In over 20 years of writing on The Holocaust it is impossible to remain dispassionate as I continually survey the landscape of atrocity, brutality and betrayal. Here, this post is meant to give a concern to the Jews who faced a treachery they could not see coming, even though they had faced the extremes of antisemitic hatred for over x2 millennia. But for me, as I read and reread books and works of importance in the narrative seeking to comprehend, how on this Earth will I ever understand why people turned on their Jewish Neighbours, simply because they were Jews. I first met that betrayal at the commencement of this journey with the image of Tokele, 4 years old and Murdered too amongst her closest relatives, because she was a Jew. The torrent of revulsion sweeps over me and I am constantly shocked that this is the model of atrocity presented by an ostensibly ‘christian’ fraternity, one which I gladly renounce.
But I know I have been here before, writing of an experience so hugely tragic, and in whatever dimension we wish to draw upon, and that there is always a repeat urgency when we see how neo-nazism seeks to claim a foothold across Europe once again. For Poland, I cannot begin to imagine why it should allow for some of its citizens to seek an alliance with a Hitler regime that totally decimated Poland and its People. I am not even talking here about their 3,000,000 Jews of The Holocaust either. Here in time is a differing space, a certain Polish place but with separating names and antisemitism runs rife amongst them. For me, the first sight of Malkinia had informed me that Treblinka was at hand and the torture of humanity still hung in the air. I felt the strong hand of fate drawing me forward and it gains further confusion when the reality is, nazism remains focused on denying the Jews of Treblinka, Poland and elsewhere in Europe a resting place that should give them peace! Malkinia’s staging post was almost like it had been ordained for my visit. The steps up to that point, that had guided me to where Polish rail officials had no idea of such a place as Treblinka, and I spelled it TREBLINKA, it awaited me!
There were images and impressions drawing me forward and in a strange sense, I felt an almost spiritual upheaval that appeared inexplicable to me. It was almost the call of some Biblical cataclysm that had been waiting to dump me in a place as close to another Hell as all x5 other Death Camps had impressed upon me. If ever a picture could add to what Dante envisioned, and if our Children could become frightened by names such as these, Auschwitz/Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and then Treblinka, no rehearsal could ever prepare me for what I encountered. Again those words,
‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’,
which were clearly not intended for me, swept over me. For those Jews detained in Chelmno and Treblinka, and all the Death Camps I had visited, they were contained beneath a soil turned over, looted, excavated and cremated there are remnants which remain still to record the most mechanised destruction of a People ever.
Hitler though, who knew the lessons to be gained from history and he used them in reference to Jenghis Khan, The Armenian Tragedy and other’s, to mark his path of such degeneracy, history has afforded a name, The Holocaust to single out his hatred for an innocent Jewish People. Also, and as Napoleon's experience in Russia suggested, Winter would destroy any of Hitler's clear Lebensraum intentions and his connivance with other’s who collaborated his wishes would show him up for the contempt he showed for People as well as History. Those lessons in history then finally convinced Hitler, with the first set back during the Winter offensive in Russia of 1941, that stepping up the resolve to fully accomplish his Final Solution required an escalating term. This was found with The Wannsee Conference, which Hitler established to ensure the entire administration of Reich would be collaborative and complicit in The Holocaust.
Here, the early 1942 Winter still raging in Russia, saw all arms of the Reich now employed away from total War and in the mass Murder of the Jews of Europe. Here also, we must be very explicit and while we cannot be allowed an opinion in such a History, we strive toward any relevant comprehension with the factual truth of what happened to 6,000,000 Jews. What is based on this factual depiction of events involving so many Human Beings is an open wound in the psyche of all Humanity. Of course, what we do not do, we do not interpret what has been laid before History and the legacy of that period to lend to the posterity from which we must learn, cannot be abridged by any dilution of the truth. As SA thugs marched, and as they sang of their hatred, and as they were cajoled by Hitler, who imposed further upon the Jewish People in Germany, they wreaked Hitler's hatred and their own.
"..When Jewish blood splatters from ..knife."
Here, a direct threat which was felt immediately and was escalating toward terms Hitler encompassed in die Endlosung der Judenfrage. The Final Solution of the Jewish Question then, once Hitler sought and then achieved power was to be translated into a direct and frontal assault upon all Jewish presence and existence. It is not then such an enormous leap in any sense, let alone a rhetorical one, when German Jewry felt under imminent threat to seek out emigration. In fact, before Hitler acted out his physical threat, the imminent threat had been postured to a more than suggested death sentence. But who would take in Jews as refugees. So if we have now made the leap for some German Jews to get abroad, it is certain for German Jews left behind there is a physical abuse to deal with even prior to their physical destruction. Evian had already alerted Hitler that the World considered the Jewish Question of little consideration and the Jewish People were then expendable.
Dachau approached and Jewish incarceration signalled Hitler's resolve to confront the issue of his own hatred for the Jews. Once Kristallnacht was augmented with violence, Jewish lives were put under SA and SS knives. Here, some people acted in violation of all the precepts of human decency against an already beleaguered Jewish People! If these were Germans, we see them as collaborative in Hitler’s wishes for the destruction of Jewish business, Synagogue’s and even Jewish life. So when Hitler invaded Poland and Poles acted without regard for their Jewish neighbours, then Poland must accept the judgement in History that some Poles collaborated with Hitler's efforts. If we are to accept that this was not against Poland, then certainly in condemning the Jews they sought out for Destruction, they acted against the Peoples of that state.
