Category Archives: Polish History

Sixth Annual Kosciuszko Chair Spring Symposium is coming!

You are cordially invited to the Sixth Annual Kosciuszko Chair Spring Symposium that is going to take place on April 9th, 2016.

The program and location of the Symposium may be found here:

http://www.iwp.edu/events/detail/kosciuszko-chair-spring-symposium-4

Dr. Chodakiewicz discusses freedom and security of the Intermarium region at the Cornell Club

On November 21 2015, Dr. Chodakiewicz has given a lecture entitled Polish Freedom and Democratic Traditions in Anglo-Saxon Perspective for the Polish American Business Club. The event was held at the Cornell Club in New York and discussed the matters of freedom and security in the Intermarium both in the historical and the contemporary perspective.

The lecture may be watched here:

Questions from the audience are here:

Eighth Annual Kosciuszko Chair Conference

On Saturday, November 14th, The Eight Annual Kosciuszko Chair Conference took place. Topics discussed a number of questions related to the past and the contemporary reality of the Intermarium as well as its closer and more distant neighbors.

Topics and speakers included:

“Poland for the Poles!” Recent Research on Christian Nationalism
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies, IWP

Reflections on Russian Youth and their Perceptions of Reality and the World
Harrison Grady

China in the Intermarium: The Ukraine and Belarus Connections
Dr. Paul Coyer
IWP Research Professor, Contributor to Forbes

Jews and the Polish Underground: A Book to End History?
John Armstrong
Independent Scholar

Active Measures and the Smolensk Investigation
Dr. Chris J. Cieszewski
Professor, University of Georgia

Free Expression in Contemporary Poland
Matthew Tyrmand
Deputy Director, American Transparency

Grupa Azoty and the Information War
Maria Juczewska
Student, IWP

Dr. Chodakiewicz speaks about Katyn and Smolensk at the Second Polonia Forum

On Saturday, April 18, Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz took part in the Second Polonia Forum, a Polish-American conference held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Doylestown, PA, and was sponsored by the Smolensk Disaster Commemoration Committee.

Dr. Chodakiewicz’s lecture, which was part of the panel on “the Katyn Crime 75 Years Later,” was entitled “the Legacy of Hopelessness: Katyn and Smolensk.” It addressed the historical and political contexts of the Katyn Forest Massacre (spring 1940), the genocidal Soviet extermination of 22,000 Polish officers (and other members of the national elite), and the suspicious Smolensk Crash (April 10, 2010), which saw the deaths of Poland’s president, the late Lech Kaczyński, and 95 additional members of his entourage, who constituted Poland’s patriotic pro-Western elite. More specifically, Dr. Chodakiewicz spoke about the feelings of helplessness that these two historical disasters engendered and the ways to remedy them. We are reproducing his speech below:


Ladies and Gentlemen:

In the case of Katyn and Smolensk, we have both good news and bad news. The good news is that, eventually, the truth always surfaces. As far as Katyn is concerned, no one today — except for liars and Stalinist fanatics — denies that the crime was committed by the Soviets. How is this possible? Well, in short, we eventually gained access to the documents. The longer answer is: memory. We remembered Katyn, regardless of the consequences and circumstances.

What is memory? It is whatever we chose from the present to salvage it from extermination by time. Thus, we preserve the crumbs of past experiences which are important for various reasons. There are two kinds of memory: a collective one that is public and group-centric; and an individual one that is private and family-based. Collective memory is often expressed through symbols. Characteristically, the Crucifix frequently functions as such a symbol, itself being a symbol of suffering and victory. The crying injustice of Katyn, which is commonly referred to in Poland as the “Golgotha of the East,” is often expressed through the Cross or the Virgin Mary. Smolensk — the symbol of post-communist and post-Soviet pathologies — was also commemorated by the Cross.

Public memory only appears to be abstract, theoretical, and symbolic. In reality, it coalesces with individual, personal, and family memory. For me, for instance, Katyn also means Second Lieutenant Symeon Kazimierz Chodakiewicz and Rotamaster Jan Fuhrman. The former was my grandfather’s cousin, the latter was the godfather of my uncle, Stasiu Wellisz. Smolensk, in turn, brings to mind Janusz Kurtyka and Andrzej Przewoźnik, both of whom were historians. I recall Janusz Kurtyka particularly warmly, for he was one of the few professional historians to help our efforts to debunk the false and malicious narratives surrounding the history of the National Armed Forces. We remember people and create symbols. In the short-term, that is very little, but in the long-term, it is the foundation.

