Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Video: American Jews Blame Holocaust on Poles and Poland; Demand America Break Off All Relations with Poland

It appears that the video has been removed from YouTube, but it is still visible on the web, on Facebook for example. It was put forth by the Ruderman Family Foundation. You can find it by googling "Polish Holocaust."

Update: ABC reports that the video has been removed by the Ruderman Family Foundation. You can read more here. OTOH the video is still visible on sites other than YouTube.

This comment appears under the above-linked ABC article:

Arthur Leon 

My father and his family were from Poland and in the Holocaust there - 2 Uncles were in the Minsk Ghetto, later w the partisans in the forest and on more than one occasion sheltered Hersh Smoliar, who was always on the run. 

I was born in America so I can only relate what my Dad and his family always said of the Poles - no one hated the Jews more than the Poles, German Nazis were second. Uneducated and brutal, generations of hatred that existed long before WWII. The antisemitism that's seen now... not surprising in the least.

Don't like what my father said? Is it not PC or bothers historical revisionists? Tough, he lived it, he said it.

And while millions of Poles died in WWII fighting against the invading Nazis... that does not obfuscate their hateful sentiments of Jews.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Haaretz and Bieganski: How Poles Are More Vilified as 'Bestial' Brute Jew Killers Than German Nazis Themselves

Haaretz published today a piece by me entitled, "How Poles Are More Vilified as 'Bestial' Brute Jew Killers Than German Nazis Themselves."

You can read the piece at Haaretz here

The full text is below. 

I am very grateful to Haaretz editor Esther Solomon who worked with me on this piece. 

To many observers, not least those who are neither Polish nor Jewish, the highly critical press coverage of Poland's new Holocaust law which seeks to criminalize declaring the complicity of the Polish nation in the murder of Jews in WWII, appears both simple and clear.

Poles contributed enthusiastically to the genocide of six million Jews. Poles did so because they are staunchly Catholic, simple-minded and chauvinistic. Right-thinking observers must perpetually goad Poles to drop their defenses, acknowledge their guilt, and make amends.

Polish-Jewish relations are thus reduced to a calculation performed with black and white beads on one rod of an abacus. The black beads represent the bad, anti-Semitic Poles. The white beads represent the exceptional, prejudice-free Poles. A "true" historical retelling is only achieved when the black beads far outnumber the white beads. The token righteous white bead – Jan Karski – is the main concession to any semblance of balance. Karski was the Polish Home Army officer who brought the first eyewitness account of the Holocaust to Roosevelt.

The abacus approach dominates public discussion. But it is intellectually and ethically bankrupt, not just because it distorts beyond recognition a thousand years of Polish-Jewish interaction and the unique horror of 1939-1945. The abacus prevents historical clarity and ethical responsibility. And this debate matters very much in the era of Trump.

In my book Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype, I explored how people talk about the Holocaust, its victims and its executors. Many, though not all, of those I interviewed talked about Poles quite differently from how they talked about Germans.

Visceral vocabulary and animal references were prominent. This trend can be found in Fania Fenelon's Auschwitz memoir Playing for Time. Fenelon writes that Poles exhibit a "particularly disturbing" "bestiality;" they are "monsters," "brick-faced," "servile," "pigs," "bitches," "pests," and "a real cow." A Polish woman has "piercing little black eyes like two glinting gems of anthracite set in a block of lard; she was shapeless and gelatinous." A Polish woman "was big and fat and as strong as a man – a monster! One would have been hard put to find any human traits in her at all."

Survivors often did not apply such visceral language to German Nazis. Fenelon describes one officer. "Goodness, he was handsome. So handsome that the girls instinctively rediscovered the forgotten motions of another world, running dampened fingers through their lashes to make them shine, biting their lips, swelling their mouths, pulling at their skirts and tops. Under the gaze of this man one felt oneself become a woman again." This Nazi "wore his uniform with incomparable ease and style … Insouciantly he laughed and joked, conscious of his charm." Fenelon is describing Dr. Josef Mengele.

