Review of Collaboration in Eastern Europe during the Second World War and the Holocaust, by Peter Black et al. (eds.). 2019. Vienna.
No Polish Complicity in the Holocaust: The POLICJA GRANATOWA (“Polish” Blue Police)
My review is limited to two articles by Tomasz Frydel, beginning with: Ordinary Men? The Polish Police and the Holocaust in the Subcarpathian Region, which is found in the above-cited book. I quote the author and provide explanatory titles (in CAPS).
CHERRY-PICKED DATA NATURALLY EXAGGERATES POLISH KILLINGS OF JEWS
“Some 600 of the approximately 15,000 former Blue Policemen were tried before communist courts on the basis of the so-called August Decree of August 31, 1944.” (p. 82).
QUESTIONABLE GUILT ESTABLISHED BY COMMUNIST TRIALS
“The main source base used in this analysis consists of approximately 30 postwar investigations and trial proceedings of former members of the Polnische Polizei and others tried before communist courts on the basis of the so-called August Decree 20 of August 31, 1944, the majority of whom were accused of participating in crimes against the Jews and others.” (p. 74)
EXCEPTIONS ASIDE, SERVICE IN THE POLICJA GRANATOWA WAS INVOLUNTARY
“For the majority of its members, the Blue Police was not a voluntary formation. Most of the policemen examined in this article reported entering the ranks of the Polish Police by returning to their prewar posts in 1939/1940 in response to the German threat of death or imprisonment in a concentration camp.” (p. 82).
“A number of policemen made attempts to quit or evade service, which the Germans almost always denied.” (p. 94).
“As the occupation deepened, the Germans took steps to discourage desertions from service.” (p. 95).
THE “POLISH” BLUE POLICE WAS INCREASINGLY GERMAN-HEAVY
“All higher officers were removed or demoted and replaced by German policemen. By mid-1941, the Germans expanded their recruitment campaign by seeking candidates between the ages of 20 and 30, then from 18 to 45 in March 1943. German language skills, ‘Aryan’ ancestry, and pro-German political convictions were particularly welcome.” (p. 80).
‘The presence of appointed German or ‘volksdeutsche’ gendarme supervisors (Aufseher) in some counties undoubtedly set the tone, though they were frequently rotated between different posts within a county in order to ‘avoid fraternization’ with the policemen.” (p. 93).
“Policemen known to be particularly loyal to the Germans – usually ‘volksdeutsche’ or those with a reputation as German informants – appear to have held some sway over the group dynamics of each post.” (p. 93).
“However, with some caution, it is possible to begin to differentiate committed pro-German policemen – predominantly those who adopted ‘volksdeutsche’ status, especially in the person of the commandant – who could be seen as forming a ‘crucial nucleus’ of more committed, enthusiastic perpetrators with disproportionate influence in police posts. “ (p. 117).
THE GERMANS DID NOT HAVE TO ALWAYS IMPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY IN ORDER TO INTIMIDATE THE POLISH BLUE POLICE INTO APPREHENDING FUGITIVE JEWS
“The incident is mentioned in the trial of Jan Krupa, in which it is described as feeding into the broader atmosphere of fear and anticipatory obedience toward German orders.” (p. 94).
NO INDICATION THAT POLISH JEW-KILLERS WERE IN AGREEMENT WITH HITLER. SO STOP REPEATING THE MANTRA THAT POLES WERE COMPLICIT IN THE JEWS’ HOLOCAUST!
“Still, it is hard to deduce from these facts a monolithic understanding of the Polish Police as the foot soldiers of a hateful antisemitism. Nazi German indoctrination does not appear as a major motivational factor among the policemen. The most frequently recurring ideological refrain among the Blue Policemen was that ‘Poland is no more’ and that the local population should accept the new German reality, as confirmed by numerous witness testimonies.” (p. 90).
“It is not clear how the Nazi racial agenda, in which Poles were by definition implicated as ‘slawische Untermenschen’, was absorbed by the policemen beyond the most superficial level” (p. 117).
NO EVIDENCE THAT EVEN ANTISEMITISM PLAYED A ROLE IN THOSE FEW INSTANCES WHERE POLES KILLED JEWS
“I argue that the behavior of the Polish policemen was far more situational than it was ideological in nature. In particular, the case of the Blue Police points to a less determinate role of antisemitism – especially understood in terms of ‘hatred’ – in the spectrum of motivation. This does not negate the presence of antisemitism in its ranks or the deadly role the policemen played in relation to Jews in hiding, but it does question the ‘attitude-behavior consistency’ as a sufficient explanation for participation in murder.” (p. 73)
POLISH CRIMES AGAINST JEWS—SUCH A BIG DEAL. POLISH CRIMES AGAINST OTHER POLES—NO BIG DEAL
“After the war, they were accused of a whole array of crimes in addition to anti-Jewish actions, including crimes against the Polish population and prisoners of war.” (p. 73).
“The Blue Policemen of Biecz were among the most active participants in both antiPolish and anti-Jewish actions.” (p. 102).
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS: A NEW ACCUSATION AGAINST POLES
“A similar programmatic nation-building dimension was missing from the actions of policemen with ties to the Polish underground, for whom the priority was Polish national survival and the destruction of its Jewish minority of secondary concern.” (p. 118).
Tomasz Frydel’s chapter: Judenjagd: Reassessing the role of ordinary Poles as perpetrators in the Holocaust is in Timothy Williams et al., (ed), Perpetrators: Dynamics, Motivations and Concepts for Participating in Mass Violence. 2016.
THE JUDENJAGD IN A MUCH BROADER, NON-JUDEOCENTRIC CONTEXT
“What is striking here is that the hunt for Jews bears a remarkable similarity to the hunt for Soviet POWs.” (p. 191).
“Still, manhunts went beyond Jews and Soviet POWs – peasants were also drawn into hunts against fellow villagers evading forced labor in Germany.” (p. 191).
DOES NOT FORGET THE JEWISH-NAZI COLLABORATORS
“But perhaps the most counterintuitive is the participation of Jews themselves with the Gestapo in the surveillance of the local population and the Judenjagd.” (p. 193).
“The Mielec Gestapo used several Jewish V-Leute in the region.” (p. 193).
JEWS DID IT TOO. STOP BLAMING EVERYTHING ON THE POLES
“Surprising as it may be, the participation of Jewish informers in the Judenjagd was in line with the Nazi policy of divide et impera of its colonial subjects. But the fact alone that victims of genocide could be so dramatically transformed into collaborators and perpetrators ought to take the wind out of sharp claims about the Judenjagd as an exclusively grassroots, peasant-driven ‘social movement’ to rid society of its Jews.” (p. 194).
Published with the author’s permission.
The title image: Document control carried out by the police in the Kazimierz district of Krakow, Poland, 1941. Source of image: en.wikipedia.org (CC-BY-SA 3.0) / Selected by wg.pco