The author traces his life in prewar Poland, in the German-made Lodz and Warsaw Ghettos, at a German labor camp at Tomaszow, in the Soviet-betrayed Poles’ 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in the post-Uprising expulsion of Warsaw’s remaining inhabitants, in late-war and postwar Vienna, etc.
Neumark was an eyewitness to the Nazi German genocidal starvation of Soviet POWs (p. 12), and the execution, by the Polish Underground, of a member of the Polish Blue Police (POLICJA GRANATOWA)(p. 133), evidently for Nazi collaboration. He got to know some people, of transitional Polish-German nationality, that became VOLKSDEUTSCHEN. They received privileges from the Nazi authorities, including the ownership of post-Jewish properties, but their menfolk later had to serve in the WEHRMACHT. (p. 35). The VOLKSDEUTSCHEN were hated and shunned, by Poles, during and after the war, as traitors. (p. 35, 210-211).
I now focus on several topics related to Polish-Jewish relations.
POLONIZED JEWS AND DUAL LOYALTIES
The author summarizes the attitude of his family towards Poland, “Politically, my father was a democrat and a Zionist. In terms of nationality, my family felt Polish with Jewish ethnicity and believed themselves to be as loyal and patriotic citizens of Poland as any non-Jewish Pole.” (p. 2). Neumark’s remarks are instructive. He writes that his father was a Zionist (which— by definition–is identification with, and allegiance to, the eventual State of Israel). Then he turns around and writes that his father was as patriotic a Pole as any non-Jewish Pole!
We see, once again, that Jewish political separatism was not the exclusive property of the anti-assimilationist, avowedly Jews-as-nationality Yiddishist/Bundist-oriented Jew. It was also true, if only to a certain extent, of many Polonized Jews who considered themselves Poles by nationality. All this makes it easy for the reader to understand why the Endeks doubted if the assimilation of Poland’s Jews, even were it to occur on a large scale, would truly transform Jews into Poles in the full sense of the word (except for religion).
As for Zenon Neumark himself, he makes some comments that appear to indicate a lack of solidarity, with Poles and Poland, in the face of the impending imposition of the Soviet puppet state. More on this below.
AUTHOR DENIED MEMBERSHIP IN THE YMCA. SO WHAT?
Neumark recounts his experience, as a youth, of applying to the YMCA, and being turned down. He suspects that he was discriminated against because he was Jewish. (pp. 3-4).
Even if it was because he was Jewish, Neumark’s statements display a fundamental misunderstanding about, or misrepresentation of, the YMCA. The letters comprising YMCA stand for the Young Men’s CHRISTIAN Association (Emphasis added). As a private organization and an avowedly Christian organization, it has as much a prerogative of excluding Jews from membership as an avowedly Jewish private organization has the prerogative of excluding Christians from membership. One is no more a form of discrimination than the other. Private organizations enjoy the fundamental right of freedom of association. [In the present day, the YMCA is completely secularized, and the “Christian” in YMCA is completely nominal. It was not always so.]
WHY “FEW” POLISH JEWS SURVIVED THE SHOAH
Nowadays, Holocaust-related materials commonly state or imply that the rarity of surviving Polish Jews owed to the fact that “very few” Poles aided Jews, and especially because “most Poles were indifferent or hostile” to Jews. In addition, “authorities” on the Holocaust (e. g, Jan T. Gross) tend to belittle the German-imposed death penalty for the slightest Polish aid to Jews. Zenon Neumark, who, unlike Jan T. Gross, actually went through the Holocaust, does not—just the opposite. (p. 36, 84, 118). He also appreciates the grave difficulties of Jews even contemplating a fugitive life, caused by the fact that most Jews closely knew very few Poles. (p. 76).
Were Polish betrayers of fugitive Jews common, or were they rare? Although Neumark does not directly address this question, he provides some interesting information. He notes that, out of 20 family members hiding in Aryan Warsaw, 17 of them survived the Nazi occupation, with the remaining 3 having died from non-Polish causes. (p. 212). Either Neumark’s family beat million-to-one odds, or Jan T. Gross and Jan Grabowski are very wrong in their claims that the vast majority of fugitive Jews perished–and that from presumed Polish denunciations.
FAULTING THE POLISH CATHOLIC CHURCH: AN IRONIC TWIST
By way of introduction, Holocaust materials commonly feature anti-Catholic and anti-Christian notions, even dignifying decades-old Communist propaganda about “Hitler’s pope”. In like manner, neo-Stalinists Jan T. Gross and Jan Grabowski habitually traduce the Catholic Church for “failing the moral test” by “not doing enough” to help Jews during the Holocaust. Who decides what would have been “enough” is never stated.
Author Zenon Neumark frequently went to Mass as part of his disguise as a fugitive Jew during the Nazi German occupation. He expresses his own negative opinion of the Church, albeit one that transcends the usual Judeocentric complaints about the Church ignoring the unfolding Holocaust. He comments, “The continued oppression of the entire population of Poland, marked almost daily by the summary executions of hundreds of Polish patriots, was ignored; indeed, the Church’s pulpits were never used to defend the victims, Jewish or Polish, or to condemn the Nazi perpetrators and their crimes. Perhaps even more importantly, not once did he [Father Sztuka] appeal to the population for help and sympathy for the victims.” (p. 136).
The implications are clear. To say that the Polish Catholic Church “did not do enough” for the Jews leads to the reductio ad absurdum that the Polish Catholic Church also “failed the moral test” and “did not do enough” for the Poles!
Let us face reality. The Church could not do anything more substantive for the victims of Nazism than it did, much less criticize German crimes from the pulpit, without incurring ghastly reprisals from the Nazi German conquerors and occupants of Poland. [For details, see the first Comment under this review.]
A JEW IN THE MIECZ I PLUG UNDERGROUND ORGANIZATION
By way of introduction, the MIECZ I PLUG (Sword and Plow) is the subject of many calumnies. Please click on, and read my detailed review, of Narodowe Sily Zbrojne na Podlasiu: Materialy posesyjne (Polish Edition). For a time, Neumark was involved in the MIECZ AND PLUG, and his personal experiences do not support the usual Jewish and Communist accusations directed against it, even though Neumark himself later adopted these accusations and applied them retroactively. He quips, “At the time, though, I knew nothing about MIECZ I PLUG’s attitude or policies towards Jews or its extreme animosity toward the Polish left. I never heard anything derogatory either about Jews or about the political left, from Wladek or anyone else. What I do remember, however, is reading in one of their newsletters an article that, in essence, said: ‘Germany is enemy number two; Russia is enemy number one.’ But this was later in the war and these slogans were not uncommon; I paid little attention to them.” (p. 101).
[Parenthetically, do I detect a softness on Communism, and “friendly neutrality” to the USSR, in Neumark’s remarks? This is something all too common–even among Polonized, non-Communist Jews.]
OURSELVES AND OUR POSTERITY
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