Nazis are not seen as representational of Germany, a nation frequently referred to as "civilized" and "decent" in contrast to "backward, gray, gothic, primitive, Catholic" Poland." One madman, Hitler, exploiting unique historical circumstance, Germany's humiliating WWI defeat, and the punitive Versailles Treaty, forced otherwise "decent" Germans to commit anti-Semitic crimes.

Poles, on the other hand, as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said, "imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother's milk." One online post I saw stated Poles "were like American rednecks from the Ole South who loathed blacks."

All Poles were, had always been, and would always be, chomping at the bit to murder Jews. Scholars who have abandoned such racist essentializing in reference to other ethnicities, apparently still believe it's legitimate practice in regard to Poles, such as Paul Berman's 1994 New Yorker article that referred to "darkest Poland".

Even scholarly reviews of books about Nazi war criminals and Polish war criminals use very different language. Scholars work hard to distinguish Nazism from German identity. When Poles commit crimes, Poles qua Poles are guilty.

Even when Jan Tomasz Gross published, in 2001 Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland and 2006's Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz, which did not advance a theory of Polish ethnicity as essentially debased, the media response rushed to form that very conclusion.

Professor Joan Mellen's review makes this clear: Poles qua Poles are guilty. "Polish citizens of all classes…Poles of all social classes … The old order and the army, the new Communist apparatus, the cardinal and his bishops – all conspired to kill Poland's remaining Jews," she indicts. Note the adjective: "all." All Poles are murderous anti-Semites. Why? Because "Anti-Semitism was so embedded in the culture of Poland. [Poles express] pure, unregenerate evil."

Elie Wiesel described post-war anti-Semitism in Poland using this same vocabulary of bestiality: "low, primitive, vile and ugly in the human animal."

With increasing frequency, Polish, Catholic peasants, not German Nazis, are positioned as the quintessential Holocaust criminal. It is easier for clean, well-educated, progressive audiences to accept dirty, backward, superstitious peasants as the perpetrators of the twentieth century's most notorious crime. German Nazis are too like modern audiences.

Leading Nazis were, like us, clean, modern, progressive, and well-educated. In fact, though, Nazism was not the fruit of the village, the church, or the past. Scientific racism was a product of the university, the place that true moderns believe will rectify our primitive errors and make us better people.

America engages in a similar sleight-of-hand. Poor, white, rural, Christian Southerners are deployed universally as a personification of the ultimate hater. In our movies, "rednecks" are idiot savant banjo players and anal rapists, as in the film Deliverance. Poor white southerners, rednecks, trailer trash, and hillbillies, are to blame for slavery and Jim Crow. As long as a toothless, drawling pick-up truck driver dominates the crime scene, the rest of us are exonerated. Poor whites recognize their demonization. Thus, they flocked to Trump, their putative champion.

Just so with the brute Polak stereotype being trotted out, with abacus accessory, to remove guilt from the "civilized" world for the Holocaust. As long as anti-Semitism is a crime committed by dirt-stained Catholic farmers, not by educated, "handsome" elites, modern, progressive Americans are insulated from the agony of confronting what human beings can do. And Poles will recognize their demonization, and flock to ever-more nationalist champions.

We need to recognize that the monolithic stereotyping of Poles actually damages our understanding of complicity and responsibility for the Holocaust.

As Gitta Sereny wrote in her 1996 article, "The Complexities of Complicity," in the London Times, challenging the anti-German essentializing of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners: "Murderous bigotry is not ingrained in the character of any one nation but is part of the human condition. It is not only young Germans who, as did happen after 1945, needed to be retaught humanity, but all children [of all races] need to learn this now and forevermore."

I support free speech and I oppose this new Polish law. But the tumult that prompted the law will not die down till the false stereotypical calculus of the abacus is smashed.

We need, rather, a mirror. The author of atrocity is not them; it's us.

Danusha Goska is the author of Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype (Academic Studies Press, 2010). You can read the first chapter of the book here.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype. Introduction

Bieganski is available for purchase on Amazon here. The introduction is below. 