There can be no denial of the evidence of the testimonies given. I am not here to add to the study of Polish collaborating efforts but with estimates of as many as 1,000's who collaborated, rising to more than 1,000,000 collaborators, Poland needs to address the frenetic move to either chasten the past or infer an alternative truth for our future. It is troublesome in this that the Polish government of the time chose to abandon its own People to the wiles of an assailant who would abuse and Destroy 6 million of its own People. We can recognise clearly that Hitler’s intention saw to it that 3,000,000 of them were systematically Murdered and because they were Jewish. Did that Polish government collaborate with Hitler's demands by giving its people over to German chagrin? The Polish government had abandoned the state and were short on the ground to afford any leadership. These mandated leaders of Polish society, as they resided well away from what was to befall the entire Polish countryside, Jews within that Country and many non-Jews besides were left to the merciless German occupation.
Firstly, to secure power and then to convert it into the most radical annihilatory expressed hatred to encroach upon humanity, it became endemic in German politics of the time and was readily adopted in many sovereign states, and here, within Poland I wish to see how widespread it became. Anti Jewish feeling settled into a rhetoric of exclusion at first and then, fully exemplified as it spread widely into aktionen in Killing Sites and the Death Camps, it was evident for all other's to see, hear and know, that mass Murder had been fully intended and then orchestrated. Of course, it was evident for all to know but not to become acknowledged by those who refused to see, hear or relate. There is no comparison to be made either with those who chose this Hitlerian example and trampled all moral values into a Murderous exercise, what ever Country we witnessed it expressed.
Here in Poland, there were 3,000,000 expressions which single out the Country for a more pernicious involvement in what would be exercised against their own Jewish population. Unparalleled and Unprecedented are words which utter the intolerable consequences which have a resonance to this day. As this same hatred continually draws upon such a devastating example, the World moves first to disguise the truth in order to cover the traces of indifference so evident all through the period. Until the entire World wakes up to the relevant lesson of genocide’s gravest wrong, The Holocaust will remain the bench mark for the continuing cycle of all future atrocity. Elsewhere we encounter this expression of hatred appearing, and in 1938, the Italian government passed a law banning Jews from teaching in public schools. A few months later, Italian leader Benito Mussolini formed an axis with Adolf Hitler and we wonder which came first the assault upon the integrity of the Jews or the kindred spirit which sees these two readers duplicating their effort against the Jews. Discrimination continued against 1,000’s of Italian Jews, and in 1943 many were deported to German camps. Fortunately, 80% of Jews in Italy were spared during the war, having been interned in small camps in Italy or rescued by righteous non-Jews, unlike the example we are to encounter once Poland is overrun.
It is true to say that when prejudice is voiced by leader's of Men, people suffer no matter their race, creed or other persuasion. This is the insipid nature of intolerance. It invokes in the masses a belief that others are lesser beings or inferior in some way. This was a mantra which emanated from Hitler as the Jewish People became the target of intolerable abuse. When an entire nation can then act in one accord with this Hitler branding of an ancient originated and newly interpreted hatred, it can be exported and 6,000,000 Jews are then set to be Annihilated. When such immoral norms are clearly advocated by authoritative political or even religious figures, intolerance becomes an institution of that state. The rule of governance is in promoting all moral probity and tolerance. But once the guiding principle of correctness has been distorted, direction becomes deviant and atrocity engulfs those no longer protected by moral certainty and this is more so within a violated state like Poland with 3,000,000 Jews to be targeted.
For now, I have finished my journey back toward those x6 Death Camps which Hitler had established in German Occupied Poland. However, I arrived back home with more questions than answers and all relating to both my continuing effort to achieve comprehension and in confronting a barrier which seemingly persists in Jewish Polish relations. I have finally stood before Chelmno and Treblinka and walked through Warsaw Streets and those same Streets which had seen the vibrancy of so much that was Jewish life was not only devoid of a Jewish presence, but it was also omitting any sense that once, Jewish People had once lived here. Here, in the Jewish Capitol of the European Continent, more than 8% of all Murdered Jews of The Holocaust had been driven toward extinction from their former homes here.
For me there is a finite and certain Polish complicity with Hitler’s efforts in Poland, and against the Jews in particular. What was nothing short of duplicitous for those Poles who obligingly and willingly collaborated is engraved into History and cannot alter the path of truth and integrity. Of course this does not accuse all, or even most of the Polish people, but it most certainly damns and recognises those few Poles who did collude in all manner of ways. For those Poles who would identify a Jew when a German couldn't, this was collaboration. If the fleeing government of Poland had issued instructions for the safety and security of all its citizens, history cannot now know how many of their 3,000,000 Jews had been awarded such a sanctuary by governance which would surely have saved many more Polish Jews from Hitler's intentions.
Of course we know all too well the actions of the Balt’s against their own Jews, and elsewhere where hatred or monetary gain gifted Hitler with further victims, collaborator’s stood to ensure a more rapid approach to the final solution was more speedy. So is history to now have any sense of outrage that Polish collaboration could be bleached from history’s pages or even denied? Collaboration indeed is an ugly word. But when it is used in conjunction with efforts against the good of any People, it is reprehensible, immoral and wrong. The Jews of Poland were collaborated against, individually and in wanton acts of betrayal of entire Jewish Community’s and by neighbours who sought to financially gain from and against their Jewish community. When we then visit the Jewish Survivor, with their attempt to return to their former lives, what they met with was a serious effort to continue with what Hitler had commenced. All over Poland, and elsewhere in Europe, Jews were either badly treated, brutalised or Murdered upon their return. In many Towns and Villages the Jewish Survivor was tortured not only by memories of loss and betrayal but there was a betrayal still which greeted them with renewed vigour.
