Bolek’s 1717 Words Open Letter to the Better You
“Oh Israel. Don't do to us what others did to you.”
Imagine. 33 BCE. H.G. Wells’s time machine parked at the Wall, and, I am delivering above plea to the citizens of Jerusalem. Shalem (שָׁלֵם), the City of Peace, the cradle of two billions of humans today who are guided by the worldview – Weltanschauung – similar to mine. Yes, this plea is a metaphor and product of a child-within-an-old-man. The schoolboy I refuse to abandon. But the rest of this Open Letter to the Better You is about our time. 2000 years forward.
Canada, circa 1990, the year I was earning my university tuition by planting trees.
Imagine. Small generic Canadian town. Homelike generic North American bar. Inside, bunch of generic Canadian bar patrons, plus a pack of my fellow tree-planters. Two beefy local men are sitting close to me at the bar. In front of us small army of beer bottles Stands at Ease already. My two neighbors start generic bar conversation, but, when hearing my thick Slavic accent, they got curious, and ask me where I came from. “From Poland” I say. They both smile back. I even get a friendly pat from the heavily tattooed one who is sitting next to me. But, blame my accent - or their geography teacher - what I hear back is: “Oh, from Holland”. This needs correction. So, I follow my English teacher advice. I pull my tongue to the back of my mouth. “Poland”, I say again.
“Polish death camps!” instantly proclaims the tattoo-man. His voice level (volume) several notches up. The sentence bounces couple of times between walls of the bar. For a second or two it interrupts all jolly conversations around. And then, it dies. But does it? No. Not at all. I sense that it gets inside the subconscious minds of all people here. As for the second man, it does the work it is supposed to do. Like in that Arabic tale, the a genie gets out of the bottle – his gene is the dark side of being a human.
With a smirk on his "happy" face he asks me: "Where was your grandpa stationed, man? At the death camp gate or at the gas chamber door?”
My step-grandfather was a good man. As a foreman, he was known to rather get in trouble with the system then abandon the right demands of his men. As a grandpa he was the perfect-father substitute passing love and guidance equally to all of his numerous step-grandchildren and … quite a number of stray dogs and cats we were bringing home from time to time. Before, and during the war, he was selling railway tickets. When it comes to “reading” people’s faces, speech, dress or manner he must have been an expert. No doubt, he would recognize instantly any “running-away” Jew standing behind the ticket booth glass. No doubt, this was happening many times and on daily bases for the first couple of years of the war. Hundreds of Jews pass by? A thousand? Did he even once left his ticket booth to inform on a Jew to the German soldier guarding the railway stations’ exit door?
Some 50 years before that very day of “Polish Death Camps” slander, I went with my high school history class on a field-trip to Majdanek (concentration camp). This was the very day that killed my age-of-innocence. Just two pictures stained my naive and pure human soul forever. Dark dump room with a man-height-pile of glasses. I did not wear glasses, but I was bookish type of a child. Glasses were for reading books. Reading was for knowledge. Knowledge was for wisdom. Wisdom should be always turned into Good Not Evil. Then, another room, and another man-height-pile, this time a pile of human hair. Just one week before, I was expelled from my school and told by the school principal (authority) not to come back unless my "American hippie" long hair is removed from my head.
In the simplest of terms of a teenager: I’ve got it. Like that.
My parents and grandparents, like most of their generation, of any nationality - men, woman and children whose humanity was crashed by the caterpillars of the war machine - rarely were talking about their wartime. I suppose this is human mind’s trick to silence major trauma experiences. So, I carry with me a rather incomplete stories of their Lives-in-the-Time-of-Human-Monstrosity. But, I had excellent and, yes, impartial, history teachers. I was also taught dialectics and logic, yes, logic, at my first university. I stopped reading fiction (books) at the age of 14. But not book reading. And, not differently as with the numbers of trees I had planted for my adopted step-motherland as a high-baller career tree-planter - over million trees - I was, and still I am a voracious non-fiction book reader. I have acquired plenty of knowledge and, more importantly, the discipline how to use it impartially. Anyone who attempt to enforce on humanity a biased version of history, anyone whose Alma Mater is Google University and who took course on the subject of Holocaust that was 10 minutes in length, has no reasonable grounds and no moral rights to contradict this statement below:
Nazi Death Camps were never Polish Death Camps
Anyone who attempts to "write" self-serving version of history has no moral rights to accuse oters for "re-writing" history - Mr. Netanahu. History just happens. Historians document it. Indeed, many - too many - Poles of that time surely were direct or indirect Jew killers. Still, many who are counted as Poles were volksdeutsche (see Wikipedia). Thus, in legal terms, there were not Poles anymore. As it comes to human terms, apart form Germans, many Ukrainians, Russians, Latvians, Hungarians, … long list! ... must be also counted as well.
