Institute for Historical Review

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The Myth of the Six Million

16. Polish Jewry and the Extermination Legend

Frank Gibney, in his The Frozen Revolution: Poland, a Study in Communist Decay (N.Y., 1959), offered a graphic description of the new Communist shrine at Auschwitz. He described "the pond at Oswiecim (Auschwitz)" some fifteen miles south-east of the former German industrial city of Kattowitz. Gibney rightly noted that the pond contains tons of bones and ashes, but he was uncritical when assuming, as he did, that these were dumped there in the period "1940-1945." He dealt with Polish and Jewish situations since the 1930's in his book, and he devoted much space to the anti-Jewish race riot at Brest-Litovsk in 1938, in which, unlike the anti-Jewish measures in Germany in November, 1938, some Jews were actually killed. But his book does not contain a single word about the Russians as the actual perpetrators of the mass massacre of the Polish intelligentsia and officers at the Katyn Forest in 1940. Some of the bones in the Auschwitz basin might have been those of the 10,000 other Poles massacred by the Russians who have never yet been accounted for.

Gibney claimed, on the basis of doubtful evidence, that Khrushchev in October, 1956, deplored the prominent role of the Jews in post-war Communist Poland. Khrushchev is alleged to have said that there were "too many Abramovitches in your Polish Party" (Ibid., p. 194). Gibney in this instance was clearly partaking of the fantastic scheme promoted in America in recent years to make the USSR appear anti-Jewish. The assured position of the Jews in the USSR, and the absence of any and all anti-Jewish measures there cannot fail to render such efforts ludicrous.

John K. Galbraith, in his Journey to Poland and Yugoslavia (Harvard University Press, 1958), is similar to Gibney in his general approach, although he is also somewhat more enthusiastic about the Gemulka regime in Poland. Galbraith discusses the impact of the German concentration camp system on Poland (Ibid., pp. 62ff.), but he avoids sweeping statements about the fate of Polish Jewry. Much more detailed information on the prominent role of Jews in present-day Poland is contained in Clifford R. Barnett, Poland: its People, its Society, its Culture (New Haven, 1958). Barnett was carefully vague about the alleged number of Jews in contemporary Poland because of the suppression by the Communists of all statistics on Jews. He did emphasize the conspicuous and omnipresent role of Jewish culture in Poland through the Jewish state theatres, Jewish books and radio programs, and the exceedingly numerous Jewish cultural associations.

Thad Paul Alton, Polish Postwar Economy (N.Y., 1955, p. 106) was less cautious about Polish Jewry, and he accepted a figure from Eugene Kulischer, "Population Changes behind the Iron Curtain" in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Sept. 1950, who made the preposterous statement that there were only 80,000 Jews in Poland by 1949. The pure guess-work which has characterized the glib generalizations of Kulischer on European populations has been recognized to be a highly untrustworthy source for serious scholars.

The playing with figures under the cloak of Communist censorship has been notorious in the case of Polish Jewry. The Jewish joint Distribution Committee, which was permitted by the Germans to maintain offices in Poland until

Pearl Harbor, claimed in figures prepared for the Nuremberg Military Tribunal late in 1945 that the total remaining Jewish population in Poland had been reduced to 80,000. Yet, even Communist masters of Poland were unable to prevent a major pogrom against the Jews at Kielce on July 4, 1946, and within a short time more than 120,000 Polish Jews had fled from the central sector of Poland into Western Germany. Subsequently, the estimate of the number of Jews who had been in Poland at the end of 1945 underwent considerable revision until it was placed even by the American Jewish Year Book, 1948-1949, at 390,000 instead of the earlier figure of 80,000.

