Interview June 8th 2005


- It seems to me that this article is a work of ignorance and it is upsetting to find such disinformation in today's enlightened scholar society. Frankly it does not deserve to be part of a scholarly debate.


The authors lack of knowledge gives many issues to correct, yet if only to touch a few faulty points:

1) Marshal Jozef Pilsudski was no anti-Semite but a leader with positive sentiments towards the Jews of Poland. Nevertheless, after his death in 1935 some politicians from his camp developed and pursued a more conservative right-wing programme, with some anti-Semitic agendas.

In any case, to claim that Marshal Pilsudski based his policies on anti-Semitism is a straight lie.


2) The pro-German nationalists in Western Ukraine including the Lviv area after the Nazi invasion were Ukrainians, striving for the establishment of a Ukrainian state. Jews and Poles were both victims to violence from these extreme groups after the Nazi take-over. To ascribe the crimes perpetrated by these groups to Poles is as unserious as it is offensive to historical truth.


3) Babi Yar in the Ukraine was not a concentration camp. It was a place of annihilation, where Germans murdered mostly Jews. This part of Ukraine was not part of the Polish republic in the inter-war years.


4) Mr. Steinfeld's information regarding the Jewish Ghetto Uprising in Warsaw is also incorrect. The instigator of the uprising, the ZOB (Jewish Fighting Organisation), was later formally accredited as a conspirator-fighting unit by the Polish Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army) once their struggle began. Armia Krajowa supplied the Jewish rebels with firearms, primarily pistols and explosives, albeit the general perception among the fighters was that they had not received enough and far from the amounts that they deemed necessary. I should know, I was there.


5) There is no ground to label Poles as Nazis. Nazism was an entirely different form of racism, and cannot be compared to the various faces of anti-Semitism, which were also manifested among some Poles. As such Nazism stands out as in a league of its own in regards of cold-blooded cruelty.


Nevertheless, anti-Semitism was of course a part of the Polish society, and an anti-Semitic atmosphere was particularly felt in economic life. There were also anti-Jewish riots and violence aimed at Jews, mostly during the second part of the 1930s, instigated by extremist groups, however these groups hardly portrayed the general opinion of the Polish society.  


Professor Israel Gutman, senior researcher at Yad Vashem Institute - Israel