And now, the bad news. In the short-term, memory is insufficient because remembering the victims does not translate into political compensation or atonement. After all, the victims weren’t strong enough to resist the aggression, and their heirs weren’t strong enough to obtain justice. Moreover, the mighty of this world did not want to hear complaints. This is an experience that is universal and does not apply solely to the Poles. For example, right after the Second World War, practically no one cared to hear about the Holocaust. The doyen of Holocaust studies in the US, Professor Raul Hilberg, was criticized sharply by his dissertation advisor and other professors. They warned him that delving into the extermination of the Jews would spell the end of his career. For almost ten years no one would publish his opus. The topic was eventually popularized only because of his strong will, meticulous research, discipline, and strategy. It also helped that a Jewish philanthropist not only financed the printing of the book but also purchased the entire print run. The breakthrough occurred only during the 1960s. It is unrealistic to expect immediate success without any effort or support. The same applies to Polish issues.

The geopolitics and geostrategy of foreign powers call for permanent Polish impotence. Why? Because the mighty prefer to cut deals among themselves. The Poles, however, irritate everybody with their importunity and constant search for truth and justice. After all, it is clear that both the US and Britain knew about Katyn, but the governments of the two countries did not want to know about it. Winston Churchill told his personal secretary: “For God’s sake, let’s not talk about it in public, but it is clear that the Bolsheviks murdered the Poles.” US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent his friend as a private emissary to Europe to deal with the Katyn issue. After returning home, he informed FDR that the Polish officers were shot by the Soviets. The president ordered him to keep his mouth shut, but when his friend threatened to expose the truth in the press, FDR had him impressed into the military and sent off to Samoa. The Poles were, quite simply, an inconvenience. Their interests did not matter; the alliance with Stalin did. The Red Army was fighting and, although Soviet troops were dying as well, they kept killing and pushing the Germans westward. Hence, the Western Allies did not have to pay a high price in blood. Furthermore, FDR hoped especially that Stalin would become his future partner in the postwar world government known as the United Nations Organization. Thus, it was convenient to consider the Katyn case closed and to agree with Stalin’s version: the Germans did it.

Given such an ideological and geopolitical atmosphere, Soviet agents of influence had a much easier job, particularly since it had its tentacles even at the highest level of the US government: in the White House. Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White, and Lauchlin Currie all worked for Stalin. The last named was FDR’s personal secretary. It was this trio that provided the NKVD with all the details the Chekists wanted to know. One example was the presidential approach to Katyn, or, in general, all other Polish issues. Since FDR generally couldn’t care less, the Soviet dictator knew how to negotiate with him. The only concern was for all of this not to surface prematurely, lest the Polonia not vote for the Democratic candidate.

In the lower tiers of the US federal government, including the Office of War Information and other agencies, communist agents launched attacks against anyone who wanted to amplify the Katyn case. For example, Polish-American radio programs were the victims of such attacks; their owners were either threatened or the programs were simply shut down. “Dirt-digging” and character assassination [Rufmord] campaigns were routinely waged against people wishing to expose the truth about Katyn. The anti-Polish campaign hit its lowest point when the main newspaper of the US military, Stars and Stripes, published a caricature of a Polish officer “supposedly” shot at Katyn. Nota bene, one of the communist moles in the OWI then engaged in combating the truth about Katyn later resurfaced in the communist-occupied Polish People’s Republic and did the very same thing in the capacity of the editor-in-chief of the red Trybuna Ludu [People’s Tribune]. This time, at least, he was officially on the communist payroll.

Discrediting alternative narratives about Katyn and supporting Moscow’s propaganda line were routine in the US during the war. It is important to keep in mind these mechanisms and to verify if and how they apply to the Smolensk Crash. It will be a very interesting endeavor to test the validity of theories arguing that similar mechanisms of deception are behind both Katyn and Smolensk.

