Cardinal Glemp obituary in the New York Times – another attempt to discredit Catholic Church and Poland by the New York Times

The NY Times (see their reply below) will correct “millions” of Jews were killed in Auschwitz. However, they will not correct that the Carmelite convent was in Auschwitz because “Auschwitz” is the name of the town. Nor will they correct the statements about Jedwabne because “it is impossible to definitively prove that our statement in the obituary was incorrect.” My response is below.

Zach Johnk
Assistant to the Senior Editor, Standards and Corrections
The New York Times

Dear Mr. Johnk,

Thank you for your reply. The test for a correction should be whether “move a Carmelite convent from Auschwitz” is factually incorrect or misleading. It is misleading because readers understand “Auschwitz” to mean the camp. At the time, the (erroneous) argument was made that the ground of the camp was soaked with Jewish blood and that is why there should not be a Christian presence on that ground. But even proximity to the camp was intolerable to some Jews. That in turn offended some Catholics.

Your usage is factually incorrect because it demonstrates that “Auschwitz” refers to the camp, not the town. There was no effort to remove the nuns from the town. The new convent and “Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oswiecim,” to which the nuns were moved, is in the town of Oswiecim (German “Auschwitz”). See:

Regarding Jedwabne, you say “it is impossible to definitely prove” that your statements are incorrect. Are you saying that you can write anything, as long as there is insufficient evidence to definitely prove it is wrong?

Please consider the preponderance of the evidence and the sources for it. Presumably, you have nothing more than the widely criticized book by Jan Gross versus the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Polish government’s Institute for National Remembrance.

Assuming that there is a legitimate controversy, you cannot pick one side and report it as fact. You should state that it is questioned, that there is a controversy.

Please reconsider, and make the corrections as we requested.

Roman J. Zawadzki

From: NYTimes, Senioreditor []
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 8:20 AM

Dear Mr. Zawadzki,

Thank you for writing us. You are correct that we overstated the number of deaths of Jews at Auschwitz. We are working on a correction now.

However, our obituaries editors and I have decided that no correction is necessary for the other issues you raise. “Auschwitz” was the German name of the town in which the eponymous camp was located, so while we might have been more precise, our wording was not incorrect.

And in regards to Jedwabne, as you note, the number of deaths there and the exact circumstances of the massacre are the subject of much debate. While you have a fair point, that we might have mentioned that the death toll is to this day in dispute, it is impossible to definitively prove that our statement in the obituary was incorrect. But we’ll keep your email in mind for the future.

Thank you, as well, for reading the Times. We appreciate it.


Zach Johnk
Assistant to the Senior Editor, Standards and Corrections
The New York Times

From: Roman J. Zawadzki
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2013 3:48 AM
To: nytnews
Subject: NY Times, request for corrections: Cardinal Glemp obit, January 24, 2013

Article Headline: Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Poland is Dead at 83 (copy below)
Date Published: January 24, 2013
Web or Print: both
Phrase in Question:

1. “agreement to move a Carmelite convent from Auschwitz,” should say, “from the vicinity of Auschwitz,” — the convent was not on the grounds of the camp. See:

“Many Jews view the red brick convent just outside the barbed wire perimeter at Auschwitz . . .”
2. “Auschwitz, where millions of Jews were killed,” should say, “about one million.” See:

“In total, approximately 1.1 million Jews were deported to Auschwitz.”
[ . . . ]
“At least 960,000 Jews were killed in Auschwitz.”

3. “the 1941 massacre of 1,600 Jews, most of them burned alive in a barn by Polish neighbors,” should say, “of 300-400 Jews, most of them burned alive in a barn by Poles under the guns of the Germans.” See:

” Polish residents of Jedwabne, a small town located in Bialystok District of first Soviet-occupied and then German-occupied Poland, participated in the murder of hundreds of their Jewish neighbors. Although responsibility for instigating this “pogrom” has not been fully established, scholars have documented at least a German police presence in the town at the time of the killings.”

“A group of Jewish men were forced by the Nazis to demolish a statue of Lenin that had been put up earlier by the Soviets (as in Kolno), and then carry it out of town while singing Soviet songs. The local rabbi was forced to lead this procession of about 40 people. The group was taken to a pre-emptied barn, killed and buried along with fragments of the monument, while most of the remaining Jews, estimated at around 250 to 300 (IPN final findings), including many women and children, were led to the same barn later that day, locked inside and burned alive using kerosene from the former Soviet supplies (or German gasoline, by different accounts) in the presence of eight German gendarmes, who shot those who tried to escape.”

[ . . . ]

“At least 340 Jewish victims were killed in the pogrom, in two groups of which the first contained 40 to 50 people, and the second group contained about 300. The exact number of victims could not be determined. The figure of 1,600 or so victims (cited in ‘Neighbors’) was ‘highly unlikely, and was not confirmed in the course of the investigation.’ ”

Please print corrections and annotate the online and archive versions.


Roman J. Zawadzki
Polish American Defense Committee
PO Box 642791
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Tel. (310) 458-4417

The New York Times

January 23, 2013
Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Poland Is Dead at 83


Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the spiritual leader of Poland’s Roman Catholics for 25 years, who helped steer his nation through a historic and relatively peaceful transition from Communism to democracy in 1989, but who was dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism, died on Wednesday in Warsaw. He was 83.

Jozef Kloch, a church spokesman, announced the death. The Polish news agency PAP said Cardinal Glemp had lung cancer.

