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Polish spirit

Mark Mardell | 08:10 UK time, Thursday, 5 July 2007

Poland is seen as a problem. Many European leaders find it hard to swallow the Polish spirit: too harsh, too challenging, enough indeed to make them splutter and choke.

Perhaps they have forgotten too much.

The European Union is a unique blend of compromises - savage history mellowed with age - while many Poles still feel fiery about the past. To put it more crudely, they suffered more than most in World War II but when others gathered round the table to make sure it would never happen again, they were unavoidably delayed. They missed the bit where the goodies got handed out and "sorry" was said with real sorrow.

lk_afp_203.jpgAs Portugal takes on the EU presidency, its prime minister, Jose Socrates, has said he doesn't want to cast Poland as the bad guy in the European movie. But the most commonly held view among European Union diplomats is that Poland, or at least the current Polish government, isn't playing the game, is stubborn and intractable. Those who hold this view often feel that they were rather generous in allowing Poland and the other seven eastern former-communist states to join their club - and now the biggest of them wants to change the rules.

Recently a senior diplomat of one of the smaller countries told me he wished he could return to the EU of 15 states. He said something like: "We had a common history, a common attitude towards Europe, which made things simpler. Now the new countries don't share that attitude." He said it would be better if some of them would leave. I normally favour short sharp questions to politicians, but this was a conversation over dinner rather than an interview, so I rambled on a bit. I pointed out that France, Germany and Britain had very different, if often shared, histories and very different attitudes towards Europe. On the other hand, despite their different historical experiences, Estonia or the Czech Republic seemed quite similar to the Danes or Swedes in their approach to Europe. So when he said "the new countries" was that just code for Poland? "Yes," he replied with undiplomatic alacrity.

Jabbing at a taboo

The twins who run Poland are disliked even more because of the outcome of the June summit. Despite all the warnings that they didn't know how to play the game, that they had to forge alliances rather than be so pig-headed, they remained intransigent. And won. They got the voting system they want kept for at least another seven years, against the opposition of 26 other countries. Now they are claiming that an oral agreement was made to give even more concessions and want the deal unpicked. The rest of the EU is unamused.

handbag_pa_203.jpgI am tempted to write that they have done a Thatcher, waving their handbags. But perhaps that would be unwise as the twins' ultra-conservative government recently thought about banning the Teletubbies from Polish TV screens, because the apparently male Tinky Winky carries a handbag and so threatens to corrupt the morals of Poland's toddlers. But at any rate, they waved something appropriately butch and the other countries, desperate for a deal, let them have what they wanted.

But the real offence was not caused by this victory but the remarks that preceded it. The affront was the Polish claim that they deserved a different voting system, because they would have a much larger population today if the Germans hadn't killed so many of them in World War II. When I said they had broken one of the unwritten rules of the EU, "Don't mention the war!" I intended to raise a laugh, but I wasn't joking. The Fawlty Towers sketch is excruciatingly funny because Basil is so focused on not saying what is at the front of his mind, that he keeps saying it. His intention is not to talk about the one subject that, to him, defines his German guests. But the Poles are deliberately jabbing at a taboo, trying to cause offence.


Many Germans do find the British harping on about Spitfires and goosesteps rather childish and annoying, but the more thoughtful ones understand why we do it. For the British, our country's defiant and determined stand in World War II is still a source of national pride, and to tell the story properly you have to have an enemy. Of course, British people died, families suffered terribly, but there was an end and a purpose. They were heroes, not victims. It's very different in the rest of Europe.

For most other countries, World War II was a source of shame. The shame of defeat, or the shame of conquest. The shame of collaboration, the shame of turning a blind eye. Of course, there was heroism and pride too. But the war hurt too much, in too many ways. It had to be put firmly in the past, not constantly picked over. The forerunner of the European Union was designed quite specifically to build bridges, to soothe the pain, and crucially to make sure it never happened again. There are those who will argue the EU's role as the peacemaker in Europe is much overplayed and that, for instance, Nato was far more important. But I am not trying to settle modern and legitimate political debates but describe how people feel, how they see their own history.

gun_203.jpgOften the European Union's role in burying the divisions of the past is talked about in rather wishy-washy terms. But it was built on a number of practical measures. The supra-nationalisation of German steel and coal. The aggressors, Germany and Italy, coming together with the victims, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, under the umbrella of an organisation built on German money and French bureaucracy, German submission and Francophone domination.

And look at where the institutions are placed. I curse every time I have to go to the place where the European Parliament meets once a month, or where the Council of Ministers gets together for three months a year, at huge cost. But I understand why I am making the trip. Brussels. Luxembourg. Strasbourg. The institutions are built mainly along the Franco-German faultlines, the borders that were violated by war. In the EU, you don't mention the war because the settlement has been made, the grievances can be forgotten.

Long-lost brother

But Poland only joined three years ago. It has been out of the Communist deep freeze for a while now, but history takes a while to thaw. Germany has made a bit of a fuss about the recent mocked-up picture in a Polish magazine of Mrs Merkel displaying her chest, but I bet it was the one of her with a Hitler moustache last year that really rankled.

The Poles have got money and markets out of the EU. But they haven't got an apology. Some Germans feel that without their friendship and aid Poland wouldn't have been allowed in the club so soon. Maybe. But a long-lost brother has returned to the family home, still simmering about a past upset, when the rest of the family has made up and forgotten long ago.

There is no Council of Ministers meeting in Warsaw during June and July. Parliament doesn't go to Krakow once a month. Poland was at the centre of the war, but not at the centre of the peace. Some in the European Commission think there has to be a Kohl-Mitterrand moment, when the two men held hands by a World War I memorial, a statement that needed no words... I am not sure I will ever see the picture of Merkel, one arm round each twin, solemn in Silesia, but perhaps such a gesture is what it would take to make the Polish problem fade to black.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:27 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

I think Poland and Europe have unresolved historical issues.

But I also think the Kaczynski's are the worst thing to happen to Poland since 1989.

  • 2.
  • At 08:34 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Antoinette wrote:

You are absolutely right! It's so good to see that not all European minds are so oblivious of the obvious!

  • 3.
  • At 08:36 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Fred Johnson wrote:

I don't think the EU or Germany should now apologize to the current Polish government for Poland's losses during World War II. As I understand it, Germany has made several conciliatory gestures to Poland and all the other victims of its Nazi past. This Polish government needs to develop 21st century diplomacy skills and stop blustering and rattling ghostly sabers. Poland needs to grow up and stop constantly looking to the past for old grievances and hurts. Poland should focus on the present, never forgetting the past, in order to ensure a better future for itself and Europe.

  • 4.
  • At 08:39 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • London Shrike wrote:

An excellent blog post, Mark, and a situation very well explained. It's great to see the BBC's blog output maturing so interestingly.

A lot of these problems the Kaczynski brothers are creating seem to be due to some rule the EU has that all national leaders must agree to the same plan for it to go ahead in any of the member countries. Just remove that requirement - make it possible to go ahead with a new plan in countries whose leaders agree to it. Then if someone is unusually intransigent the others, instead of getting frustrated and giving in to them, will just say "Fine", ignore them, and forge ahead without them - providing a major incentive for such leaders not to be so intransigent. (And giving forward-thinking citizens of their country a motive to effect a change of government.) The inflexible all-or-nothing nature of the EU's agreement protocol seems to be handing the awkward Polish twins unnecessary power.

  • 6.
  • At 08:46 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • lagatta à Montréal wrote:

Dear Mark,

Yes, this blog is becoming a focus for reflection; it has always been very informative.

I understand the deep Polish grievances, but it is the Kaczynski brothers who are channelling NS-Regime policies, at least in terms of their persecution of gay people and their view of women as merely brood cows, with no contraception and abortion rights.

  • 7.
  • At 08:50 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • sebastian wrote:

Mark Mardel writes that he feels some gesture is needed on Germany´s part to improve relations with Poland. He seems to be unaware that the German Chancellor Willy Brandt did precisely this in 1970 - in a memorial ceremony in Warsaw he knelt in silence, saying afterwards that he felt at the time that laying a wreath was not enough. This was a controversial act in his own country at the time. But history has shown that it was a key moment in Germany´s coming to terms with its past, and geve an important impetus to atonement, reconciliation and even détente. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this. Mark Mardell was presumably brought up on the staple diet of Spitfires and Dambusters which passes for history in British schools, which presumably accounts for the rather large and embarrassing gap in his understanding of twentieth century European history.

  • 8.
  • At 08:57 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • mike wrote:

What an excellent blog. It explains the reasons behind the Polish presidents' insensitive (but both accurate and funny) remarks at the summit. It's a shame more of Mark's blogs don't get out to a wider audience on TV.

  • 9.
  • At 08:59 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Nicolai wrote:

An interesting post, Mark. Though you seem to forget that (at least from the German point of view) there were several sencere apologies to the Polish people. The most important was of course Brandt kneefall in Warsaw, which to me is quite comparable in its symbolic strength to the symbol of Kohl & Mitterand.

  • 10.
  • At 08:59 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

A great post, Mark.

It's a shame, however, that the Poles have to do our dirty work. I'd rather that it was our government - given a popular mandate in a referendum - that was unravelling the Treaty.

  • 11.
  • At 09:00 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mark Lyndon wrote:

A well argued and thoughtful piece.
Talking of 1989, a lot of heartache and resentment would have been saved on all sides had Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia been invited to join the then EC in 1989. The essential healing process of the wounds of not only WW2 but also Yalta would have occured much sooner. As it is, there is some way to go.

  • 12.
  • At 09:00 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Sylvia Puchalska wrote:

What a very thoughtful blog. Mark has captured the mass Polish persona adeptly, and taken an excellent meta-position in trying to explain it in the context of the current EU situation to us readers. As in families, the proverbial 'black sheep' is the symptom rather than the problem, and unless the EU family find some way of shifting, they will find themselves stuck within the same patterns. Maybe it is time to take our heads out of the sand and have an open EU-wide discussion about what the war actually meant to us. Maybe it is time for those stories to be exchanged and heard.

  • 13.
  • At 09:00 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Geoff Renyard wrote:

An interesting blog. A point not covered is that Polish grievances and German culpability in them are mitigated by the ethnic cleansing of East Prussia following the war, when large numbers of ethnic Germans were killed or forcibly removed. No EU members are entirely without historical sin and all should work together for future common European good.

  • 14.
  • At 09:01 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Pottiepete wrote:

I'll second the compliments on the explanation. My partner is German and we often have heated discussions about our understanding of the EU - its origins and purpose. Big differences and conflicts are invariably masked in the interests of getting along. It's the same with the EU too!
But if Poland is causing headaches for the EU, how on earth can it even entertain thoughts of granting accession to Turkey?

  • 15.
  • At 09:06 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • john s wrote:

For the Belgians who know their history, much shall be forgiven the Poles as it was their uprising in 1830 (partly due to Polish conscripts who refused to be sent to Belgium) that prevented the Tsar from crushing the Belgians' "challenge to the Concert of Nations". And
the Anders army's role in Belgium's liberation in 1944 is also remembered. The question is whether the K-twins will exhaust our gratitude

Love the blog Mark. It's become one of my first stops on the bbc website.

  • 17.
  • At 09:08 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Gareth Jones wrote:

Nice article Mark, it's good to see the depth of thought that has gone in to it.

I am actually wondering however if they have monitored EU history a little closer and are playing a more tactical game having seen how previous settlements have developed. I have no doubt though that the war still has left it's legacy on relationships.

I think Mark's thoughtful article helpfully exposes an important aspect of modern western European thought - but by no means as much as it needs to be exposed and explored.

The Poles, in common with the vast majority of the rest of the world, have a far greater sense of history, and its injustices, than western Europeans. After their 1410 victory at Grunwald - a victory still celebrated annually in Poland - the Polish/Lithuanian state was the major power in eastern Europe. That power was brutally snuffed out towards the end of the 18th. century by the Russians, Austrians and Prussians (i.e. Germans) in combination - who went on to humiliate and persecute the Poles for the next 200 years. Why are we surprised that a deep spring of anger still motivates the Poles, at least in part, to this day?

But in the wider world, imperialist western European powers, as well as the U.S., Japan and Russia, inflicted even greater humiliations and persecutions on innumerable "Polands" throughout the 18th., 19th. and most of the 20th. centuries. Why, then, are we surprised that such a volcano of anger is threatening to erupt now?

In western Europe, we congratulate ourselves, and each other, that we've come to terms with our imperialist past and forgiven ourselves our past misdeeds and injustices. "Let's put it all behind us. Let's move on.", we say. But in psychology, and in ethics, forgiveness belongs to the victims, and we've done little or nothing to earn the forgiveness of many of them.

  • 19.
  • At 09:10 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Dadada wrote:

A brilliant dissection of the issue, with indeed the only real solution. However, when sending the Germans to meet the Polish to forgive and forget, let's not forget to include the British and French as well as they never really honored the sacrifice made in the WWII by the free Polish forces in the defense of Paris, on D-Day and at Arnhem.

A thoughtful post. Thanks.

  • 21.
  • At 09:13 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • mike wrote:

I myself am a direct product of WWII. My father was a Pole who had a German mother, my mother was Italan but brought up in France and I was born in the UK. I currently live in Poland , but my sons are students at London University. I therefore consider myself well qualified to make the comments below. The present Polish government, elected by a minority of the population is virulently nationalistic and ultra catholic, unlike all its post-1989 predecessors, whatever the political option. It lives in the past, constantly looking backwards in contrast with the majority of the population which is enthusiastically pro-european. It views the EU with deep suspicion and in many ways in its mentality has far more in common with Putin's Russia than it would care to admit to. Western liberal democracy is anathema to it. It perceives the EU as a short term milk cow and enjoys "proud isolation" mixed with a megalomaniac paranoic attitude to all who differ.It can't even be bothered to have ambassadors in several other EU states, France and Portugal among them! Fortunately most Poles in opinion polls are counting the days to the next general election when the Kaczynski administration can be consigned to the dustbin of history.

  • 22.
  • At 09:16 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Another excellent blog post, Mr Mardell.

I set off to read this with the usual 'I've already made my mind up' that apologies about the war was one of those feeble attempts to re-write history and turn the clock back, but your article gives such a good background that one can see the potential justification.

I don't envy your job at all, as the EU seems built on avoiding people seeing the truth behind the mask, and the EU institutions seem to have been built with the objective of allowing hidden agendas and obfuscation of their true aims and objectives.

So it is good to know that you are on hand to try and dig beneath the surface and uncover what is really going in the belly of the beast.

  • 23.
  • At 09:16 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Albert Kropp wrote:

Mr. Mardell obviously knows very little about European history. Otherwise, he would have mentioned Willy Brandt's kneefall in Warsaw in 1972, some 12 years before Kohl and Mitterrand met in Verdun. The problem with the Kaczynskis is not that they are Polish, but that they are ultra-conservative, popolist egomaniacs.

  • 24.
  • At 09:18 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Yves, Brussels wrote:

German Chancelor Willy Brandt fell on his knees in 1970 in front of the War Memorial for the Warsaw uprising as a sign of apology towards Poland and the Jews, which is in about the same spirit as the Kohl-Mitterand move. Reading Der Spiegel on a regular base as a foreigner I am sometimes almost a bit annoyed by the flaggelant attitude when again they have an item about the 'NS-Zeit' (when there is another crime that was as yet undiscovered and they have to tell the world how terrible they were as Germans...). If my country would be so honest with it's own history in the Congo (blood for rubber? we don't even see it in highschool), or the French with Algeria or the Americans with Vietnam / Cambodia / Laos (isn't Napalm a portable gassing device?) as Germany is with it's NS-Zeit, things would be a bit more clear. I think there is no country at this point that is so honest about the bad side of it's history as Germany.

On another note about this, I suppose that the Poles are going to multiply the votes of the contemporary Polish Jews with the millions of those that 'would have been there if it wasn't for the war'in the next general election which is great because that would mean a nice part of the Polish parlement will be filled with Polish Jews. But knowing how antisemitic the contemporary Polish society is, I do not think the Kaczynski war-calculus goes that far...Why not take Turkey in and gently guide Poland to the door?

  • 25.
  • At 09:19 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Tom Weidig wrote:

>> But they haven't got an apology.

That is simply not true. You forgot two very crucial things (by the way I am not German):

1) Germany agreed that the Oder-Neisse borders are final, thereby giving up considerable traditional German territory, and accepting that the million German refugees would never go back anymore.

2) The German chancellor Willy Brandt famously kneeled in front of a memorial for the Polish war victims in Poland to apologise for the German crimes.

I have several Polish friends, and they absolutely hate the K brothers.

  • 26.
  • At 09:20 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jay wrote:

Great blog Mark. I live in Poland and I find everyone I interact with on a daily basis has a completely different and opposite view than that of the "duck brothers" (Kaczynski in Polish is a form of the word Kaczka, or Duck :) You often see people wearing badges and pins with a picture of two ducks and a line through it).

But as with America, whose President is incredibly unpopular at this time, a majority of people voted for him (them... who can tell the difference? Ahh, one of them has a mole, you figure it out. Actually, they didn't vote for the President, just the Prime Minister, and his party chose the President... I think.).

I don't get an anti-EU feeling from most Poles, actually the opposite, but I do hear a lot of the older generations mumble about how it was better "back in the day". What can we do? Twisted, but most of my mates feel that we just need to wait for them to die off so the younger and more optimistic generations can take the reins. Not a pleasant option, but sometimes it's easier to forget the past if no one remembers it...

But should the past be forgotten??

  • 27.
  • At 09:23 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

An excellent article and one that gets to the heart of what the EU is all about - reconciliation and cooperation.

Poland is a late entrant to this club despite the heroic actions of many of her people in the defence of Great Britain and the freeing of western Europe - dare we not forget the Polish airmen who saved us in our 'hour of need'. Poland was then effectively sold out by the victors in 1945 to suffer another half century of oppression.

In terms of today, I would also suggest that Poland feels sore about some of the condescending comments made by the former leaders of France and Germany regarding Russia, Poland's other great historical enemy. The behaviour of Schroeder and co towards Putin was shameful and effectively told the Poles to shut up and stop interferring in big boys business. Some of the political games being played out of Moscow and the Poles concerns about the EU not being squarely behind them would, i suggest, be part of the reason why they want greater voting rights within it.

  • 28.
  • At 09:26 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

You're right about new member countries trying to have it too much their own way. Living in Slovenia, the EU's only new member to get the Euro, we too have our own mentality concerning EU membership. Only last summer did the EU commission say that Slovenia was one large cartel, something that Slovenia has done nothing to improve on. From our handful of votes just south of the Julian Alps, Slovenes are keen to see and have things stay their way.

  • 29.
  • At 09:29 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

In your article you have right when you said that Poland is a country that sholud be more humble and should more feel the spirit of the common history, culture etc as a member of EU, but you should know that this is the problem of all of the members of the EU – f.ex. in UK not every single men ‘loves’ the idea of this partnership. and one more in Poland we have great distance to our government- and we are VERY ashamed of what they have done to our effigy in the Europe. So you shouldn’t write that ‘POLAND ( I understand it as POLES) is seen as a problem”- it should be written: Polish Government and its doings are seen sa a problem”
Ps. Sorry for my English, but I’m not English native speaker

  • 30.
  • At 09:29 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • D Jones wrote:

Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg (and even Geneva, if you let organisations like UEFA and Eurovision into the picture) are not just on the Franco-German borders violated by the wars of the 20th Century.

In a way they straddle an even deeper difference - that between Protestant Northern Europe and Catholic Southern Europe, between the Germanic north-east and the Latin south-west - in fact, the old borders of the Roman Empire...

...if such fundamental differences of history can be overcome (as they have been, by the EU) then I am optimistic that other differences can be moderated too. It also makes a mockery of the Euro-sceptic (sic) claim that the UK is somehow unique and does not belong...

  • 31.
  • At 09:32 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Christian Lange wrote:

Not many gestures have had the symbolic power of chancellor Willy Brandt falling to his knees in Warszaw in 1970. Have you forgotten? Has everybody? Perhaps another apology is due - by the Western Allies for betraying Poland and giving it up to Stalin after the war, plunging a nation that contributed more to the war effort than France into 40 more years of submission to dictatorship.

  • 32.
  • At 09:34 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Marianne wrote:

It should also be pointed out that about half (varies according to source, but definetely a substantial number) of the Poles killed where Jews and Poland is not exactly famous for protecting its Jewish citizens, but rather the opposite. Talk about adding insult to injury.

  • 33.
  • At 09:40 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Darren McCormac wrote:

Interesting post, and I agree with many of the comments here. I went to Warsaw a few years ago and found the Polish people to be friendly, forward-looking, industrious and proud of their country. It's just a pity that the Left fragmented so much there was no real opposition to les frères Kaczynski at the last election. They do Poland no favours.

  • 34.
  • At 09:40 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Thomas Fisher wrote:

I am baffled about the selective memory at work here. - How many time do you have to apologise before people acknowledge it? Germany has apologised to Poland many times. Chancellor Brandt kneeled down in Warsaw in 1970, and no German government of the past 20 years would have ever denied or diminuated things that happened during WWII in Poland. Germany has supported Poland on its journey into the EU more than any other country and is now paing for Poland more than any other country. Over the past few years, Germany paid compensation to the remaining Eastern European forced labourers, most of them Polish (I don't know of any other country that did a similar thing). I don't think the problem is really connected with yet another apology. I think it has more something to do with a bad conscience - not on the German, but on the Polish side. Poland expelled about 9 M Germans after WWII , causing death to about 1 to 2 Million. There has never been any official expression of regret for this.

  • 35.
  • At 09:44 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Maria wrote:

Very interesting, but maybe worth mentioning that it is not all about ghosts from the past and Polish neurosis. History likes to repeat itself in a different form.
Why not to look into German-Russian plans to built oil pipe under the Baltic sea to avoid Poland (and punish Moscow critics economically)in the context of Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement? From military to economic domination.
Would you be able to sleep without nightmares while having Germany on one side and Russia on the other and the hidden admiration from other European countries for these bullies of Europe?

  • 36.
  • At 09:46 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Natasha J wrote:

What a great article. I'm British, living and working in Warsaw. The Polish feel very hard done by, not just about WWII but also the communist occupation. This is the first time in a long time they have been given a voice, and they're now using it. Be rest assured however, the Kaszinski twins' actions are often met with raised eyebrows here, and there are many people who would rather see the back of them.
Even though the rediculous comment about the fact that Poland would have more votes if it weren't for the war, had many heads shacking over here, it is a sad fact.
The Kaszinski twins will not be here forever, but a strong feeling of having been neglected by the rest of Europe post war, will be a lot more difficult to shake off.

  • 37.
  • At 09:52 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

I think that German apologies and gestures to Poland have been coming forward since Willy Brandt kneeled in Warsaw. To ask for even more would not be fair to the tens of millions of Germans who were born after the war and bear no individual guilt.

Germany was also the main promotor of Polish entry to the EU and it provides Poland with its largest export market. I fear that further silly demands from Poland could serioulsy change the attitude towards Poles (!) in Germany and that would not be a good thing.

Poland makes two massive mistakes:

They forget that Europe in general (less so the UK) has experienced Germany for 50 years as a reliable, friendly and trustworthy partner (who also foots most of the bill). Poland has been experienced for three years only as a trouble maker. Therefore, Poland will have difficulties to find partners in the EU for its germanophobic agenda.

Poland seems to see the EU as a permanent Potsdam conference where the big powers carve up Europe. Only this time Poland wants to be a big power also and Germany should not even be at the table. Obviously, this cannot work, because (a) Poland is not a big power, but a dirt poor country, (b) Germany is, as a matter of fact, a big power, and (c) the EU, as Mark rightly points out, is not a machiavellistic club in the style of Metternich, but a compromise machine.

The big question is: How can we help Poland to make it to the 21st century?

  • 38.
  • At 09:53 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Paul A wrote:

Germany has apologised to Poland before and should not now be apologising for the actions of the previous generation.
Regardless of this the current Polish Government has no right to demand an apology given their bizarre nationalist and homophobic policies which would be more at home in 1930s Germany than the EU.

  • 39.
  • At 09:57 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

Anyone remember this photo?

  • 40.
  • At 09:59 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ola Marki wrote:

When one thinks of the Nazi invasion of Poland, I think it's very easy for anyone who is not of Polish descent to tell Poland to "grow up". Yes, it happened a long time ago, and Poland should have since moved on. However, I know from personal experience that not many people are aware of the communists' "liberation" of Poland. This "liberation" which forced my parents, and thousands of other Poles to take extreme measures in the 80's in order to leave their home country. This "liberation" which introduced a regime so awful that even 20 years after it was ended, its effects on the country's spirit and nationality are still obvious. This "liberation" that other western countries failed to recognise for what it really was, which was actually celebrated in Russia a few years ago, with many political representatives attending from around the world to congratulate the soviet army on "saving" Poland from the Nazi's. i wonder if these politicians ever got a chance to drive through the Polish countryside and observe the ruins of world war II which Poland has not been able to afford to fix or even get rid of. After WWII, Germany was helped financially by france and britain to counter the threat from the USSR. Poland in the meantime was left to try and rebuild itself all alone. What Poland deserves is an apology not from the Germans, but from the rest of Europe, for sweeping its problems under the rug and choosing to ignore what was going over the 50 years after WWII.

  • 41.
  • At 10:00 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • GM wrote:

I am British and have lived in Poland for 16 years. I am married to a beautiful Polish girl and we have 5 children, who boast the blood of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Romance nations as well as the Slavs.
I love this country, and in spite of all its failings, it is still a wonderful place to live.
My grandmother-in-law, originally from a part of Poland which is now in Belarus, escaped the advancing Russian troops (pillaging as they went) with her baby daughter. Her husband fought in the Polish Army, but he never returned home, and no-one knows what happened to him.
Out of all the people whom I admire, I admire her the most. She suffered untold indignity and hardship, but she never complained. The Kaczynski twins are ruining the reputation of Poland, a feeling that is held widely by Poles as well as other Europeans.
Should the Germans apologize? I don't think so. Immediately after German reunification, Chancellor Kohl came to Poland first and signed a friendship pact. It was a sincere gesture and accepted as such. If we went down the road of saying, well, our population would have been 66 million had it not been for the war, then the Irish could say that their population would be 45 million had it not been for the English massacres in the 17th century and the intransigence of the British government during the mid 19th century famines. What about the reduction of the Scottish population with the Highland clearances? We would go on for ever and ever.
I believe we should look to the future, not necessarily forget the past, but certainly we should not dwell on it or shape our present/future policies, based on what has happened. We should all behave with the dignity and humility of my grandmother-in-law, stop complaining about our lot, and make the European into such a successful economic trading bloc, in fact, it would be great if we could just leave out the politicians!!

  • 42.
  • At 10:01 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Nath wrote:

There are some good points but I don't think I agree overall. It's not Poles who have problems with Europe or Germans it's the Kaczynskis. The whole irony of the situation is that the government that causes so much trouble leads a society that, according to various polls, is one of the most pro-European in the EU. The current government did not win the elections because of its stance towards Germany, it won because the previous government was corrupt, unpopular and inept. That does not mean that I don't agree with all the objectives of the current government. Poland had the same right to defend a certain voting system as Germany. But not in such a way and using such arguments. In this sense I don't agree with your analysis, you seem to suggest that because the Kaczynskis started talking about the past the solution lies in the past. But I don't think it would really resolve anything. Poland's and Germany's views will not always coincide, that's fine, only the Polish diplomacy should learn how to defend its goals in an efficient but acceptable way and not drag in WWII every time there is a disagreement with Germany.

Would some gestures do any good? I'm not sure. First, many were done in the past. Willy Brandt kneeled in front of the Ghetto Uprising monument in Warsaw. Right, it's hard to say whether it was intended only at Jews or Jews and Poles "jointly", but it is still memorable to Poles. Second, as I said, as a young Pole I think the problem is not so much history. The "problem" with Germany is that it is such a big and powerful country which sometimes happens to have different views than Poland. I could be moved by gestures, and still believe that the Baltic pipeline is not a great idea. And third, honestly, at this point, I would feel rather embarrassed by eventual apologies. To think that it's the Kaczynskis who would receive them...

  • 43.
  • At 10:03 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Sven H. wrote:

Mark you said you would bet that the Hitler moustache Merkel really rankled. I guess you would lose that bet. Honestly who cares what obscure foreign papers have to say about your government? Was there a reaction to the Weasel pictures of the NY Post or to the Sun calling the French President a Worm?
It is not the picture of Merkel displaying her chest that is raising eye brows, but the fact that the lead article was written by a political adviser on polish-german relations. Kaczynski's remarks: "Something bad is happening in Germany. As in historic days gone by when most Europeans were too afraid to talk, so it is today." only add to the impression that the Polish government at the moment is trying to antagonize Germany at all costs for cheap political gains at home.

  • 44.
  • At 10:14 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Aleks wrote:

Despite suffering more than most (or perhaps all other) countries in WW2 Poland was largely abandoned by the West at the end of the war. In my opinion it was a moral failing of the Allies who simply left Polond to its communist fate - with Churchill particularly to blame due to his earlier commitments. What we in Western Europe forget is that Poles have always been culturally rich, well educated and a proud people. Poland is beginning to take its place as a powerful member of the EU and those countries that have traditionally tried to run the show are not happy. Is anyone surprised?

  • 45.
  • At 10:15 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:

"For the British, our country's defiant and determined stand in World War II is still a source of national pride, and to tell the story properly you have to have an enemy. Of course, British people died, families suffered terribly, but there was an end and a purpose. They were heroes, not victims. It's very different in the rest of Europe. For most other countries, World War II was a source of shame."

Who taught you history, Mark? You are using a very broad brush here.

It's just a pity we British have not an inkling of shame or regret for failing to stand by Poland in 1939, during the Warsaw Rising in 1944, at the Yalta negotiations, or during the post-war settlement.

Are you aware that (uniquely) the Free Polish forces were not allowed to participate in the official victory parade in London at the end of the war, because our government gave in to Stalin’s argument that they did not represent a recognised government?

British people died and families suffered, yes – but in comparative terms Britain got of lightly in the war. Warsaw had 1,300,000 inhabitants in 1939; in 1945 it had 700,000. That is 800,000 dead and missing, over 50% of the population. More Poles died in the first hour of the Warsaw Rising, than Allied troops died on all the beaches on D-Day. Have a guess at which forces suffered proportionately the highest casualties in the fight for Monte Cassino.

I was ashamed and angry when the morons who support the England football team chanted “If it wasn’t for the English you’d be Krauts” at an England-Poland game a few years ago. As my puzzled Polish friend said, “We just sing ‘We’re still waiting’”.

Having a degree in the Humanities, I just weep that most English people’s knowledge of their own history is so piece-meal, distorted and delusional. That ‘national pride’ sits on very insecure foundations, and too often slips into noxious misguided xenophobia.

Finally, I recommend to you most of the books on Poland (‘The Heart of Europe’, ‘God’s Playground’, ‘Rising 44’, etc.) written by the British historian Norman Davies, as invaluable aids to understanding Poland’s history and its present attitudes. And a brief perusal of an anthology Polish poetry (in translation) from Adam Mickiewicz* onwards will enlighten you as to the enduring ferocity of Polish patriotism.

(*It is further shame on us that the name, let alone the works, one of the finest European poets ever are virtually unknown in this country).

So, if Germany has to apologise, will the Poles say "sorry" for being anti-Semitic long before the Germans invaded them? All this apologising for events which happened years ago is a complete joke.

When are the Italians going to apologise to the UK for the Roman invasion?

  • 47.
  • At 10:16 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Lewis wrote:

An interesting and thought provoking blog.

I spent last summer working in Poland and was struck by its turbulent history - caught on the central European plain between almost continually aggressive neighbours (Prussia/Germany to the west and Russia to the east). Of course, the level of destruction wreaked on Poland during WWII by first the Nazis and also, later, the Red Army was appalling yet Poles fought courageously for the Allies in various theatres of war (not least the Battle of Britain).

Given that the Yalta agreement effectively abandoned Poland to the tender mercies of a Stalinist puppet government it is not perhaps surprising that Poland can sometimes be a little prickly towards western Europe. However if there is to be a true European Union that fully embraces the full complexity of the continent then Poland's unique historical experience has to be recognised.

  • 48.
  • At 10:17 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Alex Stone wrote:

Hmmmm. As a Briton studying and working in Moscow, i'm a little less than enthused that the democratic reality i live, is different to the perception of Russia being portrayed in the EU. And as a staunch supporter of the EU project, and with some understanding of European History, I find it a little hypocritical of the current Polish Government to point the what seems neverending finger of blame and shame at other nations, whilst conveniently forgetting their own history in the destruction and brutal dissection of Czechoslavakia.
And that's the point. Whilst the majority of the people of Poland, including professional colleagues of mine, want to go forward, and build a fine and prosperous country, their current Gov, replete with religious fundamentalism, and clumsy thirst for revenge, including, frankly, miserably poor diplomatic skills, continue to paint what are fine and honourable people as the new 'whingers' of Europe, a title that is incorrect in its generalisation, but increasingly applied to the nation as a result of the actions and words of the Government. The current meat dispute with Russia is a reflection of that dumb intransigence, that Lech Walesa recently described in relation to the polish president as the 'work of a blockhead'.

There have been many apologies in the past, and i share the view that enough is enough. The modern nations of Europe bear little relation to those of the past, and to continue to use this as a brutal lever of belligerence and truculent demands for more them one's share smacks of the same tribalism that got Europe into trouble time and again over centuries. This type of manipulation, using shame or awkwardness, only tells me that the current polish gov. doesn't have the intelligence to argue a good case within acceptable, civilised, parameters. I have no doubt the people of Poland are waiting eagerly, and maybe desperately for the next election, so they can rid themselves of the current, shameful, national representation, and step into the future with the rest of the EU in mutual and civilised friendship.

Mark, this blog is maturing fast, and it's now my regular port of call.

  • 49.
  • At 10:22 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • rolf klooster wrote:

can you imagine a more pregnant gesture then that of Willy Brandt (then Kanzler), kneeling in front of the monument to the fallen in Poland ?? It will simply be never enough because it is not about the horror of the war but the use of sentiment by this Polish government to get what they want.
No concesions should be given to those populist politicians... It is truly disgusting. History is history and let it rest: it has been bad enough. Or should we, Dutch, demand apologies from Spain for what happened 400 years ago ???

  • 50.
  • At 10:25 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Gerard wrote:

Spain's democracy lost a war against fascist aided by Germany and Italy. No western democracy came to the rescue of the Spanish Republic. After WWII spaniards waited in vain for a liberation that never came. There was no Plan Marshall for Spain either. And yet since joining the EU we have never showed such a negative and preposterous attitude as Poland is doing now . I would ask polish politicians to please stop whining and focus on building a successful economy like the spanish one.

  • 51.
  • At 10:32 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Henryk wrote:

Very good analysis. I would like to add few quasi-historical remarks.

0. The Kaczynski brothers are in politics since 1980 when they were advisors of Lech Walesa. After 1989 they were loosing elections after elections and only in 2005 they managed, due to a certain coincidence, to form a goverment which has a good support in the Parliament. However, it is unlikely they will be so sucessful in the next elections.

1. The Kaczynski brothers voice Polish id, various hidden complexes and explicit resentiments, which were essentially banned from serious public discussion, both under communist rules as well as after 1989, when all goverments were very pro-European and liberal and, in particular, avoided to touch the topic of the Second War War in relations with Germany.

2. Current anti-German stand of the Brothers is much less agressive then anti-German propaganda of communist goverments before 1989. But then nobody in the West paid attention to Polish media.

3. It should be said that destruction caused in Poland by German armies was really tremendous. I am from Warsaw, born in 1970-ties, but still when I daily bike to my work, I cannot stop the feeling that I am biking through a graveyard of eight houndred thousand Warsaw people, who either, if they were Jews, were murdered in a nearby death camp of Treblinka, or later killed in the summer 1944 during Warsaw Uprising. Not only the city citizens were murdered, but 85% of all building were destroyed in a systematic action which started after the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 and stopped only in January 1945, when Germans were expelled from Warsaw by the Soviets.

4. Germans, in pariculcar Willy Brandt, admitted they sins against Poland and asked for fogiveness. It is not a matter of reapating it over and over again, in particular because young Germans are innocent. However, the magnitude of this barbarism is very depressing even now, and I am always very grateful if my German friends admit they understanding that is hard to live in a city with this heritage of eight houndred thousand killed during the war.

  • 52.
  • At 10:33 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

An interesting blog entry, though some things don't quite match up. Germany should have issued - and indeed did issue - apologies long before the Kazynski brothers came to power, long before there was any chance of communism disappearing and Poland joining the EU and indeed long before Kohl and Mitterrand held hands. Willy Brandt's gesture in December '70 ( - came at a time when sorry was said with real sorrow and has had more impact on German-Polish relations than any other event since WWII.
The quest to aid Poland in it's emergence from communism and it's integration into the EU has been ongoing, e.g. by means of the Weimar Triangle (
Linking Poland's stubborn politics to a lack of apologies appears to downplay what I think this is about: more of the goodies.

  • 53.
  • At 10:33 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Theo wrote:

I can honestly understand the German dislike of the English habit of constantly harping on about the war and treating all Germans as Nazis in disguise. It is only because the English were on the winning side that you can in fact carry on with your mostly primitive and offensive behaviour (I honestly don't really see the difference between that and the Polish PM duo).

When will it end?

I am a white South African. an 1/8th of the population of the Boer republics died in British concentration camps, but Britain won that war and was never taken to task for that, unlike the Germans, Turks and all the others perpetrators of genocide and oppression (including white South Africans).

When I listen to English attitudes, I sometimes think that England would do well to lose one war, badly. It would, if nothing else, teach the English humility.

  • 54.
  • At 10:38 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Bill Perry wrote:

I always find this blog worth reading. But I nearly stopped in this piece when I reached the description of the Polish government as "ultra-conservative". This is one of those yah-boo terms which no-one ever analyses but too many commentators are ready to bandy about by way of stigmatising those they disagree with. Why not just say "crypto-fascist" and have done with it?

A shame, as a moment of laziness spoilt an otherwise decent post.

  • 55.
  • At 10:39 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Stuart Wilson wrote:

I have lived and worked in Poland for five years. It's a great country with great potential.

Unfortunately it's currently being run by a buffoon government, not only out of step with the EU but with it's own people.

Nearly all the Polish people I talk to are embarrassed by the Kaczynski brothers and their backward-thinking coalition government.

The sooner they are removed from power, the sooner Poland can move forward as an active and responsible member of the EU.

  • 56.
  • At 10:39 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Nice coments .
The Germans should decide wether the Easterners ( including Ossies and excluding Russians ) are FoF .

  • 57.
  • At 10:39 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • richard fforbes wrote:

Interestting article and even more interesting are some of the comments made by people who are not prepared to look at the history of Poalnd in full. Sadly, other member states don't care or understand the politics and history of central eastern europe.

Have we forgotten that Russia was jointly responsible for the total destruction of Poalnd? It also contributed to the devestation of the Warsaw uprising by betraying Poland in a very cruel way. This has never been addresed by Russia who will not apologise. It's interesting how none of the other 15 member states prior to Poland joining ever acknowledge this.

Poland is justifiably frightened that she will again be used and over looked in matters that will directly effect her. It's also interesting to note that before Poland joined the EU, there was no talk of changing the voting system. So why did Germany want to change it when Poland joined? The answer is that it wanted to make sure Poland was silenced and tossed a few crumbs when it suited them.

  • 58.
  • At 10:40 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jacob H wrote:

Poland should not forget that it was given a large chunk of Germany after the war. The Soviet Union, more murderous than Hitler ever was, and lasting far longer sadly is the real villain here. Russia should return the Polish territory it stole, and the Poles should judge Germany on its behaviour during the 60 years since the war, not on the 12 years of Hitler's reign.

  • 59.
  • At 10:40 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Pyers Symon wrote:

A very interesting and thoughtful blog indeed. The wounds of WW2 still run very deep within Europe both amongst the former occupiers and occupied (Britain does not have such wounds and because of that can look upon its role in WW2 with the pride that you mentioned). It is still a taboo subject in many countries (has Le Chagrin Et La Pitié ever been shown on French TV?) and the roles that people that people had within occupied Europe still are a cause of controversy (an example is Francois Mitterrand's deeply ambiguous life under Vichy France).

  • 60.
  • At 10:55 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Patrik Råman wrote:

A Finnish MEP (Alex Stubb) recently caused much laughter in Brussels by suggesting that the voting power of Finland should be adjusted to take into account all the wars since the 17th century, without which the population of Finland would be 254 million (now 5 million). The Poles present went red in the face, whether of anger or embarrassment I don't know... :)

PS Theo: your wish for Britain losing a war is coming true sooner than you think. Ever heard of Iraq?

  • 61.
  • At 11:00 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • richardB wrote:

certainly an interesting article, but no, no apology should be given.

The kaczynskis would just take it and try and extract more concessions. It wouldn't help anything.

they won a concession over their obsession with voting weights at the summit. At the cost of dragging polish diplomacy and their own neuroses through the media. They made themselves look stupid. At least margaret thatcher argued about something substantial.

And this at a time when russia is becoming increasingly assertive, when polish food exports to russia are embargoes for reasons of power politics, when energy security is a real worry.

It isn't the time for the polish president and prime minister to alienate almost all their allies. In fact it's so incompetent, it's almost criminal.

  • 62.
  • At 11:03 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Fitzgerald-Morris wrote:

But let's remember *all* the history - that in 1939 the Poland which Germany invaded was an anti-semitic military dictatorship; that the territories Poland lost to to the USSR as a consequence of the post war settlement were by and large lands that had been occupied by the Poles as a result of the 1921 Peace of Riga (following the Polish Russian War 1919-1921) and was mostly populated by White Russians and Ukrainians which Poland sought to "polonise". Yes Poland was treated savagely by Germany during the second world war, but it was quite capable of dealing brutually with other nationalities when it had the power and opportunity to do so.

  • 63.
  • At 11:04 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Wojtek Wilk wrote:

I don't think apology is an issue. I don't think Poles need any more symbolic gesture from Germans. Maybe from Russians, but not from Germans. It's just Kaczynskis' way of winning concessions. They openly claim it was a mistake that Polish foreign policy after 1989 didn't use Europe's remorse enough.

Greetings from Poland!

  • 64.
  • At 11:06 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • D wrote:

Dear Mr Mardell,

So for how many months per year is the Justus Lipsus building used? It looks surprisingly clean compared to other buildings, whever I'm in Brussels.


  • 65.
  • At 11:11 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Roman Mlynarczyk wrote:

RE: Poles cite war dead in voting dispute

Sir, I am writing in response to the above-mentioned article published on BBC’s web page on 05 July 2007.
The BBC certainly is one of the places wherein editors deliver first class quality of articles and analysis. However, this particular column written Mark Mardell, does invite itself some comments and remarks.
Let me begin with the view that this article is a part of an ongoing polemic and discussion concerning the new EU Treaty or what is rather left of the EU Constitution. Europe was holding its breath back, waiting how Poland in particular, and perhaps the British and the Dutch were haggling in the late European summit under then the German presidency. The recent statements made by the Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski reflect Polish stand on the voting issue under the proposed treaty. Poland’s main and probably the only argument is the fear of being over voted in the Council of the European Union by big powers such as Germany.
Regardless of this argument having grounds or not, it appears as if very few of the European policy makers endeavoured to understand what really Poles are afraid of. The WWII legacy may be disappearing in remote history and Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker’s words that “you will not be happy in the long-run if you are always looking in the rear-view mirror” preach the right thing. However, Mark Merdell’s statement that “Poland was at the centre of war not at the centre of peace….” Invokes mixed feelings. We are in midst of creating a Union, which brings to one negotiating table twenty-seven sovereign nations of different historical, political and economical heritage. Yet, Polish case is different and complex one. Perhaps we all need to remind ourselves that this country had suffered from frequent wars between two hostile powers Russia and Germany (formerly Prussia) as well as defending itself from the two of them.
In the course of recent history, a brief independence was lost merely after twenty years since the victorious Treaty of Versailles. Then again the forty-five year of communist rule paid its toll. Finally hardly fought freedom of post-1989 was this time voluntarily surrendered to Brussels upon the Accession Treaty on May 1, 2004.
This in turn generates concerns and worries for the Polish government about the future ahead and under auspices of the Union. On the contrary to what the author stated in the article, this worry is not unfounded or archetypal of the current leadership, but addresses the whole political spectrum. It does not take fertile imagination to conceive that any political force in helm would go down similar route. Nevertheless, the whole pressure of these politically heated affairs is somehow shifted onto Warsaw, despite the fact that the UK is stealthy pursuing its agenda in the area of criminal law, labour law, foreign policy law and social security; issues, which are fundamental to the deepening and fostering of European ties. Yet, the Polish contention appears to be rather a trifling matter.
It is widely acknowledged that the governing coalition does not yield desired results in maintaining diplomatic relations nor is renowned for politically redeeming statements or deeds. Yet, this is the democratically elected parliament/government, which does represent the majority’s views (such as those on homosexuals at schools) who voted it in! Probably it is a populist government, and we have the right to express our views and criticism. Nevertheless, we cannot and should not decide for someone else what is good and what is not.
At long least the very European Union is the best venue where plans and decisions concerning our common future should be made. To this end, this is the place where leaders can bargain for many different aspects which are unique for each and every party to the Union. Unfortunately, this is not agony and struggle free process, yet trawling for approved solutions, should be the aim of our elected representatives in national capitals and Brussels. Let’s remain hopeful that maybe one day we will see Ms. Merkel and Polish president shaking each other’s hands in the sign of true friendship and truly European spirit.

  • 66.
  • At 11:13 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • paul buckland wrote:

A very thoughtful article.

  • 67.
  • At 11:13 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Johnny Norfolk wrote:

The problem is Poland speaks as it finds, and this is not liked in this PC world. I find the Polish attitude healthy as we are not supposed to say anything against the EU. It is only just over 60 years since WW2.
Having lived in Germany for some years I think the Poles are correct about Germany having to much say.

The Germans still think their ways are best and I found it almost impossible to to change a German mind about how to do something.

  • 68.
  • At 11:14 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Dru wrote:

This correspondence has largely concentrated on who is still entitled to feel offended, and who should shut up.

Perhaps we should all accept that whoever we are, not all our neighbours will like us, and some of our neighbours will treat us as the suitable subject matter for pointed humour.

As an English person, I resent the way in so many American films the heroes are tall upstanding Americans and the villains are smooth English men, who to me speak normally. But I don't go on about it.

It would be better if nations were not so touchy about this. It is particularly inappropriate that the citizens of nations that are larger, richer and more powerful should be offended and insist that the citizens of smaller nations should not offend them.

I agree with Theo, that it would do the English a power of good to lose a war badly just once. Most of the Scots, Welsh and Irish would agree as well - there are few things more unpleasant than English jingoistic bluster.

But on Poland and Willy Brandt, aren't many people missing something? Brandt was Chancellor of the BRD or West half of Germany only - the reunified Germany has yet to make a similar gesture.

  • 70.
  • At 11:18 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • jaybee wrote:

Comment No 21 by Mike hits the nail on its head and No 40 adds to it. The polemical language used by the Kaczynskis is a remnant of Soviet times. The Polish electorate will know how to deal with them in the next election. Frau Merkel and all other EU leaders are to be admired for their patience with the current government of Poland. And, dear Mark, how could you not mention Willi Brandt on his knees in Warschau in 1970???

  • 71.
  • At 11:19 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jens wrote:

How often should we Germans apologise for what happened in WW II?
Either we all move on after 60+ years or we ask Poland, the Tschech Republic and everybody else to apologise for what happened to the Germans thrown out of what is now their territories after the war ended. And surely we will find another excuse not to work together if this would happen.
In my view Poland should have never been allowed into the EU given the timely conincidence of their Iraq venture with their inclusion. And why were there no sanctions after the Polish decided to elect 2, to put it mildly populist clowns for PM (barely disguised with a placeholder for a few months) and President? Austria was sanctioned for their right wing government in 1999, what are we doing now?
Bigger countries like my home country Germany, the UK and also small tigers like Ireland and Spain should punch their full weight (economically and in numbers). As long as the EU needs to invent quotas and excuses it will never work, and just benefit narrowminded people like the Kaczynskis.

  • 72.
  • At 11:19 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Theo (53) wrote: "It is only because the English were on the winning side that you can in fact carry on with your mostly primitive and offensive behaviour".

Actually, it is also well-deserved pride in defeating one of history's most evil regimes - Nazi Germany (More evil even than the Boer Republic).

Nonetheless, I doubt whether anyone in Britain really considers any German under the age of 80 responsible for the events of 1933-45. So you'll just have to get used to the British sense of humour - however tastless you may find it.

As for 'England' losing a war 'badly' - who would you like us to lose it to? Islamic fanatics? Fascist or Communist dictators? Practicioners of Apartheid? You'll find that England's enemies are not the sort of people you'd really admit to being friends with in polite society.

