By Krzysztof Maria Załuski
Professor Piotr Gliński: “We must reveal the truth about German crimes each and every day. The modern world is a very competitive place, including in the field of culture because culture is the most important element of a nation’s identity,” says the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Prof. Piotr Gliński.
The history of Gdańsk Pomerania during the Second World War is extremely painful. Especially for us, the inhabitants of Pomerania. The Germans murdered about 14,000 Pomeranians – Kashubians, Kocievians, representatives of the Polish intelligentsia – nearby in the local, surrounding forests. And yet this tragic episode is not as widely known as, for example, the Katyń Forest Massacre, where the Soviets executed over 20,000 Polish prisoners of war. Minister Gliński, why do you think this is the case?
It is true that the Germans murdered about 14,000 people in the Piaśnica Forest and in Wejherowo alone. On the other hand, in the whole of Pomerania – in 400 different places – there were about 30,000 victims of German crimes. It is true that the Germans mainly liquidated the Polish intellectual, cultural, and political elite, because, according to Nazi ideologists, they were the bearers of Polish national consciousness. However, all those who, in the interwar period, acknowledged their Polish identity and took part in Polish activities – be they social, political, cultural, educational, religious, or sporting – all were targeted for extermination. The Germans murdered our compatriots with their entire families – men, older people, women, and children. It was not only Poles who were killed here. Czechs and Germans brought to Pomerania from the Reich were also victims. German SS units and local self-defense units – in line with Nazi eugenics and racial theories – also liquidated the incurably ill, psychiatric patients, Jews, Roma, and Sinti. But the Polish elites were the main target of the Germans, because they knew very well that to overwhelm a nation it was necessary to deprive it of its authorities and leaders – both intellectual and political.
So, if we are talking about 30,000 victims in Pomerania, and if we compare this figure with the extermination of 20,000 Polish officers in Katyń, what could be the reason why this murder was kept silent for decades? Both in the so-called People’s Poland and in the Third Republic.
It is indeed a shameful omission. A great shame for the Polish People’s Republic, but also a great shame for the Third Republic. Let us remember that after 1989 there was a deliberate failure to build or rebuild the cultural and identity foundations of the Polish nation. And this is a terrible sin – both on the part of the post-communists and the so-called liberals.
Well, exactly… Why did this happen? Why did the Polish authorities not remind the Germans of the crimes committed by their ancestors in Pomerania for so many years? No museums were built, no lessons were taught in schools…
What interest did the Germans have in reminding the Poles of their sins, their crimes? What interest did the Russians have in Poles building their identity on historical truth? Unfortunately, in the Third Polish Republic, both the Germans and the Russians had such an overwhelming influence in our power structures and in the media that for years they managed to keep silent about many embarrassing facts. Not only did most governments after 1989 not oppose such a “politics of history”” but post-communists and liberals consciously neither tried to create institutions that would restore the memory of these terrible crimes, nor to make any real and effective demands for reparations from the Germans. The mass extermination of the population of Polish cities, the pacification of villages, the Intelligenzaktion, the crimes in the Piaśnica and Szpęgawskie forests, public executions, slave labor, the abduction and Germanisation of 200,000 Polish children, crimes against prisoners of war, against patients in psychiatric hospitals, the extermination of Warsaw, the Gestapo execution sites, the concentration camps or, finally, the theft of works of art and the planned destruction of the national cultural heritage… Unfortunately, these examples of the activities of German criminals are only a fraction of the inconvenient truth for Germans. Inconvenient because the Law and Justice (PiS) government has charged them more than 6 trillion zlotys for the crimes and war losses Poland suffered during the Second World War. The report on our war losses is based on solid research and analysis that took a team of eminent Polish academicians, led by Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk, five years to complete. And this is precisely our – rational and systematic – response to German arrogance and attempts to wriggle out of the responsibility for their almost unimaginable crimes.
My impression is that after the Polish government announced these demands, the Germans became even more rigid and see no reason to talk about war reparations. Furthermore, this change can be seen not only in their policy towards Poland, but also in EU policy, which the Germans have in a way monopolized…
It is precisely this German arrogance, or even presumption, that leads to the imposition of German interests on the whole of Europe. One needs only to recall, for example, what has happened in recent years with the so-called refugees – with the “open door policy,” which has resulted in an uncontrolled wave of economic migrants flooding into Europe. Germany now wants to “share” these people with us. These are completely irresponsible and at the same time appalling actions… Another example is the friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia. The fact that former high-ranking politicians, including Chancellor Schröder, are employed by Russian state consortia is unthinkable and does not correspond to any democratic, “European” standards. Moreover, Schröder is not the only former Western politician who has been rewarded with lavish rewards for his pro-Russian policies. It is inconceivable what has happened to Europe… And it is the Germans who are responsible for this situation… I know that someone might be surprised that we are drawing parallels between war crimes and the current irresponsible German policies, but these parallels are self-explanatory. If, after committing such crimes, Germany still has no qualms about imposing its raison d’état on us, about shaping Europe according to its own fantasies and hard interests, then we need to talk about it. And loudly. Each and every day. After all, we have war and war crimes in Europe again. And this is not unconnected with the pro-Russian policies of today’s Germany.
