan Dygmarowicz, the drunken neighbour of the Blaszczyk family and a relative of Antoni Pasowski with whom the Blaszczyks lived. The father got out of the station with six policemen, bent over his son and said, ‘you must tell them that the Jews kidnapped you.’ In an interview with Henryk Blaszczyk (who was 58 years old), conducted on 10 November 1996, he told me his experiences that had happened 25 years before, ‘I remember the policemen and some civilians surrounding us, they must have been the workers of the Office of State Security. They went to the Sienkiewicza Street. The policemen accosted people and told them that the Jews had kidnapped me. Dygnorowicz said that I had escaped from the basement. I nodded. When we reached home there was some Jew wearing a green hat in the yard and my father pointed at him as the one who had kidnapped me and kept in the basement. The UB men did not ask any more questions, they did not investigate the matter at all. At once they took me, my father and that Jew and brought us to their office at 10 Focha Street. Heniu stayed with his parents in the UB jail until 17 February 1947 so that nobody learnt about the provocation and lie, which the Office of State Security had invented. Only after the January election of 1947, when the communists’ rule was well established the Blaszczyk family was released from the jail at 10 Focha Street. Whereas the Jew in the green hat (prepared for that scenario) who was to give Henio Blaszczyk a small parcel and 20 zlotys to carry it to house at 7 Planty, the Jewish community house, and who was to take the money and parcel back and threw the boy into the basement – that Jew Kalman Singer, arrested by the UB officers and taken to Focha 10, was seen by nobody. But as the first inciter according to the official UB report about the pogrom he should have been brought to court, gave evidence in court, but on the contrary, the safe wings of the Office of State Security protected him as they kept the lie and the Blaszczyk family.
4. The significant thing is that when Kalman Singer was arrested Dr S. Kohane, the President of the Jews’ Committee, living with 162 other Jews at 7 Planty, demanded his release. At first he phoned Major Wladyslaw Sobczynski, the chief of the Regional Office of Public Security, asking him to intervene and release Singer. When his attempt did not succeed Dr S. Kahane came to the police station at 45 Sienkiewicza Street, claiming that the arrest of Kalman Singer was groundless since the defendant ‘could not have kept the boy in the basement because there is no basement in the residential compound at all.’ Dr Seweryn Kahane was promised that Singer would be released and brought to the house at 7 Planty but some uniformed officers shot Dr Kahane in his office.
5. When W. Blaszczyk, Henius and J. Dygnarowicz were passing by the house in Planty three times they and the policemen accosted people in that street and in Sienkiewicza Street and told them that the Jews had kidnapped that very child. J. Dygnarowicz and Mrs M. Binkowska cried that their children had been with the Jews who murdered them. When the little crowd, ‘urged’ by the promoters of ‘ritual murders’, gathered at the residential compound number 7 from the south side, someone shot towards the policemen and the crowd from the windows of the compound so that some Polish people were the first killed and wounded in the square. In 1988, Frania Kahn recollected in New York that ‘the people who forced their way to our house, rushed into the office from which Dr Kahane phoned and shot him there ... they drove us all out of the house to the square in front of the house. Then I was not wounded, only in the square. No, I was not shot but someone hit me hard, perhaps using some stick. They pushed me and threw me to the ground. I fell. And then one of my colleagues, a Pole, came to me and began moving me by his feet to some toilet, which I think was in the street. He put me in the corner and told me not to move to avoid being killed. Who was that man? One of the attackers, one of the activists of the pogrom. I had known his family before the pogrom; I had been a guest in their house. Before the war they had lived in the old residential compound near the shops... I had visited them before the pogrom. They lived in a different house, in Sienkiewicza Street, in the compound that had belonged to the Herszkowicz family who were known Jews in Kielce. I will not tell his name although I remember it.’ So Professor Gross, who belonged to the activists of the pogrom: the people from the Home Army or the organisation ‘Freedom and Independence’ who were prosecuted by the UB apparatus or the comrades from the proletariat, the UB men taking over the Jewish possessions and when ordered killing the Jews without any scruples since they, as Catholics and Poles, stopped believing in God and began trusting the communist party and Stalin. They did not want Poland but the seventeenth Soviet republic – they wanted that as early as 1920.
