In Defence of My Country by Jędrzej Giertych. 1981.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis / My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
The Unfortunate Necessity of the Endek-Led Boycotts, of Jews, to the Emancipation of Poland From Jewish Economic Hegemony
Author Jedrzej Giertych, the father of scientist Maciej Giertych and grandfather
of politician Roman Giertych, has written a powerful rebuttal to many inaccurate portrayals of Polish history. But he is no blind apologist. For example, he is critical of the way that the pre-WWII Polish government had handled the Ukrainian nationalist movement (p. 398).
THEN AND NOW–SO MUCH ABOUT–WHAT ELSE–POLISH ANTISEMITISM
We hear a great deal about past Polish antisemitism but seldom about the conditions that had set Poles and Jews against each other. Contrary to the stereotype of Poland as a land of pogroms, Giertych points out that antisemitic violence in Russian-ruled Poland was actually of Russian origin. After the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1891, the Russian government had encouraged and organized anti-Jewish riots (p. 268).
THEN AND NOW–ATTEMPTS TO CONNECT POLAND WITH THE GERMAN-MADE HOLOCAUST
In Holocaust materials, history is commonly forced to run backwards and the prewar Jewish experience in Poland is inaccurately portrayed as a forerunner of that under Nazi German-conquered Europe. Giertych soundly rebuts this tendency. His book recounts how Poland had for many centuries been a land of tolerance, where anyone could freely practice his faith as long as loyalty to the state was exhibited. Giertych then shows that Polish opposition to Jews was a relatively recent development, and then of a political and economic nature, generally free of religious prejudice and completely unlike German racial antisemitism. The genocidal extermination of Jews was not even imagined.
SELDOM-APPRECIATED IMPLICATIONS OF THE JEWISH HEGEMONY OVER POLAND
After Poland had lost her independence in 1795, more and more of her Jewish population had shifted their loyalties to Poland’s conquerors. The economic development of the region became concentrated among the Jews, who enjoyed the influx of German and Russian capital. Moreover, Jewish owners tended to hire Jewish workers in preference to Polish ones (p. 262). A large fraction of both local and foreign Jews came to prefer the status quo to the resurrection of an independent Poland. For example, the Jews in Prussian-ruled Poland became self-Germanized, and vehemently opposed the rebirth of Poland. The pro-Russian attitudes of eastern Polish Jews were little better. In time, more and more Poles began to see the Jews as a foreign element that was inimical to Polish interests.
GROWING JEWISH HOSTILITY TO BASIC POLISH NATIONAL INTERESTS
Early 20th-Century Jewish actions that tended to inflame the Poles included the pro-Russian parliamentary Jewish vote [Duma elections] in Warsaw and Lodz (1912), and the numerous antiPolish statements made by Jewish spokesmen in the west (e. g., Lewis Namier, Baron Rotschild, etc., p. 269) at about the time of WWI.
UNDEMONIZING DMOWSKI ON JEWS: WHY THE MUCH-MALIGNED BOYCOTTS WERE NECESSARY
Roman Dmowski, vilified as an inveterate antisemite for organizing boycotts against Jewish monopolies was, for example, strongly opposed to the desecration of synagogues (p. 268). Giertych sees the Polish-Jewish conflicts as no different from other economically-driven ones (e. g., the Chinese-Malay conflicts in Malaysia, or the Italian-German conflicts in Southern Tyrol).
It is inconceivable that the Poles would have allowed themselves to stay a virtual (or actual) economic minority on their own land. Giertych sees the „buy Polish” anti-Jewish boycotts organized by Roman Dmowski as a necessary step in the economic liberation of Poland (p. 267). As for the Jews who lost their livelihoods and had to emigrate, one must remember the many Poles who earlier had been forced to emigrate in penury as a result of Jewish economic monopolies. It had become obvious that Poland was too poor to simultaneously support a Jewish and a Polish economic engine.
The only question was who would be forced to emigrate? Giertych cites Zionist leader Alfred Nossig, who suggested in 1919 that both Poles and Jews should work together for the emigration of half of Poland’s Jews (p. 280). Giertych also quotes from Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, who rejected the notion that Poles had an antisemitic spirit in the usual sense of the word, and who recognized that Polish national and economic self-interest, even when directed against Jews, was really no different from a parent’s preference for her own children over that of another’s offspring (p. 263).
AS JEWS MODERNIZED, THEY BRED THEIR OWN VERSION OF ANTAGONISM TO POLAND’S CATHOLIC CULTURE
Giertych also addresses the cultural wall that had developed between Poles and the newly-assimilated Jews. A large fraction of Jews, including Polonized ones, were atheists. The forces of libertinism and what otherwise is called today the „permissive society” were disproportionately Jewish. In the mostly traditionalist Catholic Polish society, these tendencies stood out prominently, evoking a negative reaction from most Poles. Giertych rejects the notion that this attitude had been a form of antisemitism. Instead, Giertych sees this as a defense of the Polish national spirit. He furthermore insists that the negative Polish reaction would have been the same had the promoters of libertinism been mostly ethnic Poles.
NO, GERMANS. YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO STEAL COPERNICUS FROM THE POLES
Giertych also tackles German revisionists, notably Austin App and Alfred de Zayas. Austin App has recycled some Nazi-era propaganda that had tried to steal Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus) from the Poles and to recast him as a German scientist. In actuality, Copernicus was ethnically Polish on his father’s side, and of mixed Polish-German ancestry on his mother’s side. Copernicus, like his immediate forebears and descendants, was solidly Polish linguistically, culturally, and politically. Even the name Kopernik is clearly of Polish, not German, origin.
THE CANARD OF 2 MILLION GERMAN EXPELLEE DEAD
And, although it has long been refuted, Alfred de Zayas has repeated the canard that some two million Germans had perished during the expulsions of Germans from the lands awarded to Poland after WWII. Giertych shows that, among other flaws, the two million figure is solely an armchair invention resting on dubious inferences from questionable population statistics.
In rebuttal to the „Silesia is eternally German” notions, Giertych shows from church figures that large parts of Upper Silesia (and environs) had been substantially Polish, resisting the pressures of Germanization well into the 19th century. However, in an apparent effort to avoid engaging in Orwellian doublethink, Giertych rejects the argument that Silesia was owed Poland because it had once been substantially Polish. Otherwise, Indians could claim that the Americas belong to them, and must be henceforth returned. Instead, Giertych sees the Polish repossession of Silesia and environs solely as the outcome of the events and treaties of WWII.
Published with the author’s permission.
The title image: „In Defence of My Country” by Jędrzej Giertych. 1981.- the cover.