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Oto tekst listu przesłanego do uczestników Międzynarodowej Konferencji “Holocaust in Poland – New Findings and New Interpretations,” Princeton University, New Jersey, October 29-30, 2010.

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In the wake of the seminar, I would like to address the apparent dichotomy between some questioners from the floor and scholarly responses.
Two major misunderstandings/deficiencies were obvious. On one hand, some of the “Polish side” questioners were emotional, not particularly articulate, and likely unaware of the context of the Conference and the research presented there.  Specifically the Conference addressed only some newly documented crimes committed by the ethnic Poles, particularly in the countryside, while not necessarily questioning the bigger picture of Poles and Polish State being primarily the victim and not a culprit during WW II. It is also clear that for many Poles acceptance of many documented facts of crimes committed on the Jews during the war is difficult and painful.

On the other hand, the presenters were apparently not attuned to some disturbing circumstances surrounding the discussion of these topics. One of the questioners attempted to bring the attention of the panelists to the fact that their comments and writings are frequently used out of context by the mainstream US media. For example, Dr. Browning, when presenting new information on the fate of a specific group of Jewish prisoners who escaped from the transport to Treblinka concluded that this particular group of people was more likely to survive by continuing their trip to the concentration camp than by attempting to escape and trying to find help in the Polish countryside (a correction – the comparison Dr. Browning had made was between slave laborers from Starachowice factory who reported to the transport to Birkenau as opposed to those who tried to escape from the factory). As it was elucidated by the author, the exceptional circumstance here was the fact that this group of prisoners (in the transport) was destined to eventually serve as forced labor in the Reich (as opposed to the common fate of those destined to Treblinka (Birkenau), which was 100% fatal). The feared (and likely) scenario here is that at a later date some mainstream media may report that the new research documents that it was safer for the Jews in Poland (skipping modifier “in German-occupied Poland”) to go Treblinka (Auschwitz/Birkenau) than to hide in Polish countryside – or something akin. While the researchers naturally know the bigger picture, that does not translate at all into the common perception shaped by the mass media. In the past, I specifically queried some American acquaintances of mine about Poland and WWII, and the first and frequently the only association for them was that Jews were killed in Poland during the war.

It was also disappointing to hear in the voices of some of the participants what I perceived by anti-Polish sentiments, apparent in disparaging comments of Dr. Barbara Engelking regarding the letter from the Polish Consul General sent to the participants and through Dr. Gross’s statements about Polish crimes and guilt repeated more than few times throughout the Conference. Dr Gross’s efforts to control the mike and run down the clock of the discussion time without acknowledging the voices from the floor and his contempt for the “unscholarly” voices were quite telling.

I have the following questions to the Panelists and suggestions for consideration:
1. As you know, a comparable number of the ethnic Poles and ethnic Jews (about 2.5 – 3 million in each group) died during the war in Poland. In particular, some 150,000 Poles (mostly not ethnic Jews) were imprisoned and killed in Auschwitz in 1940-41 before it became the killing grounds for the Jews. My grandparent’s brother, colonel Rudolf Patoczka and his wife Jadwiga were among those who perished there for participating in the already active Resistance. My question is as follows: have the historical records been investigated for any traces of help to the ethnic Poles extended by their Jewish brethrens?
2. In regards to the rampant Polish anti-Semitism in the pre-war Poland, like that at the Universities and in the medical profession, how does that racial discrimination stack-up against the situation in the host country, USA, in the same time frame? Was Poland ahead or behind the USA during that time in respect to the treatment of their minorities? How did the Jews help blacks in their predicament?
3. As those who rely for their information on the mainstream, “independent” US media may not know, Israel (that’s mostly Holocaust survivors and their descendants), in our times, attacked all of its neighbors in order to annex territory and command land and water resources (and I am an environmental and water resources engineer by profession) for its benefit - and that of the mostly Russian-speaking new émigrés. My question is what, if any, lessons from the past (like the past researched by You) would benefit the situation in the Middle East? And how are Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Israel engaged into eradicating racial discrimination now and there?
4. Several authors discussed greed and fear as likely motifs for the crimes committed against the Jews by the Poles in the German-occupied Poland. Revenge was also at play (for alledged collaboration with Russian occupiers), as could be plain ethnic dislike of others (and their disproportionate presence in some elite professions) and inferiority and/or superiority complex. While significant resources in terms of grant money and expense allowances are apparently available to the unearthing of all evidences of Polish anti-Semitism from the first half of the last century, I am curious what kind of research is being conducted on the motifs of ethnic cleansing done recently (and on-going) in the Middle East?
On a final note, The Kosciuszko Foundation in New York has initiated in recent days a petition drive to protest the use of the phrase “Polish concentration camps” prevalent in the US media.
Would you consider signing it?

Dr. Jerzy (Jurek) Patoczka
Basking Ridge, NJ