Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Der Sturmer was a Nazi propaganda magazine. You can read more about it here.
Recently I stumbled across the image, below, in a Google search of Der Sturmer. I don't know if this image ever appeared in Der Sturmer, but it did turn up in my search.
The Catholic figure being paid off by a caricatured Jew is carrying a newspaper called the Neue Saar Post. I found mention of that newspaper in a Guenter Lewy's book The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany. Lewy describes it as a Catholic newspaper strongly opposed to Saar being part of Nazi Germany. You can read more here.
The image above it is from Facebook friend Peter Sean Bradley. It identifies Catholicism, Communism, and Judaism as enemies of the German people.
|Egyptian police beat the girl in the blue bra.|
|Kara Walker Source|
On New Year's 2015-2016, Muslim migrant males committed mass sexual assaults against European women in Cologne, Germany, other cities in Germany, and also in Austria, Finland, and Switzerland.
The men used the tactic of "taharrush gamea." A group of men surround a lone woman, violently grope her, perhaps rape her, rob her, and also perhaps burn her with lighted fireworks. They then move on to the next victim.
This tactic had previously been used in Tahrir Square, notably on Lara Logan. There have been documented attacks on hundreds of less famous women as well in Tahrir Square, including an Egyptian who was later visited in the hospital by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Muslim men targeting kuffar women for sexual assault is nothing new. It goes back to Mohammed himself, who engaged in such assaults and advised his followers to do so. See here.
Power elites in Cologne, Germany, and across Europe worked hard to keep the New Year's Eve sexual assaults quiet.
Politicians' and journalists' attempt to suppress information about the mass sex assaults is part of a larger pattern. In Rotherham, England, Muslim men formed rape gangs that preyed on young English girls. Authorities knew of these assaults but kept quiet because they were afraid of being called racist and politically incorrect. You can read more about that here. Swedish police have also been accused of covering up sex assaults against women and girls by Muslims. You can read more about that here.
Thanks to the invention of social media, politicians and journalists were not successful in their attempts to suppress information about the New Year's sex assaults. Politicians and journalists worked very hard to spin the story once it got out. Women could just respond by maintaining an arm's length distance between themselves and potential attackers. Migrants could be politely requested not to engage in gang rape.
The Polish magazine w Sieci responded with a February 18 cover that depicts a woman attempting to hide behind a European Union flag. Male hands grab at her and her flag.
I posted the image on my Facebook page. A Facebook friend immediately said it was similar to work appearing in the Nazi propaganda publication Der Sturmer.
I see no similarity between this image and Nazi art. I find it troubling that anyone automatically and without any support makes the connection between a Polish magazine and Nazi art. Do we really have to repeat that Nazism was a German phenomenon, that Poland was attacked by and fought against Nazis?
The w Sieci image brings to mind, for me, Kara Walker's art. Kara Walker creates black-and-white silhouettes that dramatize the horrors of slavery, including rape. In her work, she makes it inescapable that white men used slavery to rape black women. Her art is highly praised.
Clearly there's a double standard at work. Clearly critics have a problem with the w Sieci cover because PC says it is not okay to criticize Islam. The women victims are expendable on the altar of political correctness.
Perhaps people who find the w Sieci cover too disturbing to view might prefer this video that shows the Egyptian police brutally beating an Egyptian girl. She's known as the girl in the blue bra. The police strip her and stomp on her breasts, barely covered by a blue bra.
What is wrong with people who find the w Sieci cover offensive, but who don't find the mass rape of women offensive?
There's a double standard at work.
In politically correct discourse, one can say any negative thing one wants about Western Civilization, about bad, bad, evil white men, about Christianity and, in certain contexts, about Israel or Judaism.
But you dare not breathe one negative word about Islam.
Recently I was conversing with someone who wishes to remain anonymous. I honor this person's request.
This person told me the following. A professor on an American university campus taught the class that students were forbidden negatively to assess female genital mutilation. To do so would be "wrong" and "ethnocentric." Further, the professor taught that female genital mutilation is an "African custom" with no relation to Islam whatsoever.
If what this student told me is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt it, this student was ethically castrated by this professor. To "forbid" a student to have a reaction to a practice that traumatizes, cripples, terrorizes and kills innocent human beings is to ethically castrate that student.