This work addresses Bieganski, one stereotype of Poles. Other Eastern European, Christian, peasant-based populations are conflated under this stereotype, while Poles, given the size of their population and the location of Nazi death camps in Poland, remain the primary target. Evidence that non-Poles are conflated with Poles is ample. In 1903, Dr. Allan J. McLaughlin, a public health administrator, attempted to explain all Slavic immigrants to America in terms of Poles. In 1976, scholar Michael Novak wrote that "Dumb Polak" jokes were directed against Slovak-Americans like him. "No one can tell us apart." In 1999, on television's "The Sopranos," an Italian-American said to a character from the Czech Republic, "Czechoslovakian? What's that? That's a type of Polak, right?" Borat, the most talked about film of 2006, conflated all Eastern European, Christian peasants into a character whose catchphrase, "Dzien dobry. Jak sie masz?" is Polish. 

In a 2008 London Times column, Giles Coren said that "Polack" immigrants, who "amuse themselves at Easter" by "locking Jews in the synagogue and setting fire to it," should "clear off out of" England. Coren cited accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Karadzic, as Times readers protested, was a Serb. In 2008-2009, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was accused of corruption. Though his name is obviously Serbian, Blagojevich was discussed, on various internet sites, using the following terms: "Polak politician," "Pollock," "THICK HEADED Polack," "a wop in polack clothing," "dumb Polack ass," "a Polack who thinks he's Huey Long," "Illinois sonofabitch Governor O'Polack," "Polack swine," and "Blago the POLACK."

Eastern European, peasant, Christian populations do share significant cultural, historic, political, and geological features. The word "Slav" does not cover the territory; Lithuanians, Romanians, and Hungarians are not Slavs. When speaking of Eastern European, Christian, peasants or peasant-descent populations, this author will use, sparingly, the term "Bohunk." This American coinage derives from a combination of "Bohemian" and "Hungarian." It is the only available term that refers to the group it designates.

In the stereotype in question, Poles are brutes. They possess the qualities of animals. They are physically strong, stupid, violent, fecund, anarchic, dirty, and especially hateful in a way that more evolved human beings are not. They are thuggishly, primitively nationalistic. The special hatefulness of Bieganski is epitomized by his Polish anti-Semitism. This stereotype relies on images of Eastern Europeans that have existed for centuries (Wolff), and has been produced, significantly, by Poles themselves, Jews, Germans, and Americans. Regardless of the actual status of the stereotyper, the stereotype reflects the perspective of someone relatively empowered, literate, urban, mobile, and mercantile observing relatively disempowered, oral, rural, poor, Eastern European Christian peasants. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Politicians: Do Not Tear Poles and Jews Apart. Sign the Petition

Sign the petition here. And thanks to Lukasz for mentioning this. 

The Guardian: Poland's Jews Fear for their Future under New Holocaust Law

According to the Guardian, the Holocaust was the project Poles.
The Guardian: Poland's Jews Fear for their Future under New Holocaust Law link. Thanks to Jerzy for this. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Blog Reader Asks: Is a Relationship with Jews Necessary for Poles?

Chris asked, "Is a good relationship with Jews important for Poles? A lot of people are writing rather bigoted things about Poles and I get the feeling that even if Poles acquiesced to the demands of the most vocal that nothing would change. A relationship of mutual respect would not be the result. All that would remain is a one-way relationship for which only Jews would benefit. The bigotry would remain or might intensify because the conciliatory attitude would be interpreted as a welcome mat for abuse. Would it be better if Poles and Jews just parted ways?"

My answer can be found in the book Bieganski. I hope all will read it.

A highly condensed and very simplified version here: Poles cannot escape negative stereotyping, for reasons I lay out in the book. Not only Jews, but non-Jews also stereotype Poles. James Carroll is, I think, Irish-American, and a former Catholic priest, and he has disseminated a highly influential version of Bieganski in his book "Constantine's Sword."

There is no escape for Poles when it comes to this stereotype. Poles must educate themselves – thus my book – and respond appropriately, thus blogs like this one, on the Crisis in Polonian Leadership, Organization, and Vision. As that blog entry lays out, there are things we could be doing and should be doing that we don't do. Poles and Polonians need to grow up and address the stereotype in an effective way.

