Letter published on July 15, 2012 in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. At the time this blog posting, this text is not on the NYT’s web site.
‘The Auschwitz Volunteer,’ by Witold Pilecki was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review on June 22, 2012.
On July 15, the NYT Book Review published the above letter.
Citing the legality of the execution of Witold Pileck for his postwar work in Soviet occupied Poland is in the best tradition of Cold War era propaganda.
Had Witold Pilecki returned to Poland to openly engage in nonviolent political opposition to Soviet occupation and rule by the Polish Communist Party, his fate would probably have been the same.
Historical scholars have documented that the Soviets had been executing potential Polish opponents since the murder of over 22,000 Poles in the Katyn forest in 1940. Had Pilecki been captured by the Soviets in 1939, he most likely would have been another victim of those extra-judicial executions.
As the Soviets advanced into Poland in 1944 and 1945, the Soviet secret police resumed their round up and execution of anti-Soviet Poles. Had Witold Pilecki not escaped Poland he’d most likely been among those victims. Those such as Pilecki who were members of the Polish Home Army had official military status and were legally entitled to be treated as rescued allied soldiers rather than summarily executed.
Not all of those who were executed were anti-Communist conservatives. As the Soviets had been doing since 1917, the victims included anti-Soviet left wing Poles. Not all were Slavs. Several hundred were Polish Jews.
The Soviets didn’t bother to create a facade of legality with a Soviet-style “trial”.
The memory of Witold Pilecki is better served by using his story as an introduction to other more critical parts of Holocaust history suppressed by the Soviet Union and pro-Soviet Communist Parties.
From August, 1939 to June, 1941 the Soviet Union was militarily and economically allied with the Nazis, Pro-Soviet Communist Parties engaged in an international support campaign for that alliance.
During that period with Soviet steel and oil and worldwide Communist Party support, the Nazis conquered much of Europe and captured many of the Jews later exterminated.
Neither the Soviet Union nor its successor state, the Russian Federation, nor the pro-Soviet Communist Parties nor their successors have acknowledged their share of direct responsibility for the Holocaust.
A version of this was sent to the editor of the New York Times.
Holocaust Education Posts: My late father was a member of the 45th Signal Company, 45th Infantry Division when the front line combat troops of his division fought their way into Dachau to liberate it. All members of the division including my father are recognized as liberators.
Families of veterans of 45th Division have challenged false claims of liberation and Holocaust denial.
After Holocaust denial, one of the most serious issues is inaccurate and incomplete information behind which individuals and nations hide to avoid accountability for their responsibility.
One of the worst is Austria which promotes the historical fiction of being “Hitler’s First Victims”. Another is the Soviet Union and pro-Soviet Communist Party suppression of their history of their almost two year military and economic alliance with the Nazis.
As the proud son of a 45th Division veteran, I will occasionally post historically accurate information that rebuts Holocaust denial, false claims of liberation, and suppression of Holocaust history.
For more information:
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
Virginia Holocaust Museum