Polonophobia is Alive and Well at the USHMM (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

  • Beyond Pedagogy: Reconsidering the Public Purpose of Museums by Brenda Trofanenko (Contributor), Avner Segall (Editor)Published January 1st 2014 by Brill – Sense.


This otherwise-unremarkable book inadvertently calls attention to Holocaust-related anti-Polonism among the staff of the USHMM. But first I discuss, for the benefit of the reader, the anti-Polish message that has already been long known in the USHMM public display.

The so-called Kielce Pogrom is included at the USHMM, even though it had nothing to do with the German-made Holocaust, which had ended over a year earlier with the complete defeat of the Third Reich. The odd inclusion of Kielce looks very much like a German guilt diffusion blame-Poles gambit, in which the slayings of several dozen Jews by (probably Soviet-driven) Poles, an unremarkable event in any case, is juxtaposed with the German genocidal murder of 6 million Jews, an extraordinary act. Hitler must be rolling in his grave in delight.

If showing the experiences of Holocaust-surviving Jews is the real reason, for the inclusion of the Kielce pogrom, then why stop there? Why not also include, at the USHMM, the Deir Yassin massacre, of Arab civilians by Jewish guerrillas, if only to show how the Jewish victims had turned into Jewish victimizers within 3 years.


Author Simone Schweber discusses how the USHMM staff resorts to various jokes while at work. For instance, there is the quip, “There is no business like Shoah business.” (p. 110). A room, located on the fourth floor, and used by archivists, is stuffy in the afternoons, and so is called “the gas chamber”. (p. 111).

A staff man, basing their words on an inaccurate scene from SCHINDLER’S LIST, verbalizes his daily workday-ending farewells accordingly, as discussed by Schweber, “…my fellow-fellow, who each night as he left the communal study room cried out to the rest of us remaining there to work, ‘Goodbye Jews!’ Goodbye Jews!’ in an eerily spot-on imitation of the Polish girl in SCHINDLER’S LIST (Spielberg 1993) who waves to the Jews as they are carted off from the ghetto in cattle cars, and you’re not sure if she’s thrilled or bizarrely polite…. (p. 111).

Schweber is, putting it diplomatically, fibbing big time in her contrived ambiguity about this scene. There can be no doubt that the girl was giving a sarcastic farewell to the soon-to-die Jews. [I invite the reader to look up the scene on YouTube (Schindler’s List Goodbye Jews scene) and verify this for yourself.] Besides, the locals were simultaneously picking up globs of mud and throwing it at the Jews. How could the malevolence of the Poles, as portrayed in SWINDLER’S LIST, be any less ambiguous?

I thought that Holocaust education was supposed to eliminate prejudices instead of promoting prejudices. That is the canned talking point used to justify Holocaust education. Evidently, prejudices against Poles are acceptable–both in the American cinema and at the USHMM. The Goodbye Jews scene is a flat Polonophobic lie (well, 99% lie). Actual testimonies, from Polish Jews that survived the Holocaust, indicated that the overwhelming majority of Poles expressed sympathy, not derision, as the Jews were being led by the Germans to their deaths. But, as long as it makes a better movie about the Jewish victim and the Polish Catholic villain, and–better yet–reduces the guilt of the Germans, what do the facts matter?


Jan Peczkis

Published with the author’s permission.


– More reviews by Jan Peczkis on PCO  ….. .

  • Title image:  „Beyond Pedagogy: Reconsidering the Public Purpose of Museums”
    by Brenda Trofanenko (Contributor), Avner Segall (Editor), part of the cover. / selected by wg.pco

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