Jews were randomly Murdered and within Poland, as a crescendo of violence descended upon these returning Survivor Jews, more than 100,000 of these bewildered, abandoned and frightened Jewish People finally sought refuge away from their former Polish homes. And this is where Poland has largely gained from a Jewish absence and Murderous rampage which had already cost 3,000,000 Polish Jewish lives. For various reasons, the spoils of that collaboration is held to this day as a theft of confiscated goods, lands, properties, valuables and moneys. I recognised as I stood in Treblinka, at the stone representing Sokoly, I stood at the point of what is an accusation of all of Poland. This nation owes much to those Jews, not just lost to us all but surely given away, wholesale and as a sordid gain was made which has stained the Polish past with the expropriation gained. From the extirpation of the vanquished Polish Jewish identity those Poles who were involved in the murders must be considered collaborative in the destruction of the Jews of Europe, Hitler’s supreme demand.
"..making it a crime to imply any Polish culpability for Nazi crimes denies ..historical record ..and sets a dangerous precedent for denying ..full scope of The Holocaust." Dr. Yvette Alt Miller.
As we search though the relevant documentation to unearth Polish collaboration, and it was a well advanced phenomena, we find Jozef Cukier. This individual was one of the leaders of the ‘Goralenvolk’, an early separatist movement located in the Podhale Highland region of southern Poland, along the Slovakian border. Here, during the Nazi occupation, Cukier attempted to set up a regional assembly with fellow activist Waclaw Krzeptowski. The establishment of an independent state, in collaboration with the occupying Germans did not gain any widespread support. However, the measure of support afforded the German’s, who accepted the region as part of an ethnic alliance, did secure an amelioration of treatment for the regions people. That said, the level of hostility towards the German occupation did not allow for any fully fledged separatist or collaborationist movement to gain its hold.
The fact of Jedwabne is well known to History and cannot be distorted by any Polish attempt to subdue the terms of collaboration to random assaults. Here, and for this assessment of Collaboration we will look to Jedwabne specifically. It had a population of some 3,000 people with more than 2,000 of these their Jewish neighbours. The Polin Museum itself clearly acknowledges the collaboration here, and elsewhere the collaboration by certain Poles remains a significant corruption of the moral integrity of Poland during the period of The Holocaust. Here, on July 10th. 1941 Marian Karolak, the local Mayor, fully collaborated his efforts with the murderous German occupation to have some 340 the town’s Jews herded into a local barn and they were to be Murdered there, burned to death. The detail of this shocking event is well documented and does not require my continued accusation.
However, this was a Polish town which had turned on its Jewish Community and must be considered for its collaborative and Murderous action. Now while not all Poles were participants in the atrocity, those many not involved are still complicit, due to their failure to assist their own Jewish neighbours out of harms way. The responsibility for History is clear and it must ensure the integrity of this Murderous rampage, which is clearly verified, and does not get washed away with any attempt to dilute the fullest terms of the atrocity. Where doubt lingers, the truth must be restored. Those with a responsibility to contribute knowledge to what we must learn have a more prescient demand placed upon them to ensure what is known is not lost to interpretation. I reckon there are those who are sickened by what The Holocaust presents to us but we must be mindful of what The Holocaust is to the Jewish People and more so the Survivor. The Survivor of this ostensibly 'christian' led atrocity against all the Jews of Europe, and I recognise fully that Jews were not the only victims of Hitler and any collaborative effort, but Jews were the only victims of The Holocaust.
Why then should it amaze anyone that there is a commercial side to Writing? Even while I choose to write in Remembrance of 6,000,000 Jews, who are The Holocaust, that is also true? No Publisher is going to give free rein to any Writer to write what will not sell and no one who does not appreciate what I state and why I state it will not wish to read from the pages of those Books, now placed before the mantle of The Holocaust Remembrance, that we are here to share. Also, and I have never suggested other than that requirement is to read what one chooses to read. In essence I have the bones of 30 other Books already conceived of and they await each agreement based upon the achievement of the last effort. That means I am not searching here, or any other media platform, to gather for any of the Books I have already sketched an impression of.
"..This was a particularly cruel crime. It was justified by nothing. ..victims were helpless and defenceless. For this crime ..we should beg ..souls of ..dead and their families for forgiveness. This is why today ..as a citizen and as president of ..Republic of Poland ..I apologise." President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Agreed! I clearly attribute certain concerns to what I state here, such as collaboration, but this will not qualify as a Book unless it is proven substantial to do so. Part of what collaboration in The Holocaust encompasses is a clearer accusation that many states are unwilling to admit to. A work on Jedwabne clearly forms such an accusation which has been painstakingly worked on and this single atrocity against the some 340 Jews Burned to Death leads more accusingly toward the 1,600 Jews of Jedwabne, and those from the nearby communities of Radzilova and Vizna, Men, Women and Their Children who have vanished from History. Those being memorialised though, which has credit beyond what I could here add to speaks of such grave losses we could never contemplate. For me, there is a simple resolve to such positions as to what collaboration represents. I will explore Jedwabne but within a narrative that clearly identifies with Kielce and Sokoly. All of which provides a legacy to add collaboration to any attempt by Hitler to ensure the destruction of as many Jews as he could. The newly established Memorial Monument at Jedwabne states:
"..In memory of the Jews of Jedwabne and surrounding areas, men, women, and children, fellow-dwellers of this land, murdered and burned alive at this site on 10 July 1941."
