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Polish Auschwitz survivor wants media to "just tell the truth" about holocaust

August 16, 2007

Polish Auschwitz survivor wants media to "just tell the truth" about holocaust

Students listen with rapt attention, even amazement, when Michael Preisler visits their school and tells them about his experiences as a prisoner of the Nazis in Auschwitz.

They look in awe as he shows them the number 22213 imprinted on his forearm, a permanent memento Hitler’s SS guards engraved on him to make him always remember the three-plus years he spent there.

Other Holocaust survivors also visit the classes to tell them their personal story. But Preisler is unlike any other survivor they meet.

His usual audiences are students of varied racial and religious backgrounds. What always seems to astonish them is the fact he’s not Jewish. He’s Polish. A Polish Catholic.

And when they find out about it, their usual response is, “nobody ever told us there were Christians in Auschwitz.”

In Preisler’s opinion, incidents like these reveal that the American public continues to hold a very poor and extremely limited understanding of just how much the Holocaust also snared the Christians into its brutal clutches. “It’s become the
Holocaust’s best kept secret,” he said.

Although commemorative events may acknowledge that Jews and “others” were among the victims, rarely are Christians recognized as being the largest group within the “others.”

“Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled are identified as the ‘others’ long before anyone might mention the Christians. The omission of such a basic fact is disturbing and offensive to anyone who looks for historical accuracy and honesty,” he said.

Preisler recently mentioned this in an interview he gave to a New Jersey radio station. He went to the station’s studios to set the record straight after a talk show host recklessly charged that half the Polish people in World War II were Nazis.

Joining him in the interview was Paul Wos, also a Polish Catholic, who is honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem for saving the life of twelve Jews at the time the Germans were liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. Both are members of the Polish American Congress. Preisler is co-chair of that organization’s Holocaust Documentation Committee.

In their meeting with the radio personality and during their on-air interview with him, they quickly realized how misinformed and misled he was about the Holocaust. Had he been told the truth to begin with, he could never have dreamt of saying that
Polish people like Wos and Preisler were Nazis.

But he was willing to listen to them and let his radio audience hear what these two Catholic survivors had to say. So it raises the question, where is all this misinformation coming from?

A lot of the truth about the Holocaust has been intentionally withheld and suppressed or grotesquely distorted, according to Preisler, “nowhere else as much as about Poland and the horrors Christians were forced to endure during the German occupation of Poland.”

Hardly anyone Preisler meets these days has any idea just how barbaric the Germans were when they came to destroy the people of Poland. Six million citizens of Poland were killed by the time it all ended – three million Polish Jews and three million Polish Christians.

“When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, his first target for killing was the Poles, not Jews. The deal he made with Stalin was to erase Poland from the map and ship out most of the Poles still left after all the killing ended to the Gulag,” he said.

“When the Germans put me in Auschwitz in 1941, most of the prisoners there were Poles like me. Mass transports of Jews did not begin arriving until 1942 when Auschwitz had already been in existence nearly two years. The people I tell this to are shocked to hear it and almost unwilling to believe me, but it’s true.”

Before the Gestapo arrested him, beat him and sent him to Auschwitz, Preisler worked in the Polish anti-Nazi and anti-Communist underground movement. “The Polish underground resistance was the largest and most effective resistance in all of German-
occupied Europe. Nobody fought as hard and as long against the Nazis as we did. Any thought of collaboration with the Germans was impossible for us to even consider” he said.

Who does he blame most for all the Holocaust distortions and misrepresentations he claims are being fed the American public? The media and those he calls “self-designated historians” who take events which happened seventy years ago and “modify” them,
sometimes leaving the impression “the Nazis and Communists were no worse than many of their victims.”

As an example of their insidious techniques, Preisler cited the stubborn insistence of many media on describing the concentration camps the Germans set up and operated in Poland as “Polish Death Camps.” Substituting “Polish” for “German” left many with the wrong impression it was “Poles like me” not the Germans, who were committing the atrocities in those camps.

Although his Holocaust Documentation Committee repeatedly wrote letters of protest, even to many of those prestigious publications which claimed to be fair and objective, most of the complaints about the devious description fell on deaf ears.

It became such a preposterous falsification of Holocaust history that the United Nations agency UNESCO had to issue an official statement this year instructing that the only accurate way to refer to Auschwitz was to use the name “Auschwitz Birkenau German
Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp.” While he welcomed the UN directive, Preisler doubts it will stop those who are intent on smearing the Polish people from trying to make it sound like Auschwitz was a Polish camp.

With courses on Holocaust history now mandatory in many schools, Preisler is concerned similar distortions by those he calls “pseudo historians” may filter down into the curricula and encourage children to develop an anti-Christian and an anti-Polish bias.

Particularly upsetting for him is the attempt to clear the Germans for their incineration of Jews inside a barn in the small Polish village of Jedwabne in 1941. It happened just before the Gestapo caught Preisler and sent him to Auschwitz.

Herding people into barns and burning them down was a favorite method the Germans used to murder their victims in various countries they conquered. “It was done to Polish Jews and it was done to Polish Christians,” said Preisler.

There were Polish eyewitnesses who saw the Germans doing it in Jedwabne. One of them subsequently emigrated to the U.S. and was living here when the media recently started exonerating the Germans and accusing the Poles of doing it.

The eyewitness described the entire situation he had observed to Preisler’s Holocaust Documentation Committee which passed his testimony on to various American media. Unfortunately, it was completely ignored and suppressed. “They seemed determined to
make the Germans innocent of everything and guilty of nothing,” said Preisler.

The media treated the so-called Kielce “pogrom” of 1946 the same way except the Communists were the happy recipients of their “not guilty” verdict this time. The U.S. ambassador to Poland was there at the time it took place and clearly pointed to the Communists as the instigators of the crime.

The media ignored the objective report of this American official who knew and understood the cunning intrigues and deceptions of the Communists. Instead, they preferred to publicize a newly-concocted version of the event developed more than a half-century after the fact and blamed the Poles for it, not the Communists.

“When they aren’t accusing us of something evil, then they cover up any good we did,” said Preisler. “If people are surprised there were Christians in Auschwitz, they are just as surprised when I tell them Poles are the largest group honored by Israel for helping Jews in the Holocaust. And because Poland was the only country where the Germans kept an official death penalty for helping a Jew, more Poles were killed rescuing Jews than anyone else.”

Even at his advanced age, Preisler refuses to stand by and watch the truth about the Holocaust be corrupted and perverted before his very eyes. “I suffered through it and I want the truth about it to be respected and preserved the same way any Jew who suffered through it would want it respected and preserved.”

Contact: Frank Milewski
(718) 263-2700 Ext. 105)

Note to Editor: Attached photo with this release was taken by the German SS the day Michael Preisler arrived at Auschwitz