Posts tagged ‘poland’

October 29, 2010

Reenacting the Holocaust: A Polish town remembers

REP. JOHN BOEHNER IS out campaigning for Ohio Congressional candidate Rich Iott, and why shouldn’t he be? The upcoming national election may be tight, and if Boehner wants to become Speaker of the House he’s going to need all the Republican backing he can get. And yet, Iott may prove to be a tough sell, largely due to the consternation he caused when he admitted that he regularly plays the role of an SS officer in World War II reenactments, proudly posing for cameras in an SS uniform. While Iott claims a certain admiration for the Third Reich’s military prowess, he protests that he dons the uniform not out of any genocidal impulses but solely “to keep the public aware of what happened.” In a piece on today, Joan Walsh writes: “What’s next: Re-enacting cross-burnings while denying fealty to the Ku Klux Klan, just because…


October 21, 2010

Should the Poles make Jesus their king?

GO INTO ANY CORNER bar in the US and ask the patrons who is really in charge of America, you’ll likely receive a list of the usual suspects in response: the banks, the liberals, the military-industrial complex, the UN, the Trilateral Commission, the gay people, or that old standby, the Jews. Go into your local “Christian” fitness club or megachurch, however, and you may learn that Jesus is really the man in charge, hindered only in his good works by the pernicious influence of the devil (abetted by the liberals, the gay people, etc.). Strangely, though, no one ever suggests hiring the Prince of Peace directly, with people instead preferring to vote for Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell to do His holy work. Ask around on the streets of Warsaw and Krakow and you’ll get an even more definite response: Jesus should actually be placed in charge of Poland. In fact, they might tell you, he should be anointed king…


June 11, 2010

Swedish millionaire said to be behind Auschwitz sign theft

THE SIGN OVER THE gateway to Auschwitz concentration camp bearing the infamous slogan “Work sets you free,” which was stolen by three Polish men last December 18, may have been purloined on behalf of a Swedish millionaire. (I already wrote about the Auschwitz theft here and here.) According to today’s edition of the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Lars-Göran Wahlström, a familiar figure in the Swedish neo-Nazi movement, had asked his friend Anders Högström to arrange the theft for money. Högström, a former neo-Nazi who until recently had been working to educate young Swedes about the evils of right wing extremism, was later arrested and admitted to having hired the three Poles to do the job. They have since received jail sentences of between one and a half and two and a half years. Högström is still awaiting trial in Poland.

Högström revealed Wahlström’s name…


April 9, 2010

Alleged Auschwitz sign thief deported to Poland

TODAY, JUST IN TIME for Holocaust Remembrance Day this weekend, the man suspected of commissioning the theft of the “Arbeit macht frei” sign from the gate of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp last December has been transferred to Polish custody by the Swedish authorities. He faces theft charges in a Cracow courtroom.

At first glance, thirty-four year-old Anders Högström would appear to be an unlikely candidate for such a crime. While he had been an active member of the far-right Swedish Nationalsocialistik front until 1999, Högström soon abandoned Nazism and joined first the left-wing Social Democratic Party and, later, Sweden’s conservative Moderata samlingspartiet. Högström soon joined an anti-Nazi organization called “Exit”…


April 7, 2010

Poland and Russia mark 70th anniversary of Katyn Massacre

Memorial in Katyn Forest

TODAY, RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER Vladimir Putin and Polish prime minister Donald Tusk are scheduled to take part in a joint ceremony marking the seventieth anniversary of an historical event. This sort of item would normally fall under the news desk, since government leaders are constantly marking historical events of one kind or another. But this ceremony is different, since it is taking place in Katyn Forest near the Russian town of Smolensk, where – among other places – up to 22,000 Polish officers and other members of the Polish elite met a gruesome death at the hands of Josef Stalin’s NKVD secret police.

Pursuant to a secret clause of the Hitler-Stalin Pact and following Germany’s attack on Poland on September 1, 1939, Soviet forces…


September 10, 2009

How Pat Buchanan is rehabilitating Hitler

Nazi soldier executing Polish civilians:
Was it all Britain’s  fault…?

WHEN PAT BUCHANAN’S RECENT op-ed piece commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the beginning of World War II hit newspapers on September 1, those of us who follow such things largely assumed it was merely a delusional but marginal essay that would quickly slip under the radar to a well-deserved oblivion. As the days pass, however, “Did Hitler want war?” has taken on a life of its own and can be found splattered all across the Internet, garnering over 6,000 Google hits and counting. When I posted my own retrospective on the Polish invasion for OS that same day, I did so in the hope that we had all finally put the debates of past decades behind us. Instead, Buchanan’s piece demonstrates that in many people’s minds “Case White” (the Nazis’ codename for the invasion) is as wide open as ever.

Buchanan’s basic argument in the piece (essentially a digest of his recent book Churchill, Hitler and ‘The Unnecessary War,’ which is itself a rehash of A.J.P. Taylor’s Origins of the Second World War from 1961) is that the German invasion of Poland and the ensuing Second World War with its tens of millions of deaths were not the consequence of Adolf Hitler’s own policies but rather the fault of the British, French, and Polish governments…


September 2, 2009

Angela Merkel commemorates outbreak of World War II

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2009, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders met in Gdansk, Poland, to commemorate the German invasion that began exactly seventy years before, touching off the Second World War in Europe. Merkel’s speech received an extremely positive response and was widely quoted in the press. Since I wanted to post her comments here to show just how far Europe has come since then, I searched for the text online and was surprised that there is still no official English translation of the entire speech. So I went ahead and translated it myself and have posted it here for free distribution.