But this clearly does not go far enough in admonishing those who wronged their neighbours, Murdered them because they were Jews and even today, watch as the resistance to admission is being ameliorated toward denial. States should not then ever be ambiguous in any detail of their History, despite the terrible detail it has inflicted upon History. For the Jews from these individual atrocities, no nation will stand the test of scrutiny who wishes to distance itself from what was inflicted upon the Polish Jewish People by their own Polish neighbours. Any distortion of the truth will only lead to a corruption of the veracity of all of History. This need to conceal any element and particle of the truth cannot but doubt the honesty of any nation. Any Country whose moral founding has been ethically constituted, must uphold with integrity what it wishes to deliver forth.
As for the collaborating efforts so often mentioned, imagine the added horror for the Jewish People in knowing the fact of a neighbour turning upon their neighbour because they are Jews. The enactment itself is of unbridled hatred and the amassed Murder to be witnessed against those Jews, while it is expressly, bears no relation to what their religious, moral or ethical teachings commanded of them and that they 'love thy neighbour as thy self.' This negation of the obligation to a duty each human being holds with the other must be confronted brought into question. It must be constituted in the way it was intended and honoured by all of humanity engaged in a living space shared equally by all peoples everywhere. And remember too that I didn't state that original text about loving your neighbour, a Christian god did.
"..Jesus said unto him ..Thou shalt love ..Lord thy God with all thy heart ..and with all thy soul ..and with all thy mind. This is ..first and great commandment. And ..second is like unto it ..Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all ..law and ..prophets."
It is evident that The Holocaust is riven with so many atrocities we have been obliged to lend it this single term and any such accusation which Jedwabne, Kielce and Sokoly delivers, provides us with a hideous example of this vile, vicious and murderous display. Here, collaboration becomes the ugliest of words set against the back drop of the most virulent hatred ever devised by humankind. So what is presented at Sokoly, Kielce and Jedwabne is either the ignorance of human Morality and the failing obligation to obey gods Commandments or it is the complete abrogation of what their God’s law must hold for them. The subject then of collaboration is an emotive one but must not be confined to seeking ways of extracting the truth and enabling those who collaborated to simply divest themselves of their cruel, wicked and murderous affray against those they knew where their own People. In terms which must make us shudder, we recognise not only Jedwabne, Kielce and Sokoly but we must look to those individual assaults upon the Jews of Europe by those privileged enough to have escaped the wrath of Hitler’s resolve for ALL Jews.
"..Normally I can talk about ..Holocaust ..no problem. When you are talking to boys and girls at schools you want to hide your emotions. But sometimes ..suddenly ..when I am speaking ..whole thing becomes very real. Memories come back. And when I go to Jedwabne ..it doesn’t matter that it was Jews or any other people. To think what these people did to their neighbours. They were their neighbours from ..1600s. Their burial places indicate that they lived there from that time. It was not enough that they killed them. They slaughtered them. They cut them to pieces." Tomi Reichental.
I cannot begin to imagine what a Jew, let alone a Survivor considers as they survey the wreckage of humanity wrought by human beings against their fellow Man, Woman and Their Children because they were Jews. The 10's of 1,000's of those Jews who have had the fortune to Survived, and those Jews forced to escape further still the hatred from neighbours, they know especially harshly what words uttered here cannot deliver. Collaboration however, is written clearly in the destruction of these Polish Jews and those other Jews who found a contemptible people, wherever they were, disabling all moral probity to deliver further toward Hitler’s Final Solution. Honestly, I have no axe to grind against the Polish People, or any other national grouping, but I object to what amounts to the denial of the Truth by anyone who would seek to shelter from the integrity History demands, the ability of so many to collaborate with Hitler’s efforts or against their own communities, for whatever reason. 6,000,000 Jews of The Holocaust deserve the truth, and when they have been denied all too much in their stricken lives, that is expressly demanded.
"..In their minds ..murderers and accomplices of Germany ..and Poland ..and Hungary ..and so many ..many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was ..right thing to do ..thing they had to do." James Comey.
When we look to individuals like Ludwik Kalkstein who was an agent for the Gestapo, he worked tirelessly to undo the Jewish effort to remain alive. With Waclaw Krzeptowski, one of the leaders of the Goralenvolk, collaboration can be assessed. Krzeptowski sought a breakaway region, the Podhale to remove them from Poland and closer ties with Hitler and Germany. Throughout Poland, almost immediately upon the defeat of the Germans, unrest in Poland centred around the Jewish Survivors, those seeking to return to some form of normality. Pogroms were constituted in several Cities and Towns, two of which, Sokoly decided the path I have taken for the past 20 years and Kielce, which defined the course of any future Jewish presence within Poland. Pogroms against returning Jews were not restricted to Poland alone, but I wish to draw to the attention of those Polish officials who would seek to draw a line in the sand. Tragically for the Jews of Poland, this line had been severely crossed, and so ignobly amongst the various Polish communities who led these anti-Jewish Pogroms, and some of these were the Jews who had returned to:
Biala-Podlaska, and x2 Jews were Murdered upon their return. In Bialystok and Bielawa there was no welcome for the Survivor Jews. In Boleslawiec x8 returning Jews were Murdered and in Bytom and Cracow , the same sickening story of hatred awaited the Jews. In Czestochowa, Kielce and Legnica, and as if the Jews had no suffered enough, their return was met with scorn, fury and nonacceptance. In Lublin x2 returning Jews were Murdered whereas in Mordy x7 Jewish Survivors were Murdered. The story repeats itself in Otwock and the emergence of the Jews from the Camps, the Killing Sites, the Death Camps was greeted with amazement that these Jews managed to Survive at all. In Parczew x4 returning Jews were Murdered and that same fate was met in Piaski when x6 Surviving Jewish residents assumed to Return Home. In Polaniec x5 returning Jews were not allowed to Survive and this sorry tale was met by Jews returning home to Rzeszow.