About our relationship with Jews. Yes, Poles and Polonians should and must remain in relationship with Jews. This link takes you to a series of blog posts. These blog posts address the importance of Poland to Jews, the importance of Jews to Poland, love as a factor in Polish-Jewish relations, and Jews' defense of Poland. Anyone thinking of writing off Polish-Jewish interactions should really read this series of blog posts.

I'll repeat something I've said a million times. The problem here is us. We need to change our behavior. I stand by what I wrote in the blog series on the crisis in Polonian leadership, organization, and vision. We could and should be doing things to counteract the stereotype, and we just aren't doing them. And our failure is not Jewish people's fault. The good side is that the power for a better tomorrow is in our hands. We just have to exercise that power.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Bieganski, the Brute Polak, and Poland's New Law Criminalizing Some Speech about the Holocaust

This piece first appeared in FrontPageMag here

Poland's New Law Criminalizing Speech about the Holocaust
Why Every American Must Understand the Controversy

"When you say the word 'Poland' what comes to mind? It's real scary. I'd have to be in disguise to go there because I don't wanna be caught and murdered."

"I have this image of a very gothic place. Everything's in black and white and very foggy. Otherwise, I have no real sense of Poland other than food with lots of sour cream, pierogis, and borscht. No, that's Russian. I guess I get confused. All these Eastern European foods seem so similar."

"The only thing I knew of Eastern Europe was in black and white. Probably from reels of Holocaust films. I pictured gray, cold, concrete. I wasn't aware that I was thinking this until we landed in Warsaw and everything was in color. There is nothing attractive about Poland. Even though I know it's in color, in my mind it has degenerated back to black and white."

"It's cold and desolate. I think of large, round women making sausages."

"Just concentration camps. From brick to brick that's all there is."

"I associate Poland with hatred of Jews. I learned this going to Sunday school. In Sweden where all them wore stars, that portrayed sort of a positive in terms of Sweden's relationship with Jews."

"When you said 'Poland,' an image popped into my head, which is it's gray, it's dirty, it's polluted. There's no color. There's one complete cloud over the entire country. I would go with the idea that I've gotta prepare myself. I'm probably going to be depressed at the condition of misery that people are living in. And it probably would be a safer bet if I just don't identify myself as Jewish to too many people and my passport says I'm American."

In 2000, in Bloomington, Indiana, I was asking Jewish people what they thought of Poles and Poland. I was researching what would become my prize-winning book, Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype. My informants were nice people living in a self-consciously progressive university town. They insisted that they would never tell a dumb Polak joke. Then I would ask them a hypothetical question. "You need brain surgery. You have a choice between two doctors whose qualifications, on paper, are all but identical. One is named Dr. Smith. One is named Dr. Kowalski. Which doctor do you choose?"

Their jaws would drop. They suddenly had to confront their own prejudices, prejudices that they did not know they had.

One said, "It's hard for me to say [long pause]. I fear that I might choose Dr. Smith, even though I think that's a terrible thing, but I'm trying to be completely frank. I think just because of those subconscious stereotypes, the things that got in me as a kid and stick around in the back of my mind that are not up for examination."

Before actual questioning began, my informants often insisted that they knew all there was to know about Poles and Poland. "Danielle" informed me that she had received a "comprehensive Holocaust education" from March of the Living. "Every two weeks I received another two hundred pages of reading material. I had, you know, one of these seven-inch binders." She was now a professional Holocaust educator. Danielle told me that the only reason she could ever conceive of travel to Poland would be to "educate Poles."