  • 73.
  • At 11:20 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • chris mlynarczyk wrote:

As a child of Polish parents, whose father was in the RAF during WWII, and who travels a lot around Europe and the rest of the world, I am glad to see Poland taking a tough line with Europe - admittedly the current governmant is extreme, but Poland was standing up for herself before the twins took power.

The issue most of the traditional states seem to have is with anyone taking a point of view that does not fit in with the european integration project - whether that be the UK, or Poland, or whoever, unless you are willing to submit to the party line of European integration, you are seen as a problem to be fixed.

I say hurrah to Poland for taking a Eurosceptic stance, and as for xenophobia, thats a laugh, many of my german work collegues are amazed that us brits allowed in so many Poles to work here - they think we are nuts - and there's a distinct hint of superiority verging on racism that comes through in their comments. And as for the french - well they have their own Ghetto problems.

A question, which is the most vibrant economy in western Europe? Think it might well be one one that defended its rights to free trade and liberal labour laws - Oh that will be the "poor man of Europe" then.

There's nothing wrong with taking a sceptic stance. The UK has done well out of it, and long may it do so.

Its nice to have some more countries in Europe with a healthy sense of scepticism

  • 74.
  • At 11:24 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Personally, I think the Kaczynskis are fantastic. While Blair pretended to establish so-called red-lines to divert the attention of the British people away from the fact that yet more power has been lost to Brussels (whatever you think of that), the Kaczynskis really stand up to the Germans and the French.

It is interesting how the Germans and French (and non-entity countries like Belgium!) play this game - if you disagree with and resist the march towards *their* vision of how the EU should constructed, you are labelled 'small-minded', 'childish', 'obstreperous', 'anti-European', and so on.

The EU is a fantastic idea - but let's not let the French and Germans continue to conduct the orchestra. I personally do not like their vision of a superstate (because this is inexorably what we are marching towards) - I respect their right to have such a vision - but they must learn to respect the vision of other countries within the EU for a looser confederation of decidedly (not nominally!) independent states.

So, three cheers for the Poles. Someone needs to offer a contrary view, even if the headlines are just about the histrionics that ensure when the conflicting visions collide.

  • 75.
  • At 11:25 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mr. Huber wrote:

I am truely shocked by Mark Mandell's apparent historical ignorance and politically naive argument. Former German Chancellor Willy Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize, in large parts for his efforts at reconciliation with Poland. His spontaneous "Kniefall" at the ghetto memorial in Warsaw was a far earlier and more powerful gesture than the Kohl-Mitterand moment. The Kaczynskis are ultra-nationaliststs obsessed by history - including more recent communist history. Their attitude towards Germany and the EU is only supported by a minority in Poland. I know many Poles who are truely appalled by their government and its policies. Mandell has fallen prey to the Kaczynskis' ultra-nationalist rhetoric.

  • 76.
  • At 11:26 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Charles wrote:

My father was a Latvian who was concripted into the German army and my mother a Volksdeutsche from the Sudetenland. I think the blog is excellent for giving a balanced view. Have the Poles apologised for the 5000+ ethnic Germans murdered in Poland shortly after worls war two began, or their part in the killing of some two million ethnic Germans expelled from eastern Europe after the war? I suspect not, and they object (as do the Czechs) when Germany mentions compensation or even the erection of a memorial to these dead. I think Poland needs to come to terms with its own past - Germany has.

  • 77.
  • At 11:26 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

Good article and very interesting. Well done!

  • 78.
  • At 11:27 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • J. Bluhm wrote:

There has already been a "Kohl-Mitterrand moment", when German Chancellor Willy Brandt (in exile during WW II) kneeled down in Warsaw in 1970, asking for forgiveness for German war crimes against Poland. The "Mitterrand part" could be seen in the Polish Bishops letter of reconciliation in 1965, offering forgiveness. Therefore, Poland's current government is falling far behind what had already been reached.

  • 79.
  • At 11:34 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • SimonA wrote:

I think some of the comments in relation to Brand's 'kneefall' in Warsaw are perhaps not entirely fair on Mark's article. The 'kneefall' was at the memorial to those killed in the Warsaw ghetto uprising who were, by definition, nearly all Jews. I think he is pointing out that perhaps the Poles are looking for a direct apology to the Polish people as a whole for the injustives of the past.

  • 80.
  • At 11:36 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • nikr wrote:

I seem to remember Chancelor Willy Brandt dropping on his knee's to apologise to the polish people in 1970

It seems your reporter has a short mmemory, or must the germans apologise to the poles say every five years?

  • 81.
  • At 11:45 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • peter wrote:

On a recent visit to small town Poland, a car pulled up and two airgun pellets were fired at me. If Polish politicians don't understand how far their international stances have put them, then don't expect a friendly reception from the Polish public either.

  • 82.
  • At 11:51 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

I think the Germans have appologised. Whether they should again, I am not sure, and leaning towards that they should not. Gestures of friendship and acknowledgment towards the Polish people would be much better, not grovelling, but support... and I guess this is covered by what Mark Mardell wrote. This does not have to be towards the Kaczynskis, but towards the Poles. This would help more. Perhaps build trust. I cringe at the attitude coming even from some of the posts here that appear written by Germans. Perhaps they are simply sore about what feels like an attack on Germany. Perhaps the dislike between the two still remains in both countries. Clearly Germany is a very well developed and successful country, much more so than Poland. Germans can be proud about this, but should also remember this is in part a result of the support they recieved from other Europeans in the past... they could have been stomped into the ground and cut up after the war, but wisely it was decided that there was a better way. Perhaps learning from the mistakes of WWI. Poland did not get this kind of support in the past, maybe it can get it now, even if the Poles are annoying and problematic, not unlike the Germans were after WWII. Perhaps in time Poland can achieve the same results.

This discussion brings up a lot of history, some of it from very long ago... and I am afraid that it can grow into a very long discussion. I can assure the Germans that probably all Poles are aware of the ethnic cleansing of Germans on its territory. However, most Poles do not feel it was their choice; it was done by Soviet Russia. Poles themselves were ethnically cleansed at the same time from old Polish territory in the East taken over by Russia, and resettled where Germans were removed. Poland was unable to say no to any of it because by then it was given into the Soviet "sphere of influence". Going even further into the past, as mentioned in this blog, the Poles themselves were ethnically cleansed from the territories Germans resided on by WWII. A cycle of violence going on in this part of the world for many hundreds of years. All very good reasons to avoid attacking each other, and at least acknowledge the past to start with.

I have no desire to see Germans grovelling for past sins that the current generation did not commit. Acknowledgment of the past, respect, some ways to built trust are required though. Hopefully tempers on both sides will not damage relations in the long term. If there is a country that has not appologised for past misdeeds from WWII, and still is benefiting from them, it is Russia, not Germany, at least in Europe, and Japan in Asia... but his is a different discussion.

P.S. The sketch of Merkel breastfeeding Kaczynskis was not an attack on her, at least in the minds of some Poles, but on the Kaczynskis for their efforts in negotiating the treaty and the voting rules. The lady was portrayed dominant, large, looking good and content. The Kaczynskis were drawn small, and as infants. The meaning to my mind at least is clear.

  • 83.
  • At 11:53 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • John C wrote:

Poland has a very selective memory when it comes to WWII. From the beginning of 1945, twelve million ethnic Germans were expelled from their homeland throughout Prussia, their land stolen - their women and children raped and murdered, their corpses left to rot at the side of the road. To date the Poles have yet to appologise or even attempt to return Prussia to the Prussians. The first thing Poland did on entering the EU was to beg for more money, and where did the largest portion of that money come from? You guessed it - those 'wicked' Germans!

  • 84.
  • At 11:54 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Nancy wrote:

I think that problem with Poland, however you mention double K and they are not whole Poland, that Poland was under occupation not till 1945 but till 1989. And I think best what can do for each other is understanding and knowledge about history really happen in this part of Europe. It is not about K brothers at all it is about right to tell their story to whole Family which had possibility to do this much earlier. And do not forget that first Union made Poland and Lithuania Kingdoms and they survie almost 500 years,so it seems they have a little bit longer experience about Union we have.

  • 85.
  • At 11:56 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

The important thing to remember is that Poland is right to advocate that voting weight in a body like the EU Council of Ministers be based on the square-root of population. This has been proved mathematically by Lionel Penrose in 1946. For anyone to argue against the mathematics is either (a) to favour an alternative method which gives their nation undue weight or (b) to accept a diminishment of voting power in negotiations for some other concession. It is particularly ironic that the Germans should oppose the use of the Penrose method in the EU Council of Ministers when they use it in their own Bundesrat. If the voting weight of German Lander in the 69-seat Bundesrat were distributed using the method they demand for the EU then the 3 largest German states would see their representation rise from 6 votes each to 15 for Nordrhein-Westfalen, 10 for Bayern and 9 for Baden-Württemberg giving these 3 states very close (34/69) to a determining majority in that assembly. In bodies like the EU Council of Ministers or German Bundesrat where each state casts it vote as a block basing the size of the block vote directly on population leads to domination by the largest members. It is not right for the German Bundesrat and not right for the EU Council of Ministers.

  • 86.
  • At 11:56 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Isidro Ramos wrote:

"...but perhaps such a gesture is what it would take to make the Polish problem fade to black."

A Kohl-Mitterrand gesture? Mr. Mardell makes a valid point, but while it takes only one to start a war, two are needed to start a peace... and should Mitterrand have behaved like the Kaczynski twins, Kohl would have unable to make any gesture without an unbearable national humiliation, and Franco-German friendship would have been shattered. The situation is not the same, far from it.

Oh, and regarding the voting system, Richard fforbes is wrong. Check you facts, Richard, the process of reform started long before Poland joined the EU and it wasn't started by Germany. Quite simply, a system oroginally deviced for only 6 countries had become completely unworkable. With 27 countries in the EU, national vetoes and blocking minorities have to be, if not abolished, reduced to a minimum or nothing will ever get done.

  • 87.
  • At 11:57 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Charlie Clark wrote:

Don't mistake governments for countries!

The article is almost Dickensian in mistaking sentimentality for reason. Yes, there is a long history of appeasement and horse-trading in the EU but not just along the French-German border. Maybe it's because of successive British govenrments' failure to understand the importance of compromise that has led to this: we would get an awful lot more out of the EU if we prepared to compromise.

Germany and Poland had very good relations under previous administrations especially when Kwasnevski (sorry if I get the spelling wrong) as president and it was playing an important role in the EU - it negotiated for the EU in the Ukraine. The French-German duo was enlarged by Poland to form the Weimar trio which meets regularly. The current government has already barely survived one break up and survived largely by pandering to the extremist "League of Polish families". By blaming someone else, Germany and Russia, the government is trying to divert attention from its own failings. While this ensures popularity at home, exactly as in Britain, it means that Poland is more likely to go without when commissioners are decided or when seats for EU institutions are handed out.

  • 88.
  • At 11:58 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

If only our PM (past & present) would adopt a bit more of the Polish attitude then perhaps we might be helping to derail the EU gravy train.

Labour were elected on a promise of a referendum on the EU - it is long overdue

  • 89.
  • At 12:05 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Isabella wrote:

Can we finally put the theory that Poles were killing Jews to rest? Stop reading sensational articles & books which have little to do with reality, merely showing criminal activity of few people, not highly organized mass murder. To those who know little about eastern front, Poles were not exactly in position to help Jews, yet many did. It's fair to say every Jewish survivor was at some point saved by a Pole in Poland. Otherwise they wouldn't make it. Punishment for helping the Jew was death on spot. Think about it before you say such an insulting thing. The rest of the Europe was not exactly Jew loving either at the time- blindly allowing transport of the Jews to Poland. Concentration Camps were erected & run by Nazi Germans, not Poles. Poland was not killing its citizens. Those millions that Kaczynski mentions not only refer to Jewish population, Catholics died in hands of both Germans & Russians. Estimated 2 million of Poles worked as slaves in German factories, many died.

Poland had fourth biggest army in WWII on every front. They fought till the end, and when Berlin was taken over there were only two flags on its ruins- Soviet and Polish. They thought they won the war. Then Poles got ripped off by everyone else, so don't blame them for being pissed off about voting rights. History is much, much complicated than you think & West only knows one side of the story, so meticulously cultivated to keep peace in Europe, at expense of Poland of course. Poland was a democracy before WWII.

In post-war times Poland was never allowed to tell about its pain & losses. So, as much as its uncomfortable, here it is.

Plus, to this day Germany has not ratified any agreement regarding Polish- German borders. Second thoughts gentlemen? What seem to be the problem?
If Germany is serious about peace with Poland, it should honor at least that.

  • 90.
  • At 12:17 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

What Mark Mardell misses out from his blog is that WW2, is not the only act of German agression Poland has suffered from. My in laws remember how their home town occupied by the Germans before WW1. The partition of Poland in the 18th Century by Germany, Austria and Russia, is the event through which many Poles view the world. Germany and Russia again partitioned Poland at the start of WW2. That the horror of partition could be repeated means that Germany causes great fear. This fear was what caused Poles to be outraged about Germany reaching its own deal with Russia over energy supplies.
Germany needs to do more than apologise, it needs to act sensitively and understand its past. I have never met a German who knows about the 18th partition of Poland.

  • 91.
  • At 12:17 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Brinan wrote:

If Germany apologies to Poland, when will the UK apolodies to Ireland!

Ireland had a population of 8 million in the 1840's. The republic now has 4 million and the North has 1.1 million! We are still missing 2 million people!

Should we get extra voting rights because of what happened in our past???

No, we should be mature enough to realize that the future is what is important, not the past!

Poland is throwing its toys out of the prame and should grow up!

  • 92.
  • At 12:22 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Amelie N wrote:

I completely agree with your analysis and article. Not only have you displayed that the current issues that exist with the newer countries that have entered the EU but also displayed WHY the existing and older members do get along.

I found it incredibly funny and found that the Polish response was very similar to the Basil Fawlty sketch in a stark comparison. Whereas Basil Fawlty was trying to avoid it the Polish are seeming to want concessions for history that has happened over 60 years ago.

You have handled and explained the current situation well and i will be forwarding it to many people in England who are not 100% sure of the background or situation.

  • 93.
  • At 12:25 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

Mark, I think your blog is good for Europe. It is deep, knowledgeable and still good reading. Thanks for that.

As a German, I have no problems acknowledging Polish historical suffering and I can even apologise for that. Words don't mean much if you are too young to have been part of the German crimes, but I also pay 10 euros/hour to my Polish cleaning woman (I also insure her for accidents etc.). Mark should know that this is well above the going rate in Brussels and I do it because I feel with the Poles.

As a person with some Jewish ancestry, can I now please have the apologies from the Poles posting here for what Poles have done to Jews, especially after WWII?

As I am not gay, I do not request apologies from Poland for the homophobia displayed by her current government.

Don't you see, Maria (35), that this game is going nowhere? Europe is open for you, but not on your terms alone.

  • 94.
  • At 12:28 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

Of course the Poles got an apology ... at the very start of detente, German chancellor Willy Brandt did kneel in Warsaw, apologising for what Germany did. He was strongly criticised in Germany for that, but his step is now widely hailed as improving relations between Germany and Poland. The twins are now pushing back this relationship into the early 1960s.

  • 95.
  • At 12:30 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Philip best wrote:

Poland is finally getting the respect it should. The EU will eventually come together on this bump in the road; and the EU will be a better EU for doing so. America is leading the way for the acceptance of the EU in their trade deficit community. The EU should be worried about being America calling in their chips; they have a responsibility not to keep dragging the American economy down for their own benefit.

  • 96.
  • At 12:34 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Timm Frenzel wrote:

The Poles have not got an apology from Germany? That is a disgraceful lie. Have they forgotten Willy Brandt's kneefall at the former Warsaw ghetto? He got so much bad, unjustified criticism from German conservative circles, he was vilified. But that made him the best German politician. The Polish government should apologise to the rest of Europe for its childish attitude, and the EU should throw the toys back into the Polish pram.

  • 97.
  • At 12:36 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • doomwatch wrote:

clearly no one is looking towards the future here...

of course one can choose to analyse the present in terms of the past rather than the possibilities of the future but that is like looking at the one's excrement of yesterday rather than the food of tomorrow?

  • 98.
  • At 12:39 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • not-a-breeding-cow wrote:

Thank you for understanding. It is such a shame that so many comments here focus on Kaczynskis brothers attitudes toward gay people (totally wrongly and viciously perceived, by the way)and not on the very essence of our relationships with Germany.
As so many point out in Poland and elsewhere it is forever politically correct mentioning Holocaust, but it is always oh,fi donc! when we just touch upon our losses in WWII.

  • 99.
  • At 12:40 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Greek Man wrote:

It has been a huge mistake by the Germans to accept Poland in the EU!

The European spirit has few common points with them.

By the way, if the Poles are such a trouble for the EU, what will the Turks be if they join us?

  • 100.
  • At 12:41 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ana wrote:

James(45) thanks for what you wrote, I'm polish and couldn't said it better. Mark made a small mistake in his article which misleaded most of people to think that Poland wants another sorry from germany. It's Only Mark's sugestion but it's wrong. What we want and need is for Europe to know and appreciate the fackts that James wrote about. It's partly our fault this story isn't known, English have done hundreds of movies about their part in WW2 we did none. Thanks God for Norman Davies who is the first one who talked about Poland's proud history I hope that finnaly we will promote that history and when people know it we won't have to fight for our place in EU we deserve it! And for all of you who talk about looking to the future, you can't do that unlesss you know your history bad and good.

  • 101.
  • At 12:45 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

Lots of reference to Willy Brand's Warschauer Kniefall.

This was in front of the Memorial to the Ghetto uprising - as such it could be interpreted principally as an apology for Germany's appalling crimes against central European Jewry.

At the time there was no memorial to the thousands of Varsovians (Catholic and Jewish) who fell in the much more extensive Warsaw rising, and even now many Western Europeans remain unaware that there ever was another rising.

Polands government does appear to be living in the past with it's wartime references, but whilst for Western Europeans the war ended in 1945; for Poland in some ways it ended only 20 odd years ago.

The departing Nazi's were replaced by the Communists, and many of those who fought the Germans so heroically in Warsaw eventually died in Russian jails or Siberian work camps, the Soviets regarding them as tainted by association with Western democracy.

The truth is that America and Britain abandoned Poland to the Soviets in 1945 - Understandable in geostrategic terms and possibly the only way of avoiding a much hotter Cold war, but a tragic betrayal of the thousands of Polish soldiers and airmen who died securing our victories in Italy, France, Africa and the Battle of Britain.

  • 102.
  • At 12:45 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • ANNA wrote:

As a Polish citizen I am deeply ashamed of what is happening on our political scene. The views and action of the incumbent government, I'd like to stress, are not compatible with the general view of the Polish. To be quite frank, we're having a great laugh at them. It just so happens that every so often people who are not cut out to hold certain position come to power, making decisions totally opposed by the nation. I have to admit that Kaczynski twins is the worst thing that happened to Poland since 1989. Please do not deem the Polish ridiculous on the account of the Kaczynski's actions.

  • 103.
  • At 12:48 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Andrzej wrote:

I'm Polish and I have to say Poland is still one of the most nationalistic countries in Europe. Many of the 'archaic' attitudes referred to above can be attributed to the increasingly dominant influence of the Catholic Church in national politics. The Church is incredibly strong, popular and closely associated with Polish patriotism. This is partly (or perhaps even largely) because numerous priests - exemplified by Jerzy Popieluszko - were figureheads in the resistence against Communism and fought the suppression of Polish language and culture under the Soviets. This is the most recent legacy of the Church in Poland, and partly explains why nationalism and religion work hand in hand to create a very different political atmosphere to one found in other European countries. Since this is an integral part of Polish identity, effectively taught to you from birth, I can't imagine the relationship between Poland and more secular Western European countries changing for a long time.

  • 104.
  • At 12:51 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

Being apologetic with the Kaczynski twins who are simply playing the rhetorical game at home does no favours to any commentator, nor to the Polish people as a whole. Most of Poles despise the current government, are ashamed of it, and broadly agree with the comments made by all observers and diplomats. Most in fact are grateful for the opportunity they have been given to join in the EU (NOT negotiated by the current government) when many other countries have been left out. For this they do not spit in the plate they're eating but politely reason and explain their reasons thereby negotiating their position with success.

Trying to find reason and common sense in the acts of nationalist arrogants whose signature seems not not worth the piece of paper written on is useless and wrong.

  • 105.
  • At 12:53 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:

"The affront was the Polish claim that they deserved a different voting system, because they would have a much larger population today if the Germans hadn't killed so many of them in World War II."

Didn't Germany loose about a quarter of a million more people than Poland?
It's not for us to speak on behalf of the Poles but if I were in their shoes I reckon I'd be just a little bit more discreet. After all, aren't Russia as much to blame for any perceived political malaise than Germany?

  • 106.
  • At 12:53 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Darrin Maxwell wrote:

Excellent analysis of the current "ill feelings" between Poland and the EU. I worked in NATO and as a liaison with the new EUFOR for the last 3 years. I saw many of the same points raised by Mark played out day to day. The newer NATO members still bear some resentment regarding WWII (as do some older members, to a lesser degree), and working through those resentments will take time. Two of my Polish colleagues frequently grumbled about "those Germans", but balancing that, they were equally concerned about their then-newly-elected conservative government and were no fans of "the twins."

  • 107.
  • At 12:54 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ian Lowe wrote:

Great post - I wonder if Poland presents us with a snapshot of what happens when a more, er, backwards nation tries to join the body of mature European nations.

It casts more serious questions about Turkey. If this is how bad Poland are, do we even want to accept Turkey?

  • 108.
  • At 12:58 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Michael, Manchester wrote:

What happened to the Poles in WW2 was awful but of approximately 6 million Polish citizens killed 3 million were Jews, this vast number being made possible only with the active collaboration of the Poles. In fact, during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of the Jews, Jewish pleas for help were rejected by the Polish partisans. After the war the Poles resumed their Pogroms against the Jews, increasing the death toll forcing surviving Jews to leave Poland.
My father was a Polish Jewish survivor of the death camps. He made his home in Britain, along with many other Polish Jews. Maybe the British vote in Europe should be reduced to reflect the number of Polish Jews living here and transferred to Poland?

  • 109.
  • At 01:02 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • stevie wrote:

Like rip van winkle the former eastern bloc countries have emerged from a 50 year sleep. For many this is not 2007 its still 1945 and old prewar attitudes of nationalism long buried under the soviet system are now coming back to the fore.

  • 110.
  • At 01:05 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian Fabricius wrote:

As a German, I would like to officially request an apology and some sort of financial settlement from the nation of Italy for invading our region circa 2,000 years ago under the guise of the Roman Empire. My cousin in Armenia feels the same way towards Turkey, my brother in India feels that way about the British empire, and my Vietnamese friends want the French to apologize for their colonization. If Poland should be upset at anybody it should be at Russia for prohibiting Poland to become a respectable member of the global political establishment for a solid 50 years. All I am saying is that if every nation who had a bone to pick with a neighbor or foreign empire made the demands that Poland is making the world could never progress towards a positive future. Also, if we are going to talk about Poland and WWII let's not portray them as altar boys who were victims of a fascists state. Non-jewish Poles sold out their Jewish brethren quite quickly under the false hope of saving their own skin.

  • 111.
  • At 01:05 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Arndt Benninghoven wrote:

Do you really think they want an apology again (after Willy Brandt's historic kneefall) ? The poles are out for cash, that's what it is about. I think European leader for the first time showed a united front against a memeber state which is playing on the blaming game again. At the the poles got what they wanted, but lost their trust especially in Germany but also in Europe.

  • 112.
  • At 01:07 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Give me a break. Germany has apologised to Poland - remember Willy Brandt famously kneeling down in the Warsaw ghetto? - as well as paid millions of DM in reparations. It's not like one could compare this to Japan refusing to acknowledge the Nanking massacre. The German government has fully acknowledged German war crimes perpetrated in World War 2, and if anything the current Polish administration is simply using the Nazi bogeyman in order to get its way in some volatile EU negotiations. However, it won't wash, since most people can recognise that it's playground politics at its most infantile.

That said, it's also rather ironic that the Polish government should play the Nazi card when they are the ones currently treating a minority (homosexuals) like second-class citizens, whereas Germany has by now become a shining example of a liberal democracy.

  • 113.
  • At 01:08 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I agree that history is very important in understanding the general approach to foreign affairs of a certain generation of the political class in Poland. The insecurity of a country which in the last century been reformed after World War I, divided in half by its neighbours in 1939, reformed with new borders in 1945 and subsequently dominated by Russia until 1989 is understandable. A bolshy and inward-obsessed outlook is a natural lesson to have learnt. It is hard for me to judge as an Englishman the impact on the collective consciousness of the Polish losses in World War II. They lost 6 million of their population to the war. Britain lost several hundred thousand of a much larger population.

Nonetheless, while this might explain to some extent the framework for Poland's actions in the last week and towards the EU in general, to explicitly utilise events from over 60 years ago in the argumentation for the voting system was unacceptable. The argument itself is actually not as simplistic as would first appear. Much of Poland's post war population loss was due to the Polish state's own designs for homogenisation. With the extenesion of the Polish border to Oder-Neisse came the ejection of 8 million Germans off their territory. Poland actually had a significant German minorioty before the war and these too were forced westwards. The citizenship of the Byelorussian and Ukrainian minorities was also withdrawn and these displaced persons generally headed into the Soviet Union. Moreover, while the blame for the annihalation of 3 million Polish Jews lays squarely on the Hitler administration it is clear that at least a significant minority in Poland were not against this course of action - as shown by the post war pogroms in Poland against the remaining 300,000.

But this is besides the point. The fact is that Poland chose to defy the wishes of 26 other Member States just to get its way and relied on others to run around after it to find the solution. Are all of these Member States at fault? Poland successfully played the short term game this time but, much as is the case with the UK over the last few decades, I wonder whether this will turn out to be the smartest tactic in the long run.

  • 114.
  • At 01:11 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Kurt W wrote:

Well written!

I am saddened to read that Poland is looking backwards and not moving forwards. One should never forget the past, but they should not become a prisoner to it either.

  • 115.
  • At 01:12 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver H wrote:

It's interesting to see here that those that know their Central European history in detail come out in support of Poland.

What are these comments of Poland being historically anti-semitic? Perhaps one should consider why before the war, Poland had the biggest Jewish population in Europe? Poland was one of the few countries which didn't meet the Jewish diaspora with persecution (unlike England and Spain). And when people refer to the expulsion of Germans from ex-territories, do you not realise that was a Soviet policy dictated by their border changes?

When we talk about what Poland's population might have been, we don't look at what Germany's might not have been without Hitler's incredibly effective child policy. Germany lost the war and alot of people, but were left with alot of kids and Marshall Aid. Poland had neither of these. With reference to the derogatory tones of comment no. 37, does Ronald Grünebaum wonder why in his words Germany is a "big power" and Poland a "dirt poor country"? Those that lose the war aren't necessarily long term losers (unless you are Poland!)

This is a good article, and good to see that people are approaching the Kaczynskis' war comment with an open mind as opposed to shock. However some of the comments here just highlight why people are so quick to scoff at the Poles. I'm not a big fan of the Brothers but I was reading Der Spiegel, and apparently they have quite alot of popular backing in Poland in regards to their recent approach to the EU.

  • 116.
  • At 01:13 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Anna from Poland wrote:

I am Polish, so maybe i will say also my view. Both Kaczynskis are very very unpopular in Poland. People hate them and are very disappointed with them. But there is no possibility to say good bay for them in the next 2 years. If it was, they wouldn't be here. 70% of the population has enough of them For us it is a very difficult situation when you have an idiots as prime min, and president, but they do not represent all of us. We are normal people thinking other way than our government. Just come to Poland and see this on your own eyes.

  • 117.
  • At 01:14 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Bartley Butsford wrote:

Thanks for the thoughtful and in some places highly quotable article.

Several posters have mentioned Willi Brandt in Warsaw 1970, which is a fair point, but it is easy to overestimate his 'Ostpolitik.' I've seen German textbooks which even claim that the Cold War itself ended in 1973 because of Brandt!

We should not overlook the small matter of 1989: Before then, the Germany which bordered Poland was a small police state full of Russian soldiers, while Brandt came from the west. The Germany which now borders Poland is once again a very large united country where there is an increasing amount of revisionist history (e.g. claiming the Allied bombing campaign was comparable to the Nazi death camps!) and a continuing neo-Nazi problem in the east.

I met a Ph.D. student in microbiology from the university of Halle a couple of years ago who, in all honesty, thought that what she had heard about concentration camps with cremation ovens was "just stories." This is not a reassuring sign from someone who may face serious ethical questions connected with eugenics (which was very important to Nazi ideology although you won't find much mention of it in all the Holocaust Memorial Day literature). I also know several western German students who have been shocked by the racist language of their eastern counterparts.

But back to Willi Brandt: Didn't his Ostpolitik also include trying to get Czechoslovakia to cede the Sudetenland to Germany? Now where have I heard that one before?

An interesting article - yet we never seem to say he things which really matter deeply. It is true 'a Kohl-Mitterand moment' is needed.

But there is more: The Polish situation, the German attitude and the EU as an artifical structure don't 'compute' spiritually.

The attempt to form a unified Europe has become the oppressive will of some bureaucrats and technocrats driven by self interest....It is NOT the will of the people - and this concerns Poland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Austria......We don't want a centralised system - based on a political and legal system which we didn't agree to democratically - and which becomes more and more invasive into the private lives of all of us.

Poland happens to be more sensitive to totalitarian attempts - they do have a lot of experience!

So the real question to ask: What do we really want? A failed centralised system or a new culture beyond the old paradigms, respecting our individual characters, respecting our psycho-spiritual aspirations and respecting that which makes a society prosper: The right of each human being to become the best he/she can become!

  • 119.
  • At 01:18 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Thomas wrote:

I recently visited Warsawa for the first time with my teenage son. One of the comments I made to him was "It seems like Germany should have to pay for monuments to the holocaust and the rebuilding of historical buildings that were razed during the 1944 uprising". Poland took it squarely on the chin during and after WWII and should now get some help from their European brothers and in particular their aggressors to restore this great countries heritage and place in the new Europe.

  • 120.
  • At 01:23 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

Excellent post. I am a friend of Poland, and have spent over 20 years living there. There is nothing harder than watching a good friend make mistakes, especially such huge ones as this government is making in offending its friends, persecuting minorities and ignoring needed economic reforms.

Unfortunately for the Germans, just about any apologies or reconciliation before 1989 are lacking. After all, can apologies to prisoners really sound sincere to the recipients? The war ended for Poles in 1989, when they were finally free to decide their own destiny - for the first time since September 1939.

So the Germans need to approach the Poles now like they did the French and Benelux in the 1950's. To do anything less, then, in Polish eyes looks like the Germans are treating the Poles with the same distain that they did in 1939. (I am in fact surprised the Kaczynskis have not yet published a list of all the instances the Germans apologized to those countries over the years, and asked for the same).

  • 121.
  • At 01:25 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Marquis wrote:

Poland should know that negative insinuations and constant attacks against Germany will not get it anywhere. Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, or "Mastering the past", exists only in Germany. Likewise, when Poland issues apologies for its long-running antisemitic trackrecord, we can start taking the country seriously.

  • 122.
  • At 01:25 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • oohkuchi wrote:

If Germany has to apologise to Poland for WWII, then it should apologise to Serbia too. The Serb parts of Yugoslavia have as much or more reason to demand German contrition. And if it is unhappy with the World War II settlement, Poland should return Breslau and the other Germany territorities it got after the expulsion of millions of Germans.
As for that stuff about Germans "understanding" the offensive British habit of going on and on about the war half a century later, well, that's just codswallop. They resent it, quite rightly, whatever they may say out of politeness. That's the thing, you see. Germans know what manners are. Try them on this subject in German, on neutral territory, if you doubt this.

  • 123.
  • At 01:27 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Michal Kujawiak wrote:

I think that it is worth pointing out, that the current wave of tension in polish-german relations was started around 2002 by Mrs Steinbach and Mr Pawelka and their requests of the restitution of property in western Poland to the pre-war owners. Taking into account the whole war and its aftermath settlement, we were not amused. We were subsequently even less amused by Schroeder and his pipeline. Before the above mentioned matters came up, our mutual relations were pretty good. Obviously the argument, as they always do, spiralled a bit out of control. But I believe these are the real underlining issues. Not some permanent sense of injustice - but the fact that the matter which the vast majority (including all our goverments) considered closed was reopened in a very tasteless manner by the former aggressor trying to pose as a victim. And a German-Russian pact disregarding the interests of its neighbours and Europe as a whole.

  • 124.
  • At 01:32 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

It is difficult to understand to the people in the West Polish distrustful attitude towards Germans because they were treated differently during the WWII.The fact is that Western contries collaborated (exept for Britan),so they have no right tell us how we should behave! Poland was plundered by Germans(less then 1% of national treasures were found and returned to Poland).Now Germans want compensation for land/buildings lost due to lost War triggered by them!Could you trust such people?!

  • 125.
  • At 01:34 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Michal Kujawiak wrote:

To 61, Mr Fitzgerald-Morris. It would be benficial I think to check the map of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodow), before making derogatory remarks about lands "occupied" after the Peace of Riga. Which treaty, by the way, was a result of war which ensured that most Europeans do not have to speak Russian.

  • 126.
  • At 01:38 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • rolf wrote:

maybe you're right of polands need of a german apology. but maybe you forget the german chancellor willy on his knees in front of a memorial in poland in the seventies?
maybe the twins are a bit dysfunctional and mentally confused? or maybe they are just clever and play the "guilt card" - to hide their true "feelings" towards europe, because they know they also get some applause for hun-bashing, at least from the u.k.

  • 127.
  • At 01:51 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Séamas wrote:

Excellent analysis, Mark. It's regrettable that the bumptious brothers Kaczynski won't play civilly in the EU sandbox. But at least they had the minimal sense of decency not to raise the spectre of "Polonia irredenta" which still rankles. Indeed it is more likely the revanchist spirit which informs present Polish government policy. Tempora mutabuntur.

  • 128.
  • At 01:55 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Sushant Pandit wrote:

Mark argues with passion for the need of a German gesture (read apology) to the Poles for war crimes during WWII. Can he also argue with the same passion for a British apology (from the British Monarch and/or the PM) for imperialism and slave trade and the subjugation of many during the Raj through indentured labour and forced migrations. I hope this post is posted by the BBC!

  • 129.
  • At 02:00 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

I am Polish myself and I am deeply ashamed of my government's attitude towards the EU. If not for the EU, we would still be in the stone age, with rotting streets, lousy jobs and no perspectives. Unfortunately the populistic politics of the Kaczynski twins are gladly accepted by the voting majority. Although I could say that I hope this will change soon, I know it won't, based on my country's history, so this kind of hope would be pointless and wrong.

What pains me the most is the fact that most people associate my government's views with the views of Polish people. This is not the case.

  • 130.
  • At 02:05 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Why not take Turkey in and gently guide Poland to the door?"

Because if Polish army (under king John Sobieski III) hadn't defeated formidable Ottoman army at Vienna,
you'd be all speaking Turkish by now and be part of a Turkish Union.

  • 131.
  • At 02:06 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ryszard Borowy wrote:

The recent comments stem more from political manouevering by President Kaczynski to gain EU concessions and therefore strengthen his position at home, rather than any genuine desire for a further apology.

Angela Merkel standing at Auschwitz or in Warasaw's Old Town with "an arm around each twin" will not change history and even if it took place, there will always be those who would question both the neccesity and validity of such a gesture.

Most significantly, it will not prevent men of a certain reactionary nature from once more utilising the past in an attempt to provoke, cajole and manipulate in an attempt to secure their political future.

Apologies are gestures, and although gestures are an important component of reconciliation, it is actions that are more impactful.

There are events in all countries histories that cause sadness, shame and also joy. Every country has its fair share of each; including Germany and Poland.

  • 132.
  • At 02:07 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Giacomo Dorigo wrote:

Italians usually are not proud of their country, so perhaps someone can argue that in general I have a different feeling about national past histories just because I am Italian, so just because a national past history... anyway I want to say that this common identification of people with their country history is a bit too much for me. The present generations of people have no fault for what happened in the past, because they were not yet born... so we are talking about what? Which is the sense of being proud of the deeds of people that lived long ago and they are already died?
If I say that I am proud of the legal e civil development reached by the Roman Republic, because I ama proud Latin, I am sure many people will start endlessly laughing.

This is the problem with nationalistic feelings, they seems good at a first glance, but usually they are built on nothing more than a misleading sense of identification with dead people or, which is still worse, they are rooted in the misleading concept of race and ethinc belonging... and they bring continuous need of revenge and struggle...

  • 133.
  • At 02:11 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • ivan scheffler wrote:

Poland did not lose as high a percentage of their population as did Germany. As to what did Poland get - Pomerania and Silesia ring a bell? Is there room in your version of history for the rape of those provinces by the Poles at the end of WWII? and as far as intransigence - what started that horrible war in the first place but the same kind of prideful/arrogant behavior that the EU is "complaining" about now.
The Germans were completely to blame for the first world war. and the second. and bad breath. Hail Britannia.

  • 134.
  • At 02:13 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Poland is not a big power, but a dirt poor country"

I hate to ruin your illusions, but Russia's Gross Income per capita is smaller than that of Poland (as a matter of fact smaller than that of Venezuela [sic]) and yet, effectively finlandized Europeans consider Russia a big power. :-)

  • 135.
  • At 02:29 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Hans wrote:

I agree that the Polish prime ministers are being ludicrous in pursuing the issues of WWII apologies at the most inopportune moments and without diplomatic tact. I also recognize that they are effectively regressing their own nation into a pre-enlightened state of curtailed civil liberties. That being said, the feeling of supreme victimization does not disappear, even after 2 generations. Although Germans in particular may be keen to point to past apologies and regard the issues of WWII as the past, for those who's grandparents still bear numbers burned into their arms, the aggressor's desire to move on only revives the anger and the pain. Don't forget to keep the perspective of the victim in mind when you assess the Polish mentality.

  • 136.
  • At 02:36 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Stephen Lodziak wrote:

Those of you quoting the Willy Brandt ‘down on one knee moment’ as an example of a German apology to Poland should remember that this gesture was performed at the memorial to the Ghetto Uprising and was therefore construed primarily as an apology to the victims of that uprising not to Poland specifically.

Some Poles may still feel they are due an apology.

  • 137.
  • At 02:37 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ana wrote:

It's strange that so many of you suggest that Poland should forget the past and move forward, but you don't react the same way when germans demand returning of the lands which where taken from them after WW2. They lie that it was Poland responsible but in fact Poland had no say in this and the act was direct effect of the war which Germany started. This demand, the secret contracts with Russia is what brings bad memories to every Pole(not only to Kaczynski brothers). Germans started this argument not Polish, and it's Germans that have to accept the past and let go their demand

  • 138.
  • At 02:37 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Severyn wrote:

Mr. Mardell wrote in general an insightful column on Poland, though it says at one point that the countries east of Germany live in shame over WWII This would imply also Poland. Yet this is not the case. The real problem is that people do not know Polish history. Poland was the "first to fight"; though defeated in battle, it never surrendered and continued the fight in any way it could. People never think that Poland was the only country in history to be simultaneously attacked by Hitler and Stalin. The war for Poland really lasted until 1989, when the country led the way to freedom from the Soviet domination of central Europe. Poland's war record is superlative: Polish intelligence delivered a working model of the German enigma machine to the British at the beginning of the war; Battle of Britain Day is September 15th, commemorating the day when Luftwaffe losses were so severe that the Germans realized they could not win. On this day, Polish pilots accounted for 45% of the German planes shot down; i.e., on Battle of Britain Day, Polish pilots defended Britain better than British could. And one can go on and on. Germany and other countries had 50 years to deal with WWII, Poland only the last few. As Mr. Mardell points out, Poland is only catching up and the war and its consequences is a fresh thing, not ancient history. And history never quite goes away, does it; there is still a law in England prohibiting the monarch from marrying a Catholic. I do believe the origins of this still occurring practice somewhat pre-date WWII. And speaking of monarchy, Poland had a constituional, elected monarchy from the 1570's, at a time when Russia was ruled by Ivan the Terrible and England by Elizabeth I and pre-dating the Sun King. Poland arguably has the most fascinating history of any country in Europe and it is well worth reading it.

  • 139.
  • At 02:38 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Maria Amadei Ashot wrote:

The idea of Germany making up with Poland by asking for forgiveness is reasonable enough, especially coming from a third party. But it will not make Poland more tractable, far from it. In fact, it will have the opposite effect. I have a horde of cousins in Poland, and have actually lived there for two highly pleasant summers, in 1976 & 1977. My mother spent the first 25 years of her life there; she knew the Poles extremely well, admired them for their patriotic spirit, in fact. But there are also darker sides to the Polish character. That dark side has emerged not only in the peculiarly obstreperous foreign policy of the past 2-3 years; nor merely in the perverse determination to exploit a weak & corrupt administration in the US to make trouble for neighbours on all sides; nor even in the highly public & protracted single-mindedness & self-absorption of the wildly popular Pope who preceded the current one, or in the articulate but shameless one-sidedness of a Brzezinski. It is particularly sharply revealed in that offensive caricature on Kanzlerin Merkel that Poles did not hesitate to splash on the front cover of a magazine, ensuring maximum damage done. This was not just an anti-German pastiche: it was revoltingly an affront to women everywhere, and very much to the mere idea of a woman at the helm of a ship of state. Please look at this notorious 'breast montage' again, and now psychoanalyse the source. Why did the absurd 'orgasm montage' on YouTube generate more controversy than this affront to all females? Why is a prominent woman automatically subjected to characterisation as a prostitute, one who uses her sexual aspect to gain advantage over 'weak men'? Mr Mardell, I enjoy your work immensely, but I promise you: the Poles are not difficult because they have a leg to stand on. The Poles are difficult because they are Poles. For generations, they have indoctrinated themselves into thinking they are 'the Christ of Europe': the divine victim, blameless, sinless, God Incarnate, the Redeemer Himself. They keep waiting for the miracle of their own "Resurrection" as King & Judge of the world. It is a dreadful spiritual delusion. No amount of apologising will deprogramme people who refuse to look at themselves with a degree of objective humility. As for the Germans: have they ever apologised to the Russians? Are you going to propose that they do? It's a nice enough idea, albeit specious: we have all, as nations, killed plenty of people in wars -- sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. Let God sort us out. All we can really do now is try to avoid bloody war for the future. The Germans realise this -- but the Poles do not. The problems of Poland today are that they lack a proper, pragmatic, sensible & focused leadership. Yes, there are plenty of talented Poles with integrity. Let's find them, promote them, and get them into office. And then this mess will in fact dissipate of its own.

  • 140.
  • At 02:40 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Alan, Manchester wrote:

It's quite fascinating reading comments from non-Poles as to what Poland should or shouldn't do or say. Mark raises a thorny subject and makes some good thoughtful points, as a political commentator.

As a Pole born in Britain to refugee parents who came here post WW2, let me offer my comments.

To a former imperial power, such as Britain, it must be difficult to get inside the Polish psyche. Poland has a history of being a buffer state, routinely and repeatedly dismembered by her powerful neighbours, Russia, Prussia and Austria. What the Germans started in 1939 was finished off by the Soviet Union in 1945 over the next 44 years - that was allowed by the betrayal of the Allies in the shape of Churchill and Roosevelt signing over the Eastern bloc to Stalin at Yalta.

Britain may well lose the war in Iraq, but has not suffered from years of occupation by a foreign power - to understand that you really have to listen to the victims of occupation. When you've been savaged on a regular basis, it's hardly surprising if you develop a sniping, distrustful mentality.

It sticks in my craw hearing how Poland should be grateful to Germany for easing Poland's entrance into the EU. It's easy to say that, when you've enjoyed the economic and political benefits of all that's happened since 1945. Poland hasn't enjoyed any of that, having been bled dry, economically and spiritually, by the Soviet Union for over 40 years.

Yes, I cheered at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Eastern European Communist Bloc. The long-standing problems didn't just disappear - they were merely brought to an abrupt and harsh head. After 50 years of neglect and lack of investment, Poland was ill-equipped to compete in the International markets. Enter the Western knights as the economic saviours of the Poles! But at what cost? Yes, foreign investment is starting to transform the country and repair the shortfalls of the previous half-century but to add insult to injury, yet again, it comes at a price. The big investors are companies from Germany, UK and the USA but the cost is that the foreign investors demand control, i.e. 51%+ share ownership of the Polish companies in which they've invested. Then, on top of all that, come the harsh realities of capitalism resulting in mass unemployment. Yet again, Poland gets done over, this time economically. Can you imagine what this does to the thought processes of a proud nation?

While not taking anything away from Willy Brandt's famous act in 1970, you will see debate that centres on ambiguity of his statement of apology - indeed, we should remind ourselves that it is only post Unification that Germany has tackled the issue of the Holocaust in its schools. Why so long to come clean?

Politically, Poland is a new democracy, one struggling to find its feet after years of domination by Communism. It takes time for maturity to arrive - I would be the first to be embarrassed by its anti-semitism and its intolerance of homosexuality. Two wrongs do not make a right and whatever Poland's failings, it does not detract from her justified grievance at being abandoned by her Allies and the consequences over half a century. As one of your replies rightly stated, forgivenness belongs to the victims and I don't hear Western (Allied) Governments acknowledging their unforgiveable behaviour in dumping on Poland big time.

For me, Poland's place in the EU redresses a wrong at long last - she has earned that place by right and while I don't agree with all the actions of the Kaczinski brothers, I can understand and empathise with what is being said, even though I might be embarrassed by the lack of diplomatic language. Give the child a chance to grow up and, in time, you will see a different rhetoric emerging as Poland's confidence in her neighbours gradually grows.

  • 141.
  • At 02:41 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • tuula tillman wrote:

If anyone owes apologies to the Poles or other eastern Europeans, it is the Russians.Mr. Kaczynski knows it full well but goes for the soft option.

  • 142.
  • At 02:51 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • i b jederman wrote:

What the Poles are doing, dredging up old grievances for their own benefit, has worked very well here in the USA. Some in this country have made a profitable business out of the practice, and it has emerged as an industry. The "JustUs" brothers, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, are the best examples and they are doing quite well on their practice. It would be unprofitable to let it rest.

  • 143.
  • At 02:54 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Daniel wrote:

Thank you for your interesting comment to the Polish-German issue and its consequences for Europe. But frankly speaking, I think you get the basic problem wrong. There have been indeed some 'Kohl-Mitterrand moments 'in the German-Polish relations (Brandt's kneefall 1970, Kohl and Mazowiecki etc.) - maybe even too many.

The Poles don't want another gesture or apology, but more political influence. That's what they say and it has to be taken seriously. But then it comes down to the fact that they have a completely different vision of Europe.

  • 144.
  • At 03:01 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Susanne, Germany wrote:

I do not this article to be really helpful to be honest.
Germany apologized very sincerely and honestly for its sins a 1000times over, also to Poland. Germany cannot make things unhappen, however we tried and try hard to make good as best as possible, with partnership, financial means etc. We were pushing for a united Europe after WWII, we are living now in a democratic state which is dealing openly with its historical past.
The Polish government openly insulted our nation with claiming Germany to show Nazi tendencies nowadays, which is just not true.
Mrs. Merkel still tried to solve issues diplomatically.
All EU members should stop mourning about past issues and look forward to a functioning EU partnership with mutual benefit.
I can understand Polish animosities - Germany got away far better after WWII with the Marshall Plan. But trying to get a bigger piece of the cake by humiliating a neighbouring country is certainly not the way towards friendship.

  • 145.
  • At 03:05 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Pavel wrote:

Nice post... just a side-note: most, if not all European countries would have bigger population without WWII... including Germany, indeed...

  • 146.
  • At 03:08 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Grzegorz Słoka wrote:

Being a Pole myself, I am really happy to see this blog and the number of comments it provoked. In my opinion this gives a well balanced view on how we feel, although I would rather argue that Poles do not need any apologies but the feeling of belonging to Europe. We are worried that this belonging is quite often questioned by certain actions undertaken mainly by our western neighbour where our interests are not taken into account (gas pipe). We simply do not like the idea of being treated as one of those "temporary" countries on the eastern fringes of the nice, polite, prosperous Europe. I am sure with time and more solidarity all these will be overcome. We are happy to be back home.

  • 147.
  • At 03:19 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Hugh wrote:

Mr Mardell's blog is a good example of why Britain's teaching of recent history comes under criticism.

Not only is he unaware of the efforts that German Chancellors since Willi Brandt have made towards reconciliation, but he is oblivious to those sufferings Germany underwent that ensured the creation of post-war Poland.

Imagine Mr Mardell's outrage if a German politician was to insist on the return of hitorically German land that was severed to create modern Poland?

