Polish-American Congress still fighting holocaust misinformation
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Michael Preisler is living testimony of the horrors and suffering the Polish people went through after Germany invaded and occupied Poland in World War II.
Preisler arrived there when most of the prisoners were Polish Catholics like him. For the first two years of its existence, that was the situation in Auschwitz. Preisler always says that the Germans “built Auschwitz for the Poles.” He also says he was lucky to come out alive after spending more than three years in that “hell hole.” And his luck held out and allowed him to come to the United States and become an American citizen.
Today, Preisler is co-chair of the Holocaust Documentation Committee of the Polish American Congress. Most of what his group does is to set the record straight about “the misguided opinions or intentional misrepresentations” that are so often directed against Poland and the Polish people. One which infuriates Preisler is the frequent accusation that the concentration camps the Germans began setting up in Poland were welcomed by the Polish people so they could stand by and “watch the Jews be burned.”
A recent example of what Preisler calls “such Holocaust dishonesty” is an article published in Connecticut’s Fairfield Minuteman to which the Polish American Congress responded.
Charles Chotkowski, Director of Research of the PAC’s Holocaust Documentation Committee, issued a rebuttal to the Minuteman’s editor who allowed it to be printed under the headline, Poles neither silent nor approving.
This is the text of Mr. Chotkowski’s reply:
To the Editor:
In “Back to Auschwitz” (Viewpoint, Nov. 17) Bill Glucroft reflects on his recent visit to the site of the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in the Polish town of Oswiecim. Regrettably and insensibly, he opines that the Nazis murdered upwards of one million there “with the tacit endorsement of the local population and the blanket inaction of the world.” “Tacit” means “silent,” but the Poles of Oswiecim, subjected to German repression, were silent out of fear, not approval. Those who spoke out would themselves be imprisoned.
Poles were among the first prisoners sent to Auschwitz, and “the initial purpose of the camp was to terrorize the local Polish population,” as Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt noted in their book “Auschwitz, 1270 to the Present” (Norton, 1996).
The Polish government-in-exile in London was not silent. Throughout the war, citing clandestine reports from the underground resistance in Poland, it informed the world of the mass murders committed by the Germans on Polish soil.
A Polish diplomatic note sent to all Allied governments on Dec. 10, 1942, resulted in the joint declaration by the Allies of Dec. 17, 1942, condemning the extermination of the Jewish people in Europe, and pledging retribution.
What Mr. Glucroft chooses to call “blanket inaction” was the result of military weakness. Not until 1944 were the Allies able to challenge Hitler for the mastery of Europe and to liberate the death camps, too late for most of those sent to them.