There is nothing "ethnocentric" about ethics. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Leyla Hussein are just two of the women who come from cultures that practice FGM, who have had FGM performed on them, and who work against FGM.
Further, this student was brainwashed by this professor. FGM *is* related to Islam. It is *not* an "African custom." A map of the prevalence of FGM shows that it occurs where Muslims live, including in Indonesia, an East Asian nation. See here. Islamic teaching and law support it. See here.
I am sympathetic to Muslims who don't want to be hated and who feel uncomfortable when their religion is criticized. I am Catholic and I have confronted anti-Catholic hatred all my life. It's a daily event on Facebook. I have friends who hate my faith and post virulently anti-Catholic memes.
Recently Pope Francis, in reference to US presidential candidate Donald Trump, said that a man who speaks of building walls, not bridges, is not Christian.
Also recently, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a Catholic, died.
Protestants responded. A Protestant blogger responded to Scalia's death by announcing that Scalia, along with Mother Teresa, was almost certainly in Hell. Susan DeLemus, a New Hampshire legislator, called Pope Francis the anti-Christ. "The founders of the United States actually, the Protestant Church – their commentary references the papacy as the anti-Christ."
That Catholics are doomed to Hell and that we are the anti-Christ are standard-issue talking points of Protestant anti-Catholic rhetoric.
I respond to the haters I encounter with words. In addition, all Christians must constantly examine their behavior and change when change is called for.
Muslims who don't like to see Islam criticized will benefit from reforming their community. Start with these gentlemen.
|Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation|
Monday, February 15, 2016
I recently attended the wedding of my sister's daughter. My sister had died two months before. The wedding was a sad event for me for another reason: the huge gap between the bride, on the one hand, and me and her mother, on the other. This gap is so huge that the bride was unaware of it. Not a single word of Polish, our father's language, or Slovak, our mother's language, was spoken at the event. There was no stuffed cabbage. No kolach. There was no cimbalom, no fujara, none of the propulsive, irresistible rhythms that arouse gray-haired church ladies and stoic men with gnarled hands to rise and not stop their furious dance till some time the next day. There weren't even any interesting arguments or fistfights. Everyone there was tall and slim and well-fed and comfortable and unhyphenated American.
There are millions of Americans who are monolingual English speakers with WASP last names and no understanding of need. Their grandparents were Polish and other Eastern European immigrants. They are one generation away from languages with impossible grammars. Languages that can take a noun, any noun, and make it a diminutive, a dearer, more intimate version of itself. That combination of impenetrable toughness and passionate tenderness is found just in the languages these young Americans no longer speak or understand, never mind the history. But mind the history: The grandparents and great-grandparents of American millennials were once the targets of genocidal monsters who molded world history like Play-Doh. And these ancestors survived.
Their survival is as worthy as Michelangelo's Pieta or Newton's physics. It is as worthy as any civilizational monument of recording in detail and archiving for eternity. If we don't remember how Bohunks – Eastern European peasants – survived Stalin and Hitler, steerage, coal mines and steel mills, we lose something precious and unique.
You should buy and read Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded by Polish-American poet John Guzlowski because it will plunge you into a completely different world, unless, of course, you share biographical details with the author. If you are Polish or any other flavor of Bohunk you should buy and read this book because it is your history.
John Guzlowski was born in a displaced persons Camp in Germany after World War II. His Polish Catholic father had been in the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald for four years. His mother was a slave laborer. John Guzlowski's Polish Catholic grandmother, aunt, and cousin were murdered by Nazis and Ukrainians. They raped his Aunt Zofia and broke her teeth; they stomped his cousin to death. With his bayonet, a Nazi sexually mutilated John's Aunt Genja. In 1951, Guzlowski, his parents and his sister left Germany and moved to Chicago.
Echoes of Tattered Tongues contains about one hundred short poems and essays. They address Guzlowski's experience as the son of two Polish survivors of Nazism. Guzlowski's artistry perfectly captures the attitudes, the worldview, and the details of daily life of his parents' generation. Guzlowski describes his own mission. "I am writing for all the people … whose stories were never told, whose voices got lost somewhere in the great cemetery of the 20th century – I feel that I have an obligation … to give them a place to be heard … all those forgotten, voiceless refugees, DPs, and survivors that the last century produced."