The complete absence of reliable statistics has not hindered such writers as Jacob Lestschinsky, The Position of the Jewish People Today (N.Y., 1952, pp. 4ff.) and Jacques Vernant, The Refugee in the Post-War World (London, 1953, pp. 448ff.) from playing fast and loose with the facts in estimating the numbers of Jews in such countries as Poland, Rumania, and the USSR. H.B.M. Murphy, et al., Flight and Resettlement (UNESCO, Lucerne, 1955, pp. 159ff.) show considerable surprise that Jews in D.P. camps have revealed far less mental derangement and emotional instability than other refugee groups. The authors find this astonishing because the Jews are proverbially considered to be the chief victims of World War II. Nevertheless, reflection should indicate that many Jewish D.P.'s had far less devastating wartime experiences than other refugee groups, and, unlike the other refugee groups, who were hopelessly ruined, they emerged from the war as a dominant and triumphant minority.

The central position of Polish Jewry in the great wartime drama was underlined in April, 1943, by the sensational uprising of the Warsaw ghetto against the German authorities, who were planning to evacuate all Jews of that district and send them to the Lublin area. As a matter of fact, most of the Jews had been moved there against considerable opposition before the last-ditch stand began. Jews had fled to Warsaw from many towns in Poland in 1939, and at one time the ghetto contained no less than 400,000 persons. Warsaw was the scene of huge black market operations and a lively trade in currency and contraband goods, including hundreds of German army uniforms which were sold to the Polish underground. The evacuation of the Jews to-the East began on July 22, 1942, and by January, 1943, no less than 316,822 had been transported.

A graphic account of the ghetto battle from April 20, 1943 to its finish on May 16, 1943 is contained in the Stroop, memorandum (Trial of the Major War Criminals, 1945-1946, vol. 26, pp. 628ff.). The Germans accepted a fight to the finish in their effort, with their Polish cohorts, to complete the evacuation of the ghetto by force. The stubborn defense cost the loss of many lives in burning buildings. The German and Polish attackers lost 101 men killed and wounded, whereas the estimated total Jewish casualties were no less than 16,000. About 55,000 Jews were captured and sent to the Lublin area. The details of these events up to the transportation to Lublin were presented in fiction form by John Hersey, The Wall (N.Y., 1951).

More recently, in 1958, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: the Journal of Emanuel Ringelblum, was published by McGraw-Hill in New York. Ringelblum had been an active leader in organizing sabotage against the Germans in Poland, including the 1943 Warsaw uprising, prior to his arrest and execution in 1944. The editors of the American edition of the Ringelblum journal admit that they were denied access to the uncensored original journal at Warsaw or to the copy made of it and sent to Israel. Instead, they have faithfully followed the expurgated volume published under Communist auspices at Warsaw in 1952. This is exactly the same situation that prevailed with the American edition of the so-called Höss memoirs.

The Ringelblum account is, nevertheless, far more bitter than that of Hersey in denouncing the Jewish Council leaders at Warsaw and the Jewish police who did most of the work in arranging for the transportation of the Warsaw ghetto population to the Lublin area. Indeed, the principal emphasis of the book is directed toward the need of Jewish unity in contrast to the disunity which prevailed among the Polish Jews. This has remained the dominant theme of Zionist leaders and it was clearly exemplified by the controversial speech of Israeli Premier David Ben-Gurion on December 28, 1960, which attacked the alleged laxity and absence of true Zionist zeal in wide circles of American Jewry. Israeli Zionism continues to demand the absolute subordination to Israel of all Jews in the non-Communist world.

The Ringelblum journal, like the Hersey novel, refers in general terms, and by rumor only, to the alleged plan of exterminating the Jews of Poland. It has been widely asserted that Polish Jewry was destroyed in World War 11. Yet, quite apart from escape into Russia and emigration to Israel and the West, both Polish exchange professors visiting the United States today and American Poles returning from visits to Poland, agree with Barnett on the major Jewish role in contemporary Poland. The unofficial estimates which they encountered among the Poles themselves were that there are at least half a million Jews in Poland today and probably more than that figure. This figure should be considered in connection with the action exodus of Jews from Poland after 1945 and our earlier estimate that the Jewish population of the German zone of occupation in 1939, which closely approximated in the East the present eastern Polish boundary, could scarcely have exceeded 1,100,000. Certainly enough is known to enable any impartial observer to regard the alleged extermination of Polish Jewry as in part a myth built around the dramatic circumstances of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto during April and May of 1943.

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