THEIR MOTHERS, THEIR FATHERS
Two years ago a group of Warsaw inhabitants established a Redoubt of Good Reputation. Today it has cooperators in the whole country and not only, and can be proud of its successes in a fight against defamation of Poland and Poles
The Redoubt was established by anger: Maciej Świrski, a historian, publicist and a famous blogger, saw ‘An aftermath’ and got furious about falsifying the image of Poland. – I concluded that there is too much of it to leave without reaction – he says. – And if nobody is dealing with it seriously, I must deal with it myself.
In the beginning the initiative was of one person and was focused on a website with an appeal which has still been universal, and in which it was emphasized why we should defend our good reputation, which is something more than an image and a positive attitude of the world towards Polishness.
An impulse was the lying ‘An Aftermath’, later there was a fight with the term ‘Polish death camps’, there appeared first cooperators, and soon there were first failures and successes. Today the Redoubt is created by a few dozen volunteers, about 10 activists and a few thousand people participating in it from time to time, monitoring world mass media, writing protest letters, paying in small amounts of money.
A failure is, among the others, an unsuccessful action in connection with the Oscar award of ‘Ida’. The Redoubt explained in a petition that a viewer, not knowing the history of Europe, gets a belief from the film that there were Poles who murdered Jews and robbed them of their possessions.
Poles have been the subject of hostile propaganda for years, we are blamed for Holocaust, a lot is written about ‘Polish death camps’. Therefore the resistance of Polish institutions against placing information in a film explaining the historic background of the film is incomprehensible – says Maciej Świrski.
Nice Germans, nice Soviets
Blocking broadcasting the film ‘Our mothers, our fathers’ in British Airways airplanes showed that under the pressure of a few active people supported by other several thousand people, who were repeating protests, it is possible to gain similar results. The operation lasted several days. Knowledge of corporation mentality and business English used un protest letters was very helpful.
It started when somebody saw this film (there is no nice Pole in it; the Germans are nice, the Soviets are nice, but Poles are a cattle), while flying from London to Canada. Other members and supporters of the Redoubt confirmed it, therefore, they wrote a protest letter which they later sent to a company. In the beginning the letter was treated with a refusal. Then there appeared other voices of outrage – and there were hundreds of them – addressed to the hierarchy of the company. Accusers threatened with next actions, like discouraging clients of British Airways from using their services.
- Finally, representatives of the carrier stated that they would change the film during servicing machines in three months – says Maciej Świrski. – We did not agree to it, because we knew that they had standard servicing then. We were still sending protests, after which it turned out that they were resigning from the film.
When a few days before the beginning of a ceremony on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of liberation of the German concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, in a text published on websites of the American Television CNN Chris Boyette wrote that Auschwitz was a ‘Polish camp’, soon a letter was sent to the television station and was published in a newsletter which a few thousand people receive. About 15 thousand emails were sent and the action lasted only a few hours. The journalist assured that he had not intended to defame anybody, as he had used this term in a geographic sense and CNN broadcast a correction that, certainly, it concerned Nazis concentration camps in Poland occupied by the Germans and that the station apologized for the mistake.
One of the methods of functioning of the Redoubt is informing procurators about cases of defaming. But prosecutors are not moved by any reports. For example, in the case of defaming Poland on Facebook, they reject reports on this issue. Once we got an unusual letter from prosecutors: in one envelope there were two letters – a statement about starting an investigating procedure and information about remission of this process – says Maciej Świrski. – The issue concerned insulting photos placed on Facebook and concerning soldiers of the National Army and the Warsaw Uprising.
When prosecutors rejected the report concerning Juliusz Braun, the chairperson of the Polish Television, which broadcast the film ‘Our mothers…’, they address their request for intervention to chiefs of parliamentary clubs. The chief of the club of the Law and Justice party and wrote to the general procurator.