Guzlowski's book details and archives how these people survived.
They keep going – through the terror
in the snow and the misery
in the rain – till some guy pierces
their stomachs with a bayonet
or some sickness grips them, and still
they keep going, even when there
aren't any rungs on the ladder,
even when there aren't any ladders.
I grew up in America, but I knew what it was to live in two nations at once. In one nation, much effort had to be exerted to remain warm and fed. Rooms were overstuffed with knickknacks, multiplicities of curtains, oil paintings of distant villages, church calendars, mismatched and heavy furniture. There was always ham and potatoes, onions and beets, mushrooms and sauerkraut. You ate till you felt sick.
History was like an invisible, multidimensional lyre; you made one move that plucked it and suddenly everyone was remembering the czars, or that time uncle stole the chickens, or last year I bought you flowers and you never said thank you. Good God but you fought. And laughed. And sang, spontaneously, out of thin air, you sang, in several languages; no one questioned your spontaneous singing, but they might join in. You put your foot across the threshold, and suddenly you were in America, and none of that made any sense at all. I re-enter that redolent world while reading Echoes of Tattered Tongues. Yes, this is how these people saw, thought, loved and fought.
The poems don't rhyme. Guzlowski's sentences are short. He writes in basic vocabulary and makes use mostly of one- and two-syllable Anglo-Saxon words. I was startled when I encountered a multi-syllable Latin-root word, "preparations," in his poem "My Mother's Sister after the War." One need not feel intimidated by these poems. If you can read the side of a box of cereal, you can understand them.
Guzlowski talks about objects and behaviors that would be completely familiar to his parents. He recounts history as it is told by survivor elders and remembered by their offspring. That is, his history is intimate and disjointed. I don't think Hitler is mentioned in his entire book. In a dream, Guzlowski's deceased father returns and teaches us.
"this is what war is.
One man has a chicken, and another doesn't.
One man is hungry, and another isn't.
One man is alive, and another is dead."
I say, there must be more, and he says,
"No, that's all there is. Everything else
Is the fancy clothes they put on the corpse."
Typically, writers unleash purple prose and outlandish metaphors to communicate madness. Guzlowski describes madness in the most Spartan of terms.
She had been mad before
in the camps, felt objects change
their position, their shape,
the stove from there
move here, the floor
become a thing of dreams.
Guzlowski's figures of speech do not range beyond what would be understood by someone who had lived his entire life in a small Polish village, or a working class neighborhood in Chicago. There is no mention of, say, ocean waves, or Cesar, or the Great Wall of China.
Guzlowski comments on his own minimal style in his poem "Kitchen Polish." Guzlowski spoke Polish as a child but when he arrived in America his language became English. His Polish language skills are stunted.
I can't tell you about Kant
in Polish, or the Reformation,
or why the Germans moved east
before attacking west,
or where I came from,
but I can count to ten, say hello
and goodbye, ask for coffee, bread or soup.
Writers give themselves permission to fill in the blanks, to use metaphors to create a coherent picture in their readers' minds, even when the writers themselves lack basic information. Writers strive for symmetry. Guzlowski does none of this. Thus, the image of World War II and post-war life in America in Echoes is a chaotic one. Guzlowski reports that after they'd arrived in America, the family was so poor and so cold that they burned scavenged wooden boxes in their stove. But that's as far as his memory goes. Guzlowski does not attempt to fill in the blank.
I don't remember what we did the next night.
Maybe we burned our crayons and chairs.
Guzlowski tells the tale of a "friend in America" who murdered her husband, a captain of the Lancers, legendary Polish military heroes, by forcing him to drink cognac till he choked to death. One wonders, did this really happen? Did she face trial? There is no answer; perhaps Guzlowski does not know. We all have stories like that in our memory. Was my Uncle Rudy's godfather Archduke Ferdinand, as he claims, in one of my memories? Was he really my uncle? I'll never know; everyone who knew him whom I knew is now gone.
Guzlowski's book is essential for anyone wanting fully to understand ethnicity in America. We are the eponym of the Polak joke. Guzlowski writes that we are understood to be "dirty, dumb, lazy, dishonest, immoral, licentious, drunken." Social elites – college professors, journalists, clergy – don't tell Polak jokes. But they do perpetuate a stereotype of Poles as the world's worst racist bigots and haters. In this revision of history, Polish Catholic peasants, not Nazis, are responsible for the Holocaust. In the most recent version, Poles are racist because they resist the mass migration Angela Merkel has invited into Europe.
Polish-American writers face a challenge every bit as daunting as that faced by African American writers. Is an African American character a "Magical Negro," that is, a character who is so benign he is unbelievable and stripped of unique humanity? Or is he someone with normal, human flaws? If so, do these flaws merely support the negative stereotype others have created of us?
Guzlowski's Polish-Americans are not airbrushed, denatured, plaster saints, invented only so that Poles will have someone to feel proud of. His parents "couldn't spend a night without arguing with each other in Polish, the language of misery, poverty, and alienation." These Poles drink. There is domestic violence. They break the law. Guzlowski places this behavior in the context of survival against all odds. The reader knows that if he had gone through what these characters have gone through, he would probably drink and beat his kids, too. These drunken fighters are not stereotypes. They are fully human and therefore lovable.
Through authentic and meticulously observed and recorded details, Guzlowski reaches the universal. All readers, of any ethnicity or life experience, will find something to identify with in these pages. In the poem "My Parents Retire to Arizona," Guzlowski describes the process of cleaning out his parents' home in Chicago. His parents beg him, "Please, take these things."
We know what they cannot say:
"Think of us as you use these things.
Once we were as young as you, cleaning
the house, dreaming over a backyard…"
Too, Guzlowski dialogues with the majority of his readers who are not concentration camp survivors. In "A Sonnet about Dying," Guzlowski's mother observes, "Half of us are going to the grave, and the other half to a wedding."
There is debate about Polish non-Jews speaking of their suffering under the Nazis. Bozenna Urbanowicz-Gilbride had been interned in two Nazi slave labor camps. Her mother was in two concentration camps. In 2003, she was criticized for referring to herself as a "Polish Catholic Holocaust survivor." The Polish-American priest John T. Pawlikowski said, "The USHMM recognizes only the six million Jews as victims of the Holocaust."
It is true that the Nazis focused their destruction on Jews in a way that they did not focus on other ethnicities. It is also true that Polish non-Jews suffered torture, death, cultural genocide and dispossession to an extent experienced by no other groups except Jews and Roma. It is important that authors like Guzlowski tell their story, and that those stories be heard, in full.
I read Echoes in two sittings. It was a concentrated dose. Given the power, and the subject matter, of the poems, I suspect that many readers will read them in smaller doses – one or two poems at a time. When I read the poems back-to-back, I did appreciate them, but I also felt that there was something missing. That something was transcendence. As the author of a book about Polish-Jewish relations, I have read many World War II memoirs. In them, no matter how bleak things got, I always encountered, however small, an element of transcendence. Authors would say, paraphrase, "Yes, the Nazis took everything I had and reduced me to my lowest point, but I am more than this." For some it was hope, art, or service. The most powerful voice of transcendence is Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.
Guzlowski's parents survived. They found each other, married, and remained together, in spite of their wounds. They produced tall, handsome John and his sister Danusha. Guzlowski became a successful scholar and author. He has touched the lives of students who adore him. He is happily married to a beautiful woman, a proud and loving father and grandfather. In fact in Guzlowski's poems I see evidence of transcendence: his parents hug him. They tell him their stories. He records these stories.
And yet Guzlowski rarely waivers from his insistence that life consists, as in that famous quote from Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, of "no arts, no letters, no society … continual fear and danger of violent death … The life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." There is one moment of light; his sister tells him that in school there is a boy named Adas who has no father. The boy is hungry and lacks supplies. The other children feed him and give him pencils. "God loves these children," Guzlowski reports.
When I began to live a very privileged life – that of a graduate student at UC Berkeley, one of the best universities in the US – I missed the intellectual and aesthetic life I lived in my childhood home, among my own family. My parents thought, created, and sang. They were more than their circumstances. I felt freer to question and create in my working class Bohunk household in a small New Jersey town than I felt on the UC Berkeley campus.
While reading Echoes, I asked myself, what is the difference between its cramped worldview and my own household, and the World War II memoirs I've read that contain passages every bit as grim as those in Echoes but also passages that insist on transcendence?
My best guess after pondering this question for the past day is this: my mother was a devout Catholic. The other authors I've read often strongly identified as Jewish, even if only as secular Jews. Belief in divine love, sacrifice, and meaning changed their interpretation of their life stories, and their lives. One example: Wladyslaw Bartoszewski was an Auschwitz prisoner. After release, he went to a priest and sought advice on what to do with his life. The priest told him to serve others. He went on to aid Jews.
Echoes mentions God, Jesus, or Catholicism on almost every other page. These mentions are almost always not just negative, but condemnatory. Polack Joe insists on the folly of faith. "We prayed our guts out. For what? For ashes." Polack Joe says he would crucify his own son before he'd pray for forgiveness for his abusive father. Jesus, Guzlowski reports, lives in "the world of clouds far beyond." Jesus radiates red rays but provides "no warmth or true comfort." This God who lives in the clouds is naïve about human suffering. A severed horse's head "will teach even God a lesson." God is so uninterested "He no longer looks for Buchenwald on the maps." Polish villagers are executed by Nazis. "God doesn't love these people."
God is reflected in human evil. Murdering Nazis enjoy their work. "We love to kill. It is the hidden God in each of us." "War is the god who breeds and kills." The Bible is one of the "books that lie." The Chicago priests who heard young Guzlowski's confession were later found to be pedophiles. "They weren't interested in me. I wasn't pretty enough for them."
I see a very different Jesus, and very different priests, in Polish art and life. The most frequent depiction of Jesus I see in Polish art is Chrystus Frasobliwy. This is not a cloud-dwelling, ray-radiating maker of false promises who observes Poles' suffering from an uninterested distance. This Christ wears, heavily, a crown of thorns. His back is whipped. He is about to be crucified. He suffers with Poles.
Henryk Gorecki uses this Polish tradition of God suffering with humanity in the lyrics to his worldwide success, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs." The first movement quotes a lamentation from the Holy Cross monastery. The second movement is the prayer to Mary inscribed by Helena Blazusiakówna, a teenage Polish girl, on the walls of her Gestapo prison. Polish priests like Maximilian Kolbe, Karol Wojtyla, and Jerzy Popieluszko inspired Polish people in ways that changed world history.
I respect Guzlowski's understanding of Jesus' and Catholicism's place in his life. I am familiar with anger at God and a sense of God's non-existence or absence. I am commenting on one aspect of Echoes, and my best guess at one possible understanding of it. Overall this is an excellent, important, highly recommended book.
Friday, February 12, 2016
by Michal Karski
Cartoonist Art Spiegelman is probably familiar with the name of Carl Barks. Barks was considered by many as the best artist who ever drew for the Walt Disney Comics and Stories series, and in particular he was the individual responsible for inventing Duckburg and for creating the character of Scrooge McDuck. The Donald Duck series of comics featured a host of characters including the irascible Donald himself, his girlfriend Daisy, his mischievous nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, the unbelievably lucky Gladstone Gander, the miserly Uncle Scrooge, the wacky inventor Gyro Gearloose (with his tiny lightbulb-headed assistant) and many others.
I came across the work of Barks in very early youth and, like many other readers, I could distinguish his artwork from that of the other illustrators working for the Disney stable. He wrote his own story lines if I remember rightly and in fact it was Barks who introduced me to the Greek myths in his Donald Duck adventures, long before I came across the Iliad and Odyssey or read any Robert Graves.
Donald’s home town Duckburg was more or less supposed to be a typical town somewhere in the USA. The residents were made up of all kinds of animals: birds like Donald of course, but also dogs, cats, non-descript mammals of various kinds and pigs, too, made an appearance. There was not, however, any attempt to identify a particular animal with any kind of human or group of humans. They were all citizens of Duckburg.
In Maus, Art Spiegelman takes a different approach. He is not the first person by any stretch of the imagination to rely on anthropomorphism - the ascribing of human traits to individual animal species. Aesop had already done so in antiquity with his fables, but Aesop’s simple tales, unlike Spiegelman’s complex, clearly autobiographical and very personal Maus, are not placed on the shelves of public libraries in the History section.
Spiegelman is perfectly entitled to his own point of view about people and nations, but whether his own very subjective viewpoint should be used as a teaching aid is another question. If his work is to be used in this way in classrooms, as a representation of life (and death) and conditions in wartime Poland, then I would suggest that the work of Carl Barks, mentioned above, deserves an equally prominent place in those same classrooms (and in the History or Sociology sections of public libraries) as an accurate representation of life in small-town America.
Unlike some Poles and Polonians, I am not necessarily saying that Maus should not be the subject of academic study. It might be studied at university level, for instance, as an example of inherited trauma but certainly not as an illustration of what really went on during the war. Although many readers find Spiegelman’s association of non-Jewish Poles with pigs extremely offensive, and I am certainly among them, nevertheless he is perfectly entitled to his opinion, if that’s how he feels about Poles.
What he is not entitled to do is to distort historical facts. For instance, in one sequence, he depicts pigs happily giving the Nazi salute and saying ‘Heil Hitler’ to each other. In which universe would this have been the norm, as Spiegelman is clearly saying? Christian and other non-Jewish Poles hated the Hitlerites as deadly enemies and the only ones who would have collaborated would have been the Volksdeutsche, Polish citizens of German ethnic origin and even then, no sane Volksdeutscher would have dared to betray his pro-Nazi sympathies to just any random Pole for fear of being exposed and subsequently executed by the Resistance as a traitor.
By rights, this sub-group of collaborators should have been drawn as a different creature altogether, but this would have complicated the cartoonist’s simplistic world view. Spiegelman makes no fine distinctions. In his world, pigs are Poles in general and Poles in general are Nazi sympathisers.
Maus is undoubtedly a heartfelt and moving story of enormous tragedy and loss and also the chronicle of one person’s attempt to reconcile his own ambiguous feelings towards his father with the knowledge of the absolute hell his parents went through. But as personal and tragic as the story of the Spiegelman family may be, it should not be taken as a serious study guide to the horrendous events of the Holocaust, coloured as it is with the cartoonist’s own prejudices and imaginings. His extremely biased and counter-factual version of history should not be imposed on very young readers, especially not as a simplified version of a subject as monumentally serious and complex as the Holocaust.
If any other cartoonist had depicted any other ethnic group as pigs, there may well have been legal action for defamation or at least for ‘hate speech’. Spiegelman himself might argue that pigs can be cute (Porky Pig, etc.) but such an argument could never be taken seriously in the context of Maus. He may even point to his drawing of a saintly pig in the concentration camp. Unfortunately, the very depiction of (Christian or otherwise non-Jewish) Poles as pigs in the first place is nothing more or less than – in the words of the editors of The Norton Anthology of American Literature* – “a calculated insult”.
Perhaps it’s not so much Art Spiegelman himself who deserves opprobrium, but the US educational system which has hyped his comic book out of all proportion and uses it as a shortcut and a substitute for the difficult process of expecting young students to deal with words and ideas rather than to absorb information simply through pictures. Spiegelman is certainly a cartoonist, but a Holocaust scholar? Well…let me put some questions to Mr Spiegelman.
Do you know anyone in the world who would take it as a compliment to be called a pig, Mr S? A generation has grown up in the shadow of Maus. Thanks in part to your cartoon, Poles are routinely labelled as ‘anti-Semitic’. The librarian who lent me your book told me he had read it and was very moved by it. I wonder if he thought, as he was checking out the book on my library ticket, that I was one of those beastly pigs since my surname is clearly Polish. Why should that have crossed my mind? I resent even having to consider anything like that.
Any regrets at all, Art? There’s always scope for a “Maus Three: The Part Where Art Admits He Was Not Always Smart”.
* quoted in “The Problems with Spiegelman’s MAUS: Why MAUS Should Not Be Taught in High Schools or Elementary Schools” – Canadian Polish Congress, June 2015 found here