Let us look at the case of Smolensk in the West. The Poles are once again inconvenient. And yet again the Western powers fail to support Poland as a matter of official policy. Smolensk is considered a closed case, yesterday’s news. The White House has practically buried the issue: it was an accident, pilot error, and now let’s move on. It doesn’t matter that there was no serious, thorough investigation and that Russia is dictating the discourse. Without the President’s permission, or a presidential order, the intelligence community cannot conduct its own separate investigation.

Naturally, there are a few individual exceptions in the US. A handful of conservative Congressmen and Senators is interested in Smolensk. The intelligence community is unofficially gathering materials and hoping for a better political climate. Some of our professors from the Institute of World Politics have been helping for a long time as well.

What can we do to overcome helplessness? Napoleon used to say: money, money, and more money. But money is only a means to an end. We have to also know how to grease the wheels to get to the desired destination. Above all, we need three things: ideas, strategy, and cadres. The idée is “national,” and therefore the continuation of tradition in the new conditions of post-modernity. Strategy is required to ensure that our ideas win and to prevent our children from becoming victims. In other words, it is about might and power, i.e. “peace through strength.” The cadres devise the tactics, i.e. immediate maneuvers leading to the main objective. The cadres will take care of the logistics and will establish organizations, in addition to fundraising and communications.

Where would the financial backing come from? Everyone has $10 that could be donated monthly to a cause close to their heart. On the other hand, like my Californian Foster Mother likes to say: the Polonia has long tongues, which it wags constantly while chattering about Poland and other causes; but it also has short arms, which makes it incapable of writing checks to support vital initiatives. Thus, the Polonia has to be told bluntly: “Put your money where your mouth is. Put up, or shut up.”

Dr. Chodakiewicz lectures about Katyn at the Polish Museum of America

Katyn Truth RemembranceOn Sunday, February 8, Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz delivered an address at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago during the opening of the exhibition “Katyn: Truth and Remembrance.” The following is a summary of Dr. Chodakiewicz’s remarks.

The Katyn Forest Massacre, during which the Soviet NKVD killed 26,000 Polish officers and other members of Poland’s elite, is a symbol. First, it is a symbol of the pathology of twentieth-century totalitarianism with all its mass murder, deception, and willful blindness. Secondly, it is a symbol of martyrology and the extermination of the flower of Poland’s elite. A people without an elite struggle to remain a conscious nation but, instead, turn into passive “ethnographic material.”

Why should we remember Katyn? It is humans – not beasts – who remember and honor their dead. The Poles were not allowed properly to bury and mourn the victims of Katyn for half a century. Officially, they were not allowed to remember them. The natural or divine law was thus violated by positive or man-made law, in this case Soviet communist “law” (show trials, executions, terror, and censorship).

To remember is to know. Knowledge is indispensable to make informed decisions, and we learn from experience. We pass on knowledge from generation to the next. That is why tyrants have always attempted to kill memory, as did king Creon of Thebes in Sophocles’ Antigone. The heroine, who buried her brother’s body, in spite of Creon’s edict banning it, was reproached by the tyrant, who asked why she dared to disobey his laws. Antigone answered:

Yes, for it was not Zeus who gave them forth,
Nor Justice, dwelling with the Gods below,
Who traced these laws for all the sons of men;
Nor did I deem thy edicts strong enough,
Coming from mortal man, to set at nought
The unwritten laws of God that know not change.
They are not of to-day nor yesterday,
But live for ever, nor can man assign
When first they sprang to being. Not through fear
Of any man’s resolve was I prepared
Before the Gods to bear the penalty
Of sinning against these. That I should die
I knew, (how should I not?) though thy decree
Had never spoken. And, before my time
If I should die, I reckon this a gain;
For whoso lives, as I, in many woes,
How can it be but death shall bring him gain?
And so for me to bear this doom of thine
Has nothing painful. But, if I had left
My mother’s son unburied on his death,
I should have given them pain. But as things are,
Pain I feel none. And should I seem to thee
To have done a foolish deed, ‘tis simply this,-
I bear the charge of folly from a fool.

What do the totalitarians want to remember? Nothing! The Maoist cannibal, Joseph Kabila of the Congo, killed old people specifically because they shaped the young. In a pre-literate society it was a winning formula. After thirty years, he was able to capture power thanks to the amnesia he thus imposed on the masses.

