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I have unwillingly initiated quite a hot exchange of postings on this highly professional list two weeks ago sending my factual information on the Polish documentation of rural ghettos in Wartheland. I was too busy to reply immediately (sorry for this) but I feel obliged to comment some statements before this year ends. On Wed, 13 Dec. 1995 , Cecelia A. Clancy, University of Pittsburgh, used my information to present her skepticism to value the documents "published behind the Iron Curtain" and made some rancorous (IMHO) comments to my English translation of the name of the "Komisja Badania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu - Instytut Pamieci Narodowej (The Commission for Investigation of Crimes Against the Polish Nation - The Institute of National Memory)". Adam Reed and Michael G. Esch contested the translation of Ms. Clancy and her knowledge of Polish language. I share these opinions and I can add only that I found especially abusive the suggestion that the English translation should apply German word "Volk" and clearly Nazi designator "voelkisch"| > So - wrote Ms. Clancy - >> Okregowa Komisja Badania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu > ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ > this is better translated to mean "of the ethnic Polish Volk" (that is, > non-Jewish non-German non-Russian inhabitants of Poland) > and >> w Lodzi - Instytut Pamieci Narodowej > is better translated as > "in Lodz -- Institute of Voelkisch (ethnically Polish) Memory" I would like to believe that Ms. Clancy did not know that "voelkisch" is not a simple adjective of "Volk". This designator was formulated and used by the German radical nationalists and racists that highly shaped the ideology of Nazism. Please, consult f. ex. "The crisis of German ideology: intellectual origins of the Third Reich" by George L. Mosse, New York 1981. However, I agree that the name of the Polish commission can cause some doubts. That is why I made a comment on "the current name" (in the same text I wrote on the Commission for Investigation of Nazi Crimes). "Narodowy" is nearest to English "National", especially in the particular case of the "Instytut Pamieci Narodowej" when it means the status of the central institution of the country at certain field. The same is with "Filharmonia Narodowa" (National Philharmony) or "Biblioteka Narodowa" (National Library). But it is true that "przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu" (Against the Polish Nation) is related rather to "ethnic" group than to the "country" and that is why I and many others (even the employees of the commission) think that it is an inappropriate name. It can suggest (contrary to the facts) that the activity of this institution is limited to the crimes committed against Poles. Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland was formed in 1945. This institution investigated (together with its district branches) crimes committed during the German occupation. The commission prepared the trials of main Nazi criminals, f. ex. members of the crew of Auschwitz (including Rudolf Hoess), Hans Frank, Arthur Greiser, Albert Foerster, Hans Biebow, Amon Goeth, Juergen Stroop, etc. Many Polish collaborators were sentenced, too. The most important for the later research of Nazi crimes (including the Holocaust) was that the commission collected and saved all available German captured documents and interrogated just after the war thousands of witnesses and perpetrators. At many sites unique photodocumentations were done. The Commission's staff was partially recruited from the pre-war professionals and was relatively independent. Several Jewish lawyers, experts and representatives of Jewish communities took part in this activity. The commission was renamed in 1949, after the creation of the GDR. The new name "Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce" should be translated as "The Main Commission for Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland". I do not think that the translation of Dr. Esch is acceptable ("Main Commission for Research on Hitler- Crimes in Poland"). The mission of this institution was firstly investigation and only secondly research. The objects of investigation were crimes committed not by Hitler but by "hitlerowcy" (hitlerites). "Hitlerites" - it sounds for me much worse than "Nazis". More important than the change of the name was that the activity of the commission was radically reduced and fully subordinated to prosecutors' offices that were totally controlled by the communists. The district commissions were canceled. The name "commission" started to be pure formality for this bureaucratic office. Nevertheless, the formal existence of this institution allowed the priceless collections of archival records to survive the worst Stalinist years without significant losses. The activity of the commission was revived at the beginning of sixties. Hundreds of new investigations were initiated and documented. About fifteen district branches (commissions) were established again. The commission started to be a partner of the legal assistance for such institutions like Zentralstelle in Ludwigsburg, the Office of Special Investigations of the USA and (in eighties) of Yad Vashem and other Israeli institutions. Many court trials in various countries confirmed that records of the commission were in general reliable and trustworthy (on publications I will write below). In 1984 the commission received the additional name "The Institute of National Memory" that expressed a tendency to strengthen the research and commemorative aspect of its activity. However, the commission remained first of all the special prosecutor's office subordinated directly to the Polish ministry of justice, still. The current name "The Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against the Polish Nation" was introduced by the Bill of Parliament in April 1991. The reason was the decision of new political leaders of Poland that crimes committed by Soviets on the Polish citizens after 1939 as well as crimes committed by Polish Stalinists after the war (till 1956) should be investigated and punished. However, it happened before first free parliament elections in Poland. The post- communist parties kept the majority in the parliament and the Soviet troops stationed in Poland, still. The text of the bill was the result of a compromise. The new law was introduced but only the unclear formula of "Stalinist crimes" was added to the old text. This addition was not declared in the title of the bill and in the name of the commission. In both of them perpetuators were changed by victims identified too narrowly (the Polish nation). This result of political bargaining is not very impressive (as always). I hope that the commission's name will be changed sooner or later. Nevertheless, the commission continues the investigation of Nazi Crimes committed as well against Poles as against Jews and other nationalities. The new bill made possible to initiate investigations of crimes committed after 1945 against Poles, Ukrainians (as M. Esch mentioned), Jews (f.ex. the pogrom of Kielce, 1946) and even Germans during their deportation from Poland. I was pleased to read the evaluation of Dr. Esch that "Polish historiography on the Second World War is up to now one of