The BBC's anti-teutonic attitude is getting tired.

* 30.
* At 09:29 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
* D Jones wrote:

"Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg (and even Geneva, if you let organizations like UEFA and Eurovision into the picture) are not just on the Franco-German borders violated by the wars of the 20th Century. In a way they straddle an even deeper difference - that between Protestant Northern Europe and Catholic Southern Europe, between the Germanic north-east and the Latin south-west - in fact, the old borders of the Roman Empire... ...if such fundamental differences of history can be overcome (as they have been, by the EU) then I am optimistic that other differences can be moderated too. It also makes a mockery of the Euro-sceptic (sic) claim that the UK is somehow unique and does not belong..."

I guess I have to agree and disagree. It does indeed seem that these ancient "fault-lines" are powerful cultural factors that keep recurring throughout (European) history -and it does seem that they are being overcome. However, I also believe that the English (but perhaps not the other UK members) do have problems with both sides of this fault-line. Because of Henry VIII, the English transition from Catholicism to Protestantism was not a natural development, reflecting the deeper aesthetic of the Roman divide (as in other places). In England it was an arbitrary political act which linked Protestantism to the state and Catholicism to treason. I suspect that as a consequence, many English do not feel at home in the Catholic south -while many (pre-Thatcherites) may not feel at home in the more bourgoise trading traditions of the north. The British legal system (with juries) is also more "Germanic" than "Roman" (with professional judges deciding guilt on a more "legalisitic" basis) -although the English language relies heavily on its Norman French (and Germanic) roots. The British military tradition seems rather "roman". So it is perhaps understandable that the English could either feel at home or feel a bit lost on both sides -depending on temperament.

However, the focus on the north-south fault-line ignores another (more ancient) one -the East-West divide between the "Roman" and the "Greek" churches. Unfortunately, this fracture has been compounded by the more recent separation known (in the west) as "the Iron Curtain". The collapse of this division has meant that just as we are healing one divide we are faced with the legacy of another one. I suspect most western Europeans have little understanding of Eastern European history and culture. If we do not understand Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, etc., then how can we be expected to understand the complex position of Turkey in relation to European (and early Christian) cultural history?

I do feel that the EU has worked reasonably well on a political-economic level -but has perhaps failed on a cultural level. Somehow, we need to find a way to deal with these issues in a healing way -without ripping open ancient wounds. However, perhaps this too is a heritage of the war -which has resulted in issues of culture becoming interwined with issues of race and therefore becoming taboo. As a result, many people are on one level desperately searching for their "roots" while at the same time many are denying the importance or even existence of differences in cultural heritage.

Incidentally, I grew up (partly) in Ruislip -near Northolt airport (of "Peace in our time" fame). I seem to remember seeing a monument in the area that I was told was dedicated to the Polish who fought in WWII.

* 53.
* At 10:33 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
* Theo wrote:
"When I listen to English attitudes, I sometimes think that England would do well to lose one war, badly. It would, if nothing else, teach the English humility."

I believe the British lost the American war of Independence -as a result we have become even more attached to them..... It seems we lost many wars of independence. In fact, the British once seemed rather good at loosing. However, it doesn't seem to have helped very much. We still seem to be making the same mistakes as before. The Americans seem to have forgotten their history too.

  • 149.
  • At 03:20 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

Germany is probably the most influential power in Eastern Europe (when it comes to the presence of German companies, investment, etc). However, eastern Europeans feel threatened by it's "divide and rule" approach to the region. Germany and Vatican rushed to recognise the independence of Croatia and Slovenia in the beginning of the nineties and the effects of that decision are still felt (and will be felt for many years to come). They get absolutely shocked when someone dares to have a different opinion i.e. "break the unwritten rules".

  • 150.
  • At 03:30 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jacek Wesolowski wrote:

While many Poles feel it would be nice to be treated more like a long-absent student who's trying to catch up, rather than a poor cousin who's trying to steal silver cutlery from the table, their attitude towards EU isn't that bad. And it doesn't have that much to do with their attitude towards Germany. Poles in general are euroenthusiasts, particularly since the money started to pour in.
On the other hand, many Poles do have issues with Germans. I know several such people myself. They just hate Germans for no apparent reason, and probably nothing in the world can convince them Germans are actual human beings.
These are mostly reasonable, well educated people. Hating Germans is something they've learned at home and at school. People understandably hated Germans right after war, and the Communist regime kept this hate alive for over fourty years. When I went to school in late 80s, I wasn't taught communism was the way to go anymore, but I was still taught Germans were monsters.
During the war and shortly thereafter, Poles took as much harm from Russians, but today it's no longer a huge issue, even though Russians never really apologized for anything.
The hate will die down, eventually, but it will take another 20-30 years. I don't believe any conciliatory gestures can speed it up. Kaczynskis exploit this to gain support at home. To them, EU is simply a German tool for global domination.
Not every Pole would agree with me on that one, but Kaczynskis are dangerous. Confrontation is all they do, both abroad and at home. Whenever someone - anyone - opposes them, they always say it's a conspiracy. A conspiracy of post-communists, a conspiracy of certain media, a conspiracy of the educated (because there is a correlation between being educated and not liking Kaczynskis), a conspiracy of nurses and physicians (who dared to go on strike, because they earn so little), and so on. Currently, they are making their preliminary attempts to change the law concerning Polish constitutional court, because some of their major initiatives were judged noncompliant with the constitution.
They don't oppose EU because there are some unresolved issues between Poland and other members. They oppose EU, because EU is a system of joint decision making, and they want to make all decisions by themselves.

  • 151.
  • At 03:33 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

If it wasn't for Poland standing up for its values, the smaller (size wise) EU members would be easily outvoted by just 3 bigger states.(Such as Germany, France or Britain). Poland stood up for equality of the EU states and now it is bombarded by being stubborn. Was there any other way to get that across? NO

  • 152.
  • At 03:37 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • John Gordon wrote:

In politics perceptions often count for a lot.

The twins and their associates have given Poland a reputation for being unreasonable, grasping and for harping on about the past.

There should be no apology to bullies. Instead they need to leave the playground and behave like adults.

  • 153.
  • At 03:43 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Henry Kaspar wrote:

"The Poles have got money and market out of the EU. But they haven't got an apology".

What a poorly informed comment that is, long on steryotypes but short on basic historical knowledge. Germany has apologized hundreds of times; including in acts as symbolic as Chancellor Willy Brandt falling to his knees in the 1970s to honor the victims of the Warsaw uprising, or President Roman Herzog asking the Polish people for forgiveness in the 1990s in a much publicized speech during a state visit to Warsaw.

Of course Ms. Merkel could aplogize once more -- ot twice, or thrice -- and so could President Kohler or Foreign Minster Steinmeier. But I severely doubt this would have any effect on the mindset of the Kaczinsky brothers who act simply silly - which is the bottom line of the argument.

Btw, those who say that Germany "reoponened" the issue of restitution of property fail to mention that the claims have been brought forward by private citizens, against the exlicit will of the German government and without its support. On a government level this issues is and remains as closed as it can be.

  • 154.
  • At 03:47 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Matt, Berlin wrote:

Perhaps the British want Germany to apologise over and over again till eternity for WWII, but the Polish government is looking very much to the future by acting to milk as much as possible from the EU. I don't think they care much for apologies. They care about power and of course about EU money.

Next to containing glaring historical omissions that other bloggers have pointed out, the article misses some significant points. The old EU was based on principles of sharing, compromise and common sense. National interests were set aside for the common good in direct contrast to the behaviour in pretty much all of Europe for thousands of years. By no means was the EU and its predecessors merely a pragmatic alliance.

There are some amongst the EU nations that have not understood these ideas or don't wish to adhere to them. The solution - a two-speed EU - is somewhat of an internal dilemma, however, as it pits common sense against sharing and compromise. Continued excessive demands by the Polish government could well tip the balance towards common sense.

  • 155.
  • At 03:55 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Bruce wrote:

You mean President George W. Bush is NOT responsible for this contretemps within the EU?

How did Mardell's excellent article escape the PC Censors at BBC?

  • 156.
  • At 04:01 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Phoebe wrote:

I'm amazed - how did you manage to write this entry without once mentioning anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Jews, Auschwitz? Polish memory seems to be very patchy.

  • 157.
  • At 04:06 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

I think we are going to have a serious problem on our hands if the Polish mentality does not change.

Isabella (86) essentially claims a monopoly on the interpretation of history, because Poles have been victims. Aside from the fact that Poles have also been perpetrators at times when they had the opportunity, have we not all been victims at some point in history? Remember those dreaded Vikings?

Isabella also doesn't seem to be aware of the 2+4 treaty which ended the post-war period, and the treaty between Germany and Poland in the 1950s which settled Polish claims. Poland now says that this treaty was made by the Communists and thus is not binding for the new free Poland. But if Germany is considered the legal successor of the 3rd Reich, then today's Poland must be the successor of the previous Communist dictatorship. You cannot re-start the debate each time a Government changes!

Oliver (112) wants to put the wealth of the Member States into perspective. This is another can of worms. Germany did not receive the largest share of the Marshall Fund. This went to the UK. Germany also still has its own burden with the ex-Communist East. And how do you account for the fact that Germans are hard working and inventive? Maybe they created some of their wealth themselves.

Europe can only work by looking forward and by applying solidarity. I think that Germany has shown a good deal of solidarity, but it will stop to do so if moral blackmail is applied. Therefore, the approach by the K-Brothers will fail and leave Poland worse off. This cannot be in anybody's interest.

If Bruno Kreisky of Austria can get a UN Headquarters complex on the Danube to block the Soviet Army, I don't see why there can't be EU institutions in Krakow or Warsaw or even Gdansk (aka Danzig), both to move the focus Eastwards somewhat and to help assure doubters that the Eastern parts of the EU are somehow expendable.

  • 159.
  • At 04:12 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Antoni Urban wrote:

The Polish nation had been hibernated for 50 years (1939-1989). Then, the Poles were ruled by professional politicians, who underestimated the lack of modern democracy understanding amongst a big part of citizens. The current government represents those citizens.

There are already several educational initiatives in Poland, focused on the XXI century democracy. It will be a "long walk to freedom" - I'm afraid. Please be patient, it will be appreciated by young people of Poland. As you know, 75% of population wants to belong to EU. In the meantime, you should learn more about the history of "God's Playground", i.e. Poland [by Norman Davies].

  • 160.
  • At 04:13 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian wrote:

It's not about saying "I'm sorry" - it's about respect. We ARE a part of Europe. We were here for a long time (like 1100 years or so:P) and we can't stand people telling us "Poland lost a chance to remain quiet" (we all know who said that). We are also sick of hearing jokes that Polish people only steal and drink. I live in NY and I guarantee you that here Polish people are respected for their hard and dedicated work. And maybe that's why Poland and USA are friends. Once again... we don't wait for apology. We want to be respected just like we respect countries like France, UK, Spain, Italy, Czech Rep, Slovakia etc... And one more thing: how we can be friends with Germans when every day so many Germans are coming to Poland and ask for "their land" to be returned because they lived there before 1939... Well... that LAND was OURS before 1795 when our country was divided for 123 years... Germans have to forget about that land. Period. P.S. Great article Mark, e-mail me.

  • 161.
  • At 04:19 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Theo S wrote:

Max Sceptic (70) wrote:

"As for 'England' losing a war 'badly' - who would you like us to lose it to? Islamic fanatics? Fascist or Communist dictators? Practicioners of Apartheid? You'll find that England's enemies are not the sort of people you'd really admit to being friends with in polite society."

No, I wouldn't like any more real wars fought, thank you, there have been and are enough going on at the moment (*cough, cough* Iraq).

So, when the Scots finally attempt to secede and join then EU, how would you then react? Do a Thatcher and invade *again* and kill 'em all, or just grin and bear it?

With the above I am pointing out that England's "enemies" didn't all suddenly appear in the 20th century. You had a big one in the USA some 200 years ago, and you still loathe the fact that the French are on your side.

England is a nice place, Max, but the feeling of superiority is what will really hurt when the fall finally does come.

  • 162.
  • At 04:21 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mark Stepien wrote:

Let us not forget that Poland was democratically electing its kings several centuries before the rest of Europe had ever dreamed of such a political system.

Let us also not forget that Poland and other sovereign countries were given away to a godless empire without their knowledge and consent. Interestingly, they were also called naive and intractable when they objected to forced slavery to the USSR.

I wish that once and for all others would stop treating the Poles with condescention. Get off of your artificial high horses and take time to understand that Poland is a democracy and as such has the right to feel and say what it wishes.

It must be nice to be British and pretend even though you sold out half of Europe you have no culpability to Poland.

Stop using the term "Polish Problem." Rather, look inward and admit that the problem is some nations thinking that they are better than others.

  • 163.
  • At 04:29 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Torsten wrote:

I would like to make a comment out of my German point of view. I guess all these misunderstandings which have made German-Polish relationship that bad over the last few years are above all political ones. There is no German dislike for Poland, and I hope there is no dislike for Germany in Poland either, at least not among the younger generations (I myself am 27 years old). But there are a few things which Poles have to understand and which were already mentioned above.

1. Steinbach and her Preußische Treuhand which try to get money out of the Germans that had to leave Poland after WW II are not supported in Germany, neither by the public nor by politics. You must not see them as a general German issue because they are not.

2. I don't exactly know why Cancellor Schröder and Mr. Putin signed these oil pipelines through the Baltic Sea passing Poland and the Baltic States but I guess this had something to do with the Iraq war. Schröder, Putin and Chirac were strongly opposing US-plans to invade Iraq and were building a close friendship out of that matter whereas Poland joined US-military might in Iraq. German public itself was strongly opposing this war and there was and still is a very deep antipathy in Germany in relation with US-foreign politics (Iraq war AND these anti-missile systems). German public is much more pro-russian than pro-USA and it seems it is the other way round in Poland. This has to be at least one reason for them not paying attention to Poland.

3. Germany will create a monument for our dead ones through WW II. This has nothing to do with war guilt which we could try to search in other countries. But it is clear that also Germany lost a lot of citizens (and not only nazi soldiers but also civilians which had nothing to do with these war crimes). And we also have a right to look after our (innocent) victims out of that war.

4. You should not expect us, the current generations in this countries, to apologize the same way they did shortly after the war in Western Europe. You might claim that for Poland this war has just ended a few years ago with the fall of communism, but not for us (I am "West" German, "East Germans" might feel different). There is a much more distant view on these war crimes in current generations because this was not our time. We are ready to discuss these topics but I guess there won't be another Kniefall in Warsaw from a German politician, they themselves were born after WW II.

Finally I want to add that I am sure people from Poland have different takes in some of these matters I mentioned above. I think it is always better to speak together (we are neighbours, that shouldn't be too difficult) than moaning one about the other and give our present politicians the chance to let hate and anger grow. I think this kind of forum is a good place to start to discuss different opinions. I hope I successfully tried to explain the German point of view out of these issues which seem to stand between us.

  • 164.
  • At 04:33 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • mac wrote:

Some of you mantioned, that the Brandt's gesture is enough as an apologise. But how can it deny Polish looses after WW2? 4 000 000 dead or missed people, distroyed cities and culuture (have you ever seen photos of Warsaw (once called Paris of Eastern Europe) after the uprising?), 50 years of comunism? My grandmother lost everything, husband, family, health, money and didn't received anything. I don't want recompenstaion, it is impossible to change history of er life. I just wish to be treated in EU like any other europe's citizen and have the same rights as germans, dutch or french people.

Yes, Kaczynski is one of the worst Polish PMs ever. The governing party managed to alienate not only the Germans but even our traditional allies - the Slovaks, the Hungarians, the Lithuanians, the Latvians and the Estonians. They say 'We'll die for the square root' - OK, SO THEY SHOULD DIE NOW!

  • 166.
  • At 04:38 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Miguel Frank wrote:

What you, and the Polilsh Government, seem to forget is that a lot of the people killed in Poland were Jewish and that a significant proportion of the non-Jewish population in Poland did not shed any tears when they were killed. If you have seen Shoa, you will no doubt remember the chilling attitude shown by many Poles interviewed towards the extermination of Jews. Poland and its population is not as much of a victim as it likes to think. Anti-semitism still seems rife there just as anti-Roma or anti-Sinti sentiments are commonplace in other Eastern European countries. The notion of one Europe for all seems quite far removed from all this.

  • 167.
  • At 04:39 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Emanuel wrote:

One of the most iconic pictures of post-war German history is that of the chancellor Willy Brandt kneeling down at a war memorial in Warsaw. Germany has frequently and consistently apologised for its crimes against Poland and other Nazi victims. Even the deaths of 2.1 million German civilians that occurred during the expulsion of 14 million Germans from Eastern Europe are seen as a logical consequence of Hitler's barbaric policies and not as unjustified suffering.

It really takes a little Englander rambling about Spitfires to assume that Germans share in his flag waving patriotism and amnesia of historical crimes. It is no coincidence that 'don't mention the war' is an expression in the UK, not in Germany. The war and German crimes are constantly being talked about. Recently, a 4.7 acre monument for the Holocaust's victims was unveiled in Berlin, reminding Germany of its Nazi past and crimes in the very heart of her capital.

Michal - our own elected SLD government (2001-2005) could have made the Baltic Pipeline impossible to build had they not repealed the contract the previous government signed with the Norwegians. Pawelka is not speaking officially for the German nation. I hardly need to remind you that the Germans are the #1 budget contributors. Britain will soon cease being an EU member (considering how many Brits hate the EU), so there is no other state that could finance the EU.

  • 169.
  • At 04:42 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Willliam wrote:

Concerning Sebastian's comment (#8) "Mark Mardell was presumably brought up on the staple diet of Spitfires and Dambusters which passes for history in British schools, which presumably accounts for the rather large and embarrassing gap in his understanding of twentieth century European history."

I suspect Mr Mardell is fully aware of the measures taken by Germany towards atonement and reconciliation. More likely, he just enjoys getting a rise out of Germans.

What is disturbing about any nationalism, however, is how it fosters a "counter-nationalism". I feel celebrating war victories should be a thing of the past, for any country. Where there are victories there are also piles of the dead.

If only this energy could be turned to other, more worthy endeavors...

  • 170.
  • At 04:55 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • OliverH wrote:


Neither Mrs Steinbach nor Mr. Pawelka are representatives of Germany. So using this as a justification for tensions between Poland and Germany is a rather strange excuse. Should free speech be suspended in Germany so they can be prohibited from speaking? In fact, both Steinbach and Pawelka are much more well-known in Poland than in Germany. They're insignificant. Besides, both had predecessors in their office with very similar positions, so again they are not a very good excuse.

The "Schroeder pipeline" was a very recent issue. The relationship was far from good long before that.

Besides, the issue is not one between Germany and Poland alone. Poland has by now snubbed large parts of the EU at several occasions. Be it on the F-16 deal, the participation in the "Letter of the Eight" (yes, Britain signed that one, too) and so on and so forth. There was precious little of the "working together towards a common goal" that the EU is built on. While the Polish people seem to support the EU, the more recent Polish governments seem to have sought for a role of official Bush infiltration bridgehead within the EU. Political power isn't generated by projecting a tough guy image -the US is showing that quite well at the moment. Even former president Kwasniewski by now is seriously concerned that the Ks are gambling away respect, and respect is a huge part of bargaining power. Even if Poland has more votes, what good is it if more nations vote against Poland's position in the EU?

  • 171.
  • At 05:00 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ewald wrote:

Very good article, but... In addition to all the comments here I want to say two things.

Mark Mardell says: "But Poland joined [EU] only two years ago."

Well, over three, mister ;)

Secondly, all of you make a major mistake pointing out that "Poland is wrong", "Poland made bad remarks concerning II WW victims", Poland this, Poland that. You`re wrong. This are makings of Kaczyńscy brothers and the Polish government. Polls show that the coalition (PiS, LPR, SO) only have just above 25% support of the people. This who voted are mainly conservative people. Or ultra-catholics. Many of them are bitter and old. Narrow minded people, who don't understand democracy. Who have never been abroad, never met other people than the likes of them. Or at least never tried to discuss their views. Us, young people of Poland, are different. Most of us. All changes take time. History can't be forgotten, but we know we must look in the future. Make allies in Europe. Please don't make favor to government at power in Poland now.

Please, do remember: the more voices state that "Poland is bad" the more satisfaction will you give to Kaczyńscy & co. We Poles don't want to argue with Europe (we are the most pro-European country in Europe!!!). If everything goes well in two years time you will find Poland a partner to negotiations and dispute. Once again.

Thank You

  • 172.
  • At 05:03 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Szymon wrote:

thank you England for Spitfires. And for taking a stand.

i don't believe the issue is apology. the germans "play the game" (read politics, diplomacy, negotiating) and they do apologize formally. Yet at heart the they are the same arrogant people who caused so much suffering in europe(WW1, WW2 and more). Just beacuse deep inside they believe they are better than others and yearn to impose "the german order" on others.

German pride. the begginning of all sin and evil.

  • 173.
  • At 05:12 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Kasia wrote:

Anthony, I agree with you in 100%. I'm ashamed of Kaczynski twins and their government. Im polish, but don't want to go back there as long as they stay by the helm.

  • 174.
  • At 05:12 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

As I see it, this is politics, any reason is good to get what you want and if you get it, you've got a trump card. This whole row went over the voting system, Poland simply wants a larger share of the pie, like anyone else in the union, however, the leaders have dropped all pretences of political correctness and are doing what they need to get what they want, and once they acchieve it. Politics is a brutal game, it's not a gentleman's game, contrary to what politicians want us to believe. In the end, all the so-called friends the Polish sabre-rattling has lost them will be back and in a much better mood if they can get anything out of it, such as a strong voice of support such as Poland is trying to get now.

So let's look past the talk of neo-european cooperation and mending old rifts and let's take a look at the real issues at stake, that a strong voice when it comes to voting.

  • 175.
  • At 05:13 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Christopher Dale wrote:

You forgot to mention that many Germans also remember the mass expulsion of Germans from their homes in East Prussia by the Poles which resulted in loss of life (mainly of children, women and the old), lack of compensation and the change of historic borders.Very difficult to apologize when there are many Germans and their decendents who still remember.

  • 176.
  • At 05:13 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Dr. Wolfgang Liedkte wrote:

Mark Mendell has a defective memory.
In the context of the current effort of the Kaczynski clones to torpedo Europe, to raise the issue of a German apology (!), after all that has happened in Heiligendamm, is plainly absurd.
Does Mark Mendell remember Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, did he ever see Brandt kneeling in Warsaw, the Warschauer Kniefall (it's in Wikipedia, for quick reference) ? That was not only a symbol, it was one of the major principles of German foreign policy since then, continued by Helmut Kohl, continued by Angela Merkel. Her efforts to treat the Kaczynskis with utmost kindness, to offer them the 'Extrawurst" that they did not deserve, annoying all others, obviously went unnoticed.
My hope is that the majority of the Polish people understands this, and that the Kaczynskis will be defeated at the polls very soon, opening up the way for a constructive European agenda, including the Poles. As it is with them at the helm, if this were the majority conviction of the Polish people, then we should offer them to leave Europe and come back once they are somewhat sharing the coordinates of the same planet as all other European governments.
To Mark Mendell: Do your homework first before shooting from the hip.

  • 177.
  • At 05:22 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Magda wrote:

All this leads me into thinking that Lech Walesa and the Solidarnosc were merely a brief phase in Poland's history. I am not an optimistic patriot.

  • 178.
  • At 05:28 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • pete wrote:

Germany has apologized and given more money than any country on Earth. If only the Japanese could be held to the same standard for their war crimes. But its always the evil germans. Not everyone in Germany supported Hitler, just like not every American supports Bush. Isn't is enough that most of Prussia, Silesia lie in Poland? If Poland wants to be a full EU member they will have accept more than just a more valuable currency and money from Brussels.

  • 179.
  • At 05:35 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Marcin wrote:

Poland was considered a step-child of Europe for may centuries and some things don't seem to change apparently. Are Polish people stubborn?...Ofcourse, if we weren't Poland would not be on the map of Europe. The country was divided on 3 seperate ocassions (main participants being Germany and Russia), signed treaty with France and England prior to WWII to assure mutual help in case of war (no help was received in September of 39). The country played significant role during the war on both fronts and conviniently was overlooked during most of major deliberations regarding Europes future.
Poland was, is and from looks of it will be Europes step-child. When it is needed, it will be called upon and when it is not needed, it will be considered as a "brat".
We truely regained our freedom in 1989 and wounds are still fresh. The country is smaller than it was before the WWII, economy is not great due to 40+ years of Russian "cooperation" etc. So before you judge Poland difficult to deal with, please take a look at its history (you don't have to look far back) and see what kind of support we received in the past...

  • 180.
  • At 05:38 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Stefan, Munich, Germany wrote:

I would like to add some points to your EuroBlog.

-Its 2007. When I read, you still take national pride of your action against the germans in WW II?
Let me answer with our late President Johannes Rau wise words in short. "Can I be proud to be german? Can I be proud for something what I have not achieved on my own? He said NO. He is not proud to be german, but he did say he takes pride on many achievments of Germany and feels shame about german crimes. Of course, he personally had lots of reasons to be proud, on himself, on Germany it all over 1000 years of history. Regarding the other side: shame. He was invited to speak to the israelian parliament in german. Because he made his conclusions and had his very own approach to Israel over decades.
So, this guy learnd the lesson of personal and not personel responsibilitiy.
Did you?

-Whats your personel part on WWII?
Whats your personal part today? Writing, 62 years after the war, this way backwards as you did. Is this responsible for a high profile journalist? Putting understanding on disgracefull and inresponsible leadership?

-Living germans today are not responsible for WWII. But they are able, and well advised, and do so, unlike some other nations, to see what happend, and to take a high responsibility to avoid even a single step into the same direction.

-->You are wrong about Poland got not a heartfelt ask for pardon from Germany. It was the german chancellor Willy Brandt who felt on his knees in front of the Warzawa Memorial for the jewish getto.--

Which nation ever in history did that? I see not a single example like that for other nations failing in history.
Should Germany have said, no single Euro or Mark to Spain because the remains of the Franco Regime are still a (hidden) part of the spanish goverment system. Could you imagine?

Bye the way. Did Britain ever ask for pardon to let Hitler do what he did before 1939?

-At the bottom line. You can always find reasons for everything. Polish government behaves like it does these days, spitting on the hands of those who are there friends, at least partners.

-Reading your proud on britain in WWII. I think you would be better off to let the heroic past of your grandparents on them and build the future yourself. And for this: Where is any positiv minded europeen spirit in Great Britain? What is your pride of Britain today? What do we see from Britain the last decades except narrow-mindedness?

After all, in my eyes, not Poland is the problem, they suffered a lot since 1939, and before between Prussia and Russia.
The UK, in front the goverment and parts of the press, are the problem, because no partner in europe is as nationalistic, as arrogant and as egoistic as you guys. Sorry, do you really see it different??

If I would ask a member state to leave? The United Kingdom of Great Britain and northern Ireland is that country.
You mentioned the germans who are able to think. Be sure, those germans would rather like the UK to leave the EU. To become the US 51st state, insted of seeing you playing like you are playing with europe.

Despicable are not the week nations who like to get a better seat. Irritating are strong nations, who play games on the expense of a good idea: Getting Europe together to play a positive card on world affairs.

Thank you for reading my thoughts.


  • 181.
  • At 05:41 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • IAN LYNESS wrote:

Superb analysis, Mark. Spot-on in every way. By far the best piece I've read by you. The Poles have always had a raw deal in Europe and the Germans(and Russians) need to be frequently reminded of their roles in creating that inconvenient truth.

  • 182.
  • At 05:44 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • H nieh wrote:

As soon as Silesia,Pommerania,East and West Prussia and Danzig,my Homeland,is returned to Germany,I'll personally apologize,even though I was nine when the War ended.

  • 183.
  • At 05:45 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"But let's remember *all* the history - that in 1939 the Poland which Germany invaded was an anti-semitic military dictatorship; that the territories Poland lost to to the USSR as a consequence of the post war settlement were by and large lands that had been occupied by the Poles as a result of the 1921 Peace of Riga (following the Polish Russian War 1919-1921) and was mostly populated by White Russians and Ukrainians which Poland sought to "polonise"."

Complete falshood&disinformation.

1. Between 1918 and 1939 Poland was a democratic country with a free market economy.

2. Free elections were regularly held during that period and the only political party which had been delegalized between WWI and WWII was a communist one (PPK), as it was in reality loyal to the Soviet regime.

3. Prewar Poland had a largest Jewish population in Europe, a situation dating back to XIV century, when it accepted most of the diaspora Jews kicked out from other "tolerant" European countries. Jews occupied many prominent positions not only in artistic and literary life and organizations, but even in Polish government, with the last Poland's foreign minister before Nazi/Soviet invasion in September 1939 (Mr. Beck) being a Jew himself.

4. Territories described as "occupied" in 1921 were in fact an integral part of Poland since XII century and lost to Moscow (during Partitions) in the end of XVIII century, and again, in 1945, when Poland was"liberated" by the Red Army, and Polish population of those areas has been partly killed by Soviets, but mostly shipped to Gulag camps, as far as Kolyma, Magadan and Kazakhstan.

BTW. Poland had no say whatsoever regarding shifting of its borders westward after WWII, since it was Stalin's decision implemented with a full aquiescence of both, Churchill and Roosevelt.

I'm not shocked by such a historic ignorance, as I've read recently on HYS that "US attacked Japan"[sic].

  • 184.
  • At 05:52 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Diogo Correia wrote:

#56. Richard Fforbes says:

"Poland is justifiably frightened that she will again be used and over looked in matters that will directly effect her. It's also interesting to note that before Poland joined the EU, there was no talk of changing the voting system. So why did Germany want to change it when Poland joined? The answer is that it wanted to make sure Poland was silenced and tossed a few crumbs when it suited them."

That is not correct, the "dead" European Constitution already had the Double Majority voting in it and the Constitution was signed before Poland joined the EU. Germany didn't decided that majority system was going in the treaty, it was the bloc's decision and for the sake of preventing deals deadlocks like Poland intended to do has to have some kind of undeserved protagonism.

  • 185.
  • At 05:54 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

Personally, I agree with what the Kaczynski brothers are doing. They're upkeeping a good strategy to keep Poland in the game and respectfully recognized by the other European nations. Of course the others won't like them if they're getting in the way. But for Poland's own good, the Kaczynski brothers just sometimes have to take their stands.

The reason why they are still so set on the WWII is in a large part due to their parents' influence. From what I remember, their parents were partisan fighters and suffered much during the war. And then, the Kaczynski brothers went through communism themselves. Poland was passed off from one hands to the other, constantly victimized and preyed on. Finally, once it gets a vote, a say on what goes on, why shouldn't it use it? Why shouldn't the Kaczynski brothers use the opportunity to ameliorate the situation in the country? Finally Poland has a chance to rise from its position and stand upright as the other European nations.

As for those photo montages and everything else in the Polish press - you do know that most of the Polish media is controlled by foreigners? A lot of the time what the magazines or newspapers say is influenced by perceptions of, well, people that are not Poles themselves. No wonder each issue of a paper is full of critique on the Kaczynski brothers.
Well, just random bit of info there.

  • 186.
  • At 05:55 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Kinga wrote:

It's been difficult to be a progressive Pole these last few weeks. The current government seems to go out of its way to say inflamatory and cringe-worthy comments. Nobody should use the war as a bargaining chip and the Polish government needs to become more sensitive to the needs of a wider Europe.

Yes, the past was awful and Poland got the short end of the stick. But, they've benefitted greatly from joining the EU and will continue to do so over the years. Let's not mess up this chance we've been given. Let's use it to better ourselves.

No need crying over spilt milk. Just make sure the milk is not spilled next time.

How many days until the next Presidential and federal elections?

  • 187.
  • At 06:05 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jozef wrote:

Poland never surrendered to Germany despite the losses on the battle field. Polish prewar government lasted in London till 1990 - ties. Being the little kid standing up to the school yard buly, Poland took the licking, and came back for more, despite betrayal by the friends who put Poland to it.
Poland lost the war in Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, where our so called friends payed Stalin with polish blood and territory. Betrayal of 1939 was otmatched by betrayal of 1945. Five years of occupation was replaced with 50 years of Soviet domination.
If somebody has to apologize to Poland for the war is England, France and others who sold us out.

  • 188.
  • At 06:13 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Anna wrote:

"Jewish pleas for help were rejected by the Polish partisans."

It is very well documented that the Polish underground smuggled food, guns, ammunition and hand grenades from outside of the ghetto to the Jewish Underground. Children were the most effective smugglers. Jewish children were smuggled out to safety by these couriers whenever possible. You might also be interested in researching an organization called Zegota.

An acquaintance of a family member was one such courier who smuggled food, guns and children. He has a letter from Marek Edelman (the last living leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) thanking him for his bravery and he will be inducted into Yad Vashem as "righteous among nations" Mr. Edelman credited the Poles as making the Ghetto uprising possible.

Aiding a Jew in Poland was a death sentence to oneself, one's family and neighbours. I doubt anyone on this board would choose to save a stranger's life over that of their own family's.

Poland was invaded by two superpowers, seventeen days apart. Every Pole I know (including myself) has/had a family member who was a forced labourer in Germany or was imprisoned in a Soviet Gulag in Siberia. My family was almost completely wiped out and lived in various displaced persons camps for almost a decade after the war.

For some reason people had expectations of the Poles that they would never have been able to fulfill themselves.

  • 189.
  • At 06:14 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • rafalski wrote:

I am Polish and a little disappointed that Kaczynski's tasteless and harsh remark obscured the actual issue in which defense it was deliberately used. There is some background to it. Poland joined the EU while Nice voting system was in place. A referendum was held in Poland to seal the deal before which Poles were repeatedly informed of the country's EU voting power. Just months after the EU accession we heard Nice voting system needed to be replaced with a new one that would largely diminish Poland's role in favour of largest EU states. I don't really want to refer to history again, but let me remind Poland was attacked by Germany in 1939, by Russia 17 days later and allies UK and France's help did not arrive until the problem reached themselves. Right after the WW2 Poland was left by western friends again, this time in Soviet occupation. There is a trust deficiency, one could say. No wonder it was not easy to give up more power, not even to EU, but EU's largest states.

In my opinion Kaczynskis were absolutely right to stand against the EU majority, the thing was they chose "let's make them consider us rude and difficult" way to achieve it. Obviously the brothers can't play the game well and their approach is easy to make fun of, even if turned out to be effective.

As someone pointed out, the Kaczynski brothers represent socialist-right and are quite unpopular in Poland. I would say the main reason they were elected was that they were the only ones who spoke loudly about post-communist politicians, media, business and secret service mafia that had actually ruled the country almost continuously since 1989. Kaczynskis promised to open communist secret service archives to prove the ties that had been alive all the time and even suggested KGB kept pulling the strings all along. After all, ex-president Kwasniewski was an 80's regime politician trained in Moscow. But that is a whole different story, innit?..

Interesting fact, Poland received warm thanks from Spanish Partido Popular's Mariano Rajoy for defending Spanish cause on the EU voting issue. Spain's population is similar to Poland's and both countries get to keep similar voting power for the next seven years.

  • 190.
  • At 06:27 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

I, as a friend of Poland living in NY, just want to mention that in the Polish diet, all the parties have made an agreement to support Kaczyński's struggle for square root system (which'd
be IMO more fair) and later to postpone double root till 2014. Don't blame the twins as even PO (the biggest opposition party) stopped her accusation against the Kaczyńskis. Only Democratic Left Alliance (SLD in Polish), which ruled Poland before the Brothers, opposed, saying Poland should not stand up alone.
I want to note that SLD always agreed to everything Shroeder and Putin planned, and sold out Poland. It was corrupt and had no balls. I'm not saying the Kaczyńskis are perfect - yes, they are kind of undiplomatic and unpredictable - but Poland really was and is betrayed all the time. Yes, Germany did apologize and allwed Poland to join EU, but there was recently an affair about Germans claiming their estates in former Prussia, now Poland. It's riddiculous and shameful. If the Germans can claim Polish land, why can't the Poles claim Belarus and Ukraine, or even a half of Eastern Europe, which it ruled at the time of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, betrayed for the first time by Russia
and Austria (by the way, Austria was saved by the Polish king Sobieski just 100 years before the partinions in the Battle of Vienna). It's impossible, because Russia and former USSR are not democratic enough to take such claims. And I don't think the Poles would claim those lands. I don't love Kaczyńskis but some people here don't simply realize how odestructive WWII was to Poland, and in the entire EU only Czechs really symphatize. Yes, let's forget the past, (I, i.e. know that the new generation Poles don't have anything against Germans), but let us talk and
balance power fairly, not isolate Poland. I think the Poles are more Western than you think, equal in this
aspect to the Belgians (just look at Jaroslaw kissing ladies' hands), and they always should be considered fully European. I read an opinion such that Poland is a dirty, poor country. Not true. I've been there recently, she's quite well-developed
and pretty, and is still developing.
And conscious. Even emigration slowly
stops. Yes, it started when the twins came to power, but this is, I would say, coincidence, as they were elected in 2005, when the Poles were given a permission to leave for Britain and Ireland.

  • 191.
  • At 06:29 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

ON POLAND AND JEWS - (1) Poland welcomed the diaspora while western Europe sent it on its way; they were protected from the time of King Kazimierz with their own laws and protections (2) Jewish scholars themselves note that there were as many Polish collaborators as Jewish collaborators during the war (I find it almost laughable the one thing always left out about the Anne Frank story in American schools is that she was sold out by a Jew - clearly not in Poland (3) Poland was the only country in Europe with a death penalty for people AND THEIR FAMILIES if they were caught helping Jews, yet Poles have more numbers in Yad Vashem than any other nation (4) The Polish underground are the ones who supplied the Ghetto Uprising fighters with weapons and Zegota was fierce in helping that Jewish cause (5) The Polish government in Britain was constantly sounding the alarm on the concentration camps to Western European nations to no avail (6) Any Israeli press you read today marvels at Poland's(including K Twins) support of Israel and fostering of the jewish memory in Poland today. Many Israeli commentators state that France, Belgium (YVES), and others are exponentially more anti-semitic than Poland today (7) Post war pogroms were extremely limited and were solely carried out by unedcuated elements and criminals present in any society (despite what Jan Gross and his crew would like to have you believe). (8) SOmething to understand is that Jews were a separate element in Polish society for all those centuries - it is not like now when you walk through the street and have no idea if an individual is a Jew or Catholic or whatever - they for the most part did not speak Polish, kept themselves isolated BY CHOICE from the Catholics - in effect totally unassimilated because they chose to be (as evidenced by so many historical Jewish texts from the period). Yet despite this so many Poles aided Jews, many leading to their own death as well as their families' only to have their graves trampled on by the uneducated and those with what is nothing but political motivation.

  • 192.
  • At 06:36 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Patrik T. wrote:

Just a comment on the 'British pride'.

Historically the UK is on par with the worst of the megalomaniac and expansionist regimes, with unending aftershocks of their imperial era still causing pain in various parts of the world. While it is common to see Brits crowing about their pride in their military and political victories, it is almost unheard of that they would admit guilt, let alone offer apologies or make efforts at correcting some of those many 'issues' they've left behind for other peoples and nations to deal with.

Sadly it appears that even today the majority of the British people are immersed in the jingoistic celebration of their empire's glorious victories instead of any deeper understanding of the how's or why's.

This lack of both national remorse and understanding probably explains why the majority of Brits seem to be so easily persuaded by arguments promoting their 'non-europeanness' through some kind of misleading moral superiority.

Finally, as a person of Finnish descent, I would like to point out that my country was likewise sold out by the British gov't who after WWII, uniquely among the Allies, agreed to horse trade historical Finnish territories, including Finland's then second largest city Vyborg, to the Soviet aggressors in exchange for territorial concessions from Stalin to the British empire elsewhere.

Instead of receiving Marshall Aid and in addition to losing territory and having to resettle large refugee population, Finland was ordered to pay massive war reparations to the aggressors who today remain as unapologetic as during the Stalin era.

There has never been any apology from the British for this act, however nominal, for siding with Stalin against a small democratic Northern European nation. These kind of opportunistic betrayals are conveniently forgotten by the British historians, just like Stalin's pre-war pact with Hitler gets never mentioned in Russia, or like Mao's invasions of China's neighbours have been rewritten to omit the genocidal expansionism. Is it any wonder why some nations never learn from their past mistakes?

Gestures of solidarity from Europe and in particular from the UK would be nice, but Finland took the injustice on the chin and has since worked to promote common European goals and values.

Yet as with Finland, Poland's real challenge lies with the resurgently imperialist Russia and their belligerent indifference to actual history, and in helping forge a common European foundation upon which to protect our shared values. Antagonizing the long-apologetic Germany, even if that delights the somewhat uneducated British nationalists, doesn't seem like an intelligent way forward.

  • 193.
  • At 07:00 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • audrius wrote:

I think the problem between Eastern and Wester Europe is not only historical and WWII related, but also due to the current attitudes of Western Europe to Eastern Europe. I am from Lithuania. Our country is experiencing the third oil blocade from Russia (Russia stopped supplying oil to the only regional oil refinery owned by Poland's PKN Orlen almost a year ago due to "technical reasons"). We have not heard much concern or support from our Wester European supposed friends. Instead we have seen intense efforts to negotiate bilateral treaty with Russia despite all this. Imagine the uproar if oil or gas supplies were cut to Germany. At the same time we see Germany and Russia building a gas pipline under the Baltic sea, that's two times more expensive than land based one would be, was agreed on without consultation with Poland or Baltics, and which poses a direct economic and environmental (from German WWII chemical weapons sunk by Russians on the Baltic seabed) threats to them. What a partnership. No wonder Poland wants a bigger say so it can at least influence some of the EU decisions. To a rude comment #37 I can say that - if France and Poland would wage massive wars on German territory, blowing up its factories, roads, palaces, looting cultural heritage and killing scores of people, Germany would look just like Poland now.

  • 194.
  • At 07:12 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • At Ipenburg wrote:

'Poland was at the centre of the war, but not at the centre of the peace.' A good point. There is no need for new apologies, but there is a need for all of us to remember the plight of the Poles. There is in the Union a need for a common European history, which does not evade the tragical, shameful and cowardish parts. It is quite diffficult for countries, who have not experienced occupation in World War II to realize what it meant. Poland suffred more than any other nation, possibly apart from Yugoslavia. It lost 20 % of its territory and one third of its population. It suffered not one Lidice or Putten, but 134 of them! An army of 100,000 Poles fought its way from the Middle-East to Germany, but then found itself excluded in the final peace agreement.

  • 195.
  • At 07:20 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

As an American who looks at the history of Poland, I completely understand how Poland feels. They had their land stolen from them for 100 years. They were twice invaded by the Germans and the most recent time multi-millions of them were executed in horrible ways. While the Germans were bombing Poland, the Russians sat on the banks waiting for their turn. Resources have been stolen by Germany and Russia and to my knowledge they have never been paid back. This is a little bit too much, in my opinion, to "simply forget and forgive". Poland is the most central country in Europe and is as western as any other. Write Poland a check and I'm sure their attitude will change.

  • 196.
  • At 07:27 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Thomas Patricio wrote:

Great article Mark!
Reading through the comments, I noticed that most people think you were unbiased on your approach, and I must agree.
I think you were able to explain the reasons for Poland's attitudes by exposing a bit of their national psyche, and you managed to do it without having them come across as bitter or vindictive. Poland does have legitimate grievances, and although I think that most of the healing must come from within, maybe the other EU countries could help a bit more by showing more patience and understanding, even when dealing with the twin goofs, who I honestly think don't represent the generally reasonable, intelligent Polish people.
It would be great if you made the same analysis in explaining other Europeans (a hint for a possible series of articles or even a book?)

Thomas Patricio
Toronto, Canada

Believe me or not, as a Pole I'm suffering because of PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Commission Pawel Zalewski (PIS) was suspended today as a member of the party (and will prolly be sacked as chairman) because he dared to disagree with the Prime Minister about foreign policy. The party that currently governs Poland is a totalitarian one, and as a result Poland has become a police state.

  • 198.
  • At 07:41 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Jacek wrote:

Majority of Europeans and especially Western Europeans do not understand Poland due to lack of knowledge of history of this country. Anyone who study closely Polish history would understand were we are coming from. As somebody has mentioned this here before, WW2 has ended in 1989 for us. Felling of injustice, betrayal and abandonment after the war is really strong in Poland. "Do not trust anybody", not even your closest allies is a quite common phrase among many Poles and Kaczynski's use that to their advantage. It is absolutely not true that they are highly unpopular in Poland, quite opposite, they are gaining a lot of respect for their tough stance against Germany.

  • 199.
  • At 07:49 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Pawel wrote:

Who ever says history doesn't matter is a fool. If we, in Europe, want to build something in the future we should never forget our past. “Don't mention the war!” What kind of non-sense is this? Why should Poland forget its history? Is it because it is inconvenient for some countries? Should we forget about concentration camps because Germans find it inconvenient? Within next 10 years we may find out that Poles not Germans started the war if we are going to go down this path. One could certainly get that impression after reading some of the posts here.

  • 200.
  • At 07:50 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

It's easy to tell Poland to look ahead and not at the past, yet all of Poland's problems reside in the past, the very residues of 50 years of literally being enslaved behind the iron curtain. These things still affect the nation today, with many corrupt ex-communist officials still holding offices and further corrupting the beurocracy to furhter their own greedy goals.

Western Europeans have no right to criticize poles for their handling of these matters, they didn't live in the "paradise" and had they, they would have acted no different from the way the Kaczynski brothers are running it. What western media have demonised is infact a weeding out of corruption in Poland, yet, the media, always the devil's advocate, wants to show a different image.

As for the fiasko caused by the opposition to the voting system, how hypocritical is it of anyone to tell poland to shut up and swallow the proposal when they themselves want more votes for themselves? Then again, this is politics and not a gentleman's club, and in the end, it's not the "right thing to do" that counts, but the one with the most political power, so why is anyone even pretending that it's about something else? I just think there's too much political correctness and it's too deeply ingrained in them which makes it all too easy for them to take offence at such an insignificant matter as a nation not wanting to have it's voting rights reduced in rightful fear of having things shoved down it's throat.

  • 201.
  • At 08:19 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Christian von B. wrote:

I wish I could buy that picture of the bare-breasted chancellor somewhere, it is fun. I think most people I know here are amused by it. Certainly not offended!
I think a succession of German governments has tried to be sensitive in treating Polish matters begining with Brandt's kneefall (he was awarded a Peace Nobel Prize, remeber, that also acknowledges just this). I am sure not every political action will have appeared "lucky", okay. But the past cannot serve to gag all criticism about current Polish politics.
If Germans, speaking of the more educated and intelligent ones, are unhappy about those jokes it is perhaps they're disappointed that there is no sign of progress in our British friends' humour! We ourselves have long started making fun of those heel-clicking and sticky-subject-dodging Germans. We have long detached ourselves from THAT Germany YOU went to war against. We don't feel WE were defeated, because it wasn't us. On the other hand many of us do feel grateful for the sacrifice your fathers or grandfathers made that eneabled us the be free and even THINK what we think. If we just pause a moment to ponder what would be our state of minds hadn't your fathers stopped the onslaught of yon Germany . I am not talking of casting away the moral legacy, but it is simply no longer US.
I feel extremely sorry for what our father's generation allowed to happen or actively took part in. I wish we had had, as kids, positive "heros", but there it is, we hadn't any (or very few). But it was also a chance to reflect on many things. With my French friends we were joking the other day that while they name every other street after a Napoleonic general, we could perhaps start doing so with names of photo-models ...
Let's just take it easy, and Europe is really a cool place.

  • 202.
  • At 08:28 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Steinmann wrote:

As a German I had to come to terms with my country and its antisemitic fascism which has brought endless misery to the world during WWII. (Just one side remark that the first victims of Nazi fascism were Germans. )This is the bane of my life as a German as it is part of my obligation. I also learnt that I have to stay humble on that subject even if I am called a Nazi, not because I am, no, just because I am German. Irrespectively that I was born 13 years after the war. But I also learnt that anti-semitism in Europe in some of my neighbour countries is all too willingly regarded as something that happened only to Germans. I understand that this view makes life easier. Although this is not the culture of memory one should strive for. Germany is still working on that, while in some of our neighbour countries their homemade antisemitism is all too often overlooked or simply denied. So there is no wonder that I can read here repeatedly about Poland lacking an antisemitic history. Although this is simply wrong, because also in Poland antisemitism was present and even had a terrible toll in atrocities after the war. All the more interesting that some here are simply denying this.I do not think that this is helpful. Since denying does not really open the door to mastering the dark sides of ones soul. Oh and of course this leads to such erroneous statements like this (#86 from Isabella):
"Plus, to this day Germany has not ratified any agreement regarding Polish- German borders." This is rightout nonsense. 1970 in the Warshaw treaties West Germany acknowledged the Oder Neisse Line as Poland´s border. Part of the East Politics this was one reason to award Willi Brandt the Nobel Peace Price. In 1990 this was further fostered by the German Polish Border Treaty.
This is public knowledge, but quite a lot of people prefer staying ignorant on this. Like on the atrocities against Jews after WWII. Look it up in Jan T Gross documentary book "Fear - Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz" . But as I said, it is easier to stick to the legend of antisemitism as the exclusive right and privilege of the Krauts. It does not help much to make me wonder about the irony that anti-German sentiments are used to disguise antisemitism traits elsewhere. So let us start with a true and honest discussion and introspection. This at least is what we owe to the numerous innocent victims ...

