Debunks the Oft-Repeated Holocaust Myth That, Until Recently, Poles Had Disregarded or Marginalized the Jews’ Holocaust

In this review, I focus not on Holocaust filmography, but on historical trends.


The Communist puppet state, the Soviet-imposed PPR (so-called Polish People’s Republic), had many vices, but ignoring the Jews’ Holocaust was not one of them. Author Haltof makes this clear. It is unclear why this myth originated. It likely is a role-reversal: A fake mirror-image of the very-real Jewish disregard and minimization of the Polokaust, in which millions of ethnic Poles were murdered by the Germans.

In accordance with extreme forms of this myth, Poles had long forgotten about the prewar Jews and their destruction during the Shoah. According to the imagination of the likes of media-promoted Jan T. Gross, this forgetting was deliberate. It was caused by Poles repressing their guilt for not having helped the Jews enough, and, better yet, out of some mythical long-repressed Polish guilt for having acquired Jewish property. [Can the Holocaust Industry be further behind?]

According to milder forms of this myth, Poles did remember their exterminated Jews–but “only” in indirect ways. Thus, Jewish and Polish victims of the Nazis were “merely” conflated as Polish citizens, victims of fascism, etc. So Poles did not pay sufficient homage to Holocaust supremacism.
Even this was only PARTLY true, and, even then, generally limited to the first ten years after WWII, as elaborated next. However, this was hardly something specifically Polish. In fact, Haltof points out that it was common, all over the world, at the time, for Jews not to be particularly singled out as victims of the Nazis. (p. 44).


It has been argued, especially with reference to the Jedwabne trial of 1949, that the new Communist government was indifferent to what had happened to the Jews, and was eager to “move on” past Jewish-related matters. This was far from the truth. The Communists built a monument to honor the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1946, while one to the Polish 1944 Warsaw Uprising was not built until the fall of Communism. (p. 56).

Communist propaganda, beginning in 1944 Poland, consistently connected anti-Semitism not only with fascism, but also with pre-WWII Poland in general. (p. 16). Nowadays, the successors to the Communists—the LEWAKS and the cultural Marxists (kulturowe marksizm)—do the same.


Author Marek Haltof divides the post-WWII period into four main stages: Postwar Beginnings (1944-1955); the Polish School Period (1955-1965); the Years of Organized Forgetting (1965-1980); and what, for want of a more specific term, may be called the modern period (1980-Present).

Now let us consider the changes that followed the death of Stalin. Haltof comments, “During the Polish School period in the late 1950s and at the beginning of the 1960s, several young filmmakers, including Stanislaw Rozewicz, Andrzej Wajda, and Andrzej Munk, significantly contributed to the representation of the Holocaust. Their films were followed by the state-imposed stage of ‘organized forgetting’. The struggles with censorship, and the banning of several projects in the late 1960s and in the 1970s, finally gave way to a renewed interest in the subject in the 1980s.” (p. 227).

As for how Jews were portrayed, Haltof suggests that, during the Postwar Beginnings (1944-1965), Communist ideology reigned supreme in films, and the plight of Polish Jews was not specifically addressed. (p. 214). However, the Holocaust itself was an explicit theme during the Polish School Period (1955-1965), and Haltof gives several examples of this. (pp. 214-216). Even during the years of Organized Forgetting (1965-1980), Jews were not literally forgotten (p. 119). Instead, the emphasis was shifted to Polish aid to fugitive Jews. (pp. 216-217). After about 1980, interest specifically in the Jews increasingly became prominent. (pp. 217-on).


When prominent Polish filmmaker Andrej Wajda completed his classic film, KORCZAK, Claude Lanzmann leveled the bizarre but all-too-frivolous accusation that Wajda was an anti-Semite.

In response, Haltof states the following, “According to several Polish sources, the French accusations of anti-Semitism directed against Wajda and his film served to cover up French wartime past and their present anti-Semitic excesses, like the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Carpentras, which happened during the release of KORCZAK.” (p. 198). Wajda himself expressed the opinion that the French preferred to lecture Poles on anti-Semitism instead of dealing with such matters as the French-German collaboration that had included the Vichy government and the French police dispatching France’s Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz. (p. 198).


On other matters:


This work features a variety of scholars, and not just the familiar small circle of Judeocentric ones. For instance, Haltof features some of the works of historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. This includes (p. 110) his Tajne oblicze GL-AL i PPR: Dokumenty (Polish Edition) [See my review], his (p. 251) Between Nazis and Soviets: Occupation Politics in Poland, 1939-1947, and (p. 10, 25) his After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II (East European Monograph) [See my review].


Unlike most Holocaust-related works, which exclusively promote the view that Jews were victims and nothing else, this one does not. It presents both sides of many issues. For instance, this work is candid on the fact, and magnitude, of Jewish-Soviet collaboration—in 1939 and again in 1944-on. (e. g, pp. 17-20).

Author Marek Haltof provides details on how many of Poland’s pre-WWII Jewish filmmakers, after the defeat of Poland in 1939, turned against Poland, and began to openly collaborate with the Communists, “It has to be stated that [Aleksander] Ford was not the only Polish filmmaker of Jewish origin who had worked for the Soviets. Stanislaw Wohl, Adolf Forbert and his brother Wladyslaw, Leon Jeannot (Lejbele Katz), and Ludwik Perski gathered toward the end of 1939 in Lvov (Lwow) and later in Kiev, shere they found work in Soviet cinema. They contributed to several Soviet films that were clearly of anti-Polish nature.” (pp. 54-55). They, and other named filmmakers who were Polish Jews, continued their pro-Soviet activities in Poland on the heels of the Red Army’s entrance into Poland in 1944. (p. 13).


Jan Peczkis


Published with the author’s permission.


  • Title image:  Part of cover: „Polish Film and the Holocaust: Politics and Memory” by Marek Haltof. Source: / selected by wg.pco

Polish-Club-Online-PCO-logo-2, 2018.08.11.