Tuesday 10 May 2016

More "Polish Death Camps" hate-speech: American Heritage Education?

"A love of learning [...]
sensitivity and concern for others"
stated goals of Rambam Mesivta High School,

"We're here to protest" says the young man from the Rambam Mesivta High School, but when asked for the details about what he is "protesting" about, he seems not really to know anything much about anything. Another American high school student volunteers that the Second World War started in "1941" (duh). "Talk to the administrator" they shyly volunteer. But Rabbi Zev Friedman who led this band of hate-screaming chanting youths to the Polish consulate in New York actually knows bugger all about what he is saying, he was in Plaszow (the Schindler's Ark camp) but cannot pronounce its name, he misread the inscription on the monument overlooking the town there. He seems surprised that both towns and camps are at major railway junctions (duh) and lies to the impressionable and uncritical kids at the Rambam Mesivta High School by saying that all the major concentration camps were "in Poland" (Dachau, Ravensbrook, Mathausen, Dora, Gross Raden, Theriesenstadt and all the rest of those so-called "Polish Death camps" eh Rabbi?).  If the education of American youth is all in the hands of ignorant bigots like this, no wonder Donald Trump has so much support over there.
Look at this video by Nowy Dziennik (Anna Archiszewska) of pathetic pudgy schoolkids led astray by their "teacher", and cringe:

 US Schoolkids totally clueless about European history
dragged out by their school to shout hate slogans
outside the Polish consulate in New York

Here they are in a Polish Newspaper (Legal Journal) 'Żydzi protestują przeciw „pisaniu na nowo historii o Holokauście”...', Gazeta Prawna 06.05.2016
Organizator protestu, rabin Zev Friedman w swym przemówieniu obarczył Polaków odpowiedzialnością za istnienie i funkcjonowanie „polskich obozów śmierci”. Jego zdaniem powstały one na terenie Polski, ponieważ „Polacy się na to godzili". Przyznał, że niektórzy Polacy pomagali Żydom, ale jak przekonywał „wielu doprowadziło do ich śmierci” [...] Polscy obserwatorzy czwartkowej demonstracji, byli zaskoczeni poziomem niewiedzy uczniów na temat czasów, których dotyczył protest. W trakcie rozmów z nimi wyjaśniło się, że "uczniowie nie wiedzieli, iż w trakcie II wojny światowej Polska nie istniała jako państwo [...] Przyszli tutaj z mapą Polski w granicach z 1945 r.” 
The Jewish Telegraphic agency likewise is critical of the event: 'Jewish high schoolers picket Polish consulate in NY to protest ‘Holocaust whitewash’...' May 5, 2016).
an inflammatory misrepresentation of history that whitewashes German Nazi crimes and transfers them onto their Polish victims [...] inflammatory speech filled with falsehoods against the Polish government
As expected, there has been a rather strong reaction of the right-wing press in Poland, the story is all over them, the Rambam Mesivta High School has become quite famous here over the past few days. The liberal Gazeta Wyborcza also covered the story from a standpoint more critical of the government: USA.Żydzi protestują przeciw "pisaniu na nowo historii o Holokauście" 06.05.201

The ignorant bigots at the Rambam Mesivta High School will no doubt automatically claim they are the victims of "anti-semitism" when criticised for this stunt. I suggest that anti-semitism derives from exactly the same kind of sterotypising generalisations based on false arguments and ignorance that we see here Rabbi Friedman "teaching" his students here. I suggest furthermore that the latter would do well to familiarise himself with the critical reviews (some 30 of them) of Gross's book by Polish professional historians of all political shades familiar with the material he covers before waving it around as any kind of "evidence" to base his hate-speech (does the Rabbi read Polish?). Too often (Dove World Outreach Centre Koran burning, Westboro Baptist bigots, Curtis Culwell Center Garland Mohammed cartoons etc) the "First Amendment" in the US is a shield for provocative bigoted, ignorant out-and-out hate speech. I'd draw the attention of the rabbi and his students that it is precisely in the Poland he so freely insults, that the fight is on by a large part of the population for  a renewal of "Freedom, Equality and Democracy" and I guarantee him that none of the people in that movement would have any truck with the present government's distortion of history. Indeed, we hope that this populist government will soon be on the way out. 

For the record, prompted by the debate over "Neighbours" fifteen years ago (Rabbi F., please keep up), I have read several of Gross's written works with a great deal of attention, some (maybe most) of the reviews of them, and I think he quite clearly allows his feelings towards the Poland of 1968 to colour his selection of topics and material. But Poland in 1968 is as distant from Poland in 2016 as LBJ's USA of 1968 is distant from today's nation (I hope). Jedwabne happened, other things happened, there was and is anti-semitism in Poland.  Nobody really denies that. The "Polish government" does not deny that and has *not* "questioned" Gross about what he said - that is just a lie.

I personally think that when the American Gross writes that "Poles" killed "more Jews than Germans" in WW2, that is not actually a fact - but I would like to see him present the evidence on which he bases his opinion - like where all those bodies were put. I see this sentence more as rhetoric taken out of context. I see it as a personal opinion with which I do not agree, and do not see it as particularly libellous, any more than a metal detectorist saying what they do is "good for the heritage" or that the "foxes like being chased by the hounds".

It is a great shame that Rabbi Friedmann instead of digging up old history does not look at the context of the statement in an article Die Osteuropäer haben kein Schamgefühl, (Die Welt 13th September 2015), about xenophobia in Poland in the context of the Syrian refugee issue and see what the topic really is. This is far more topical and places anti-semitism into the broader spectrum of xenophobia (not exactly absent from today's America either). I think his students would benefit more from being shown the broader picture  than being instructed to shout mindlessly at foreign nations over a narrow one.

The Gazeta Prawna article states that it is a falsehood that the Polish government is taking legal action about this one sentence. It clarifies that the State Prosecutor was investigating notifications from some 150 private citizens that in their opinion a crime had been committed against § 133 of the Polish Criminal Law (rt. 133. kk - Rozdział XVII Przestępstwa przeciwko Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej). I rather think that the pace at which the case has proceeded suggests that the Prosecutor too sees no evidence of a crime. But this is a distraction from the real point Gross was making - which is a good one and I would like to hear more Poles engage with that issue. But let us also ask: is Eastern Europe any more xenophobic these days than Western Europe? I have a horrible feeling that it is not. And THAT is disturbing. It is a shame that Rabbi Friedman and his students are more keen on stoking it than challenging it. 

Rabbi, an apology would not be out of place here. 

[I am not taking any comments on this post. UNLESS, in accordance with my policy of allowing the right to answer, they are written by any of the people who took part in this protest - please state your name and say you were there. Otherwise, experience on this blog has taught me that attempting to discuss anything involving US-based Jews tends to leave the realms of rationality pretty quickly. Write, instead, to Rabbi Friedman]

It seems from their website this "high school" has attacked other nationalities too. I wonder what else they "teach" there:

 "Ukraine, You are to blame" says one of the posters. Perhaps that "school" might like to explain here just what they mean by the word "Ukraine" if they are referring to "Generalplan Ost in 1941-45. There was no country or government called Ukraine in this period. Perhaps here too the school might like to read up their history before sending its students out to engage in divisive political agitation. 

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