  • 203.
  • At 08:29 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Paulina wrote:

Clearly,it seems that the EU has a greater problem with the Poles than with terrorists.Thanks to the hardworking Polish people, some EU countries' economies have been boosted. Well, it's better to do "dirty" work than to wait for unemployment benefits and then spending the money in a pub. Throughout world history, Poland has never taken away anybody's freedom, as a matter of fact, Poland has fought for other countries' freedom.
God Bless Poland and healthy Polish families.

  • 204.
  • At 08:33 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

marquis - although poland has been the most openly welcoming state in Europe for Jews for many centuries, it has like every other nation apologized for the type of anti-semitism that has existed in all of Europe but climaxed on the territory of Poland due to nazi atrocities. Recent examples include Kwasniewski at Jedwabne and the Pope's constant reconciliatory remarks on behalf of not only the Church but his fellow countrymen. When Schudrich (yu likely don't know who he is Marquis - he's the head rabbi in Poland) was punched while walking in Warsaw Polish president Kaczynski immediately brought him into his office, brought in the television cameras, and on national television comdemned the attack and communicated solidarity with the Jews in Poland. So whether it is for past actions or recent, the Poles are very aware of their own history and how their history is protrayed, some elements of which are justified while others are not, and has been acting to right any wrongs for a long time. In the meantime however let us not forget the rights.

  • 205.
  • At 08:52 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Wozniak wrote:

As a 49 year old Polish-American, historian of Eastern Europe in the 19th-20th centuries, and husband of a German born after WWII I would like to say that your posting was the most thoughtful item I have yet read (on either side of the Atlantic) about Poland and the EU. Wonderful job, Mark! Germans and Frenchmen simply have to realize that they are NOT the definition of Europe, as much as they would like to think that they are. Humanity is indebted to their leadership in the immediate postwar period (running from Monnet to Brandt), but the current leaders are a far cry from the diplomatic and political abilities of their great forerunners. The new Europe is precisely that, NEW. And that means that complacent diplomats are going to have to learn new rules - and perhaps some old history - rather than attempting to forcefit what worked in the 1950s-80s onto a new landscape.

  • 206.
  • At 08:52 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Ceasar wrote:

I have spent more than 3hours to read and analise all of those 120 coments, and I wish that everything was so simple to explain.
I wish myself and my wife were now at home in Poland, however, I am glad to have that opportunities I have been given from England.
I wish Kaczynskis has never happened to Poland, however, I will never again avoid a general election.
I wish WW2 has never happened to the World, however, now is time to think about the future.
I wish to express all my considerations, however, there is no time to do so.
I wish relationship between the Poles and the Germans was so well as never before, however, it is possible.
and I wish all make our judgements on pepole not on their governments.

  • 207.
  • At 08:59 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Clara wrote:

An interesting blog article and for once it is not the UK who is accused of arguing too much at an EU summit.

I think that it is good that Poland stood firm at the recent summit for the following reasons:

1) The EU is a member based organisation, where dialogue and compromise should be encouraged. It should not be a follow the leader, sign on the dotted line and make everyone happy organisation.

2) Why should the old members of the EU feel that they have more of a right to knowing what is in the best interests of the EU. New members wishes should be be discussed.

3) It is 50 years since the EU was born. The world has changed since then and the new members bring a new perspective to what the EU might be in the next 50 years.

4) If the Common Agricultural Policy was a the top of the discussion list at a summit, I'm sure that the interests of the founder countries, such as France, would become much clearer and there would be much discussion and searching for compromises.

5) The Polish twins do at least mean that the UK is not at the top of the headlines for 'disrupting' negotiations.

  • 208.
  • At 09:08 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

Dear Mark, thank you for your post. It has excited real passions, a good deal of intelligent comment, and unfortunately some quasi-historical mud slinging.

As you point out, what's clear is that unlike for most of the Western peoples, 'History' for Poles remains unsettled. Add to this Russia's current dangerous and untrustworthy stance, Germany doing dodgy energy deals behind its back, and the EU cooling on letting more Eastern states into the club (so creating an area of instability). No wonder the Poles are so keen to stay close to the States.

What has surprised me has been the ferocity of anti-Polish feeling among EU ministers (and the diplomat you happened to have dined with). The current (deeply unpopular) Polish government must be held partly responsable for this, but there does seem to be an instinctive negative feeling towards Poland which raises its head far too easily on our side of the continent. We might still be some way from using the word Polonophobia, but we are moving light years away from Polonophilia. Which is a shame for everybody, because Poland's unique historical experience is integral to the values we hold dear.

In this context, the Poles are right to fight for their history to be accepted into European consciousness, though tragic that the Kaczynskis are doing it so tastelessly, and exploiting it to their own limited political ends.

Best wishes with the blog,

  • 209.
  • At 09:09 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Szymon wrote:

It is in all of europe's best interest to raise awarness of german nature. one can complain about british pride but when you look at history it teaches us very clearly that choices made by germans were very diffrent from those made by Britain. today many are fooled by "cultured sounding" germans, but it is the same germans here and now ,making backdoor deals with authoritarian Russia at the expense of its EU partners.(Lithuanian blockade, baltic sea pipeline etc.)

One can also wonder at the amount of venom flowing out of Germany's news against Poland and its politics. I guess we're not really allowed to make our own choice-the germans will tell

  • 210.
  • At 09:11 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Anna wrote:

A very interesting point or rather points. Attempting to understand the complicated Polish mentality is always a challange. But I think Europe has done enough, compromised enough, apologized enough and allowed enough for Polish government to finally move on and enter into the XXI century reality.What are they still holiding on to? They are romanticizing the period of Polish history, the invigilation and seeking out of the Communist spies, all that should have been done with and new chapter should have been opened.I just think they are not where they should have been, a lot of barking but no significant, meaningfull actions have been undertaken.

  • 211.
  • At 09:13 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • David wrote:

#155 Steinmann - I understand your desire to spread the guilt, that is fine. However painting Poles as having an exceptional anti-semitic past is historically inaccurate; Poles have not been angels throughout history but they have been better than just about everyone else, and characterizing them as anything but that is not fair. You should also read some of the real scholarly works written by actual historians on Gross' work (Gross is a sociologist). He is incredibly picky about the facts he uses - meaning he uses only ones that make a certain case. Look at the numbers Steinmann - 300,000 Jews were left in Poland following WWII, and according to David Engel, no fan of Poland himself, 300 died due to what ca be somehow construed as anti-semitic violence, and this is during a time of utter chaos as anarchy was rampant for years following the end of the war. In most circles of thoguht, Gross is a writer without integrity who has written books like Neighbors and Fear to make a name for himself via ostentacious and inflammatory stories based loosely on manipulated facts and anecdotes.

  • 212.
  • At 09:35 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Radzio wrote:

Brandt and Warschauer Kniefall - according to wikipedia: "Warschauer Kniefall is a German term meaning 'The Warsaw Genuflection' (or 'The Warsaw Kneeling'). It refers to a gesture of humility and penance by social democratic Chancellor of Germany Willy Brandt towards the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.[1]
In Germany
Brandt's action was very controversial and widely unpopular, especially among conservatives and liberals but also many social democrats, and Brandt was heavily criticized by the press for being unpatriotic. According to a Der Spiegel survey of the time, 48% of all West Germans thought the "Kniefall" was exaggerated, 41% said it was appropriate and 11% had no opinion.[citation needed]

It was also one of many arguments the opposition used to put forth a Constructive Vote of No Confidence in April 1972 against Brandt, which he survived by only two votes. It was revealed later that at least one (possibly two) members of the conservative opposition had been paid off by the Stasi to vote in favor of Brandt."

  • 213.
  • At 10:08 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Szczepan wrote:

It is very interesting blog.

As one of most Polish people I disagree with the Kaczynski's clique. The fact they run the country is a biggest mistake in the history of Poland after 1989. I am on of those who are ashamed of who represents our country and feeling deeply traumatised by what they say.
My family died in the concentration camp in Auschwitz and none of us hate Germans for that nor demand any apologies. It was my grandmother's brother although we were taught by her not to feel any anger as it was the past no one wanted to remember.
The war is over. Most of us got over it years ago.

  • 214.
  • At 10:26 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Al wrote:

Several states should apologize to the whole of Eastern Europe: Germany and Rusia as agressors and also UK, USA and France for betrayal and treason after WWII.

to #50, gerard who writes 'I would ask polish politicians to please stop whining and focus on building a successful economy like the spanish one'
Yes, that meaning continuing the centuries-old blood-letting of Latin America by Spanish banks? Or by exploiting immigrant workers?
Like that song says: 'Victory is empty, there are lessons in defeat, but when you're dead from the waist down ...'

  • 215.
  • At 10:33 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Anne wrote:

Excellent blog. However, please make a distinction between the Polish government and the PEOPLE of Poland. As a Pole myself, I, too, was stunned to hear the comments made by the president. Vast majority of Poles (especially young ones) harbor no resentment toward the current Germany. I know I don't speak just for myself when I say that I can't wait till he and his brother are both out of the office.

  • 216.
  • At 10:40 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Richard Gauntt wrote:

Both sides suffered in the war, but after 60 plus years, it's time to move on and deal with the problems of today.

  • 217.
  • At 11:01 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

I believe the K twins through their coalition are economic idiots who risk squandering the benefits of EU membership (a bit like the Greeks in the 1980's) however I find it more difficult to argue with some of their foriegn policy. I am not aware of any instance where the K twins have demanded an apology from Germany for WWII. Instead they are reacting against [and this is not only their view] a trend in Germany that would seem to revise history and portray Germany as a victim and not a perpetrator. I find it amazing that so many contributors with English/British names have swallowed the story that Poland on its own initiative seized German territory and then expelled Germans. These events occured as a result of decisions taken beyond Poland's control [ ie taken by Churchill amongst others] which resulted in its borders been moved Westwards.These events also occured as a direct result of the actions of Hitler [who was elected Chancellor by the German people] violating a 10 year non agression treaty that he had signed with Poland. It is also true that much of the current Polish migration to the UK is due to the existence of a settled Polish community with its origins in the Polish forces that were left stranded in the UK after WWII. The majority of these forces originated in Eastern Poland which was taken by the Soviet Union - very ironic - they were supposedly on the winning side but lost thier homeland. This was also an example of involuntary immigration to the UK y [the nearest parallel I can think of are Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin]. It should also be noted that the German minority in Poland has electoral privileges [eg it is not subject to the 5% national votes threshold to enter parliamnet] and German language education. This has not been reciprocated by Germany. Indeed in cases of mixed Polish - German marriages going through divorce the Germany authorities seek to prevent Polish parents conversing with their children in Polish - a modern day kulturkampf.

  • 218.
  • At 11:04 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ jens (69): there were no sanctions against Poland for electing the Kaczynskis because the Poles have the right to elect whom they want. The sanctions against Austria because of Haider (back then) were a disgrace.

And please don't delude yourself. Fascism is decidedly more leftist than rightist. Nazi Germany was the biggest welfare state you'd ever have seen at the time. It may not have been an inclusive welfare state, but it was a welfare state nonetheless.

Fascism had nothing in common with real right wing ideas such as free trade, low taxes, smaller government or respect for traditions.

On the other hand, fascism had plenty in common with the left. Such as love of big government and state intervention in every economic aspect of life you can think of. Fascism despised the 'capitalist' USA and of course was extremely anti-semitic. The modern left also despises the 'capitalist' USA and demonize Israel for every perceived 'atrocity' (whilst casually ignoring real human rights breaches committed by all Arab and islamic states around Israel).

Big business did not run Nazi Germany but was forced to cooperate on threat of nationalization (another favorite tool of the left). All of this is not strange since fascism was born out of the Italian socialist party. Hitler himself even acknowledged there was little practical difference between fascism and communism, except that (in his eyes) fascism wasn't controlled by jews and fascism rejected class struggle (communism advocated elimination of every class except the proletariat).

One of the best blogs. BBC should be proud and everyone else should learn from it.
All the best

  • 220.
  • At 11:17 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Tomasz wrote:

Very interesting discussion but on some occasions some people seems to ignore well known historical facts and make arguments based on incorrect information.
1. Unfortunately very often Germans make an excuse and trying to justify all atrocities of IIWW by comparing it with situation of Germans in Poland (former German territory). This is disgraceful, first of all- decision about shifting borders was direct effect of German invasion and was taken by allied powers without considering poles.
2. I agree and no one is trying to deny that many Germans died trying to flee to Germany, but on the other hand there was no systematic and organized genocide, all incidents were separated and if you consider sense of hate to invaders and supporters of Nazi regime, was very low- if you disagree read historical sources
3. How could you possibly make an excuse by remanding symbolic (and only symbolic) act one of the greatest European leaders W.Brandt whereas it has never been followed by real actions.
4. My grandfather was prisoner of Aushwitz almost died of hunger, cold and tortures and actually his pension is about 20% of the pension of the average SS and Wermacht criminal.
5. All reparations my father has received so far were so small and were given after years of negotiations with German industry (only fraction of those received by for example American and French Jews)
6. Please do not proliferate unjustified information about antsemitsm in Poland. Yes, it exists and existed befor 2WW, but compare it with the level of antisemism in other European countries and try to answer simple question- Why most Jews found home in Poland? Please read some books, find real statistics and do no repeat myths.

At the end I read many posts (I guess from joung Germans) and I understand their point of view. They have nothing to do with all that historical events.
Please visit Poland one day, try to understand our culture, fears, and problems, share our passion for common Europe. I had lived in Germany for more than 5 years and average German know nothing absolutely anything about modern Poland.

  • 221.
  • At 11:30 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

One correspondent has claimed that Poland renounced claims against Germany in the 1950's.

It should be noted that this announcement in the Polish media at the time was directed from the puppets of Soviet occupied Poland to the soviet puppets of East Germany ie a fraternal gesture within the Soviet block.

Apparently there is no evidence in the German archives that the East German authorities ever received a binding notification of such a decision. In any case Poland had a legal goverment in exile based in London acting on the basis of a constitution passed in the 1930's that was never overturned in free elections and that never ratified such a renounciation.

  • 222.
  • At 11:33 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

One correspondent has claimed that Poland renounced claims against Germany in the 1950's.

It should be noted that this announcement in the Polish media at the time was directed from the puppets of Soviet occupied Poland to the soviet puppets of East Germany ie a fraternal gesture within the Soviet block.

Apparently there is no evidence in the German archives that the East German authorities ever received a binding notification of such a decision. In any case Poland had a legal goverment in exile based in London acting on the basis of a constitution passed in the 1930's that was never overturned in free elections and that never ratified such a renounciation.

  • 223.
  • At 11:38 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • ANDREW, Poland wrote:

A very interesting and moving post. I reckon that the biggest problem is the feeling that Poland is not perceive as a one of WWII victors. It can be said that Poles had fought for freedom of Europe and once war was over everyone forgot and left them alone being afraid of Soviet Russia's anger.

  • 224.
  • At 11:40 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Poland is not a big power, but a dirt poor country"

I hate to ruin your illusions, but Russia's Gross Income per capita is smaller than that of Poland (as a matter of fact smaller than that of Venezuela [sic]) and yet, effectively finlandized Europeans consider Russia a big power. :-)

  • 225.
  • At 11:43 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • bob wrote:

The Warschauer Kniefall was an act of atonement for the holocaust (Warsaw Ghetto Uprising not the Warsaw Uprising) and not an apology for the way Poland was treated by the occupying Germans. It was part of the German PR effort at rehabilitation with the West. Just because it is convenient to consider that rather pathetic stunt as an all embracing apology, it does not make it so.

  • 226.
  • At 12:36 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

Maybe the Kaczynskis have read Orwell:

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

  • 227.
  • At 12:58 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Pawel wrote:

I am Polish but I have only lived here since June 2005. I used to come here for holiday and it was always bad, average Poles cannot be called the smartest people around, the church was never to be disagreed with, and so on... But seriously since the election in September 2005 IT GOT MUCH WORSE!!! The people that rule this country with an iron fist are not the representatives of a mayority but rather a radical right minority. I ask myself why has the European Union done so little to help us?!?! When a far right radical government came to power in Austria she took action. The same has happened here. People are not only leaving cause the economical factor, they are ashamed and affraid of their own state. I think the best quate to summarise the situation is this Polish song:
Fear of being affraid... If not then the prosecutor will explain it to you. (2007)
Europe dont let your member fall back into the Dark Ages. Help us only a tiny minority supports the government, we want a proud Poland.

  • 228.
  • At 01:05 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Marek Jarzembowski wrote:

Dear Mark

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am Polish, born and raised in Britain. I am also very much a European and I sincerely believe that the EU has significantly contributed to stability in Europe.

I don't like the Kacyznski brothers and I do not agree with their narrowly nationalistic viewpoint. Initially I found their comments naive and risable.

However, on reflection, I find myself agreeing, at least in part, with what they were trying to say.

For all of Willi Brandt's "kneefall", the bottom line is Poland as a state and the Poles as a nation were the victims of a brutal aggression. The country was raped and brutalised in a way most of Western Europe cannot understand. At Yalta Poland was further betrayed by its allies and sacrificed on the alter af "Real Politik".

The Reich died, but Germany and its ally, the USSR, thrived. To the victors go the spoils of war, it is said. Russia today owns Kalingrad. Russia today frets about monuments to its Imperial past in Estonia, even though it was the USSR that waged a war of aggression against Estonia. Germany is a modern, powerful nation with a huge economy and massive influence in Europe.

Poland is by comparison poor and backward with 40 years of communism and almost complete wartime destruction to make up.

A "kneefall" costs nothing, other than pride, especially when it is undermined by an ongoing lack of acknowledgement for harm caused.

I have been in Germany. I have met and spoken with many Germans who are lovely and freindly people. The generation living in Germany today bears as much responsibilty for the war as the generation of British who recently apologised for the slave trade.

But the state, and the politicians who represent the state, DOES have a responsibilty, a responsibility to ensure that the lessons of the past do not go unlearnt. Refusing to even discuss the past does not convey sincere regret.

Bear in mind too that the USSR has NEVER apologised for ANYTHING.

Poland does not want pity. What Poles want is acceptance. We have been part of Europe for over 1000 years. We have fought and bled for Europe. Now we want to live.

The "new" countries of Europe, be they Poland, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Lithuanians or whoever have just as much right be be European as the British, the French, the Belgians or the Germans. Indeed, in many cases, the "new" countries are vastly older than the "old" countries.

We all have a contribution to make. Western Europe needs us as much as we need Western Europe. I hope and pray that over time we will genuinely learn to live together, not necessarily harmoniously, but at least at peace with each other and with the past. But to make peace with the past, the past needs to be acknowledged and accepted.

Poland has not yet had the opportunity or the time as a free nation to put the past to rest. Denying our grievances and our grief will not allow Poland to do so. Forget "gentleman's agreements". Let the things that hurt be brought up, publically discussed and finally put to rest.

Then we can all move on.

  • 229.
  • At 01:13 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Quad wrote:

Very good blog and interesting points of view, even if many quite misinformed.
Kaczynskis are no more xenophobic than France’s Chirac and no more arrogant than Italy’s Berlusconi. Their main weakness is lack of "European manners" and inferiority complex, so common for many Poles, expressed paradoxically through megalomaniac and exaggerated statements. The attention given to them only invigorates their supporters and gives ammunition to those who believe in eternal Polish victimhood.
Poland functions economically relatively well, thank you very much, despite the twins and will survive their rule. The opinion that Germans are still “the enemy” is nonsense – their role in the WWII is not forgotten, but for sure forgiven by the vast majority. If there is resentment, it’s directed towards Russia, certainly with good reason given recent war-like statements from Russian officials. Paradoxically, Polish officials keep rather quiet about it, counting on EU collective support. What Poland needs now is a reliable and modern opposition (which unfortunately is not much better than current government), strong and independent media (which unfortunately in general don't present all points of views in a intelligent, objective, non-confrontational and mature manner), good education in European history - and patience - lot of patience. Over 80% of Poles declare satisfaction with membership in EU and it's not only due to the handouts from EU- I believe it's a real expression of their sense of belonging to Europe, much more idealistic than in Western Europe.
Young Poles in the cities are not less European than their counterparts in Holland or Spain. Young Poles in the countryside have to experience benefits of that "belonging". The older generation, these xenophobic, driven by inferiority complex and fear of change supporters of the twins - will unfortunately have to die out. What will remain, I'd hope, is the Polish spirit, unconformity, ingenuity and stubbornness leading to positive change.
Europe survived with 50 years of Italian political instability. It will also survive the Polish twins. Just don’t pay too much attention to them.

  • 230.
  • At 01:16 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Nicholas, Bath wrote:

The Polish cult of victimhood is rather tedious - to portray Polish history post-Partitions as a unique matyrdom is mawkish in the extreme. The eighteenth century Rzeczpospolita was merely another imperialising state that failed at the intransigent self-interest of its elites and its incorporation into neighbouring states is nothing unusual. Had they been more effective they would have behaved no differently than the Prussians and the Russians, as indeed they did in Belarus and Western Ukraine. The old in Ukrainian Galicia still remember what is was to live under the Polish szlachta magnates who had managed to maintain their local predominance under the Habsburgs before again launching an unremitting Polonisation campaign under Pilsudski.

Norman Davis' attempts to style the Poles as consistent fighters for liberal freedom through the prism of Solidarnosc supported by a few incompetent nineteenth century anti-Russian revolts is nothing short of myopic.

Get on with life and stop complaining.

  • 231.
  • At 01:50 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Marek Jarzembowski wrote:

re 156: "I'm amazed - how did you manage to write this entry without once mentioning anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Jews, Auschwitz? Polish memory seems to be very patchy."

Somehow I missed entry 156 by Phoebe.

This is probably the single most offensive post I have seen. The implication by Phoebe is that the Poles were somehow responsible for Auschwitz. This is exactly the type of ill-educated, tendentious, inaccurate and deceitful comment that makes our blood boil.

Phoebe, it was the NAZIs who created the concentration camps and the Final Solution. This was in NAZI-occupied Poland.

Yes, there was anti-semitism in Poland both before and after the War. There still is today. But the reason there were so many millions of Jews in Poland for Hitler to murder was because they were forced out of the rest of Europe. Anti-semitism was not common in Poland until Csarist Russia took part in the dismemberment of Poland in the 18th century.

"Pogrom" is a Russian word. "Auschwitz" is a German name.

Polish antisemitism? What about Ivanhoe's sweetheart? What about "l'affaire Dreyfus"?

Many thousands of Poles died trying to help the Jews in occupied Poland. Equating the Holocaust with Poland and the Poles is offensive to their memory.

This is exactly why these old issues need to be revisited.

re 182 "As soon as Silesia,Pommerania,East and West Prussia and Danzig,my Homeland,is returned to Germany,I'll personally apologize,even though I was nine when the War ended".

Hitler was democratically elected by people of your parents' generation. He lead your country to an aggressive war.

Your country lost.

I regret the various changes of borders that took place, but how far back do we go? 20th Century? 19th century. 18th century? After all, it was the Prussians, together with the Russians and Austrians who attacked us back then. Why not just say all of Europe should speak Italian (or pehaps Latin), because really we are all part of the Roman Empire.

Grow up. Be European. Celebrate cultural diversity and open borders. Let us learn from the past, not try to relive it.

But if you do insist on reliving the past, at least be honest and claim your "liebensraum" and proclaim your natural Aryan superiority. I won't fight you. I'll just laugh.

Let's just build United Europe upon the countries and states. Let us grow together.

Peace to the people.

  • 233.
  • At 02:54 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • andy wrote:

it is so hysterical to see how individuals in different countries get soooooo emotionally wrapped up in these blogs....while I truly think that the ducklings (the K bros)are the funniest thing that happenned to the very serious EU, admittedly they are bringing some badly needed excitement to this very very boring "European Club" And in retrospective what has Spain brought in to the EU Club besides millions of poor people - but we've conveniently forgotten that, right? Now, they're such trend setters, etc. What about the Italians below the Napoli they're as poor as the Poles are where Italian village women have sideburns and mustaches, and that also goes for the Greeks. You all want to see yourselves as so sophisticated, European, dynamic and so tolerant but the fact is you're a bunch of confused individuals thinking that you're better than the person next to you. Here's some food for your thoughts - Germans wanted to rule entire Europe in the past, well history played a trick on them - they ruling the Europe by paying everybody's bills so forget the apologies, just get in line and get your cash from uncle Heindrich...bis spater (oh no, I'm not German)

  • 234.
  • At 03:07 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Pole wrote:

#200 Anonymous. An excellent post! I absolutely agree with you!

  • 235.
  • At 03:51 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Kerstin wrote:

Sure this blog provokes discussion, but I feel it was written in a rather generalising way towards several countries and it's citizens. I'm not sure if it's helpful, but anyway here is my opinion.

I'm German, 35 years old living in New Zealand.I think much has been blown out of proportion in the media about Poland and Germany.

I think the WW2 remarks by the polish brothers weren't helpful, but it doesn't mean all polish people think the same way. If some do, so it is, I can't change that. I only ever had good relations with one polish friend and many more direct neighbours. And no sensation seeking article or government (german or polish) will be able to undermine our friendship or respect for each other.

As ceasar (206) wrote I too make my judgements on people and not on their government or to add to the point, on popular stereotypes.

I'm relieved that many comments are 'cool headed', considered and well informed.

I have to agree with some posts about the the phrase "Don't talk about the war". It seems to become very popular and I don't know who started this, but I'm myself are very open to talk about it and in Germany it's talked about frequently.

Regarding british humour, well luckily I'm married to a handsome Englishman and he too thinks that the british press is sometimes too harsh but the british humour overall is most of the time funny without being tasteless.

  • 236.
  • At 05:57 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

Great blog, and thought provoking comments, some of which I would like to adress.
Chancelor Brandt knelt before the Ghetto Uprising Memorial to honour the Jewish heroes who stood up to the Nazi murderers, not the poles.

The Germans who were displaced after the war from Prussia and what is now western Poland were not displaced by the Poles but by Stalin's policies. At the same time poles from what were the eastern polish territories were removed from their homes. Neither Poland, nor any other Soviet "satelites" are to blame for this, but the Soviet Union.
As to how many times should Germany apologize, its never enough IMO.

The current polish regime is a populist right wing theocracy (and should be replaced, the sooner the better). The twins are populist idiots of the first order, but they do have one little point, maybe two.

First is for PC Europe to take its head out of the sand, and face and deal with some uncomfortable issues that obviously have not been resolved. If one party in a partnership says there is a problem, there obviously is, the other party can't just wish it away and pretend it does not exist.

Second is the arrogance of the "old" Europe in treating their "new, poorer" members with the respect they deserve and not be patronizing.

  • 237.
  • At 06:46 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Kosta Servis wrote:

Thank you for your work Mark i find it very informative always.

I am surprised how Poland's objections are presented as result of the past between the Poles and the Germans. The EU is not Germany only and if Poland or any other single country is delaying the treaty process, it is impeding the progress of 26 nations not one. I agree with the assertion that there is something that they must want to gain. It cannot just be for historic reasons. What I would like to know is what happened to the idea of a multi-speed EU. Let the 75% majority adopt a proper federal constitution and let the others mature in the margin. Is that not feasible? Or is it not constructive?

  • 238.
  • At 08:04 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • jim evans wrote:

Dear Mark,
You see the truth hurts, Poland is not PC, and speaks its mind, which is healthy, and understood.The Press AND MEDIA IN BRITAIN are frightened of telling the truth, and the polical commentators are the worse for editing out facts that make Britain look bad.THEY ARE HYPOCRITS AND BIGOTS, IN MANY CASES, And its only because, Britain was the so called victor after ww2.Look at history, Britain did not crack the enigma code, The Poles did it in 1932,then the helped Turin crack more thorgh 42, The poles are a proud nation, its a pity Britain does not equal their thoughts, by speaking the truth instead of suppresssing it,they also invented the mine detector not the British.

  • 239.
  • At 08:28 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Pawel 199, no need to wait for even 10 years for people to start to claim that Poland started WWII. Already at least one post here stated directly that the war was started by Poland with the same behaviour it is displaying right now... being stubborn, argumentative, etc. Other posters implied less directly that Poland was equally the aggressor in WWII because of what happened to the Germans, and should appologise and pay compensation. Still other group says Poland is responsible for the Holocaust (at least partly). Others portray Poland as the thief who stole German lands, or Russian lands (Poland took very little that was not taken from it in the past, and still has a lot missing by now for ever). Others put down Poland for being in a bad shape, and criticise it for lack of greatfulness towards EU and for speaking out of turn... treating it as a child (forgetting the contributions Poland made towards Europe throughout history, both old and recent, from slowing and stopping Gengis Khan Mongol's invasions of Europe, stopping and breaking the Turkish invasion of Europe, and a lot of others, through Copernicus, to most recently being pivotal in the fall of communism and the Iron Curtain, among just some things). Others portray this as being a blame game... at the same time as blaming Poland for a lot of imaginary ills, and some real ones. I will not comment on these, except to say that it is CLEAR that history is IMPORTANT, because it is all too easy to forget and revise, and repeat mistakes from it... and those who really are interested can find out the real events behind all of this.

Even though this has grown to a VERY large discussion, as expected, it is a VERY GOOD blog, and preents a real sample of views, good and bad ones.

I am encouraged by the posts from Germans who seem reasonable, and without the bad stereotypes, misinformation, and attacks against Poland. Equally nice to see understanding from Mark Mardell and others from the West and elsewhere on where Poland is coming from.

Hopefully where Poland is going to is a Western level of economic development and thus a 1+ trillion GDP, and with it the influence it wants, adding to the strength of the EU in the same ball park as Germany does now, able to defend itself without expecting or needing help to do it. Equally with hope is that we will not have to wait a couple of generations for this to happen.

  • 240.
  • At 08:29 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Jan Gruca wrote:

Some individuals may like the the Polish Prez and his brother, and many may not. What a majority of responders tend to forget is the following facts:

1. Geopolitical location of Poland; pipeline "Przyjazn" :-) and other economical ties withwin the former commonwealth.
2. Position of Poland as a #2 in Eastern Block before its collapse.
3. Pace of the transition to the European Union, and very short quarantine from leaving one system and building/ joining another.
4.Polish effords to accomodate western culure which contributed to the strengh of Solidarity.
5. Agentural residue from western and eastern blocs build up in the period of 1980-1989, which contributed in to chaos in the following decade.
6. Costs of renowating of Europe and of unifying Germany were and still are paid by Central and Eastern countries.

Those listed and other influences affect the voters in Central Europe, and so they affect how President Kaczynski thinks and how He acts. Otherwise the behaviourist would be wrong, woudnt they?

  • 241.
  • At 08:48 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Krzysztof wrote:

In my opinion Mark\'s comments about recent events linked with Poland are very well balanced. However it is ashamed that some European politicians have tried to present their attitudes without knownig Poland\'s historical context which is essential for understanding contemporary Poland,its sensibility. Very often in western european capitals (especially of smallest countries as Luxembourg)certain prime ministers give unfair and unjust opinions and critics concerning our country.

  • 242.
  • At 09:00 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • mike clarke wrote:

Dear Mark, congratulations on precipitating a superb responce 221 at the time I post this. Your typical 'little englander' background was picked up by many and shows the depth of ignorance about the history and contempory times of of our continent. Not surprising in the light of never ending repeats of the life and times of the Tudors the Civil War (thats the one in Britain the Stuarts Cromwell and all that) and the finest hour. What this shows to all is that the BBC as well as the education system is failing to inform and educate as it should. European news is almost unheard of on the regular news offered by the BBC in Britain. During the German Presidency there was not one interview with Angela Merkel on any of the main News or Political broadcasts of the BBC! I am very heartened by the knowledge and understanding of many of those who have posted and congratulate them. Incidently the most popular english comedy film in Germany is 'dinner for one' starring Freddy Frinton and not Fawlty Towers.

  • 243.
  • At 09:01 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

To understand the Polish position at the EU summit it is necessary to distinguish between two issues: (1) Increasing Poland's voting power in Council primarily to minimise EU influence on Poland (2) Increasing Poland's voting power vis-a-vis Germany. Everything in the Polish strategy indicates that the first issue was the primary one while the second was a welcome side-effect - welcome both in terms of bilateral power relations and in terms of offering a justification for the Polish position that referred to history and the war. Unfortunately, Mark Mandell does not separate these two issues and, worse, wants to make us believe that the second one was more important. This is politically naive and betrays little understanding of Polish politics.

On an ultimately related, but somewhat different note: Poland is probably very badly served by the K twins European policies - although this also depends on where you stand politically. If you are a Polish nationalist and a conservative Catholic, these policies are fine for you as they will weaken the liberal-cosmopolitan EU and its influence on Poland. However, if you have a more liberal, cosmopolitan (or at least European) attitude than the K twins, their European policies mean that you will have a harder time in the future because one of your principal allies - the EU - has been weakened. So don't be mislead. Ultimately, this is not about a stronger or weaker Poland, but about Poland itself. What really drives the K twins is their vision of Poland as a country defined mainly in terms of nationalist and conservative catholic values. Their European policies are simply a means of defending this particular vision of Poland - a vision, though, that seems not to be shared by the majority of Poles who are much more European minded than their current leaders (By the way, this is a striking contrast to the situation in the UK).

  • 244.
  • At 09:07 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Kurt wrote:

Mardell haven't got it.

Poles need no apology from Germans. Even if such apologies would be made, Steinbach would start her propaganda, and a hell would broke out again.

Truth is that K-twins are populists. They base they policy on the "dark side" - fear, hate and anger. Talking about WWII loses was just a gesture - nobody with common sense thought that war loses will be counted in the EU voting system. It was just a game of emotions, nothing more. K-twins have neither real foreign policy nor diplomacy, so they try to make it with scream and blackmail (not succesful one, if I may add). This is the way they make domestic policy, and now they tried to use the same method within EU.

Other europeans are lucky - they have problems with K-twins during EU summits only. Poles have to deal with this problem on a daily basis.

  • 245.
  • At 09:42 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • John G. wrote:

So does this make up for the British and American's giving Poland to Stalin as a war prize? Or to those exiled Poles who fought and died for Britain, and then forbidden to participate in the victory parades after the victory of WW II?

  • 246.
  • At 10:07 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Mary Smith wrote:

This is really a situation of six of one, half a dozen of the other. Mark Mardell makes some valid points that Poland is still smarting from 3 centuries of occupation from Prussia, Russia and Austria. Wounds this deep do take some time to heal and should not be swept under the carpet. The fact that our allies betrayed Poland to Stalin as though we were their chattels is another wound that must be healed. As Poland has been allowed into the European club is just a start. Poland and its people are a great asset to Europe in many ways, unfortunately those country bumpkins, sorry, Kaczynski brothers, do not help matters in any way whatsoever. Having said that, Germany and Russia are still behaving in the same manner by by-passing the gas pipeline, why? I think the most constructive thing that can happen is firstly Europe should be patient with Poland. It still has wounds that need healing and so acknowledging this would be a good start and secondly, that the Kaczynski brothers will be voted out of office and then a new dialogue can be entered.

  • 247.
  • At 10:08 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • thomas fisher wrote:

Re 217

Albert, you're comparing apples with pears. - The Germans in Poland you are talking about are indigenous people (and until very recently didn't dare to say they were Germans); the Poles in Germany are modern day migrants (like so many other). - Quite a difference!

  • 248.
  • At 10:09 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Antoni Sęp-Sarzyński wrote:

1. I don't think, that gays are persecuted in Poland. There are -rather weak and mainly verbal for right wing public- actions against promotion of homosexualism (i.e. pseudosexualism), but gays in Poland can do, what they want, have clubs etc. We should remember that in catholic society can't be contradiction about fundamental moral teachings. If gays try to transform common views about moral qualification of homosexualism, it must lead to conflict with people who wants to conserve there beliefs and educate their children in christian Faith. There can't be yes and no without confusion.

2. Germans are good people.

3. Russians are good people.

4. There are disagreements because there are real differences. we Polish need good (better) diplomacy, but not to loose salvation or at least complex well-being.

  • 249.
  • At 10:27 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Gosh, this is certainly a popular thread.... Mark, it seems you've stired up a hornets' nest. Looks like a supra-national EU may have the same 'beneficial' long-term effects as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Best cut us all loose now....

  • 250.
  • At 11:08 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Ziggy wrote:

For all the people that talk about German Kancler at Warsaw Getho upraising monument. Read history please. There were two upriaisings in Warsaw. !st Jewish in the Getho and 2nd Polsih in the resot of town some time later. So your leader appology was to Jews (which are also Poles but you seperate them from us all the time) not to Poles.

In any case I do not want German appology, it is not needed. I demand equal treatment of Poles in the rest of EU. Also, if German would support Poland vs Russia more insted of making Baltic pipe deal maybe we would not have the big stink.

  • 251.
  • At 11:14 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Sven H. wrote:

This whole debate about understanding polish culture and sentiments is all fine and well, but currently it resembles a playground's argument.

- You hate me.
- What? No.
- I know you hate me.
- NO! I don't hate you.
- How can you deny hating me?
- Bah...whatever.
- See you arrogant swine, I knew you hated me all along.

  • 252.
  • At 11:20 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

This debate serves to confirm my view that broad historical interpretation rarely serves to resolve disputes on specific political issues and often heightens them.

In discussing specific issues, the safest method is to view history as just "one damn thing after another".

Historical mudslinging is obscuring the issue at stake: the voting procedure in the Council of Ministers. Is the procedure proposed by the draft reform treaty fair? Or does it risk marginalising groups of medium-sized or smaller Member States who can’t fulfil the 65% population condition?

A federalist would see the council of ministers as an incipient Senate, and therefore sympathise with giving each Member State an equal or similar weight. Relative population would be reflected in the composition of the other chamber, the European Parliament.

But that is a long term vision, which may never be realised, if the tone of this debate is anything to go by. Given the functioning of the EU today, relative financial contributions (i.e., population) have to be taken into account.

But has the right balance been struck? I should imagine that this has been statistically tested. That’s the important point here.

In any case, Poland's views should not be simply disregarded on account of the eccentric opinions and behaviour of its present leaders.

That's just too easy.

  • 253.
  • At 11:24 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Sorry for bothering you with another comment, but I am really upset by the ignorance and projection underlying Mark Mandell's article. What he seems to be doing is projecting the British attitude towards the EU to explain the Polish position. But despite some superficial similarities, the differences are very profound indeed. The UK essentially joined the EU because of fears of political and economic marginalisation (remember, this was the 1970s). The UK always regarded the EU exclusively from the perspective of relatively narrowly defined political and economic advantage. British (increasingly: English) national identity by contrast remained something very different and was/is, in fact, to a significant degree constructed in opposition to continental Europe and the EU, in particular France (garlic), Germany (war), and "Brussels" (undemocratic). The situation could not be more different in Poland. Poland joined the EU not only because of economic and political advantages, but crucially also because most Poles wanted to belong/return to the "European family". As has been pointed out in many previous comments, most Poles are deeply europhile - except for the small minority still supporting the K twins. For these Poles the EU offers the possibility of escaping from their dire past (Soviet domination, German occupation) and present (Polish politics). Put differently, most Poles look at the EU as a means of providing them with a more positive, open and forward-looking national identity (and political system?). Of course, this is exactly what the K twins - who are politically totally dependent on exploiting the Polish past - desperately want to avoid. Rather than Germany (past and present), it is this basic poltical constellation that provides the clue to the K twins European policy. It is very unfortunate that Mark Madell's projection of British EU attitudes tends to obscure rather than explain what is actually going on in Poland. What ultimately drives the K twins is their wish to prevent their fellow Poles from developing a more forward-looking national identity. A German apology (in addition to Brandt's Kniefall) would make ABSOLUTELY NO difference to this and, consequently, the K twins policies. To think differently is folly and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the K twins and Polish politics. As to the majority of Poles: they have a far stronger interest in developing their country (and identity(/political system?)) in co-operation with Germany and the rest of Europe than in another Germany apology (which, by the way, I am sure Germany would provide, if they felt that it would make a big difference). To argue otherwise, is simply misleading. (I admit I may be guilty of some projecting myself. But I am sure that the German EU experience is far more telling with respect to Poland than the UK experience - except, perhaps, if you confound the K twins with a large and growing majority of Poles).

  • 254.
  • At 12:47 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Frank wrote:

Excellent blog and great discussion. If it proves one thing it must be the many misconceptions and stereotypes still existing despite open borders, both real and virtual. Poland has a case to be heard and Germany has one it continues to try to answer. But it's just one of a whole tangle of painful legacies that literally tore the heart out of Europe in the last century and continue to reverberate into the modern era. I cant claim to be as well informed as many of the contributors here but, speaking from personal experience of someone born in 1960, isnt it wonderful to be able to indulge in "jaw jaw" instead of "war war". Diplomacy is, afterall, an art and there are maybe more effective ways of winning the argument than Poland's recent efforts. But, don't forget this is a nation the size of Spain that has been trampled on and ignored for two hundred years and surely has a right to feel a little "miffed" when you consider the wider historical picture. In giving them a fair hearing it only demonstrates there is no room for anti-German or anti-Semetic rhetoric in an inclusive Europe w/Poland welcome as an equal partner.

  • 255.
  • At 01:25 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Eugene wrote:

Majority of these comments show very little (if any) knowledge about Poland and Polish people. I am suggesting to spend some time and research the topic in depth before you start to "yak" about. K twins won the election and, according to democratic standards, they have nation mandate to rule the country. Both brothers and their party are normal not ultraconservative like many of you suggest. Their language is freed from "political correctness" and ultraleftist ideology. Please do not forgot that Poland after suffering heavy losses during WWII was simply sold out by West to Soviet Union and K twins trying to avoid this happenning again.
Historical facts are facts, not mitology, and everyone should use facts to support his/her opinions.
All negatives about K twins are fuelled by organized by leftist campain. Please use other sources fopr information

  • 256.
  • At 01:48 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Derrick R. wrote:

JThe gesture of Willy Brand kneeling in Warsaw that's being often brought up here was not directed at Poles or Poland, but at Jews who perished in the tragedy of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. There were two uprisings in Warsaw during WWII. In 1943 there was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and in 1944, the city-wide Warsaw Rising. In the West only the Ghetto Uprising is remembered, and both are frequently confused in the West.

That being said, I don't think any apology is necessary from Germany. The best albeit subtle form of German apology was the sponsorship of Poland for entry to the EU. Any outbursts from the Kaczynski brothers need to be ignored--like the the Bush presidency, these guys have to be waited out by their nation and neighbors.

  • 257.
  • At 01:53 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Ewa wrote:

Poland's behaviour in this whole question is outrageous and should be treated for what it is - a group of immature children throwing their toys out of the pram in a fit of pique. Yes, Poland's history is full of blood and betrayal, but we (yes, I'm Polish)are often our own worst enemies. Instead of spending the remaining 60% of EU funds allocated to us for 2004-6 in improving infrastructure, abolishing with crippling bureaucracy and supporting entrepreneurs, we get embarassing shows of misplaced machismo like this. The country is bumbling along while our esteemed leaders hunt for reds under the bed, undermine judicial independence and install their lackeys throughout the civil service. It's bonkers.

  • 258.
  • At 02:00 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

248.Max Sceptic wrote: "Gosh, this is certainly a popular thread.... Mark, it seems you've stired up a hornets' nest. Looks like a supra-national EU may have the same 'beneficial' long-term effects as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Best cut us all loose now...." See, this is what distinguishes authoritarian eurosceptics from a more liberal and democratic perspective: For me the possibility of a debate like this (including your contribution) reveals the benefits and promise of the European project. (By the way, you seem to be the last one who hasn't heard that supranationalism is long dead. Long live European integration!)

  • 259.
  • At 02:08 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

Re 246

Thomas, I was anticipating such a response. It can be argued that most Europeans have migrated to their present location in the past. It is interesting that Poles living in the Ruhr since the 19 th century are regarded as migrants while Erica Steinbach claims to be an expellee because she spent several years in occupied Poland during WW2 in a house confiscated from its Polish owners

  • 260.
  • At 02:20 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

To Robert (235) and similar comments: It is certainly true that German Chancellor Brandt's Kniefall was at a memorial for Jewish victims rather than Poland/the Poles more generally. However, focussing only on this aspect would be an overly narrow, formalistic interpretation. At the time, the gesture was certainly perceived as going beyond the Jewish victims to include Poland as a whole. This is what ultimately counts, at least for ordinary people, though not necessarily for certain politicians who may have aims of their own. This view also seems to be supported by the tenor of most of the Polish comments on this blog: they don't need/want another apology.

  • 261.
  • At 02:24 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Krzysztof from US wrote:

I am Polish, I've lived in the United States for 15 years, but I've been watching what is going on in Europe and Poland.
Poland does not need any apology from anybody even from Russia. What it needs is an equal treatment and not building "alliances" behind its back -read "Baltic pipeline".

That is what I think Poles are afraid of. We have witnessed German-Russian alliances in the past and we know what it leads to.
I think part of the reason that Polish government wants to have American anti -missile system on Polish soil, is not that they think of an attack by Iran or North Korea, but to have American military presence as the counter balance to Russia. And I think, even that I don't like Kaczynski brothers, from polish security point of view, they are right about that.
So my thinking is stop building any bridges over Poland, and no apologies

  • 262.
  • At 02:58 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Matos / Lisbon wrote:

Very informative and thought provoking posts you've got here, Mark. Congratulations!

I only wish your informed views would be more common in Europe. Certainly the polish twins need to overcome their grunges... It's time to go ahead and forget past grievances. This is a brave new Europe, and bringing up the ghosts of the past isn't helpful for anyone. Which isn't to say the past should be forgotten. But there is the need for the peoples of Europe to understand that more than a clash of nationalisms, european history is made of a clash between ways of seing the world, of ideologies.
Those views have little to do with nationalities: a neo-nazi is a nasty offspring anywhere, wether he is born pole or brit or french or whatever.
Europe really needs to promote the idea that what unites us all is far more important and decisive than what divides us. And that is a common cultural legacy which has shaped the world as we have it today.

  • 263.
  • At 02:59 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Bartosz wrote:

I am very saddened to hear all this non-sense about Poles being anti-semitic prior to the war. As a Polish Jew myself, I have grown up in Krakow for 20 years. I have studied Jewish-Polish relations at major universities in Europe and the United States.

The majority Poles were never anti-semitic, in fact they were the complete opposite. My grandparents, along with many of their friends survived because of catholic Poles who hid us in their homes, even though it could have cost them their lives. I would like to ask all the Western Europeans to stop mentioning this Soviet propaganda of Poles being anti-Semitic prior to the war. If Poland did not like Jews, then why did Jews live here in peace for 1,000 years?

About the Kaczynskis, the majority of us Poles do not like them. They have been very unpopular and bring shame, I can not wait until 2010.

  • 264.
  • At 03:34 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Eugene (254) wrote: "All negatives about K twins are fuelled by organized by leftist campain". Replace "K twnins" with "people's republic" and "leftist campaign" with "capitalist conspiracy" and we are back in the old days.

  • 265.
  • At 04:12 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Alex Stone wrote:

I don't know if this will be posted as I've already had one comment published.

But as a Briton living in Russia, i read many comments here, and in the spirit of objectivity and respect for differing points of view, i did some research among colleagues, and tried to find answers to points raised here concerning the relationship between Poland and Russia.


It's worth starting with the historical resentment that seems to pervade.
My russian colleagues have nothing at all against Polish people, but as many poles have said, the 'poison dwarfs' (as one put it), are spoiling the reconstruction of a fair relationship between the people of Poland and Russia. He was critical of some Russian politicians too, and mentioned several quotes that were, in effect knee jerk responses to goading by others, trying to draw Russia into a nationalistic playground spat. He regards this as clumsy political posturing, not exactly something to be proud of.

The pipeline was one subject that two of my colleagues were interested in pursuing. Both of them travel to not only Eastern European countries but Germany, France, etc... They've discussed this before and the most common opinion expressed seem to be that the twins simply cannot be trusted with something as important as energy supplies to wester europe from Russia. As one of them put it to me yesterday, 'If they are willing to indulge in such dreadful behaviour now to hold onto power, what will they do if the gas runs across their countryside?' He also stated that this was the common view in germany as well, among his friends and associates.

