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Auschwitz Survivor: "2006 was a year of holocaust frauds"

January 01, 2007

From Michael Preisler’s perspective, 2006 was a year when public confidence in the accuracy of Holocaust history was visibly shaken.

What created the questions about its dependability was a long string of reckless anti-Polish misrepresentations of historical facts. And those who should be the guardians and defenders of the truth were the ones most responsible for them.

Mr. Preisler is a Polish Catholic whose voice on this issue carries a special credibility because he personally was a critical part of that cruel history. He lived through most of it from inside Auschwitz where he spent more than three years after Hitler’s Gestapo arrested him for his anti-Nazi activities during the German and Soviet occupation of Poland.

Who’s responsible for compromising this history? Preisler blames the media as the main culprit. “Whenever they report about Poland and the plight of the Polish people in World War II, they never get it right,” he charges. “And it happens just too often for anyone to believe it’s unintentional.”

Preisler has every reason to be upset. For nearly thirty years he has spoken publicly, particularly in schools, emphasizing the magnitude of the Holocaust and how it ensnared him and the people of Poland.

He is co-founder of the Holocaust Documentation Committee of the Polish American Congress whose objective is to preserve and promote the truth of that history. His is a Christian voice authenticating the reality of the Holocaust and challenging every anti-Semite who tries to deny it ever took place.

Anti-Semitic deniers are not the only deniers who anger Preisler. He points to what he describes as a “whole gang of anti-Polish and anti-Christian deniers” who not only suppress the recorded history of what the Christians of Poland suffered during the German terror but often “blame the Polish people for crimes the Germans committed.”

“They are so determined to trivialize the tragedy of the Polish Christians and convince the American public not to waste any sympathy on them that they often give the impression of being pro-Nazi or pro-Communist,” he said.

One of Preisler’s recurrent complaints is about the misleading way newspapers and other publications write about the concentration camps the Germans operated in Poland. Rather than referring to them as the “German” or “Nazi” camps they were, the writers repeatedly insist on calling them “Polish” concentration camps.

Such a confusing description often misleads the poorly informed and unsuspecting reader to infer that the Poles, not the Germans, were the murderers running these camps, according to Preisler who named leading papers like the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as among the repeat offenders.

Things got so bad in 2006 that the Polish government felt the need to appeal to the United Nations and ask UNESCO to explicitly identify Auschwitz as a German camp and put an end to the malicious implication that the Poles were responsible for operating it. “Even more ridiculous in 2006,” Preisler noted, was a New Jersey paper which referred to the German concentration camp in Mauthausen, Austria as a “Polish” camp. Preisler spent some time in Mauthausen after the Nazis transferred him there from Auschwitz in the closing months of the war.

The paper later issued a correction after getting complaints from the Polish American community. What irked Preisler most, however, was when nobody else raised a voice to also object to such an obvious misrepresentation.

“There are countless historians and scholars affiliated with Holocaust museums and centers throughout America. None of them seemed bothered by this outrageous violation of Holocaust integrity,” he said.

One paper which rejected all appeals to correct an anti-Polish libel was the Jewish World of Great Neck, N.Y. It misquoted an article in a British publication and twisted it to sound as if the Nazi SS guards in Auschwitz had been mostly Polish instead of German.

“There were no Polish SS guards in Auschwitz,” said Preisler. He warned the Jewish World such reckless and false accusations can only give Holocaust deniers a good excuse “to claim that Holocaust testimony is given by liars” and that the deniers are the ones telling the truth.

As someone who frequently speaks to school children about his experiences in Auschwitz, he is careful to be honest and objective with the facts. He clearly tells them that Jews were the largest group the Nazis murdered in Auschwitz and Polish Christians were the second largest.

“Truth – the whole truth – is an obligation for every Christian and for every Jew who teaches about the Holocaust,” is what Preisler firmly believes.

Since the day he came to the United States more than fifty years ago, Preisler says he has rarely seen Americans getting “the whole truth” about Poland. If Americans knew that truth, he feels they would quickly recognize and understand just how widespread is the current campaign to falsify the history of the Holocaust in Poland.

What would he like Americans to know? Preisler enumerated several basic facts. Above all, that Poland was the first to fight Hitler and
the Nazis and fought them longer than anyone else. That six million Polish citizens were killed during the Holocaust – three million Polish Jews and three million Polish Christians.

Also, that more Poles are honored at Israel’s Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews in the Holocaust than anyone else. That more Poles were killed rescuing Jews than anyone else. And when everyone else was throwing Jews out of their country in the Middle Ages, Poland welcomed these Jews and gave them a safe haven which allowed their society, culture and religion to flourish for the next eight hundred years until the Nazis and the Communists invaded Poland in September, 1939.

When the concentration camps were liberated as the war ended, Preisler sadly realized he could not return to his native Poland. Backed by a Soviet army of occupation, the Communists had taken control and were arresting and executing Polish patriots like him. The German reign of terror in Poland was now replaced with one by the Communists.

It was no wonder that when the book, “Fear” came out in 2006, Preisler took it as a new attempt to blame the Polish people for another crime someone else committed, this time committed by the Communists in 1946.

Even worse, the same newspapers which delighted in exonerating the Germans for operating the concentration camps expanded the story and were now absolving the Communists of any guilt for what came to be known as the Kielce pogrom.

What disturbs Preisler the most is to see American newspapers repeating the false accusations the Communist terrorists leveled against the Polish people sixty years ago. “They ignore existing authentic sources recorded at the time of the event,” and cited, as an example, the statements of the U.S. ambassador to Poland who was there in 1946 and clearly refuted the Communist claims.

“I never thought I would live to see such brazen manipulation of Holocaust history as is going on today,” says Preisler. “It seems the
time has come for each of us to ask the biblical question, what is truth?”

Frank Milewski