Response to Biased Opinion Piece by Rivkah Brown, Senior Commissioning Comment Editor and Columnist at “The Independent”.

Response to Biased Opinion Piece by Rivkah Brown, Senior Commissioning Comment Editor and Columnist at “The Independent”.

Dear Sir/Madam:
I am writing in response to the article “Poland is in denial about its role in the Holocaust – it was both victim and perpetrator” by Rivkah Brown, which was published in The Independent on 22 January 2020.
As Ms. Brown’s article was an opinion piece, I respectfully ask that my response below be published in response to hers in a format you deem
appropriate. I will be happy to revise the format in accordance with your requirements. I respectfully await your reply.

Gene Sokolowski, PhD

Ms. Brown, in her opinion piece “Poland is in denial about its role in the Holocaust – it was both victim and perpetrator”, has injudiciously presented assertions and conjectures that are false.

The title of Ms. Brown’s opinion piece asserts that Poland was a perpetrator of the Holocaust. This presupposes that the wartime government of Poland sponsored and committed the Holocaust crimes of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. This is patently false.

The wartime government of Poland consisted of the Polish government-in-exile in London and the Polish Underground State, which acted on the orders of the Polish government-in-exile. Ms. Brown claims these two entities coordinated with Hitler’s Wehrmacht and actively engaged in the mass murder of European Jews. This is patently false.

This would mean that the Polish government-in-exile directed the Polish Underground to murder Polish and European Jews. This is patently false.

This would mean that the Polish Underground actively participated in the mass shootings of Jews by Einsatzgruppen units in 1941. This is patently false.

This would mean that, beginning in 1939, the Polish Underground actively participated in the German round-ups of Polish Jews and their subsequent imprisonment in hundreds of ghettos across German-occupied Poland. This is patently false.

This would mean that the Polish Underground actively assisted the Judenräte and Jewish Ghetto Police in brutally rounding up ghetto Jews and forcing them onto awaiting trains bound for the death camps. This is patently false.

This would mean that the Polish Underground helped the Germans operate the gas chambers and crematoria in the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Chelmno, Sobibór, Treblinka, and Belzec. This is patently false.

Rather than theorize, Ms. Brown should read the history and examine the empirical and chronological evidence.

The single deposition Ms. Brown offers to support her assertion that the Polish state committed the Holocaust crimes of Hitler’s Wehrmacht is the 1941 Jedwabne controversy.

Ms. Brown claims Jedwabne Poles spontaneously forced 300 Jedwabne Polish Jews into a barn and killed them by setting it on fire. She holds a nation guilty based on accusations that are not supported by the evidence.

Ms. Brown relies on the writings of Jan Gross but is unaware that Gross overlooked factual inconsistencies. No Pole was allowed by the Germans to store enough fuel to burn a barn. German bullet casings were found at the site of the aborted exhumation; however, no Pole was allowed by the Germans to possess firearms. Gross claimed the number of victims was 1,600; however, based on the aborted exhumation, the number is about 300. Hermann Schaper and four other German SS functionaries were convicted in German courts for identical crimes in nearby towns only days earlier. Gross rejected Jewish and Polish postwar testimonies that identified the murderers of Jedwabne’s Jews as Germans. There were individual Jews killed at the hands of Poles in the vicinity of Jedwabne; however, those deaths were not motivated by anti-Semitism. They were taken in revenge for their collaboration with the Soviets from 1939 to 1941, which resulted in the deportation of Jedwabne Poles to Siberia and their subsequent deaths.

There are other deficiencies in her article that highlight Ms. Brown’s anti-Polish bias.

She claims “Poland is rewriting its story of the Holocaust to give itself a more flattering part.” Unsurprisingly, she fails to specify what “Poland’s story of the Holocaust” is or where one can find this supposed narrative.
In describing the actions and words of Polish Ambassador to the UK Arkady Rzegocki, Ms. Brown is needlessly scornful and condescending. Examples include “These are undeniable facts, the truth, huffed Rzegocki…”, “Yet the Polish ambassador’s tit-for-tat response…”, and “Rzegocki has swallowed this sense of victimhood hook, line and sinker…”.