So, I take it that the reason for not revealing German crimes – including those in Pomerania – until 2015 was Germany’s political and economic interests?
Unfortunately… Poland after 1989 was supposed to be a country that was politically and economically completely dependent on Germany. That is why, among other things, our shipbuilding industry or Polish sugar refineries were closed. That is why, during the governments of Donald Tusk and Ewa Kopacz, Polish companies were sold off en masse. Often for next to nothing. This is how Ciech, Telekomunikacja Polska, PKP Energetyka were “privatized”… This is how we got rid of many municipal companies, banks. The PO-PSL coalition government sold off almost a thousand companies. In 2007, the state still held shares in 1,343 companies. Eight years later, there were only 393. We did not stop this predatory transformation of ownership until 2016.
Why didn’t the same happen in Germany? Why weren’t shipyards, steel mills, mines closed down? Why did only Polish heavy industry have to be shut down?
This is what German policy towards Poland has been about. Dependence through capital and soft power. We – after the fall of the communist period and the earlier destruction due to WW2 – did not have this capital. Nor did we have state foundations operating abroad. And the Germans did. Because they had the Marshall Plan, thanks to which they rebuilt their economy after the war and became the largest economic power in Europe. Significantly, Germany became a country that learned to use these economic tools very well. No wonder, then, that Berlin was so interested when Poland was developing – in all dimensions, also culturally – as a dependent state rather than as a sovereign and autonomous one. And that is why the Germans are now so angry that we have broken out of their control. That’s why Manfred Weber – Donald Tusk’s successor as president of the European People’s Party – is saying such stupid things… But foolishness that is well thought out, is a tool of political pressure. After all, he is not the only prominent German and European politician who openly and brazenly interferes in our internal affairs – including the democratic electoral processes.
From the point of view of German interests, all this is clear. But what did Donald Tusk and his political camp gain by blocking economic prosperity in Poland?
The post-communists and so-called liberals – I say “so-called” because they have little in common with true liberalism, but rather with Social Darwinism – simply played the German card. This view of the world also led them to a concept that assumes Poland’s dependence on a large, stronger Western neighbor. This big western neighbor in turn has a big eastern neighbor with whom it does excellent business. Such a policy clearly excludes treating us as partners. And at the same time it puts us in the position of a vassal – of both Germany and Russia. And there is no place here for a sovereign Poland.
Professor, forgive me, but I still do not understand how the political, economic, and cultural elites of any country in the world can care that their country is treated like some kind of “Bantustan”? Especially in the case of the Polish elite, this seems downright impossible. After the experience of the partitions, years of German occupation, and half a century of Soviet domination, shouldn’t the desire for full freedom be an obvious priority for any Polish government?
After the Second World War, the Polish and Soviet communists created a new pseudo-elite of People’s Poland, the so-called new intelligentsia, in place of the elite that had been extensively murdered by the Germans and Soviets. After 1989, the Third Republic also produced its notables, who entered into all sorts of cahoots with the post-communists and their former secret services. Accession to these “elites” often took the form of a symbolic declaration of uncritical acceptance of the actions of these groups. For almost fifty years, the communists had created their own economic and media cadres, totally dependent on the Soviet Union and intellectually dependent. The post-communists later created, precisely with the hands of the former security service agents, a highly influential media corporation, which in turn sprouted whole networks of social and business connections. Anyone who had the audacity to have an opinion, or even to look at reality with a sober eye, was suppressed and destroyed. The meek were richly rewarded. This has largely collapsed since 2016.
And what about the economy?
Until 2015, the Polish economy was largely controlled by foreign corporations and, unfortunately, by Polish criminal groups that profited from the state’s inaction. Just think of all the VAT mafias, fuel mafias, garbage mafias, property development mafias, privatization mafias – all these dishonest businesses that were seriously dismantled or curtailed after the victory of the United Right. It was only when the Law and Justice Party (PiS) restored the normal functioning of the state that Polish entrepreneurs were able to run an honest and competitive business. At the same time, it should be emphasized that most of our businesspeople are normal, honest individuals who had no chance when confronted with the practices of the ‘shadow’ economy. The paralysis and pathology of our economy under the Civic Platform (PO) government is the best proof that when the state does not function or is dominated by foreign capital, it is not the best who win, but the strongest and most cunning, often using dishonest practices. The ‘shadow’ economy is good only from the point of view of the interests of its participants. On the other hand, the state and society lose from its activities. The Polish economic miracle of recent years is, among other things, the result of eliminating this pathology.