I asked Danielle if she had ever heard of Jan Karski, a Polish underground army officer who had volunteered to be smuggled into both a concentration camp and the Warsaw Ghetto, in order that he could bring the first eyewitness account of the Holocaust directly to Franklin Roosevelt. Danielle had never heard of Jan Karski. Danielle had also never heard of the 1264 Statute of Kalisz, a Polish document granting Jews legal rights. Polish-Jewish author Eva Hoffman called the Statute of Kalisz "a set of laws that could serve as an exemplary statement of minority rights today." Danielle had also never heard of Adam Mickiewicz, Poland's national poet who celebrated Jews' contribution to Poland in the person of the character Jankiel, Adam Michnik, a Jewish leader of Solidarity, or the 1940 Katyn Massacre of 22,000 Poles, including 8,000 military officers, and, as classified by their Soviet murderers, "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests."

Another informant, "Sally," told me that she "knew" that "there is a lot of neo-Nazism in Poland." If she ever went to Poland, she said, "I would look for regret" for Poles' assumed Holocaust guilt. Later, Sally made the offhand comment that, "I don't know much about Polish literature, if there is much." Six Nobel Prize Laureates in literature were born in Poland; four were Polish non-Jews (Sienkiewicz. Reymont, Milosz, Szymborska); two were born in a Polish-Jewish milieu (Agnon and Singer).

"Moses" expressed outrage that Poles had opened a discotheque in the Polish town of Oswiecim, where Auschwitz is located. Moses insisted that this discotheque was prima facie evidence of ingrained Polish anti-Semitism. I asked Moses if he knew of any non-Jews who had been imprisoned, tortured, experimented on, or gassed in Auschwitz. Moses had no idea that any non-Jews had suffered these fates. In fact, one hundred forty thousand Polish non-Jews made up approximately 11% of Auschwitz inmates. About half died there.

Many of my informants, in a completely unselfconscious manner, made statements like the following, "I'd love to go back to Vienna. We had a wonderful time in Vienna. We walked around and spoke German. It was a fabulous time," and "I spent days in Berlin and I want to return." Nazism was a German phenomenon; Hitler was born in Austria. These facts did not contribute to my informants' stereotyping these nations in the way that they stereotyped Poland.

Informants often combined popular mythology with factual errors. The informant, quoted above, who believed that "In Sweden all them wore stars" is confused. There is a myth that Danes, not Swedes, wore yellow stars of David in solidarity with Jews. In any case, the "Danes wore yellow stars" myth is false.

My informants' vocabulary was formulaic. Poland was always "gray." I heard the same phrases over and over: "Poles are worse than animals;" "They suck anti-Semitism with their mother's milk." Such formulas are right out of The Painted Bird, a lurid novel that depicts Neanderthal peasants engaging in orgies of violence, incest, and bestiality. Such formulaic depictions of Polish peasants had appeared in literature published before the Holocaust, in some cases centuries before. The Painted Bird was eventually exposed as plagiarized fiction disguised as a memoir.  

It's undeniable that in interwar Poland, that is, between the end of WW I in 1918 and the onset of WW II in 1939, anti-Semitism flourished. The interwar period, for complicated historical reasons, saw one of the worst outbreaks of anti-Semitism in Poland's history. Interwar anti-Semitism was largely predicated on economic grievances. Jews had occupied the middleman minority caste. Most Poles were impoverished peasants. They wanted to own shops and study to become doctors and lawyers. For some, not all Poles, these honorable ambitions veered into the dark, twisted path of anti-Semitism.

What's unexpected is that some pre-war anti-Semites did not become Nazi collaborators. Jan Mosdorf was a self-identified nationalist and anti-Semite before the war. Under Nazi occupation, he helped Jews, and was killed for it in Auschwitz. Calel Perechodnik, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, writes of two Polish brothers, "Staszek and Stefan." Before the war, they thought of "a Jew as a wealthy man who exploited Polish labor and as an opponent deserving of a fight." During the war, Staszek and Stefan saved Jews, both friends and strangers.

