Letter received June 3rd 2005
"The journalist you cite has certainly made a number of unjustified claims. The basic assertion that there were "Nazis" among the Poles is false on its face, insofar as the German National Socialist occupation regime would only allow people to join the Party if they proclaimed themselves to be Volksdeutsch. There was no formalized structure for Polish collaboration, so one could not technically be both Polish and Nazi. Elsewhere, that journalist characterized Pilsudski as a "fascist dictator", which is absurd and which reflects a profound misunderstanding of interwar history. Pilsudski certainly had authoritarian tendencies, but he was a lifelong opponent of the radical right. Of course it was true that there were a great many violent antisemites in Poland, that there were some extreme right Polish political parties with views approaching those of the German Nazis, and that some horrible crimes against the Jews were committed during the war.
Groups like the Endecja in Poland during the interwar years were part of a broad European trend - no better than their counterparts in Western Europe, but no worse either. That was a period during which racist ideology and extremist politics was pervasive across the continent, and to identify some national groups as more or less prone to such ideologies ends up, ironically, reproducing the very ethnic stereotypes that were at the foundation of the early 20th century right.
It doesn't help our understanding of that complicated era to toss around facile labels or reduce these complex issues to overgeneralizations and stereotypes.
Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
Brian Porter, Associate Professor of
History, University of Michigan