6. And what about Bishop Czeslaw Kaczmarek and the clergy in Kielce whom J. T. Gross accuses of being the moral perpetrators of the crime committed against the Jews on 4 July 1946? His thesis stretches the truth in the whole book ‘Fear’, an example being the words ‘The first appeal to the inhabitants was prepared immediately on 4 July by the Governor of Kielce after his consultations with the bishops’ curia. It was signed by the Kielce Province Governor Wislicz-Iwanczyk and Bishop Kaczmarek’ (p. 188). This is the lie told by Wislicz-Iwanczyk who was a communist and now repeated by J. T. Gross because during those days Bishop Kaczmarek was taking a cure in Polanica Zdroj and he did not sign any documents during his stay there. But at 10.00 a.m. in the Kielce cathedral – when there was no killing in Planty, a solemn Mass for General Wladyslaw Sikorski, was starting. It was held on the anniversary of his death. After the Mass when the news reached Fr Roman Zelka, the parish priest, (Planty belonged to his parish) he and Fr Jan Danilewicz, who worked in the Diocesan Curia, went to the site of the murder without any delay. Unfortunately, an army patrol held them in Sienkiewicza Street, at the turning into Planty. They were ordered to return home since the situation was under control by the UB officers and their presence at the Jewish house was not welcomed.
The second closest church is the Holy Cross Church run by the Salesians of John Bosco. The First Communion ceremony was held there on 4 July. So we can conclude that the two communities were praying while the communist terrorist groups were killing the Jews. The second communist group to kill the Jews was organised by Piotr Jedrzejczyk from the steel mill ‘Ludwikow’. He was the director of the Labour and Salary Department, belonged to the board of directors and was the ORMO (Polish voluntary militia) commander for the city of Kielce. The band led by Jedrzejczyk reached Planty about 2.00 p.m. They took with them some comrades belonging to the Polish Workers’ Party and the Polish Socialist Party. The eye-witness A. Drozdzenski remembered that ‘from time to time a few or several men rushed into the building and brought new victims, who were then brutally murdered. The same men did that – some 30-40 thugs and several witches.’
W. Sobczynski, who was responsible for the security in the city and the Russian Colonel Shpilevoy watched from the distance through the binoculars how the band was killing the Jews. Moreover, there was even a plane (that flew from Warsaw) over the square where the Jews were being killed. He circled over the square at the height of some 60 meters, the height that was convenient for Julia Pirotte who took photos and shot a film (J. T. Gross placed her photo in ‘Fear’ on p. 216). Therefore, the murder was documented for the world opinion.
When another terrorist group from the steelworks ‘Ludwikow’ murdered the Jews in the second stage, the Governor E. Wislicz - Iwanczyk phoned Fr R. Zelka asking him to come to Planty again and stop the massacre of the Jews. Fr Zelek, Fr J. Danilewicz and three other priests from the cathedral parish went towards Planty and at the turning to Kapitulna and Sienkiewicza they got separated and two of them went along Lesna reaching Planty from Piotrowska and the other three walked along Sienkiewicza and turned to Planty but the thugs who were killing the Jews were gone. No militia, no army, no security... the action was completed!
7. In my book ‘Pytania nad pogromem kieleckim’, chapter VII, pp. 157-193, 3rd edition, I described the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the murder of the Jews in Kielce. Now I would like to stress that it is a lie that the Church was indifferent towards the Jews killed in Poland after the Russian Army had entered, i.e. after 1945. The statement of Cardinal A. Hlond, issued on 11 July 1946, expressed his defence of the Jews:
1) ‘The Catholic Church always and everywhere condemns all massacres. It condemns them in Poland regardless of who commits them and regardless of who the victims are: Poles or Jews, in Kielce or in any other part of the Polish Republic...
2) During the exterminational German occupation the Polish people, in spite of the fact that they were persecuted themselves, supported, hid and saved Jews risking their own lives. Many a Jew owed his life to some Pole and Polish priests. The fact that the good attitude is getting worse, it is the Jews, being political leaders and aiming at forcing the political forms that the majority of the nation does not want, that are responsible to a great extent. This is a harmful game since dangerous tensions arise. Unfortunately, some Jews and a much bigger number of Poles, are killed in the terrible armed clashes in the political front in Poland.’
Before the above quoted fragments of his appeal, on 8 July 1946, Primate A. Hlond stated that ‘the absence of Bishop Kaczmarek of Kielce during the pogrom made some people assume that the Church was indifferent towards the tragic fate of the murdered Jews.’ When Bishop Cz. Kaczmarek returned to Kielce from Polanica Zdroj he established a commission to examine all the events of the massacre of the Jews in Kielce on 4 July 1946. At the beginning of September 1946 he published a report, which he gave to Arthur Bliss Lane, the US Ambassador in Warsaw. The document was based on the works of the commission whose members included the regional prosecutor Jan Wrzeszcz (he was expelled from the square in front of the house where the UB chief Wladyslaw Sobczynski- Spychaj directed the pogrom). The whole report of Bishop Czeslaw Karczmarek of Kielce was included in the book ‘Wokol pogromu kieleckiego’, pp. 185-201 (Warsaw 2006).
