About anti-Semites, Nazis and camels

Czeslaw Ryszka

Searching happiness abroad one can face such situations that our young immigrants have never dreamt about. Recently, on the wave of increasing aversion the British daily ‘The Times’ published a text by Giles Coren, who claimed that when he looked at the wave of the Polish immigration in Great Britain he had mixed feelings. He remembered that his Jewish family had had to leave Poland because ‘the ancestors of these Poles now going home used to amuse themselves at Easter by locking Jews in the synagogue and setting fire to it.’ Coren added that Poland had never accounted for her anti-Semitism; Poland has admitted about that neither to herself nor to the Jews. The Polish Ambassador to the UK Barbara Tuge-Erecinska protested against these statements, regarding them as ‘unjust, unreliable, resulting from a lack of knowledge and prejudices towards Poles who have been accused of anti-Semitism.’ Responding to this, in her letter to ‘The Times’ Baroness Ruth Deech, the former BBC governor and a Jewish activist in Britain, accused the Polish government of not fulfilling its promise to compensate the Jews who had lost their properties during the world war. According to Deech the Polish government should set up a commission on restitution of the former Jewish properties in Poland (I want to remind you that Jews demand 67 billion dollars of restitution for their properties left in Poland). This does not end the anti-Polish publications in ‘The Times’. In its issue of 2 August 2008 the editorial board published the letter of Martin D. Stern from Salford who claimed that the Germans had placed their concentration camps in Poland and other Eastern European countries and not in the West because they had known about the aversion of the local people towards their Jewish fellow citizens. Similar texts, directly referring to ‘Polish concentration camps’ quite often appear in the world press and such people like Martin D. Stern tell all kinds of rubbish and lies. The question is: what is it for? It is the Poles that have the biggest number of trees planted in Yad Vashem. It is Poland that was the only country in the occupied Europe where helping Jews was punished by death! As far as the restitution is concerned it is Baroness Ruth Deech and other leaders of the Jewish organisations, mainly in the USA, demanding the restitution or compensation from Poland, that know very well that our country was the object of the military aggression of Germany and of Soviet Russia in 1939. The transformation of property rights that happened then cannot burden the Polish state morally and materially with the restitution. If anyone is to be burdened it should be Germany and Russia because according to the international law they are the legal successors of the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Therefore, these countries should be asked about the restitution of properties.
However, the astonishing thing is that recently in the international arena the US Congress joined the campaign of humiliating our country by passing a resolution concerning the restitution of the Jewish property; property that was allegedly confiscated by Poland. Certainly, this declaration of the Congress is only a pre-election means of the powerful Jewish lobby in the USA, wanting to divide and marginalize the Polish community in the presidential election. However, why did I not hear any kind of protest of the Polish government against these unjustified demands? As far as I know the only organisation that voiced a protest in America was USOPAL (Unión de Sociedades y Organizaciones Polacas en America Latina). In Poland only the parliamentary club of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) reacted shyly, proposing to demand from the USA some restitution for the unimaginable losses that the Yalta Treaty brought to Poland. Writing about Poles being accused of anti-Semitism or Nazism I have the impression that we ourselves contribute to spread this accusation. In Warsaw there are many commemorative tablets with the inscriptions that the Nazis or Fascists shot Poles or Jews in this very place. American tourists ask, ‘And who were the Fascists or Nazis?’ They must answer the question themselves. And they do. They answer that they must have been the so-called wicked Poles. Should we not have written more precisely that those who committed the murders were Germans or Russians? Why has no one thought to change the old communist tablets and put new ones, in several languages? After all the Fascists, Nazis and communists were not visitors from the universe. They had their nationalities; those were Germans or Russians as well as Polish communists. That’s why we should write and speak about those events in a very precise way.
And by the way, I feel sorry for numerous young Poles who leaving their country face humiliation; they are accused of anti-Semitism or Fascism. Well, immigration always leads to certain historic confrontation, to verification of one’s attitude. When immigrating, people often find themselves in environments of various points of view. It is often a time of trial. Therefore, the important thing is the experience of your family upbringing, of Polish schools; the knowledge of history is important and all ingredients of personality that give a strong feeling of belonging to the community called ‘nation.’ Poles share a strong sense of nationality. That’s why when asks about our historic faults we should answer that Poland has been ‘a country without burning stakes’; a country to which all national groups who had to leave other parts of Europe because of ethnic or religious persecutions came freely, and the Jewish people who say that they are very much persecuted over the Vistula today, enjoyed such privileges that they had never had in other countries. It is true that currently, in the times of the Citizen’s Platform in power the restitution demands might intensify (during his visit to Israel Prime Minister Tusk obliged himself to pass a reprivatisation act very quickly). No wonder that we have the illegal activities of Baroness Deech on the one hand and Erika Steibach, representing the German environments, on the other hand.
Unfortunately, we must convince the world ourselves that we are not anti-Semitists, Nazis, Fascists and camels!

"Niedziela" 34/2008

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