Remember the series of wistful articles the New York Times ran in 2008 to mark the 75th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich?
Me neither — because, of course, it never happened. But that’s not as crazy as it sounds considering the Times is running a series of stories under the banner of “Red Century” to mark the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution.
In case you’ve forgotten, the advent of Soviet rule in Russia ushered in an age of Communist terror whose death tally makes Nazism’s toll almost inconsequential in comparison. But that hasn’t stopped the Times from publishing reverential pieces written by the progeny of Reds who were active at home and abroad.
I have limited toleration for sanctimonious crap, so I rarely click on a link to a Times story. Still, I’ve skimmed a couple of the Red Banner features just to see how much Commie propaganda the paper will allow.
Then I stumbled on one story that I had to read all the way through: www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/opinion/communism-policeman-jews-nazis.html , a journalist whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, L.A. Review of Books and online, recounts the adventures of his Polish grandfather, Jakub, during and after World War II.‘s “My Grandfather, the Secret Policeman,” which was published July 31.
Himself the son of a Communist, Jakub established a name for himself as an anti-Nazi partisan during the war before joining the Polish secret police in 1945. Jakub was clearly a brave and clever man, andrecounts his tale dispassionately. But while he doesn’t come out and praise Jakub’s cause, neither does he condemn it.
At the story’s end,seems to grapple with the realization that he hasn’t come to terms with his grandfather’s role in the grand scheme of history — nor given a full account of it.
“What does it mean to fight on the right side of the war, but the wrong side of history?” he writes.
“Depending on whom you ask today, my grandfather’s story is that of a partisan, a traitor, a hero or a spy. The revolution asked a terrible amount of those who served it. Those who resisted paid a similarly awful price. It left in its wake countless lives, like my grandfather’s, that cannot be compassed by a single line.”
Such a statement doesn’t make up for the many facts omitted from his story, starting with the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact signed on Aug. 23, 1939, which directly led to Hitler’s invasion of Poland on Sept. 1. A secret protocol of the treaty called for the partition of Poland, with Germany getting the western portion and the Soviets the east. The Soviets invaded on Sept. 17 to grab their half of the spoils.
Also left out is what happened to Poland in the roughly 21 months of Soviet rule. Hundreds of thousands of Poles were deported to Kazakhstan, Siberia and other points east during the occupation. Even worse, more than 22,000 military officers, politicians, professors, priests and other civic leaders were executed in what is collectively known as the Katyn Forest massacres.
writes that the Nazis in 1939 captured his grandfather, then a Polish soldier, but he escaped and made his way to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Curiously, he doesn’t explain why Jakub didn’t halt his flight in Soviet-occupied Poland instead of going hundreds of miles to the east. Maybe didn’t want to bring up all that awkward partition business and Nazi-Soviet hanky panky.
Sosays it depends on your perspective whether Jakub, a Soviet pawn, was “a partisan, a traitor, a hero or a spy.” Let me tell you about a couple of Poles whom I consider nothing but heroes.
My Dziadzia (grandfather) was barely out of boyhood when he came to America shortly after the turn of the 20th century. After World War I broke out, he attended a rally in Toronto featuring General Józef Haller, who called on Polish emigres to return to Europe and free their homeland. Stirred by emotion, Dziadzia signed up to join the Polish Legions on the spot.
From 1916 to 1918, Dziadzia fought against the Germans in France. The Polish Legions’ efforts alone may not have restored Poland as an independent country, but they played a part. Having done his job, Dziadzia returned to the United States and raised a family. He sent four sons, including my dad, to fight against Germany and Japan in World War II.
Meanwhile, the family he had left behind in eastern Poland didn’t fare as well as my and
I wish I could offer as many details about my grandfather asprovides about his, but died when I was 4. All I recall are his smiles and kindness. While he passed on some stories to my dad, he didn’t like talking much about his cousins because it was too painful.
You could take the stories of my family and multiply them by thousands to get an idea of what happened in Poland during World War II. It’s too bad the New York Times will never run that story.
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