the best in the World". It is not very far from a truth. However, it is my feeling that a polemic zeal resulted in a certain exaggeration. The number of very professional and trustworthy publications of documents, monographs and historical testimonies is impressive, really. It cannot be said on the big synthetical works or school handbooks. The positive evaluation can be applied first of all to the academic circles at universities and in the Academy of Science. The relative freedom of research and learning (unknown in the GDR, Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia - with a short exception of 1968) and a very effective influence of the historiography of the Polish emigration made possible the development of historical consciousness that later played an important role in the downfall of communism. The impact of official ideology was not decisive in Poland. But the politics played more significant and destructive role, especially as concerns such non-academic and government-directed institutions like the Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes. There are many various aspects of this process that was different in different decades after 1945. I cannot discuss here these details, so let it be reduced to two factors. First (and the most important, IMHO) was the long Polish-German reconciliation after the war. Till the agreement with FRG in 1970 and the final acceptance of the Polish western border in 1990 Polish sufferings under the Nazi occupation were the most important basis of Polish politics towards the German states. These sufferings and losses were enormous (ca. 1.8 millions of deaths, the destruction of 60% of material resources) but the tendency to enlarge these data started to be treated as a raison d'etat, as the most important argument for the Polish territorial, political and material claims. Polish politicians (communist as well as anti-Communist) did not avoid this temptation and the official statements from 1946 informed on 6.028.000 "Polish citizens" or sometimes even "Poles" who died. These data incorporated three millions of Jews and many Poles murdered from 1939 to 1944 on the Polish pre-war territory taken in 1939 by the Soviet Union. This was pure politics hardly linked to the Polish position towards Jews but - it is sure - Jews were always deeply scared by this practice. Simultaneously, Jewish researchers in Poland worked on the history of Holocaust, intensively. This research was much more advanced than in USA, Israel or any other country in first decade after the war and several professional publications (who did not hide the Jewish identity of victims, of course) are of certain value till now. Second fact that should be mentioned here was an official anti- Semitic policy in Poland after 1967-1968. The result was the tendency to erase Jews from the history of Poland (including WW II) or to minimize their role. It distorted the picture of German occupation in many Polish publications. Dr. Esch wrote that some of Polish studies "show certain analytical deficits and "white points" that are discovered in the last years. But surely the destruction of polish and european jewry does not belong to these deficitary points". I can agree only with the first sentence. No valuable book on Holocaust was published in Poland between 1968 and 1980 except of few studies on Polish assistance for Jews. This is an important topic (unfortunately, not represented properly in the world literature) but it would be unacceptable to reduce the history of Holocaust and the history of Polish-Jewish relations during the war to this matter. The Holocaust was not proportionally presented in books dealing with the history of Nazi occupation of Poland. These and others factors (executed by the state censorship) had a clear impact on many Polish publications, especially of the Main Commission which was the official, governmental institution. It does not deny a value of these publications, I think. Let me signal the problem with one example. In 1979 the Main Commission published "Obozy hitlerowskie na ziemiach polskich 1939-1945, Informator encyklopedyczny" (The Nazi Camps on the Polish Land - An Encyclopaedia). This result of several years of research of the Main Commission's staff is really impressive. The book contains invaluable factual information on 5877 various camps (concentration camps, labour camps, P.O.W's camps, ghettos, prisons, killing centers, including subcamps, separate working commandos, etc.) with references, several maps and basic facts. There is no comparable publication in the world literature. "The Encyclopaedia of Holocaust" (that used many facts from this book) is not even partially so detailed and complete. Unfortunately, Jewish victims are sometimes described as "Jews" but much often as "Polish citizens of Jewish origin". It is difficult to find German names of localities. The authors limited their description to the territory of Poland after 1945. The most unacceptable is that even describing the killing center of Chelmno the authors put Poles on first place of the list of victims (in Sobibor the Soviet POW's are on the first place). But, if somebody wants to get the information f. ex. on the village Dabrowa Kozlowska in Radom district the value of this manual is unique. You can read on the labour camp for ca. 400 Soviet POW's at the western outskirts of village (284 of them are buried on the local cemetery) and on the labour camp for 700 "Polish citizens of Jewish origin" that existed from 1942 to January 1945 and was evacuated to the unknown direction. The designators of records related to this camp are cited. Where else the information is available that in the village Skrudki in Lublin district (near to Ryki) from May 1943 to April 1944 in a barrack at place called Stefanka was a labour camp for Jews from Austria and Czechoslovakia? The number of inmates was ca. 20. All of them were shot by Nazis during the liquidation of the camp, "except of two who were outside the camp at the moment". Three record files and one paper published in 1969 are listed below this information. I hope that this example presents the problem of the Main Commission's publications. It is easy to find points that can be used to discredit their value. I think that it would be unjustifiable and one-sided. The political causes of this situation are eliminated step by step (starting from the beginning of 80. as concerns the history of Holocaust). What was left is an enormous, valuable and in general reliable documentation that is mostly accessible only for researchers able to read in Polish, unfortunately. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum signed the first agreement on the cooperation with the Main Commission in 1987. In 1990 I received the mission to arrange the survey of records of the Main Commission (it was my first contact with this institution). It was possible to microfilm in Warsaw and Lodz ca. 600.000 pages of valuable collections in years 1991-1994 (mostly of German captured documents). These microfilms are available in Washington, now (the second copies are in Warsaw). The USHMM wants to continue this project in next years. There are some difficulties but I hope they could be solved. Jerzy Halbersztadt University of Warsaw, Museum and the Project Director for Poland of the USHMM e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org