Son of a Warsaw Uprising Insurgent challenges a US journalist to a debate on Polish history

Son of a Warsaw Uprising Insurgent challenges a US journalist to a debate on Polish history

This invitation to a debate on Polish history has been written by Stefan Komar, son of a Warsaw Uprising insurgent (Batalion Zośka) and member of Polish Media Issues from New York

Dear Mr. Haltiwanger,

Business Insider recently published an opinion piece that was met with disapproval by members of the Polish community. In a tweet, you wrote in response to criticism of your opinion piece, that you wrote nothing wrong, and you know this because you studied history at one of the oldest universities in the world, and also from a Holocaust scholar who is the son of a Nazi (presumably German) soldier.

Well, as the son of a member of the Polish Underground that FOUGHT (German)Nazi soldiers, and as a person who learned Polish World War II history from those who lived through it on the moral side of this war, I would like to state that your opinion piece evidenced both limited knowledge of Polish WW II history, and bias towards Poles and Poland, unfortunately typical of many American journalists and editors.  While most ignorant people are rarely aware of their ignorance, there are those that are open to their potential shortcomings in various areas of knowledge and are accepting of critique or criticism.  You do not seem to be one of them.

I hate to point out that your study of history, and at one of the oldest universities in the world, is still weak proof of your competence in the subject of Polish history.  How many hours were specifically dedicated to Polish history?  What period of Polish history?  Who taught you?  Did you prepare a thesis on Polish history?  Any essays?

As far as your statement, Mr Haltiwanger, that you attended one of the oldest universities in the world, and that allows you to be so self confident in your historical knowledge of Poland, I would like to point out that Germany has some very old universities.  Many German war criminals, however, graduated from them.  So did lawyers who drafted the Nuremberg laws that made it “legal” to discriminate against Jews and seize their properties.  The same can be said about scientists that theorized on the superiority of the German race over Poles and Slavic peoples, or doctors that administered lethal injections to “undesirable” Polish children.  Such people graduated from old universities.  Would you say they were taught properly?

To further elaborate on your argument, Jena University was established in 1558 and is counted among the ten oldest universities in Germany.  One of the graduates and a law faculty member of this old university, Heinz Reinefarth, is well known in Poland as the head of a German unit that in two days executed approximately 60,000 civilian inhabitants of Warsaw, men, women and children, in what is known as the Wola Massacre. In one of his reports to the commander of the German 9th Army, Reinefarth stated “we have more prisoners than ammunition to kill them”.  After securing the Wola area, his troops committed further atrocities, including the killing of POWs, also the wounded, the sick, visitors and the staff that were in hospitals. My father, it so happens, was one of the wounded in a makeshift hospital in the Old Town of Warsaw at 7 Dluga street that fell into German hands. The Germans ordered all those that could walk, patients, visitors and staff, to exit the hospital, lined  them up outside, shot them all, poured gasoline over their bodies and started to burn them.  The Germans then went back into the hospital to finish off the patients that could not walk, my father being one of them.  Being conscious, and hearing the shots and screams of those who the Germans encountered first, he hid behind a bench, and was spared, one of a handful.  There is a plaque at the location memorializing the loss of life of an estimated 430 people killed more than likely by Reinefarth’s men.  Warsaw and Poland is filled with plaques memorializing similar events.   Just know that your opinion piece is disrespectful and grossly unfair to the memory of the millions of Poles that suffered similar atrocities at the hands of the Germans.  Just for your further info, in December 1951 Heinz Reinefarth was elected Mayor of the town of Westerland (Germany), and in 1962 he was elected to the Landtag of Schleswig-Holstein. After his term ended in 1967, he started to work as a lawyer.  Despite numerous demands he was never extradited to Poland. Instead, the government of West Germany awarded him with a General’s pension.  Reinefarth finished an old university, and ….. so what!  I find the education of Reinefarth to be severely lacking, and due to his moral failings, a total waste, as it was used in the furtherance of extreme Evil you probably could not even begin to grasp, and you hopefully will never experience. I can only imagine what he told the children he encountered in the town where he was Mayor about the war, and his culpability in mass murder.  That he was just a soldier who did nothing wrong, I bet.  I wonder what he told his own children?  His town where he was mayor just recently found out about his crimes, and they claimed not to know.  Probably they didn’t.  I’m just curious what he may have claimed about the Poles.  Perhaps the misinformation you wrote in your article, while he lied about himself.  I wonder what information was given to this “Holocaust scholar” friend of yours by the father who was a Nazi (presumably German) soldier?!

Basically, in my humble opinion, you either have the knowledge and integrity to discuss a particular topic properly or you don’t, regardless of the university you finished.  Knowledge itself, and certainly what one says or writes, is more indicative of knowledge than where one was educated or the title or profession of who may have provided the education.  Did you ever hear of the Wola Massacre, or ethnic cleansing of Poles in the Wohlynia region?  Did you ever hear of Heinz Reinefarth?  I doubt it as your writing indicates clearly that you lack basic knowledge of Polish World War II history, if you are not being deliberately misleading.  I also doubt you would admit that you did NOT know about those historical events and persons, so spare me an answer.

