Polish joke

Joseph Aaron

My mother was born in Warsaw, which makes me half Polish. Now if one engages in ugly stereotypes, I’m sure the fact that I’m half Polish is no surprise to my many fans on the right wing wacko nut job side of Judaism.

But my point is that being of Polish extraction by birth, I have nothing against Poland. Actually that’s not at all true. I have a whole lot against Poland. Poland, you see, is not only the country where my mother was born, it is also the country where my grandfather, for whom I am named, my grandmother, for whom one of my sisters is named and my aunt, for whom another of my sisters is named, died.

Now I’d like to tell you that my zayde and bubbie and aunt all died at a ripe old age after having lived a long, happy life. But I can’t because my zayde was 45 when he died, my bubbie was 44 and my aunt was all of 20.

They died not of a heart attack or cancer, not because they were hit by a car or had a skiing accident. My bubbie and aunt were gassed to death. My zayde was worked and starved and beaten to death.

All three of them died in Poland. You may have heard of the place where my bubbie and aunt died. Its name is Auschwitz.

They arrived in Auschwitz in the country of Poland in May, 1944, having been torn from their home in Hungary, stuffed into a cattle car and transported to the country of Poland.  As soon as they got to Auschwitz, they were taken to the gas chambers where they were murdered, their bodies then burned and their ashes added to a giant pile of ashes of thousands of other Jews.

My zayde and my dad arrived in Poland, in Auschwitz, the very same day. But because they were men and were deemed fit enough to be put to slave labor, they were transported from one camp after the other until on Nov. 26, 1944, my zayde collapsed from too much work and too little food, and died. His place of death was a sub camp named Ellrich, in the country of Poland.

Those are the facts. Unlike my mother who was born in Poland, my zaydie and bubbie and aunt died in Poland because they were Jews and that’s where millions of Jews were taken for the express purpose of dying, of being shot and gassed and burned and worked to death.

I hope I’m not offending the people of Poland and the country of Poland by pointing that out.

Of course, if I was in Poland today and pointed that out, said my grandparents and aunt died in Polish death camps, I would be breaking the law, could myself be arrested for simply stating the facts about the extermination of my zayde, bubbie and aunt.

It seems the Polish people are so the sensitive types. They’ve never been very good about acknowledging their role in the Holocaust, apologizing for their role in the Holocaust, and they also seem to have failed to grasp that there was a reason the Nazis set up so many of their concentration camps in Poland, including the most notorious of all, Auschwitz.

There was a reason. As they like to say in real estate, the three most important factors to consider are location, location, location. And that is exactly why the Nazis chose Poland. Because they knew it would be hospitable territory to set up their factories of death, because they knew the Polish people would be very willing accomplices, be happy to help the Nazis carry out their work, knew the Polish people would not object, indeed would pretend they had no idea what was going on in the death camps, were clueless about the smell of burning flesh coming from Auschwitz.

One can debate whether the people and government of Poland were as responsible for the Holocaust as were the Germans and the German people. Clearly, the Nazis were the senior partners, but also clearly the Poles were very active, complicit junior partners. What they certainly were not were innocent, helpless victims.

And yet, the Poles are now portraying themselves as just that, as victims of the Nazis, indeed in their own way as much victims as were the Jews. And so convinced of their innocence are the Poles, they have incredibly just passed a law that criminalizes rhetoric blaming Poland for what it calls Nazi crimes, makes it a crime to blame the Polish state or nation of atrocities that the law says were perpetrated exclusively by Nazis during their occupation of Poland.

The new law makes it illegal to use the term “Polish death camps” to describe facilities it describes as set up on Polish soil by German Nazis. If you use the phrase “Polish death camps,” if you blame Poland for what it says are the crimes of Germany, you can be put in prison for up to three years.

It makes one’s head want to explode, one’s soul to break in half. In Poland today, it is now against the law to say Polish death camps. Were there Polish death camps? My dead bubbie, zaydie and aunt, along with millions of other Jews, are tragic testimony to that. But to try to avoid that reality, try to make like they had nothing to do with it, were totally opposed to it, the government of Poland has just made it illegal to call them Polish death camps, even though that is exactly what they were.

To say they were Nazi death camps set up in Poland, to make it seem as if Poland was removed from it all, is not only to fly in the face of the facts, but to show a stunning desire to play word games, to miss the point, to evade responsibility.

