The following is one such example. When I was a high school teacher, the topic of the Holocaust came up one day at lunch. When a Jewish colleague commented how horrible it was that so many Jews lost their lives during the war, I told her I agreed and that I felt the same about the many non-Jews that suffered the same outcome. I was surprised how upset she became when I told her that I personally knew Polish Christian survivors of Nazi German concentration camps. I was amazed that, although she was aware that the Nazis had also targeted homosexuals and gypsies, she knew nothing about the Polish Christians who were also victims of the Holocaust. She was outraged and insisted it was the Jews that were the victims of the Holocaust and Poles were never sent to Auschwitz or to any other concentration camp. To settle the dispute, she left the lunch table to consult a more elderly and very respected Jewish friend to ask if there was any truth to my claim; his answer: yes, Polish-Christians were indeed targeted by Hitler and had also perished in the camps. She was dumbfounded by his response; and I was disturbed that she, like so many others, -- Jews and non-Jews alike (and even many Polish-Americans) -- are so ignorant about the Holocaust and Polish history*.
Holocaust Forgotten - Five Million Non-Jewish Victims
Holocaust Forgotten - Five Million Non-Jewish Victims
Terese Pencak Schwartz
I just ordered this book from Amazon.com. As a Polish-American, this topic is of course of great interest to me because I am aware that most Americans equate the word "Holocaust" exclusively with the tragic plight of the Jews during World War ll and are largely ignorant of the millions of its other victims. Throughout my life, I have often encountered individuals who refuse to accept the fact that millions of Poles and others were also sent to Nazi German concentration camps during World War II. Personally, I feel the ignorance my teacher friend displayed results from deliberate efforts in America to discredit Poles and to marginalize Poland's heroic efforts to resist attacks on two fronts by evil neighbors hellbent on its total destruction. Americans are certainly familiar with the term "anti-Semitism", but "Polonophobia" and "anti-Polonism" are not familiar members of the our lexicon. Too often attempts to discuss the plight of the Poles during WW ll or to bring up the notion of an anti-Polish sentiment in this country are viewed as attacks upon the Jews. Furthermore, anti-Polish revisionists are actively trying to make a case that Poland was in some way responsible for the horrors of WW ll. Common usage by ignorant or malicious people of the misleading term "Polish death camps", for example, has twisted the North American view of what really happened during the War. Alex Storozynski, president and executive director of The Kosciuszko Foundation reported in the New York Post that "this is not just semantics. The documentary “Upside Down” (See video below) showed that Canadian and American schoolchildren thought Poland built the concentration camps because they’re often referred to as “Polish.” Yet when we Poles try to set the record straight, we are often criticized as being either petty or unsympathetic to the Jews. I have many Jewish friends and some of the people I admire most are Jews. Sadly, I fear many Jews have an anti-Polish bias and go out of their way to slander Poles. Anti-Polonism is no less venomous and obsene than anti-Semitism, in my opinion. I encourage all to read more about what really happened in Poland during the last World War. Surely you, like my teacher friend, will discover that Jews were not the sole victims of the Holocaust. At the very least, this lesson must be learned if we are to have any hope of freeing ourselves from the lingering hellish nightmares of the twentieth century and escaping future holocausts in the future. Never again, right?
*Of course, I was not in the least surprised my friend knew little about the history of Poland. I once asked an American social studies teacher what he taught about Casimir Pulaski and Thaddeus Kosciusko. He told me he did not teach anything about them because he didn't know anything about Kosciuszko and Pulaski was an obscure sergeant major of little importance. My point here is not to criticize our educational system, rather to point out how little the general American public knows about Polish history. Surely you would think a Jew would know almost everything there is to know about the Holocaust and a history teacher would know something about the roles these Polish heroes played in American history.
From Wikipedia: It is estimated that between 1.6 and 2 million people were expelled from their homes during the German occupation of Poland. Only the Nazi German organized expulsions affected directly 1,710,000 Poles. New verified estimates by Polish historians give the number of 2.478 million people expelled. Additionally, 2.5 to 3 million Poles were taken from Poland to Germany as slave labourers to support the Nazi war effort. These numbers do not include people arrested by the Germans and sent to Nazi concentration camps.
In many instances, Poles were given between 15 minutes and 1 hour to collect their personal belongings (usually no more than 15 kilograms per person) before they were removed from their homes and transported east (see: deportations) On top of that about 5 million Poles were sent to German concentration camps. A total of about 6 million Polish citizens were killed during the war, of which approximately half were Jews. All these actions resulted in significant changes in Polish demographics at the end of the war. Link to source
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