In history everything becomes “narrative” — a smoothed-down facsimile of more complicated and ambiguous truths. This is almost always ‘weaponised’ to point in one direction for a political benefit. World War II is notorious for this, and nothing makes this clearer than the initial act of the war, which was the British declaration of war on Germany for its aggression against Poland.
According to that hallowed narrative, Hitler was a relentless aggressor while Poland was a fine, upstanding country, fully deserving of Britain’s unstinting help, its blood and its treasure.
While it is difficult to argue against the first part of the narrative given Hitler’s rather explicit calls for lebensraum in “Mein Kampf” and his gung-ho approach to European diplomacy in the years leading up the war, the second part is directly questionable.
Of course, from the “woke” perspective of today, nothing would be easier — or more trite — than to point to Poland’s relative lack of democracy or the existence of anti-Semitic attitudes in Polish society. Both of these, especially the latter, are “unforgivable crimes” in the modern West. In fact, the modern Left suffers from an extreme form of chronocentrism, whereby every single historical state, except the most socially liberal modern-day Western one, is considered an abomination. (The statistical oddity this presents, however, tells you what the true abomination is!)
So, rather than pointing to the fact that Poland may or may not have had an anti-Semitism problem and was far from a perfect democracy, what other evidence is there that Poland was not a worthy cause for British blood to be spilled in what turned out to be a devastating war?
What if I told you that Britain’s “noble Polish allies” had spent the last few years before the war sending large amounts of weapons to “terrorists” in British territory? Yes, exactly the same thing that Colonel Gadaffi was blamed for when he sent shipments of Semtex and Kalashnikovs to the IRA.
The evidence of Poland’s support for terrorism in British-ruled territory is little known because it simply does not fit the narrative. I found out about it in a roundabout way.
On March 1st, 2018, The Jerusalem Post published an article titled, “1946 US document reveals Poles treated Jews as badly as Germans did.” The document in question was an Intelligence Research Report, dated May 15, 1946, and distributed by the US Office of Intelligence Coordination and Liaison. It was declassified in 1983. According to the report many Jews preferred to flee Poland after the war, even to Germany!
So violent have been the antisemitic incidents reported – and so widespread is the fear for their lives among the handful of Jewish survivors – that some Polish Jews have been reported seeking to escape to the American Zone in Germany rather than remain in Poland. Others, who have gone back to Poland, are reported to be returning to Western Germany after only a short stay.
This article in The Jerusalem Post, interesting as it was, prompted an even more fascinating response, published a couple of weeks later, titled “Poland’s contribution to building Israel.” This was written by the relatively well-known Polish political philosopher and theorist Włodzimierz Julian Korab-Karpowicz, who blamed the perception of post-war anti-Semitism in Poland on deliberate Soviet policy:
The Jews are the nation that was subjected to the greatest extermination during WWII. On the other hand, Poland is the country which [was] the greatest WWII victim. The Nazi German occupation, which cost so many Polish lives and which was so destructive, was followed by the Soviet occupation. The Soviet Communists played their double game. They wanted to keep Poland within the sphere of their influence, and at the same time to change its image from the heroic country which never surrendered to one which was shamefully antisemitic, a nation that treated Jews as badly as Germans did.
In this way they sought to undermine Poland’s patriotic resistance movement, particularly the Home Army, and Poland’s government in exile, and diminish its potential support from the Allies.
Unfortunately, many historians, as well as politicians, have not yet understood this game. They have not recognized provocations and falsifications. The Jedwabne case was built on the testimonies of people who were in fact forced by the Communist police to confess something that did not really happen. Those were not Polish neighbors who murdered the local Jewish population on June 10, 1941, but special units of German Gestapo. What happened on July 5, 1946, in Kielce was also orchestrated by the Communist security forces. The goal was to ruin Poland’s reputation and make us, Jews and Poles, into enemies.
This is fascinating, of course, but Korab-Karpowicz, in his haste to show us what a good friend Poland had been to the Jews, also ends up revealing what an undeserving recipient it was for Britain’s support in 1939 when it was attacked by Germany.