That gave me pause to think......
Even if this perception is potentially inaccurate, it still holds sway with at least some people, and it's possible this is the view at government level as well, not only in Russia, but those countries who need the gas, and don't want to be 'held to ransom'.

As far as Russian apologies go, there have been more than one. Both Gorbachov and Yeltsin publicly stated, not only in Russia, but for international media, that Russia was sorry for it's part in the suffering of others.
Putin expressed his regret too, nearly three years ago, but he also, factually, pointed out that Stalin was a georgian, as was Beria, and Feliks Dzerzhinsky, who was a Pole. In addition, there were many nationals in the countries of the Soviet system that contributed too, and actively benefited from maintaining the system.
In my opinion, it is to the credit of the people of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, etc that they have their freedom, and again, objectively, the Russian people have too, maybe at least partly as a result of the courage of those in other countries.

But for those who insist on waving their flag, and condemnig the entire russian people, over and again, Vladimir Putin's remarks seem to be significant.
Stalin was a Georgian,
Beria was a Georgian,
Dzerzhinsky was a Pole.

Given this background, opinions, and the subject that Mark has so willingly opened up, it would be foolish of any country so eager to step away from a stultifying and brutal system, to, in effect, not go forward, and develop an equal relationship with others, through the efforts of mutual respect. The twins' remarks are counterproductive to say the least, and only serve to feed those who are intent on destroying the potential that the EU has. As one friend put it,' Why do we actually need to trade in Polish products at all? They've done nothing but demand more for less since we gained our own democracy. We're the customer here!''

Finally, it's also interesting that my colleagues and friends said they would like to see Russia as a member of the EU, but all said no to the continuation of NATO, expressing instead their desire that a combined EU/Russia defensive bloc would serve all, in the best and most productive manner.

Putting aside the historical rhetoric, does this bear thinking about?

  • 266.
  • At 05:00 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Radzio wrote:

Alex Stone #265 - your post is ridiculous. To remaind you - Adolf Hitler was not German - he was born in Austria......
What difference does it make that Stalin was a Georgian not a Russian?

  • 267.
  • At 05:12 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Alex Stone (265) wrote: "The pipeline was one subject that two of my colleagues were interested in pursuing. Both of them travel to not only Eastern European countries but Germany, France, etc... They've discussed this before and the most common opinion expressed seem to be that the twins simply cannot be trusted with something as important as energy supplies to wester europe from Russia. As one of them put it to me yesterday, 'If they are willing to indulge in such dreadful behaviour now to hold onto power, what will they do if the gas runs across their countryside?' He also stated that this was the common view in germany as well, among his friends and associates." I was almost about to write a comment suggesting that the pipline was indeed a foreign policy blunder committed by the Schröder government. But Alex Stone's comment seems to raise a valid and quite disconcerting point (although, if I remember correctly, the pipline project at least partly preceded the coming to power of the K twins). Apparently, a lot of additional, MUTUAL confidence building will be necessary between the GOVERNMENTS of Poland, Germany and others. While the Schröder approach may not have been particularly helpful in this respect, the K twins are very actively working in the opposite direction.

  • 268.
  • At 05:24 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Alex 265, it does not much matter what nationality some of these tyrants, traitors, and collaborators were. It is a question of who they worked for. The Soviet Union was dominated almost totally by Russia, and these people worked for Russia. Besides, Lenin, Khrushchev, and so on were Russian.

I can understant how a Russian can rationalise what they have done. However, it is a fact that it is Russia and NOT Poland that is using and blocking energy supplies as an economic weapon. It is downright bizzare for Russians to accuse or suspect Poland on this account in this context. It is an excuse, nothing more. Besides, the whole pipeline deal predates the Kaczynskis I think.

Similarly they use trade in other examples as economic weapons. They do not have a conflict with Poland alone, but with a large and growing number of countries that used to be either their sattelites or parts of the USSR. Clearly there is a difference between normal deal making in trade, trying to get a good deal for Russia, and breaking accepted rules in making up trade barriers for nonexistent reasons.

Russians have not appologised properly to anyone and not clearly. They still own lands they annexed from Poland and others during WWII, or gave them away when USSR broke up. They paid no compensation. Their view of their own role in WWII is composed of selective truths with them in the role of heroes. Most Russians have zero idea about their initial support for and co-opration with Hitler - they are simply not taught about it.

By comparison Germany has addressed its recent past very well. Russia has not done so, or even began to do so properly... they are still in denial. The Russians are in a time warp from the heights of the Russian empire, speaking of spheres of influence.

As for Europe to cut itsef off from the USA and establish an alliance with Russia instead? Maybe when hell freezes over... Translated: Russians are still dreaming of winning the cold war from the past in a round 2, displace the USA and perhaps dominate Europe. My opinion is that they can join the EU or co-operate with it, when and if it suits the EU, but no to the suggestion that Europe should dump the alliance with the US and replace it with a Russian one LOL.

SORRY, this really is a different and potentially controversial topic on top of an existing controversial topic... I will not say more on it.

  • 269.
  • At 06:08 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • EM Needle wrote:

It's all very well Mark claiming that Germany never apologised properly to Poland and that may be so. But has England ever apologised to Ireland for Cromwell's near destruction and murder of their countrymen or for the brutal way they were treated over the centuries, not forgetting the potato famine which forced a majority of their population to flee their own country for America? We heard much recently of Wilberforce's fight to help abolish slavery but never an apology by Britain who were after all the main slave traders and transported millions of black people into their slave colonies in the new world and the Carribbean sugar and tobacco plantations there for them and their descendants to rot for nearly three centuries. Nor should they be allowed to forget the usual brutal treatment of other origine people who were either pushed away or in the case of the Tasmanians exterminated like so many wild animals. The silence has been deafening. It is so much easier moralising and pointing to other people's crimes than to own up and make amends for ones own.
EM Needle

  • 270.
  • At 06:33 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Radu Iovita wrote:

Hi Mark - I do agree with the others that this was a thoughtful entry. However, I have to say that some of your arguments are dangerously hinting at the idea that the rich and powerful (Britain, France, Germany) should be the only ones to assert their authority, because they are just that: rich and powerful. In the case of your own country, Britain, you suggest that there is a moral superiority as well, because unlike everywhere else in Europe, the British public at large were "heroes" and there was no collaboration, pain or whatever. I'm not going to go through the myriad of reasons why that's a little short-sighted, nombrilistic, and, well, arrogant.

But as you say yourself, Poland is playing the game for power. They used to be one, they haven't forgotten, and now that they're safe from Russia, they try their luck in the West as well. EU 15'ers are simply upset because they have to deal with that, and they'd like everyone of these Eastern countries to feel humiliated and grateful for getting money and shut up. That's neither very European nor very democratic, I'm afraid.

Finally, about the endless complaints about the pro-Americanism of East Europeans: if only West Europe would make Easterners feel European and welcome, there wouldn't be this problem. Sadly, every time they've had an opportunity, they've traded East Europe to the Russians or to the Turks for economic or political advantages. Unfortunately, we can't trust each other, and it's making the European project a joke .

  • 271.
  • At 07:33 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • czarekc wrote:

Alex wrote some interesting comments about ordinary Russians perspective.
As a Pole I would like to state:
1. Soviet State continuously terrorized neighboring countries by force.
2. Russia declared itself as a legal continuation of the USSR.
3. Even recently in Latvia when something happen with movement of the statue in Tallin then "incidentially" trains with fuel stop to deliver oil to Latvia (justified by required emergency repairs of the railways).
4. When Lithuanian refinery went for sale and polish company compete against russian corporation then... you guess, oil pipeline to refinery stops and series of strange fires occur at Mozejki.
5. Russian strategic military doctrine stated (by Yeltsin goverment around 1995) that Poland is more endangering Russia then China!!!
6. Recently German spy satellite went to the orbit by Russian rocket. Well they maybe cheaper but what about american or EUROPEAN competitors? SPY satellite! Is this sort of close cooperation not considered the beginning of the old axe (and Baltic pipeline too)?
7. Russian heroes? Especially in 1939-1940 Russo-Finnish war? How many Russians even know about this war?

So I do not talk about very past history, I talk about current events of boorish bullying of smaller and weaken neighbors.
Do You really need much more proof?
If Germany willing fully participating in this behavior (pipeline) then don't be surprised that other nations are very suspicious.

There is separate issue of the EU future. I may call it right vs. left vision.
Current Polish government is right wing oriented. Most of EU are left wing. So tensions are inevitable. There is a vision of the EU as an common labor and goods market. And there is another vision of EU as super country or at least federation with common law in whole EU. I personally support goods and labor movement. I don't see any reason why court in Strasbourg shall decide about people in Cracow. I see no reason to dictate other people how they shall live! Same could be even applied to death penalty! Do we really need European passport? What is wrong with Polish/German/British one?
Or even many different currencies (including Euro).
About "social rights" - well with labour movement it is obvious that problem doesn't exist. People will vote by moving. Nothing wrong with it. Do we need same level of taxation? I don't think so.

Regards Cezary

  • 272.
  • At 07:56 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Alex Stone wrote:

Some interesting replies gentlemen.
But for the same reason that we all seem to working hard to separate the sometimes foolhardy actions of governments from the desires of the people of the nations mentioned, then isn't that the same for the russian people too, in their new democracy?

Mark, thanks for the opportunity to discuss this. We may not all agree with each other, but the tone has been civilised and intelligent, and i've enjoyed reading the many different points of view, and learnt something in the process from my fellow europeans.

  • 273.
  • At 08:25 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Julie wrote:

To answer Tomasz (219), I (ethnic Brit) went to Poland last year for a wedding with my boyfriend(German)only to be labeled a "Nazi", and disover how horrible the Rhine land is (we are from the Rhine). All attacks within the first hour of the dinner, by people we didn't know. Great manners for a wedding, eh?! Sadly, this is the typical eastern european behavior, when they deal with the West, whine, complain, and cash-in. Btw, these people happened to live in E. Germany. What is their excuse?

Thomas Fisher couldn't have said it better (post 34). Germany has supported Poland into the EU diplomatically and fiancially more than any other country. Germans have never denied their past. Poland wasn't abandoned by the West. One must be fair to *all* history, and realize that it was either Communist Russia or the Nazis, both regimes needed to end. Peace was achieved with compromise, and that was that. Germany had their territory taken away too, and W. Germany was left to rebuild alone (no pride left) and fear of yet another war on their ground.

Now they are a big power again, achieved by their own struggle, they didn't whine. Certainly they have a reason to be proud today. Likewise, much of Europe has also struggled to cope. The Western society has far paid its debts, and is footing the bill. It is a bit of a strecht to compare England, France, and Poland's demands on the EU "treaty". First, England and France have legitimate concerns about issues that affect their domestic authority in internal affairs. The voting system needs to be changed to represent its population. If the EU is going to be accepted at the heart of society, the people need to feel represented. Poland has less people. No Ifs no Buts. There is absolutely no excuse for the behavior of the Polish gov. for attacking the EU, whilst forming ties with American military. The clock is only ticking until Poland turns its back on its EU-partners.

  • 274.
  • At 09:36 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Klaus Luebcke wrote:

In my opinion there`s been enough apologies made during the last three generations after the war.
Why should I ( born 1945 ) or my son or my grandchildren be held guilty? Germany has paid a very high price. A great deal of Germany handed over to Poland, nearly 10 million German Civilians raped, murdered, extradited in the ethnic cleansing in the ex parts of Germany after the war.

  • 275.
  • At 10:40 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Ziggy wrote:

I actualy think that the French and Spanish or Italians may regret their willingnes to accept new voting way after Turkey or Russia joins EU in the future. German and Turkish population will be able to veto anything they do not like :)

  • 276.
  • At 01:54 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Sally wrote:

I`m a HEINZ 57 blend of German, Polish, Austrian, and Irish.Only recently did I become aware of my Polish-Austrian ancestry.I have been browsing the internet looking for info about Polish and Austrian people, culture,history,etc.Then I happened upon this blog. At first I was disheartened to see so much animosity between German and Polish people.Then I came across some of the comments that were actually rational and explanatory, promoting understanding,and peace,instead of the easy, cheap jabs(which just seem to keep the blaming, shaming,and hating cycle going).Thank God for the people who write comments to shed light and understanding.

  • 277.
  • At 03:09 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Latimer wrote:

Well, Germany did atone to Poland also by surrendering Silesia and accepting ethnic cleansing of Germans in that region in the late 1940's. Actions that in our day and age would be unthinkable. And if Poles want to start settling historic grievances, the Ukrainians for instance have quite a list against Poland: 300 years of colonial oppression by the so-called Polish Republic, and an attempt to conquer Kiev as recently as 1920. Also, the Lithuanians, whose historic capital Vilnius was under Polish occupation until 1939. And just a cursory glance at Mr Lanzman's documentary film "Shoah" reveals plenty of unrepentant Polish anti-Semitism. People living in glass houses should avoid throwing stones.

  • 278.
  • At 06:19 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Konrad Talmont-Kaminski wrote:

Interesting post and fascinating discussion. Being a Pole I think it fair to say that there is a definite split between those Poles who are looking forward (in both senses) to a future within the EU and those who are full of resentments about the past during WWII and under communism. The Kaczynskis definitely belong to the second group. But they were not elected due to their 'backwardness' but due to a couple of other factors. First of all, Poland's social democrats imploded due to massive corruption scandals and the party of the twins was the only major option for those hoping for lots of state support. Secondly, everyone assumed before the elections that the twins would form a government with the other major right wing party - a europhile, liberal party - thus limiting the damage they could do. As it was they formed an alliance with the two most radical parties in the Parliament: one a grouping of Polish ultranationalists and the other a scandal-ridden grouping of populist opportunists capitalising on the resentment of those who have not participated in Poland's economic boom. The result is that Poland now has the very worst government it could possibly have under the current conditions. The ultranationalists seem destined to disappear at the next elections and the populist party will only have a few percent. Unfortunately, it seems that the Kaczynskis will remain a major force in Polish politics for some time. But they have done something that seemed impossible just a shot while ago. Instead of the political camps being divided along the old pro-communist, anti-communist lines, the divide now runs along the pro-Kaczynski, anti-Kaczynski lines. The next Polish government will almost definitely consist of europhile centre-right and even more europhile centre-left parties, thus reflecting much more closely what most Poles think about the EU. Still, there is a serious amount of resentment (I repeat the word purposefully) among many Poles, and not just towards the Germans or the Russians. In fact, at this point I would hazard a guess that more resentment is felt towards countries like England or France - Poland's traditional allies - due to what is seen as their failure to substantially assist Poland during the Second World War and the Cold War. This is a oversimplification, of course, and depends upon a lack of understanding of the options that were available to the UK and others at that time but it is not totally unjustified. At the same time, there is still a lot of naive adulation for the US which leaves many Poles open to US efforts to keep the EU politically weak and unable to be anything but USA's weaker ally.

A very good post. Thank you Mark.
A word of explaination of Willy Brandts gesture in 1970 mentioned by so many 'experts' on German-Polish reconciliation.
Mr Brandt didn't kneel in front of the Warsaw Uprising Memorial. The 2 month long Warsaw Uprising of 1944 couldn't have its memorial under communnist regime.

Mr Brandt knelt in front of Memorial Of Heroes Of The Warsaw Ghetto. His gesture was supposed to be a form of apology to the Jewish community of Warsaw.

Did Germany prematurely admitted Poland to EU as a form of compensation for WWII?
What about Romania, Bulgaria, Lituania and other countries that were on the same level or below?
Why should Poland be thankful to Germany for Polish EU membership?
Beats me.

  • 280.
  • At 10:02 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Marek wrote:

By the way: they did not BAN the Teletubbies. One of the minor public servants once wanted them to be scrutinised agains alleged homosexuality of Tinky Winky. But that never happened.

  • 281.
  • At 10:28 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Steinmann wrote:

David it is a misunderstanding that I am going to spread the guilt by hinting to anti-semitism also in other nations. It was rather meant as a warning that by regarding antisemitism as something exclusively owned by Germans, one has already made a first step into the wrong direction. This is not to justify or minimize the German role in it. Far from that and you should have known by reading my last message more carefully.
With respect to Polish antisemitism, it is a fact even not denied by Polish citizens. The Jedwabne progrom was confirmed by the Polish Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN, to be the result of Polish antisemtism and had caused 340 lives (Gross numbers were 1600). If you belittle this event by hinting at the far higher number of other deaths during WWII this is not acceptable for me. Antisemitism is not a matter of numbers but of moral. And if we are making it just a matter of size, and only high numbers count, we have learnt nothing of WWII and are condemning the Jewish victims for a 2nd time. I therefore deeply disagree here with your view.

  • 282.
  • At 12:01 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Zbigniew wrote:

Well, after reading all of the above, I have taken # 270.
I've had to. It's personal, I am Polish, too. Thank you Mark for your article - you have made fair observations regarding this current 'little crisis' in Polish-EU relations.
When I left Poland in 1984 the communism was still well and alive there, although, the 'erosion' was getting higher grounds, to think that it will collapse so quickly - it was just an unimaginable dream.
When it did happen in style of proverbial Paper Tiger, all these newly found independent countries were lacking the base structures: governing, legislative and free market systems, to name a few elemental threads to form a fabrics of a country. They transform the old into new using methods taken from 'wild, wild west' scripts, the well connected in the past grabbed the most from the future.
"...and so it goes."(C.V)- the same applies to political structures in all those post-communistic countries, there wasn't any educated, career-oriented politicians willing to become a public servant on any level of government from small town to a capitol city - everything was happening 'ad hoc', have to mention here the most prominent of all- a shipyard electrician Mr. Lech Walesa for President!
Now, President for 21st century Mr. Kaczynski(Duck boy?-never heard that before - good one), I think many contributors to this post are right: this is a clinical example of polish megalomania. I remember, growing up in Poland being overwhelmingly reminded of a great acts of heroism and struggle throughout ages of history - for a kid the greatness turns into superiority and that's wrong. We must teach our young history, but no nation in the world was spared from struggle to become one.
Mr. Kaczynski may have his boyhood heroes.But becoming polish President he is no Marshall Pilsudski, that era is long gone, when nationalism was Europe's hot fashion trend.
One more subject:,but to avoid out of line polemics and knowing how sensitive for my fellow Poles this subject is, I feel, I have to add this little disclaimer:" I grew up in very religious, catholic family. I respect religions.Conscience makes us human being."
Now, back to the subject - yes, you guessed it right - it's religion.
The key to build a successful, perhaps happy and self-respectful society is to separate church from the state. It seems now in Poland the church is present in almost every function of the state. All the official gatherings, meetings, big or small - I can see members of the clergy! This is asking for trouble. When I see these pieces on polish TV news on the Internet - I think you're replacing communism with church. Don't you see what happens when mullahs dictate state and people who ARE the state what to do?

  • 283.
  • At 12:24 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Toby wrote:

This discussion is absurd. the way people discuss nation states, one must believe they possess the sentience required for complex emotions, for coherent individual thoughts and attitudes, and for moral blame.

A state is a state, not a person, and it is as fictional a sentience as the christian god for whom so many suffered in europe prior to the scientific reformation.

States DO NOT think, they do not feel, and they never "feel" sorry. Politicians tax in the name of the state and then spend the tax protecting the idiot masses from the latest fashionable evil.

Anyway, on with the fantasy. Where were we? Oh yes. Mr Germany got caught molesting Miss Poland, not long after Miss Poland was caught Invading Little Lithuania and annexing Vilnius.

None of you know the dates of Lithuania's annexation, none of you realize that Germany is still occupied by US troops, and nobody here understands the first thing about history. It is pretty hard to see the world when you are blindfolded by a flag.

  • 284.
  • At 12:41 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Stefan Kirk wrote:

This blog hits the spot brilliantly.

I'm an Anglo-Pole living in Warsaw for 14 years, and have a more pessimistic perspective on this country (as a nation) than most contributors here.

I don't think we can say that the K brothers are some sort of aberration, and that things will get better when they're gone. Somebody clever once said that 'people get the political leaders they deserve'; the K. bros sadly are the real face of Poland now ...

Firstly, remember that the PiS party led by the K. twins is the most moderate, and least populist, of the three-party coalition now in power in Poland, [which combined has a majority in parliament].

Secondly, observe that the media in Poland is overwhelmingly in favour of the isolated and vetoing positions taken by Poland, over EU decisions such as the voting system and Russian co-operation strategy, that are at the heart of this debate.

Thirdly, let's try to understand the psychology behind the hypocritical, self-contradictory, petulant and intellectually feeble Polish foreign policy stance ....

Mark Mardell and most contributors try to explain it with reference to Poland's history. In my view, this is not where the answer lies. I'm a historian by education, and love the subject, but I know that there's only one thing, albeit a big thing, that it teaches us - that there IS progress in human affairs, and that therefore history does NOT repeat itself. I think even the K. twins recognise this in their hearts; they know that Russia won't ever become a dictatorship of invade Poland again.

No, the real answer lies in the fact that Poland, unlike the other big countries in Europe, is a country with NO SENSE OF NATIONAL EXCELLENCE, in any department. This causes, for want of a less dramatic expression, an 'inferiority complex', which in turn causes the country to have a 'we'll show them' attitude towards other, more gifted countries. That's why Poland tries to 'punch above its weight', on so many common policy issues, in such a shameless way.

Is there any hope? Yes; the big hope are the many high-calibre INDIVIDUALS produced by Poland (a disproportionate number of whom perennially leave the country). Thanks to them, and most directly those that work in EU institutions, Poland is becoming the best example of a federalising Europe - if you look closely at what's really happening in this country, that will become obvious to you.

Long live a Federal Europe !

  • 285.
  • At 01:29 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • TCL - a voice from Poland wrote:

First of all, I would like to thank Mr Mardel for that blog despite some mistakes (eg. it was not Polish government but children's rights spokesman who wanted to ban Teletubbies from TV and Kaczynskis had nothing to do with this).

For the most of Poles it is obvious that our right and duty is to "mention the war" even if it is disgusting for some european comissioners. We still have to do it since many of you, dear Europeans, do not know much about the War. Let me remind you that many educated people in Europe still believe that concentration camps were Poland's idea and that we, Poles, murdered Jews on a large scale during the War etc, etc. We have been fighting with those false beliefs for 50 years but to no avail. Many people still know better.

As far as Kaczynski twins are concerned, I must admitt that they are not easy to manage with indeed. They are cinservatives and Europe has a deep dislike for conservatives. They are against homosexual marriages and this is not trendy nowadays. They are euroenthusiasts but for them "strong EU" means also "strong Poland" which many people consider bizzare. They are also not handsome, not charming, not adorable, tall and slim. They make mistakes but you don't make mistakes when you don't do anything. Sometimes they get on even their supporters' nerves, sometimes they talk too much, sometimes they go too far in their statements. Sometimes they are harsh and inconsistent. Sometimes they are not understandable.
But what wrong did Kaczynskis to Poland? Did they ruin Polish economy? Do they restrict freedom? Do they put their political enemies to prison because of political views? Do they censor papers? Do they shoot to workers or inspire terrorists? They are not fascists (hovewer some jerks want to believe they are, not stalinists. They are just conservatives.
Of course everyone has the right to disagree with them. But everyone has to acknowledge that Kaczynskis won democratic elections in a democratic way. They got the most of votes and still almost 30% of Poles support them. And that should be honoured. Undermining this simple rule means undermining the very basis of democracy.

  • 286.
  • At 01:46 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz wrote:

‘’Thou shalt not bear false witness’’

To all: it was not Polish government against telletubbies,it was all but one women, spokeswomen for Children, Ewa Sowińska, answered a journalist question in the interview for “Wprost” weekly magazine. So she decided to ask “the psychologists to make a recommendation about whether the children's show should be broadcast on public television”. But maybe in Europe we have got now a ?
The media lie to all of us using Pawlow's methods, repeating Kaczyński, telletubbies & homophobia together so when we hear homophobia we think teletubbies (& so on…). Mr. Lech & Mr. Jarek has nothing to do with what Sowińska said.

Well, is it about Poland, at all? What about a human mind that remembers just 10 years of his/her life, and knows half of his/her home? Would you call it healthy? Same applies to collective cosciousness of West Europeans. It is also visible in comments here. E.g. it is certainly true that German Chancellor Brandt's Kniefall was at a memorial for Jewish victims rather than Poland/the Poles more generally, But most of Jewish victims were Polish Jews. For ones who DO NOT think in Norymberg' terms Polish Jews are just Poles, part of my nation. But the same applies to appologies, if they are directed to the nation generally, but are distributed accordingly to race and religion - such a thing is unacceptable. In some comments here i've found such a pattern of thinking. Be ashamed.

However, the problem is elsewhere. All these fraternal gestures prior to 89 were directed to the puppets of Soviet occupied Poland - not Poles themselves. West Europeans were making deals with owners of a gulag and now, avoiding mentioning war and Jalta they speak as if Poles came suddenly from the Moon. It's unacceptable, no matter what one think of the twins. Someone writes "The fact that our allies betrayed Poland to Stalin as though we were their chattels is another wound that must be healed." Yes, but not by Poles because it is not our wound. Is yours, West Europeans. We got our independence by ourselves. But - how was it, to live for decades after that betrayal on the other side of the wall, as a silent neigbour of a gulag? Speaking of Jews, West Europeans were having fun in 1968, running cross the streets under red flags, exactly when on the other side of the wall there was the largest state-led antisemitic campaign organized under the same red flags. By these soviet puppets. This is your Kafkaland, not ours, and your understanding of a "European". Be ashamed, again. Remember and think, for your own good, not ours.

Finally, I do agree with Ziggy saying "In any case I do not want German appology, it is not needed. I demand equal treatment of Poles in the rest of EU. Also, if German would support Poland vs Russia more insted of making Baltic pipe deal maybe we would not have the big stink." I do also agree with Mark when he says: "talking of 1989, a lot of heartache and resentment would have been saved on all sides had Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia been invited to join the then EC in 1989." This is also your wound, not ours.

So, what does it mean, to be European, huh?

  • 288.
  • At 02:12 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Ben mcfadyean wrote:

Looking at the other comments, I also agree Poland should stop harping on about the War and Germany, the comments are both immoral and offensive. Poland didn't do badly out of the war, getting 1/5th more territory from the Germans and you don't see Germany trying to reclaim that territory. Germany in 2007 is not Germany in 1939.Poland, stop being a victim about everything.

Think about it, Britain gave 1 million of your young homes and jobs, Germany supported your entry to the EU and has invested 100's of millions in your country.

As I have heard from many Polish people, the government there should focus on bringing down unemployment and reducing corruption and other issues first and foremost. If they don't the country will keep bleeding its best people as it has for the last 100 years and will remain an angry snarling country squished between Prosperous Germany and ever more prosperous Russia.

Poland get your backyard cleaned up,
stop pointing the finger at Germany and the rest of Europe, stop playing the victim and make your country worth living in for the millions who fled the country that you now badly need.

  • 289.
  • At 02:14 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • elle wrote:

Post 25 - sorry, but what you say is ridiculous. Poland got a part of german territory in the West but lost much more in the East. much more Poles than Germans were expelled from their houses forever. and let's not forget who started the WWII. Forcing the Germans to leave their homes was a consequence of the mess they started.....

  • 290.
  • At 02:45 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

Just see the appalling way that this Polish government is treating their striking nurses. They have no room to talk of fairness to the Germans. They live in a vindictive past. Their pathetic attempts to be a big power by their agreement to have US missiles in Poland and to add to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is disgusting. The sooner this bunch are removed from Polish society the better. If not they should get out of the EU and become a province of the USA that they admire so much.

  • 291.
  • At 03:48 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Hudson wrote:

Gee after selling Poland out to the Nazi's and then the Soviets, I can see how Luxembourg, Belgium and the rest must be really horrified by Poles not kissing their ring for being allowed to join the EU. They clearly aren't part of good old Europe are they?

It must ruin their cocktail parties and all not having their old buddies from the LSE, Oxford, and such --who were the kids of the ruling Communist bosses in Poland around anymore. Instead they have these heathens that actually believe in freedom, democracy, and hard work rather than entitlement, bureaucracy and surrender.

  • 292.
  • At 05:18 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Radzio wrote:

Very interesting discussion and great article. The couple of things should be clarified here. First of all - Poland is not waiting for apologies from Germans. Today the real problems in Polish-German relations are:
* Nord Gas-Pipe,
* Steinbach (BdV),
* Pawelka (Prussian Claims Society).
German revisionists are members of German goverment and parliemnt (Steinbach). BudesKanzler is supporting initivtives coming from revisionists (Steinbach initiative to build Center of the Expelled). Kaczynski brothers loudly expressed the real concerns the Poles have regarding Polish-German relations. Just to remaind you the plan build gas pipe under the Baltic Sea would cost $6 billion more than the overland route through Eastern Europe. From polish perspective the whole plan was designed to enable Moscow to cut off supplies to Poland and Belarus. Germans are helping Russians to use energy as a weapon. It is not what we Poles are expecting from a friendly country. Moreover German claims regarding the properties in Poland do not make the atomosphere better. So Germans - we do not need any appologies from you - just behave honestly....

  • 293.
  • At 05:57 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Theo S wrote:

This blog seems to have become a ranting spot about one's favourite national culprots for European problems, with everyone throwing in their spot of muddy (lack of) insight, so here's mine:

I am of Central European Jewish ancestry, my father's family lost some family members to the Atrocities of the Nazis in WWII. I grew up as a priviliged white South African in an incredibly unjust and oppressive society.

To the Poles:

There are those of you who are ashamed of the K brothers and the embarrassment to Poland that they represent. I say to you: Congratulations on your insight, and for living in the here and now, and not 60 years ago.

To those Poles who feel that the Germans should do some more groveling and that Poland somehow got a raw deal in Europe, how much more do you actually expect the Germans to give you????? Germany verbally apologised to almost every nation involved in WWII. Germany spent some 40 to 50 years making reperation payments to Israel and other nations. Germany lost huge amounts of territory to, wait for it..., Poland, after WWII. So how much more should they give?

Your nations seems, at the moment, hell bent on pulling Europe into a conflict with Russia by doing everything it possibly can, including getting Russian diplomats' kids beaten up in the street, to incite the Russians into doing something rash. Your basing of thoroughly useless American missiles on your soil, solely to try and regain some lost national pride is pure insanity. Do you Poles think that the USA would go to war for you if it ever really got that far? Do you think that Britain and France would again go to war for you like they did in 1939? Do you think anyone would risk nuclear conflict for a bunch of people who seem entirely incapable of living in the present and getting on with their lives?

And finally, if you have to talk about German atrocities in WWII, may I point out that Poland was a military dictaorship prior to WWII? Poland was not a beacon of freedom and intellectual enlightenment. Poland was quite anti-semitic. Of the Poles killed by the Germans in WWII, half, i.e. 3 million, were Jews. Some of the Jews were killed by Poles.

If Germany is still, as some of you claim, an arrogant bunch of militant Teutons, why then, pray tell, are there some 250 000 Jews in Germany today and only 5000 in Poland?

No nation is perfect, but living for today is much better than to keep harping on about past grievances.

  • 294.
  • At 06:47 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

At 10:07 AM on 06 Jul 2007, Mary Smith wrote:
"Germany and Russia are still behaving in the same manner by by-passing the gas pipeline, why?"

Pacts between Berlin and Moscow over heads of countries concerned have a long tradition (Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939 comes to mind) and old habits die hard.

The fact, that Gerhard Schroeder has been rewarded for the Baltic pipeline deal by a former KGB resident in East Germany (Vladimir Putin) with a well-paying seat on the enterprise's Board of Directors, has revived old suspicions not only in Poland, but also in Ukraine, Lithuania, and other countries till recently subjugated by Moscow.

Nota bene, the bilateral agreement between Germany and Russia in a strategically important energy sector
violates EU rules, as it hasn't been consulted with Brussels, as Jose Manuel Barroso himself has noted with an obvious displeasure.

  • 295.
  • At 07:19 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Tom Baldyga wrote:

I complement you on a very truthful article. Poland suffered far more than any of the other European countries in the EU. Not mentioning the war in EU talks is trying to sweep the past under the carpet. Large countries such as France, Italy and Germany need to reconcile with Poland in a very public and meaningful way. Poland has every justification in the world to demand its rights be protected especially when one looks at the past and sees which countries trampled over their sovereignty.

  • 296.
  • At 07:48 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Jan Bienkowski wrote:

Excellent article and a real broad mix of blogs.
Mark omits one small fact that I think is important namely that at the end of WWII the allies abandoned, some would say, condemned Poland to 45 years of Russian dictatorship. Any dialogue with Germany and or the rest of the West in this period was at least coloured if not fully orchestrated by the communist regime. As such Willy Brandt's apology was appreciated but somehow not totally accepted.
I don't believe the Poles expect any more apologies for their sufferings of WWII and of the communist regime but I believe the western 15 could grant them a little tolerance and forgiveness as they learn to work with and live in this supposed "egalitarian" union.

  • 297.
  • At 09:25 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Jarek wrote:

Mark claims that Kaczynskis won the diplomatic struggle in Brussels. Interestingly here in Poland we have ongoing political debate about them loosing badly the summit. I am not sure how to judge the summit outcome for both the Polish government and the EU. Kaczynskis’ official agenda for this summit called for opening the negotiations on the “square root method” as a fair way for calculating EU members voting power. Everybody seems to assume that it was just a trick to gain something else. I just wonder how the very same idea had been perceived if presented by somebody with high international standing and not ill mannered and feeling uneasy on the European scene Polish president. I believe that the legitimate question is how to create a democratic and organizationally efficient EU? If you agree with this, than explain to me why the future voting system is a taboo? That how I read the result of the summit. It was not - “do not mention the war” but rather -“do not mention the voting system”. The remark made by Kaczynski about Polish loses during the WW2 provided an excellent opportunity to ridicule the Polish proposal without even discussing it.

  • 298.
  • At 12:21 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:


Does not the volume, scope and erudition of the comments on this blog suggest to you that there is an enormous void in the BBC's coverage (in all media) of what used to be called 'Central and Eastern' Europe - in terms of history, culture and politics? (And at this point, a special thankyou to BBC Radio's World Service for closing its Polish section last year!)

Can you assure me that you will pass this observation onwards and upwards to your masters at the BBC?

I'd actually like to thank everyone for contributing such 'good reads', to make this the most enjoyable response to a 'Mardell-blog' since the 'Belgian language' miasma.

  • 299.
  • At 12:27 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Yoko wrote:

You have to remember that damages done by the Germans to Warsaw alone Exceed whole the damages of France during WW2.

so Cheque would be an appropriate apologize :)

  • 300.
  • At 01:04 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Lukasz wrote:

The piece is thoughtful and, I think, largely correct. For many Poles WW2 is still recent family history and not some long forgotten political drama. Still, I think the article misses some important points.

During WW2 and the subsequent Soviet occupation, Poland's middle class and intellectual elite were systematically and intentionally destroyed. Some (including many logicians and mathematicians) fled; most were simply killed. The list of the dead includes many free-thinkers, Jews and liberals. Nothing on a similar scale occurred anywhere Western Europe. And it is perhaps for this reason that the long-term effects of this slaughter are not well appreciated.

In my view, many of the criticisms today leveled at Poland are exactly right:

* the Kaczynski brothers are boors
* prevalent homophobia betrays rank ignorance
* the Catholic Church has far too much unchecked clout
* Poland has delusional fears of Russia and Germany
* Poles don't understand how the international political system works
* Poles display a staggeringly naive faith in the USA and its CIA
* etc

That said, quite frankly, I think the Germans currently have the neighbours they deserve. (And I say this as a great admirer of German culture!) Germany butchered the Polish intelligensia and destroyed its institutions. After 50 years of Soviet occupation there was almost no understanding of democracy or civil society left in the general population. Today, as a direct result, Poland is in the hands of incompetent, rude populists. But what other outcome could you reasonably expect? That a responsible political class would develop overnight? How?

Until the EU helps foster more normal European attitudes and institutions among those worst scarred by the last 70 years -- including Poles, East Germans, Estonians, Serbs, etc. -- there is really not anything else we can look forward to.

  • 301.
  • At 01:29 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Collins wrote:

Excellent article.

Willy Brandt may have knelt in Poland but he knelt in an occupied, unliberated, Communist Poland. German invasion of Poland in 39 led ultimately to Poland being in the Soviet camp for so long. Poland suffered a 21% population loss in WW2 and subsequently suffered 50 years of Soviet occupation. Now, Germany makes deals with the Russians sidelining Poland. Why shouldn't Poland feel offended? After all, Poland just wants to ensure it's security in the EU - Poland is still stuck between Germany and the USSR... er Russia.

In reading some of the replies of the German responders I am almost sickened by their lack of remorse, no understading. The Poles don't need German tears, heck, in speaking to numerous Germans they're not even ashamed by what their Nazi government did but rather by it's tactical blunder in taking on the Soviet Union. Germany led to an incredible amount of destruction in Poland, it chose it's leaders semi-democratically prior to WW2 and now many Germans look with bewildered eyes at Poland when the Poles find fault with their
current condition which is a direct consequence of German action in 1939.

As said maybe Poland SHOULD have joined the EEC in 1989. The Poles fought on 3 European fronts in WW2
and were sold to the Russians, and they're still being sold out.

Poland doesn't need an apology as much as maybe European loyalty. Maybe Germany should respect Poland at least as much as it does Russia.

  • 302.
  • At 01:49 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Greg wrote:

Alex, 265. Opinions presented in your note are a good example of lack of respect to facts. The truth is that Baltic pipeline decision had been worked out and announced well before double elections brought Kaczynski twins to power. Liberal, post communist government and president Kwasniewski were ruling Poland at that time. They were strongly and actively supporting EU integration. The fact that Germany, the most important EU state, decided to support Baltic pipeline concept presented by Mr. Putin was one of the reasons that pro-European and less radical political forces lost elections in Poland and twins won all the power. We should remember that Baltic pipeline project is seen in Poland as extension of Ribbentrop-Molotov pact which was the cornerstone of the II WW. Choosing this costly and environment unfriendly option Germans proofed that they are ready to ignore their East European allies (now also being their EU partners) and, saying more generally, that they are ready to skip EU solidarity - if only cake given by Mr. Putin is enough attractive. So, if you want to blame Poland for twins actions, please refer first to ex-chancellor Mr Schroeder as he is the one who was the father of their election success.

  • 303.
  • At 03:53 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Catherine wrote:

The poles have several issues that need to be dealt with. Chief among them are the historical ones. Poland saving Western Europe from the Mongol hoards(they feel they saved our Western Civilization). To many Poles the Allies sold them to the communists after WWII. Recall also that Germany rolled into Poland with tanks during that war. Lets not forget that the Polish military were men on horses against those same tanks in WWII. The communists although not as strict in Poland exported Polish food supplies and goods to Russia leaving the Poles up the river. Deporting the educated to Siberia....and so on..
In the current days there have been issues of rich Germans buying Polish lands. Russian gas(need I say more?)
All the EU rules and regulations that Poland has had to come up to during the past few years.
The Poles have every right to be suspicious they've always gotten a raw deal from other countries in the past.
Truly there are only 2 ways to deal with stubborn poles.
1 agree, apologize, and negotiate
2 Argue make points and be even more stubborn
What would an apology hurt after all if nothing else it might improve the mood a little.
sorry for the long post

  • 304.
  • At 07:32 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Waldemar wrote:

This is what non- Poles tend to miss: Germans for last 3 centuries along with Russians, Swedes and Austrians have sucked up all Poland's wealth, left the country ruined, and occupying it prevented it from developing normaly.

This ended in 1989, when Poles finally won independence from Soviet Russia, it was only 17 years ago, and because it lasted for more then 200 years, we Poles had to start from scratch.

How can we leave the past behind, when we Poles are constantly blaimed for shortcomings... which were caused not by other than Germans?

They (Germans) along with Russians destroyed about 90% of Polands national treasure, infrustructure, and the work of generations of Poles.

You can not beat up the person, and the next day pretend your oponent; "is just weak, and it is his problem". Poland is today still a country that Nazis and Soviets distroyed. Nazis and Soviets are gone, but Poland hasn't got paid back for damage. Got it? That's where our perceived "arrogance" comes from :)

  • 305.
  • At 08:13 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Konrad wrote:

Everyone’s views are formed by one’s background. Therefore a few words about mine. Mother’s family from the Eastern part of what used to be East Prussia (now Kaliningradskaya oblast: Russian). Family partly German (including Austrian), Prussian, Jewish. Childhood in Nazi Germany, bombed out two weeks before the end of the war, lived as a boy through the Russian occupation, fled the DDR as a student. Did my PhD in West Germany, and spent most of my life in various countries such as Australia, various Asian and African countries. Presently German living abroad. Speak German, Russian, English. What does it show: well, perhaps I have a more balanced view than most, looking, so to say, at things from the outside.

What do I have to say about your Polish story? I have had close contacts with many people from many countries. What do I detest most and always have detested most?: the English hypocrisy. Who are they that they dare to preach others about morality and how to run their affairs. Germany might have had a nasty recent history lasting 12 years, and perhaps not-so-nice episodes in earlier times, but what is this compared with British history over the centuries: Ireland, the Boer war, colonisation of continents and countries, the slave trade, carpet -bombing of German cities during WWII even when the war had been won, the murderous invasion of Iraq, to mention only a few. But, on the other hand, you might blame the Germans for all this, after all, they colonized Britain.

Poland: Poland and Russia were the countries in which anti-semitism was most pronounced, in Germany it was hardly greater than in France or Britain, until the Nazis came to power. A well documented anti-Semitic progrom occurred in Poland after the Nazis had left. So, now to claim that Poland should have greater voting rights because their Jews are gone, is absurd. Even rightist Polish parties (or a party?) at this moment are fairly open about their anti-Semitic views. Culturally, Poland and Germany were always close. Polish cities were largely shaped by German influence. Although you will probably not hear it when you visit Krakow, the most magnificent buildings there were built by a German from Nuremberg. Copernicus had ethnic German background and (I am not sure about this) spoke German at home. His closest relatives were Germans in what later became East Prussia). The Polish king received his insignia from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III in the year 1000 (an event celebrated in 2000 by the German and Polish presidents). So, what is behind the present uproar: Germany wants to build a museum in Berlin in memory of the expulsion of about 13 million Germans (with many deaths) at the end of WWII from the Czech Republic and the former Eastern German provinces. These were war crimes, for which neither Poland nor the other countries involved have apologized. Which are these countries?: not just those from whose later territories they were expelled, but also those countries which gave their blessing: among others Britain.

  • 306.
  • At 08:50 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Greg wrote:


Thank you for taking the less popular point of view.

Couple of comments:

Apology in 1970 by Willy Brandt at 1943 Jewish Uprising Memorial in Warsaw was a significant step although probably designed for an international audience much more than just Poland. On the other hand - Polish western borders were confirmed during that visit and that is in many ways a more important real step for normalisation of affairs between the sides involved.

Germany has an excellent record of succesfully dealing with its past and at the same time realizing the policy of enlarging the sphere of its economical and political influence. Polish government has much to learn in that area. Playing the WW2 losses issue over and over again is more damaging than helpful on the international scene - but of course the K2 government had always difficulties grasping the idea of the politics outside Poland. And on the inside this is still at the very center of public attention - after all Poland is just beginning to come to terms with that period of time. The layers of propaganda from so called communist times as well as first euphoric post 1989 years are just now being put in the perspective of time.

Poland's role in Europe is not defined yet as the number of posts under this topic shows. Nobody outside Poland - in the past or present - is interested in politically and economically strong Poland - at least not yet. In the last 300 years Poland was a subject of various schemes to keep it as subservant as possible. That is perhaps the explanation for Polish attitude towards pivotal EU issues as well as its sentiment towards the US viewed as an outside power friendly to Poland (regardless if right or wrong). Consequently Poland will be overreacting to any possibility for the pattern from the past to repeat itself. Only careful proactive approach will remedy this situation.

So what is the next step? If real changes are to happen - there is little room for symbolism. Any symbolic gestures will remain exactly that - symbolic. Perhaps a good start would be to sit at the table and find out what the other side wants, what are they afraid of and how to achieve a solution without blocking each other's goals. Is there enough political skill, trust, confidence and will on both sides to achieve that? We will be never sure without trying although I am not sure who would represent Poland in this discussion if it is to succeed. Most important quesrion is - does anybody want to try?

Again - thank you very much for raising the subject in a little different light.


  • 307.
  • At 09:11 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Magda Mierzewska wrote:

Someone has written:
"I think it has more something to do with a bad conscience - not on the German, but on the Polish side. Poland expelled about 9 M Germans after WWII , causing death to about 1 to 2 Million. There has never been any official expression of regret for this."

This is a typical one sided view, resulting from ignorance of history.
It was decided by the powers in Yalta that one-third of the pre-war Poland's territory in the east be given to the USRR and that parts of the pre-war German territory on the west of Poland be given to it instead. As a result, the whole country was cut in size and shifted to the west.

It is true that Germans living in what used to be Germany were expelled to Germany in its new borders. But this was accompanied by ethnic cleansing in the formerly Polish territories as a result of which millions of Poles living there were shipped west, to Poland within its Yalta-shaped borders.

There were therefore two waves of ethnic cleansing, not only poor Germans were victims,but the Poles too. It is fitting to remind that they were decided in Yalta, not by Poland whose opinion on the matter was blisfully disregarded by the Allies deciding there.

I am sick and tired with blaming the Poles for the post-war ethnic cleansing while it is conveniently forgotted that we were victims of it on a par with Germans chased from Pommern and East Prussia.

Not to mention those who were not allowed to leave by the Soviet authorities and who remained in what became USSR, to rot there.

That said, Kaczynski's brothers are plain nuts and their anti-European antics are really shameful and worrying.

  • 308.
  • At 10:17 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Piter wrote:

Very good points on Poland, as for someone who is a foreigner.

I have studied European integration at home and abroad and this is more less what I think about the current situation.

Poland needs some time to get used to living inside the EU. As far as appologies for the war are concerned, we do not count on that, we just do not want more and more Germans suing Polish state in the courts (with a silent appoval of German government) and claiming their lands and homes back. We do not do that to Ukraine, Belarus or Lithuania were we lost our homes...

...though we were the victim of the war not its reason

  • 309.
  • At 10:54 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Paulina wrote:

The Polish spirit is a high-quality alcoholic beverage. There is a special method to drink it and it has healing properties. The Polish spirit is for real men, not for children.

  • 310.
  • At 12:48 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • scottow wrote:

Perhaps if the Poles took an example from the Czechs and Finns instead of thinking they were a great power they wouldn't get in such trouble.

  • 311.
  • At 02:07 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Zofia wrote:

The whole issue is another sign of hypocrisy & double standards within (old) EU. I'm Polish and EU enthusiast, but it does not mean I swallow gladly everything EU does. And please, take note that while I reject the method & how it was tackled by Polish current government (which I truly hate) and admit it could have been done with more tact & diplomacy, I support the issue wholeheartedly.

In this whole outrage about Poland stirring up people tend to forget what the whole case is/was about. EU is about equality, so why some countries should be more equal than the others? Why German or French or Italian vote should mean more than the Polish one?
Germany, France & other countries looked forward to admitting to EU 38 million of potential consumers, but the moment the very consumers demand equal rights (here: voting) it turns out that they should shut up. I see no reason why Poland should not have the same voting & parity rights as their German, French or British counterparts. I can only imagine what kind of uproar would it cause if Poland demanded from these countries to ditch some of their privileges for true equality. And we do not demand any privilege, just the same rights for all, without some more equal then the others.

What I'm really surprised is that other countries that would see decrease in their voting power in result of changes did not say a word for themselves „for the sake of not stirring up”. If such an important issue is at stake why not to stir up? Why not discuss? Why not to work up a compromise that would be acceptable for all? Leaving such issues undiscussed & unresolved is a threat for lingering sentiments in the future. I can almost see the case open up again when it serves political agenda of then. Now the case was of Angela Merkel wanting to prove her political credentials & ending German presidency with success. Who's next?

Polish suggestion of formula really equalizes voting power, but this is exactly why French & Germans do not even want to open a discussion. It would reveal the true extent of disparity & could mean that they really have to give up their unjustifiably advantageous position. So, instead they they throw a bucket of mud on Polish troublemakers as a smokescreen for their true intentions. So, what do they actually say? We can work up a compromise as long as it means our current rights (read: privileges) remain unchanged. If you want a compromise it must be you (Poland) who compromise. Just shut up and do what we have cooked up for you! We did not admit you to EU to see you using your rights! I'm sick & tired of this patronizing treating. Wanted new members? Deal with it! And better accept that they want to have their say.

And I agree with post 57 - interesting that the issue of changes to voting system has not been raised until Poland joined the EU.

  • 312.
  • At 03:45 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Simon Murphy wrote:

While I understand that Poland suffered unbearably during the War I find myself with absolutely no sympathy for the Polish government. These twins are virulently catholic and homophobic and for them and their government to then start whining about their own situation stinks of hypocrisy.

