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Dr. Waitman W. Beorn @waitmanb
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[Thread] Based on recent discussions with @SamuelSokol, @TarikCyrilAmar, and @AuschwitzMuseum over the continued debates regarding the "naming" of concentration camps in Poland, I've decided it's time for a thread, b/c this is not about history but the present in Poland.
What has many Poles (and state-run museums) up in arms, is ANY connection of the word "Poland" with Holocaust sites (and more broadly behavior- hence the "correction" above.) They particularly rail against the term "Polish" death or concentration camps.…
The argument is that Poles did not establish or run these camps...which is absolutely correct. But the problem is, no one really thinks Poles built Auschwitz, etc. Sure, there are ignorant people out there or some students, but I defy you to find a scholar making this argument.
So, this is a straw man. But why? The Auschwitz Museum's Twitter account is quick to suggest clunky terminology like "German Nazi-occupied Poland" (which is, itself, problematic.) Why is it so triggering to note that Auschwitz/Oswieciem is in Poland? It's a geographic fact.
The answer has much more to do with current trends in conservative Polish nationalism. In order to highlight what right wing Poles see as unrecognized Polish suffering (3 million non-Jewish Poles were murdered by the Nazis), it is important to minimize other suffering.
This means simultaneously minimizing Jewish suffering, highlighting Polish rescuers (of which there were the most of all countries), and avoiding ANY implication of Polish complicity OR accommodation with the Nazis. See, for example, an exhibit in the Majdanek State Museum.
79,000 people murdered; 59,000 were Jews. Yet, in the most recent exhibit depicting bios of 34 prisoners, only 5 are of Jewish prisoners. NONE of the Jewish prisoners are listed as such. The word "Jew" does not appear. See Alexander Donat...who "lived in the Warsaw ghetto."
(Donat was not only Jewish, but a survivor of Warsaw, Majdanek, and Dachau as well as the author of three books on the #Holocaust who launched the "Holocaust Library")…
Returning to the naming crusade, while it is possible to see how Poles could be concerned about "Polish" death camps, identifying them as being located in modern-day Poland is a widely used and accurate convention.
Holocaust scholars routinely compare Polish ghettos to Lithuanian ghettos, Hungarian ghettos, etc. without implying that those locals CREATED or ran the ghettos. Likewise, we can speak of the Holocaust in Belarus rather than in Reichskommissariate Ostland…
It seems to me that the trigger behind the naming crusade is the worry that anyone might consider the ways in which Poles DID enable or accommodate the Nazis in anti-Jewish policy. No scholar would say that the Poles had anything to gain collaborating in any other Nazi endeavor.
This is likely because there is ample evidence that ordinary Poles were in agreement that Jews had to go and not upset that the Nazis were doing it for them. They were not hesitant to take advantage financially, or even join in themselves.
This leads us to Jan Gross, whose pathbreaking book "Neighbors" details how the Poles of the small town of Jedwabne murdered their Jewish neighbors with little more than a suggestion by a passing Nazi unit. Nationalists attack this book with zeal.…
The issue of complicity also leads us to Jan Grabowski's pathbreaking work on one Polish county during the Holocaust. He found a disturbing level of assistance provided to the Nazis by local Poles.…
In particular, of the 337 Jews remaining after deportations 286 were murdered—85%. Locals denounced 98 to German police, killed 7 outright, and the Polish Blue Police (a collaborationist org.) killed 115. Poles were directly responsible for the murders of 77% Jews there. (p. 61)
Grabowski suggests that, extrapolated to the national level, Poles could have been responsible for up to 200,000 Jewish deaths.
Compared to the Auschwitz museum's response to news organizations invoking Poland, the responses of the right wing Polish nationalist fringe are truly shocking. They cite polonophobia and not infrequently a Jewish conspiracy to keep focus on the #Holocaust.
There are Facebook groups like "Silent Heroes of the Forgotten Holocaust" and "US Holocaust Memorial Museum Please add suffering of the Polish people" See below:……
Some of the comments on these sites are particularly disturbing and out there.
Some are outright antisemitic. Stefan Molyneux, below, is an antisemite, racist, and Holocaust #denier.
So, what is the upshot of this discussion? Well, first it is that the argument over naming conventions is not about the name. We routinely talk about Nazis in Poland and regularly use modern nations to geolocate historical events. Saying Auschwitz is in Poland is not incorrect.
When Polish nationalists become so outraged about Poland, it is because they are worried of even the slightest possibility that people will investigate the Poland that WAS accommodating to the Nazis.
So, there are several multi-pronged attacks:
1) Poland must always be described as "occupied" so we are reminded that it had no collaborationist government and that the Nazis were in control.
2) Polish heroism must be amplified.
3) Jewish suffering must be muted.
4) Polish suffering must be amplified.
5) ANY mention of the possibility of complicity by Poles must be attacked and/or written off as the behavior of a tiny, aberrant minority.
It is likely that the very people I am talking about will appear on this thread in droves. They will claim I cannot speak because I am not Polish. They will nitpick Gross and Grabowski's work (without evidence or with evidence tainted by nationalism etc.
They will bring up small tidbits or survey evidence. They will find one person who DOES think the Poles created Auschwitz, anything to overwhelm and discredit the truth.
But the importance of all this is that it plays to a dangerous Polish Nationalism and obscures the more important work that needs to be done in coming to terms with the ways that Poles were complicit in the #Holocaust.