In Skarzysko-Kamienna x5 Jews too assumed they could return Home and regale their neighbours of their terrible ordeal. Truth is, their neighbours had known what had awaited the Jews. The telegraph system of informant and travelling whispers acquainted all of what had been the planned annihilation of the Jews of Poland. In Sokoly x9 Surviving Jews had staged a Home welcome for themselves and were Murdered for doing so. In Sosnowiec, Szczecin and Tarnow the Jews of these Towns who had known such levels of hatred no human being should experience suffered the gravest evil, Murder at the hands of their former neighbours. In Turek and I saw the signs for this Town on my way toward Lodz, x1 Survivor was confronted by the same element of hatred exercised by the now former German occupiers and was Murdered. For the larger of these Pogroms, we will look to their composition and with the Kielce Pogrom, a swing shift in Polish Jewish relations was reached.
The Jewish Community gathered in the Jewish Community Centre's to organise a welcome for those Survivor’s who had been lucky enough to Survive. On July 4th. 1946 an armed gang of thugs, Polish Soldiers, Polish Police and Kielce’s Polish community killed 42 of those Jews who were gathered and more than a further 50 Jews were beaten and wounded. Though Justice here was as unequivocal as could be, and as the Polish Courts indicted and convicted many of the perpetrator’s, and even 9 of the culprits were executed, this signalled the final straw for more than 100,000 Surviving Jews of Poland who felt they had been betrayed by Poland and gradually left the Country. World opinion was not incensed enough though to look inward at how it had previously treated the Jews of Europe, 6,000,000 of who were laid to waste, and mostly in Poland.
We arrive now at Sokoly, a Town to the East of Bialystok where my search for some form of understanding or comprehension of the very tenets of The Holocaust became my choice Always to Remember, Never to Forget. Here on 17th. February 1945, x9 Surviving Jews of the Town were sought out and Murdered. Amongst them:
1) Tokele, my little 4 year old Jewish Girl who has fixed the trajectory of my life for more than 20 years now. These Jewish Survivors I have sought always to remember are Tovah ‘Tokele’ Olshak;
2) Shaina Olshak,
3) David Zholti,
4) Shaikele Litwak,
5) Chaim Litwak,
6) Shammai Litwak,
7) Batya Weinstein, and
8) David Kostshevski though he died from his wounds in Hospital, he is a part of the tragedy for Survivor Jews who could not be allowed to return and stay. Also,
9) Yankele Litwak was shot by a Polish soldier while in Bialystok and was the 15 year old Brother of Shaikele, Shammai and Shainie Litwak. In Death none are exempt and so these x9 Jews whose lives were taken from them for being Jews should not be parted here as Jews of Sokoly.
"..We dipped our pen into the valley of tears
To record an immortalization for the holy martyrs of Sokoly
Every page of the book is a scroll of fear
About our dear ones, who were cut off with a sharp sword.
We lived in the community, we spent time together
We drank gladness and poison from the same cup
The dynasty of his grandfather – the grandson the blacksmith
A continuation of the generations of the Nation of Israel.
We sat on the same bench of learning
In the same ‘cheder’ we expounded Torah
We had the same study hall, rules and procedures
The same cemetery and the same graves.
We walked the same roads and streets
Young girls and youths, grandfathers and grandmothers
Under the wedding canopies we heard, with rhythm,
Notes of a Jewish melody of joy and sadness.
We were transported to those Treblinkas in multitudes
We were squeezed into cattle cars like sheep
Our destination was massacre, we turned into dust
The story of our people is written here in the book.
Where are you, Sokoly, you were our cradle
You were eroded like dust and broken like clay
Where are your Jews, infants and fathers
Old people, grooms and beautiful brides?
Where are the pulpits of gemara, and around them the sounds of commentary
Of the yeshiva students explaining portions of the Midrash
Prayers and hopes lifted up to God on high
Were choked off, were silenced with the smoke of destruction." Reuven Lev.
I never appreciated that anyone would approach the sense of personal grief I felt with other than an acknowledgement of a fellow sufferer’s sympathy and human empathetic concern. I saw my Dad Dead and knew an immense loss. I knew my Sister's had died and had no time to adjust to this before the life of a Child was urged to move on. I was not well prepared for the image of Tokele, so young, so vibrant and taken from this World because of a hatred that Jews like her had Survived and realised a personal attachment which caught me unawares? People have asked me why I have become so attached to Tokele and I can only use the missing grief over the loss of my own x2 very Young Sister’s to give that grief to one I felt now able to grieve over!
"..10 days after ..war started ..German soldiers burst into our town ..Sokoly ..and immediately began a mad rampage. Guided by young Poles ..they passed through ..homes of ..Jews and abducted ..leaders of ..community." Michael Maik.
It is unimaginable to the unaccustomed mind the full sense of horror that I have surveyed and I have felt its potency in all that I have researched and studied. On the very explicit detail of The Holocaust, there has been no parallel in all of History to draw upon and the very unprecedented nature of the assault upon the Jewish People has gouged a path through our times which is an accusation against all of humanity. So I have written about the horror explicitly and sought to articulate the terror with a sense of shame that humanity could have sunk to such depths of human depravity. I have remonstrated verbally with a World which stood by and allowed all of this to happen with a shudder of indifference to a very pronounced intolerance. But, it with my use of words that I have been compelled to recognise that 6,000,000 other People could be so ruthlessly condemned and murdered and simply because they were Jews. Are we not all Jews amongst those who believe in Jewish ways and a Jewish God while we have adapted the godliness to act ungodly like?
