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Polish Auschwitz survivor an issue in 2008 Election Campaign

February 08, 2008

Anti-Catholic bigotry, falsification of Holocaust history and the name of a Polish Catholic Auschwitz survivor all came up when the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights commented on the 2008 presidential elections.

The League questioned candidate Mike Huckabee’s decision to recently speak at Rev. John Hagee’s church in Texas.  League president Bill Donohue observed that “Hagee has a history of denigrating the Catholic Church, thus discrediting him as a responsible voice” and that is why Catholics are so disappointed with Mike Huckabee.
“What amazes us most is that it was just eight years ago that George W. Bush made the mistake of speaking at Bob Jones University, home of another anti-Catholic.  Don’t these guys learn,” he asked.
Donohue’s experiences with Hagee go back more than ten years when he wrote to the Texas preacher asking him to stop with his Catholic bashing.  He also noted that Michael Preisler, a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz, had to do the same.
Having being arrested and beaten by Hitler’s Gestapo and then spending over three years as a prisoner of the Germans  in Auschwitz, Preisler was astonished when a book Hagee wrote claimed Polish Catholics like him would go to hell.  “…God does not forget.  He will remember the six million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust, one by one, to the Polish creators of the Auschwitz ovens,” Hagee proclaimed on page 198.
Narrowly escaping cremation in those ovens himself, Preisler said he could not believe a Protestant pastor was making such a false and malicious accusation.  Why would an American clergyman want his readers to think Polish Catholics should be blamed for the murders at Auschwitz and not the Nazis, he wondered.  But if someone had fed Hagee such a lie, he wanted Hagee to set the record straight and remove it from his book.
As co-chair of the Holocaust Documentation Committee of the Polish American Congress, Preisler has been fighting all kinds of anti-Polish falsehoods for more than twenty years.  It took him a full year to write several letters to Hagee asking him to delete the fraudulent charges before Hagee would respond.
Referring to his file with the Hagee correspondence, Preisler recalls how he wrote to the Reverend as “a Christian to a Christian … as a Polish Catholic who nearly became a victim of those Auschwitz ovens.”
He went on to warn Hagee that he was “someone who bears false witness that creates grave injustice  -- to me and those Polish victims who did perish in the ovens you attribute to me and to them.  Your accusation is not only vile and preposterous but also grievously sinful. In the process of condemning us, you are absolving Hitler and the Nazis from all the guilt for Auschwitz.”
Preisler continued his admonition of Hagee.  “It may very well be you are as much a victim of deception as I am of yours.  If you have been deluded by those who have a special reason for lying about the fate of Hitler’s Polish victims, you should renounce them as strongly as you would Satan himself.”
Preisler even sent Hagee a copy of Richard Lukas’ “Forgotten Holocaust – The Poles under German Occupation 1939 --1944” as a reference source. “I hope you will take time to read it.  If you do, I know your conscience will trouble you for writing what you did,” he stated when he sent his gift.
After a whole year of silence, Hagee’s Cornerstone Church finally advised Preisler the statement would be removed from all future reprints of the book.
While the Hagee matter was favorably concluded nearly a decade ago, Preisler finds it shameful that deceitful accusations against the Polish people still go on.  Many come from those he describes as “New World Order historians” who forget about truth and accuracy whenever they use the Holocaust to push their anti-Catholic agenda.
“Not only do they try to blame us for the atrocities the Germans committed against Jews in places like Jedwabne, they now are trying to blame us for what the Communists did in post-war Poland,” he said.
With Holocaust courses often mandatory for American students, Preisler urges parents to monitor their children’s study material for errors and omissions. “Nowhere else is Holocaust history as distorted and misrepresented as it is about Poland,” he said.
Contact:  Frank Milewski
(718) 263-2700 – Ext. 105