Please do everybody a favor and refrain from writing on the topic of Polish history as your journalism seems to be based purely on repeating lines picked up in other articles that, although inaccurate, are repeated mindlessly by people who do not know what they are writing about in spite of their positions in a publication or in Holocaust education.   You may want to open your mind to other perspectives on Poland besides that provided to you thus far, especially by the son of a Nazi soldier.

I would like to add that it is very troubling, although not unexpected, that a news organization such as Business Insider would print an opinion piece about Poland whereby the source of the information would come from a family member of a person involved in the German attempt to annihilate all Poles.  I am referring here to the genocide (yes, genocide) of the Poles perpetrated by Germany during WW II, whereby 6 million Polish citizens died, mostly because the German authorities considered them to be subhuman.  What is worse, is the failure of the Business Insider to publish any text that would reflect the views of the majority of approximately sixty million Poles around the world that would find the opinion piece by you to be objectionable.

The treatment accorded Poles by the Business Insider is actually very similar to the treatment accorded the majority of Poles by the New York Times during and after WW II, whereby the few Poles sympathetic to Stalin, such as Oskar Lange, were the only Poles quoted and interviewed, while the vast majority of Poles were ridiculed for their belief that Stalin was what he, in fact, was a murderous dictator.   The voice of the majority of Poles was suppressed, and NYT reporting and editorials blatantly coincided with Soviet Union propaganda objectives.  Just so you know, my father had to flee Poland after the war because the Soviets and their Communist henchman were arresting members of the Polish underground because they were considered threats to Soviet occupation and the implementation of Communism.  The Soviets and Communists tortured, convicted them in mock trials, and killed or sentenced them to prison or sent them to Siberia.  While they did this the Communists cynically (and falsely) called the members of the Polish underground Nazi, a tactic to make the Soviet soldiers treat them ruthlessly, and to undermine the Polish underground in the eyes of the world.  Those that are former Communists who killed people like my father, or suppressed the Solidarity movement, or are from former Communist circles, are the only ones the US press currently asks for opinions on Polish current events or Polish history.  That is simply outrageous.

You, Mr. Haltiwanger, and your colleagues in journalism, should, for a change, listen to those who are proud of their Polish heritage, and whose families fought for freedom from both German Nazism AND Soviet Communism, and be wary of those who are associated with the former Communist regime, who coincidentally still seem to be the most interviewed in the American press, although they are a small minority of the Polish population, a tradition that dates back to at least the Polish Bolshevik War. The press in France and England then was hostile to Poland, and sympathetic to the Bolsheviks. English laborers were successfully influenced not to load badly needed supplies onto ships for newly re-established Poland fighting for it’s survival, although similar shipments for the Bolsheviks continued.  Neither country sent any troops other than advisors, although Polish troops fought alongside France against Germany in World War I, even though Poland did not exist as a nation at the time.  The Polish Bolshevik war was won by Poland, to the dismay and anger of Communist revolutionaries around the world, including in the USA, that had hoped that Bolshevik troops would “liberate” the rest of Europe after defeating Poland.

Conspiracy theories?  Only the naive fail to notice the temptation for governments, organizations, and companies to influence public opinion for very concrete goals via the media, film, and academia.  That is why the Soviet Union invited thousands of representatives of the US press, film, and education to the Soviet Union and wined and dined them in so called Potemkin villages.  The Associated Press has been accused of toning down criticism when covering Nazi Germany, in exchange for certain benefits.  German press and movies in Nazi Germany incited hatred towards Poles by reporting false stories of abuse of Germans in Poland or making movies in which the fictional storyline was of Poles abusing Germans.  Naturally, the staged event at Gleiwitz was widely reported in the German media and provided Hitler with his final pretext to attack Poland. 

Poland was a target of the media in the US during and after WW II that served the very real purpose of diminishing support for a Poland free of Soviet domination, and of course, to make Stalin and the Soviet Union smell like roses. The one very prominent success story of the Stalin friendly press, and their counterparts in Hollywood and institutions of learning in the US, is the confusion on the faces of many Americans when reminded that Stalin was actually an ally of Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war, and that Stalin and the Soviet Union thereby enabled the Holocaust of the Jews and the Genocide, yes Genocide, of the Poles.  It was enormously successful in that hardly any American knows that Soviet Russia probably killed more Poles in Soviet-occupied territories during the first two years of World War II, than the Germans did in the same time period.  Soviet spies were in the media.  A prime example is Kim Philby who was a correspondent for the Economist.  Just recently, a woman who created an organization called Open Dialogue Foundation, Ludmila Kozlovska, was expelled by Poland for covert activity, and ties to Putin and the Russian military-industrial complex that was funding her organization.  The Associated Press and the Washington Post, no better than the New York Times, insinuated that Poland was persecuting an innocent Human Rights activist.