"..Germans rounded up 1,000's of Jews from Warsaw and its surroundings and sent them in boxcars to Treblinka ..a place where ..Germans had built a giant slaughterhouse for killing Jews by ..strangulation with gas. Exact details as to how they killed ..Jews were not yet known ..but it was known that every day dozens of boxcars loaded with Jews arrived at Treblinka. ..shoved onto special platforms ..supposedly taken to a bathhouse ..ordered to undress ..given a piece of soap ..a towel. ..doors were opened to an empty room into which ..victims were driven. ..room was filled with people and so crowded that there was no more space ..doors were locked ..and in a few minutes they suffocated. ..new transports of Jews were sent to this death camp ..and ..immediately ..turned into dust. ..Jews from Poland ..Lithuania ..Ukraine ..White Russia ..France ..Belgium ..Holland and other European countries also arrived in full trains at Treblinka ..where they were murdered." Michael Maik.
For me, I had never heard of Sokoly, but I was now confronted with a measure of evil which rampaged through a home were Survivor's of the worst calamity to strike at humanity's core were resting and recovering from their ordeal. Where previously some 2,500 Jews had once lived, apparently in peaceful coexistence, the Jews had enjoined their neighbours in a communal effort to secure a better future for both? However, and at a given moment Polish robbers entered a House where these Survivor's were and in the a frenzy of atrocity hear what the words of Michael Maik, who describes what I read, more than 20 years ago and has gripped me ever since:
"..Tova (Tokele) (Tulka) Olshak ..4 year-old orphan ..was a cheerful and sweet little girl. She clung lovingly to any person who took her into his arms to spoil her and play with her. She filled every Jewish heart with pleasure and everyone took comfort in her. ..beautiful little girl ..innocent of any sin ..an actual little angel ..lay dead with open eyes. Her eyes expressed deep protest against ..bestial murderers." Michael Maik.
So the horror of an image can capture fully the tenets of The Holocaust, but the very detail of the Slaughter has just got so much worse for me. In betrayal's darkest moments I have discovered that a 4 year old Child can be such a threat to humanity that she can be ruthlessly Murdered because she is a Jew. For these Jews of Sokoly, having Survived all that the Catastrophe brought to them, these Jews of Sokoly emerged from places like Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka to be Murdered in the own Home and within their own community. For the all too few Jews who had managed to Survive, they must have wondered how come their luck had managed to bring them home. But their luck soon changed as soon as they had reached the apparent safety of their former homes. For me, this defines not only the most heinous of crimes but also the Collaboration of certain Poles in Hitler's efforts to Murder as many Jews as possible. And so I leave the final words of Sokoly’s damning evidence to one who knew:
"..Bialystok ..a gathering point for all ..Jews of ..surrounding area ..including ..Jews from Sokoly who had previously been expelled. From Bialystok ..groups of Jews were sent to Treblinka ..to ..gas chambers." Michael Maik.
The Schutzmannschaft Battalion 107 was composed of as many as 450 local Poles and worked extensively in the Volhynia region. They were under the German command and formed a guard duty to ensure the free running of the Railways. They were not a commissioned police force as such, unlike Schutzmannschaft Battalion 202 which was an auxiliary and collaborating Polish police force established in Cracow. More than 300 were forcibly signed up to deliver for the occupying forces varying degrees of cooperation. However, the level of voluntary collaboration was small, and eventually more than half the group abandoned its position to join free Polish forces. Jan Emil Skiwski was a Polish writer, journalist, literary critic, an outspoken extremist supporter of the far right, and an advocate of National Democracy. That he was a collaborator with Hitler’s world view is clearly expressed in his publishing of newspapers supporting Nazi and Polish cohesion, even when his own Country was occupied by an aggressor nation.
Eugeniusz Swierczewski too was a Polish journalist, a drama critic and a Gestapo agent. Karol Juliusz Sym, who was widely known as Igo Sym, was a Polish actor who collaborated with Hitler’s plans for Poland and against what Poland had once been, a sovereign state. Clearly, we cannot enter the realm of Polish collaboration without mention of The Blue Police, made up of Polish police officers. We are aware that these Polish Granatowa policja, more correctly interpreted as 'Navy Blue Police' were a 20,000 strong force of Poles. They were either conscripted and volunteered almost immediately upon German entry into Poland on September 1st. 1939. Not only responsible for the enforcement of German demands, with regard Jews and Poles alike, they policed the Ghetto areas and ensured Jewish compliance to German demands.
Their mark has left an indelible stain on Polish nationhood, but it is largely denied in the most onerous ways and can never be assessed or accepted in any meaningful way due to these constraints. That such moral certainty was abandoned by some Poles, and it has to be stressed that most Polish people did not enter into any cohesive action with any Germans, but as Hitler's rhetoric of hatred blossomed, some Poles succumbed to a motive of reprehensible proportions. What underscores those political efforts to this day, for those still seeking to deny that any form of Polish collaboration ever existed, will allow for the fomentation of denial to give future rise to the same or similar hatreds. Under such an atmosphere of self interest and personal promotion, victimisation against Polish Jewry clearly flourished. While no one can insist Hitler created antisemitism, we can be certain that he made it his own weapon of choice and delivered it to the Poles who took up the gauntlet to act with impunity at times against their own Jewish Citizens.