In doing what it’s doing, trampling over freedom of speech, historical accuracy, taking responsibility, Poland is demonstrating exactly why the Nazis knew they were choosing the right country when they decided the very best place in all of Eastern Europe to put their killing fields was Poland.

Poland is so afraid of the truth, so afraid for its citizens to hear the shameful truth that the government cancelled a planned visit to Poland by Israel’s minister of education Naftali Bennett, after he said he would use the opportunity to tell the Polish people the “truth” about their country and the Holocaust.

Bennett said he wanted to go to Poland because he was “determined to say explicitly what history has already proved — the Polish nation had a proven involvement in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust. I am going to speak truth, where the truth took place. The message is loud and clear: The past cannot be rewritten.”

How Poland was in the past can be seen in the present, can be seen by how Poland has reacted since the new law passed and was harshly criticized by Israel and Jewish groups around the world. Indeed, the anti-Semitism that has spewed forth in Poland since the law passed has shown why the law is so dangerous, because it tells young Poles not to feel bad about what their country did, to believe their country didn’t do anything at all, which means they will not learn the lessons they need to learn and which means that anti-Semitism, so much a part of Polish culture, has been given new license.

Referring to Jewish criticism of the new law, a journalist with RMF, one of the largest Polish commercial radio stations, wrote about the “war with the Jews.” “Poles, we are at war! We are at war with the Jews! Not for the first time in our history,” wrote Bogdan Zalewski. “We can find ourselves in a state of absolute isolation that completely exhausts us down to annihilation. In my opinion, it is necessary for Poles to be aware and to work on the development of the national spirit.”

He went on to blame Jews for the “iron fist” of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe, and accused the Jews of a reign of terror against the British and Arabs in prestate Israel. “The U.S. authorities were full of Jews in many key positions. Many of these Jews have been actively engaged in espionage in favor of the Soviets,” he said.

Poland’s state-owned television station sent out a tweet alleging that the Jewish opposition to the law was part of an attempt to seize Polish property. A former priest began selling T-shirts denying Polish responsibility for a pogrom against Jews by their non-Jewish neighbors during the Nazi occupation.

A TV show host and his guest mocked critics of the legislation, suggesting that Jews were in part responsible for their own slaughter during the Holocaust and joking that the death camps should be referred to as “Jewish death camps.” “If we look at the percentage of involvement of countries that took part [in the Holocaust], Jews also were part of their own destruction,” said the guest Rafał Ziemkiewicz. Earlier, Ziemkiewicz on Twitter called Jews opposed to the new law “scabs,” a nasty term often used in anti-Semitic slurs in Poland.

The host Marcin Wolski added: “Using this terminology, linguistically, we could say these were not German or Polish camps, but were Jewish camps. After all, who dealt with the crematoria?” Wolski was apparently referring to Jewish inmates who were forced to dispose of gas chamber victims at the death camps.

The head of the Polish Press Agency, Wojciech Surmacz, also blamed Jews for the deaths of other Jews during the Holocaust, sharing on Twitter a photo of Jewish ghetto police. He said the police were responsible for the deaths of “millions of Jews” in Poland.

And so it’s been. Poland, so desirous of not taking any responsibility for the dozens of concentration camps on Polish soil, for the millions of Poles who either abetted or ignored what was going in those camps, so wanting to disassociate itself from the anti-Semitism at the heart of the Holocaust that resulted in Polish soil being soaked in Jewish blood, has actually made it against the law to say Polish death camps and has engaged in an orgy of anti-Semitism in defending against criticism of that law, in justifying why it had to have the new law.

They are not only saying it was only the Nazis responsible for Auschwitz and the other camps, but are even blaming the Jews themselves. Anything but the Poles themselves.

“In my worst nightmares I never expected to hear jokes about Auschwitz, Jews and gas chambers on state-owned television,” Piotr Kadlcik, a prominent Warsaw Jewish leader, said.

And yet, that is Poland today. Just like it was back in the time of the Polish death camps.

9 Comments on "Polish joke"

  1. “[Germans have placed death camps in Poland] Because they knew it would be hospitable territory (…) the Polish people would not object”

    It’s such a tremendous lie. And I see it repeated so many times. And never supported by any serious arguments. Have anyone seen any quotes of Hitler or Himmler that would support that?

