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I Saw Poland Betrayed: An American ambassador reports to the American people (The Americanist library) Paperback – 1965
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This is a detailed history of Poland from 1944-1947 including Soviet occupation of Poland in WWII, post war border changes and Soviet creation of a puppet state in Poland after WWII.
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He describes the Soviets' delay in attacking Warsaw until after the Germans had destroyed it. The Soviets were hoping that nothing would be left of old Poland so that their job of consolidating power would be easier.
He describes the fraudulent elections and other Soviet maneuvers to take and hold power in the wake of the German pullout. Lane describes the dispute over the new Polish border and allied acquiescence in that border.
This book is essential for anyone seeking to understand Polish history. More importantly, it is essential for an understanding of how power is consolidated following a military takeover. There was definitely a brief period of time when it was unclear to the average person that the Soviets would emerge from the War with complete control of Poland and other Eastern bloc countries. The method of consolidating power was slightly different in each country.
Modern day worshippers of communism/socialism would do well to learn the history and the nature of communism. This book is a good place to start.
Lane devotes some detail to the double-dealing of Roosevelt behind the Poles' backs. The sellout of Poland included President Roosevelt openly lying to Polish-American leader Charles Rozmarek, even using a prewar map of Poland as part of the deception (p. 96). Throughout his travels across Poland, Lane was keenly aware of the terror created by the Communist secret police (U. B., or UB). He was well aware of the fact that free elections were unimaginable under such circumstances, long before the farcical elections of January 17, 1947 that officially brought the Communists to power. Soon thereafter, Lane would not take it any more. He resigned his position as ambassador in order that he could freely speak to Americans about the crime of betrayal that had been done to Poland.
The author (p. 181) pointed out that the definition of a Fascist was often very elastic: "...that some well-informed persons had even gone so far as to define a Fascist as a person not in one hundred per cent agreement with Communism." Left-wingers had used the term Fascist in this manner since time immemorial. Lane also includes a statement of Stalin saying that, whatever the negative American response, Americans will soon forget about it and move on to other things (p. 312). Ah, the more things change, the more they remain the same!
Lane provides some detail on the so-called Kielce Pogrom (pp. 246-251). He remarks: "But almost all sources agreed that the militia had been responsible to a great extent for the massacre, not only in failing to keep order but in the actual killing of the victims, for many had been shot or bayoneted to death...(p. 248). Yet no members of the militia had been brought to trial...the underlying cause of the pogrom was the growing anti-Semitism which, even our Jewish sources admitted, was caused by the great unpopularity of the Jews in key government positions. These men included Minc, Berman, Olszewski (whose real name was said to be Specht), Radkiewicz and Spychalski...It was known, furthermore, that both the U. B. and K. B. W. [Communist secret police] had, among their members, many Jews of Russian origin. (pp. 250-251)." Lane (p. 251) suspects that the "unbelievably inefficient" manner in which the militia and the U. B. (Bezpieka, or UB) had handled this situation points to at least some degree of conspiracy. Otherwise, Lane does not address the issue of whether or not those "mob" members clubbing the Jews were themselves planted Communist agents. He does point out that accusations of the "tardy response of the Church" (recently exhumed by Jan T. Gross) had been fueled by the coincidental absence of the Bishop of Kielce, Monsignor Kaczmarek (p. 249).
If indeed a staged Communist event, the so-called Kielce Pogrom certainly had the desired effect: "So, emphasis in the United States press was placed on the anti-Semitism still existing in Poland, rather than on the significance of the rigging of the referendum (p. 249)." In other words, the death of a few dozen Jews was deemed more newsworthy than the enslavement of 30 million Poles. What else is new?
In addressing Jewish Communism (Zydokomuna) as a factor, Lane (p. 252) quoted some Jewish relief officials who opined that not more than 5% of the repatriated Polish Jews were Communistic in their viewpoint. If an accurate, then 5% of 250,000 returning Jews still meant that 12,500 of them were available to play an active part in the enslavement and exploitation of Poland. Had only one-quarter of these become U. B. (UB) members, and each one of these on average had tortured and murdered only 50 Poles, then over 30,000 Poles were the victims of Jewish murderers. Note that this number far exceeds the aggregate total of the much-ballyhooed actual or alleged Jewish victims of Poles (1930's "pogroms", Jedwabne and environs, Kielce Pogrom, postwar property-related killings, all combined). [More recent studies indicate that 37% of the leadership of the hated Bezpieka was Jewish, while only 1% of Poland's postwar population was Jewish.]
Although this book does not directly discuss the postwar Polish-Jewish property disputes, a subject that has recently gotten a great deal of one-sided media attention because of the publication of the book FEAR by Jan T. Gross, it provides the context that destroys Gross' Pole-bashing thesis. To begin with, Ambassador Lane gives the reader a taste of the devastation of Poland by the Germans and Russians and the destitution of the Poles (partly quantified: p. 317). He even includes a surreptitious photo that shows a large Russian convoy taking away looted Polish property, and also informs the reader that the Red Army had seized 200,000 tons of grain from Polish lands. Furthermore, Lane points out (p. 219) that Poland was undergoing a serious shortage of grain that could lead to famine. Lane assesses the state of housing in postwar Poland, and how the Communists exploited it, as follows (p. 279): "We received reports from the larger cities--Krakow, Poznan, Gdansk, Katowice, and Lublin--that those persons who refused to sign the manifesto were told that they would probably lose their living quarters and their jobs unless they reconsidered their attitude. The housing shortage was critical all over the country, especially in cities such as Warsaw and Gdansk, where the destruction made it almost impossible to find shelter." Well, duh! Might not a "housing shortage...critical all over the country.." suffice as an explanation for many Poles not being exactly thrilled when Jews came back to reclaim their property, and even killing them on very rare occasions (300-600 killings out of some 300,000 returning Jews)?
The Peczkis review implies more emphasis on antisemitism in Lane's treatment than I saw. Antisemitism was addressed in some detail, but I didn't get the impression that Lane viewed it as a key issue in restoring Poland's political independence or geographic integrity. I was surprised to learn that the Soviets had put so many Jews in powerful positions of the puppet government. I wondered when reading about the Kielce Pogrom, if this wasn't part of the Soviet plan to sew discontent and inflame discord within their vassal states, but Lane properly didn't comment on their motives.
Lane's book is long on details, names, and descriptions and short on speculation. While the author's perspectives were clear and forcefully enlivened the narrative, they didn't detract from the facts. Given his feelings and the results, a bitter rant would have been easy to understand though much less effective. Lane lets the dry details tell the awful story. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars for very effective, if not powerful, presentation of this important part of history. It is well worth reading if you have any interest in this area.
The 1965 Americanist Library edition paperback I read had 276 pages, including the index, but omitted illustrations and appendix from the Bobbs-Merrill original edition.
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Written from a first person account it is both relevant and informative.Read more