Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Poland to name war dead

From The Guardian

Poland to name 6m war dead
Ian Traynor, central Europe correspondent
Monday September 4, 2006

Poland is to name as many as possible of the more than 6 million Poles who perished in the second world war in a project aimed at countering what it sees as German attempts to rewrite the history of the war. The announcement coincided with ceremonies marking the 67th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 that started the war and also coincides with a bitter dispute between Berlin and Warsaw over historical truth.
The new nationalist Polish government, headed by twin brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski, prime minister and president respectively, are suspicious of German intentions. They are outraged at an exhibition being staged in Berlin on the plight of the millions of ethnic Germans kicked out of eastern and central Europe at the end of the war and alarmed at Russo-German energy pacts to bypass Poland and leave it vulnerable to Russian pressure. "We are sitting in a city that was 80% destroyed by the Germans," Adam Lipinski, an aide to the prime minister, said of the Nazi razing of Warsaw in 1944. "How can we not have anything against the Germans? There's a huge amount of resentment among Poles. The Germans need to take into account that the Poles are very sensitive to what they say about the past."
The Stalinists who took over Poland at the end of the war following the Yalta accords of the allied victors calculated in 1947 that 6,028,000 Poles lost their lives in the war. Some 5 million were civilians. Half the total were Polish Jews who were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. The main Nazi concentration and death camps were located in Poland. The Polish toll was the heaviest proportionately of any country in the war. The new government, fiercely anti-communist, is unhappy with the 1947 tally and wants a more exact reckoning. "The programme's goal is to commemorate by name as many Polish citizens as possible who were persecuted - killed, imprisoned or resettled - between 1939 and 1945 under German occupation," the National Remembrance Institute said.
Polish grievances, particularly under the Kaczynski administration, remain fresh and there is widespread sentiment that the outside world still fails to appreciate what Hitler and Stalin did to Poland. "To us, it is obvious and clear who started the second world war, who built the concentration camps: the Germans did it. But a huge part of the young generation in Germany does not know that," the culture minister, Kazimierz Ujazdowski, told Polish radio. While designed to counter what Poles see as German revisionism and a new German focus on their own victims, the war dead project is also part of the Kaczynskis' programme to build a stronger national identity based on a history purged of communist distortions. The project will take years to complete and should then be augmented by an even bigger undertaking to document and catalogue the depredations inflicted on Poland by the Soviet Union.
The Kaczynskis' parents were both active in the underground resistance during the war and fought in the 1944 Warsaw uprising, brutally crushed by the Nazis. President Kaczynski, when mayor of Warsaw, built an imposing museum devoted to the uprising and also ordered a study of damages that concluded the Germans caused more than €50bn (£33.8bn) of destruction in Warsaw. "Their parents fought in the uprising. They're patriots. They've read all the books," said Michal Karnowski, author of a book on the Kaczynski twins.
The reparations issues were settled between then West Germany and Soviet-controlled Poland in the 1950s and 60s and the twins clearly think Poland got a raw deal. The billions in European Union funds and aid now rolling into Poland go some way to make amends. Said Cezary Michalski, a prominent Polish commentator: "They see the EU funds as their due, as war reparations or a belated Marshall plan, since it was the western powers at Yalta who were responsible for what happened to Poland."


Sergey Romanov said...

Ahh, that "6 million Poles" myth. ;-)

Seriously, less than 3 million ethnic Poles were murdered by the Nazi Germany.

Andrew E. Mathis said...

How about Polish-Gentile casualties as a total of Nazi and Soviet murders?


Roman Werpachowski said...

It's pure politics. The Kaczynskis are using history and present events (Ms Steinbach) to whip up anti-German sentiments in Poland.

These guys are plain nuts.

beatroot said...

You have to put the Kaczynski obsession In context.

Yes, this government is obsessed by the past. They think the Solidarity revolution is half done, at best.

They are also observing something new in German politics. This is the third German generation since the Nazis. The first simply wanted to forget it. The Second wanted to purify Germany from its Nazi past – led by Gunter Grass. The third wants to emphasize how Germans suffered from the Nazis too.
And that looks a bit weird from a Polish perspective.

JPSlovjanski said...

I say it's about time. Poles have been bitching about the Soviet Union and Russia to this day, almost 16 years after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. Katyn overshadowed Auschwitz. And WHY? Because big brother Germany had a lot more money to offer than Russia. Nationalism is just a cowardly cover story, as it is in most modern EE ethnic conflicts.

Nick Terry said...

Hello jpslovjanski,

first, just wanted to say that we might not agree on politics but your parodies of WN organisations at VNN had me in stitches.

as to the story - no question, this is political spin. But the researchers will take an age and the Kaczynskis will leave power, and maybe something constructive will come out of it, for historians.

Polish historians already had to eat dirt over the treatment of eastern Poland under Soviet rule, anyhow.

JPSlovjanski said...

Could you be more specific about the "eat dirt" comment? Are you referring to life in Galicia and Western Belarus after the annexation in 1939 or the post war situation?

Nick Terry said...

Polish writers in exile used to claim 1-1.6 million deportees at the hands of the Soviets from western Belarus and western Ukraine. Then in the 1990s a Polish-Russian historical commission examined the NKVD records and the number turned out to be under 400,000. It's available on the Memorial website, in Russian.

I mean, nothing we haven't seen from similar revisions about other telephone numbers ;-)

Nick Terry said...

I should add: regarding 1939-1941.

The 1944 onwards period was in some regards probably worse for killings, documents came to light showing the NKVD killed or executed up to 100,000 people from 1944-45 suppressing the UPA and other nationalist guerrilla forces.

JPSlovjanski said...

Ok I see what you are referring to. Yes, it has been common to cite massive millions of numbers when dealing with the Soviets, without any sources or proof. Moreover, deaths that were due to conditions caused by the Nazi invasion are often attributed to Stalin for doing/not doing something.

People don't seem to want to look at the context of what was facing the people of the USSR had they not been so vigilant. As the Nazi documents show(and I believe Romanov wrote about on this site), a Nazi victory would have led to the death and/or starvation of possibly 80 million people as the Nazis attempted to colonize everything West of the Urals.

THAT was the threat Stalin was facing in the 30s, and his predictions eventually came true in 41.

Other than that, I feel absolutely no sympathy for the UPA thugs.

JPSlovjanski said...

Forgot to mention that you said "deportees", not deaths in the first reply. If that is what you meant, it is also likely that the majority of that number ended up in the LWP(Polish People's Army) or the Western Polish Army(they were sent to Iran to join the British).

Nick Terry said...

Hi jpslovjanski,

yes, you're quite right that not even all those deported died.

It sounds like you'd enjoy Sergey's Katyn challenge.


The double standards about evidence over the crimes of Stalin and the crimes of Hitler are something that constantly amuse us about Holocaust deniers.

It's also especially amusing when nutzis start babbling about millions of 'white Christians', as if they really give a shit about the Russian, Ukrainian and other peoples in the Soviet Union.