The German attack on Poland seventy years ago today marked the beginning of the most tragic chapter in European history. The war Germany unleashed brought immeasurable suffering to many peoples – years of oppression, humiliation, and destruction.


No country has ever suffered as much suffering in its history as Poland under German occupation.


Particularly in this dark time, which we are talking about today, the country was laid waste. Towns and villages were destroyed. After the crushing of the uprising of 1944, no stone was left standing in the capital. Random cruelty and violence permeated everyday life. Scarcely a single Polish family remained untouched by it.


Here at the Westerplatte, as the Chancellor of Germany, I commemorate all Poles who were subjected to unspeakable suffering due to the crimes of the German occupiers.


The horrors of the twentieth century culminated in the Holocaust, the systematic persecution and murder of the European Jews.


I commemorate the six million Jews and all others who suffered a cruel death in German concentration and extermination camps.


I commemorate the many millions of people who lost their lives in battle and in the resistance struggle against Germany.


I commemorate all those who died in innocence as the result of hunger, cold, illness, the violence of war, and its consequences.


I commemorate the sixty million people who lost their lives because of this war that was unleashed by Germany.


There are no words that could even come close to describing the suffering of this war and the Holocaust.


I bow my head before the victims.


We know that we cannot undo the atrocities of the Second World War. The scars will remain forever visible. But we have our own task: to shape the future in the consciousness of our enduring responsibility.


In this spirit, Europe has transformed itself from a continent of horror and violence into a continent of freedom and peace. That this has been possible is nothing more nor less than a miracle.


In the process, we Germans have never forgotten this: That Germany’s partners in the East and West have smoothed this path through a willingness for reconciliation. They have extended the hand of reconciliation to us Germans. We have clasped it in gratitude.


Yes, it is a miracle that in this year we need not only think back to the abysses of European history seventy years ago. It is a miracle that we can also think of the happy days that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, and the unity of Europe twenty years ago. After all, Europe’s path to freedom was only made complete with the fall of the Iron Curtain.


Back then, in the tradition of Solidarnosc in Poland, people everywhere courageously pushed open the gate to freedom. We Germans will never forget


  • the role played by our friends in Poland, Hungary, and former Czechoslovakia,
  • the role played by Mikhail Gorbachev and our Western partners and allies,
  • and the role of the moral power of truth that no one embodied more convincingly and credibly than Pope John Paul II.

It was thus also an issue of Germany’s special responsibility to smooth the path of Poland and the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe into the European Union and NATO, and to stand alongside them.


Yes, it is a miracle, it is a blessing, that we Europeans can today live in freedom and peace. Nothing symbolizes the difference to 1939 better than the close, trusting cooperation between Germany and Poland and the multitude of friendly relations between our two countries.


The unity of Europe and Germany’s friendship with its neighbors owes its strength to the fact that we face our history. The chairmen of the German and Polish Bishops Conferences summed this up in their recently published statement on today’s anniversary. I quote:


 ”Together we must look to the future, which we would like to approach without ignoring or playing down the historical truth in all its aspects.”  


When, in my country, we today also recall the fate of the Germans who lost their home regions as a result of the war, then we always do so in the spirit described by the bishops. We do it in awareness of Germany’s responsibility, with which everything began. We do it without trying to rewrite anything in Germany’s enduring historical responsibility. This will never happen.


And it is precisely in this awareness that today – seventy years later – I have come to Gdansk. To this once sorely afflicted, but now gloriously restored city.

Mr. President, Mr. Minister President, your invitation to me to attend today’s commemoration as Germany’s Federal Chancellor touches me deeply. 

I understand this as a sign of our trusting neighborliness, our close partnership, and the true friendship between our two countries, between the people of Germany and Poland. I would like to express my profound thanks!

September 1, 2009

It began with a lie: Remembering September 1, 1939


THEY ATTACKED THE RADIO station at eight p.m. sharp. A half dozen German SS men dressed as Polish partisans burst into the broadcasting house beside the wooden radio tower near the Silesian town of Gleiwitz and trussed up its German staff. Then one of the men barked a brief speech into the microphone: Achtung! Achtung! This is Gleiwitz. The station is in Polish hands. … The moment of freedom has arrived! … Long live Poland!” To give the stunt an authentic feel, the agents had brought with them a local German dissident who had been arrested by the Gestapo a day earlier. They  dressed him in the same kind of clothes they were wearing, shoved a set of forged Polish identity papers into his pocket, pumped him full of narcotics, and shot him dead, leaving his corpse behind as “evidence” of this “cowardly Polish attack” on German soil. Their work done, the gang then beat a hasty retreat.

The Gleiwitz attack was just one out of some twenty-one false flag operations dubbed “Operation Himmler” that the SS launched on the eve of Germany’s invasion of Poland. After six years in power, Adolf Hitler was still uncertain of his people’s loyalty, let alone that of his General Staff. “The war will be unleashed through appropriate propaganda,” he had told his commanders a week earlier. “Credibility is of no concern, because victory will make it right.” The next morning, in the early hours of September 1, 1939, he hurled 1.5 million soldiers at Poland’s porous borders. (They would be joined by Red Army forces attacking from the east on September 17). Then at a few minutes past ten, a seemingly outraged Hitler proclaimed to the Reichstag and a nationwide radio audience that “Last night Poland fired on our territory for the first time using regular soldiers. Since 5:45, we have been shooting back. From now on, we will pay them back, bomb by bomb!”

The war began with a lie. Almost six years and sixty million deaths later, it ended with one, too, when the Greater German Radio announced that “our Führer, Adolf Hitler, has fallen this afternoon in his command post in the Reich Chancellery fighting to his last breath against Bolshevism.” In reality, he and Eva Braun had committed suicide to avoid facing the consequences of his actions…