Let me start with a little known and perhaps even surprising fact. Poland, which is so sadly and so often accused today of antisemitism, was probably the first country in the world to support the founding of Israel. Its support for the Jews having their own independent state dates to late 1930s, when Great Britain, which administered Palestine at the time, was still largely hostile to the idea.
On September 9, 1936, representatives of the Jewish freedom organizations, led by Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, met in Warsaw with the members of Poland’s government. As the result of this meeting, both the Hagana and Irgun received from Poland weapons and training. Until the German invasion in September 1939 and the outbreak of World War II, as many as 3,000 rifles, 220 machine guns, 10,000 grenades and three million pieces of ammunition were smuggled from Poland through the British-controlled Palestinian border to supply these Jewish paramilitary organizations. In addition, about 10,000 members of Betar received military training. All this was organized by Polish military intelligence.
The idea that 1930s Poland — normally seen as an anti-Semitic country — was acting in this way needs explaining. The historian Timothy Snyder has dealt with this in his holocaust history “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning,” where he explains that the Polish government saw in the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine a solution to its own problems.
He summarised his views in an interview with Edward Delman of The Atlantic in 2015:
Delman: You mention that Nazi Germany was not the only anti-Semitic regime in power at the time—Poland, Hungary, and Romania were all governed by anti-Semitic regimes. How did Polish official anti-Semitism, for example, differ from Hitler’s, and how did that affect their decision-making and policies?
Snyder: So in the Nazi case, you have a leader who is much more radical than his population, right? Hitler’s goal is to spread anti-Semitism within the German population, and he succeeds in doing that, but he comes to power much more radical than the population, and he comes to power in part by concealing just how anti-Semitic he is. In Poland, you have something like the opposite situation … The government is less anti-Semitic than the population, and for the government anti-Semitism is a kind of problem—and it’s a problem at a time of the Great Depression, let’s not forget, when rural unemployment in Poland was higher than 50 percent and lots of people in Poland actually wanted to leave. Not just Poles, not just Jews, but actually mainly Polish peasants, but [they] couldn’t because the world immigration was such, U.S. laws were such, that no one could actually go anywhere. And, of course, Jews couldn’t go to Palestine either. So everyone was stuck where they were. And the Polish government tries to handle this problem—that no one can immigrate and that there’s quite considerable local anti-Semitism—by this pro-Zionist policy, by supporting right-wing Zionists, by training them, so that they can work against the British in Palestine with the goal of creating some kind of Jewish state, so that in the fairly short run millions of Polish Jews can go there.
The situation in the British mandated territory of Palestine was complicated, and, indeed, much of the blame for that goes to Britain itself for its own ambivalence following the 1917 Balfour Declaration. This, as is well known, gave an ill-defined affirmative to the idea of Jewish settlement in the area. But this doesn’t change the fact that the Polish government was colluding with — and arming — illegal organisations effectively plotting terrorist actions on British-controlled territory.
Once again the “official narrative” has been very busy here. Hagana and Irgun are routinely presented nowadays as heroic defenders of innocent settlers. But even a cursory examination of the historical record will show that they participated in what are commonly called terrorist attacks.
While most of the attacks were against Arabs and in retaliation for similar attacks against Jews, the situation in Palestine was far from lawless, with the British firmly controlling and policing the territory. Also, it was not just Arabs who were killed in these attacks. British personnel were also killed, as in these three attacks by Irgun mentioned on Wikipedia.
On April 12th, 1938, two Arabs and two British policemen were killed by a bomb on a train in Haifa.
On June 12th, 1939, a British soldier was killed trying to defuse a bomb in a post-office in Jerusalem.
On August 27th, 1939, two British officers were killed by a mine in Jerusalem.
Given the large amount of weapons sent by the Poles, there is every chance that these five British victims, along with many innocent Arabs and even a few Jews, were killed by Polish weapons. This is without mentioning the much larger number of British victims in the post-war period, when, I assume, much of the munitions sent by Poland were still usable?
The fact that the Polish government was operating in this extremely underhanded way to a country it would later call upon to defend its sovereignty should, of course, not be seen as justification for Hitler’s actions. But the myth enshrined in the public consciousness that the Polish state was some whiter-than-white victim in 1939 should be shot down in flames.