WE WERE NOT HERE, WE ARE NOT HERE
In Poland we are being scared that when reopening the wound today, even in defnce of our dignity – like in the case of the change of the Act about the National Remembrance Institute – we are bringing a harm to ourselves, breaking relations with other countries, mainly with Israel and Germany.
The issue retaken for a while, and even a problem connected with it and concerning defending Poles’ s dignity towards appearing unjust accusations of cooperation in Holocaust, are disappearing from the agenda of the most urgent Polish issues – as one can think – they will be sent back to the past of history, not to disturb the current policy. That is why, nobody of the state authority appeared at a conference in Oświęcim, organized recently by a few social organizations (Society of Care about Oświęcim, Foundation for Fighters about Independence, the Excluded, the Harmed, the Interned, the Imprisoned, the Chapter of Remembrance Distinction of Groups of the Opposition ‘In solidarity’, Association ‘In solidarity 2010’, the Warsaw-East District of the World Union of the National Army Soldiers).
A disappearing number of the murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau
The number of the murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau is difficult to define and will remain a mystery for ages – Władysław A. Terlecki, a member of the Management of the Society of Care about Oświęcim said during the conference in Oświęcim, and he also presented a more mysterious process of its reducing with passing post-war years, and especially in the last three decades.
Estimations of the extraordinary Soviet commission, created in February 1945, immediately after the liberation of the death camp in Auschwitz, and investigation works begun by the Commission Investigating Nazis Crimes managed by prof. Jan Sehn, estimated the number of the killed as less than 4 million. It was defined in a similar way by the Nuremberg verdict, giving a number of over 4 million. According to one of SS-men, it might have been 5 million, and Rudolf Hess was proving that from June 1941 to the end of 1943 about million people had been killed in the death camp in Auschwitz. The number of 5 million was given by Witold Pilecki.
So, the officially acknowledged number of victims had not been changing till the year 1992 and was less than 4 million. Geopolitical changes in the 90s of the XX century, unification and significance growth of Germany influenced the reduction of the number of victims of the death camp in Auschwitz. It is difficult not to notice this correlation.
These testimonies of witnesses were ignored and a scientific attempt was taken to reduce the number of the murdered in the death camp in Auschwitz, not from less than 4.5 million to 1.5 million only. These significantly lower estimates appeared in the scientific literature in Poland and in the world at the beginning of the 90s of the XX century. Estimations were carried out on the basis of ‘new investigations and new sources’, which allowed to define this number as 1.1 million. And recently – nearly ‘from a hat’ – even only 900 thousand is given, and more fervent media speak about 800 thousand of the murdered in Auschwitz.
The dispute, taking place from 1992 about the number of people murdered in Auschwitz is not a scientific dispute but an ideological war hidden in allegedly scientific investigations – says Władysław terlecki and adds: - If researchers of history cannot reach an agreement, and their attitudes are contradictory, the only possible result is enumeration, that is, a scientific method which enumerates the most important attitudes in the case of impossibility of solving the dispute.
Whereas an inscription on a board in Brzezinka had been made which showed the number of 4.5 million… In the recently opened Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, in the majesty of officially binding history, the number of 900 thousand is given.
When dr. Stefan Pągowski, a scientist from Toronto, was trying to investigate who and when did the official minimalization in Poland, he reached the information that in the Polish Sciences Academy there was a one-day conference in December 2003, which decreed this decision with the significance of its authority, but in the archives of the Polish Sciences Academy it was impossible to find any materials of that conference or even a mention about it. Franciszek Piper, who had run the Historic-Exploratory Department of the National Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau since the 80s of the last century, discusses these new investigations reducing the number of the murdered in Auschwitz, in his book: ‘How many people were killed in the death camp in Auschwitz. The number of victims in the light of sources and investigations 1945- 1990’ (Oświęcim 1992). However, at the end he presents an interesting chart which shows the growing power of death machines. – The power of death machines is growing, and is the number of transported people falling? – asks Terlecki. – In my opinion, in this important issue we are dealing with a clear falsifying of science. I take full responsibility for these words, and I pass over this big burden to Poles and Poland.
