Thursday, June 21, 2007

Those Failing To Remember History . . . .

For many Americans, the history of Europe - just as their own - is a mystery within an enigma; surrounded by a puzzle.

Ask about the Articles of Confederation, Continental Army, Federalist Papers or anti-Federalist Papers, or the Grand Army of the Republic and you'll most often be answered with a blank stare.

The same holds true with the Beer Hall Putsch, Munich Accords, Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Operation Anthropoid, Yalta Conference, Potsdam Agreement and the Nuremberg trials.

However, to their credit, we must acknowledge that American Leftists and students, just like the inhabitants of Koslamistan, are very much aware of - and have adopted as their icon - Komrade Che.

In current events, the traditional media has paid little or no attention to the contentiousness that exists between Germany and Poland, or how it may affect the proceedings and outcome of the EU summit.

As a result, most Americans are clueless.
A History Of Betrayals


The divisions are probably the most important explanation for the exceptional patriotism of the Poles. While all modern European nations invent their own symbols during this era, the royal Polish throne and regalia were taken to Russia, never to be returned. Polish flags and coats of arms were banned, and singing patriotic songs became an act of high treason. The result, writes British historian and Poland expert Norman Davies, was a feeling of patriotism that exempted everything Polish from criticism.

This sentiment recedes slightly into the background only in 1918. With the final collapse of the monarchies in Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, Poland regains its place on the map. The rebirth of the republic is celebrated frenetically by the population. But Germany views the loss of German-speaking territories in Silesia, Pomerania and Western Prussia -- part of Poland by the Treaty of Versailles -- as a great injustice.

Nazi Germany's attack on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 inaugurates the darkest chapter in Polish-German history. Just six weeks later, the SS commander and chief of Hitler's Reich Security Main Office, [SS-Obergruppenführer] Reinhard Heydrich, announced the "liquidation of the Polish leadership." Jews, Sinti and Roma were not the only victims; Polish politicians and intellectuals were also exterminated. The Nazis erected death camps such as Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka on Polish territory.

The regime of occupation was brutal: Following the elimination of the Polish intelligentsia, the Germans shipped thousands of Poles to Germany as slave laborers. The SS and the Wehrmacht struck down the Warsaw Uprising in the Polish capital in 1944. It was the largest act of resistance against Nazi rule. More than 200,000 people died, and the city was razed to the ground house by house.

At the Yalta Conference in Crimea in February of 1945, the Poles were only granted observer status. Poland had been destroyed, and the Red Army was stationed within the country, which Stalin wanted to turn into a Soviet satellite state. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was prepared to recognize the provisional communist government and British resistance to the plan was weak. Poland fell into the Soviet sphere of influence.

At the Potsdam Conference, half of Poland's eastern territory was separated from the country and made part of the Soviet Union -- the very territories granted to the Soviets as part of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact. The new Poland was compensated by land in the west -- territory which had previously belonged to the Germans. More than 10 million Germans fled or were expelled. Poles from the country's former eastern territories were resettled and move into the homes of the expellees.

The Communist rulers stoked Polish nationalism, but mostly they fanned the flames of anti-German fear. Their message was that only Poland's alliance with the Soviet Union could prevent the return of the German "crusaders."

Still the first step towards reconciliation came from Poland. In 1956, Polish Catholic bishops sent a letter to their German colleagues. "We grant and request forgiveness," they wrote -- at a time when German expellees were still openly demanding that the Oder-Neisse Line -- the new border between Poland and East Germany -- be redrawn.

The Ostpolitik or Eastern European policy of German Chancellor Willy Brandt broke with the dogmas of the Cold War. When he knelt down in front of a monument commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in December 1970, it caused a scandal within the German right. But in Poland, the gesture was hushed up. The iconic image of the kneeling chancellor became known to the public only during the 1980s: The Communists had no use for the new face the peaceful Germans were presenting to the world.

When General Wojciech Jaruzelski violently suppressed Solidarność ("Solidarity"), the first freely constituted trade union in the Soviet bloc, the German government under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt responded mildly, arguing that Jaruzelski effectively prevented a bloody Soviet invasion. To this day, many former dissidents have not forgiven the German left for Schmidt's words.
Nor will they anytime soon.

There's more.

Earlier, Polish Diplomat Speaks Out

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