  • 313.
  • At 03:47 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Ann wrote:

This quoted statement: "We had a common history, a common attitude towards Europe, which made things simpler. Now the new countries don't share that attitude" is a joke. When did France and the UK have a "common attitude towards Europe." Cf CAP... When did Germany and Greece have a common history? When the former mercilessly slaughtered the latter just 65 years ago? I'm Polish. I currently live, work and pay taxes abroad. I did not vote for our current government and I do not support their politics. But the fact is that even the EU of 6 did not have a common history other than that of mutual violence. The fact is that the EU is an advocate of democracy only if democratic countries present a "common attitude" and that's a travesty of democracy. Grow up, stop whining and most of all - stop looking for "substitute issues" and start dealing with real issues: competitiveness of the European economy, financial balance, equality of all European citizens. Why can I not just choose to live and work in eg Germany? All in all I went to schools for 20 years, learn quickly, am flexible and respectful of other cultures, speak three languages fluently and a couple more on an intermediate level. Why can my cousin, a farmer, hardly make ends meet with all the EU subsidies and playing by the EU rules? As long as "new" EU citizens are second-category citizens, don't expect us to love the old EU. Which does not mean we love our government... PS. I do not need anybody's apologies for WWII. Brutally speaking, the generation of those who should have apologised and those to whom apology was owed is dead. Time for a grown-up, objective analysis of history, not gestures.

  • 314.
  • At 05:17 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Piotr wrote:

a very good blog! congrats Mark.
I'd like to make one correction though. Our (PL) government didn't want to ban "Teletubies" – such idea was only mentioned in public by spokesperson for children's rights, who is well known for "interesting" statements. She was almost immediately denied by one of appropriate Ministers. The "Teletubies" topic became extremely popular in the media in PL and outside which was just an additional argument against so disliked Polish government.

Warsaw, PL

  • 315.
  • At 05:42 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • mark Sarum wrote:

I must say Mark you really revealed you ignorance of polish german relationships in this article- willy brandts apology you missed that one! also Polish people are not like yourself allowed to go and work in germany- this is still illegal- if you were a polish worker looking for work as a journalist in Berlin =it is not possible at the moment- and you think polish should shut up and think how lucky they are- I suggest you should stick to stories about EU banning english sausages or something you actually know something about.

  • 316.
  • At 07:44 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Teresa Pugh wrote:

An excellent and perceptive article, but I suspect that some of the points made were just too subtle. Many readers have stressed the significance of Willy Brandts apology to the Poles, and yes, that was indeed a turning point for Polish - German relations. But that was not the point being made by Mark. At the end of the war, there were winners, losers and sacrificial lambs. The Poles, who fought in almost every battle of the war believing they were fighting for a free Poland were betrayed by their friends, the allies. And it is the allies, not the Germans who need to heal the wounds left by betrayal. (Germany was the enemy, and they apologised!). This is the crucial difference. To make matters worse, not only were the Poles handed to Russia, and denied the benefits of the Marshall Plan, they were not even allowed to attend the victory celebrations in London! They became a source of embarassment, and the Allies simply wanted to forget that Poland and the Poles ever belonged to Europe. And now, they really wish the Poles would play by their rules, and not remind them of uncomfortable facts. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way, and it will take many more years, and much diplomacy for the Poles to feel vindicated. So now it is Polands turn to make their voice heard, and if the rest of Europe doesn't like it, they will have to learn that wounds have to be healed, and the truth has to come out. It will take more time.

  • 317.
  • At 08:45 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • RR wrote:

'They [Russians] still own lands they annexed from Poland and during WWII'

Not true. Eastern lands are not originally Polish but Lithuanian/Ruthenian. The country that existed between the XV and XIX centuries was NOT Poland but 'Reczpospolita Obojga Narodow' - a mutual coexistence of two/three countries merged into one - Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine (although the last one developed a national self-conscience a bit later). Any historian will say that calling that country 'Poland' is a cardinal mistake.
That country was something like the EU, but with single government, army and diplomacy - it used to be one of the most powerful, tolerant and innovative countries medieval Europe has ever seen.

One more thing - please do not associate the Polish with the views presented by Kaczynskis and their government. Not all of us are narrow-minded and intolerant. The kaczynskis themselves are largely unpopular in their own country and i very much doubt if they will be re-elected.

  • 318.
  • At 11:47 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Greg T wrote:

Part of the reasons of Polish approach to Europe is the coziness of Western part of EU and the fact they "know better". New entrants are thus backward and ignorant. And that even shows in some responses.
Poland despite being on the winning side of WWII, was ,apart from Germany, the biggest looser. Thanks to Yalta, Polish borders were moved west, which does not help in Polish-German reconciliation. No doubt that some German chancellors made steps towards reconciliation.
As far Willy Brandt kneeling photos; I do not doubt his sincere gesture, however he knelt in front of monument of the Ghetto uprising not the Warsaw uprising.

The Kaczynski brothers simply try to undo EU accession conditions. There is a feeling that the former government completely sold Poland to EU, and negotiated almost no concessions (Malta won more concessions from Brussels than Poland. The fact that Eastern Europeans cannot legally work in other EU countries (with exception of UK,Ireland and Swedes)is a prove of them being second class citizens. So they try to show their weight every time than can

  • 319.
  • At 08:04 AM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Maybe its the Eu's fault. The west was quick to jump when the iron curtain came down, rushing to the new markets to throw their influence. The west never gave the east a chance to find and know themselves. The east wants a quick fix to all of their lackings and the west blindly said sure as long as you buy our goods. It took a lot for effort and the marshall plan to get the NATO countries where they are today. Polish laws, infrastucture, industry, comerce, and people may not be ready.

  • 320.
  • At 08:24 AM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Frostie wrote:

Unless you are Polish and have lived in Poland and continue to live in Poland, and have lived through the war - keep your unrealistic comments to yourself.

  • 321.
  • At 09:19 AM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian wrote:

"Willy Brandt falls spontaneously to his knees as he lays a wreath at the memorial for the Jews murdered in 1943 by SS units in the Warsaw Ghetto"
There are still loads of people who remember II world war very well, this really happend 60 years ago, in Warsaw there are still holes in buildings made by german bullets, it is not so easy to forget the war and please do not take me wrong but do not comapre those facts with something which happend 400 years ago in Africa.

  • 322.
  • At 10:10 AM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Tanya Taylor wrote:

Excellent article. I have enjoyed reading most of the blog and have also learned from it. Thankyou.
As to rememberances and what rankles; I have been unable to see a cousin much older than I who was visiting Sydney recently, he lives abroad now. My reason was that when I was very little and could not ride a bike, he pretended to help me onto his broken bike and send me down a hill, I had a nasty accident and hurt my head very badly. Although totally recovered and middle aged now, I am unable to forget this unhappy incident and still (perhaps unfairly) believe him to have 'criminal' tendencies, although none of my siblings agree with me. Now I bring all this up because what rankles is what Germany has to understand about what they did and Poland to get over, if it ever will. I believe that when collective memory exhausts itself, and all those over 60 go to pasture, then perhaps, with the right leadership, a country will move forward. After all its not just the Poles is it? HOw about the Irish, The Scots, The Israelies, the whole of the middle east. Some say that Japan has done the best job in regaining reputation, perhaps - it is in the hands of the forgiver and the K twins don't seem to have the best agenda on hand - or perhaps they have, perhaps they are righting (even crudely) by rubbing the German's noses in it and the rest of Europe too. Ask someone who has a rememberance of Rape, serious Assault, if they can forget - that is the most difficult.

  • 323.
  • At 11:05 AM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Krzys wrote:

A few explanations concerning the Kaczynski brothers. I am afraid that many people in the West do not understand the Kaczynski brothers phenomenon.
Their success in Poland is build on the fact that the Polish left is dead. The Polish left turned out to be a band of thieves. The lefties in Poland drive jaguars and live in houses as big as barns. They have enriched themselves at the expense of privatised state assets while the population was making sacrificies. In contrast, the Kaczynskis and their party (Law and Justice) are honest and real statesmen. They maybe clumsy and awkward in their language, but they are honest and do not seek material wealth. They did a great job in bringing to juistice those involved in corruption. They offer Polish people some sense of justice and therefore, they are relatively popular. They are also lawers and know how to punish criminals.
I am a socialist by heart, but this is what happened in Poland. The biggest mistake in post-1989 Polish history was allowing the post-communists to turn into alleged social-democrats. This was incourgaed by the western European social democratic parties. By doing this, western social democracy killed genuine leftists from the solidarity movement.

  • 324.
  • At 01:12 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Edi wrote:

I'm proud that I'm from Poland. The brothers Kaczynskis aren't dangerous like you - British TV and Europan newspapers are thinking. And proud that my religion this is Raman Catholic Church. This is true :)

  • 325.
  • At 02:16 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Barbara wrote:

Many Germans here point out that Poland or Poles want to hear apologies for the WW2 for years now.

This is a complete misunderstanding.
Polish society is actually tired with the topic, which is relentlessly raised every year during different historic celebrations. That doesn't mean we want to forget the past. But as long as the older generations dwell more in it more than the younger (which actually is true for every European nation) the younger are more prone to make bussiness, travel and rest abroad and show our country to European guests.
The majority of Poles aren't waiting for any more apologies for historical unjustice.

Please don't forget to place a strong division line between the modern Polish nation and our government.

  • 326.
  • At 03:58 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Anna wrote:

Marc-thank you for your article. I think you understand the position of Poland better than many other Europeans. Poland was not only destroyed by the Germans but also completely betrayed by the Allies- i.e the main players in today's Europe .Everyone who knows the history of Poland and Europe in the last century can not be surprised that Poland is now figthing for it's rights.It is payback time.And for anyone that has doubts I recommend Norman Davies book "God's Playground".

  • 327.
  • At 04:09 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Polish_person wrote:

You don't understand Poland!!! You - English people sold Poland to the USSR after the World War II. You should look after your country and your society. We - Polish people will manage!!! The EU is a new, worse the USSR of the 21st century.

  • 328.
  • At 04:11 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Jeremy wrote:

Some interesting sentiments surfacing in all these comments. A couple from me, having been travelling to Poland since 1983 and being married to a German girl, while staying British, living in the US.

1. The Polish history is largely unknown outside of Poland, which is a pity as there have been some really important Polish history which affected all of Europe.
Grunwald in 1410, and of course the mainly Polish victory at the gates of Vienna stopping the Ottoman invasion of Europe.

2. The dissappearance of Poland for 200 years, engineered by the Hapsburgs, was due in some measure to the inability of the Sejm, the Polish parliament/political system, to be able to govern effectively.

3. Poland, like Germany, has had anti semitic periods, with pogroms and forcible evictions.

4. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the British declared war as a response. Is this not standing by Poland? The hundreds of thousands of British and Dominion dead as a result would be shocked.See comment 45.

5. The British Royal Air Force Halifaxes flew from Northern Italy to support the Warsaw uprising while the Soviet army waited on the other side of the Vistula until the Germans had crushed the opposition. They refused the RAF landing rights on the Soviet side. See comment 45 again.

6. Comment 53 from Theo. Actually the Concentration camp deaths in the Boer war were terrible, but due primarily to sicknesses such as influenza, which struck the British soldiers just as much. Still horrible, but not premeditated.
The KZ Lagern of the Nazis, were predominantly extermination and forced labour camps. A comparison of the two like that is inaccurate.

7. To blame the allies for abandoning Poland at the end of the war is misleading. At Yalta, Roosevelt supported Stalin's Polish occupation, and Churchill, who was well aware of the British committment to Poland and the Polish sacrifices in the British military, tried to the end to get the exile Polish goverment legitimized and installed. Stalin, de facto occupier of Poland by this time, safe in the knowledge that the US would not move against it, ignored Churchill and the exile Polish government.
Remember Churchill comments on the "wrong pig" and the "iron curtain"?
"Blame anyone?" The Soviets I think.

8. Look at the geographical maps of Europe in 1939 and now.
You will see that large parts of Germany are now Polish or Russian. Large parts of Poland are also now in Ukraine, Belarus,and Lithuania.
The only one who has freely forfeited its claim to historical lands is Germany. What abour Russia or Poland?

9. Germany has apologized many times for the Nazi regime and its actions,and has paid huge sums over the years to victims and governments alike. It has continued being the paymaster of the Common Market for many years, which now includes Poland as a benficiary. The Polish government comments on Germany are insensitive, and very innappropriate.

10. Germany's position on "proportional representation", is one of the basics of democracy. The Polish government's position ignores the "one man one vote" tenet, and instead has sought to invoke an Orwellian "some are more equal to others" position for itself.

I could go on with more observations, but to come back to the real reason for this blog in the first place, which was to discuss "Polish Spirit" in the context of membership in the Common Market, I do believe that most Poles welcome their entry, and have voted on it with their feet. After all, 600,000 Poles in the UK, and historically, hundreds of thousands in Germany, tell a clear story. The present Polish Government does not represent the views of most of its population, and will be voted out at the next election. Roll on that day!

  • 329.
  • At 04:47 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Matt Chojecki wrote:

We don’t want any apology!!!
We want to seat in front of our European friends as partners not guests or some baggage handlers. Is it to much? Press and UE rulers demonstrated something opposite during last two weeks. That’s the problem…

My dear European colleagues
Some facts:
1. Poland didn’t have Marshal Plan

2. Poland had for 50 years communist regime

3. Don’t start Jewish arguments in discussion. Look in the mirror first and read some history books. We saved more Jews than entire west Europe in front of death punishment.

4. Schroeder – Putin pipeline. Ribbentrop – Molotov pact. Some similarities?

5. Meat Scandal when without reason Russians banned our meat. We were asking UE for help with this issue for 6 months and our friends from UE showed to us middle finger. When we threat UE-Russia talks by veto our friends they saw the problem…

Lets forget 1st, 2nd, and 3rd point and focus on 4th and 5th. One more thing, don’t blame K. brothers on everything. Second political power in Poland (Platforma Obywatelska) supported K. brothers in debate about UE constitution.

If someone from you guys would know what communism left in Poland you would not be surprised that K. brothers are in power right know. Most of newspapers are in post-communist hands and they hate K brothers because they want to destroy oligarchy system built by post-communists during last 17 years of “independence”.

  • 330.
  • At 06:50 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Magdalena Potemski wrote:

I think that you lack the basics in history. Poland was not "late" to the table - we were not included at all! After numerous promises by the Allies, we were handed over to the Communist Block. With this track record, are you surprised that Poland is less than accommodating to the EU.
I admire the spirit of the Polish people, without it Poland would have ceased to exist a long time ago!

  • 331.
  • At 06:54 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

Jeremy (328) writes "Germany's position on 'proportional representation' is one of the basics of democracy". This is not correct. The purpose of a body like the EU Council of Ministers is to represent States and not people. In this respect the Council of Ministers is similar to the German Bundesrat which uses exactly the "square root" law that Germany opposes in the EU Council of Ministers. This method (the "Penrose method") has been known since 1946 to give equal weight to each voter in assemblies of states of unequal population. For Germany to oppose this method that it uses at home smacks of double standards.

  • 332.
  • At 07:33 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Steinmann wrote:

To Peter Collins
just take your history textbooks and read up about the last 60 years and come back when you matured on that subject before claiming that Poland under the communists did not deserve the gesture of Willi Brandt. And do not trivialize the gesture of this man who himself was in the German resistance against the Nazis and was one of the last to be a demanded this gesture. Please also take into account that by putting your finger towards other people they will always be three fingers pointing back to you. The Poles were not treated on equal terms by the Brits during and after WWIII and was simply signed off to the Soviets. Like the Czechs, Romanians and all the other nations that vanished behind the iron curtain. And no one over there on that pillar island of high morality gave a shit about the millions of civilian deaths, mostly women, children and old people, Germans or Poles during flight and expulsion in these years after WWII. The UK just signed them off. Stop throwing with stones while sitting in such a glasshouse. Or you will be punished by being quoted ...

  • 333.
  • At 08:19 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • evangelina wrote:

I could only get thru first 90, so it might have been said allready.

Past is exactly what it says PAST. As idealistic it sounds, it would benefit to all, and that includes Poles, look forward.
I came out of Czechoslovakia,the most "recent" occupiers German and Russian. You have to get over it and at least try to make future better.

  • 334.
  • At 12:28 AM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Kirk wrote:

The irony of this whole thing is that the statements made by the K brothers as "representing" Poland, have created much support for the German position.
Ultimately it just serves (diplomatically) to strengthen Germany and weaken Poland.
Too much whining gets you ignored.

  • 335.
  • At 12:43 AM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Michel Gehin wrote:

I had a Polish grandfather hence my interest here. This blog is good, well-researched and well-written. However, I feel it only focuses on one side of the equation.

If we feel that Poland needs more apologies from Western Europe (and Germany in particular), then a mirror apology has to come from Russia too. Poland was raped by Germany from 1939 to 1944 but also by Russia before AND after. Remember Katyn and the massacre of Polish officers? (my great-grandfather is reckoned to be one of them)

As other contributors have said, a good understanding of Poland's life under communism explains a great deal why the K. brothers are in power today. Let's not condemn Poland just because sometimes they take a hard line.

Poland as a nation will be a credit to the EU. Historically, Poland has always been friends with Western powers, mainly France and Britain. Polish fighters have always been respected when they have helped fight other people's wars. Today Polish skills in traditional trades such as plumbing or new trades such as IT programming are highly regarded. Poles have shown they will adapt to a western lifestyle very easily. Poles in the last 100 years have made huge contributions in countries like the US, France, Germany and the UK.

Also let's not forget what is a Pole? Today's Poland is mainly based of what was Prussia (and Prussia for most people means Germany - wrongly actually but that's another debate). The Poland of the late 19th century and first half of the 20th is located in what is now Ukraine and Belarus. So the Poles of today are not necessarily more representative of what we think of Poland than someone from, say, western Ukraine.

Complicated? Yes. But it's worth making efforts to welcome Poland. Its people are worth it and will enrich the EU.

  • 336.
  • At 02:21 AM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Alex from Sydney wrote:

I am Polish and proud of it. Proud of the current Polish government. One that stands tough to so called friends form EU.

  • 337.
  • At 08:19 AM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • dalen wrote:

It was nice to see a blog on the BBC addressing some of the frustrations surrounding the current Polish administration.

If only the Polish administration could take the time to think about its antagonist attitude toward the very 'body'/E.U. it joined, then progress could be made - as well as the 'Poles' being looked at in a better light.

As it stands now, Im personally quite tired of always hearing about Poland in the news, and wish that they would leave the E.U. - again, typically you join an organization you want to be part of...not try to change it to your set standards. - so indeed Poland is seen as quite stubborn.

Comments toward Germany about population were uncalled for. It could have been as easily said that the population in Poland would be larger if they didn't all leave Poland for the U.k. to escape from the current conditions of bliss set up by the administration. (said with loads of sarcasm)

Again, you want to join the club or be a cancer that feeds off the body until it devours it, and we all turn into grumpy, stubborn politicians styled after the current Polish administration?

One it currently stands, dump Poland from the E.U. (call it a divorce) and take in least they are trying and want to adept to a new style of thought...they have little room in which to prove themself... they would never stand a chance in the E.U. if they displayed the same 'attitude' which Poland is currently displaying.


  • 338.
  • At 10:07 AM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

To Zbigniew (No. 282), a question:
What is wrong about a shipyard electrician being elected the president of Poland or any other country?

Both as trade unionist and politician, Mr. Lech Walesa was a top-notch leader.

  • 339.
  • At 10:15 AM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • obces wrote:

AD 328

"The Polish government's position ignores the "one man one vote" tenet, and instead has sought to invoke an Orwellian "some are more equal to others" position for itself."

"One man one vote" rule would be perfect if we had only referenda in Europe - it would really be fully democratic and representative system. However in case of indirect voting, and it is the case in the EU Council (firstly citizens elect their governments which make decisions in the Coucil) the bigger MS's are overrepresented. This thing is well known among scientists.

It is 2004, long before Terrible Twins, the "Scientists for Democratic Europe" sent a letter to all EU MS's in which they proposed to introduce a "square-root" system as the most democratic. If you're interested in the topic just google: square-root, treaty, fair distribution etc.

You may also take a look at a brief note on the subject by Werner Kirsch, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany

  • 340.
  • At 01:11 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

336 obces wrote: "However in case of indirect voting, and it is the case in the EU Council (firstly citizens elect their governments which make decisions in the Coucil) the bigger MS's are overrepresented. This thing is well known among scientists. It is 2004, long before Terrible Twins, the "Scientists for Democratic Europe" sent a letter to all EU MS's in which they proposed to introduce a "square-root" system as the most democratic."

It may well be that the square root system would be the most adequate for the Council - IF ONE ONLY LOOKS AT THE COUNCIL. However, to make a political judgement on the adequate distribution of votes in Council you must UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES take the distribution of votes in the European Parliament into account(where Germany has more votes than other Member States but FAR LESS than would result from "one man, one vote"). After all, most legislative decisions are nowadays made on the basis of the Co-decision Procedure which gives the Parliament significant - and increasing - power vis-a-vis Council.
Any judgement pretending that the Council is the sole legislative decision-making body cannot be more than a very preliminary one and needs to be supplemented by the full picture if any practical conclusions are to be drawn from it.

  • 341.
  • At 01:36 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Piotr Sleczkowski wrote:

Few my Polish collegues already posted here, let me also add few words. This is not a true picture that we still only want to remember WWII and that we claim something from the rest of Europe just to upset Germans and EU. The present time is much more interesting for us, and right now we can observe a process, which leads to another German domination in Europe, hidden behind EU. I have nothing against German people, but I'm affraid German politics. Both German and Russia always have been aiming to domination and the rest of Europe always have not been interested in disturbing them in that (only Great Britain seems to be really independent in this fellowship). Poland staying between German and Russia never can sleep safely. It's a question of time only, when a story repeat in a new shape - and this is why we recall WWII as a proof what may happen yet. It's a kind of hypocrisy to say that the "old 15" countries from EU have more in common from "old 15" and newly joined "12". As WWII example and previous history show the old "15" never have been a natural community, which able to understand one another. They will never be a natural community. What they can do (and they do it successfully for now) is to keep a reasonable balance to collaborate one another instead of fight one against another.

There is one more reason why we recalled WWII before the latest summit. It's a kind of hypocrisy from Western Europe to say Poland "you are poor, weak country, what actually you claim" after the last 50 years. What would you say if a burglar-killer came to your home, if he fired your house on eyes of your friends, if he killed your family? What would you say if this burglar-killer transformed later into a decent man who say you "oh, boy, you are so poor and weak and your family is so small, you cannot be a strong partner for us". Wouldn't you remind him his crimes then? Actually, we don't want to remember WWII forever, but our niegbours don't allows us to forget. And it's even not a claim (as many people accuse us that we demand something from Germany or rest of Europe), it's just an awareness - where we are, who we are, and who are our neighbours.

  • 342.
  • At 02:21 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Reading the comments, it is clear that many Poles realise that their own government may be their worst enemy. This is both encouraging and frustrating given that this government happens to be in power at a moment which is likely to have a significant influence on how Poland is perceived by other EU member states (and their populations). Has there ever been an EU Member State government that was politically so dependent on the support of people like Father Rydzyk? The following is a quote from the Financial Times and speaks for itself:

"In a recording of a lecture given by Father Rydzyk and obtained by the Wprost news weekly, the priest said Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president, was in cahoots with Jews and called his wife a “witch” who should be given euthanasia.

The prime minister and his twin brother, the ­president, did not comment on Monday as the full ramification of Father Rydzyk’s remarks became clear. His base of followers is crucial to the political future of the government, and denouncing the cleric could shift them to other far-right ­parties."

  • 343.
  • At 03:41 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Christoph wrote:

Poles are generally stubborn about deep-seated issues like the war. They will not let up without making a fuss. I myself am half Polish and I know it is in the nature of the Pole to be this way. I do not know why, however I think it is time for change and a little patience. President Kaczynski and his brother are not being cooperative with the basic foundations of the EU, most notably the one about solidarity, for which Poland itself is responsible. A citizen ceases to be only within borders, he must share losses and gains equally with his fellow denizens at a town, nation, and Union level.

This selfishness will only hinder progress towards this unity we seek. I might want to add that the Polish government should not be an accurate representation of the Polish people, like the Bush Administration in the US is not an accurate representation of the American people.

It is my understanding that the EU strives to achieve cooperation and peace both internally and externally. Should we allow the Kaczynski's to remain in power, or is there an alternative? I love Poland and am proud of my heritage, but I think it might have been too early for Poland to join the EU. Maybe this Kaczynski rubbish is clouding my jugdement. Any thoughts?

  • 344.
  • At 07:32 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Krzysztof - Canada wrote:

Mark Mardell’s conversation over diner with senior depolomat from the small european country just proved, how cinical and selffish some of old 15 union members can be.

It is definitely nothing wrong with Kaczynski brothers, they got mandate to fight unimaginable corruption and reconcile country’s socialist past because atrocity were committed during regime time of “Polish Russian Friendship Forever” 1944 – 1989. This is some thing which old Europe and Russia want heard about it, but crime shall not be forgotten and predators should be bring to justice.
It is clearly convenience for old European members to silent Gulags in Siberia or 25000 murdered in Katyn forest and looked into prosper rich Russian land regardless. Obviously Russian does not owe anything to old Europeans but they do own a lot to eastern and central Europeans countries.
I hope, that one day while I still alive Russian president will come to Poland kneel, kiss the soil and say sorry for atrocities committed in the names of imperial Russia and Soviet Union. just like Germans did already for they crimes.

Flourished economical future with neighbours can’t be build frilly on bad pass experience, Poland joined European union with overwhelm amount of favourites votes, but shortly after it learns things happened behind Her back, like northern pipe line, changing the vote system or museum in Berlin commemorate “victimize Germans” resettled from today western part of Poland as result of Yalta agreement.
I have to say shame on you – “Mr Senior Diplomat” having diner with Mark Mardell.
Poland’s young diplomacy will learn how to do it right next time, but senior western diplomats the’ are to old to learn….?

  • 345.
  • At 08:11 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Pago wrote:

Why no one mentions that Poland was entering the EU on different terms, so it is natural to present own view. Also political correctness in EU is making me sick. When UK (issue of EU labor laws) or France (stopping liberation of services) is forcing own positions then it is a "common good", EU's business, but when other countries are trying to push own agendas than they are bad boys. Some of the info is greatly exaggerated. And people speaking about prosecutions of the gays in Poland can't bring any facts into discussion because there is none (Teletubies, please, gymmy a break!!).

  • 346.
  • At 08:35 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Bill Lee wrote:

Poland remembers the betrayal at Yalta by a "Liberal" West; and why should it not!Poland is the refreshing voice of a tradition that created Europe, much needed in the stifling PC halls of the EC.As in 1683 when she saved us all from becoming Eurostanis, Poland will be the vehicle that saves Europe from self inflicted death by conscious depopulation.

  • 347.
  • At 11:07 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • Slawek wrote:

Poland will only begin to change when MY generation will come to power. I'm 25 years old, I have a University degree and I am willing to change Poland once Poland is willing to give me a chance.

What's needed is new ideas, world wide view of politics, open minds, not 60 year old politicians who care only about keeping their lucrative positions. Change comes with time, all Poland needs is time, and I only hope half of Poland's young minds won't leave abroad by the time their country is ready.

  • 348.
  • At 01:46 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Ms. Baron wrote:

Very interesting article & comments. I was fed up hearing the Polish leader complaining about Germany killing off so many of their people. My ancestors were Polish Jews & they had to flee the pogroms (racial persecution) in the mid-to- late 19th century. Thank God Britain & the USA took my ancestors in, otherwise the Poles would have slaughtered them long before Hitler came to power.

  • 349.
  • At 03:02 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

I feel obliged to clarify the meaning of Willy Brandt kneeling in Warsaw in 1970. He knelt in front of the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
This was a great moment of
this remarkable man, to express the horror and regret for the idea and an awfully successful attempt
by the Germans to extinguish a whole peoples. It was not about the German-Polish relations. It was about the Holocaust.

  • 350.
  • At 03:09 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Ralf wrote:

#193 Audrius' comment is exactly right. The Russian-German pipeline alliance (dubbed Molotov-Ribbentrop II) is what precipitated this whole EU summit debacle. Maybe the Germans and their EU buddies have too short memories?

  • 351.
  • At 03:42 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Latimer wrote:

The Polish resentment of the Baltic gas pipeline agreement between Germany and Russia is curious indeed. Two sovereign nations decide on a method of shipping a natural resource, sold by one country to the other, and somehow Poland feels entitled to be part of the process? Why? It seems that the Polish frustration stems from a lost opportunity to hold Western Europe hostage by blocking deliveries of gas from Russia (note: it would be European gas, not Russian, because Europe would have bought it -- with the concomitant transfer of property rights.) Sorry to note, but this seems like the mindset of highwaymen.

And how is the gas pipeline agreement equivalent to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? Also note that Communist Poland was ruled by *Polish* communists -- we do not recall any Russian names in the governement of post-1945 Poland. So let us be careful with assigning blame for Poland's tribulations after WWII. Yes, Stalin helped Polish communists come to power, but why is that unexpected? Polish nationalists were prominent in the Soviet government after 1917 (see below) so Stalin was just exercising "socialist solidarity" with regard to his Polish political allies, by giving them their own ancestral land to rule over.

While no Russian nationals ruled Poland since 1918, Poles like Feliks Dzierzinski and his co-nationals terrorised Soviet Russia through the CheKa, and Poles like S.V. Kosior and S.F. Redens (heads of the Communist Party of Soviet Ukraine and Ukraine's political police, respectively) organized the infamous artificial famine in Ukraine of 1933...

Maybe communism in Poland was a kind of retribution by the Fates for the misdeeds of some Poles in Soviet Russia? History can be funny that way...

  • 352.
  • At 06:17 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Alexei wrote:

First of all, I am russian, just to let you now ;).

About history
Russia should apologize to Poland for the events of WWII. I hope it will happen some day, after all it took Germany 30 years, so come back in 20 years (it would also help if Russia is rich by the time).. However,it would be fair to notice that it was not russians who started both world wars, hope you guys leave us alone in future, and apologise for what you already done to us. Remember we are not europeans and have no intention of becoming ones (surprise! I bet most of you think european civilization is the best thing possible on this planet), just think of us as kind of China or India, if you wish.

About Baltic pipeline
It is understandable why Poland is not happy about it, but really, modern world is all about business and money, so why it is wrong for Germany and Russia to cut the middle-man? Also, Poland by its words and actions had proven itself an unfriendly state to Russia, so now russians don't want to have anything to do with Poland, is this not logical? Why do you have to trade with your enemy?

About future of Poland
I wish polish people all the best, I have friends among them, they are great. ..and they live better then russians, at least at the moment. Globally though no one needs Poland anymore, it has nothing really important or irreplaceable to offer to the rest of the world, except for the land for missiles or pipelines, but may be they should not be discouraged by that, it may be for their own good – just look at this oil-rich Iraq.

  • 353.
  • At 11:24 AM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • mmascibr wrote:

Some facts about Poland:

1. A country which has been in existence for over 1,000 years.

2. A country which was baptised in 996 AD.

3. A country invaded by Teutonic Knights for over 100 years, who were finally defeated by Poland in 1410.

4. A country which had opened its first university in the 14th century.

5. A country whose King Jan III Sobieski was intrumental in defeating Austria from the Turkish invasion in the so called Viennese Siege in 1683.

6. A country which as a result of three partitions commencing towards the end of the 18th century by Prussia, Russia and Austrian-Hungarian Kingdom ceased to exist for 123 years. It reappeared on the map in 1918.

7. A country whose pilots played a significant role in the Battle of Britain during WW2.

8. A country whose soldiers played a significant role in the Battle of Monte Cassino.

9. A country responsible for the decoding of the Enigma code during WW2.

  • 354.
  • At 12:22 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:

From James (Blog 45) to Ana (Blog 100)

Thanks for your comments.

There have been SOME excellent Polish films on WW2 and its aftermath. Please be assured that some of us the UK have seen the Kanal/Ashes & Diamonds/A Generation trilogy.

I'm not sure if you would classify Polanski's 'The Pianist' as a Polish film - but further to my point re British ignorance of history, many people here did not 'get' the chronology of that film, typically confusing the Ghetto Rising of '43 with the Rising of '44.

  • 355.
  • At 01:53 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Great article. Healing takes time. I studied in Krakow 2 years ago and there is plenty of hatred for Germans. Here in the U.S., we are perceived as being slow to get past our racial prejudices, but it is interesting that here the majority is always blamed for the tensions. We have a black candidate for president that more white people than black think can win. Poland has every right to be upset, but they also need to work through their problems and focus on the future, and know that Gemany is not out to conquer and enslave them again. It will take an act of goodwill on Germany's part to make this happen, something beyond economic support and following the treaties that came as a result of the war. As far as the voting rules go, why not compromise with a bicameral legislature, one body based on population and one with equal representation? It has worked well in the U.S. for over 200 years, longer than any constitutional government in Europe by quite a bit.

  • 356.
  • At 02:02 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • katrina wrote:

It is a very well written article. I do think Mark has learnt the history. He is mentionning the fact that really Poland's bloody and sad history has never been acnowledged. Untill it happens, such problematic situation as mentionning the war will occur.
Mark, I congratulate you that you tauch the history that is conviniently forgotten.
As for Germans, I think they do prefare not to remember what happened. I lived there and had the distinctive feeling that the war has never happend.
I don't think Poland is waiting for another apology, however has Willy Brandt appologized to Poles or to the Jews?
If anythink Poles would welcome appology from MrPutin but that will never happen.:(

  • 357.
  • At 04:12 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Maryna Jarzabek wrote:

I will refrain from commenting on Polish government here - I may be their critic, but I will leave this criticism to Polish domestic forums.
I always enjoy external views on Poland and Mr Mardell's post is a well-written and thought piece.
What I disagree with is a statement that Poland still looks for an apology for the WWII. Poland is cursed with its geographical localisation and the experience of centuries ridden with wars left a mark on the country. We are taught in schools that modern history in Eastern Europe is a history of betrayal - Ribbentrop Molotov pact, Warsaw uprising, Yalta, etc. That makes Poles suspicious in every way and take actions like Baltic gas pipeline very personally.
It is hard to me to understand Polish affection to everything American, but being called the "US spy in the middle of EU" I find exaggerated and offensive. America provided visibly the biggest support to Central Europe in the fight with communism hence our belief they stick for us as well (negotiable but hey - trying to explain Polish perspective here!)

Poland also have much harsher approach towards Russia than the rest of Europe - while the rest of EU tries to negotiate with Putin and achieves quite poor results with the, we see it as another Russian game to conflict the countries within EU. Yes, our temperament doesn't help much in those diplomatic games, but over years of Russian and Soviet occupation we learnt that there's no such thing as Russian diplomacy. And we get angered that Western politicians cannot see through Putin who is leading them on a leash. Lack of help from EU with Polish-Russian meat-exporting problem only added a sour note to already wide-spread believe that we can only "count on ourselves".

Western European countries should also wake up rather than saying that Poland and other countries need to adapt to the old EU's standards. The Union is expanding and therefore changing and it will never be like in 2003! Why did you invite 12 new, culturally-diverse countries since than? You couldn't really think that everything will stay the same!.
It is said that we should learn political correctness in EU summits, but where was Mr. Chirac's correctness when he told all Poles that they "lost a chance to sit quiet" in 2004?
There are some accusations above that Poland is too stuck in the past, but according to me Europe has even more serious problem with that! Celebrations of old won battles, constant arguments about EU budgets and with silly travels between Brussels and Strasbourg consuming millions of euros? Wake up Europe – we are loosing the battle of greatness in economical sense with US, China and India! We stress how old and cultural Europe is, but unless we want to be a one huge museum, I suggest we focus more on how to be more competitive and make the economy stronger.

  • 358.
  • At 05:22 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Ted Czapla wrote:

Poland needs time to heal.

As a result of WWII, Poland lost 13 million people mostly murdered by German soldiers and the country was destroyed and then stripped of what was left by Soviet Russians and the west, whose values Poland defended and whose soldiers fought for allies, handed it over to Soviet Russia for a half century of occupation and further repression. Poland lost a big chunk of land in east and was given a small chunk in west. Germans were expelled brutally, but what the hell do you expect - to say Poles murdered 1 million expellees is a lie perpetrated by Neo-Nazis and the Prussian Claims Society that no historian supports. After WWII Germany gets $25 billion Marshall Plan and Poland got nothing until a few pennies for slave labourers from Germany came in last few years. My mother got nothing because she didn't live long enough.

My mother, her sister and mother spent time in Berghen Belsen death camp, then returned to their ruined homes and starvation while her father was deported by Soviets and murdered in Siberia. When she left the country in 1960 she came to Canada where she worked as a cleaning lady (even though she had a masters in Economics). When we spoke Polish on streetcars in Toronto, we were told to speak white or go back to where we came from. This was pretty much the Polish experience after WWII. Europeans need to understand the Polish psyche. I for one want to forget the past and move forward and I largely have, but something is needed. Poland is better off thanks to EU transfers, much of which comes gratefully from Germany, but 1.5 million Poles have left due to unemployment.

This issue will not die until a gesture of compensation is made for those millions murdered and the property destroyed, estimated at $1 trillion. Poles don't want to hate Germans nor bankrupt them - we sincerely want to be brothers. But historic scores must be settled to some acceptable extent. Above all, Poles would appreciate it most if some Germans would stop teaching their children anti-polonism and or racist hatred towards Poles.

  • 359.
  • At 07:36 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

It seems that there is a constant stream of comments on Poland not based on fact...

Ms baron Re 345, the 19th century is the time when Poland did not exist as an independent country (as mentioned by others in the posts). The time of the Partitions. So how exactly was the Polish state responsible for Jewish pogroms if it did not exist at the time? If your ancestors really had to flee persecution, then depending on which part of Polish territory they were from, it is either Germany, Austria, or Russia that were responsible.

Latimer Re 348, I suggest a more detailed reading of modern Eastern European history on how Russia controlled its satellites. It is bizzare to argue that the USSR is not responsible for the damage to that part of the world because they were controlling governments that were nominally local. How exactly does that remove the influnce Russia had on these countries untill about 20 years ago? Simply, it DOES NOT.

Alexi Re 349, yes Poland is unfriendly towards Russia in many ways (much less towards the Russian people of whom we think as kind of cousins)... hopefully not for ever... but I would say that this is because of what Russia has done to Poland recently. I am not aware of anything that Poland has done to Russia. To me this is a distinction, and an important difference.

  • 360.
  • At 09:08 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Sean wrote:

Ive read all the comments and what strikes me most of all is that we are all free to express our opinions many diametrically opposed without fear or favour. This is really what has been created in Europe over the last 60 years.
So whatever our nationality let us continue to defend our right to free speech whether it started in 1989 or earlier.
I have disagreed with many of the comments but thank you for expressing them. It helps me understand. Thank you Mark for starting the debate.

  • 361.
  • At 10:11 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

345 : Pogroms in Poland in the 19th century - Ok they may have happened - but you miss the point that no Polish state existed at that time - people have mentioned the Kielce pogrom in which approx 40 jews just after the war in a Soviet communist occupied Poland or Jebwabne in German occupied Poland. They seem to miss the common feature that these events did not occur in a sovereign Poland. As someone pointed out to me recently - unlike some supposedly civilised Western European countries- Jewish institutions in Poland do not require permanent Police protection.

  • 362.
  • At 10:33 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

There are some naive individuals who believe that Germany has already paid through the loss of its eastern territories - however they miss the point that these territories were awarded to Poland by the BIG 3 to accommodate Polish citizens expelled from Eastern Poland absorbed into the Soviet Union (and now in Belarus, Ukraine, Lituania). I do not believe that Poles in 1945 if they had a free choice would have voted for such a situation. The only exception would be in relation to some parts of Upper Silesia within Germany that had majority Polish populations . In addition it is worth noting that while in Germany there are groups who are trying to "reclaim" their property there are no equivalent groups in Poland who are attempting the same with respect to property in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine (and in some cases we would be talking about about sizeable amounts of land). My question: who is living in the past?

  • 363.
  • At 01:05 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Robert Otis wrote:

Mark Mardell writes, "For the British, our country's defiant and determined stand in World War II is still a source of national pride... Of course, British people died, families suffered terribly, but there was an end and a purpose. They were heroes, not victims. It's very different in the rest of Europe. For most other countries, World War II was a source of shame. The shame of defeat, or the shame of conquest. The shame of collaboration, the shame of turning a blind eye. Of course, there was heroism and pride too...." This comment unfortunately essentially says that the British people were good, whereas the mainland Europeans were largely vicious barbarians, corrupt collaborators or victims who even today don't have enough guts to speak honestly about WWII. By making the English Channel the Maginot Line demarcating the frontier where decency and honesty prevail, we might follow, that there can be no hope that the progeny of the brave, the murders and the cowards could ever hope to sort out the EU's puzzling destiny. If I am good and you are bad, really, why should I even be put in the same room as you, much less let you bad guys run my fine country?

I think that this is an example of conveniently omitting sad facts of one's own history and of simplifying the history of other countries to make one feel more secure in one's own tales of national honor. I think that Mark didn't mean to be this way. He seems pretty fair and decent in his opinions. But it's the brainwashing that he has to get out of his head in order to see the real picture. Working out how the EU is to operate amongst dozens of countries is a lot more complex, and if Europeans are to get along, it behooves all countries to look more closely at events in our histories that are not well reported. If we know ourselves, then we can deal with others much more easily.

As an American, I am keenly aware that the picking and choosing from one's national history can lead to terrible tragedies. American history books usually begin with the Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock. It's a convenient starting point for American history, since in general the Pilgrims were a marginal group of English settlers whose motives in America were largely to escape religious persecution. The American holiday of Thanksgiving commemorates how the native Americans and these English settlers worked together, ate together, and, one might imagine, founded a lovely, humane nation. The earlier English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, and the New England settlements by Puritans were largely treasure-hunting expeditions, and they help explain why American politics seems to focus on helping corporations, rather than on discussing improving society. Civil society is a tough concept to market in a country founded on a series of plantations, mining camps and factories, manned by disenfranchised slaves or immigrant laborers from a 100 nations. Power elites continue in control by dividing groups and emphasizing differences. It is not a pretty story to emphasize American history starting with Jamestown, which a year before the Pilgrims landed, already had enslaved native Americans and Africans, so that they could produce profits from tobacco to pay the London Company's stockholders. It is not a pretty picture to ignore 50,000 years of human settlement prior to the coming of the English to America, and to ignore nations like the Iroquois and Cherokee that conducted trade from the Great Lakes down to the Gulf Coast, or Pacific Northwest nations that conducted trans-Bering Sea trade back and forth to Asia prior to Russians, English, or Europeans. In every corner of this country there were native American nations with interesting histories, religious and cultures worth learning about, but they are minimized in this country whose history books still refer to England as the "mother country." 400 years of genocidal wars and broken treaties against native Americans by the English settlers and their descendants helped make this sadly close to the "empty continent" that European and American historians wrote about. The settlement and genocides and enslavements of America started with the Spanish, French, English, and Dutch, but the criminals came to include people from nearly all European countries. While some histories might show fresh-faced pioneers or shopkeepers, the truth shows people who had no problem taking Indian lands or African slaves, or profiting in some way from both. Your history is our history. The world isn't like a Hollywood movie, filled with good guys vs. bad guys.

It is useful to remember that the "British people" that you include, Mark, were not all really nice folks and only in the newsreels and movies is everyone a hero. A couple of "British" families, of German origin, the Battenbergs and the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, whom the British people never elected to serve as their monarchs, for example, often had some problems with their loyalties to England before WWII. Edward VIII flirted with Hitler to such a degree that he had to be kidnapped and sent to Bermuda, under US house arrest. History tells us that he gave up the throne "for the woman he loved," and that because she was a divorcée and American, Edward needed to be booted out. Nope. It was to save England from being part of Germany. Was he alone in the pro-Hitler group? Nope. You should read the collected essays of George Orwell, if you want to read almost daily journals of the events in Britain prior to WWII. A real mess. A class system breaking down, an empire bankrupt, commie labor revolts and general strikes, a whole lot of "British people" looked to a local fascist coup or to Hitler as a solution. The sacrifices of the British people might never have been made if a few leaders, such as Churchill, did not first fight against powerful internal collaborationist elites and win.

It is convenient for the BBC TV programs to show us the bravery of the Spitfire pilots and the Blitz survivors, etc., but by omitting traitor royals and the history of a huge number of British Hitler sympathizers, the BBC helps deepen rifts between those islands and the mainland of Europe. Basil Fawlty can be funny, but only in a twisted sense: that this is NOT a decent or sane way to behave. He's not saying what nobody dare say. Basil Fawlty is only saying things that a sane person should not say because they are wrong. Painting German tourists as jackboot Nazis is as plain stupid as saying that all English are butlers or all French are waiters - only because some inane TV show writer made it so. Let's not muddle history with this stuff!

We cannot be held responsible for the crimes of our ancestors, but we can try to redress the crimes, build bridges between nations, and if we ignore histories that are out there for all to find (if one wishes to do so), then we are the perpetuators of our ancestors' crimes, our own confusion, frustration, and decline. It is helpful that there are many Germans who put great effort into correcting past crimes, and more work still will need to be done by them, by all countries in Europe, as well as by the Japanese (who still deny their crimes in Korea, China and throughout Asia), if WWII's survivors and their descendants can live in a more decent world.

The twins who run Poland are politicians, like all their other EU counterparts. The objectives of politicians often differ from those of the inhabitant of a country. They are not saying what nobody dare say. They are using the ammunition that they have, true, half-true or false. Let's not use them as the starting point of discussing what is Europe, what Europe should be, or what the world is to be for that matter.

  • 364.
  • At 04:34 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Greg wrote:

To Alexei:

Poland and Russia (as W. Baroszewski mentioned in his book) have a lot in common - they are both proud, do not like others to meddle in their affairs and have a lot of respect for their culture and past.

About history - yes I think you understand each other - you are an optymistic with the 20 year outlook but I like and welcome that. Good luck with Putin's successor - vote right and you may be correct about the 20 years. That is of course if elections are not rigged and political opposition allowed - a little room for improvement there...

On the pipeline - you are right. It is OK to cut the middle man - this whole issue is a short term deal anyway. Another 50 to 100 years and there will be very little oil to pump anyway. Just make it sure that you do not poison the entire Baltic - it is not worth the risk.

I take an exception to your statement about Poland's future and what it has to offer - after all Poland (as you mentioned it yourself) gave you some friends. Perhaps opinions like that are at the core of differences between Poland and Russia today, but - as with all opinions - i hope they will change with time.


  • 365.
  • At 06:01 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

I want to make an additional point I do not think anyone has made yet. This is about the formerly German territories that Poland got after WWII. Namely that these lands used to be Polish in the past. The Germans accumulated them from Poland through conquest and colonisation, and during the Partitions of the past. It is true a lot of ethnic Germans lived there that got expelled after WWII, but equally in many places Polish people still remained even after centuries of German occupation, colonisation, and germanisation. Historically the Germans did not come out losers either from their eastward movement, they gained territory in the East. Just about all of the territory of the former East Germany used to be occupied by pagan Western Slavic tribes, who over a few hundred years got conquered in a series of wars, crusades, and colonisations by the various German groups. Of course this is just the short version, but at least I hope it points people where to look and read on.

I am just not sure people even know anything about the above. It is an interesting part of Europe's history.

  • 366.
  • At 07:29 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • SK wrote:

The undertone of this discussion is that the Poles should "shut up, grow up, stop making problems and start cooperating". (This time in EU.)

Unfortunately, this shows that many people (especially those from bigger nations like Germany, UK or France) still regard other (smaller) nations' interests as trifle and trivial. This is a disposition of persons who aren't very accustomed to be confronted on an issue.

  • 367.
  • At 08:22 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Sven H. wrote:

What started out as an interesting article followed by interesting arguments finally descends into a mudslinging contest of the extremists on all side. Poland this, Germany that and Russia all the above. I guess that is the Internet for you.

  • 368.
  • At 08:46 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Oskar, Stockholm wrote:

I can think of a few other East European countries that came out of the communist deep-freeze and "feel fiery about the past": Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo. Look where that got them.

No, Germany has said it's sorry enough times and doesn't have to do it again to placate a bunch of nationalists. And to say that Poland didn't get anything out of the peace is wrong, it got to 'trade' its poor eastern part for much richer lands in the west. A better deal than most.

By the way, most of the 'Polish' citizens killed during WWII were Jewish and have been at the sharp end of Polish nationalists' discrimination for most of the post-war period. So, if anyone should get the votes it should be Israel.