A February 4, 2018 frequently-shared Facebook post exemplified the belief that Poles were and are worse than Nazis. I copy it here without editorial changes. "The Poles were worse than the Germans...mean and cold blooded...they were informers and killers and for a piece of bread or a cigarette sold Jews to the slaughter...Warsaw Ghetto was where? excuse me? but here is proof again - The tiger never changes his Spots, Once a killer always a killer and once a Jew Hater always a Jew hater ---as my father said: It's in the blood, its in the genes, its inborn...nothing changes - in the end, the truth always reveals itself ...I find it actually comical for a country to so blatantly lie to the world...but silly me - why...there are those who belie the holocaust as never having existed at why not the Poles…"

Statements like these entered the world conversation on Friday, January 26, 2018, the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day. The lower house of the Polish Parliament passed a law criminalizing speech about the Holocaust. On Tuesday, February 6, Polish President Andrzej Duda ratified the law with his signature.

The full text of the law can be read here. The law threatens punishment to anyone who attributes to Poles or Poland crimes properly attributed to German Nazis. The law was written to "Protect the reputation of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Nation."

This law offered the sorry, public spectacle of Polish leaders shooting Poles' and Poland's reputation in the foot. Immediately and inevitably, numerous commentaries appeared insisting that Poland was sanctifying a form of Holocaust denial and that, of course, Poles were guilty of the Holocaust. "FACT: The Polish People Still Bear Quite A Bit Of Responsibility For The Holocaust," shouts David Benkof, author of Modern Jewish History for Everyone, capitalizing even his prepositions and articles, in the Daily Caller.

I and many other Poles and Polonians (people of Polish descent living outside of Poland) oppose this new law. I support free speech.

The history of Polish-Jewish relations is immensely complex, and there is a powerful thrust not just to simplify, but to misrepresent, that complexity. NYU professor and World Policy Institute Senior Fellow, MacArthur Genius Grant and Guggenheim winner Paul Berman, in a frequently republished essay, claimed that Jews in "darkest Poland" were "almost the same" as Blacks in the US. Berman writes that "Mississippi is Poland; bigotry is bigotry." The analogy: Jews in Poland were just like black slaves in the US. Poles were beneficiaries of something like white supremacy and lorded it over utterly disempowered Jews. Poles are world exemplars of bigotry and oppression.

Well, no. Jewish arendators, estate managers, held the power of life and death over Polish Christian serfs. Jews could own property in Poland. As previously mentioned, the medieval Statute of Kalisz protected Jews under law. An international proverb asserted that Poland was the paradise of the Jews, and hell for Polish peasants. When Jews were persecuted elsewhere, they were invited into Poland, not just, as some cynics insist, to fill an economic niche. Poles were enthusiastically proud of their "golden freedom," their "state without stakes," and they demonstrated that by protecting Jews menaced by other Christians. The 1573 Warsaw Confederation guaranteed religious freedom.

Those who can only recite one Polish atrocity after another – the Jedwabne Massacre, the Kielce Pogrom, the 1968 purge – are telling truths. But they are not telling the truth. The Jedwabne Massacre, for example, occurred only after Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany invaded Poland simultaneously and terrorized and drastically altered the Polish population. What happened in Jedwabne says less about essential Polishness or authentic peasant identity and more about how any population – including our own – might react after similarly being terrorized.

Historian Michael C. Steinlauf, the son of Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors, wrote that Poles, "after the Jews and the Gypsies [were] the most relentlessly tormented national group in Hitler's Europe." Let those words sink in. You know what happened to the Jews. Maybe you have an idea of what happened to the Gypsies. Poles were third in line, in terms of persecution.

Auschwitz was built in order to destroy anyone in Poland who could lead Polish people, for example, teachers and activists. For almost the first two years of its existence, most of its inmates were arrested and detained as Poles. One estimate of non-Jewish Poles killed by Nazis is about two million. Approximately three million Polish Jews were murdered; their vital presence in Polish life was all but erased. One estimate of non-Jewish Poles enslaved by the Nazis puts that number at 1.4 million. Two hundred thousand Polish children were kidnapped, to be raised as Germans, because of imagined Aryan traits. Kidnapped Polish children who could not measure up to their kidnappers' Aryan ideal were murdered. Nazis killed almost twenty percent of Polish priests. Nazis erased Polish villages. An incomplete post-war count put the number of such villages at two hundred and ninety-nine.

