Prisoners of History by Keith Lowe review — pulling down statues isn’t the answer by Richard Preston in The Times, June 20, 2020. Here is my comment on the book and its review in The Times.
I looked up the book at its publisher’s website and read a few pages about the Soviet military monument in Warsaw. I find the text being of poor quality, merely a retelling of an official story. The problem is that Poland is an epicentre of falsifications of both recent European history and contemporary politics.
First, the author would have to address the false ‘democratic transition’ of 1989-90. It was completely fake. To those unaccustomed to Communist lies, a lot of silly stories manufactured en masse by the Communists might ring true – they simply have no critical instruments to verify their veracity or even to ask proper questions. The main falsification is that the Communism collapsed. Just like that.
If the author bothered to look around, he would have found plenty to write and wonder about. Unfortunately, he did not. Hence, a very superficial and totally non-revealing story.
Just look at one of the central squares in Warsaw next to the Warsaw Centralna train station. It contains the monument to Joseph Stalin from 1953, called Pałac Kultury i Nauki, i.e. Palace of Culture and Science. It looks like a smaller version of a similar Soviet building in Moscow. It housed the central office of the Polish Academy of Science before 1990 and it houses it today. Remarkable continuity, isn’t it? Where is the supposed ‘end of Communism’ here?
The allegedly ‘nationalistic’ party of Prawo and Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice), which is in government since 2015 did not mind that offices of its MPs in Kołobrzeg (German: Kolberg) at the Baltic coast in the region of Pomerania were located for years at the Kniewski street (ulica Kniewskiego). Władysław Kniewski was a Communist assassin, 1902-1925, who together with two others volunteered to kill an agent of the Polish police embedded in the Communist movement. However, before their meeting with the police informer, they were stopped by two policemen in civilian clothes. They started shooting and wounded heavily one of the policemen. A chase ensued, in which other policemen and members of the public were involved. They were caught.
All three were tried, received a death sentence and were executed by shooting.
When the Soviet Union seized control in Poland after WWII, the three Communist volunteer assassins were specially honored. Streets were named after them. The place in Warsaw where their execution took place, was called Kniewski, Hibner and Rutkowski Park and a monument was unveiled in 1950.
Back to Kołobrzeg/Kolberg. Law and Justice MPs had an office at the Kniewski street. They didn’t mind the name and they have not tried to change it.
Quite a few street names were changed more than 25 years after the alleged ‘transformation’. The Law and Justice party existed for quite a long time before that moment, so why they have not raised the issue much earlier? I myself have been a member of the Law and Justice Party from 2008 to 2010 and I have never heard anyone proposing or demanding to change street names. I stopped being a member, when I saw that the party was completely phony.
When in May 2016 my wife and I rode through the streets of Krosno Odrzańskie (Crossen an der Oder in German) in what is now western Poland, we saw that many of them had Communist names. One of the longest was the Red Army Street. I recorded a video driving on it in both directions. It is available on Youtube and on Vimeo. I used a recording of Lenin’s 1919 speech from March 1919 as the audio track.
These are just couple of examples. There is plenty to see, if you can read. It seems that western scholars, journalists, and writers do not want to read. They are mainly interested in reinforcing the all-familiar narrative.
The narrative they are reinforcing, however, is completely wrong.
Now to the Katyń monument in Jersey City. Polish officers in Katyń and other sited of Soviet mass murder, were shot in the back of the head one by one by single shot from a hand gun. Bayonet was used by Polish troops in earlier wars and was symbolic in some ways, but it had nothing to do with the method of killing Poles in Katyń. This monument is quite clearly a Communist provocation. One can excuse simple servicemen of the failure to understand that they were backing the enemy project, when it was originally proposed and erected.
In my personal opinion, the person behind the project has likely followed instruction from Communist Warsaw. I can’t imagine any sane sculptor seriously trying to honor the murdered Polish officers with this sculpture. I emphasize that this is my personal opinion.
Did the book’s author notice, that in the centre of Warsaw, there is no monument to the Polish officers murdered in Katyń? There is the monument to Stalin instead.
One should also note that the Polish Museum of WWII was located in Gdańsk/Danzig several years ago. This move obviously follows the Communist narrative which tried to present German expansion as the main source of Polish problems in history and to use Gdańsk/Danzig as the centerpiece of this narrative. The Solidarity trade union was located by the Communists in Gdańsk as part of this grand narrative. There was nothing accidental about it.
The Museum’s natural and the only logical place is Warsaw of course. I haven’t noticed any significant protests over the Museum’s location coming either from Poland or from abroad. Instead, western scholars of Polish history and culture were involved in a fake row about the person of Museum’s director couple of years ago.