Tag Archives: history

Painful History

[Update on post below – The verdict is not good. Though the historians do not have to pay damages, they have been ordered to apologize for writing about what they had discovered through rigorous study and research.]

This is very disturbing as to how it potentially affects the study and research of history – and for other reasons. (I have written about my own experiences in Poland as it pertains to the Holocaust.)

The case has its roots in the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, when terrified Jews took shelter in the forest and, according to a survivor cited in a recent Polish study of the Holocaust, were murdered there after the wartime mayor of Malinowo, a Pole, told the Nazis of their hiding place.

That horror, however, has now resurfaced, revived by a libel suit against two scholars who edited the study and who stand accused of besmirching the honor of the long-dead mayor and the Polish nation. A verdict in the case, which was brought by the elderly niece of the mayor with support from bodies funded in part by Poland’s government, is expected Tuesday.

The targets of the libel action are Jan Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian history professor at the University of Ottawa, and Barbara Engelking, a historian with the Polish Center for Holocaust Research. Together they edited “Night Without End,” a 1,700-page 2018 study on the role played by individual Poles in aiding Nazi murder.

I lived in France for five years and have spent a lot of time elsewhere in Europe, particularly Italy. No question that any discussion of the Holocaust brings up myriad emotions, sensitivities, anger and denials across the Continent and across the board. There are also, of course, those who are honest about the past, those who were heroic and paid the ultimate price for that heroism, as well. But the silencing of historians in Poland is worrying.

A propos, about five years ago, I read this book – along the same lines as the research of the two historians currently facing legal action, and about as cheerful. I seem to recall Grabowski figuring in Bikont’s book and I know Engelking has also written about Jedwabne. Highly recommend. Would be interested to know what Deborah Lipstadt thinks about this.

JFK

It has been said – I have said it, maybe even on this website – that the current Democratic Party would never select tax-cutting, hawkish, war hero, Cold Warrior JFK as their leader. Sadly, this is true. Say what you will about JFK, but once we had leaders, and he was one of those leaders.

November 11th

Remember to visit my other site. And please enjoy this A.E. Housman poem, relevant to the day. Really quite simple and profound.

Here Dead we Lie

Here dead we lie because we did not choose,

To live and shame the land from which we sprung.

Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;

But young men think it is, and we were young.

Sunday Sanity

Thoroughly researched, highly intelligent article about “stolen” countries. Appropriate this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and the day before Columbus Day in the U.S. I hope it will not be behind a paywall for you. Here, at least, is what we old tyme bloggers call a “money quote.”

Again, my criticism of the current excesses of the left is absolutely not a call to embrace the worst aspects of the right. This is no code or excuse for jingoism, racism or any other ism. I fully support the lessons of the world wars that excessive nationalism, that unilateralism, are ugly and a bad idea. It is rather a caution: a sense that we have to be careful how far we go, and how quickly, in our rush to signal our support for the historically downtrodden. On a personal note, I add that it gives me zero pleasure to have to write this piece. Fifteen years ago, I would have been the one at the barricades helping Native Americans rally against an oil company or some such. Writing this, I incur considerable personal and professional cost in order to come out of the closet as a (shock, horror) centrist, who believes that the left is currently rampaging out of control and must be stopped before it’s too late. One arena in which I can best help is the interpretation of history, upon which much of the current leftist hysteria is based.

The narrative of the ‘stolen country’ or ‘Native American genocide’ does not stand up to scrutiny by any honest and clear-sighted historian. It is a dangerously myopic and one-sided interpretation of history. It has only gained currency because most practising historians and history teachers are either susceptible to groupthink, or else have been cowed into silence by fear of losing their jobs. Reduced to its puerile form of ‘statement of guilt’, this myth puts 100 per cent of the burden on Europeans who are held responsible for all historical evil, while the First Nations people are mere victims; martyrs even, whose saintlike innocence presumes that their civilisation and society were practically perfect in every way. This is no way to honour or respect the realities of First Nation lives and their agency.

Honestly, I am surprised this article was published at all, though, of course, I doubt it would have seen the light of day in The New York Times Magazine. Two excellent books covering the same topic – more or less – and both worth your time, are: The Ecological Indian and 1491.

La Storia

Although Italy has seen some protests these past few months, inspired by the protests in the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, they never amounted to the kind of mad tearing down of statues and such by the mob as we have seen in North America. A few statues in Italy got paint thrown on them, but nothing else ensued. I think one of the reasons this sort of revising of history has not taken off in Italy the way it has in younger countries, is simply that they have so much history around them. They couldn’t begin to tackle it all – it would be exhausting. (Heck, if Italy got rid of everything tainted with slavery they would have to remove everything Roman.) One example: on my way to classes in Perugia these past few years I have walked by the plaque seen below. It shows the Fascist symbol – the fascio littorio — with Anno XI, meaning Fascist year 11, i.e. 1933 (the year the building was put up, one assumes). No one even seems to look twice at it. True, the university where I study has a Fascist-era painting in one of its main halls that has been revised – the face of Mussolini has been painted over with a generic Italian man’s face – but I can see why that needed to be done.