The New York Times is at it again or rather go to school again, please!

New York, N.Y. (4/09) .. The New York Times today reported on the poem Germany’s Gunter Grass wrote critical of Israel’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

In attempting to describe the theme of Grass’ 1959 Novel, “The Tin Drum,” a misrepresentation of Poland’s history was offered.  The Downstate N.Y. Division of the Polish American Congress issued the following statement to the New York Times:

Dear Editor:

Writing about the outrage Gunter Grass’ poem ignited in Israel, reporters Bronner and Kulish described the novel, “The Tin Drum” Grass wrote in 1959 as an “exploration of the rise of Nazism in Germany and Poland.”

Polish Americans are justified in expressing their outrage that Poland, the first victim of Nazism, should now be portrayed as co-responsible with Germany for Nazism.

Shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933, Poland’s Marshal Pilsudski proposed that the French join him in a preventive war against Germany and eliminate Nazism at its inception. Paris turned down the idea.

Germany later tried to persuade the Poles to join the Axis and side with the Nazis against the Soviet Union.  The Poles would not.

At the time other European nations were appeasing Hitler, the Poles stood firm and became the “First To Fight” the Nazis in World War II.

Rise of Nazism in Poland?  Hardly.

Frank Milewski, Pres.

Polish American Congress

Downstate N.Y. Division

(516) 352-7125

New York Times article mentions “the rise of Nazism in Germany and Poland” as if it were a German and Polish party.

Dear Editor,

Your Sunday, April 8 story, “Israel Bars German Laureate Grass Over Poem,” by Ethan Bonner and Nicholas Kulish makes a serious error in referring to “the rise of Nazism in Germany and Poland.” Nazism did not “rise” in Poland.

German tanks and the Wehrmacht’s blitzkrieg ran over Poland and wiped the country off the map for the next six years. During World War II, the Polish underground spent more time fighting against Nazism and German occupation than the people of any other country.

In fact, Poland was the only country occupied by Germany that did not establish a Quisling government to collaborate with the Nazis. As a result, the German army murdered six million Polish citizens, about half of whom were Jewish, the other half being Christian.

So please issue a correction to this absurd notion that Nazism somehow “rose” in Poland.

Alex Storozynski
President & Executive Director
The Kosciuszko Foundation

This is the quote from the New York Times:

Mr. Grass’ best-known novel, published in 1959, is “The Tin Drum,” a stirring allegorical exploration of the rise of Nazism in Germany and Poland. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999; the Nobel committee described “The Tin Drum” as a new beginning for German literature “after decades of linguistic and moral destruction.”



  1. Michal Karski says:

    In the furore about Gunter Grass’s poem, it might be a simple thing for readers of the above-mentioned NYT article to overlook the significance of the phrase used about Poland. I have just sent in my own contribution via e-mail to the Corrections Editor at the paper, in the hope that the damaging phrase might be amended. I’m glad to see that the phrase struck others in the same way that it struck me. Here are the two e-mails that I sent in:

    (Wed. 11 April)

    Dear Corrections Editor,

    The recent NYT article about the current controversy surrounding Gunter Grass includes a description of ‘The Tin Drum’ as a “stirring allegorical exploration of the rise of Nazism in Germany and Poland”.
    May I suggest a more precise formulation? It would be far less misleading, even if more cumbersome, to say: “…the rise of Nazism in Germany and the Free City of Danzig”.

    Since the main character in the novel is a resident of Danzig, which is, of course, the German name of what was later to become Gdansk, and which did not belong to either Germany or Poland between the wars, but was instead a League of Nations protectorate, and since the population of the city was predominantly German, it may be legitimate to talk about ‘the rise of Nazism’ in this specific area.

    But to write about ‘the rise of Nazism in Poland’ in general is historically incorrect, misleading and can be construed by many people as bordering on the offensive.

    Even if there were individual Nazi sympathizers in pre-war Poland, there was never a ‘rise of Nazism’. If there had been, then surely Hitler would have been able to march in unopposed, as he did in Austria, for example.

    The Polish government of the time, even if it was not universally popular with all Polish citizens, did not appease Hitler nor did they cave in to his aggression. Poland, as is well known, was the first country to stand up to Nazi Germany in what proved to be a very unequal struggle. Any formulation which implies otherwise, albeit inadvertently, does a great disservice to all those Polish citizens, whether Christian, Jewish or of any other faith, who sacrificed their lives in opposition to the evil of Nazism.

    Best regards

    Michal Karski (UK citizen)

    (Thurs. 12 April)

    Dear corrections editor,

    May I add, by way of a postscript to my previous email concerning the NYT article about Gunter Grass, that what I found particularly disconcerting about the description of Grass’s ‘The Tin Drum’ was the
    very casual nature with which the claim about Poland was made.

    I realize perfectly well that this is a side issue to the main thrust of the article which concerns the current Grass controversy, but it is precisely this apparent low priority which could allow the assertion
    about Poland to go unchallenged.

    The article called the novel an “allegorical exploration of the rise of Nazism in Germany and Poland “. As I said in my previous email, this statement may apply to Danzig, the so-called ‘free city’ (but to all intents and purposes, a German enclave), but to extrapolate this to include all of pre-war Poland is, at the very least, a serious error. The implication of this description is that this is not merely an accusation against Poland but a proven historical fact.

    Anyone who makes such a seriously damaging claim would do well to study the political history of pre-war Poland and the events which led up to the outbreak of war. Far from being a country in which there was a ‘rise of Nazism’, Poland was the first sovereign European nation which offered armed resistance to Hitler’s aggression.

    It seems to me that a responsible – not to mention hugely influential – publication such as The New York Times, should strive for accuracy in its reporting.

    Best regards

    Michal Karski

  2. Michal Karski says:

    It seems the various letters to the New York Times by Polish Americans and others have achieved a result – the contentious phrase about Poland in the article about Gunter Grass has been changed. Perhaps it may not be enough for some people of Polish heritage, who might think that an apology may be in order, but the paper’s clarification does draw attention to the original misrepresentation of Poland and, with any luck, may also draw some people into studying more closely the recent history of a nation which paid such a heavy price for its resistance to Nazism.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve just sent in another e-mail to the NYT, saying the following:

    Dear Corrections Editor,

    Thank you for amending the article about Gunter Grass and for printing a clarification about Poland and Nazism. Personally, I would have liked to see mention made of Poland’s resistance to the imposition of Nazism, both by the Polish Underground and by Polish Armed Forces in exile, but of course, this would require a separate article and would drift away entirely from your reporting of the Grass controversy.

    Nevertheless, it’s good to see the NYT reacting so promptly to the views of readers both Polish and of Polish descent.

    Best wishes

    Michal Karski

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