    I don’t want to say Polish attitude towards Jews was great. Karski described it in his reports. (Ass well as attitude of Jews towards Poles under Soviet occupation, whet they were privileged.)
    But Polish antisemitism as a general could never reach this level.

    Germans have built many concentration and death camps on Polish ground. Many of them were for Poles. Auschwitz II – Birkenau was a death camp for Jews. Auschwitz I was a concentration camp for Poles and Soviet war prisoners. And many others. (If we are with family stories. Me Grandpa went through a German camp and hardly survived. Now he’s 92 and when he hears such lies and false accusations, his hands shake in helplessness.)
    Can you suggest that Polish people did not oppose to that either? How could they oppose?

    Why did Germans set their concentration and death camps on Polish ground? First we should ask them.

    Here I can only share my private thoughts.

    • I don’t think they cared about Polish opinion.
    • First this location was practical because the biggest Jewish population lived here. (And could not oppose either.) So the transport was easier.
    • Second, it was easier to hide from the international public opinion. World cared less about Poland than about e.g. France. It was close to Germany but out of sight.

    But definitely they didn’t count on the help of Polish people whom they killed on the streets and who hated them like nobody else.

    Dear author, I feel great sorrow about your family. May them rest in peace. For the sake of their memory please don’t blame people who had nothing to do with their deaths. And check your judgements before publishing.

  2. Piotr Kraczkowski | February 26, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Reply

    “Location, Location, Location” – not because of the attitudes of polish people, but in order to avoid transporting the 3 Millions of polish Jews to Belgium or elsewhere. Most of Jews were living in Poland and the transportation in war was very costly.

    Attitudes of Polish people as a nation towards the Jewish citizens are described according to “Jewish Military Casualties in The Polish Armies In World War II” by Benjamin Meirtchak, President of The Association of Jewish War Veterans Of The Polish Armies in Israel:

    “Nearly 200.000 Polish Jews fought against Nazi Germany in the ranks of the Polish Armies on Polish soil and in Exile. They defended Poland in September 1939 against the German aggression. They fought in the Polish Armies in exile; in the 1940 defense of France, in the Middle East, in North Africa and in Italy. While serving in the Polish Tank Corps, Air Force and Navy they participated, together with the RAF and British Royal Navy, in the Normandy Landings. The Polish Forces, along with The Red Army, took part in the great offensive, eventually liberating Poland and conquering Germany.”

    Facts:

    • Warsaw Uprising 1944: Over a 1000 Jews in hiding joined Polish resistance.
    • Statistical breakdown of the 115 fighters, that fell during the Warsaw Uprising 1944
    • *20 were veterans of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 1943
      *66 were members of the Armia Krajowa (pol. Partisanen – PK)
      *25 were women, of these 9 were members of the AK (pol. Partisanen – PK) (…)

    • 3200 Jewish prisoners of war (enlisted men only) murdered by the Nazis in the Lublin district during 1939-1943.
    • 427 Jewish officers murdered by the Soviets in the Katyn massacre.
    • There were some 1000 Jewish soldiers in the Polish Second Corps, some 850 participated in the battle of Monte Cassino, 28 of whom were killed in battle.
    • A total of 136 Jewish officers and men were decorated with [polish] high military awards: Virtuti Military 6, Cross of Valour 68, Cross of Merit 52.
    • 24 Jewish pilots of the Polish airforce gave their lives during the battle of Britain. In the First Polish Armoured Division were between 700-800 Jewish officers and men, 70 boys lost in combat.

    Do you think that the Catholic polish soldiers ever questioned the orders of Jewish polish officers or crew of a polish tank or war plane could not count on polish Jewish pilot or tank commander?

  3. Piotr Kraczkowski | February 27, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Reply

    Imagine milions of Jews who in 70% were not able to speak and understand Polish – the religious autonomy of Jews in Poland was so great that they were not obliged to go to polish state schools and did not know Polish language. The language of Polish Jews was jidish. Jews who did not understand Polish were usually not trying to flee from the Ghetos, camps and transport cars.

  4. Firstly, I congratulate Chicago Jewish News for leaving comments that on some of the Jewish websites I posted they would have been deleted. I hope mine stays.

    One such site was The Times of Israel. In this article
    https://tinyurl.com/yaga4nny
    all I did was to point out that the title had an error under the picture, “Polish gendarmes”. The picture title clearly shows the source as Yad Vasham. On the Yad Vasham website ,you can see for yourself, we clearly see “German gendarmes”,
    https://tinyurl.com/y93emmls .

