Letter received January 20th 2005


"I have seen a copy of Mr.Steinfeld's comments, and they strike me as completely unacceptable. They are characterised by the terminology of the Stalinist era, and by all the signs of prejudiced sources.  In my view, it is not in order to comment on the history of Poland without being aware of the basic facts or of a wider range of opinion.


There were no "Polish Nazis" whether in Lemberg or in other parts of pre-war Poland.  The only Fascistic grouping, the ONR, had been made illegal in the 1930s; and it shared the tradition of other right-wing Polish nationalists of being extremely anti-German and, in consequence, intermittently pro-Russian. Antagonism between the Catholic majority and the Jewish and Ukrainian minorities in the city was endemic. But it was not a simple matter of one-sided oppression, and cannot be used as evidence for pro-Nazi sympathies. The Nazis found no significant group in Poland to collaborate with them; and in this respect Lemberg was no different than Warsaw or Cracow.


The only group to collaborate with the German occupiers in the region of which Lemberg is the central city came from one small part of the Ukrainian population. Their overtures to the German authorities was aimed at re-establishing the independent Ukraine that had been suppressed by the Soviets in the early 1920s. They were rejected by the Nazis. But at a later date, in 1943, one division of Waffen SS soldiers was recruited from amongst them (the Waffen SS 'Galizien".

But here again one must be careful.  Ukraine provided only one division of Waffen SS recruits, whilst the Scandinavian countries, despite a much smaller population, provided three. Three were provided by Hungary, and two respectively by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Russia. The Poles, like the Jews, provided none.


It is absolutely shocking to find a commentator still using the offensive language of the Stalinist and Soviet era so many years after the fall of the USSR.  Mr.Steinfeld's views are riddled with false assumptions, which these days should not appear in decent debate."


Professor Norman Davies

Fellow of the British Academy