Anti-Polonism

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Anti-Polonism (alternatively spelled antipolonism; also, Polonophobia) is a term denoting an irrational or malicious hostility toward Poles as a nation or as a cultural community.

American Anti-Polonism[edit]

The rebirth of Poland in the wake of the First World War and bloody national, ethnic and ideological strife in the East Central European borderlands added a new dimension to anti-Polonism as Poles and Poland were tarred with the brush of extreme anti-Semitism. Despite the fact that most of the terrible atrocities against Jews in the contested borderland were the work of Red and White Russian Armies, sensational press reporting, political considerations, ideological sympathy for revolutionary Russia and antipathy to its Polish opponent labeled Poland irrevocably as the most anti-Semitic of nations. The great Jewish historian, Salo Baron testified to the depth of this conviction when he wrote in his reflections on Jewish history that: “Denying, for example, that any large scale pogroms had taken place in the territories of ethnographic Poland before 1936 evoked an instantaneous storm of protest not against the alleged perpetrators of such massacres, but against him for venturing to deny them.”

The two basic images of anti-Polonism came together in the United States during this period as the exaggerated reports of anti-Semitism and public denunciations of Polish anti-Semitism by prominent Americans such as John Dewey were combined with widespread ridicule by Jewish performers in popular venues such as vaudeville shows, of Poles as slow witted and incompetent. Polish immigrants and their children picketed theaters and responded to such attacks in the Polish American press, but their defense received almost no hearing beyond their own community. The same potent combination of images – the Pole as moron and the Pole as anti-Semite-revived again as the intense focus on the Holocaust in Poland arose in the 1960’s after decades of neglect, at the very same time as the “Polack joke” became a major cultural phenomenon in the United States. An added ingredient was the charge that seemed to put the full cause of racism in urban American on the Poles as the epitome of “hard-hatted white ethnic racists”. It was a natural corollary to the stereotype of Poles as congenital anti-Semites in Europe, especially when Polish-Jewish relations were seen through the prism of the Holocaust. Popular novels of the period, such as Arthur Haley’s Wheels, made the charge of Polish racism in the United States clear and explicit.

One well-known commentator Abigail McCarthy even suggested that immigrants from Eastern Europe brought with them an “active and virulent form of anti-Semitism to America”.

Scholarship on the complex relations between African Americans and Polish immigrants does not at all bear out the claims that Polish Americans were particularly racist, no more than modern scholarship has validated the charge that anti-Semitism in Poland was irredeemable or different in kind. As Robert Blobaum has pointed out recently “there is nothing peculiarly “Polish” about anti-Semitism, and claims to the contrary have served only to encourage present day anti-Semitism.”.

Such allegations, in fact, become part of the repertoire of negative Polish stereotypes that make up anti-Polonism. Although the negative public and media images of Poles have attenuated in recent decades, they have not disappeared. In fact, their dogged persistence in western film and television depictions of the Holocaust in Poland, the repeated appearance, year after year, of references to “Polish Death Camps” in major metropolitan dailies including the Boston Herald and New York Times and the production of major films such as The Break Up whose main character is a crude, boorish, insensitive and clueless young man dressed in “Polish Pride” t-shirts show that they have a deep resonance in the culture. They have become an expression of an unconscious prejudice that has acquired certain respectability as a received truth for many. The articles in this section admirably explore images of Poles in film, in classroom and in newspaper coverage of the Holocaust story. They also point to other avenues of research. Zvi Gitelman’s observation, quoted by Lawrence Baron, that Jews “regard Pole as incorrigibly anti-Semitic” because of what they have heard in survivor narratives suggests a fertile topic for future study. These stories which appear widely in the popular press as well as in articles and books carry a special weight of authority because of the suffering of their narrators. They also carry the human temptation to generalize beyond personal experience to try to understand and explain the entire Holocaust. This tendency combined with often incomplete information and fallible memory of now aging survivors creates interpretations of Polish-Jewish interaction during the Holocaust, which have the capacity to deeply embitter Polish-Jewish relations and confirm already held anti-Polish and anti-Semitic stereotypes.

It is clear that anti-Polonism and anti-Semitism, which shared common origins at several points and reached their most horrendous expression in Nazi German ideology, remained grotesquely twinned into our own time.