  • 369.
  • At 09:35 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Jerry wrote:

The Poles should lern the demoicracy. In western countries the democracy is practicised since long time. In Poland slightly 18 years old is the democracy. The government of Kaczynski is a good lesson. The Polish voters deserve for it, likeweise few yaers ago the Austra has deserved for Joerg Haider. Maybe after next elections nobody will hear about Kaczynski likeweise now about Haider.

  • 370.
  • At 10:28 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

I think Polands entry to the EU was not exactly at gunpoint. They chose to join and having been in Poland during the celebrations it was clear that the people wanted it. However immediately the cream of the country began to leave for the UK and other countries in Europe. So the cynic in me suggests that the motive for joining was little more than the desire of young people to get out. This they've done in droves and have left Poland bereft of workers of quality.

Sure Poland has grown and why shouldn't it? Considering the low base it started from it could only be up! Initialy the money has not come from Polish sources but rather western, German, Spanish, French investors who saw a good thing.

There are now a great deal of very rich people in Poland but the underlying money has come from outside investment and more lately EU funds. To blame manipulative communists for being rich on the backs of hard working Poles is a bit
of a stretch. But yes money was made. The same people who signed up for Nato and 48 F16s without too much consultation of the Polish people. It still strikes me that Polands natural ally is America and it should concentrate on this rather than the EU that they appear despise so much. Of course they don't turn down the money the EU offers but that is another story. It's about having your cake and eating it.

  • 371.
  • At 12:54 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

I am a Polish woman, and since Twins are the government, I don't feel comfortable with this fact. In theirs opinion I was born for reproduction purposes...But even though I want to become a mother one day, I still have dreams and plans, further than in the kitchen. One of those dreams is about country to which someday I would like to come back, with rights and freedom in use...where I could be a woman and make decisions, about me and my life...where my kids would be thought fair rules not dicrimination.
For now on, I am living abroad, without stress, happy to be a woman.
Many thanks for Them who made me take up this challenge, which brought me more than I ever could get in my country nowadays.

  • 372.
  • At 01:00 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Vincenza wrote:

In view of the recent events In Poland, it is evident that the devil is stirring the pot there and furiously to boot. Until recently, majority of Poles could rely only on Gazeta Wyborcza for both the information and the commentary that followed. However, the era of the internet has changed things forever. The most brilliant and eloquent political bloggers have never shown their faces on TV, have never been quoted there; the number of visitors on their websites is impressive, and what is most interesting, they all take exception to the Wyborcza gospel. In a nut shell, political life is teeming on the internet, but it is really vibrant and creative on its right side. On the left side, political correctness is ruling the roost, thus stifling any attempts of free discussion. Hat off to any commentator who tries to come up with some coherent view of what is going on in Poland, but sorry to say that,” lo spirito è pronto, ma la carne è debole” without the polish language and knowing where to surf, he is doomed to fall back on the above mentioned source of information somewhat tarnished. Consequently, is most likely to miss the point on the Polish spirit.

  • 373.
  • At 01:36 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

367 Vicenza wrote: "In a nut shell, political life is teeming on the internet, but it is really vibrant and creative on its right side. On the left side, political correctness is ruling the roost, thus stifling any attempts of free discussion."
Given that it is a well known fact that right wing and libertarian US foundations and lobby groups have funnelled a lot of money to Poland, I wonder how much of this "vibrant and creative" debate is funded by these organisations (they have done something similar in the US, and the left has only recently begun to catch up).

  • 374.
  • At 06:40 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • roger wrote:

Dear Mark,
A thought provoking and reasoned blog and as with other commenters I endorse Mike's comments (20) absolutely. I also work in Poland and seven years ago expected to live the rest of my life here. Now because of the arrogant and insular attitude of the politicians I am rethinking my long term plans. I consider that I am more useful here in Poland than my own country but I can see a creeping campaign to stifle initiative and bring back a way of life which robs people of compassion and decency. When a country considers there is nothing wrong with allowing hospitals to close and make political points with peoples lives which is happening now through the medical strikes I consider that outside force should be applied to protect not just foreigners but also the indigenous population. The present political incumbants are the worst thing that has happened to Poland who does deserve better after taking into account Polish diaspara and history But in many ways Poland is its own worst enemy.

  • 375.
  • At 07:02 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Przemysław wrote:

I am afraid very few people who have commented on article or on the situation in Poland really got the point.
1. First the image of the Kaczynskis government is completely false. All those rumors on religious fundamentalist or anti-women approach are groundless. I have never heared any statements from Kaczynski brothers on the role of women in the family life. Please believe me. They deal with politics and not with family life of the citizens.
2. Is Poland a new democracy. Well yes and not. Our parliament was created in 1490s. Our Habes corpus act is from 1423, our constitution is from 1792 and the percentage of citizens (not subjects) who enjoyed full political rights in Poland was in 1795 when Poland failed higher than in Britain in 1830 saying nothing about France, Spain or Italy. On the other hand we had 123 years of foreign domination without democracy except the constitutional system of Habsburg Monarchy since 1867 in what is now southern Poland. That part of our country has therefore the longest experience of at least the state based on law and not on the will of tsar. Guess where the Kaczynski brothers had the greatest support. - You are wrong - no not in the former "primitive" Russian part of Poland but in the most democratically experienced former Austrian one. That is the first fact that I hope should make you think more about the image of Poland one can learn from popular media.
3. What is a real problem since gay, women, religion, history etc. is not. History is just the field of the battle still not the crucial reason for it.
- Shroeder and Chirac provoked a deep split in the EU having made an unholly alliance with Putin over Iraqui question. That was the begining of the quarrel. Do you remember the famous Chirac statement that Poland lost an opportunity to keep silent? Do youb remember Chirac promising extraterritorial corridors for Russia across Lithuania to Kaliningrad in spite of the EU Council and European Council decision not to allow them? Do you remember Berlusconi playing the role of Putins advocate in Rome European Council? Do you remember Shroeder-Putin deal on Baltic Gas pipeline that ended with a scandalous situation in which German chancellor has been employed in Gasprom owned company together with Stasi agent Mathias Wernig? These are the facts. Quite a good lesson of European solidarity and political culture. Well we are good pupils we have taken the pattern. Are you surprised that Poland do not want the EU policy to be run by Germany, France and Italy exclusively?
4. Some people say - lets make a double speed Europe and the leaders will go further ignoring those irritating Poles. Go ahead dear friends still could zou name the area of that first speed integration_
Euroland? With Germany, France and Italy who were violating convergency criteria for several years and avoided the fee foreseen in the treaties due to the power of their votes in the EU Council?
European Army - Yes the one that according to the Helsinki Headline goals exists since 2003 and has 60 000 soldiers ready to fight in two months. Well still nobody has seen that army yet?
Common taxation - go ahead. Welfare state in France and in Germany is so costly that new comers economy the Irish one, the British, and the Scandinavian are much more competitive. German and French politicians have either to convince their own electorate to resign from some social priviledges either to force us to impose that bvurden on our economy. We need voting power to defend our economic growth against that practice so please do not be surprised if the Poles support Kaczynskis government once again. As you can see nothing is so simple as it seems to be. Of course there are extreme or just stupid men in the present Polish government like Lepper or Giertych still the first one has been just kicked out and the second enjoys 2% support in the polls and is about to end its political career.
5. Polish-German relations and war. History is history still it is German politician - the member of CDU authorities Erica Steinbach and Prussian Heritage Foundation who is trying to question the property ownership on thye former German territories gained by Poland after WWII. Poland lost 53% of its pre-war territory for the USSR and Polish government accept material responsibility for all the property lost by Polish citizens in those areas. They are payed back by our taxpayers. Far more reach German government refuse to accept such a responsibility towards german citizens and they try to get back either property, either money from Polish state. One can conduct such a policy and defend it morally still should not be surprised about the results. The Poles would dismissed any government immediately if it tries to conduct such a policy towards Ukraine, Lithuania, and Belarus still everybody understand it would ruin our relations with our eastern neighbours. Germans should not be surprised therefore that their approach is destructive for their relations with us. I can reverse the accusation saying: Dear German friends, it is a high time to put the material consequences of the WWII in their right place - in the history. You must conduct 21st century policy and not the 19th century one. Well how do you like such a conclusion?

  • 376.
  • At 07:52 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Ted Czapla wrote:

Przemylaw and Robert Otis are right, Europeans can better understand Poland's anxiety and psyche by looking at their own faults and hypocracies. Many Germans are teaching not only their children to hate Poles which justifies their re-victimization of Poles, but they are teaching Europeans the same. If we were Jews, they would be in jail for such blasphemy and righfully so. Germany can only be trusted to be at centre of Europe when it has atoned for its sins against Poland sincerely and paid compensation. I know many Germans already have. What happened to those German colonizers in the aftermath of war/genocide sent in to displace Poles under Nazi Lebensraum policy is not our fault. The German government is tacitly supporting Prussian Claims Society to deflect any calls for overdue compensation for WWII destruction and genocide of Polish citizens. Germany cannot yet be fully trusted. We're waiting. Come on Germans prove to use that you have no racist hatred of Poles and we can leave the past where it belongs.

  • 377.
  • At 08:08 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Bartosz wrote:

I find it appalling that the people calling Poland anti-semitic are always Western Europeans and never Jews or Poles.

As a Polish Jew myself, I have spent lots of time between Poland, Israel and the United States. Generally Poles have good/moderate attitudes towards Germans. Israeli Jews have nothing but negative attitudes towards Germans. Every year I thank the Polish catholic family who's grandparents saved my family's life during WWII. Only catholic Poles went out of their way so much to help hide my people. Thank you.

Please, I beg you, do not blacken Poland's reputation as having an anti-semitic past because of a very few number of isolated incidents. Historically, no European country has been as good to Jews as Poland has.

  • 378.
  • At 09:38 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Paulie wrote:

Some comments here, attacking Poland for being some kind of anti-semitic, homophobic and backward hell, make me sick. People who make these kind of comments lack basic knowledge about modern Poland, its people and Polish history. Their knowledge about Poland comes from media and they take it as a dogma. Ignorance and cynicism have reached the top.

I am also tired of those who are trying to teach us democracy and tolerance. At the same time they tell us to, shut up (remember Chirac?)

Poland should be allowed to voice its opinion and treated as an EQUAL partner. Before we joined EU we were constantly told that we will be treated as partners not subject. As soon as we started voice our opinions within EU, we are again told to shut up and go back to the corner. Is this how EU works?

  • 379.
  • At 09:40 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Lukasz wrote:

RE: ENTRY 368 Oskar, Stockholm

"And to say that Poland didn't get anything out of the peace is wrong, it got to 'trade' its poor eastern part for much richer lands in the west."

Oskar is forgetting that this 'deal' cost millions of lives with blood on the hands of the German's and its allies.

"By the way, most of the 'Polish' citizens killed during WWII were Jewish and have been at the sharp end of Polish nationalists' discrimination for most of the post-war period."

This is false, 6 million Poles died in WWII; half were Polish Jews the other Polish Catholics. Of course it is true that the majority of the Polish Jewish population perished. However, it is not true that the majority of Poles that died were Jewish. Both Jews and Catholics suffered equally ( in terms of numbers that died).

It is true that the postwar communist government exploited Nationalism as a way of maintaining control over Polish citizens (the Poles were the most rebellious of the Eastern bloc peoples). Unfortunately when dealing with an oppressive regime scapegoating and anti-Semitism become playing cards in the game for power and control, i.e. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia.

Don't forget that countries like the US and Canada forbade Jews from immigrating to their lands during WWII.

As for the blog. It is very well written. As a Pole I personally feel embarrassed because of the current government. To me it is completely inexplicable how a government can possibly explain forming a coalition with Andrzej Lepper’s self defense party. I agree with an earlier comment that, sometimes Poland is its own worst enemy. I also agree that the sooner Poland can give up its grievances the sooner it will prosper.

  • 380.
  • At 10:02 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Edwina wrote:

The German – Jewish plans of establishing the independent Jewish State on the Polish lands are today seldom mentioned in the history of the WWI and WWII. How many Poles do realise how great was this danger that we avoided only by the miracle?
But many Jews can't forget that their plans of creating Judeo - Polonia so miserably failed. And they can't forget our resistance that stoped their dreams.
Could this be one of the reasons that they attack us with their groundless accusations of cooperation with the Nazi Germany?
And maybe another reason for such attacks is an attempt to cover up their own cooperation with the Germans and the Soviets against Poland?
Maybe the reason for the current attack is contained in the words of the Israeli author Moshe Leshem:
"Israelis and American Jews fully agree that the memory of the Holocaust is an indispensable weapon-one that must be used relentlessly against their common enemy...Jewish organizations and individuals thus labor continuously to remind the world of it. In America, the perpetuation of the Holocaust memory is now a $100-million-a-year enterprise, part of which is government-funded." ( Balaam's Curse, p. 228)
Or maybe in the words of Israel Singer, General Secretary of the World Jewish Congress who stated that:
"More than three million Jews died in Poland and the Polish people are not going to be the heirs of the Polish Jews. We are never going to allow this. (...) They're gonna hear from us until Poland freezes over again. If Poland does not satisfy Jewish claims it will be "publicly attacked and humiliated" in the international forum."

  • 381.
  • At 10:22 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Manuela wrote:

"Far more reach German government refuse to accept such a responsibility towards german citizens and they try to get back either property, either money from Polish state."
I've heard this argument before and I still don't get it. What exactly is it that you ask the German government to do about that? Both Schröder and Merkel have distanced themselves from these people. The government is not responsible for what individual citizens do or ask for. Neither are "Germans" to be equalled with the behaviour of some.
The average German citizen does not even know who Ms Steinbach is, let alone what policy she advocates.

Furthermore, on the issue of a German "apology", as a German born in 1965, do I have to apologise or feel responsible for anything my ancestors did? Why exactly? Did I inherit their guilt?

  • 382.
  • At 10:31 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

Excellent post Przemyslaw (#375)

  • 383.
  • At 11:18 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • John Coueslant wrote:

I feel it is far better to have a few arguments from Poland and about Germany's past,rather than the suffering and deaths caused among the nations of Europe in the World Wars of the 20th Century.

Basically, Poland's arguments are harmless and natural after their treatment over the last 200 years and in time,as Poland prospers, Poland will become intergrated into the Peaceful and modern Europe of the 21st Century.

Really,this is all a passing storm in a Polish tea cup! The future is brighter for Poland now and for the forseeable future.

  • 384.
  • At 11:34 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Wojciech from Poland wrote:

" The German chancellor Willy Brandt famously kneeled in front of a memorial for the Polish war victims in Poland to apologise for the German crimes."
That is an untrue and shown as symbol of German ignorance in Poland. Germans always bring this up but Willy Brandt didn't kneel before monument to Polish victims of German occupation but to Jewish victims of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Also post-war Germany gave amnesty to many Nazi war criminals and some were elected for top posts in public life.
A man who mass murdered tens of thousands of Poles was elected by Germans for mayor of a town(Heinz Reinefarth).

You have to also remember that Germany paid war reperations to France and Great Britain but never paid any to Poland.
They are estimated at around 520 billion Euro.

  • 385.
  • At 12:36 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Marek Puszczynski wrote:

I am British born but of Polish parents so I have the unique vision of both Polish and British mentalities. Unfortunately Mark's somewhat narrow minded view of the situation stems from an utter lack of understanding of the Polish mentality. Yes Poles are strong minded and somewhat stubborn but not nearly as bad as he makes us out to be. From the Polish perspective, Brits suffer far too much gladly. Perhaps that is why we have such awful public services, such a punitive tax system and why London is still the "dirty man of Europe". We brits are too used to taking it with a stiff upper lip and doing nothing about it!! Time we learnt how to complain like the Slavs. That is the strength of the EU, the learning of the unfamiliar and not the old boys club that Mark seems so keen to return to.

  • 386.
  • At 01:41 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Aleksandra wrote:

I'm a Pole and I feel deeply ashamed of what is going on right now... Poland has became a contry of absurd.

  • 387.
  • At 02:14 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Manuela 381, I think the point is that Germany should pay compensation to Germans expelled from different countries in Eastern Europe... if those Germans want compensation. Just as Poland should pay compensation to those Poles who got epelled from Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. This avoids creating friction between countries, and makes sure any genuine compensation claims are not used for nationalism and propaganda. Basically a country as a result of agreeing to treaties, accepting the results of negotitions, etc, takes on the responsibility for the results. In this case Germany surrendered unconditionally in WWII, and so is responsible for compensating these Germans. Your opinion may vary on this arguemnt, but such it is.

As for the rest, granted, a whole people should not be blamed for the actions of a few... perhaps one should only note why these individuals arise from the greater whole. Equally, clealry, Germans who were children during WWII or those born after it, have no personal responsibility for it. I have said so myself in one of the posts here, so have others. A couple of caveats here. One is that if you deny what your ancestors did, you are making yourself part of the problem, perpetuating their bad dids, taking on a responsibility for them. Two is that if your state/country, and thus you yourself, benefited from doing evil in the past, this state/country takes on responsibility and liability for this past.

Bartosz thank you very much.

  • 389.
  • At 02:54 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Christoph wrote:

Sometimes it feels like carrying a burden being a German and mentioning WWII which was fought two or three generations ago. But moreover I'm irritated by the historical and geographical fact being a citizen of a country with so many borders to other countries.

It is like sitting in a packed classroom with 28 pupils, being the fat, pimpled one in the middle who attracts suspiciously eyes from behind, elbows from one side, distracting gestures from the other and exhortations from the front. How relaxing it must be somewhere at the more quite side benches or even sitting at a single desk almost on the balcony, enough place to arrange the satchel (union jack colored). In the past, this fat pimpled pupil went very evil and amok across the classroom, scratching and biting everyone nearby.

The alternative of being violent is calmness and this is how I reflect EU politics for the last 50 years. Surely, if you sit in the back it is alluring to throw hoax in the crowded middle.

Now we have to behave better in this situation, because life in this classroom is a compromise for everyone. Our Polish brothers and sisters should start a new life since they are a proud member of the EU like Germany did after the war (almost).
Let us look forward together!

  • 390.
  • At 03:33 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • dieter wrote:

to Mark:
do you really need enemies to enjoy yourself ? Hmm, is this the reason why we have so many neighbours from Britain ? They like to live among enemies ! Now I understand !
I´m happy if you mention the war. It is with me since I started to ask my father why so many men have only one arm, one leg or only one eye. Most books I read are about the war and the time before. (It was, of course, no fun to teach our children German history.)
to Alan (140):
Our children went to a school with the name "Janusz Korczak Schule". It is by far not the only one in Germany and it got this name in 1973 and not in 1989.
to the Polish bloggers who are so sceptical about us:
Since 1989 many east Germans left their home and came to west Germany. Do you think that Jutta Steinbach can send them east again ?
to Przemysław:
Since the pipeline is such a big issue - why does nobody mention the pipeline from Norway to Poland ? (I agree, it is normal business !)

  • 391.
  • At 04:43 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I'm confused, are the majority of people posting here the frustrated Polish minority or do they represent the views of the majority? If they represent the views of the majority why on earth did they join an entity that they so oppose? Is it because they think there may be some material benefits in this life or some afterlife benefits they may receive because of all the suffering in this life from joining the EU? Or is it that the BBC only lets negative Polish comments get through? The whole thing doesn’t make sense someone please explain to me what’s going on here!

  • 392.
  • At 04:56 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Pole wrote:

I understand that it is inevitable for foreigners to somehow exaggerate some aspects of other countries politics. Nowadays most Poles consider Law and Justice with Mr Kaczynski rather as a mistake made in the last elections and it is sure that he will not be able to rule after this Sejm (Polish Parliament) dissolves. It is easy to find some radical moves in coalition formed with parties like Self-defence or The League of Polish Families. But. But they differ a lot from what we - Polish people really think (at least the younger generation). I don't want to sound like a "Zukunuftsvorscher" but if more centre-oriented Parties win next election (which seem more possible) the view of Poland will certainly alter.

I live in this country for ca 20 years and actually have never spotted any anti-Semitism or any actions that homosexual people might consider violent (however they are unfair when using their position of sexual minority to such an extent as they do in Poland...). Believe me that as far as I'm concerned the problem of dealing with human rights in Poland is not something that should bother any of you. We do have our demons - one of them is history, I don't expect that any of Western countries will understand why (we don't understand fully e.g. history of Spain) - we were stolen about 200 years, partly (sic!) thanks to countries like Germany, Russia. We forgave Germans (at least to the same point as you forgave us the postwar territorial changes). Russia still doesn't see anything wrong in what happened.

But even if someone apologised, it doesn't mean that we gained no experiance. So when Russia and Germany are coming close together it is natural that we cannot play blind. If there were solidarity in EU things would look somehow different.

Anyway, European people are those who create Europen Union, not only the politicians, so things will get better; all we need is time.

  • 393.
  • At 06:01 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Dejan from Serbia wrote:

Poland has every right to say it's opinion because of west selling her out in ww2.First in 39' then because they didn't pressure the Russians in 44'(Warsaw uprising)to help the Poles and finally in 45' at Yalta.But they had their reasons.Russians had terrible loses and they wanted a buffer zone between Germany and them.They won the war and they had most powerful army in the world.I have no doubt that west would stab Russians in the back if they had army that could beat the reds.Little info for most of you:How much victims England and USA had?Less then 600-700 thousands.Do you know how much Russians suffered?Between 25 and 30 million.West DID NOT win the war,Russians did it for you.Normandy in 44' was just fight with minors with 10 to 1 advantage in man and weaponry because 70% or more of German army was in the east front(best troops and equipment to).To make conclusion:smaller countries have to listen dictate from "big powers" and Poles don't want to do it anymore.European countries are not your colonies(but you would like it i know,to sell us your junk)remember that.Treat us from the east like equals and we will make no problems.We are not retards like your goverments treat us because we often know much more then you from the west.

  • 394.
  • At 06:05 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Sven wrote:

This blogg started with very interesting posts but now is becoming some kind of stage for Polish-Ultra-Nationalists trying to warn other European Nations over "the German danger". Whom do you want to give warnings about our "dangerous country" and what is that "German danger" all about? Do you want to give warnings to all the other European neighbours who are living in peace which each other and with Germans for more than 60 years? Do you want me to feel sorry about the fact that our population is twice as big as the Polish one, that our economy is the strongest in Europe, that this country managed a reunification after 40 years of cold war separation ore that Germans are still the paymasters of the E.U. ?

I like most of the Germans are aware of the darkest chapter of German history but I am absolutely not responsible for the crimes which were committed by the Germans between 1933 and 1945.

To me it is totally normal that every European citizen should be represented equal in an E.U. voting system. There is no reason why a Polish vote should count twice as a German one. Historic arguments will not change basic rules of democracy and will lead us to stupidities like "Without the Thirty-Years War German population would be now 1 billion..."

To me it seems so back warded talking about battles in the 14th century, glory in the past and wars and crimes which were fought and committed by our great-grandparents when it is up to decide our common future.

There is no reason to think that Germans hate Poland and teach there children to hate Poles, when there are so many Germans with Polish roots...and I'm not only talking about Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski :-).

I really hope that this kind of paranoiac backwardness does not reflect the modern Polish society. I always thought that Poland is a very important European country with a very interesting past, but more important with a bright future, so stop to whine and get to work for a stronger E.U. There simply is no German conspiracy against Poland.

  • 395.
  • At 08:56 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Halina wrote:

In every society, just like in the Jewish society, there are people with different personalities. It is absolutely unrealistic to believe that there are only saints found in a specific nation. There are Jews who have a peaceful approach to the Poles and there are those Jews who simply hate the Poles. The same is true for the Poles, there are those who like or dislike the Jews. This kind of relation between people is healthy and normal. What is definite, is that Jews have no right to give orders to what the Poles should do on Polish soil. It is incredibly immature to demand that every Pole on this planet MUST be in favour of the Jews. In addition to the issue on tolerance, various human deviances do not need everybody's approval. I believe that healthy societies should be encouraged in every manner because they are the 'building blocks' of a mentally healthy country.

  • 396.
  • At 10:22 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Some contributors to this blog say that that the EU undercuts the power of the smaller EU states. I do not think that this reflects how most smaller EU states actually feel. In a world of fully sovereign states, only the most powerful count - the smaller ones are often not even consulted, they do not have a veto and often no voting rights at all. Rather than rights and laws, only power and influence count among fully sovereign states. In contrast to this the EU is a far more receptive place for smaller states.

A crucial factor with Poland's current difficulties of politically integrating into the EU is that in contrast to most other old and new EU Member States Poland has no relatively recent, long-standing experience as a sovereign state. Conseqeuntly, they still tend to idealise sovereignty and do not realise that their influence would be far lower outside the EU (or as a marginalised Member State), than if they engaged more constructively.

Some commentators suggest that Germany should pay Poland vast sums in reparations. It seems to me that this is a highly unconstructive position. First, it is morally at least questionable, given that it would be present generations that would have to pay. Second, politically it is absolutely naive to think that anything beyond more or less symbolic gestures (including, perhaps, smaller sums of money) will ever happen. For really significant reparations to be paid, a very strong power would have to exert significant influence on the German government. No such power is in sight anywhere. Under these conditions the reparation claims are counterproductive for Poland: they contribute to deteriorating relations with Germany (and other countries) without having the slightes chance of leading to the desired payments. Politically these demands cannot but backfire.

As has been pointed out before, the reason why the Russian-German pipeline does not cross Polish territory is twofold: (1) bad relations between Poland and Russia; (2) standard business practice: "cutting the middleman". I suspect that the real reason why the Polish government is upset is two-fold: first, it is a welcome opportunity for nationalistic posturing; second, Poland quite understandably does not like the fact that Germany becomes increasingly dependent on Russian gas, because this will enable Russia to put growing pressure on Germany not to side with Poland in any Russian-Polish conflicts. However, in public the Polish government prefers to tell the more simplistic story because the real story reveals a far more complex pictures that cannot easlily be told in black-and-white.

  • 397.
  • At 12:27 AM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Jay wrote:

Maybe EU is a nightmare produced by post-war generation that was just too afraid to imagine that Europeans can co-exist as separated nations.

So they created this artificial gorset that is supposed to keep it all together regardless of how inconvenient it is. What a crazy idea if someone looks at EU from this perspective.

Because if we are supposed to be together we have to understand our motives. And it means I have to understand Germans motives as well. So I have to know the history. And I am afraid it is too much of a task.

I would love to watch a thorough documentary that I could believe is honest as much as it can. That is, I suppose, the only way forward. Be as honest as possible about the past. And get prepared to take all the pain that will come with it.

Gotta go - I'd love BBC to run this project - get all historians from EU countries and let them talk.

  • 398.
  • At 04:51 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Darek wrote:

After reading almost all comments (all very interesting) I came to a conclusion, that the dividing line here is between being well informed and not.
This distinction can have and actually had major consequences (Iraq). Simplifications are our biggest enemy.

  • 399.
  • At 07:13 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Marek Porzycki wrote:

An excellent blog, shedding much light on psychology behind the recent policy of the Polish government.

However, you were wrong in one point - the "Kohl-Mitterand"-like moment did happen in Polish-German history. It was in 1989, at a Mass in Krzyzowa (Kreisau) when Helmut Kohl and Polish PM Tadeusz Mazowiecki (a true statesman, unlike the Kaczynskis) exchanged messages of peace. The symbolism and meaning of the scene was very similar to the meeting of Kohl and Mitterand in Verdun. Unfortunately the mediocre Kaczynski government wants to have it forgotten, as it treats the heritage of Mazowiecki and his government with utter distrust. There are also some unconfirmed rumours that the Kaczynskis felt enraged for not being invited to Krzyzowa events back in 1989 - a possible reason for their anti-German stand.
The current situation is also an unfortunate consequence of the proportional voting system in Poland, which causes even the extreme political players supported by a few percent of voters to have their political weight. The Kaczynskis have adopted a doubtful and cynical strategy of awakening anti-German spirits just in order to gain a few percentage points of radical nationalist votes, competing for them with their xenophobe minor coalition partners.

  • 400.
  • At 10:01 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Wojtek S. wrote:

I am surprised you know so much about Poland and the Zwei Kartoffeln as Kaczynskis are called in Germany. What is going on at the moment between German and Polish politicians is spitting on each other. One day Kaczynski Bros and Merkel will step out of the stage and these two nations will cooperate. No worries at all.

  • 401.
  • At 01:55 PM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • Thomas Streit, Braunschweig wrote:

I have the impression that this blog has been quite harmful, because even if (perhaps) the intention was to bring together the different European nations, some of the answers written here point into the other
direction. Being married to a Polish women I am visiting
Poland three to four times a year since 1987. I love Polish people and their country. I have seen how their country has improved. Most often this improvement was like a man climbing a mountain on the ridge, going steadily up but with the danger to fall down on both sides. So with each time I came back to Poland I saw some improvement. And
differently from East Germany, which had a hard time, but became a strong economical support from the then reunified Germany, Poland had to stand on its own. The greatest changes occurred before (and with the aim to) Poland entering the
European Union. Also I felt that Polish people received me warmly, even as a German. I remember my first visits, when still I was naive, and when I asked the older people, where they did learn German and they told me, they learned it as a “Zwangsarbeiter”(forced labour during WWII), but I did not feel hate from them. Even more I received the well known Polish hospitality (being sincere being someone
coming from the west I did not feel so good with this hospitality, because you ask yourself why are you being treated so warmly). During that time I also saw that generally the relations between Poland and Germany improved.
In contrast to today, steps were taken in a continuous and silent manner.
For example there was only a small comment in the
news, when the required visa for Polish and Germans was abolished. This I think was already in 1990 (or 1991?).. I myself felt this as a further larger Victory of a process which began ten years earlier (1981 with Solidarnosc).
So as time has passed I have seen that the younger people in Poland are completely alike with the younger people in Germany or in the UK.
They have similar problems, motivations and expectations. I agree that each other knows to less about the history of the other. In this blog
there are many contributions concerning the history, what I criticize they seem to be posted to light only one side of the history and to criticize the actions from the other side. The reality is a mixture of both. Especially for the Polish people which left Poland a long time ago and which have not experienced the changes in the last twenty years, I want to emphasize that
relations between the common people in Germany and Poland have reacheda normal level and are not governed by the bitterness of the past.
In contrast to the experience I have in Poland with the common people I feel that the actions taken recently and in the past by the Kaczynski's have the flavour of revenge and hate. Particularly their comments pointed against Germans are more present
in the German media then in the Polish one. Polish people do not care so much about the mentioned comments. At this time the least thing Polish people want is an apology, they have heard them and accepted them. They want to be taken as equals and Germans want to be judged by the things they do now and what they can do. Both Nations and Europe have large problems to solve. Fortunately all Nations in Europe are not completely alike. The challenge and advantage we have is that we can use even our differences to solve our problems. For Poland I wish that the improvement continues and that not so many persons have to leave looking for work abroad and leaving their families alone for a long time.

  • 402.
  • At 02:41 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Avi wrote:

The worst thing to happen to Poland since 1989 was post-communism president Kwasniewski.Kaczynski is ok but only if live in Poland you can understand this

  • 403.
  • At 03:45 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • marcin bujewski wrote:

This is definitely the best political blog I have read recently and I am not surprised at all that it has triggered such intensive and emotional discussion. I have read at least a hundred comments on it and… surprisingly I do agree with nearly all commentators. I mean this is truth that Mr. Brandt had made one of the most expressive and touching gestures in modern history but at the same time it hasn’t solved any of Poland’s problems. We have to struggle ourselves only with Nazi invasion and then deal with communist occupation. We have never asked for any of these, have we? And now we have this very past-orientated government that pays a lot of attention to the historical injustice. And in my opinion the problem is not what Kaczynski’s government say but how they say it. I think they kinda behave and act like the Elephant in the porcelain store. This issue had been addressed on many occasions to the them, however they don’t want to listen as they are as much afraid of modern PR, technology and the negotiations techniques as the so called ‘old Europe’ is scared of it past. Let’s face two facts. All of the western powers had screwed up letting the communist taking over the control over Poland. It still hurts as once again we have to work hard, giving up on pleasures of life to rebuild and restore our state. It hurts because we paid the highest price of loyalty to our western partners on many occasions. And now we are developing I haven’t been to every country in Europe, however I am nearly sure that we are one of the most innovating and intellectually active nations. Our economy growth at level of 7% doesn’t come from nowhere. And we do appreciate European assistance but its mostly due to our own efforts. So concluding once again like in last 200 years we have to struggle, work hard and we don’t need and crap stories from politically correct politicians from west as we have absolutely different perspective for our common issues. We won’t shut up, just simply. No one has ever made as to do so and if there is anything we could nearly perfectly it is fighting. We are proud strong, with little needs and keen to scarify. Don’t mess up with us as we don’t fear!!!
The other side of the same coin is that the picture that the average German, French or Brit gets from Poland is that we are actually racist, anti-Semites with true and very life hatred for Germans. It is truth partially as we have some idiots around including Poland’s current government but most of Poles wouldn’t bother at all. I am nearly 100% sure that before someone is asked by a Polish person where are you from or what is your relligion one would be rather asked what do you do for living and ‘Jak sie masz?’ – how are you? so then I believe everybody should book a ticket to Amsterdam, go there, roll up something nice and chill out a bit! Common people. We don’t give a thing about nothing just lets us be what we are ;)

  • 404.
  • At 04:16 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Krystyna Sonko wrote:

I have read all the comments and would like to say my piece. Firstly my mother was 12 years old when the Germans took her away. On her own with no family to help she had to survive. She was kicked, beaten, raped, starved and traumatised by the Germans and not just the Nazis. She eventually found herself fighting for the British, having lied about her age. She came to the UK and brought up a family with no help from anyone. She never claimed any benefits from the Government here. Many times my brother and I heard my mother having nightmares about what she had been through. Her reward for loosing her family, her youth and her health £300 from the German government. Is this how much a Polish life is worth to the Germans? I am proud of the Polish spirit and the culture my mother taught me. And do I want an apology from the German government, YOU BET YOUR LIFE I DO.

  • 405.
  • At 04:41 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • A. Pole wrote:

What surprises me the most is that so much discussion and emotion is about whether Poles deserve more voting power and how to judge the behavior of the Polish government, people, etc. And the arguments of all parties, including those used by Poles themselves, are very emotional, often sensational, sometimes rude. This seems pointless. “A storm in a cup of tea.”
Why nobody does the math and shows us what the voting rules, proposed in the EU Constitution or whatever it’s now called, mean? What the square root system would change? What are other options? Which other options were discussed by our governments and why they were rejected?
The proposed 50-60% system means that to pass a decision in the EU parliament one needs between 30% (yes! - 60% of 50%) and 60% (60% of 100%) of the EU population represented by their MPs. 30% of the EU population (roughly 500 million) is 150 million. This is Germany (80) and UK (70). Two countries (or three if my numbers are not entirely correct) may, in theory, outvote the rest 25 (or 24) EU members. Well, this will be impossible if every European MP casts a vote. Then MPs representing at least 300 million (60%) of EU citizens must take a common stance. So, theoretically, Germans (80), Brits (70), French (60), Italians (60), and Spaniards or (sic!) Poles (40) may take any decision if they find a common interest in it. Or, maybe even Islanders are not needed if Spaniards and Poles vote together? In any case, decisions can be made, theoretically, by five countries. Add one more – six countries – to be absolutely sure. Five (or six) countries may– no matter what – dictate decisions to the remaining 22 (or 21) countries. Even if some numbers are wrong – the idea behind them is valid. Is everybody OK with this? Are votes in the EU parliament often split according to national interests? Are we mature enough to forget our short-term national interests and vote for what is best for the people of EU? Are we able to define what is best for all the people of EU? Are the interests of the large (ca. 40 million or more) EU member countries often common and different from the interests of the medium and small EU member countries? Should we have a proportional representation in the EU parliament, based on a member country population, or should each member country have the same voting power? Or maybe something between the two options, like the square root system? Should there be a higher decision passing threshold, e.g., 75%? Why should or why shouldn’t the voting power depend on the GDP, for example? Do we know how will a chosen system work? Shouldn’t we choose a system and put it for testing, say for 5 years, and then evaluate the experiment? EU citizens think! Sincerely yours, A. Pole.
PS. Sometimes I have an impression that discussions on the merit of the voting system proposals are deliberately replaced by a sensational blah-blah to distract us from what really matters – I am talking about those who influence what is the news of the day and what is published. Or have I missed something?

  • 406.
  • At 05:40 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Poland does not need a German apology. However, it would be nice if German government could make a tangible sign of reconciliation: rebuild some building that was razed during the war, building a line of metro in Warsaw or funding museum of mutual German-Polish history somewhere in Poland: a symbol of apology!!

  • 407.
  • At 06:48 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Kmn wrote:

I wonder how it makes sense, as some of the posts on this site suggest, to exclude the Polish Jews from the total number of its citizens Poland lost during the war? Polish citizens of Jewish background made up over 10% of the Polish population before the war, and were an integral part of the community. Active in the professions, arts, trade and industry (Korczak, Tuwim, Poznanski, Zamenhof e tutti quanti), they formed a large part of the country's intellectual elite. These Polish citizens were by no means separatist or ostracised (the census of 1931 found that 66% of doctors and 32% of lawyers in Warsaw were Jewish!) - a suggestion I find as curious as no doubt most Brits would find a view that British Jews are not 'really' British.

Other posts have already addressed the issue of pogroms - ie how could Poland be responsible for the 19th century pogroms if Poland did not exist; equally, how Poles could be held responsible for pogroms organised by the Gestapo and NKVD, in an occupied country. It is, however, worth pointing out that during the war Poland was the only occupied country in Europe where the Germans imposed a death penalty for harbouring Jews - the German occupants killed or shipped off to Auschwitz whole families (or entire villages) who helped their Jewish neighbours. This terror was necessary for a reason - the Poles were just not compliant.

The Yad Vashem's register of Righteous Among the Nations bears witness to the role of Poles in rescuing the Jews. The number of the Polish rescuers of Jews on the register is the highest of all the nationalities listed.

As one of the 'great German thinkers' liked to say, 'a lie, if repeated oft enough, becomes the truth.' It is unfortunate that the received wisdom today brands as anti-semitic even the Council for Aid to Jews (Żegota), which operated under the auspices of the Polish Government in Exile (does Marianne - post 32 - know about Żegota?), as it does the Home Army, or even the Warsaw Uprising (sic). Alas, such is the Zeitgeist...

  • 408.
  • At 08:36 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

The discussion so far suggests that it would be useful to have a definition of federalism.

Here is a try. A constitutional federal state, as opposed to a unitary state, is a union of constituent states, each one of which retains considerable powers and control over many or most matters. There are three basic elements: First, a written constitution that (a) distributes powers, including legislative powers, between the federal government and the constituent states, and (b) defines certain principles, including basic human rights, that all the constituent states must respect (the entry ticket). Second, a constitutional court to enforce the constitution. Third, a bicameral parliament, with one chamber representing the people and the other chamber representing the constituent states. Parliamentarians in the former chamber are directly elected by the people; those in the latter chamber can be elected directly by the people or indirectly by the parliaments of the constituent states, or appointed by the governments of the constituent states. The federal executive can be elected by the people (presidential system), or by the members of one or both parliamentary chambers (parliamentary system).

Federal states may be more or less democratic, depending on the definition and enforcement of human rights, the way in which the states’ chamber is constituted (appointed or directly or indirectly elected), and the balance of power between the two chambers. In this sense, the EU can be considered a relatively undemocratic de facto (no constitution) confederation. Confederation because each constituent state enjoys international recognition.

  • 409.
  • At 10:42 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Piotr wrote:

After election in 2006 I was engry that won PIS party repersented by Jarosław and Lech Kaczynski. But after one year of ruling by them I'm see positive change in his politics. Fighting with corruption and with irresponsible peolpe which still play important role in the office.
This is Poland's poblem and only twins can solve it.
However when they finish this job I hope that next election will be belong to someone who will be more focused on economic grow.

  • 410.
  • At 09:27 AM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

399 Avi wrote: "Kaczynski is ok but only if live in Poland you can understand this". If true, I wonder what this would tell us about Poland. Would we have to consider Poland to be something similar to Mars on Earth? I don't believe in those small green men from Mars. Perhaps one should take the statement simply as a cheap excuse for a lack of good arguments.

  • 411.
  • At 10:30 AM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Piotr wrote:

Interesting note. Off the media mainstream which makes it even more interesting. I think a few posts which have appeared afterwards deserve a comment. Undoubtedly my clarifications might trigger some counter-clarifications. Still I make them. The polish government does literally nothing against homosexuals, the goverment remains rather reluctant to accept some gay's activists requests but it's an exaggeration, to say the least, to call it a persecution. As far as expelling the Germans after WWII is concerned. It wasn't Poland which expelled Germans but allied powers (USA, UK, Soviets) which decided to move the polish frontier westwards and expel german inhabitants. The soviet authorities supervised the action as well as everything else. The soviet occupying force based in Poland in forties was larger than in soviet zone of Germany! One should add that in the very same time when germans were expelled millions of Poles were expelled by soviets from what is now Ukraine and Byellorussia. These were the results of war started by Germany and Soviet Union. My last remark concerns the to be anti-semitic attitude of polish society. I do travel a lot and contrary to commonly shared views that Poland is so anti-semitic I find other places much more polluted with that. Frankly younger generation is free of such feelings at all. But this is just my impression whereas my other two remarks are based on facts. Regards,

  • 412.
  • At 12:03 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:

May I just caution anyone who has read previous entries citing Lanzmann’s ‘Shoah’ as presenting utterly reliable evidence. The film ‘Shoah’ is fairly controversial. Some historians question Lanzmann’s methodology, especially the means by which he collected evidence and then presented it, especially in terms of his editing. The film has been attacked by revisionists and defended by anti-revisionists. I think it's got to the point where there are anti-anti-revisionists and anti-anti-anti-revisionists: try a quick web search.
I remember seeing the film on a special over-night showing on BBC2 here in Britain several years ago. Personally, I found that after nine hours I entered an altered state in which I was too tired to use any critical faculties. Note also that those with an attachment to Jungian psychology have seen ‘Shoah’ as an attempt on the part of the French to externalise collective internal guilt, and film-buffs like to compare and contrast it with Marcel Ophuls’ exposition of French collaboration ‘Le Chagrin et la Pitie’, The Sorrow and the Pity (which was banned in France on its release in 1969).

Am I alone in hoping that Mark Mardell gets back from holiday soon, so that we can get some authorial feedback on the comments and debate (mostly excellent) that his blog provoked?

PS. I’ve just found out that Michael Palin’s next travelogue will be about ‘former-communist Eastern Europe’. My fellow Brits - we can look forward in the autumn to the TV programmes, the book, the CD of the book, the DVDs, the press articles, the TV interviews. Anyone in the countries visited by Palin (which includes the former DDR and Poland) can presumably look forward to a new wave of British tourists demonstrating their keen linguistic skills and their mastery of the complexities of European history. Brace yourselves…

  • 413.
  • At 12:30 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Filip G wrote:

Mark, excellent post, confirmed by the amount of commentary it created. While some fellow "posters" have made the argument that history of 60 years ago does not have any clout or relevance in the European debate, it is interesting to find out just how much debate between Europeans a discussion of history evokes. Perhaps, history shouldnt be thought of as history too soon.

Also, shan't break with a tradition that has evolved in these posts: As a Pole, I express my most sincere of apologies for the K brothers. For the record, I voted for the other guys.

However, while the difficulties in Polish-German and Polish-European relations can be attributed first and foremost to the akwardness, narrow-mindedness and downright paranoia of the K brothers, it is not of Polish fault alone. The Russo-German pipeline has been mentioned. Erika Steinbach also should be mentioned. Not only the head of an organisation equating the fate of expelled Germans with that of Jews, but a member of the German parliament, in the ranks of the Christian Democratic Union, or, in other words, Merkel's party. Why oh why, could Poles take issue with that? Well, clearly, they're insane.

As for Europe. Someone above has made the mention that Poland is trying to involve Europe in the Russo-Polish conflict. Indeed it is, and with good reason. Russia has claimed that Polish meat is, I dont remember the exact wording, so Im going to go with "deadly" and so has banned it. Here I will just note that many Poles and other Europeans have consumed said meat. No reports of massive health problems reported. Interestingly enough, no word of defense has been issued from the institutions representing this so-called common European market. I wonder if Russia suddenly banned German cars, whether it would be swept under the rug. Of course the list coudl go on. CAP subsidies: While Austrians are painting their farm houses with a third layer and receiving 100% of subsidies, Poles are putting windows in theirs with only 25% of that sum. Supposedly, this will increase from year to year. That is until its reformed, expectedy in 2011, when Polish subsidies reach astounding levels of 50% or so. Other examples exist, but to lament about them here would be a digression.

The problem is not with past European solidarity. The problem is with the current. Poles are not petrified Germans wont apologize again. Theyre petrified these apologies have done little to make Europeans reflect before implementing unfair policies or tolerating hostile stances towards Poland.

Thank you. Very informative.

I live 300kms west from Kaczynskis, but I have to read your blog to understand them. Here in Western Poland he is as strange to us as perhaps John Major would be. Like most of Europe, we cannot understand what is in the Dwarves' mind. It's a pity he won the election, because it was the votes of catholic conservatives and small town population that got him to power.

Another four years lost?

  • 415.
  • At 10:58 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Mr. Huber wrote:

There are very few hard facts (if any) that support Mark Mandell's suggestion that there is a link between the Polish government's position on the distribution of votes in Council and history, in particular WWII/Germany. Of course, this link was originally made by the K-twins (Jaroslaw, I think), but they are masters of politcal spin (Just look at how they use the corruption issue for their own political good. More than anything else, their "fight" against corruption is a spectacle created for the mass media. Having worked as a political correspondent in London for years, I still cannot quite understand how Mandell failed to see the spin...). And spin is what the K-twins needed to sell their nationalist position to the very EU friendly Polish public. This is why the K-twins chose to frame the voting issue not as a matter of EU policy-making and integration but linked it to WWII/Germany. Now the issue was no longer one of pragmatic EU policy-making, but of justice and compensation.

Beyond the spin, the K-twins real motivation seems to be primarily ideological. A comparision with Spain illustrates the point. The population of Spain is about the same as the Polish one. So why did Spain not strongly support the Polish position, although more votes for Poland would automatically mean more votes for Spain, too? The reason is that the Spanish government is center-left, rather than deeply conservative. If the center-left Polish opposition had been in power at the time of the June 2007 Brussels summit, their position at the negotiations would have been much more similar to the Spanish one (despite their present rhetoric). So the whole thing seems to boild down to a question of political ideology, rather than pragmatic policy. In fact, when Spain had a conservative government, that government's position in the negotiaitons for the Nice Treaty where quite similar to present Polish stance. It is also woth noting that the ideological outlook of the Conservatives/PPE in Spain and Poland is quite similar. Both conservative parties tend to on the right side of the conservative political spectrum. Nationalism is still a very important part of their ideology and they are both strongly indluenced by conservative Catholicism (Opus Dei?). So I guess nationalistic ideology is a much more powerful explanation for the Polish position than history.

  • 416.
  • At 11:26 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • SV wrote:

Mr. Mardell's post was very thought provoking. I agree with him that Poland was in a communist freeze to fully grieve over WWII, like France and other 'victims." I just hope that people do not forget that there were so many people within Germany who were victims of their own state. Hitler, after all, purged a lot of intellectuals and opposition within Germany before he started the war. Reality is never black and white, and labelling who is a victim and who isn't not that easy. Everyone suffered during WWII, including innocent Germans within the Nazi state -- that is a lesson Poland must recognize before it blames all of modern Germany.

  • 417.
  • At 01:13 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • justyna wrote:

I would like to add up one thing. I think eastern or central Europe do not exists in English books nor newspapers. We (because Im Polish) are not that interesting as Far East or Africa. each time I go through English World History Book I find a lot of issues missing. I must say I hardly find any dates and names from Polish history. I think it is completely unknown here.
I do not mind, but have been lately working on Polish translation of Great Atlas of World history of Art I found out that according to British authors our art is closer to Russian or Middle East art then to European. My jaws dropped. Ask averge British child of 15 European nations I doubt any of them would mention Polish ... so I just live here in London enjoying having English friends and neighbours ...but I know for some of them Im not as human as my English neighbour (because we had English family moved in next door in Warsaw, who moved there because of work) was for us in Poland.

  • 418.
  • At 11:31 AM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Marek wrote:

Polish Spirit

I must agree with Mark Mardell's analysis of the situation. I also must agree with Fred Johnston's viewpoint.

I am a Londoner and was a councillor from 2002-2006 (Perivale Ward, Ealing) who has taken early retirement and moved to my motherland. I got married, bought a house and settled in the north of the country near Gdansk.

To get to where I am it has taken me a full year. Firstly, it took 12 weeks to get accepted as a Polish national, without which I could not buy a house. The beaucracy here is of a by gone age. Departmental clerks were looking up rule books to see how to deal with people from the UK. One person even asked whether the UK was in the EU.