I should close by saying that the Poles did NOT have a collaborationist govt like many countries. They fought very hard against the Nazis. They rescued many Jews. And at least 3 million were murdered by the Nazis, not to mention the Soviet victimization. This is true, too.
But it does NOT balance or erase the other side of the coin.
This thread will be of interest certainly to @McKayMSmith and @KevinMKruse (who inspired the "Historians Tweet Back" movement as well as @AgainstDenial.
P.S.- just looking in my replies to an earlier post, you can see the swarm of Polish nationalists and apologists coming out of the woodwork. They'll be here soon.
Feel free to share or retweet as you wish. I stand behind my comments as a scholar who believes that history is complex and nuanced and eschews emotional (and politically self-serving) revisions of it.
And here is an example of some of those Polish nationalists, this time with the vaguely #antisemitic idea that I am somehow "Israeli media" (which I am not.) And I am sure that the @Holocaustmuseum is being gracious in not upsetting people.
Here is another great example of precisely what I am talking about (thanks, Twitter.) Nothing says "not a Polish nationalist" like quoting Pilsudski and having your "own" historians.
Here's another antisemitic trope: false claim that the Jews were mainly to blame for the very real Polish suffering under the Soviets. This is a classic canard. There absolutely were Jews in the NKVD but the idea that they controlled it or drove agenda is false...and proven so.
Here, the poster is clearly a fan of Stefan Molyneux, racist, antisemite, Holocaust denier. See the @splcenter's analysis (…)
I said they would come, and so, here we are, I am a Holocaust denier...apparently. All victims are equal...yet Poles of Jewish origin need to be differentiated? Is everyone else a Pole of Christian origin?
Note here: the victim blaming. These are all Jewish leaders of the Jewish councils in ghettos. Some were relatively awful (Rumkowski), others selfless (Czerniakow). None complicit when faced with choiceless choices. But somehow they must be included with Poles who collaborated?
I should also point out how Jews become Polish citizens only if and when it suits the argument of the nationalists.
Here is an attempt to threaten me...taken from a different thread where I discuss the openly antisemitic restaurant in Lviv, next to the ruins of the Great Synagogue.
Here is some more whataboutism and victim blaming.

This poster assumes that because the Nazis stamped the armbands of the Jewish police that they were all collaborators. True, some Jewish police were terrible, but others were heroes. There is much nuance in their history.
Wherein this user openly advocates state control of history and uses the thinly-veiled antisemitic term "Holocaust industry."
This one is honestly just funny.
But, hey, I get good press from some Poles! :)…
Also, though this has been attacked quite negatively, I also want to highlight that the Poles posting here do not represent ALL Poles. Consider the @oshpitzin an org dedicated to Jewish memory in Oswieçim and run by two dedicated Polish intellectuals.
Here are some more examples of veiled and blatant antisemitism being used to counter my comments on this thread. As I predicted, they would come and here they are.
And since my methodology and sources have been called into question. Here are some examples of Polish complicity, from archival and scholarly sources, in Lviv (which was Lwów and part of Poland at the time.
And another deeply problematic statement about Jews. . .
Here is another instance of the use of an antisemitic trope: the idea of Jewish domination of countries, "wandering" Jews, Jews as parasites within "legitimate" nations.
The longer these trolls attack, their true colors come out. Very little nuance in this antisemitism. (Jewish communism, slurs, etc.)
Hmmm..this one is TRULY an #antisemite. Feel free to report the hate speech. Wonder how many others on this thread will support this guy.

(Remember, this all started with a discussion of Polish Nationalism and #Holocaust memory in Poland.)
@threadreaderapp please unroll for my records.
Ouch. . .guess I'm not crazy about all that antisemitism after all!
And for a master class in the antisemitic Judeo-Bolshevist myth, visit the blog linked here by this person who is "tired of Jewish narrative." Note the complete lack of any historical sources, primary or otherwise.
Adding yet another example of the how extreme Polish nationalism so quickly morphs into antisemitism. This one is particularly grotesque. Retweeted by Mr "BiteYerLegs" who appears frequently in this thread. (…)
Back to back veiled antisemitic comments speaking of "agendas," conspiracies, investing money in #Holocaust material favorable to Jews. This kind of minimization and #antisemitism is some of the sort I predicted earlier in this thread.
Here another related but different attack on historical expertise (not limited to Poland). It demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of the profession of history. The implication is that all scholars do is read books and that all historical opinions and explanations are equal.
When cornered, at least one of my Twitter devotees reported me. Take a look at what they thought was offensive.
And here is another interlocutor...who kept claiming not to be a Holocaust denier...but created a new account @HoaxHolo which is a reversal of the phrase "HoloHoax," calling the Holocaust a hoax.
I was doing research for my book and came across this, so I figured I would just throw it out there. Note: that the Polish government is requesting extradition. Source: @HolocaustMuseum, RG-15.155M
cc: @AgainstDenial @McKayMSmith
Witness statement of Polish political prisoner who survived Auschwitz.
Meet @jwini44. He thinks that by misrepresenting my texts as sexist and tagging my university (@uva @UVA_History) he can silence the critique of right wing (and often antisemitic/Holocaust denying) Polish nationalism. Wonder if @SuzanneWaldman thinks I am being sexist? Hmmm
Let's learn a little more about @jwini44: He likes Milo Yiannopoulos, racist talking head in the US. He includes veiled xenophobic content (no tacos). Retweets the official Russian propaganda outlet, Sputnik. Light is the best disinfectant.
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