Although this book was originally written many years ago, it is very timely in the light of recent events (Spring 2018). Poland had passed a law criminalizing the declarations of Nazi German death camps as “Polish”, and criminalized the declarations of the Polish NATION as “complicit in the Holocaust.” Note that this new law does not outlaw any research on INDIVIDUAL POLES collaborating with the Nazis, which is very different from the totally-mendacious accusations of the Polish NATION complicit in the Holocaust. Despite endless corrections, the media continues to misrepresent the new Polish law with all kinds of scare tactics, acting as though it was siding with the most strident Jewish accusers of Poland.
Of course, „Polish death camps” does not have to be literal. It is a media provocation–a rhetorical device–designed to create negative images of Poles in the eyes of the general public, and to do so for the selfish benefit of the Holocaust opportunists.
COLLABORATORS. BIG DEAL…
The fact of individual Polish collaborators itself is totally unremarkable: Individuals can be found in every nationality and in every war, from the dawn of history, who had collaborated with the enemy. Browning moves beyond the media spin, and rationally examines why Poles occasionally acted in an untoward manner.
INDIVIDUAL POLES DID SOMETIMES KILL JEWS—FOR GOOD REASONS
All in all, scholar Jason Browning departs from the usual anti-Polish bias of much popular-level Holocaust material. All sorts of fantastic accusations are leveled against Poles, about killing Jews, notably by the likes of neo-Stalinist authors Jan T. Gross, Barbara Engelking, and Jan Grabowski vel Abrahamer. The media uncritically picks up these accusations, hurling them at Poles with a complete disregard as to their veracity, and in a complete contextual vacuum of the actual events.
In contrast, Browning realizes that Poles denounced or killed Jews not out of some primitive bloodlust against those poor, innocent Jews, or out of their deep, “hyper-Catholic” convictions, but for very prosaic and justifiable reasons. He writes, „Many other Poles volunteered information about Jews in the woods who had stolen food from nearby fields, farms, and villages in their desperate attempt to stay alive.” (p. 126). Clearly, Poles killed Jews for stealing from them! [Browning could have added that the German occupation policies had reduced the food rations of Polish gentiles to near-starvation levels, so the Poles ALSO faced a „desperate attempt to stay alive.” Not surprisingly, Poles saw robbery as a life-and-death matter, and the widely-disseminated German propaganda that portrayed fugitive Jews as bandits (that should be denounced or liquidated) found credibility among parts of the Polish peasantry. In addition, robbery during wartime is commonly a capital crime.]
THE MYTH OF “POLISH COMPLICITY IN THE HOLOCAUST”: POLISH COLLABORATORS WERE ACTUALLY VERY FEW AND FAR BETWEEN
In the wake of the Jedwabne „revelation”, Jan T. Gross has misquoted Browning as evidence for the eagerness of Poles to kill Jews. The facts are exactly the opposite. Out of a potential pool of about 25 million ethnic Poles, the Germans found so few Poles willing to kill Jews that they were forced to turn to other eastern European nationalities and to bring them on German-occupied Polish soil! Browning writes, „Unable to satisfy his manpower needs out of local resources, [Odilo] Globocnik prevailed upon [Heinrich] Himmler to recruit non-Polish auxiliaries from the Soviet border regions. The key person on Globocnik’s Operation Reinhard staff for this task was Karl Streibel. He and his men visited the POW camps and recruited Ukrainian, Latvian, and Lithuanian `volunteers’ (HILFSWILLIGE, or HIWIS)…” (p. 52). Also note that: „…large units of murderous auxiliaries–the notorious HIWIS–were not recruited from the Polish population…” (p. 158).
DISALLOWING THE CUSTOMARY DIFFUSION OF RESPONSIBILITY AWAY FROM THE GERMANS
This issue goes far beyond the usual media mendacity about “Polish death camps” and the tales of “Polish complicity in the Holocaust”. It is often much more subtle than that.
Author and scholar Browning is careful to screen-out attempts by the German killers to shift the blame for their criminal actions on the Poles: „…the greater the share of Polish guilt, the less remained on the German side.” (p. 155). He is also put off by the newfound self-serving morality among the German defendants relative to wartime Polish conduct: „The same cannot be said for most others who accused the Poles of `betrayal’, never mentioning that it was German policy to recruit such people and reward such behavior.” (p. 156).
NOT ONLY JEWS SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF THE NAZIS
This work is primarily about the role of „ordinary” middle-aged German citizens in the murder of Jews. To his credit, and unlike the case with most educational Holocaust materials, Browning does not limit himself to a purely Judeocentric approach to the Holocaust. He touches on the Polokaust (or Polonocaust). That is, he also discusses the role of Battalion 101 in the murder of considerable numbers of Polish Christians.
THE POLOKAUST (POLONOCAUST) OR POLISH GENOCIDE
In Holocaust-related discourse, we are frequently reminded that, in contrast to 90% of Poland’s Jews, some 10% of ethnic Poles were murdered by the Nazi Germans. Why the disparity?
Because the Germans Found Out That They Lacked the Manpower to Murder Poles on the Scale of Tens of Millions!
Because it Would Be Too Disruptive of the Exploitation of German-Ruled Poland:
Because the Political Fallout Would Be Unacceptable:
Because the Reich Needed a Reservoir of Forced Laborers:
Long-Term Nazi Plans (GENERALSIEDLUNGSPLAN) Did Include the Extermination of Poles:
However, Some Nazis Thought That 70 Million Slavs Could Not Be Exterminated, Even if Germany Won the War, Owing to Strictly Utilitarian Reasons:
BUT HOW MANY POLES DID THE GERMANS ACTUALLY KILL GIVEN THE TIME THEY HAD?
“3 MILLION POLES” MURDERED BY THE GERMANS (NAZIS)–THE FIGURE MAY ACTUALLY BE MUCH GREATER!
The “3 million Poles” was established by careful postwar research. It still finds support from at least some current historians—notably Tomasz Szarota. Furthermore, uncertainties in this figure go both ways. The Polish Jews murdered amount to 2.7-2.9 million. Andrzej Chmielarz points out that the total number of Polish citizens who lost their lives during WWII could be as low as 4.5 million or as high as 8 million. This means that the number of Polish gentile victims of Nazi German genocide could actually be as high as 5.3 million! [For documentation of these facts, please see pp. 90-91 of the following scholarly IPN publication: Materski and Szarota (eds). 2009. POLSKA 1939-1945: STRATY OSOBOWE I OFIARY REPRESJI POD DWIEMA OKUPACJAMI. Warsaw.]
Source: Amazon – Customer Review, May 1, 2018.
Published with the author’s permission.
Title image: Picture from Review of “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland” – The Red Phoenix, Nov. 19, 2010./ Selected by wg.pco