As for the "duck brothers" they only look at their belly buttons and want to punish everyone who had anything to do with the old Communist regime, instead of writing what had happened to the history books. They should be looking into the future and working to improving the life of Poles.

Two fundamental things must happen, firstly, the old beaucracy from the Communist era must be dismantled and secondly a viable communication and distribution network built. It is pathetic when in an EU member in the 21st Century cannot travel at a fast pace.

The roads are appalling with pot holes everywhere and single lanes in both directions. When one comes across a lorry or a tractor one has to slow down because there is no overtaking lane. From Starogard Gdanski to Wroclaw it is 417kms (259 miles) and it takes 6 – 7 hours. Thankfully there is a network of four motorways being built using EU money, but, they will not be ready for Euro 2012 because even the government states that they all will not built until 2020.

PKP, the national railway is a disgrace as it takes so long to get from A to B. Tczew to Warsaw is 350 kms (217.5 miles) and the journey by road or by train will take 4- 5 hours. The track and signalling is totally in adequate and has to be totally rebuilt to handle modern fast trains. The TGV and ICE have improved journey time between Germany and France; the track could have been extended into Poland if the Polish railway system was up to scratch. But before it has begun PKP did a Beeching Report and closed lines removing track from unprofitable areas. My question is “How can a village or town, expand and grow if there is no communication or distribution?” PKP answer is a cop out “People use the car”. There is talk, even plans, I believe, to put container -lorries onto the railway as in Switzerland but with a lack of infrastructure, how can that be accomplished.

Poland is a euro sceptic country and is still fighting on its own. As mentioned the Polish government keeps looking back into history and hating the Germans and Russians. It has been commented that they are German and Russian phoebes and everything that those countries do are against Polish interests. That is why President Kaczynski wants a better voting deal because he can’t stand Germany having more votes than Poland under the Nice Agreement. The MPs and the government do not know the meaning of pragmatism or consensus. Even one MP who resigned as the Speaker of the Sejm and from his party said a television interview that pragmatism is bad for Polish politics. Poland has been only a member for three years but it is trying to run before it can walk when it comes to Euro Politics. “The Olde Guard” has to stand its own ground and tell Poland to behave.

Peoples’ perception is that corruption is rife in the country from the top, the President, to the very bottom and that is why things are not getting done. I wonder how much is audited by the EU to see how the money is being spent.

The economy some say is fine and growing. That may be true as far as the performance of the stock exchange is concerned and cities like Warsaw. But in the provinces I wonder if the same is true? I have travelled around the area and have noticed closed factories and lack of investment.

There was an article in one of the serious newspapers saying how EU money was distributed. From memory, the largest amount was in the Mazowiecki Region, which includes Warsaw, 64bn Euros whilst the provincial regions had less. The Polmorze Region around Gdansk only received 24bn Euros.

I do not know how well the councils are being financed and what their responsibilities are. I am led to believe that there is a similar law regarding their responsibilities as in GB (Local Government Act) but in my council they do not seem to have any responsibility towards building new roads as new estates are built nor clean the roads during the winter free of snow and ice. I believe their reply is “no money”. A neighbour commented that some council’s are better equipped to applying for EU money rather than others. The challenge is that the EU will only provide 50% of expenditure and the balance has to be raised by the council and residents.

However, people are paid salaries that are pre-democracy whilst costs are increasing, the official inflation rate, at present, is 2.6%, and my friend who lived in Warsaw for five years said that the prices then were comparable to London prices whilst the earnings were low. People do not seem to have enough to finish building their houses because of a lack of capital and they are scared of taking out mortgages (kredyty hypoteczne). I once commented on that there was large unemployment and the reply was that there is no `unemployment. There are four types of people 1 there are the employed people 2 there are people working the black market 3 there are families whose partners work abroad and live of their earnings 4 there are the unemployed. The government is congratulating itself on low unemployment figures; however, have they taken into consideration the millions of people leaving the country to better paid countries such as Ireland, Gt. Britain, Norway and Germany? The reasons for leaving are low pay and no work.

Socially, I do not know how much EU law has been approved by the Polish Sejm. The right wing national Party has tried to change the constitution to ensure that abortion is outlawed. Personally, I believe that abortion is the woman’s choice and neither the Church nor any government should interfere. The only thing that a government can do is to legislate guidelines. I believe that Poland must join the growing number of countries such as Portugal in accepting abortion. Secondly, people are very discriminating and they seem to hate homosexuals and gay people. The Minister for Education, Roman Giertych, has ruled that no homosexual or gay person may teach in schools. Homosexuals and gay people have the same rights as anyone else they should be allowed to marry, have the same marital rights and have children. I thought intolerance and discrimination were against EU law.

In conclusion, Mark I wish you could come out to Poland and in three to 18 weeks write an expose on the Government and its workings in order that it would improve peoples’ lives for the future.

  • 419.
  • At 01:50 PM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Stephan wrote:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your interesting and thoughful comment about the current state of relations between Poland and the European Union.

I agree with many readers that you should have mentioned the unambiguous gestures of many German politicians to overcome the impacts of the war. Willy Brandt's kneefall was certainly one of the key moments of German history after 1945. It was an unequivocal gesture and an excuse towards the Polish people.

However, I think that there are still things in Germany that need to change. In my opinion the behaviour of the Federation of Expellees is unacceptable. As long as influencial people of this organisation are still upholding claims to retrieve land German refugees have lost after 1945 many Polish fear German foreign policy.

I am angry to see that people of this organisation are still very influencial with its president Erika Steinbach being a member of the Christian Democratic Union (one of the biggest German parties). It is very sad to hear that many in her organisation have been against a ratification of the border treaty between Germany and Poland. I cannot understand that this woman is still a member of a leading German party as she poses a threat to the relations between Germany and Poland. Mrs Steinbach's shameful behaviour has never been forgotten in Poland as her organisation is still fighting to receive a compensation of the Polish government.

  • 420.
  • At 03:16 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Piotr wrote:

Thanks Mike for a very thoughtful blog. It touches something deeper that I would like to expand upon. I do not like Kaczynski policies very much. But I respect him for fighting for rights and recognition of peoples squeezed between three expansive empires (Holy Western Roman, Holy Russian, and Holy Eastern Roman (Byzantine) and later Ottoman. Here is a challenge to the readers: what do you know about history and culture of this region inhabited now by about 200 mln people more than any of single of these empires. Of nations that have been raped, mocked repeatedly (eg: Polnische Wirtschaft) and nobody even took notice. Whose fate has been decided by others (Vienna 1815,Teheran, Yalta etc), also remember Munich 1938 (here I want to remind my German friends that decisions to move Germans and at the same time Poles in the aftermath of WWII were done by Russia, Great Britain and USA so please direct your complaints to them. Whose art has been stolen and brightest had to emigrate to get decent education. And now when finally somebody has a courage to speak up not unlike Thatcher everybody is surprized and disgusted. I think there is a time now for the rest of Europe to take notice and educate itself about own history. I also encourage others (Roumanians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Balts etc) to speak up. You have a right to be heard as well. Healthy discussion in a family is a good thing.

  • 421.
  • At 03:08 PM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:

The K twins, in part at least, are an overreaction to the way in which East Europeans have been treated as "second class Europeans" for the last 15 years.

Rich America gave poor Western Europe a Marshall Plan. Rich Western Europe gave poor Eastern Europe patronising lectures and left them out in the cold for 14 years after the Wall came down.

East European workers still do not have the same right to live and work in other member states as West Europeans, and certain West European states still live in fear of that dire new threat to civilisation as we know it, the dreaded "Polish plumber".

East European farmers are less deserving of CAP funds than their (considerably richer) Western counterparts.

And however harsh the diplomatic rhetoric the twins may have used, at least they didn't publicly tell half the democratically elected governments in Europe to "shut up", just because they didn't like their opinion, as the late and unlamented French President Jacques Chirac did.

Nor has it gone unnoted in Eastern Europe that they are lambasted by some as "traitors to Europe" (and people here think the twins sound paranoid and authoritarian?!), for the dreadful crime of wishing to reinforce, rather than weaken, a trans-Atlantic alliance they understandably see as vital to their freedom and security. A matter which again seems less compelling to their smug, wealthy, self-satisfied critics in the West.

People here say that the Poles should show less narrowmindedness and more European spirit. Perhaps they have a point, but then again perhaps there should first of all actually *be* a European spirit as opposed to an ersatz exclusively WEST European version?

And, btw, I'm a West European, not a Pole.

  • 422.
  • At 09:27 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Mark Forest wrote:

Mark Mardell's pre-Turkish blog is just a further instance of transparent BBC propaganda. The BBC has always pushed the American agenda of forcing Turkey into the EU against the wishes of the people of Europe and in spite of the fact - which any cheap atlas will confirm - that Turkey is not part of Europe. Geographically, socially, culturally, religiously or economically, Turkey might as well be on a diferent planet. Indeed any history lesson will confirm that Turkey & Europe have always been enemies and have nothing in common. But the US has promised Turkey to arrange for it to be foisted upon the EU and the AmeriPoodle British government along with the the great rebroadcaster of AmeriCulture, the BBC, are executing their master's bidding. When was the last time the BBC reBroadcast a French or a German TV show? The BBC - like all other English institutions- does not understand foreign languages, is frightened by them and hostile to them. The BBC has never understood Europe - no proAmerican organisation can - and should keep its uninformed propaganda to itself.

  • 423.
  • At 04:42 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Leslie Farkas wrote:

Polish spirit or any other kind of East European spirit is very hard for affluent Western people to understand. Eastern Europeans have not had the very exotic luxuries of centuries of democracy, rule of law, orderly economic development, of individual rights, national sovereignty, or a productive ruling class. Other than that, they are the same as everyone else!

  • 424.
  • At 06:23 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • Jack636 wrote:

Reading this blog I realized how people opinions are different from what we can read, hear, or see in some of the media. And the difference is huge. Most of the comments are extremely interesting and deep in their analysis. Almost all of them were in line with what my own opinions are. European media twist facts frequently for the political reasons of those who own them. Following blogs like this one I'm reassuring myself that there are people who know facts better than what is presented by some media outlets.

  • 425.
  • At 03:14 PM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • Leslie Farkas wrote:

Post # 132, submitted by an Italian starts off: "Italians are usually not proud of their country..."

With this interesting and highly revealing admission, I am totally distracted from the discussion about Poland, and wonder instead about just what is going on with Italians. I think the above comment should be the start of a new discussion board here. Why do Italians lack collective self respect- something that every other nation has, whether earned or not? Are Italians the only people in the world who feel such self-loathing and shame? The feeling that "we" have nothing to be proud of? Is this due to cultural, rather than historical reasons? I think it's due to being aware of themselves as a corrupt and fractious people who would rather talk and argue all day long, rather than get anything done.

  • 426.
  • At 08:01 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Maxim Sadovski wrote:

I am sorry to intrude into the all-European talk, for I am a Russian, though with a Polish last name...

Here in Russia we hold a bit different opinion about Poles and their national character. There is a word Honor - it sounds and means basically the same thing in English and (I guess) in Polish, but in Russian (it spelled Gonor) it is a derogatory statement about someone that is arrogant, stubborn and/or does not want to deal with reality. Almost like attacking tanks on horses with sables ;)

The reality is such that Russia has some natural resources that others want to buy. So the country would be selling it to these customers it likes to deal with and the appropriate (read market) price would be charged. So when I read about Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty regarding the Baltic pipeline I just laugh because exactly in 1993 Russia offered Poland to build another gas pipeline passing its territory - and guess, the Polish government turned that offer down.
Now the reality is such that Poland does not have much of its large industry in hands of Poles, unlike Russia which was able to save some of the remnants of old Soviet times. So the future, I guess, is a bit different for the two countries - one still has to repay the national debt while its citizens are leaving the country to get jobs, while the other, though considered to be an undemocratic/totalitarian state, will be making some cash selling its resources to rebuild its industry or to make purchases abroad.

  • 427.
  • At 12:05 PM on 16 Aug 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Maxim #226, the story about Poles attacking tanks with sabres is not true. Last time I checked it was a propaganda item constructed by the Nazis to show how insane the Poles were. There are enough true stories of Polish military bravery during WWII in the face of overwhelming odds without brining up this ridiculous and suspect example. So there is no point to what you wrote, or you used a wrong example to demonstrate a Russian bias from the Soviet era. For example look here: , and more generally here:

As has been seen above, if Russians only had a problem with Poland on trade issues, one could argue that Poles are unreasonable - "attacking tanks with swords". However, Russia has a similar problem with many other countries, so there is a pattern here of Russia using and creating trade disputes to advance its politics. Depending on your point of view, it is not necessarily wrong or evil... it just IS. Perhaps other countries use similar methods. However, in today's world economy there are certain rules all tend to work by, and those like Russia who bend them expose themselves to the consequences.

As for your Polish surname, do you know how you got it? Probably during the Partitions.

  • 428.
  • At 12:55 PM on 29 Aug 2007,
  • Daniel wrote:


1. Germans weren't those who made first step

2. Willy Brandt, as for me, apologized to the jews (though polish ones) because the monument to which he kneelt commemorates jews and not polish

It's not a voice in this disscussion, it's just about sticking to the facts.

Greetings from Warsaw

  • 429.
  • At 02:21 PM on 30 Aug 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Poles were firts to apologise first of all!
polish bishops in the spirit of christianity announced after the world: we forgive and we ask for being forgiven!
nobody in the west seem to know that.

EU opened their market for Poland? please...
France and Germany do not allow Poles to work there until 2009 - FR, 2011 - Ger

  • 430.
  • At 02:28 PM on 30 Aug 2007,
  • michael wrote:

you mention spitfires. you forgot to mention that if polish soldiers would not defend britian in those spitfires you would speak german by now.

  • 431.
  • At 01:14 AM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • vora wrote:

Since history is of such an importance in this thread here's a little "fun fact":

The often mentioned Marshall Plan amounted to 1.4 billion USD in loans for Germany. That is roughly 9 - 10 billion EUR in nowadays terms. Taking into account that Germany had already paid 10 - 20 times in war reparations to its implementation the aid was more of a symbolic character, albeit a very important one...

Another "fun fact": coincidentally this is about the same sum the US has lost track of in Iraq ;)

Just lightening up this thread a little... :)

BTW: great blog, Mark!

  • 432.
  • At 03:56 AM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Reading some of the responses to the blog I'd like to point something out. Willy Brandt may have made an apology in Warsaw, but he did that in the People's Republic of Poland, a state that did not represent nor indeed had little to do with the people it ruled over. For that reason few people in either the present government nor the general population consider that apology valid. There needs to be another apology, which is broader and which concerns what happened at Yalta and which fully and resoundingly acknowledges the fact that the people of Poland did not choose to live under communism. Instead, imposing that system upon Poland and thereby taking away its sovereignty was a crime.

  • 433.
  • At 09:44 AM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • Janet, Sweden wrote:

1. Poland certainly suffered a lot during WWII... but so did a lot of other European countries as well (Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, Germany, Yugoslavia, etc.).

2. Poland has received more 'recognition' for its suffering than most other countries.

3. Germany already has apologized several times, paid reparations to Polish victims and, finally, sponsored Poland's entry into the EU.

4. Poland itself doesn't seem very keen on apologizing for its own expulsion of Germans or its anti-semitic policies before or after the war.

This Polish attitude, which is by no means shares by all Poles, is the same type of unreformed and deluded nationalism you find in the Balkans. Poland needs to grow up on this issue in order to become a 'modern' European country.

  • 434.
  • At 04:21 PM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • james wrote:

Any student of history knows that every nation of the world has committed atrocities against other nations. Polish resentment of WWII and the Communist consequences may be valid, equally only by looking forward and seeking to work together can we safeguard a prosperous harmonious future.

  • 435.
  • At 05:37 PM on 01 Sep 2007,
  • David S wrote:

Excellent read.
But, would this have even been published/posted if Britain or America were dragging thier feet?
As I see it, this is the little guy standing up to the larger ones.
I'm glad to see Poland strongly defend thier interests. But as I see it, had this been any larger country, Germany, England, or USA, the story would be spun around in a different light and the other parties would be getting the write up. Its all about your point of view and what you've been raised upon, the whole cold war stigma has really set a generation of "east/west" thinkers and those feelings still remain for the most part.

  • 436.
  • At 02:13 AM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Erik wrote:

A good post, though the analysis should perhaps more deeply explore the loss of life, power, identity, land, and resources to both Germany and Russia, not to mention the abandonment by France, Britan and the US in the post cold war.

Much of Polish history, recent and past, is unknown to most people, not the least because first Germany and then the Soviet Union sought to actively destroy, bury, and deny the Polish identity and polish history.

To deal with this barrier, perhaps a follow up article should be due that explores the Polish situation more closely, and reveals why simple gestures of remorse may not put the past neatly behind them, nor can dismissive revisionist statements like "all countries have commited atrocities" was away the past. T

rue, Poland must look forward and diplomacy is essential in this day and age, but neither should western ignorance and indifference be excused. Until the west looks sincerly and difficultly at what has happened to Poland in the past 150 years, the rapprochment will continue to sound hollow in the ears of the Polish.

  • 437.
  • At 04:54 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Anna Kopchinska wrote:

I couldn't agree more with Alek's (#44) Post.

No country has suffered more in all of Europe than Poland. Germany would not be the super power it is today without support from the west after the war. Poland was abandoned to the Communists. The people have suffered, suffered, suffered. The Polish have such a culturally rich history and are non-agressors and defenders of Europe from countless fronts (German, Russian, Turkish etc....) They are pro-European. It makes sense for the E.U. to support a prosperous Poland. It is time that the super powers share the pie with Poland and stop acting like such elitest bigots (i.e. they are culturally superior to the Poles.) The Poles have to stand up for themselves as no one else will. It is dangerous for any one country to have too much power. Poland is leveling the playing field as they should.

  • 438.
  • At 09:10 AM on 28 Sep 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Much of Polish history, recent and past, is unknown to most people, not the least because first Germany and then the Soviet Union sought to actively destroy, bury, and deny the Polish identity and Polish history."

Particularly in the east.
A case in point: several HYS debates in which numerous Russian posters demonstrated a total ignorance of the fact that USSR and III Reich were allies; were completely unaware of an existence of Secrete Protocol to Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (which resulted in WWII and IVth partition of Poland), let alone saw a footage of Red Army troops parading together with Wermacht ones in Brest in September 1939.

But it's hard to blame them. Doing some research I've discovered that that part of Russian history is still not included in Russian school books. Despite many years of alleged 'glasnost'.

  • 439.
  • At 10:49 AM on 29 Sep 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

The Polish have such a culturally rich history and are non-agressors and defenders of Europe from countless fronts (German, Russian, Turkish etc....) [#437]

And don't forget Mongols! :-)

[vide Legnica Battle -1241]

  • 440.
  • At 11:33 AM on 01 Oct 2007,
  • Dectora wrote:

I think that we should all give thanks to Poland for Jan Sobieski, who defeated Ottoman Imperialism. And also many thanks for preserving Leonardo's 'The Lady with the Ermine' through a world war.

This is the best analysis I have seen, and I'm sure there are others - esp. in Poland and Eastern Europe, which touches upon the comfortable myopia that Western Europe takes for granted.

Thanks Mark for doing the writer's job: Analyzing what IS, not what one ASSUMES. This is important behind the scenes analysis of what Poland is dealing with. Kudos.

-Tobin, Etats (Non)Unis

  • 442.
  • At 02:02 PM on 03 Oct 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

Would the Poles now please stop their whining and finally read the rules of the club they decided to join more than 3 years ago?

Understanding the rules and applying them correctly would give Poland more respect than playing Europe's eternal victim. Poles have a very simplistic view of European history and like to limit it to the period post 1939. That's pretty convenient as it excludes the Polish aggressions in the 17th, 18th and 20th century.

The Poles who are in the current Government or who support it never find anything wrong with themselves, they always blame others. Here is my understanding of the Polish order of bad guys:


Have I forgotten anyone?

  • 443.
  • At 03:48 AM on 04 Oct 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Ronald, nope. You do not know who you are talking about.

Don't know of any Polish aggressions you mention either. Unless you mean retaking territories taken over by Prussia/Germany.

As for joining clubs and respecting their rules... unless I miss something, the EU is supposed to be a democratic insitution where people are allowed to speak their mind (the decision as to how wise it is is left up to them).

As for who Polish dislike:

1. ignoring their history, status, and culture

... yes, this seems to include a lot of Russians and Germans... but can't blame the Poles for this. Nope, it does not include Jews to any large extent, this part is a myth... all you have to speak of is how the Jews contributed successfuly to Poland and the Commonwealth for a very long time ... most Poles will understand and respect the Jews when you put it to them that way.

  • 444.
  • At 05:58 PM on 04 Oct 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

I wish people would not keep trotting out the myth of Poland's "betrayal" after the Second World War. The fact is that Poland was liberated or occupied (depending on one's persuasion) by the Red Army and neither Hitler, the Western allies or anyone else could prevent this. Having accomplished this the only way the Soviets could have been removed would have been to have launched a Third World War against them. No serious person could suggest this was a realistic possibility.

In addition, in my opinion the present Polish government reflects a certain Catholic-kulak mentality that the Soviet presence was never able to totally root out.

  • 445.
  • At 05:44 PM on 07 Oct 2007,
  • Damo wrote:


Just how would you have liked the Soviets to root out the "certain Catholic-kulak mentality"?

  • 446.
  • At 01:25 PM on 09 Oct 2007,
  • David wrote:

The historic role of Poland is that of a relatively small transit country between Germany and Russia. But to play this role effectively for their own sake poles should forget their old grudges against both Germany and Russia and they seem incapable to do so. I think the only way to deal with this problem is to cut EU subsidies. We simply can’t afford to let Poland be a spoiler within EU. If they want to be closer to US they should get American subsidies not European ones.

  • 447.
  • At 04:10 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Maggi Stephenson wrote:

David (post 446)...

As a Polish person I can reliably
inform you that :

-EU can subsidy us

-America can subsidy us

-Nobody can buy us

  • 448.
  • At 01:28 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

Max Sceptic's post (72) on the Second Anglo-Boer War is anachronistic or ahistorical for two reasons.

Firstly apartheid had yet to come into existence in at the time of the Second Anglo-Boer War.

Secondly, and more importantly, you are projecting late mid to late 20th Century and 21st Century views onto the 19th and very early 20th Century. At the time it was the conventional view that stronger and more technologically advanced peoples could and should rule over weaker and less technologically advanced ones. Such a view had existed all through recorded history and was the ideological basis of the British Empire. The Boers held to the same principle, though of course applied it on a far lesser scale. The rejection of this age-old principle is of course a very recent one in historical terms and has developed out of the Enlightenment.

Therefore to justify the British invasion of the Boer Republics, which was to gain land and gold for the British Empire on the basis of what mainstream views in Britain and (white) South Africa would be sixty or so years later is not just wrong but bizarre, as at the time Britain was ruling much of the world harshly and without democracy simply because it could and justified it on the basis that it was right for 'civilised' nations to rule 'uncivilised ones'.

  • 449.
  • At 12:26 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"The historic role of Poland is that of a relatively small transit country between Germany and Russia."

1.Rather than embarrass yourself here you should have studied maps of Poland between XII and XVII century.

2.Reading something about Polish armed forces and their accomplishments would have helped as well.

3. That's why, taking into consideration #1 and #2 historic role of Germany and Russia had been to partition and subjugate Poland whenever possible.

  • 450.
  • At 07:27 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

354. At 12:22 PM on 11 Jul 2007, James wrote:
"Thanks for your comments.

There have been SOME excellent Polish films on WW2 and its aftermath. Please be assured that some of us the UK have seen the Kanal/Ashes & Diamonds/A Generation trilogy."

If you like Andrzej Wajda's films so much, you should go and see his latest one, KATYN", which this Oscar-winning director could make only now.
Very powerful stuff and arguably his best movie to date.

You may also find interesting to know that Wajda's own father, a Polish cavalry officer, has been executed in Katyn Forest as well, together with other 25 000 Polish career and reserve officers captured by Russians after they invaded Poland in September 1939.

  • 451.
  • At 02:43 PM on 19 Oct 2007,
  • Maggi Stephenson wrote:

Mirek Kondracki !

I love your Polish spirit ,
and I admire your contribution
to this blog.

Mark Mardell !

Thank you for this blog !
I really am grateful that you gave
us the opportunity to present
our Polish point of view,
as opposed to "the difficult,money
sucking and ungrateful" member
of the EU.

I realise that not all people's
opinion can be changed or even
influenced, but at the very
least some light has been shed.

Thank you

  • 452.
  • At 11:56 PM on 19 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew Hingston wrote:

In the late 1970s I lived in France, where every single Frenchman over a certain age had been in the Resistance. Now I live in Poland, where the entire country claims to have battled incessantly against Communism and for Solidarity. The English know that a large number of its elites were soft on Nazism in the 1930s; they accept that shameful fact and move on. The Germans have shown extraordinary honesty about their devilish past, working to educate and change themselves as no country ever has before. POLAND, HOWEVER, CONTINUES TO LIVE IN A DREAMSCAPE IN WHICH ITS VERY REAL SUFFERING IN THE 20TH CENTURY (AND BEFORE) IS SEEN TO JUSTIFY A VERY UNREAL DEGREE OF WHINING AND PEEVISHNESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY. The Kaczynski twins nightmare (and it is a nightmare) aside, let's not forget that Poland is a country whose level of corruption is ranked by Transparency International as the second worst in the EU, acquivalent to some fairly nasty Sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern countries. (Only Romania is worse.) Poland's healthcare system is not on the verge of collapse, it is beyond the verge, with every month seeing more impossible to reconcile deficit spending, more disgruntled and defeated doctors and nurses, and no plans for the future. The road system of Poland is a farce; Hitler planned a modern highway from Berlin to Warsaw, and it still doesn't exist, except in Germany. The rail system, an enormously valuable asset in an age of $80/barrel oil, is rusting away when it isn't just falling apart. A ride on a Polish train is guaranteed to be an uncomfortable and disappointing experience. The unaccountable and unacknowledged government of Poland -- namely, the Catholic Church, to whom the Kaczynskis are totally in thrall -- shows itself more than willing to sell out the country and its citzens in order to keep control of them. Perhaps some of the 10 countries who joined the EU in 2004 were ready, but Poland was not, and still is not. It takes EU money by the lorry-load and scoffs at EU directives (such as not over-fishing the Baltic), as well as more fundamental issues of human rights. Even the EU money is too often grossly misspent. In Poznan, where I live, EU money has gone into refurbishing buildings belonging to the Archbishopric. Excuse me for saying so, but I don't think EU money should go to any religious institution, and certainly not for purposes of redecorating. EU money should go toward capital projects that will improve the productivity of the country as a whole. Schools, health, anti-corruption, transport, other infrastructure, and initiatives for innovation and entrepreneurship. Try telling the Poles that. Their response is, "It's our money now, and we'll spend it as we like." For their own good, the EU should kick them out and turn off the taps. When they grow up, the EU can reconsider their membership. Membership is a privilege not a right.

  • 453.
  • At 11:46 AM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Maggi Stephenson wrote:

Andrew Hingston (post 452 ).....

The Wise Ones tell us to see some good in all things.
I believe in that and so I have found something good even in your rant.
You see,you have unwittingly helped Poland :
In your venomous comment,using Poland's example you have described the situation in almost all countries rcecently free from under the communist boot.
When I read your gloom assessment-the obvious conclusion was that those countries deserve financial help more than anyone.
I could not go past your sensitivity "winner" in suggesting that the Polish gorvenment continue Hitlers projecs (now who lives in the past ? ).

Oh ! just out of curiosity- if you dislike Poland so much...what's the hold up ??????????

  • 454.
  • At 08:57 PM on 24 Oct 2007,
  • artur wrote:

If you're not Polish you will never truly understand our history and the impact it has made on our society and culture......your comments will be biased and scewed based on your fragmented and incomplete understanding of Poland and its circumstances. What's most important now is for Poles to unite and not pay attention to outside influences that have often collaborated to betray them in the past. We need to focus on what is best for Poland, and Poland only. If that ruffles any feathers, good! So be it! It's our turn now.

  • 455.
  • At 05:42 AM on 26 Oct 2007,
  • Janus wrote:

Two points:

1) The British pride about WWII. I don't want to go on endlessly about the question wether the British have that much reason to feel as much pride as they usually display. (Contrary to how things are displayed in Britain its contribution to defeating Germany was somewhat less than 10%, the British also used quite cruel tactics like the systematic bombing of the civilian population of their enemy, they allied from the beginning with one of the most brutal and totalitarian states of the time - especially considering that the Sovietunion partook in the aggression against Poland and that, at the time when Britain chose its side, Germany had not yet committed its Holocaust while in the Sovietunion millions had already been killed one might even say that in 1939 the Sovietunion was the most brutal and the totalitarian state in the world - and almost systematically sold out Eastern Europe, including its ally Poland, after the war).
The reason that the British attitude is not "Don't mention the war" but rather "Please mention the war" is probably that they themselves have something to get over, namely the loss of their Empire and their decline from a super- to a middle power. One somewhat gets the impression that they seem to compensate a bit for this by constantly replaying their alleged heroic WWII role in their minds. Over and over again.

2) There is no denying that Poland suffered a lot in WWII. But that does not mean that the behaviour of the Kaczynski brothers is to be commended. The war is over since more than 60 years and some others did also suffer a bit. (The Germans for example, how large would the German population be if not for WWII? Right, I forgot, "the Germans" started it - all of them, including the children did somehow - so they got only what they deserved. I guess it must be very helpful to accept the death of loved ones if one is told that. Perhaps the Poles as colective victims are in one regard not so bad off after all. At least they can point with their fingers...)
Plus, there is nothing wrong with the idea to overcome the grievances of the past, in fact this is a goal that is worthwile, isn't it? If Poland had any problem with this kind of thinking of the club it chose to join - voluntarily if I may aid - well, it better had not joined in the first place. (That however would not change the fact that the idea that dead and virtual Poles should be allowed to vote was completely ridiculous in the first place. Has anyone considered what would happen if, let's say, the American Indians - North and South - would use that one? Perhaps they would even demand the land back which European invaders stole from them. Namely all of the Americas. Now, that would be interesting.)
I cannot help it. The Mr. Mardell's article above smacks of this almost instinctive siding with Poland which, out of some reason, is quite typical for the British these days. One has to suspect that if, during a meeting of Europeans, a Pole would use the corner of the room as a toilet to convey his displeasure about something, the present Englishman would feel the strong urge to applaude and to call it a "refreshingly uncoventional behaviour".
That said, I must add that the last Polish election seems to suggest that the majority of Poles do not quite share the views of the Kaczynski government. Which would be another reason not to defend its attitude.

  • 456.
  • At 10:26 AM on 28 Oct 2007,
  • v Boraks wrote:

Poles have one basis instinct and belief which they have demonstrated over the last 200 years- democracy will not work without the concomitent belief that right and wrong is universal and based on a belief in God( whether that is Allah, Jehova, God or Budda). We had the largest muslin and Jewish populations in Western/Central Europe for hundreds of years without any conflict. Western Europeans eliminated those minorities( along with equal numbers of Polish Christians). Polish Jews Christians and Muslims died together in the gas ovens.

Poles instinctivly feel that western Europe, has gone too far in the direction of small "L" liberalism and that this threatens not only the strenght of morality but indeed the basis of democracy.

Until the old EU acknowledges this fact, democracy in the EU will deteriorate as fast as selfishness, hedonism and tribal conflict in the old EU accelerate.

Poland and Central Europe are now the places to raise a family and send children to safe schools. Western Europeans who will soon realize this fact will in the fairly near future start to look at Polish schools for their families( English is now omnipresent in Poland).

Perhaps those that attack Poland on this issue are driven more by tribal instincts and selfishness than by a need to believe in such universal right and wrong.

Each person must decide whether he is a tribalist or universalist.
This is probably the the most important divide as far as the survival of the human seed is concerned.

Poles hope to change the EU for the better. Please listen.

  • 457.
  • At 10:34 AM on 28 Oct 2007,
  • mushashi wrote:

in a polish point of view there are 2 biggest barrier in polish german dialogue. First is Erica Steinbach and Rudy Pawlka who causes a lot of distrust in Poland against Germany because Poles fear that Germans are going to do revisionism of history.The most recent example is the situation that resulted from the demand by BDV and Prussian Trust for financial reparations from Poland to partially compensate for Germans territorial losses after the Second World War. In 2006, the Prussian Trust, an organization representing German postwar expellees from Central and Eastern Europe, submitted a claim against Poland to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.its has been proposed the signing of a Polish-German treaty that irrevocably and finally denounces all claims by either side concerning losses in the Second World War, but german goverment not responded. Second biggest barrier is
german russian gas pipeline, which in effect cuts off poland, ukraine and baltic states k.

  • 458.
  • At 03:29 PM on 28 Oct 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Janus (455), that was an insightful and very funny (the last bit) comment! Hope Mark Mandell has learn his lesson. The Poles have done a really great job in the last elections. They have shown that they are true democrats with an enlightened, clear vision of their country's history and, in particular, future - something the Kaczynski's utterly lacked.

  • 459.
  • At 12:38 AM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Janus, your history is lacking and incorrect... or simply misinterpreted. Either way, what you say is wrong. The persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, and other groups, had already began well before the invasion of Poland.

You are right on Russia's human rights record, or lack of it. You just made up the British response to Russia though... read up on it PLEASE!

  • 460.
  • At 04:15 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Timofei Bolshakov wrote:

"After their 1410 victory at Grunwald - a victory still celebrated annually in Poland - the Polish/Lithuanian state was the major power in eastern Europe. That power was brutally snuffed out towards the end of the 18th. century by the Russians, Austrians and Prussians (i.e. Germans) in combination - who went on to humiliate and persecute the Poles for the next 200 years. Why are we surprised that a deep spring of anger still motivates the Poles, at least in part, to this day?" - I recently found speaking with Polish friend that Polish people generally do not know that during this domination period Polish/Lithuanian almost managed to destroy Russia. Polish prince was claimed Russian Tsar for 2 years (right before the Romanov's dynasty.) The terror and devastation of that war surpassed Mongolian invasion by several orders of magnitude. And Russia celebrates the liberation from Poles yearly as well (the 4th of November) - a day that Nationalists (people I personally hate) marches now in Moscow. The picture of 18th century Polish tragedy would not be complete without mentioning Polish Invasion of beginning of the 17th century.

  • 461.
  • At 07:31 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mikhail wrote:

OK, I spent 3 hours reading this blog when I could have been swimming in the pool, reading a book, cleaning the apartment or doing something else useful. But what is done is done, so I better put in my 2 cents’ worth, too.
You’ve had a few other Russian contributors and they’ve mostly been right on the money. What I hope to do is to express a few points a little more forcefully, so that there is no room for misunderstanding.

History. History is nothing but rivers of blood and bucketfuls of suffering, EVERYWHERE. Show me a nation that has not been made to suffer by others or has not made others suffer. Switzerland? Iceland? Erm… Can’t think of another one – help me out somebody. Did Poland suffer from Germany and Russia? Of course. Did Russia and other eastern Slavs suffer from Poland? You bet. Did Russia suffer from Germany? Need I ask? Who suffered more – how do you measure that? What’s a fact is that Germany and Russia have tended to be stronger and therefore won more often – or is it the other way around? They won more often and that made them stronger? Anyway – the cause of Polish grievances is not that it suffered but that it lost. Well, sorry about that – you should have fought harder or smarter, or not fought at all (trying to take advantage of a neighbour’s temporary weakness is not smart, like the Polish invasion of Russia in 17th century).

Don’t get me wrong – I like Polish people, I had some great Polish friends until the passage of time tossed us in different directions. Poles and Russians are very similar – perhaps that’s why there’s been so much friction in the past. But the bottom line, this self-centredness and cult of victimhood are very unbecoming. One of the posts really struck me: “We (Poles) suffered more than anyone else in Europe”. How narcissistic can you be? The Irish had Cromwell, Potato Famine, Civil War, IRA. The Greeks and Bulgarians had 400 years of Turkish genocide. The Serbs have had their country destroyed TWICE in the last 15 years.

By saying that am I condoning the partitions or making light of any country’s hardships? Absolutely not. But the truth is, until very recently (post-1945) the law of the jungle ruled in international relations, and in many parts of the world it still does. But we can’t change that – we can only resolve to do things differently from now on. Which brings me to

Modern politics. I’ve read a lot of Polish posts complaining about Poland being squeezed between Germany and Russia and feeling defensive because of that. Guess what, panowe – get used to this. Let me rephrase this: no, Germany and Russia have no intention of carving you up again or causing you some other damage. It’s just for us, YOU DON’T MEAN NEARLY AS MUCH AS WE MEAN FOR EACH OTHER. The only guarantee of peace and prosperity for our two countries is not just “peaceful cooperation” but genuine friendship, and anything that stands in its way will eventually fall by the wayside. Why is friendship between Germany and Russia so important for them? Two reasons. One is that damn history again. Whenever Germany and Russia had a quarrel, they lived to regret it. Who have been the biggest losers of the two world wars, in both lost people and lost territories? Germany and Russia (well, Hungary hasn’t done terribly well, but then it’s always contrived to find itself on the losing side). Germany has until recently been the largest divided nation in Europe – now that sad accolade belongs to Russia. Guess what – we haven’t always been smart in the past, but we are no fools. We are not falling for that again. We want to be friends, if only because we’ve tried everything else and it didn’t work.

But there’s a deeper reason as well – apart from times of madness such as 1933-45 Russians and Germans have generally liked each other a lot (sure, there have been and still are imbecile minorities in both nations who hate each other), and there’s usually been a lot of respect. Russian aristocracy went to Heidelberg and Freiburg to study at university. We have a shared love of philosophy, poetry, novels, music. The two nations’ mentalities are complementary. Most Russians recognise the German qualities they miss – the sober love of work, the order, the efficiency (cf. Goncharov’s novel “Oblomov”). Its more difficult for me to speak for the other side, but I suspect there are qualities in the hapless Russian soul they recognise as complementary, otherwise they wouldn’t have been flocking here for 200 years, from Peter the Great until WWI that ruined everything (and it wasn’t just the aristocracy that came to settle in Russia – peasants and artisans as well – and everybody blended in great. Our ministry of the economy until a few weeks ago was a Volksdeutsch – Hermann Gref).

What am I getting at? Don’t mean to get all soppy, but Russia and Germany are destined to be friends and partners, and the cleverer people in both countries understand it perfectly well. AND WE WILL NOT LET ANYONE ELSE GET IN THE WAY OF THAT, “EU solidarity” or not. We will trade direct, without intermediaries, as we please. The Russian soldier will stay in Treptow Park and the Werhmacht cemeteries in Russia will be well looked after, no matter how much the lesser nations try to re-write the conclusions of WWII. Nord Stream will be build. We don’t care if a third country misses the transit fees or the ability to cause mischief. We don’t threaten anyone nor will we tolerate being threatened or blackmailed, be that Poland, Ukraine, Estonia or anyone else.

To summarize: dear Polish friends. No one owes you ANYTHING. Your sufferings are NOT unique. NO ONE is conspiring against you now. Germany and Russia DON’T CARE about you – other than as a minor obstacle to trade – and are certainly not plotting to carve you up or do you some other damage. We have bigger fish to fry.

  • 462.
  • At 07:59 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • JZ wrote:

I am Hungarian but I am working in Poland. My advice to Poles: forget about your nationalism (not patriotism) and move on. It’s no good to invent external and internal enemies: Russians, Germans, Jews etc. It’s just nuts. Your obsession with the perceived or real injustices of the past devastates you. There will never be Greater Poland or Hungary. NATIONALISM IS A ROAD TO NOWHERE.

Response to 454 and 455:

A better reading of 453 would have noticed that I didn't rant (or argue, or declaim) against Poland, but rather against some of its worst habits, to which it holds tenaciously: endemic corruption at levels seen no where in Western Europe; peevishness and petulance; inefficiency; bad planning; mismanagement; lack of innovation; reflex deference to authority (Church first, government second, boss third, and so on).

On the idea that one cannot understand the Poles unless one is Polish, you must be joking. Even in Poland the historian people most admire and rely on is Norman Davies. When I ask Poles why that it, the answers is always "You can't trust a Polish historian -- he's always got something to hide." (By the way, there are many fine Polish historians, but Davies is still the one most admired.)

454 wrote: "What's most important now is for Poles to unite and not pay attention to outside influences." I have no problem with people and countries going their own way -- but don't ask me to contribute to their follies. Poland voluntarily joined the EU. At the moment it did so, it agreed to give up much of its independence and some of its sovereignty. This is what membership means, even though scores of duplicitous politicians try to argue otherwise. The sooner there is a United States of Europe and not a lot of fiddly little state-lets (like Poland) strutting around and acting superior, the better. Until that happens, if Poland doesn't want to play by the rules, then by all means cut it loose, and cut off its allowance. Like a rebellious teenager, I expect it will suddenly grow up. By the way, for Maggie, who asked why I stay in Poland if I am so unimpressed with it, the answer is that I came to Poland to help save certain historic religious buildings. See What I discovered was a level of lying, corruption, mismanagement, and plain old stupidity that made the relatively simple (I thought)process of refurbishing an historical synagogue impossible. Until all these bad habits are fixed, doing the other things won't accomplish much. So I am still here, and I am working on anti-corruption issues. I don't plan to quit, but I also don't plan to start start telling untruths about what a great, reliable, and progressive country Poland is. It isn't -- not yet. I could be, and it will be if it works hard. But right now things don't look particularly promissing...even though one of the Kaczynskis was just turfed out in favor of a man whom everyone says is better, smarter, more honest. We'll see.

  • 464.
  • At 05:27 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • MDV wrote:

Janus (#455).
You have hit the nail on the head in regards to Britains disconcerting obsession with the Second World War. Being a historian (well, a history undergrad) I appreciate the importance of the past, yet I do feel that to live in it is a dangerous thing to do. The world does move on. If only peoples minds would as well.

  • 465.
  • At 12:03 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • MDV wrote:

I also like post #132. Nationalism is indeed a bizzare concept, ultimatly leading to association with a competing faction. Not that competition can be avoided. Just why cloud it with harmful rhetoric which will only aggrivate the nature of the struggle that is human experience. People need to open their minds, the world would be better off.

  • 466.
  • At 07:37 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Polish prince was claimed Russian Tsar for 2 years (right before the Romanov's dynasty.)[#459]

Which 'Polish prince' I pray?

A Russian impostor (one of many so called 'false Dimitris') Grigory Otrepyev?

However I grant you that Russia fared much better under German tsars.

The best example: so called Katherine the Great, in reality a German from Stettin by the name
Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst.

"And Russia celebrates the liberation from Poles yearly as well (the 4th of November) - a day that Nationalists (people I personally hate) marches now in Moscow."

But Russia (including its current president) also celebrates CHEKIST Day, and after all you couldn't have done it if a Pole, Felix Derzynski, hadn't created Cheka. :-)

  • 467.
  • At 07:23 AM on 03 Nov 2007,
  • ZF wrote:

I am polish and I think the biggest evil in Poland is a slave mentality. We feel uncomfortable without a master and at the same time we hate him. Germany, Russia now US. When will we grow up to be independent?

  • 468.
  • At 11:25 AM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Rob (459), in your criticism of Janus you seem to want to mislead the readers. You say that Janus has got the historical facts wrong and your first example refers to "the persecution of the Jews" which, as you correctly point out, already begun before Germany invaded Poland. However, the problem with this is that Janus did not discuss the persecution of the Jews, but he refers to the Holocaust - which did not happen until more than two years AFTER the invasion of Poland (The "Wannsee conference" at which Hitler ordered the Holocaust took place in 1942!). So, contrary to your accusations, Janus is completely right in asserting that the Holocaust took place after the invasion of Poland. And please don't try to argue that distinguishing very clearly between the persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust is unnecessary. The Jews were persecuted in many European countries. What made the Nazis special is the Holocaust - and, as Janus says, that took place after the invasion of Poland. I don't know whether the rest of your attack on Janus is justified, but given the above, you will understand that I have my doubts.

  • 469.
  • At 05:08 AM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Mikhail (461), "lesser nations" and "minor obstacle" pretty much sum up the way that many Russians think of large part of the world.. Why such a rhetoric? It's sad and it's diminishing you, not others.

Personally, as a young new technologies scientist, i don't give war times and stalinist persecutions much thought. What is less known is that modern polish science (especially mathematics) was and still is well respected and in many fields leading. The problem always was with transferring theories into applications or technologies. There's a long list of discoveries in 50's 60's and 70's (including best computers in these years, nuclear fusion research, and rocketry/space programs) that were leeched from Poland to USSR. Labs were closed, people dissapeared.
From my point of view, current times are much better. Polish economy is growing very fast, natural course of a young man interested in sciences is M.Sc.(Eng.)->Ph.D.->creating his own company. That's the freedom we wanted. I'm happy to live in these times, especially when i hear from older colleagues how things looked back then. Some may complain that such things happened also in USSR and other Soviet-bloc countries. I agree, but i live here (mostly Poland) and now.

And another thing - one may think that maximizing medium-term profits (as in case of aggressive no-one-stands-in-a-way stance) would be best for economy. (Un)fortunately as history proved, it's not the best long-term winning strategy. It brings natural disasters, pollutions and eventually unrests or wars. Germany and USSR brought twice a war to this continent, with millions of deaths. I agree that we shouldn't live with the past, but it would be plain dumb not to try to analyse it. Why such things happened? What can we do to ensure that it won't happen again? With such death toll we (Europeans) have to be cautious and watch bad tendencies also in our own countries.
I perceive EU as a step into the brighter future, but honestly i can't believe it will go the right way. People still measure other people by ethnic clause. Still it's worth a try.

Plus i love Russian culture, respect their mathematics, read all Thomas Mann books and admire German mechanics' school. Somehow i didn't have a problem with stating that.

  • 470.
  • At 09:20 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

# 468 You can define the Holocaust any way you like. My point is the persecutions began in Germany LONG before WWII started. My additional point is that trying to reduce the Holocaust to a few years in the later WWII is misleading as to its causes and origins. Call what you will what happened in Germany prior to WWII, to me it is part of the Holocaust, a continuum of oppression against the Jews and other racial, political, religious, and philosophical minorities... including early detentions, murders, and concentration camps.

So this is why and what I argue about.

  • 471.
  • At 01:12 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Rob (#470): To argue that you can define "the Holocaust any way you like" is a cheap excuse. As you don't seem to be aware of the standard historical account, it goes like this: Before the November 1938 progroms ("Reichskristallnacht"), the Jews were discriminated against, afterwards they were persecuted (the Nazis undermined the basic economic and social foundations of Jewish life). The Holocaust - the organized mass killing of the Jews - followed from 1942 on. This last stage - and nothing else - is the Holocaust. Defining the whole process as the Holocaust is simply wrong (I am sure you, too, distinguish the earthquake which precedes a Tsunami from the Tsunami itself).

  • 472.
  • At 03:15 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Pawel from Warsaw wrote:

Mikchail [#461], thank you for presenting the Russian view on excellent prospects for Germany-Russia friendship and cooperation, spoiled only by a "minor obstacle to trade" (as you called it): Poland. The problem is, every time you giants embrace each other, we little dwarfs here are trampled. Hey, there IS life between Germany and Russia, more than 100 million people live here! Could you two mind us, please? It hurts!

"Russia and Germany are destined to be friends and partners [...] AND WE WILL NOT LET ANYONE ELSE GET IN THE WAY OF THAT, 'EU solidarity' or not" [#461]. Mikchail, hoping that Germany's economical interests will outbalance EU solidarity represents Russia's desire for dealing with divided Europe instead of an united one. Wishful thinking!

"Germany and Russia DON'T CARE about you other than as a minor obstacle to trade and are certainly not plotting to carve you up or do you some other damage. We have bigger fish to fry" [#461]. But what about Germany's appetite for this big fish, which you Russians try to sell them? Haven't the Germans taken enough lessons from history on how European integration should be realised, and how not? To you both: as European history shows, trying to dominate others doesn't work here.

Russia actually DOES inflict damage on Poland, contrary to what Mikchail said. Russia's embargo on Polish food products has severely harmed the whole agricultural sector of Polish economy, for two years now. Russian newspapers call it trade war against Poland, haven't you heard of it?

But what are the Russian objectives in this war against Poland? Putin's Russia, misled by imperial ambitions, sees her national interest in stopping (or even reversing) European integration rather than joining it. Russia's leaders hope to approach this goal by rewarding some European countries with special privileges (e.g. Germany, Nord Stream) whilst economically punishing their opponents (e.g. embargo on Polish food), hereby testing the (lack of) EU solidarity. This policy intends to cause mistrust and tension between EU member states, as in the Baltic pipeline dispute.

Please don't allow Russia to be successful in derailing EU integration this way. Please explain to the Russians, they play a no-win game and no one will benefit from it.

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