Just about every Polonian is related to someone who lost his or her home, or who was tortured or murdered. The poet John Guzlowski looks like any other sixty-something retired professor. Given that he is tall, white, and male, one might assume he is a recipient of white privilege. John Guzlowski's Polish Catholic grandmother, aunt, and cousin were murdered by Nazis and Ukrainians. They raped John's Aunt Sophie and broke her teeth; they stomped his cousin to death. With his bayonet, a Nazi sexually mutilated John's Aunt Genia. John's parents were Nazi slave laborers; his father was in Buchenwald. John was born in a displaced persons camp.

Not just the personal pain someone with Guzlowski's history might feel inspired the new Polish law. It's the pain someone feels when the truth is obscured. In his infamous speeches to SS leaders, Heinrich Himmler spoke of Generalplan Ost. According to this Nazi plan, the Polish population would be greatly reduced and its remnants would be slaves. Germans would claim Polish territory for themselves. "In Poland in weather forty degrees below zero, we had to haul away thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands … [We] shot thousands of leading Poles."

Nazis and Soviets rounded up, deported, and liquidated teachers, priests, and other potential leaders. Both conquerors worked hard to "divide and conquer," that is, to exacerbate pre-existing tensions between Catholics and Jews, Poles and Ukrainians. Nazis mandated death for an entire family if a Pole so much as offered a glass of water to a Jew. An entire village might suffer because of one Pole's humane act. Historians say that this policy was unique to Poland.

Yes, anti-Semitism has long been one feature of Polish culture. Blood libel, pogroms, discrimination and racist stereotyping all existed in Poland. That is one truth. Another truth: anti-Semitism has been a worldwide phenomenon, from England to Japan. England produced one of the most influential versions of blood libel, in the Canterbury Tales. England exported Shylock and Fagin. What makes Poland different? Scholar Harold B. Segel, author of Stranger in Our Midst: Images of the Jew in Polish Literature, writes that Poland produced a "Judeophilia" or "philo-Semitism" – a love of Jews and Judaism – that had "no parallel elsewhere in Europe."

Poles of conscience resisted anti-Semitism, not while seated at their computers and sipping Starbucks, but under the worst conditions humans have ever faced. Father Maximilian Kolbe, after being arrested for the crime of being a Polish priest, and, thus, a target of genocide, and then released with a warning to lay low, did not comply with Nazi occupiers. Instead, Kolbe aided 2,000 Jews at his friary. Nazis sent him to Auschwitz. Holocaust survivor Sigmund Gorson testified that Kolbe "gave away so much of his meager rations that to me it was a miracle he could live. Now it is easy to be nice, to be charitable … For someone to be as Father Kolbe was in that time and place … is beyond words … I am of the Jewish faith and very proud of it … I will love him until the last moments of my life."

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, after his release from Auschwitz, helped form Zegota, the only organization in occupied Europe whose express purpose was to aid Jews. Witold Pilecki volunteered to be sent to Auschwitz, so that he could aid the resistance there. Communists tortured and murdered Pilecki after the war, and buried him in an unmarked grave. The Ulmas, a family of Catholic peasants, defied Nazi dictates and aided Jews. In his Bible, Jozef Ulma had underlined, in red, the story of the Good Samaritan. The Ulmas, pregnant mother, father, and six children, were murdered by Nazis for aiding Jews.

Bartoszewski bemoaned how the memory hole had swallowed up his efforts, under risk of his own life, to combat anti-Semitism under both Nazis and Soviet Communism. Bartoszewski wrote, "There are no accounts in histories …  of the All-Polish Anti-Racist League, founded in 1946 … Scholars have not been interested in its existence."

My book argues that there has been a shift in recent years. Blame for the Holocaust has shifted from German Nazis to Polish Catholic peasants. This shift, I argue, is not accidental and not unmotivated. Shifting blame serves a larger narrative.