When after a few months there was a decision about initiation of proceedings, they were quickly discontinued, because procurators, having read a website of TVP, concluded that defaming did not take place. They concluded so although they had not seen the film, because the Polish television TVP …. refused to make the recording available.
A bad opinion about oneself
As it is emphasized in the Redoubt, a fight with ‘Polish camps’, or ‘Polish ghettos’ – which also appears – is not only a matter of insulting the nation, but maybe an issue of the future. What at will Poland face if everyone in the world believes that we were culprits of Holocaust and we are heirs of Auschwitz? It may have bad consequences, if Poland was endangered by, for example, Russia; article 5 of the NATO pact saying that help towards the attacked party will be adequate to the danger and possibilities, may…not work.
- No country of NATO will send its boys to defend anti-Semites or heirs of murderers from Auschwitz because of the opinion about us which appears in the world today – says the chief of the Redoubt. – therefore our duty, also towards our children, is defence of the good reputation. We are the last generation which can do it.
The last one, because children who do not learn history at schools, are not equipped in knowledge which would allow them to discuss with attacks on Poland or to reflect on this issue. Poles are to be brought up in shame for their past. And having a bad opinion about themselves and not being proud, Poles may be (and are) consumers and cheap labour force.
- We are not going to revolt, for example, against products of the bad quality which are sold to us at bad prices, we are not going to demand higher salaries, because who are we? We are nobody, anti-Semites and murderers from Auschwitz – says Maciej Świrski. – If we have a low self-esteem, Germany sells us a washing-powder of the worse quality. We should be glad that it sells us even this kind of a washing-powder!
The country allows for it
The low self-esteem of Poles – in the opinion of Świrski – is connected with not experiencing trauma of war which was caused by communism. Poles have separated themselves from it and are afraid of discussing this topic, are afraid of a hard confrontation. Therefore, among the others, they tolerate scandalous behaviours of politicians in the government thinking, that they have no duties – he thinks.
In the recent self-governing campaign, members of the Redoubt got engaged in the action of guarding elections. What does the Redoubt of the Good Reputation think about the elections? - We are fighting for dignity of the nation, and the electoral act is one of elements of expressing it. Dignity is also expressed in the fact that we are taking care of our own interests, that is, elections. – If we do not do it, it will be easier to define us with various names which insult our dignity – they say.
Despite a petition signed by a few dozen thousand people, it was not possible to convince decision-makers of introducing the background of historical context in the film ‘Ida’. It concerned complementing the introduction of the film with information which will weaken its anti-Polish meaning, among the others, with the fact that Poland was under the German occupation, that these were the Germans who pursued the policy of extermination of Jews, and that hiding them was punished with death not only among those who were hiding them, but also their whole families, but, despite that, many Poles were hiding the Jews.
This is a defeat of the Redoubt but its members think that, in fact, this is a defeat of the Polish country which financed the film to a large extent, perceived as the truth about Poland all over the world. Whereas the historic truth has been deformed in it.
Who is managing Poles?
Why did the Germans make the film ‘Our mothers…’? Why do the Austrians, compatriots of Hitler, let themselves accuse Poles of anti-Semitism and the film ‘Ida’, supported with public grants, has anti-Polish character? The country allowed for it!
- If it does not manage its image or historical policy, then somebody else does it. If the group managing Poland does not care about it, then somebody else will be ruling under this image. And so Germany is ruling the Polish historical policy! - says Maciej Świrski.
Volunteers from the Redoubt are doing everything what the country should do, and are replacing its activity. At present, this is a special state agenda which should deal with the defence of good reputation of Poland. Without a systemic activity of the country, only very little will be possible to do. It must join it with its money, authority, possibilities. Nothing is possible without it – they are only a group of amateurs, enthusiasts.
Whereas, it would be sufficient if the Polish Republic was critical towards the British airlines and the film would not have appeared on board of these airplanes at all. The matter would have been settled at once. They had to be involved in a dispute for two weeks.