THE SECOND WORLD WAR: WHAT IS THE MEMORY ABOUT IT?

ANDRZEJ NOWAK

Let’s recall, on 1 September 2009 on Westerplatte, during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, Władimir Putin was the guest exposed by the government of Donald Tusk the most. The anniversary visit was preceded by an article paying tribute to the guest, which minister Sikorski had published in the ‘Electoral Newspaper’. This text is simply wicked in its detest to the Polish history (especially for the II Polish Republic) and in falsifying the real nature of Putin’s regime. All this in order to ingratiate oneself to the leader of an empire being legal and international heir of this country which had invaded Poland in September 1939 and was co-responsible for causing the Second World War through signing a pact Ribbentrop-Mołotow.

A consent at any cost?

A consent would surely be necessary on such a jubilee occasion but only through admitting to one’s fault and co-responsibility. The chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, did not refrain from the fault on Westerplatte. Whereas the prime minister Putin used the anniversary of the war outbreak to give a speech which was an open excuse of Stalin’s pact with Hitler: after all Germany was at the disadvantage because of the Versailles Treaty, western powerful countries also isolated the Soviet Union then, so, it is ‘natural’ that Berlin and Moscow must have got in a closer relationship with each other in order to ‘repair injustice’ of the Versailles system…It was in such a terrifying way in which the world press presented Putin’s speech on Westerplatte. And what about ‘our’ media? They wrote, certainly, about a great triumph of the policy of Donald Tusk and a positive breakthrough in Russian-Polish relationships, because Władimir Putin had stepped on the pier in Sopot which was perceived as an honor….

It was differently perceived by president Lech Kaczyński who was trying to present a different view in his speech and in this place: victims of the invasion by two totalitarian empires, not an excuse of the invaders’ rights. Media, supporting the government of the prime minister Tusk, were shouting and drowning out the voice of the Polish president Kaczyński, accusing him of his disturbing the Polish consent with Moscow. Well, on 10 April 2010 he stopped disturbing….

The truth about Putin’s regime had been falsified still for four years. It was blow against the public memory about the history of Polish-Russian and Polish-Soviet relationships in the XX century. President Bronisław Komorowski patronized the construction of the monument erected to the honour of the Red Army soldiers going to Warsaw in August 1920. During those four years, as if it was all about independence, president Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz defended the notorious monument of the so-called the Asleep, that is, a Polish-Soviet monument of Brothers in Arms, and, in fact the symbol of the Soviet dominance over Poland, which ‘ornamented’ Praga in Warsaw. Not earlier than in autumn 2014 did she withdraw. The governing camp also defended similar symbols in many other places, like the ‘monument of Gratitude’ of the Red Army in Nowy Sącz or a monument of the marshal of this army placed in Pieniężno – Iwan czerniachowski, responsible for death of hundreds people and sending thousands of young soldiers of the National Army to camps.

Now, suddenly, the same people who were trying to precede the most discrediting wishes for Poland of the Kremlin propaganda (let’s take the article in the ‘Electoral Newspaper’ from 27 August 2009, written by a journalist Rafał Zasun, completely whitening the pact Ribbentrop-Mołotow), are in the roles of spokesmen different than during Moscow celebrations of the Second World War end, and they put on robes of defenders of historical memory. Different political winds are blowing…

Historical politics

What is it like, what should it be like, regardless of political winds, this memory is connected with the end of the biggest war in history of humankind – this war in whose centre Poland was? Everyone has a right to his individual remembrance. This is the first truth, the worthiest recalling in the epoch of the ubiquitous political correctness, forcing its way also to the sphere of memory. In families in which there is a community of memory about victims of genocide committed during that war by Ukrainian nationalists, surely, this crime is and must still be an unhealed wound till it is acknowledged and symbolically amended by state heirs of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. In families – and they are the majority – which experienced crimes committed on Poles from 1 September 1939 by German invaders, this memory remains the most important. Here the most painful element are still appearing accusations against all Poles of not belonging to a group of the Second World War victims, but of being a group of accomplices of Holocaust considered as the crime of that war. A terrible reminder of this injustice and insult for over two million of ethnic Poles murdered by the Germans during this war, including thousands Poles murdered for hiding the Jews, there has been a recent disgraceful speech of the FBI chief – James Comey. Let’s remind that he said that the ‘Nazis’ are responsible for Holocaust, as well as their accomplices from Germany, Poland and Hungary (he mentioned only these three countries by name). So, are Poles, beside the Germans, the culprits of this biggest crime in the history of humankind, which was organized by some ‘Nazis’ deprived of nationality and state citizenship?