When all is said and done, Poland's 'blue police' not only assisted the Nazi effort to consume 3,000,000 Jews but wilfully participated and perpetrated Crimes against Humanity. Their presence against the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was a clear collaboration against the Jewish People and Poland's sovereignty. These Blue Police units, formed on October 30th. 1939, with the German’s allocating the worst type of policing to these eager recruits, so as to ensure the more deadly deeds had a Polish footprint all through! The strength of this organisation was present within Poland until August 27th. 1944 when it was appropriately decommissioned. It is essential to realise that Hitler knew the lessons to be gained from history and he used them widely.
Whether in mentioning Jenghis Khan, The Armenian Tragedy or the knowledge he surely gained of Napoleon's experience in Russia has suggested, Hitler was well briefed on History. However, what is missing is Hitler’s ability to understand History fully and his arrogance in not appreciating that Winter would destroy any of Hitler's clear Lebensraum intentions, is well documented. What had been clearly in operation since his arrival in power, this then convinced Hitler, with the first set back during the Russian Winter offensive of 1941, that the stepping up of his resolve to fully accomplish his Final Solution was in need of a more focused approach. This newer emphasis required a more fuller and escalating response, even when we have become aware that since Kristallnacht, Jewish life was an expendable commodity in Hitler’s pocket.
Here too, when The Wannsee Conference was established to ensure that the entire Reich would be fully complicit in every detail of The Holocaust. The escalating terms must be considered alongside what BabiYar presents, what Both the SD killing experts would relay and what Hitler then expected from his legions. Few here presented any arguments against what could be accomplished, and the duplicity of Germany and the Germans was complete. It is to be seen that as this Conference convened, the relevant experience gained by the mass Murderer’s of the time, SS Obersturmbannfhrer Dr. Rudolf Lange, der Einsatzkommando 2 Commander and SS Brigadefuhrer Dr. Georg Karl Eberhard Schongarth, the Commander of the Security Police & Security Service in the Generalgouvernment, pushed the emphasis of the atrocity away from Shootings and toward the emerging Death Camps. Now, all arms of the Reich was aware, implicitly engaged and fully employed in the mass Murder of the Jews of Europe.
The Warsaw Ghetto
Here, between April 19th. and May 16th. 1943, and by now not only had the majority of the Jews who had once been held in the Warsaw Ghetto been annihilated, the remaining 50,000 Jews were awaiting the same fate. Held to ransom, the remnant of Jewry here could do no more than pay the extortionate price expected for weapons. This criminal act, which would only hasten the Jewish demise stands before a history which now balks at calling this deliberate and calculated extortion what it was Collaboration. Here, as the approach of the final days of Hitler’s 1,000 year reich was looming, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto seized their moment and struck back at Hitler’s intention to destroy every single one of them. But here again, amidst the crumbling ramparts of Poland’s Capitol City the Jews once more stood alone!
I have no wish here though to single out only Warsaw as alone in those Ghetto’s taking back control from Hitler’s oppression and annihilation. But, as we must be explicit and specific, and while we can still be allowed an opinion in such a History, we strive toward relevance with the factual truth of what faced the remnants of the largest Jewish Ghetto in all of Europe, Jewish Warsaw. Not only do I wish to point out what happened here, but as I see here a similar collaboration which 6,000,000 Jews faced, the facts of this truth accuses. Here too, the Warsaw Ghetto sets forth the worst excesses of abuse, hatred and most definitely collaboration against these Jews, and the ultimate destruction of the Jews of all of Poland had been well orchestrated and mirrored here in the ruins of Warsaw.
But, was there some collaborative effort in ensuring that the 'transports' from Warsaw, which were taken to the gates of Treblinka, and as with all the Death Camps, managed with Polish escorts, it is certain what these Polish attendants had delivered their Jewish transportees toward. So taken in isolation though, and as we are introduced to the Jewish Resistance during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising these Jews fought an extraordinarily gallant Fight. It might have proved futile to do so but is it not credible now to allow them their immense, singularly isolated and Herculean effort. It would appear that while some are resorting to the revised annotation that certain in History would deliver for them and escalate an interference from outside bodies which did not assist. The example here, with the urgent need for Guns played a major part in the overall failure of the Jewish Combatants to assail further the German assault.
Though the end was an inevitable end for Jewish lives here, the Jewish capacity to defend itself against the weight of Hitler’s proposed elite, Criminals and mercenary killers severely increased the cost to the overwhelming military superiority the Jewish Fighter’s had to engage, due to a tenacity borne from a certainty they were alone and on a collision course with annihilation. Let us deal with the extortion for a moment. For instance, a gun to the Jewish Resisters could cost US $1,000 - US $2,500, and when the going rate at the time for say a revolver was US $20.00 to US $25.00. Here, for the Jews fighting Hitler’s Nazi’s was the margin for exploitation that was clearly and substantially enhanced! This was a clear exploitation and it was mixed with a collaborative effort that saw Hitler's clearer intention to deny any final life to these isolated Warsaw Jews brought closer. Did not the failure of the Polish resistance to assist their Jewish counterparts not merely pander to Hitler’s wishes but fully render to Hitler an extended ability to enure that the Jews could not defend themselves against such a resolve??
"..Assassinations were carried out ..of ..Gestapo collaborators seeking to save their own lives at ..expense of ..Jews." Abraham Geppner.
So the truth emerges that Polish collaboration, which existed in its most pernicious forms is based on this factual depiction of events involving so many desolate Jews. These Jewish Human Beings were abandoned by such a device as we see that their fellow humans being collaborative? This surely is an open wound in the psyche of all Humanity. Of course, what we do not do, we do not interpret what has been laid before the posterity from which we must learn. What is pertinent here though, is the sheer lack of cooperation from those outside the Ghetto's who either chose to ignore the Jewish plight or sought to profit from the Jewish situation. It is essential to understand and appreciate that for some Poles who ventured into the midst of this largely Jewish conflict, but within Polish Warsaw and only saw along with the Nazi protagonists, only a common enemy.