As for the Polish antidefamation law, Ms. Brown correctly notes “it is a civil offense to attribute the Nazis’ crimes to the Polish state or nation”. However, as outlined above, she commits this civil offense in the title of her opinion piece by claiming Poland was a “perpetrator” of the Holocaust. She then engages in sophism by attempting to portray the Polish law as identical in substance to a 2014 Soviet law, which forbids spreading “false information about the Soviet Union’s activities during World War II” and “comparing Nazi and Soviet crimes”. Ms. Brown thus believes the Polish antidefamation law forbids comparing amorphous “Polish crimes” with actual Nazi crimes.

Ms. Brown claims that “Poland is retelling the Holocaust” by “often citing the number of Poles who died as six million.” This is false. Polish accounts of citizens killed in World War II continually cite the deaths of about 3 million Polish Jews and about 3 million Poles. The same accounts state that six million Polish citizens, rather than Poles as Ms. Brown claims, died. Ms. Brown then posits that, by extension, this supposed conflation of deaths has evolved into a “competition” that has “generated a new wave of Polish antisemitism”. Unsurprisingly, Ms. Brown provides no supporting evidence for her contrived rivalry or “new wave of Polish antisemitism”.

As for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, Polish President Duda did not “pull out after being denied a speaking slot to hit back at Putin.” Duda was told he could attend but would not be allowed address the conference. He did not accept the invitation with this condition. As for “hitting back at Putin”, Ms. Brown should know full well Putin’s recent scurrilous accusations against Duda, which he likely could have alluded to at the podium.

Ms. Brown wrongly debases Poles by referring to them as “Polish non-Jews” and “Non-Jewish Poles”. For her information, the correct terms for the two ethnic groups she discusses are Poles and Polish Jews.

 Ms. Brown accuses Poles of being “puerile populists” who “nurse their wounded national pride”. This is merely a derisive affront revealing her bias.

As for actual perpetrators of the Holocaust who actively participated in the mass murder of Jews, Ms. Brown should examine Petain’s Vichy France, Tiso’s Slovakia, Pavelic’s Croatia and Ustase militia, Horthy’s Hungarian Arrow Cross militia, Holland’s Henneicke Column, Bandera’s Ukrainian partisans, and German-commanded Ukrainian auxiliary police. In several occupied countries, well-known fascist politicians, such as Quisling in Norway, Degrelle in Belgium, and Mussert in Holland, formed Nazi-style political parties and took an active part in rounding up and deporting Jews. In the case of military perpetrators, many occupied countries formed Waffen SS units and operated under German command. These included Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia, the Soviet Union, and Ukraine. Ms. Brown may wish to note that there were no Polish militias, no Polish SS Divisions, and no Polish “Quisling”;.Ms. Brown concludes by stating “The Holocaust implicates us all”. This implication also extends to her co-religionists. Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg has logically and correctly asked, why did the Judenräte deliver many hundreds of thousands of their own people to their German executioners rather than resist and make the Germans do their own dirty work?

Gene Sokolowski PhD

Please note that the above response was sent to The Independent and there were follow up attempts by Dr. Sokolowski via phone, and e-mail shown below, to discuss the potential of including this response in an edition of The Independent. There were no return e-mails or call backs by Hannah Fearn, The Independent Comment Editor or Chris Stevenson, the Assistant Editor of The Independent.

Dear Mr. Stevenson,

I called twice today (Jan 29) to follow up on my 27 Jan email to you (below) requesting possible publication of my response to Ms. Rivkah Brown’s opinion piece published in The Independent on 22 Jan. You were apparently busy, so I left a voice mail each time. The switchboard operator was kind enough to then relay my call to Ms. Fearn; however, since it went directly to her voice mail, he relayed my call to the Editorial Assistant. Unfortunately, after many rings there was no answer.

I submit that my response presents historical facts and logical conclusions that invalidate Ms. Brown’s suppositions. I am certainly willing to restructure what I’ve written to accommodate your publication guidelines.

Please let me know of your decision regarding the publication of my response. I respectfully await your reply.
Gene Sokolowski, PhD

The Independent

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