We need to quote a small fragment from this important document, ‘The Church daily and constantly proclaims love of your neighbour that eliminated anti-Semitism; the Church openly and most eagerly extends her hands to the Jews of good will and definitely forbids attacking Jews (the document of the Kielce Curia, dated 11 July, called the massacre in Kielce ‘an outrageous crime’ that should be ‘completely and absolutely condemned’) but it is demanded that the Church publicly and officially states that Poles and Catholics do not have any right grudge against them.
It seems that the Church is demanded to approve the system of terror, which is being applied in Poland nowadays.
If the governmental press points out love of neighbour to the Church, which the Church allegedly does not show towards Jews; if one continuously speaks about her duties, that can finally provoke the Polish Bishops’ Conference to fulfil the demand and her duty, namely the Church will tell Polish Catholics the whole truth not only about the killing of the Jews but also about the killing of those thousands of Poles whose deaths were not investigated and about those magnificent court trials that are not spoken of by all radio stations and that are not reported by the newspapers of the whole world.’
The historian from Kielce Dr Zenon Wrona (who died and did not know the report of Bishop Kaczmarek) commented on the demands of the communist press, which were related by Bishop Kaczmarek, but which Wrona knew from other historical sources, ‘It looked that the press demanded an official acceptance of the whole terrorist system by the Church, the system that the communists introduced in Poland. Could the opinion of the Church under those conditions, when the communist authorities acted as defenders of the Jews, not be used as an act supporting the communists? Could the Church in Poland in 1946 put herself in an ambiguous situation towards the Catholic nation that did not accept the forced authorities to an immense extent?’ Can the questions of the sincere researcher of the Kielce events of 4 July 1946 Dr Zenon Wrona impress Prof. J. T. Gross in any way?
8. Like thousands of Polish people Bishop Czeslaw Karczmarek was arrested by Jozef Swiatlo, a Jew, on 20 January 1951. He was maltreated and fabricated to the trial by Jozef Rozanski Golberg. It was him that wrote in ‘The Special Report for the Minister of Public Security General Stanislaw Radkiewicz’:
‘It can be concluded on the basis of the unverified materials given by the Investigation Department of the Ministry of Public Security dated 15 October 1951 that the priests of the Kielce Diocese Danilewicz Jan, Zelek and ‘Notary’ – the secretary in the Curia, former member of the Home Army whose name could not be established, prepared and directed the Jewish pogrom in Kielce, organised by the hostile underground in 1946. But in order to take the accusations from the person of Bishop Karczmarek Czeslaw they made him take a cure during that time.’
Indeed, what happened that when Bishop Cz. Kaczmarek, forced to admit that he had organised the pogrom with the soldiers of Anders’s army, when his trial was held in September 1953, was accused of leading an anti-people’s and anti-state plot, of hiding a radio station and weapons under the cathedral, etc., the pogrom of the Jews in Kielce with him as its perpetrator was not mentioned at all. Why did the matter remain silent? In fact, nine ‘perpetrators’ of the pogrom, people who were there by accident, were sentenced to death and executed. Why was Bishop Kaczmarek pardoned for this ‘guilt’? Why were he and the priests from Kielce never accused of that crime later? T. Wiacek wrote the truth, ‘The pogrom of the Jews in Kielce on 4 July 1946 was covered by a curtain of silence for dozens of years.’ Moreover, those who wanted to examine those events in the times of the Polish People’s Republic were threatened and punished. The archival documents were burnt so that nobody would examine the issue and discover the truth in the future.
However, courageous J. T. Gross went ahead of the Office of State Security and the Soviet NKWD of the Stalin’s times and attacks with extreme brutality the Catholic Polish society (since Cardinals A. Hlond, A. S. Sapieha, S. Wyszynski and Bishop Cz. Karczmarek are dead) and cries that we are anti-Semitic, that we robbed our neighbours. This is a hard experience for us, which we should not experience in ‘Fear’ but with dignity knowing that we did the biggest good and rescued the biggest number of lives of our older brothers in faith during the night of the Nazi occupation. We should remember about our brotherly love for J. T. Gross, having in mind the words of our Saviour Lord Jesus, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.’