Mr. Minister, what do you think – if the United Right loses the elections, would the state sanitation of the last eight years be stopped, or would it be continued by Donald Tusk’s team?
Thank God, Donald Tusk’s return to power will never happen. First, because the Poles are too smart to elect a lazy person who will once again sit on his hands instead of working. But more important is the systemic, ontological argument. The PO, as an external party dependent on European elites, is systemically incapable, simply incapable of implementing a program that is good for our society. Tusk’s promises to maintain our social programs or to continue Law and Justice’s pro-family policies are not worth a plugged nickel…
Because little would depend on him. Tusk has never been an independent prime minister. If we would have the misfortune of him becoming the head of the Polish government, he would once again be following the orders of his partners in Berlin, Brussels, and Moscow. All of them, by the way, openly announce that they will support him in “putting things in order” in Warsaw. In addition, the PO is also being held hostage by national interest groups – all those economic mafias that want to resume the shady deals interrupted by the PiS Party. This situation is quite obvious. Poles have no alternative but to wait for a new, independent politician who will have the opportunity to implement what he announces. He has already had a chance to show what he can do and how interested he is in the fate of the Polish people. Now he would only have to pay back the debts he incurred in Brussels and with those who support him and whom it is he represents here.
I’m sure you’ve heard the anecdote about Churchill, to whom the aide brought the draft of the British war budget… The Prime Minister looked at the document and asked: “And where is the money for culture? “
“We’re at war, so there’s not enough for culture,” the officer replied. Churchill is said to have replied with the question: “Then what are we fighting this war for?”
Professor, we have American culture, French culture, German culture. And Hollywood movies. Perhaps it would be enough to dub these productions?
The contemporary world is a space of very strong competition, also in the field of culture. Because culture is the most important element of the identity of nations. The stronger try to impose their narrative on the weaker. They do this through film, literature, music, art, and modern museums. Through culture, one can shape one’s own image or the image of one’s neighbors. And even small countries can do this quite effectively. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of catching up to do, especially from the communist period. But not only that – during the Third Republic, but Poland also lost a lot in many areas. For example, it failed to promote the phenomenon of the Polish “Solidarity” movement. We are changing that, building institutions to defend and promote Polish culture and its image. And that is why we now have so much resistance from the liberal-left circles – and they have enormous media power and the support of foreign entities… Yes, we have problems to stand out as independent, especially when it comes to the image of Poland. I think we are succeeding more and more, but it is an extremely difficult task that takes time and effort. One of the reasons for this is that others have been building their image for years, and in this respect, Poland is a competitor for many countries and a threat to their well-being. They have left us with roles that are not particularly noble. For years we have been hearing about “Polish concentration camps”” about “complicity in the outbreak of the Second World War”, about anti-Semitism or the persecution of Ruthenians in the eastern borderlands. Such stories are supposed to prevent us from building a positive image of the state and the nation, a nation that deserves respect and partnership. Yes, this is a very difficult situation, because either Poland will have a chance for sovereignty in all areas, including culture, or they will make us the pariahs and lackeys of Europe. For eight years, the Law and Justice Party has been building sovereignty and security – in energy, economy, and defense, but also in culture. And with positive results, such as our offensive in museology, of which the just-opened Piaśnica Museum is an example. But the pressure on Poland from what is happening in global culture, from this obvious crisis of global culture, is enormous.
And do you have a specific field in mind?
Well, for example, theater… We see what is happening in modern theater, where there is less and less space for the classics. That’s why we recently founded the Polish Classical Theatre. I suspect that if Poland had been ruled by Donald Tusk’s team until now, we would have lost our cultural individuality and independence long ago. Polish culture would be nothing but a copy and duplication of Western pop culture and trends of radical culture. And that’s very sad, because in all these decades we have learned to make good movies, but we still can’t make excellent ones. It’s the same with literature, history, art, information, even science… And the worst thing is that the consciousness of the Western public is still penetrated by what discredits us Poles, which is exactly what the publicists of the “Salon” take care of… We are trying to correct these harmful stereotypes about Poles, but this process will take some time. Going against the tide of popular and dominant trends takes time and determination. But it is worth the effort. And we will not lack determination and effectiveness.
For the article original in Polish, please see Dziennik Bałtycki, 18 sierpnia 2023: https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/