But what is the most important in our Holocaust discussion, is the stern reminder that the Death Camps were products of German state governed by Hitler and his Nazis party. Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek were not product of Polish state or Polish government (in England at that time). The Death Camps just happened to be located on the Polish territory. And for the obvious reason. The secrecy. Poland was in the middle of territories occupied by the Germans. Goebbels’s propaganda machine could easily control the flow of information. And it did a perfect job. When Allied powers have learned about death camps? Check good impartial history book. If, any state should be accused of cooperation with that evil plan of Hitler, it was France Vichy (France State Railroads) as well as all other fascist or fascism-sympathetic states such as, for example, Italy, Slovakia, or Hungary. But wait my reader. There is more to it. What about some states that, more or less, refused to, or made it very difficult, to shelter European Jews escaping the crematoria of Death Camps? Does USA, does Canada should be called to the accused bench as well?
It is shocking irony that some Israelis of today are purposely creating - in the minds of many common men and worldwide - another ill-intention-ed folk-tale similar, for example, to that old one about Jewish secret ritual where Jews drunk blood of Christian babes. Since the Europe’s Dark Ages thousands of innocent Jews were killed because of this "faked news". At the end, millions were murdered in supposedly civilized and enlightened Europe.
Back to personal level. All my best high-school pals were of Jewish descent. They all were top students, by the way too. My good (Polish) university friend is a “Half-Jew” who, after fall of communism (if such ever existed), dedicated his all life to bring back the Jewishness to our (big) town. His one-man successful endeavor is of such grand scale that he should be granted the honorary Israeli citizenship. Myself, I boosted up my cosmopolitan self-esteem when I have “googled out” that I might be a Part-Jew as well. And, to my delight, I have learned that, I might be a distant relative to Carl Sagan – the hero of my teenage-hood.
I am reading now one book about Revenge and another one about Anthropocene. This is labeled these days as “continued education” I believe. But for me it is not just about gaining more knowledge. More importantly, it is all about enriching as well as correcting my (hard earned) Worldview.
Raised in Christian-Enlightenment tradition that rejects “eye-for-eye” directive, now, I have to accept that revenge is part of hard-wired human character and timeless tool of self-governance by human communities. Yet, I still agree with the book's author, that evil is always born when the goal of revenge is to harm others rather then to correct dysfunctions or bring back peace to human community.
I am extremely lucky. I grew up and I am still living as the rare generation of Europeans who had never experienced a war. But, I may offer one more epic distinction to my fellow babe boomer generation worldwide. We might have been born at the same time when the Anthropocene epoch started. At least according to some academics. I, a common man, want to bring to your attention a different kind of conclusion here now. Anthropocene refers to happenings and changes in material world. But to be a human - "Anthropo" from Greek - is more than that. It must be more than. Fear this. Maybe, hundred years form now, a post-human academic will propose to start counting the-age-of-humans from the time when we have build our first Death Camps.
There were never Polish Death Camps. And for the sake of this argument not even "Nazi Death Camps". These were Our Death Camps. The evil of Holocaust was that the dark side of any and each individual (separate) person was consolidated into one monstrous-state-run murderous operation. Factories of death. The tragedy of Holocausts was, and still is, that State - and its new collaborator, Internet – are able to pull out from the confinements of our personal genie bottle the ugly part of human character. “Something” what all decent humans – I hope you and me - work so hard all life to suppress and control. And, all this happens against our personal and communal will, again and again. Just google “world news”.
BoWe, Vancouver, 2018-02-28