Quotes[edit]

  • "Poland’s existence is intolerable and incompatible with the essential conditions of Germany’s life. Poland must go and will go — as a result of her own internal weaknesses and of action by Russia — with our aid. For Russia, Poland is even less tolerable than it is for us; Russia will never put up with Poland's existence. With Poland, one of the strongest pillars of the Versailles System will fall. To attain this goal must be one of the firmest aiming points of German politics, because it is attainable. Attainable only by means of, or with the help of, Russia. [...] The restoration of the border between Germany and Russia is the precondition for regaining strength of both sides. Germany and Russia within the borders of 1914 should be the basis for an agreement between us [...]." — Hans von Seeckt, Chief of the Troop Office of the German Army, responsible for shaping German foreign policy, writing after the Treaty of Rapallo (1922).
  • "During and after the 1830-1831 insurrection many Russian writers voluntarily participated in anti-Polish propaganda. Gogol wrote Taras Bulba, an anti-Polish novel of high literary merit, to say nothing about lesser writers."
    • Prof. Vilho Harle, The enemy with a thousand faces: the tradition of the other in western political thought and history. 1989, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000
  • During the preceding eighty years the Germans had sacrificed to the Reich all their liberties; they demanded as a reward the enslavement of others. No German recognized the Czechs or Poles as equals. Therefore, every German desired the achievement which only total war could give. By no other means could the Reich be held together. It had been made by conquest and for conquest; if it ever gave up its career of conquest, it would dissolve.
    • Taylor, A.J.P. The Course of German History, Hamish Hamilton 1945
  • Maintain the purity of German blood! That applies to both men and women! Just as it is considered the greatest disgrace to become involved with a Jew, any German engaging in intimate relations with a Polish male or female is guilty of sinful behavior. Despise the bestial urges of this race! Be racially conscious and protect your children. Otherwise you will forfeit your greatest asset: your honor!
    • Anti-Polish decree quoted in: Ulrich Herbert (1997). Hitler's Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labor in Germany Under the Third Reich. Cambridge University Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-0-521-47000-1.
  • We should make a large action of the liquidation of the Polish element. As the German armies withdraw, we should take advantage of this convenient moment for liquidating the entire male population in the age from 16 up to 60 years. We cannot lose this fight, and it is necessary at all costs to weaken Polish forces. Villages and settlements lying next to the massive forests, should disappear from the face of the earth.
    • Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's holocaust. Published by McFarland. Page 247
  • Villages were torched. Roman Catholic priests were axed or crucified. Churches were burned with all their parishioners. Isolated farms were attacked by gangs carrying pitchforks and kitchen knives. Throats were cut. Pregnant women were bayoneted. Children were cut in two. Men were ambushed in the field and led away. The perpetrators could not determine the province's future. But at least they could determine that it would be a future without Poles.
    • Norman Davies, Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory Publisher: Pan Books
  • Liquidate all Polish traces. Destroy all walls in the Catholic Church and other Polish prayer houses. Destroy orchards and trees in the courtyards so that there will be no trace that someone lived there... Pay attention to the fact that when something remains that is Polish, then the Poles will have pretensions to our land".
    • Mark Mazower, Hitler's Empire, pages 506–507. Penguin Books 2008.

Attributed[edit]

Armenian Quote
  • "I have issued the command — and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by firing squad — that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly I have placed my Totenkopf Units in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death, mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish race and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" — Adolf Hitler.
  • "All Poles will disappear from the world.... It is essential that the great German people should consider it their major task to destroy all Poles." — Heinrich Himmler.
  • "Hammer the Poles until they despair of living. [...] I feel sorry for their situation, but if we want to exist we have no choice but to exterminate them. Wolves are only what God made them, but we shoot them all the same when we can get at them." — Otto von Bismarck.
  • "It must become clear to everybody in Germany, even to the last milkmaid, that Polishness is equal to sub-humanity. Poles, Jews and Gypsies are on the same inferior level. This must be clearly outlined [...] until every citizen of Germany has it encoded in his subconsciousness that every Pole, whether a worker or intellectual, should be treated like vermin". — A directive No. 1306 by Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from October 24th 1939.
  • "In Prague, big red posters were put up on which one could read that seven Czechs had been shot today. I said to myself, 'If I had to put up a poster for every seven Poles shot, the forests of Poland would not be sufficient to manufacture the paper." — Hans Frank
  • "Heute gestohlen, morgen in Polen" ("Stolen today, tomorrow in Poland") — modern German saying
  • "[Poland is] an historic failure, which has won her freedom not by her own exertions, but by the blood of others." — David Lloyd George.
  • "[Poles] suck [anti-Semitism] with their mothers' milk. This is something that is deeply imbued in their tradition, their mentality. Like their loathing of Russia. The two things are not connected, of course. But that, too, is something very deep, like their hatred of Am Yisrael. Today, though, there are elements [in Poland] that are cleansed of this anti-Semitism." — Yitzhak Shamir.
  • "A hen is not a bird, Poland is not foreign." — 18th century Russian saying, justifying the Partitions of Poland. In original Russian this sentence rhymes.
  • "Driving through Brandenburg, one can delight in direction signs showing, instead of Stettin, strange words that look as if some software had replaced the German name with many c's and z's to make it look Polish: something like Szczetzctczin. [...] The obsession to call all places which once were German - that is mostly places in Poland and the Czech Republic - exclusively by their Polish or Czech names, and to use the former German name, if at all, only in brackets, is a wonderful spawn of the German guilty conscience." — Writer Florian Illies in his best-selling book.

See Also[edit]

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