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Re: Menachem Begin

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  • Bernard Starzewski
    That charge has been made before. Although they are historical fiction he noted repeatedly the worst of the death camps were all in Poland and he goes on to
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 31, 2012
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      That charge has been made before. Although they are historical fiction he noted repeatedly the worst of the death camps were all in Poland and he goes on to speculate that this could have only happened in a country where there was a certain predisposition toward committing genocide.  I have always felt that was a stretch.

      In fact the longer historical record says something quite different.  Poland was in fact the only European country to have centuries of proclaimed equality for Jews in terms of secular equality.  While Im certain that this did not translate to religious differences there isnt much evidence to say that those divisions were any better between Catholics and Orthodox Christians between which the majority of blood was shed over the centuries.  The identity of Poland in Jewish terms as "Jewish Heaven" tells you much about that.

      That being said, the farther east you go the greater there seems to be an increasing scale of barbarity for sure.
      But I suspect that the location of those camps in the east had a number of other more pragmatic origins.
      There is for a start the "ant hill" theory, that if your mission is to find ants you must first find an ant hill.  Because of Poland's relatively high population of Jews encouraged by an expressed policy of tolerance toward them, it was in once sense simply a more practical matter to establish this German industry (thats what it was) where the greatest supply was.  In other words, it was a matter of German logistical genius.

      It is also not true that there were no death camps in Germany or even western Germany.
      The touring of death camps by US Generals is proof enough since the western allies did not capture any territories in Poland.  Certainly Bergen Belsen and Dachau were fully in Germany.  My own father was in Neungamme which was actually a series of 17 camps that were both in and around the city of Hamburg.
      While it was on paper a work camp Kostek has written extensively about his Kommando assignments in both feeding bodies into their own oven system and sorting the baggage and goods of Jewish victims.  The location of the ovens is today part of the memorial and museum there.

      It is true that the worst of the mass production camps were in Poland.  But in addition to the "ant hill" consideration is that Germans required secrecy above all else.  None of the Polish camps were close to population centers.  They were in remote locations that happened to have existing rail road connections again, for entirely pragmatic industial logistical reasons.  It was necessary to conceal the true nature of the camps as much as necessary not just to hide their purpose from allies but their own citizens but to hide it from the victims since they used carefully constructed fictions in order to gain the cooperation of the Jews themselves in surrendering and getting on the trains and in general not resisting.  The story was again, to support the myth of relocation.  This could be better accomplished by placing the biggest camps in the most remote locations and the relatively empty regions of Poland lent themselves very well to that purpose.

      It should be noted that the Germans also set up at least one (maybe more) Potemkin type villages in Poland as an elaborate deception to Red Cross officials. I cannot recall the name of the most noted one.  Lodz?  I would have look it up but I think it started with an L.  The only way this could have been accomplished was to have the main camp well off the beaten path so as to keep rumor and discovery at a minimum.  If Western Jews were being deported to Poland then they had to show that there were in fact happy Jews living there.  The real destination was kept a military secret.

      When Brit and US military questioned the close neighbors of German camps virtually all the civilians claimed ignorance of the real purposes of the camps.  Given the proximity to large population centers and the interaction between locals and the camps and the inmates much of that was self preservation.
      But it was also the result of the NAZI lie machine's success which due to the locations was even more successful in the east.

      Certainly local cooperation did exist.
      Certainly at least in the Kresy the feeling of betrayal and retaliation for cooperation with Stalin lead to retaliatory betrayal there.
      One must also consider that in that area Ukrainians played a large role in the ethnic cleansing.
      The uprising in 43 against the Poles after the Jews is evidence enough of that.
      That violence continued long after the NAZIs were driven off and lead to the Soviets deciding to put an end to it by deporting the Poles to Pomerania in order to separate them.  Ironically, that seemed to work.
      I have been able to trace several families from Markostaw to that place.

      But to say that this was somehow systemic in Poland and natural to the Polish people more so than in Germany or elsewhere is a matter of emotion and not entirely a matter of fact.

      Bernie Starzewski
      Wisconsin USA
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