International Historical Conference “Poland First to Fight” in Washington, D.C.

International Historical Conference “Poland First to Fight” in Washington, D.C.

Between 18 and 20 November 2019, the international historical conference “Poland – First to Fight” commemorating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The National Press Club was the first choice for this groundbreaking Conference due to it being the “go to” meetings venue for journalists, Washington politicians, heads of state, prime ministers and think tank directors. In 2016, President Andrzej Duda spoke in the Ballroom at the National Press Club, where historians, filmmakers, publishers and journalists from around the world will debate in November this year about the occupation of Poland during World War II by German and Soviet invaders.

Grassroots initiative

“Poland First to Fight” is a grassroots initiative in cooperation with Polish historians. Importantly, it is designed to show Americans the fate of Poland during the war, its consequences, and to reveal the broader geopolitical context. In addition to historians, archivists and museum curators, the target groups are: journalists and publishers, politicians and congressional assistants, employees and managers of state education departments, and people from the film and movie industry.
The Chairman of the Program Committee is Professor Marek Kornat from the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Karydnała Wyszyński in Warsaw. Other Committee members are historians such as Professor Andrzej Nowak, Professor Wojciech Roszkowski, Professor Tadeusz Wolsza (one of the most outstanding experts in the field of the Katyn Massacres) and Dr. Wojciech Kozłowski, director of the Pilecki Institute. A full list of Program Committee members can be found here.

The Conference Executive Committee consists of several Polish diaspora activists, including Dr. Stanisław Śliwowski, President of the Coalition of Americans of Polish Descent, and Edward Wojciech Jeśman, President of the Polish American Congress in Southern California. The Committee is managed by Dr. Marek Błażejak, a surgeon from Hamburg and former activist of the Polish Media Issues group, which has been fighting defamation of Poland in the media since 2005.

Scholars from several countries will make presentations at the National Press Club

During the Conference guests will have the opportunity to learn the real situation in which Poland found itself during the brutal war, the contribution of our country to the Allied victory over the Third Reich (Enigma, Polish air squadrons in England, General Maczek). Delegates will also hear about the extraordinary heroism and tragedy of Poles (Warsaw Uprising, Polish Underground State, forced labor camps in Germany and the Soviet Union, Germanization of Polish children, Generalplan Ost, Katyn Massacres, Capt. Pilecki).

Speakers include US historians like Professor Mieczysław Biskupski, a specialist in anti-Polish Hollywood propaganda during the war and Professor Sean McMeekin of Bard College, an expert on the role of the Soviet Union in the war and Stalin’s influence on the American administration. Professor Peter Paprzycki, an expert on psychometric research in education will talk about application of quantitative methods in the measurement of perception of Poland and Poles during World War II. 

Coming from Germany, among others, will be Prof. Norman Domeier, who has carried out a detailed research on the collaboration of the Associated Press with the German Third Reich. Christoph Schwarz, from the “Abducted Children – Forgotten Victims” Association from Freiburg will talk about the abduction and germanization by the Third Reich of 200,000 Polish children. Those children have never received any compensation from the German government for the damages suffered. Daniel Kawczynski, MP (United Kingdom) will highlight the importance of historical knowledge in parliamentary work.

Among the speakers there will be also war veterans and their descendants, including the son of a 307 Squadron, Battle of Britain pilot, as well as descendants of Polish victims, including Professor Krystyna Zamorska, whose father was a prisoner in the German concentration camp Stutthof. The topic of her presentation is The KL system in the German war economy: KL Stutthof, the ”forgotten” camp. Professor Zamorska is also a member of the Conference Executive Committee.
Marcin Makowski, journalist at the weekly “Do Rzeczy”, “Radio Kraków” and “Wirtualna Polska”, will talk about the role of computer games in preserving history for future generations. The American film producer Stacey Fitzgerald will tell about the fate of Polish women in the German concentration camp Ravensbrück, and a courageous rescue operation of dozens of camp inmates who were sentenced to death. The operation became a basis of the film “Saving the Rabbits of Ravensbrück”, of which Fitzgerald is a director and producer.

Discussion panel on distortion of Poland’s history

A discussion panel on defamation of Poland is also planned at the National Press Club. Participants, among others, will include Professor Danusha Goska from William Paterson University in New Jersey, who is the author of a groundbreaking book “Biegański – The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.” American and Israeli journalists will also be invited to participate in the discussion.

Poland First to Fight” is therefore a Conference with a wide range of topics, and will be of interest to historians, filmmakers, journalists, educators, museum professionals, US politicians, and publishers as well as political scientists. It will be accompanied by special events, including a reception at the residence of the Polish Ambassador, Professor Piotr Wilczek. The full conference program can be accessed here.

How this Conference is Funded?

The organizers launched a website, published an information brochure, rented a conference room in the National Press Club and invited scholars from several countries. They have fortunately been able to obtain valued sponsors such as the Polish-Slavic Federal Credit Union from New York, and the Polonia Institute from California. However, some additional funds are needed to finance the Conference, as the members of the Executive Committee are not able to cover all expenses themselves. In addition, if enough funds are collected, a post-Conference publication containing archival materials and photos illustrating occupied-Poland will be produced, and distributed all over the world.

Thus, the Conference organizers turn to all people who do not accept  distortion of Poland’s World War II history by the media, academia and politicians, with an appeal to support the Conference. They hope that the Conference will allow the American public to see a more accurate picture of events after September 1, 1939, and their consequences for Poland. Donations will be used exclusively to finance the “Poland First to Fight” Conference. Members of both the Executive Committe and the Program Committee work pro bono.
Therefore, anyone who would like to support the project financially can obtain information on how to make a donation at . The organizers will be grateful for any support.

The iPoland conference Executive Committee will also be grateful if you would please inform the following groups of people about this important event: American historians, archivists and museum curators, journalists, congressmen and their assistants, employees of state education departments, school directors, representatives of the film industry  or publishers interested in World War II.

On behalf of the Executive Committee

Marek Błażejak, MD, MBA

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