Not being naive as others, I wonder if your words, Mr. Haltiwanger, that attack Poland, based on information from the “Holocaust Scholar” son of a Nazi (presumably German) soldier, are not designed to diminish support for the current claims for reparations by Poland from Germany for the immense loss of life, property, infrastructure, treasures, health, etc. that Poland suffered during World War II at the hands of a Germany bent on annihilating the Polish people for land, and for which Poland never received anything.  Interestingly, The Business Insider is owned by Axel Springer, a German company, whose CEO, Mark Dekan, was reported as having sent out a memo encouraging employees to attack the current Polish government.

Please note that the German idea of annihilating Poles for land pre-dated the creation of the German Nazi party, and was already voiced by the likes of Bismarck.  Perhaps the issue of growing justified demands by the current Polish government is why we see unjustified attacks against this Polish government by the media and the European Union, such as the dubious claims of  “undermining” the rule of law when Communist era Judges, hardly examples of Democracy friendly people, and their handpicked successors are forced to retire, or their future in the judiciary re-considered.  Perhaps that is why we see the use of totally inappropriate and absolutely unjustifiable phrases such as “Polish death camp”,  “Poland’s death camps”, and the replacement of the word German by the word Nazi, while using every gratuitous opportunity to associate Poland, through the use of every advertising trick in the book, with the Holocaust, perpetrated not by Germans, but by “Nazis in Poland”, that would be likely to be subconsciously converted to “Polish Nazis in Poland”.  The excuses of allegedly knowledgeable and unbiased Journalists and Editors from the Associated Press, NYT, and other allegedly distinguished publications to NOT call the camps German, or even German Nazi, would be comical, if it was not so sinister, and concerning the murders of millions of innocent POLISH men, women and children. In actuality, it is extremely disgusting! 

Other aspects of the suspected use of the press towards turning public opinion against the idea of Poland receiving reparations would be downplaying the suffering of the Polish people at the hands of the Germans, an element of your article, Mr. Haltiwanger.  It would also involve exaggerating any negative role of Poles, however unsubstantiated they may be, and of course suppressing any facts or opinions contrary to the unsubstantiated allegations, and misrepresenting such allegations as proven fact.  Those were also elements contained in your article.

Of course, I have no proof of such suspected propaganda role other than the circumstantial evidence of the combined pattern of misuse of words, omissions, the suppression of facts and opinions, the promotion of exaggerated,distorted and false facts, and the theoretical use all these elements would have on the goals of current day Germany to escape financial responsibility for the crimes of Germany towards Poland.   Again, the use of the media, not so much for providing news or information, but for supporting agendas, pre-dates the term “Fake News”, and was known under the term PROPAGANDA.   The press, in so much as it is used for PROPAGANDA, is NOT good for democracy.  In so much as individual news organizations, INCLUDING those privately owned, suppress freedom of speech and promote unbalanced and biased reporting, as is quite common today, and certainly at the Business Insider, the media is NOT good for democracy!  To the contrary, such a media is DAMAGING to Democracy.  There are numerous, numerous specific examples to support these general claims, to the point where some sort of media accountability measures should seriously be considered, regardless of the ensuing hysteria that could be expected.  

In accordance with the above, please, Mr. Hartiwanger, if you are sincere, which I am not so sure of, you should start looking at the texts critical of your article that were sent to you, and learn from them.  Please also note that I would love to challenge your (poor) knowledge of Polish history in a public setting.  What better way to demonstrate your support for Freedom of Speech or even better, The Truth? Naturally, I am inclined to interpret your expected refusal as an indicator that you are not much concerned with such ideals, and journalism is JUST a job, or maybe an avenue to earn extra cash by writing with a certain slant.

That would not make you a bad person, just a journalist or editor that gives your profession the bad reputation held, in my opinion, by many of those who voted for, or refused to vote against, President Donald Trump, in spite of all his numerous and obvious faults, was the only Presidential candidate that dared to openly criticize the media.   By doing so he appealed to those disgusted with the perceived, and real, media biases, unfair coverage, false stories and the pushing of particular agendas.  Not surprising, to me at least, swing states with large Polish populations all went for Trump, something Trump has openly acknowledged, including in his speech during his visit to Poland, given just a few yards away, it so happens, from where my father escaped death from GERMAN Nazi soldiers at the makeshift hospital at 7 Dluga street.

For him, my father, I wrote this letter.

Stefan Komar


See below links in regards:

Original article by Haltiwanger:

Rebuttal that should have been printed by The Business Insider, but wasn’t, clearly out of bias:

Polish Institute of National Remembrance that writes about the Ukrainian SS member incorrectly presented on Fox News as Polish, which Haltiwanger never corrected in his article that writes about such mistake:,The-Statement-of-the-Institute-of-National-Remembrance-on-media-reports-about-Ja.html

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