Of course some Poles died alongside their Jewish counterparts doing what they were obliged to commit to against the same Nazi aggressor, but the overall indifference shown by an apathetic or unconcerned Polish people abandoned the remaining Warsaw Jews to the murderous efforts of Jurgen Stroop. For me the question begs the unquestioning answer! Weren't the Polish Jews fighting to rid Poland of the exact same German aggressor enemy? Was not the Jewish Fight a Polish fight? Why then should a Jew have to pay for a weapon used to fight a common enemy? The Jews proved expendable even in the fight to rid The Warsaw Ghetto and Poland of Hitler's Murderer's!
As I summarise my own perspective as to what collaboration against the Jews in Poland represents what for me is so startling, nothing, absolutely Nothing prepares you for this realising betrayal of their fellow Country Men, Women and Their Children and all because they were Jews. Seeing the images as I have compiled them to survey the devastated landscape of a Polish territory, it is certainly true that it was largely abandoned by Poland! When nothing will prove more horrifying than what greets you as you stand before open fields here at Chelmno and Treblinka I get the sense that what was a missed opportunity to assist in Warsaw dissolved a mutual collaboration with these Jews of Warsaw and their Polish neighbours was a confrontation with a common enemy, Hitler’s invading forces. That same feeling of shock and shame confronted me as I stood in Auschwitz and Birkenau, Belzec, Majdanek and Sobibor.
Nothing has prepared me sufficiently for what is just as terrible, vile and monstrous in terms of a human failure to alleviate, assist or aid the Jewish fight in Poland against Poland’s enemy. However, the knowledge that more than 3,000,000 Jewish People, and possibly as many as 5,484,700 Jewish People were laid to waste in just these x6 places of ignominy, all adds a clearer more alarming perspective to what should have been expected from a knowledgeable non-Jewish Poland. Human Beings did this to Men, Women and Babies, Infants and Children and simply because they were JEWS while Poles in the main stood aside. Anger rages more deeply as I stood amidst rows of stones and boulders in Treblinka, and these standing memorials to lost Jewish Communities confront your senses knowing all too well what could have been achieved. If only Poland had acted as one with their own People, their own People, those suffering as Jews, but Polish all the same.
But then again, there are those who Survived the clear intention by Hitler to Murder them only for Poles to finish the task for him. I cannot begin to know the horror I stand in the shadows of but I can acknowledge their terror was far reaching. For some of these Jews, who even managed to crawl away from such spaces, Ghetto’s, Killing Sites and Death Camps how can I pretend not to be remotely horrified enough and angered more sufficiently when I hear that there was this lack of aid delivered to their own. The awareness or knowledge from those who resided next door to the encampments of destruction is a deceit which cannot camouflage the truth to be denied. For me there is a flood of emotions at all the Death Camps but it is here at Treblinka, where a Stone confronts me which floors me. Emblazoned across its surface I read SOKOLY.
This Town, where my poor little Tokele was so savagely Murdered, just 4 years old and butchered in a senseless hatred that no human being should possess. I felt frail and lost. I was merely humbled before stones which can devour ones mind of thoughts, well thoughts other than disgust. Here, my Camera lens becomes the tool of accusation and sharply brings to focus the most heinous crimes perpetuated by mankind. All too many of these crimes remain Unpunished. There are far too many Unconcerned enough to admit the exact detail of their collaborations, their intolerance’s or the indifference’s shown to fellow Human Beings. However, the weight of knowledge is burdensome enough without having History so exposed to duplicity and complicity in The Holocaust that some can deny all of its effects. So I will end here with an accusation as I encounter the very images I have posted to say I have been, I have marked my presence and I still choose to Remember that in
Belzec from 500,000 Jews to what amounts to 884,700 Jews were Murdered. In Birkenau, Auschwitz II from 1,100,000 Jews to a theoretically possible Slaughter of 2,500,000 Jews having been Murdered. At Chelmno where between 152,000 Jews toward 400,000 Jews having been Murdered there. For Majdanek we must assess that from 120,000 Jews to 200,000 Jews were Murdered there and at Sobibor some 225,000 Jews to 300,000 Jews were Murdered in this place of annihilation. The same is also true for Treblinka where as many as 700,000 Jews to 1,200,000 Jews were Murdered. This all gives rise to an overall assessment, unbridled in atrocity, unparalleled in brutality, unprecedented in all of History and unwarranted in all of humanity.
The staggering figures that we are talking about here within The Death Camp system would amount to some 2,797,000 Murdered Jews or some 5,484,700 Murdered Jews, depending upon all the gauged documentation and evidence, having been Murdered in The Death Camps alone! Remember too that while we seemingly acquiesce toward the lower estimates, we must fully consider the overall capacity that is The Death Camps. Plus be mindful also that while I make assessments based upon what Hitler’s legions fully accomplished, 33,771 Murdered Jews of Kiev in x2 days for instance, this would have ensured der Einsatzgruppe could have shot to death The Holocaust total of 6,000,000 Murdered Jews in about 355 days. We are reminded also of Hoess's own assessment, and this would suggest the entirety of those Murdered Jews of The Holocaust, these 6,000,000 Jewish Men, Women and Their Children would have been Destroyed in the space of 600 days at Auschwitz and Birkenau alone.
"..highest number of gassings in one day was 10,000. ..most that could be carried out in a day with ..available facilities." SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoess.