Poles Take Issue with WWII Portrayals

Two articles in Nowy Dziennik challenge the way Poles are portrayed in accounts of World War II when the country was occupied by the Nazis. The first takes issue with a movie, the second with a phrase in a newspaper article. 

Polish Ambassador Appeals to Film Company to Drop Movie that Misrepresents Nation’s History
By Anna Tarnawska

Poland’s Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf doesn’t want the movie “Our Mothers, Our Fathers” to air in the U.S. (Photo via Nowy Dziennik)

Poland’s ambassador to the U.S. has appealed to Music Box Films to withdraw from distribution the German film “Our Mothers, Our Fathers” (“Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter”) because it portrays the soldiers from the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), the the Polish resistance force, in a false light.

On April 10, the ambassador sent a letter to Ed Arentz, director of Music Box, the company which plans to distribute the movie to theaters in large American cities. Later it plans to make the film available for TV and on DVDs.

Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf says that the film, produced by German TV station ZDF, gave rise to a wave of critical comments after it was broadcast in Germany. Critics said the movie portrayed Home Army soldiers as anti-semitic and “driven by greed.”

The ambassador argues that the film presents an image of the soldiers that is not true, based on stereotypes, and deeply hurtful.

In reality, the Home Army fought against the German oppressor, and died for the freedom of Poland and of all the Polish people, regardless of their ethnicity and religion.

Among the ranks of the Home Army were highly decorated people like cavalry Capt. Witold Pilecki and Jan Karski, the world-famous courier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“The way the movie presents the Polish resistance movement certainly does not serve the truth. Highlighting anti-semitism and omitting other important information may lead to the negation of the contribution of the Polish resistance movement to the victory of the Allied Forces over the Germans (…). As Poland’s ambassador, as a historian, but also as a son of people who rescued Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, I strongly protest against this vision of history,” Ambassador Schnepf wrote.

“I appeal to Music Box to take these comments into consideration and withdraw from the distribution of the film,” he concludes in the letter.

‘Polish Concentration Camps’ Phrase Appears in American Press Again
By Wojtek Maslanka

Yet again this erroneous phrase that misrepresents World War II history surfaced in the American mainstream media. This time, the “Polish concentration camps” phrase was used by the Connecticut Post on April 12, both in print and online. Nowy Dziennik was alerted about the incident by one of its readers from Connecticut, Kazimierz Baranowski.

The phrase was used in an article by Keila Torres Ocasio, who tells the story of Harry Weichsel, a Bridgeport resident who met with a group of over 100 high school students to talk about the Holocaust. During the meeting, Weichsel talked about how his uncle and grandfathers were murdered in a concentration camp in Treblinka.

After the readers complained in the comments under the online article, the phrase “Polish concentration camps” was replaced with “Nazi concentration camp in Poland.” However, the erroneous phrase remained online for almost 12 hours and will forever be printed in the paper.

A comment left by a reader on the article on CTpost.com explained the issue to the editors: “The term ‘Polish concentration camp’ is incorrect. The Nazi Germans established the ‘concentration camps’ on occupied Polish soil. The camps were not Polish as implied by the comment. Please correct the error,” wrote a user under the name “jimpres” on Friday morning.

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