What do we know? Katyn is just the tip of the iceberg. The Bolshevik mass-murder machine began operating as soon as the communists seized power in Russia in 1917. First, they targeted the Polish nobility of the eastern borderlands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, followed by the intelligentsia, priests, social activists, and even boy and girl scouts. Then, during the so-called “liberal” 1920s in the USSR, the Bolshevik regime combated the Catholic Church and its lay followers. In 1929 – 1933, the Poles, and especially the petty nobility of the Minsk and Kyiv areas, was overrepresented among the victims of Stalin’s collectivization and finished-off during the “dekulakization” operation in 1935. As Dr. Tomasz Sommer has demonstrated in his book, the greatest peacetime genocide of the interwar period, the “Anti-Polish Operation” of the NKVD, was ordered by Stalin and the Politburo and lasted from August 1937 until November 1938. The Soviet chekists targeted ethnic Poles as alleged “spies” and even searched for Polish-sounding names in the phone books to fulfill the plan of extermination. As a result, up to 250,000 Soviet Poles – usually men between the ages of 16 and 65 – perished.

The deportations of Poles to Siberia and mass executions after 1939, including Katyn, were the logical continuation of this orgy of totalitarian madness. The postwar communist terror was its final chapter. Thus, for example, in August of 1945, during the Augustów Dragnet, the NKVD rounded up thousands of suspected Polish resistance fighters and killed many of them. The Poles continued to be the enemy nation. In fact, twice the number of NKVD regiments were stationed in the Soviet-occupied rump Poland after the war than were in the USSR’s occupation zone in East Germany.

The objective of all this was to destroy the Polish Nation via the extermination of the conscious broadly-understood elite! The people would become mere ethnographic material, like putty in the hands of the communist social engineers, not a nation.

Stalin and the Politburo considered Poland enemy number one long after it was warranted on the account of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919-1921. Why? Because the Poles were able to project a universalistic message, the power of the Commonwealth, to organize the Intermarium in a just and decent way. And this the successors of the communists, the Soviets, the successors to the empire of the Tsars, wanted to obliterate.

Yet, we did not forget. We remember. And now the whole world knows, ironically because of the Smolensk Presidential Plane Crash. All wires and dispatches in 2010 mentioned Katyn. When President Lech Kaczyński was buried at the Wawel Cathedral, the funeral was not only his own, but also (finally) a collective official one for the victims of Katyn. In the US Army, the rule is to “leave no man behind.” The same principle is honored by the Polish military and the Polish nation. To remember is not to leave behind.

Now that we know about Katyn, we can move forward. Nevertheless, historians and other concerned individuals must remain in the rear and resolve a few more issues. First, we must finally obtain the Belarussian Katyn List. Secondly, we must thoroughly research the anti-Polish operation of the NKVD (1937-1938). What we have so far is only an introduction to further research. Third, we must delve into the anti-Polish aspects of the Soviet democide of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Fourth, we must unearth the tragic fate of the Poles during the revolution and civil war in Russia (1917 – 1921). Fifth, we must zero in on Communist crimes after 1945. We owe it to the victims to remember.

New York Review of Books publishes debate about Prof. Chodakiewicz’s “The Massacre in Jedwabne”

In the newest edition of The New York Review of Books there is a spirited exchange about Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz’s monograph, The Massacre in Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Before, During, After (New York and Boulder, CO: EEM and Columbia University Press, 2005).

Please click here to read the exchange.

Paweł Styrna lectures on communist infiltration of Polish-Americans

On Sunday, January 4, 2015, Paweł Styrna – Kościuszko Chair research assistant and IWP international affairs student – delivered a presentation at the annual conference of the Polish American Historical Association (PAHA) in New York City.

The lecture was entitled “Paralyzing the Polonia From Within: Communist Secret Police Infiltration of the Polish-American Community” and constituted a brief outline of a much more detailed, research-based scholarly article, which will be published in a forthcoming anthology.

Having explored the historical roots of communist secret police operational tactics, Mr. Styrna discussed the various manners utilized by Warsaw to divide, recruit, and co-opt the Polish-Americans and analyzed the extent of the penetration. He pointed out that the communist secret police treated the Polonia either as an enemy or as a potential asset and continued his exploration into the post-communist era. He concluded by pointing out that scholars should not underestimate the impact of secret police “disintegration” work on the American Polonia’s gradual loss of political influence during the beginning of the twenty-first century.