It is clear that the Germans are pursuing historic policy in solidarity and consistently, which is aimed at blurring and reducing their responsibility for the crimes of the Second World War by spreading this responsibility onto other nations, among the others, onto the Polish nation – prof. Paweł Bromski, a politics expert from the Higher School of International Relations and American Studies in Warsaw said during the conference in Oświęcim. – This is the purpose of the process of the gradual reducing the number of the murdered in Oświęcim, and attempts of eliminating acts of martyrdom in Auschwitz –Birkenau of other nations besides the Jewish nation, which is convenient for the current line of Holocaust and the German policy – he added.
Politicians and German media have been promoting allegedly humble but hypocritical motto that ‘towards Auschwitz everybody is equal’. It was repeated by Martin Schulz when he was visiting the death camp in Auschwitz, as the chairperson of the European Parliament.
When the issue of German crimes during the war and genocide in the past three decades appears, it is stifled at the very beginning. It was so, for example, in 2006 when a fact of missing archive documents of the former Main Commission of Prosecuting Crimes against the Polish Nation was revealed, and which referred to German crimes in Poland. ‘Our Journal’ published a short article then, writing about transporting lots of documents to Germany in the years 1959 – 2002. We read: ‘This procedure lasted nearly 50 years, according to estimation of procurators of the investigation department of the National Remembrance Institute, over 36 thousand original protocols of witnesses’ testimonies were sent to Germany, and the same number of copies of those documents, 150 thousand micro-films (…)’. Journalists of the main stream media did not bother to analyze the issue. Nobody was bothered by the fact that the German National Archive in Ludgwisburg, where those documents were sent in a suspicious way, stated that finding those acts would be extremely difficult.
Poles’ martyrdom invisible
The National Museum in Oświęcim is formally managed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, but today Poles have very little to say, are absent both in present and in the history of that terrible place. The International Council of Oświęcim cooperates with the prime minister of Poland, but the domineering voice belongs to the representatives of Western Europe and the USA who represent a vision of tragic past completely different from the Polish one.
During a conference organized two years ago, in the museum in Oświęcim, entitled: ‘Awareness – responsibility – future’ – it was mentioned by a participant Agnieszka Hałaburdzin-Rutkowska from the Asscoiation ‘In solidarity 2010’ – guests from abroad were saying that Poles were guilty, because if they had defended the Jews, they would not have been killed in such big numbers, that Poles had surely hated the Jews, because 90 percent of Jews living in Poland had been killed…
Apart from the workers of the museum, who were only moderators of particular panels, during that conference under patronage of the Polish minister of culture, Poles did not speak, or there was no attempt of fighting the unjust attacks. And, after all, the Auschwitz –Birkenau camp is the best place to say what should be said to the world by Poland on the extermination. Whereas nobody took care of inviting somebody to the conference who would say something about Poles in Auschwitz….This kind of attitude to the issue seems an unchangeable norm in Poland.
None of you wants to deny that it was extermination of Jews – said Agnieszka Hałaburdzin-Rutkowska – but it does not mean that we are to forget about our history. It is necessary to explain everything in the right way today, so that the voice of Poland would sound properly in this place of Poland to which the Germans decided to transport Jews from all over the world, but they began from murdering Poles….After all, here we have not only Holocaust of Jews, but also extermination of Poles begun with extermination of Polish elites – All best were chosen for the first transport to Oświęcim…
In the Auschwitz-Birkeau camp there should be a place to show that besides Jews also Christians were killed here. Whereas – according to Agnieszka Hałaburdzin-Rutkowska – we allowed for a fight with the cross just in this place. During the extermination we were helpless towards that fight, whereas, now and a few years ago, we should have said: No!
What is bad about the fact that in this way we want to commemorate our deceased Poles? Why do not we have a right for it? Why did we agree not to have the cross in Auschwitz-Birkenau, so that the Carmelite nuns could not pray here? We have not got answers to these questions till now, as they are rarely asked. One of our colleagues wanted to commemorate the place of her father’s death with the cross, and she asked for finding a worthy humble place – said Agnieszka Hałaburdzin-Rutkowska. – Her request was not rejected but her cross has been in a warehouse for 15 years….
How to pass over the truth
Today one thing is certain: either we cannot or we do not want to pass over our own story about the extermination to the world and the next generations of Poles, and we are using somebody’s else story. Despite the turning point to history in a new educational currculum for primary and secondary schools, there are lots of slight formulations, avoiding emphasizing the martyrdom of the Polish nation. A Polish student must know how to ‘present the causes and results of Holocaust and describe examples of the opposition of Jewish people’, ‘characterize the Nazis plan of extermination of Jews and other nations and social groups’, ‘present ideological basis for extermination of Jews and other ethnical and social groups, managed by Nazis Germany’..etc. – As if I was reading the school curriculum for schools in Israel – it was concluded by Jan Kulczycki, an actor, a teacher and a member of the Chapter of Remembrance Distinction of Groups of the Opposition ‘In solidarity’.
It must be acknowledged respectfully that Jews take much care about remembrance of Holocaust in the world. For example, in Sweden learning about Holocaust is compulsory: Jews visit all schools to tell them about the extermination, certainly from their own point of view. Whereas in Poland we cannot take care about our own remembrance. Polish youth has very little knowledge even about the Warsaw Uprising.
In Germany every school has a duty of taking students to the camp in Dachau: students are showed around along ‘a prisoner’s road’, but they will never hear that also Poles were prisoners there, although every third Pole was murdered there, and every second Pole was a priest. Two years ago a group of priests visiting the camp asked a German guide about Polish priests, and he did not even know that there had been priests there at all. In the speech given by the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel during the ceremonies of the 70th anniversary of liberation of the Dachau camp, the word ‘Poles’ was not mentioned at all – there were Jews communists and homosexuals.
One of Polish prisoners came up to me – said dr. Anna Jagodzińska from the National Remembrance Institute, who has been dealing with concentration camps for years, concentrating mainly on the Polish academic groups and Polish priests in the Dachau and Mauthausen-Gusen camp – and started crying: ‘We were not here….’
And it is embarrassing to admit that today foreigners are dealing with the Polish remembrance about Auschwitz. Dr. Jagodzińska gives an example of two Italians who are preparing a book about Poles in Auschwitz, and who had not known earlier like most Europeans, that prisoners of the Auschwitz camp were also Poles and only after visiting the camp did they find out about the fact, to their surprise. When later, in Warsaw Starówka, they accidentally saw a letter of an Auschwitz prisoner to his mother, they got shocked, bought the letter which gave them an idea. Later they also bought 270 other letters written by Poles from Auschwitz and to Auschwitz. They collected all possible biographies. Why has nobody in Poland thought about collecting this kind of letters?! – asks dr. Jagodzińska.
And why did they do it? They say: because the nation doomed to extermination deserves remembrance that on 1 September it stood for a fight in defence of Homeland, that Poland had never been a country of collaborators and Poles had not been co-creators of the camps. They want to show the truth in their country, Italy. They say that they want to use their book to protest against the spreading message in the world about ‘Polish’ concentration camps. ‘Lettere de Auschwitz’ by Aldo Navoni and Federika Pozzi is only and even 30 biograms of Polish prisoners in Auschwitz. These two humble Italians – a teacher and a pharmacy assistant – embarrass us as in Poland there has been no mentions about prisoners’ memories appearing after the war.
The letters saved by the Italians are valuable today. We must take care of protecting such documents from forgetting – for example, by looking for them in home archives – so that the avalanche of fabricated narration would not cover the truth, so as there would not be selling out the real history.
Translated by Aneta Amrozik
Niedziela 20/2018 (20 V 2018)