For a thousand years, the church has been a repository of nationhood in overwhelmingly Catholic Poland, and for decades Cardinal Glemp, as the archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno and the primate of Poland, was both mediator and power broker in the struggle between the Communist government and the resistance led by the Solidarity labor union.

His approach was nonconfrontational, urging calm when the government declared martial law in 1981 and even when state security officers murdered a popular dissident priest, the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, in 1984.

Through repeated crises, Cardinal Glemp was an ally, though a fitful one, of the Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, and a hostile but pragmatic and useful intermediary for Warsaw’s Communist leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.

Cardinal Glemp was named primate by his countryman Pope John Paul II in 1981, becoming the representative of 34 million Catholics, about 95 percent of the population. (He became a cardinal in 1983.) But he disappointed Poles who wanted a national savior to fight Communism with the dynamism of his predecessor, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.

Unlike Cardinal Wyszynski, a thundering autocrat, Cardinal Glemp was a quiet, unprepossessing man with a homespun modesty strangely becoming in the ornate splendor of great cathedrals and his palatial Warsaw residence. He listened to subordinates, strived for consensus and sometimes appeared indecisive.

Though criticized by priests and laity who supported the outlawed Solidarity, Cardinal Glemp insisted that his mission was the preservation of the church, not the overthrow of Communist rule. He opposed violence and general strikes, urged restraint by the government, and conferred with both sides to ease tensions as Soviet communism and the walls dividing Eastern and Western Europe crumbled.

In 1988, when labor unrest shook Poland, Cardinal Glemp named Tadeusz Mazowiecki, his close associate and a Solidarity adviser, to mediate the peace and pave the way for talks on political reforms and national elections. In 1989, the cardinal was a voice in Mr. Mazowiecki’s selection as Poland’s first non-Communist prime minister since the 1940s.

He burnished his standing by accompanying John Paul during his pilgrimages to Poland. After the democratic transition, he backed Mr. Walesa’s successful presidential campaign in 1990, but his support was less helpful in 1995, when Mr. Walesa lost to a former Communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski, whom the cardinal called a “neopagan.”

Despite an increasingly secularized population, Cardinal Glemp advanced his agenda. Compulsory religious education resumed in public schools, a law requiring the news media to conform to “Christian values” was adopted, and abortions were sharply restricted. His appeals to abolish a constitutional separation of church and state went unheeded, but he gave his blessing to Poland’s market economy.

Cardinal Glemp was repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism, notably for his 1989 remarks resisting an agreement to move a Carmelite convent from Auschwitz, where millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis. After Jews complained, the Vatican agreed in 1987 to put the convent in a nearby interfaith center. But as a deadline passed and Jews staged protests, the cardinal went on the offensive, saying:

“Do you, esteemed Jews, not see that your pronouncements against the nuns offend the feelings of all Poles, and our sovereignty, which has been achieved with such difficulty? Your power lies in the mass media that are easily at your disposal in many countries. Let them not serve to spread anti-Polish feeling.” He added, “Dear Jews, do not talk with us from the position of a people raised above all others, and do not dictate conditions that are impossible to fulfill.”

The ensuing firestorm reignited old controversies in a largely rural land where the prewar Jewish population of 3.5 million had dwindled to a few thousand. But the cardinal did not back down until the Vatican reaffirmed the pope’s determination to move the convent. The issue resurfaced in 1991, when Cardinal Glemp, touring the United States, encountered more protests and told Jewish leaders that he regretted the pain his statements had caused.

In 1997, Cardinal Glemp belatedly rebuked a rabidly anti-Semitic radio station, Radio Maryja, and the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, who mingled daily outpourings of hate with prayer. The cardinal acted only after Vatican hints and a prosecutor’s slander charges.

In 2001, Cardinal Glemp was again accused of anti-Semitism when he refused to accompany President Kwasniewski to the village of Jedwabne to apologize for the 1941 massacre of 1,600 Jews, most of them burned alive in a barn by Polish neighbors. The cardinal disavowed “ostentatious penance” in advance, and said, “I prefer not to have politicians impose on the Church the way it is to fulfill its act of contrition for the crimes committed by certain groups of people.”

Cardinal Glemp retired as Archbishop of Warsaw in 2006, having surrendered the Archdiocese of Gniezno in a reorganization in 1992. He was primate of Poland until he turned 80 in 2009.

Jozef Glemp (pronounced YOO-zeff GLEMP) was born on Dec. 18, 1929, in Inowroclaw, Poland. He decided early to be a priest, but his schooling was interrupted when the Nazis invaded in 1939. His father, a salt miner, joined the resistance, but Jozef, his mother, sister and two brothers became slave farm laborers.

Ordained in 1956, Cardinal Glemp was a parish priest and a teacher before earning doctorates in civil and canon law in Rome. He returned to Poland in 1964 and was Cardinal Wyszynski’s legal adviser for 12 years. He was Bishop of Warmia, a diocese of 1.3 million, from 1979 to 1981, when he succeeded Cardinal Wyszynski on his death.

As he settled into his role as protector of the church in a national crisis, he asked Poles to pray instead of taking to the streets when martial law was imposed and Mr. Walesa was jailed. And before 350,000 spread out over a hillside at the Jasna Gora shrine to the Virgin Mary, he assured them that the voice of the church was on their side.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 24, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Cardinal Jozef Glemp Of Poland Is Dead at 83.

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