Nazism's intellectual and ethical roots are utterly plain. They are nationalism, Social Darwinism, a.k.a. Scientific Racism or Eugenics, and neo-Paganism. Decades before Hitler came to power, American Social Darwinists like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard were proclaiming that the Judeo-Christian tradition's command of human ethics belonged only to the dustbin of history. Now humans could and should operate under a new ethical system, one that championed racial supermen and stripped inferior specimens of their right to life. In his book Passing of the Great Race, Grant called for the "elimination of the unfit" on Social Darwinist grounds. Hitler called the book his Bible.

Scholar Richard Weikart has, in a series of publications, including Hitler's Religion, coolly and exhaustively detailed the Social Darwinist influences behind Nazism. One might think that Weikart would be widely celebrated and rewarded for his work. He is widely attacked and denigrated. Weikart is accused of "dishonesty, fact-distortions, ignorance and bias" by folks with an almost religious resistance to seeing any criticism of the impact of Social Darwinism. Powerful people do not want to see any version of the sacred name "Darwin" associated with Nazism. No one says that one must stop believing in the theory of evolution in order to tell the truth about Nazism's intellectual and ethical history. But too many who hold up Darwin as a demigod insist that the truth of how Nazis and their racist precursors cited "survival of the fittest" concepts in their justification for their beliefs must not be told.

Nationalism is easier to criticize than Social Darwinism. Neo-Paganism, though, is, like Darwinism, a protected concept. Modern Americans may announce that they are goddess-worshipping Pagans and that they reject the misogyny and murderous nature of Judaism or Christianity. Modern Americans self-identifying as Pagans face no serious resistance in the press or in universities. No one is asking them to come to terms with their affiliation with a movement that was embraced by the Nazis.

Nazism was the product of highly educated, modern people. Scientific Racism had been promoted by Ivy League Universities, publications like the New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly, institutions like the Bronx Zoo, the Museum of Natural History, the developers of standardized testing and the SAT, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, and US presidents. Nazism was serviced by IBM, Ford Motor Company, and Hugo Boss. Even Hollywood, which decades after the war gave us Schindler's List, initially did not do all it could to combat Nazism.

This simple fact – that Nazism was a product of shiny and clean university classrooms and books written, edited, and published by the best-educated people – is just about impossible to confront for those who embrace the Brute Polak stereotype. They want to believe that hideous crimes could only be committed by backward people, primitive people, uneducated people, people untouched by the perfecting hand of progressive ideologies. That is, Polish, Catholic peasants. The best people associate peasants with dirt, with animals, with the past. The best people associate Catholicism with darkness and a lack of evolution. The best people say that they can make sure that crimes like the Holocaust will be made less likely if we lead people away from their superstitious, primitive, religious beliefs, and indoctrinate them in shiny, clean, new ideologies. The best people are wrong, and the falseness of the Brute Polak stereotype is very problematic for them.

Yes, anti-Semitism is one feature of Poland's history and culture. Yes, many Polish people committed crimes against Jews in war-torn Poland. Yes, good Poles and Polonians must forever reject and condemn anti-Semitism. Yes, the new Polish law criminalizing speech around the Holocaust is a mistake. 

Not but, but and: scapegoating the Polish, Catholic peasant is an historical error. This scapegoating is factually false. It is ethically bankrupt. This new Polish law is an attempt, a misguided attempt, not to deny the guilt of Polish criminals. Rather, it is an attempt to take on the brute Polak stereotype that is a powerful, largely unexamined form of Holocaust revisionism.

The brute Polak stereotype is an intellectual and ethical escape. It's a way for modern, right-thinking people to distance themselves from atrocity, and to insist that only those people over there – those dirty, primitive, Polish Catholic peasants – could be so cruel. In my years of study of WW II, I encountered one sentence I hope to communicate here. It was written by Zofia Nalkowska. "Ludzie ludziom zgotowali ten los." "People prepared this fate for people." Not just Polish people. Not just Catholic people. Not just peasants. People just like us did this to other people just like us, and we must not allow any stereotype to prevent us from identifying with both victims and perpetrators.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete, Bieganski, and the upcoming God through Binoculars . Her essay "Against Identifying Nazism with Christianity" is here. A podcast asking, "Were Nazis Inspired by Christianity?" can be heard here.