October 1, 2011
Adam Michnik (vel Aaron Szechter) identifies himself as both a Jew and a Pole. (pp. 209-210 ). He is editor of the left-wing GAZETA WYBORCZA. (p. xi). His half-brother had been a military judge in the postwar Stalinist period. (p. xviii).
The greatest value of this work is the examination of many aspects of Polish history before and after Communism. It is unfortunate that a person of Michnik’s stature cheapens himself by avoiding in-depth presentation and defense of his views in favor of flippant assertions, and demonization of those who disagree with them.
Michnik misrepresents the Endeks as teaching that Poles can do no wrong and that only ethnic Poles and Roman Catholics can be true Poles. He discusses the Narutowicz assassination without proper historical context, oversimplifying it with the platitude “Minorities must have a voice”, all the while ignoring the fact that the Minorities Bloc demonstrably was acting contrary to even the most elementary notions of Polish nationhood. [Poland’s Germans wanted former West Prussia returned to Germany; the German and Austrian-influenced Ukrainians tended towards national separatism; the Jews wanted a de facto separate Jewish nation on Polish soil, complete with such things as separate Jewish schools and mandatory use of Yiddish in Polish courts.]
Throughout this work, Michnik examines and condemns right-wing demagoguery (which he calls the national gutter) but engages in the very same. For instance, instead of presenting a thoughtful analysis of the positions of the Church, and intelligently expressing reasons for his disagreement with the same, he, unexpectedly, just launches the following tirade: “The ghosts of triumphalism, intolerance, and xenophobia once again raised their ugly heads. A substantial part of the Church chose to use the language of contempt and hatred towards dissenting thinkers. “[The informed reader realizes that such guttural language is standard left-wing rhetoric in its attempts to silence the Church, and others who disagree with left-wing ideology.]
Michnik strongly supports Poland’s membership in the EU (European Union). (p. 21). Instead of analyzing the very real question of Poland’s sovereignty in a German-dominated body, he selectively cites Pope John Paul II when it suits his purpose, and dismisses Euroskeptics in a cavalier fashion. (p. 32).
The author’s logic is hard to appreciate. He condemns, as blind vengeance, the attitudes of those who want the punishment of Communists. (pp. 57-58). He is confusing vengeance with justice. Why the double standard on punishing decades-old Nazi crimes while giving Communist crimes a pass? Finally, taking Michnik’s reasoning further, if it is all about the primitive emotion of vengeance, then why punish any criminals at all?
When delving into the 1965 Polish bishops’ letter to German bishops, and the furious Polish reaction this caused (pp. 114-on), Michnik essentially dumps on Poles for being unforgiving. He forgets, or ignores, the furious “Do not forgive in our name!” Jewish reaction to President Reagan’s 1985 visit to Bitburg, Germany. If Michnik’s reasoning were valid, it would mean that the Jews were too small to do, forty years after WWII, what Poles were supposed to do only twenty years after WWII!
Michnik’s chapter on Polish-Jewish relations is of a more-of-the-same nature: Poles seeing themselves as victims but not victimizers, Jan Blonski, Kielce, the Jedwabne “revelation”, etc. Predictably, Michnik downplays the role of Jews in the hated U. B. (Bezpieka: Communist security force). He repeats the misrepresentation of the Armia Krajowa (A. K.) and N.S.Z killing fugitive Jews during the German occupation (p. 197), although there is little hard evidence linking these Polish underground organizations to the unjustified killing of Jews, and much evidence linking the Communist GL-AL to such crimes. [See the Peczkis review of: Tajne oblicze GL-AL i PPR: Dokumenty (Polish Edition)].
Interestingly, Michnik makes the following salient point: “There is the hostility a Jew feels for a Pole, because the latter did not experience the Holocaust as a Jew did. And there is the hostility a Pole feels for a Jew because the latter does not share his pain at Poland’s violation by the Communists.” (p. 199). Is Michnik tacitly admitting that Jewish support for Communism, even if mostly latent, had been much broader than the already very-disproportionate direct Jewish involvement in the same?
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