Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
writes from Vancouver, Canada, Tuesday, August 1, 2000
What did Jan Karski's 1940 report actually say?
Michael Mills states that Jan Karski's 1940 report to the Polish Government -in-Exile "is quite anti-Semitic in some ways, as it accuses a portion of the Jews in the Soviet-occupied zone of having betrayed Poland by welcoming the Soviet invader. In fact, it predicts an eventual bloody revenge against the Jews by Polish patriots." Let's see what Karski actually writes in his report. He writes:
"The attitude of the Jews toward the Bolsheviks is regarded among the Polish populace as quite positive.It is generally believed that the Jews betrayed Poland and the Poles, that they are basically communists, that they crossed over to the Bolsheviks with flags unfurled. In fact, in most cities the Jews greeted the Bolsheviks with baskets of red roses, with submissive declarations and speeches, etc., etc. Certainly it is so that Jewish communists adopted an enthusiastic stance toward the Bolsheviks, regardless of the social class from which they came. The Jewish proletariat, small merchants, artisans, and all those whose position has at present been improved structurally and who had formerly been exposed primarily to oppression, indignities, excesses, etc., from the Polish element - all of these responded positively, if not enthusiastically, to the new regime. Their attitude seems to me quite understandable. However, there are worse cases, where they . . . denounce the Poles, Polish nationalist students, and Polish political figures, when they direct the work of the Bolshevik police force from behind their desks or are members of the police force, when they falsely defame the relations...in former Poland. Unfortunately it is necessary to state that such incidents are quite common, more common than incidents which reveal loyalty toward Poles or sentiment toward Poland. In contrast, I have the impression that the intelligentsia, the wealthiest Jews and those of the highest level of culture (with, of course, certain exceptions and not counting the pretenders), rather think of Poland often with a certain fondness and would happily greet a change in the present situation (leading to) the independence of Poland . . . In principle, however, the Jews have created here a situation in which the Poles regard them as devoted to the Bolsheviks and -one can safely say - wait for the moment when they will be able simply to take revenge upon the Jews. Virtually all Poles are bitter and disappointed in relation to the Jews; the overwhelming majority (first among them of course the youth) literally look forward to an opportunity for 'repayment in blood' "
("Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939-46." Edited by Norman Davies and Antony Polonsky [sic]. Macmillan. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1991. 265-267.)
Mr. Mills didn't read Karski's report carefully. Is he merely repeating David Engel's comments on the report?
Would Mr. Mills agree that there were Polish Jews who collaborated with the Soviets, denouncing ethnic Poles to the Soviet occupier, which resulted in imprisonment, executions, and deportations to the Gulag of many Poles?
Having read the report, I must say that I find plenty of compassion for the suffering of the Jews under the German occupation (Karski's compassion toward the Jews seems far greater than toward his fellow ethnic Poles). The terseness and matter-of-factness of the report makes it quite a different reading than "Story of the Secret State."
The report is entitled "An Early Account of Polish Jewry under Nazi and Soviet Occupation Presented to the Polish-Government-In-Exile, February 1940." It was reprinted from Jewish Social Studies, vol. XLV, no. I, Winter 1983, pp. 1-16.
So Karski was an anti-Semite? Well, then this "anti-Semitism" is a nice addition to Karski's long list of honours, which include an honorary Israeli citizenship, a Righteous Among Nations title, and a Yad Vashem nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.
Related items on this website:
In Defence of Jan Karski | Ted O'Keefe adds his two ha'porth | Heath replies to O'Keefe | Jan Karski Dies: Pole who brought word of Holocaust | O'Keefe responds to Heath on Belzec | Lowdown on the late Jan Karski | Ted O'Keefe adds more | Michael Mills sees More problems with believing Jan Karski