    “Location, Location, Location” – not because of the attitudes of polish people, but in order to avoid transporting the 3 Millions of polish Jews to Belgium or elsewhere. Most of Jews were living in Poland and the transportation in war was very costly.”

    Overall you are correct but I look at it a bit differently. The efficient Germans were fighting at THAT POINT forces on their Western flank. They had to continue to produce for the war so some critical factories were placed as far East as their military were comfortable in doing. Here is the map of the major ones,
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/70/MajorConcentrationCamps.png/638px-MajorConcentrationCamps.png – here are all of their camps
    http://www.dianamarahenry.com/natzweiler-struthof/images/NSUSHMMwebsitemap_000.jpg

    So we can see that all the camps were not in Poland. Thus statements such as this will not wash, “Why did the Germans build concentration camps in Poland? For the same reasons that we plant wheat in Kansas.”

    Jews of Eastern Europe and Poles lived together for over 800 years. Why? Because Poland did not force Jews – ” In the daytime any man leaving the ghetto had to wear a red hat to mark him” as they did in the 16th century in Venice.

    So please, if you are open minded, look on bottom of page 8 here,
    http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2017-antisemitism-update-2006-2016_en.pdf

  5. Not much to say,the article is deceiving and misleading.
    Why don’t we start to talk about
    Palestinians suffering.

  6. Janusz Duzinkiewicz | July 9, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Reply

    We all know that what seems to be logical is not always true. Your opinion is not based on any expertise or substantive knowledge on the subject of Poland and the Holocaust but on logic grounded in ugly stereotypes and ignorance. And somehow it seems to be in your interest to perpetuate both. Please do some real research. For instance look up Zegota the arm of the Polish Underground specifically to aid Jews. Please look you Karski and Pilecki. As for location, the decision to convert the existing German concentration camps for Poles into a a camp for Jews was due to location. Poland had the largest concentration of Jews in Europe. And why was the latter the case? Because historically, Jews fled to Poland-Lithuania because life was better for them there and Polish rulers actively encouraged Jewish immigration.

  7. The trauma of your family is undeniable. You are not wrong in your awareness of right-wing factions in polish society. However you are coming from a place of anger that comes from loss and not knowing- you do not have the opportunity to speak to family members who passed about their pre-war experience in Poland- so you assume. You speak with emotion but don’t study the actual history or tune into your empathy. To say that Poland wasn’t a victim, is cruel and callous. You do know that it was a death sentence to not only you, but your children, all residents of your apartment complex, if you were discovered to be aiding a Jew. Where are your heroic morals in the atrocities of the world? It’s easy to talk, but are you doing anything? Your life is not directly at risk. They won’t murder your mother or child for your efforts. Any Jews who survived but not liberated from the camps- was a result of a long string of heroic non-Jews risking everything and more to help their friends and friends of friends. It’s a miracle anyone survived at all. The atrocities that Germans inflicted on poles, Jewish and non-Jewish- whether medical experiments, slave labor, executions, systematic and random for sport- did not make poles co-conspirators. You cannot talk to your family memebers. Listen to survivors- to polish Jews. Do some research to get a better understanding of a situation that you currently project onto from your place of hurt and unshakeable loss. I just watched an old interview with Roman Polanski. It’s mind boggling what it took for him to survive. He had to run as a Jew in the ghetto. When taken in by a catholic rural family, he had to run from Germans who shot at him for sport from a distance- no knowing he was a Jew. PLEASE — your attitude is stoking fires. You are doing so much damage and fueling the fires you despise so much. Things you are saying is what is used in propaganda “see? Jews hate us. They compare us to the nazis who were killing us off. They are out to get us”. And yet, I know your attitude is the small minority. I honestly thought this attitude was a myth when I’d hear it in propaganda. None of my friends or their families ever expressed such ignorance. And yet.. here it is before me, and I am stunned and sad to see it. I wonder if you are real, or planted by some right wing faction of Polish society. Truly.

  8. If the Germans’ priority for determining location of concentration camps was cooperation or apathy, they would have placed them all in GERMANY. Poland has europe’s Largest Jewish population, as others noted, this was the obvious reasoning behind choosing Poland as the place for the extermination camps. It hurts to say the words in context of mass murder – but it was convenience and for the ale of being efficient.

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