It is a terrible fact that falsified repetition of the German and very subtle historical policy is so effectively and wickedly spread. And it should meet with the reaction from the state, which has a duty to take care of a good name of its citizens when it is breached with the contradiction with the historical truth. Unfortunately, in the last 25 years, the Polish country has done very little to fulfill this duty. On the contrary, it often supported these cultural or symbolical actions which had been supporting this anti-Polish propaganda connected with the period of the Second World War. Certainly, there were also Jews given to German executioners by a wicked element which is also in the Polish (like in any other) society. And descendants of Jews have a right to their individual remembrance.

Negligence from the Polish country

What the Polish country should fight against is a falsified generalization: Poles =anti-Semites, Poles in the Second World War = co-accomplices of Holocaust. There is a very sad result of negligence of the Polish country in this respect. Social initiatives are trying to replace the country, like the Redoubt of the Good Name or actions of the office of Lech Obara against subjects (including the foreign ones), using the definition ‘Polish death camps’. However , it is not sufficient: without the return of historical truth to the Polish school, without supporting films (with the public patronage), but not like ‘A barn on fire’ or ‘Aftermath’ (these are the titles of anti-Polish libels), but such films which have not been made so far: about thousands of Polish just people, about the captain Pilecki, about Monte Cassino, about Polish pilots defending the English sky in 1940, about Polish sailors tracking ‘Bismarck’, etc.

‘Liberation’

However, what remembrance of the war should we quote in the context of our relations with Russia? Surely many families in our country keep memories of the Red Army soldiers (let’s remember that in good and bad tone, these were not the Russians, but also the Ukrainians, Azeris, the Kazakhs, Jews and representatives of other nationalities submitted to the reign of Stalin). Some of them remember their sacrificetaken in a fight against an invader. And they are right. 600 thousand soviet soldiers were defeated in this fight on the land being the Polish country today. They deserve, like all defeated soldiers, dignified burial, not being disturbed by any political emotions. Do they deserve monuments. And - this is something completely different. After all, there are families, also thousands of families, which keep remembrance about rapes and robberies, which were committed by ‘liberators’. Moreover, we cannot forget this is the Red Army, its aggression in September 1939 and decisions of its political superiority to which we ‘owe’ the loss of over a half of the territory of the Second Polish Republic and the tragedy of expelling millions of Poles from their homeland. If somebody defends monuments of the Red Army, he should build other monuments opposite them: of the big crime committed on Poland by the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

If we were to look for a symbolic abbreviation for the sense of this ‘liberation’, which was caused in May 1945 by the Red Army, maybe it is worth thinking not only about association with the political trade with Eastern Europe in Yalta (or earlier in Teheran). It is worth thinking on the fate of an individual, easier to understand with alive emotions. So, let’s recall one such case: on 1 May 1945 Stanisława Marinczenko, an inhabitant of ‘liberated’ Poznań was shot. She had been arrested in April for illegal having a radio. So, it was her crime in the light of the law introduced by the Polish Committee of National Liberation: ‘without a legal permission of the communist authorities was she hiding a radio in her cellar’. And it was the only thing for which she was sentenced to death penalty by the military court. The verdict was executed. It was the symbolical beginning of ‘liberated’ Poland. And we should also think on this fate – and through its sad lesson – on the fate of thousands of similar victims of ‘liberation’. We should pay attention to this remembrance on the day of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

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„Niedziela” 18/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl