Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest? Studies on the Wartime Fate of Poles and Jews

Slawomir Blaut

Responding to the scientifically unreliable Jan Tomasz Gross's book 'Golden Harvest. About what happened on the peripheries of the extermination of Jews' published by the Krakow Publishing House 'Znak' (promoted as a shocking story of Polish Christians' greed) a team of Polish and foreign scientists published a collection of reflections and polemics, historical studies and analyses on the Polish-Jewish relationships during World War II, under the meaningful title 'Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest? Studies on the Wartime Fate of Poles and Jews.' The scientific editors were Prof. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and Dr. Wojciech Jerzy Muszynski. The book was published by the Warsaw Publishing House 'The Facto.' Its authors included many outstanding scientists. Apart from the above-mentioned editors these were: Rev. Prof. Waldemar Chrostowski, Prof. Peter Stachura, Prof. John Radzilowski and Dr. Ryszard Tyndorf. The historians from the Institute of National Remembrance also helped the authors. In their articles the Polish researchers, those of Polish background from Poland and abroad (USA, Canada, Great Britain) try to restore the scientific dimension to the debate about the Poles' attitudes during the German occupation, the dimension Jan Tomasz Gross - a sociologist acting as a historian (by the way, as a sociologist he did not use the classical scientific methods but rather journalistic manner of writing), a representative - according to Prof. J. Radzilowski - of the post-modernist school, also called neo-Stalinist (in a new para-scientific camouflage) avoids consistently. As Prof. Peter Stachura and Dr. Piotr Gontarczyk stress Gross did not conduct any independent research to describe the events in his 'Golden Harvest.'
The book 'Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest' begins with two quotations reminding readers of the help Poles offered to the Jews in the tragic occupation reality. This motif appears in almost every chapter of the book as counterbalance to Gross's accusations. The authors of 'Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest' stress that among the occupied countries only in Poland the Nazis threatened people of death sentence for helping Jews. Most frequently the whole family that hid Jews and even their neighbours for not reporting about the fact of helping Jews faced death. Poles were terrorised and exterminated in mass executions. Icek Cukierman alias Antek, a soldier of the Jewish Combat Organisation, quoted by the authors of the book, stated, 'The one that spreads hatred towards Poles commits a sin!' Gross ignores these words. He passes easy and at the same time effective moral judgements. The subjects of his moral condemnation are Poles - victims, and not the German executioners. He makes equality between the Polish Christians and German national socialists. He writes assuming some a priori thesis. In order to prove it he uses an extreme simplification, suggesting that the main reason for Jewish extermination was the Germans' desire to plunder Jewish properties. Then he tries to show that Poles also attempted to plunder the properties of their Jewish neighbours, thus assuming that Poles and Germans had a common aim. Gross wants to convince readers that the whole Polish society was guilty of the Holocaust like the Nazis that did it. Gross carefully chose macabre examples of plunder in the Polish lands, giving no historical context, to show that the inclination to loot is not rooted in the human nature but in the weakness of the Polish Christians. He only presents cases of crimes committed by Poles against Jews and basing on these facts he puts forward the thesis that the Polish nation has no moral principles. But, what Bethany M. Paluk stresses, plunder is not an inclination characterised of any concrete national or religious groups as Gross wants to prove, but of the human nature in general. Both Christians and Jews acted with evil motives. The same applies to heroism. Bethany M. Paluk claims that what should be condemned is the very destructive attempt to explain the phenomenon of plunder by racial, national or religious arguments. Proposing such a thesis cannot be defended intellectually and historically. The fact that some Poles, or strictly speaking Polish citizens, both Jewish and Christian, committed deeds that can be called barbarian in no case means that they were morally equal to the Nazis who strove to exterminate whole nations. They simply behaved as depraved people in the worst meaning of the word (one should remember that they acted in war conditions where there were no Polish institutions to guard social order).
The authors of 'Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest', following the search for the truth about the time of the occupation, presented the results of their reliable research and analyses, verifying and correcting the false images about the real conditions of the Polish-Jewish relationships. These studies have been firmly rooted in the reality of the epoch. In their reflections they rejected the two extreme interpretations of history: 'the black legend,' false accusations of Poles as co-executioners in the Holocaust for material profits, and the heroic mythology, uncritical approach towards Poland's history. In the Introduction to their book their authors emphasize that the accusations of Poles' participation in the German crimes were supported - because of post-modernism - by professional researchers. The fashionable 'black legend' of Poles as anti-Semites presents all Poles through the prism of pathologically social cases and criminal behaviours, common crimes that occurred in the Polish lands during World War II. After the war 'the black legend' could be some kind of 'moral alibi' for all those nations that ever harmed Poles. 'Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest' is a counterbalance to those false statements.
As the historians emphasize in the West the historical discourse was monopolised by the Jewish environments. There it is hard for a scientist, having a full and objective picture of historical events connected with the Jewish Holocaust, to reach a wide circle of readers. He is often called 'anti-Semitic' (in accordance with the political correctness that national minorities must be privileged since once the majority was privileged and now it should be some equality!). The situation is different when a book written according to some uncomplicated scheme like 'The Painted Bird' by Kosinski, is published on the Western market and its author puts his 'sensational discoveries' in the robe of science. Readers get to know the monstrosity of crime but do not have to participate in the complicated, and many a time boring, process of reaching the truth. It is the case of 'Golden Harvest' by Gross. 'The truth' (read: lie) has been established a priori and is presented in a light way. It sells well.
The book 'Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest' strives to restore right proportions in the important public debate conducted in Poland and in the world. A considerable part of participants or observers of this debate is looking at the future through the prism of their ideological, cultural and political sympathies. Few are interested in reconstructing the history of the Polish-Jewish relationships, history that actually happened. For a smaller group it is fundamental to reach the truth despite myths, stereotypes and fashionable judgement that there are various 'truths' that one can match as one wishes. The authors believe in the rightness of their activities and are not afraid of ostracism dictated by the terror of political correctness.
It is worth adding that 'Golden Harvest' by Gross is boycotted by readers and booksellers in Poland.
The book 'Hearts of Gold or a Golden Harvest' was dedicated to 'the memory of Prof. Janusz Kurtyka.'

"Niedziela" 22/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl