It weren't the ‘Nazis’ that the Home Army fought

On the anniversary of the landing on the beaches of Normandy, Angela Merkel said that “the Americans and the British liberated us.” “Us,” meaning whom? The Germans? And from what? Who invaded Germany so that the Americans had to liberate it? This is an aberration,” says Adam Borowski, a social activist and participant in a recent campaign to replace the word “Nazis" with “Germans” on plaques commemorating WWII-era crimes in Warsaw.

Translator’s note: In this translation, the term “Nazi” has been used to refer to the Polish-language word “Hitlerowcy”, which refers to “the followers of Hitler”, a term not commonly used in Poland before the end of the 1940s.

TVP WEEKLY: You covered the word “Nazis” on Warsaw plaques commemorating crimes during WWII with a small adhesive foamcore board saying "Germans”. The event took place on October 2, 2021, after which the capital's conservator of historical monuments, Michał Krasucki, filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office. A few days ago the prosecutor found that no crime was actually committed. The liberal Gazeta Wyborcza wrote: “They destroyed the memorial plaques, they will remain unpunished. The prosecutor's office is kind to pro-government vandals from the [conservative] 'Gazeta Polska'.

First of all, the issue does not concern “Gazeta Polska”. A total of 12 people participated in our protest event, and I was the only representative of the "GP" clubs. I took part in this event as a representative of the former Solidarity Underground. It was organised by distinguished activists from the 1970s and 1980s, so our activity had nothing to do with the "Gazeta Polska" clubs.

Secondly, I consider it praise that "Gazeta Wyborcza" writes about me in such a way. The paper was founded to serve the entire anti-communist opposition. Since then, it has been appropriated exclusively by one political side... I have no respect for it and do not care about its opinions.

Third, we didn't destroy these plaques. We pasted stickers on them with inscriptions to reflect the original intentions of their designer, Karol Tchorek. Immediately after he made the design [in 1949 - ed.], the GDR was created, which – from the perspective of the Communists – represented the so-called “good Germans”. Therefore, the term “Nazis” [“Hitlerowcy”] was invented. And this was the term used on the aforementioned plaques. But after all, the Home Army did not fight “the Nazis”. In the same way, cafes and streetcars during the occupation were not for “the Nazis”, but “only for Germans.” The term "Nazis" is therefore false. That's why we decided to restore the actual perpetrators of the crime to the plaques.

Andrzej Gelberg, former head of "Solidarity Weekly," the initiator and coordinator of the aforementioned protest event carried out on the 77th anniversary of the surrender of the Warsaw Uprising, said that the pasted-over words were corrections to the plaques.

Yes, they were corrections. The event was to restore some order, based on the truth that not Nazis, but Germans, were responsible for the crimes. We divided into groups. We pasted stickers with the correct inscription on 146 plaques, which took us two hours.

Gelberg said the stickers were made by professionals.

They were aesthetically pleasing. Of course, they stood out from the sandstone from which the plaques are made. It was clearly visible that they had been glued on, as the inscriptions on the plaques were carved in, while our plaques were flat. But this had the advantage that the name of the real perpetrators of the crime immediately caught the eyes of Warsaw residents.

However, it turned out that the glue we used came off the surface of the plaques quite easily. City services eagerly removed our stickers – and today they again have false content.

We did not damage the historic plaques. Calling us vandals is silly. Besides, why doesn't "Gazeta Wyborcza" write anything about vandals when churches are being vandalised? On the one hand, it takes up the subject of the "PiS prosecutor's office," which has not seen fit press charges, and on the other hand, it does not mention the “judges of the [opposition] Civic Platform” who see nothing wrong with "Grandma Kasia" humiliating and shoving officers, attacking political opponents, or that vandals from the Citizens of Poland [poltical group] walk over the Monument to the Victims of the Smolensk Tragedy. These are double standards. What, according to "GW," should I have done? Pay for the plaques I did not destroy?

”Wyborcza” writes that City Hall's spending on repairing the plaques has already exceeded PLN 60,000 [EUR ​​13,500].
Adam Borowski during a meeting at the headquarters of the Free Speech Association in Warsaw in April 2022. Photo: PAP/Albert Zawada
This is untrue. Of course, you can write anything, just as anyone can issue any invoice they want. But how did the city supposedly clean these plaques? It didn't really incur any costs. An employee simply came around and scraped off some glue. No specialised repairs were made. This is truly some kind of joke.

Apparently, "the glue seeped into the sandstone."

That was not the case. I wish the glue hadn’t been so weak, because it came off quite easily. This, by the way, could be seen on some of the plaques, where traces of very slight discolouration could be seen where the stickers was glued. But we are talking about really minimal traces.

The [liberal] website also did not hide its outrage at the act of pasting over the plaques. After it was carried out, it published an article entitled “Historical plaques destroyed. A right-wing activist replaced the inscription ‘Nazis’ with the word 'Germans’”. The article stated: “No one disputes, including most Germans, their responsibility overall as a nation for their actions during WWII.” Is this true?

This is contradicted, for example, by statements by German politicians. For example, Angela Merkel, who, on the anniversary of the landing on the Normandy beaches said that “the Americans and the British liberated us.” “Us” – meaning whom? The Germans they liberated? And from what? Who invaded Germany that the Americans had to liberate it? This is an aberration.

  Recently, the same nonsense that the Germans were liberated was repeated by Olaf Scholz. Well, no. It needs to be said plainly: you were the occupiers. The vast majority of the German people supported Hitler.

In July, on the anniversary of the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, Chancellor Scholz wrote: “It has gone down in history as an uprising of conscience: the assassination attempt on Hitler by [​​Claus von] Stauffenberg and his followers on 20 July 1944. The anniversary reminds us: protecting our freedom and democracy is and will remain an important task.”

Stauffenberg wrote of the Poles that they must have a whip over their heads and that this was a nation that "should have a strong master". He expressed himself about the Jews in very strong terms. Is this supposed to be the figure on which the Germans model themselves? A coup? He simply understood that Hitler had lost the war and was leading Germany to destruction, so he attempted to assassinate him. Stauffenberg wanted to salvage as much as possible from this defeat. But as long as Hitler was winning, he served him faithfully. Is this a figure worthy of admiration?

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Those Germans who were genuine opponents of Adolf Hitler (even before the war) were of course also incarcerated in concentration camps. But these were a handful. Therefore, we should not place the responsibility for WWII, for the crimes of genocide, on the mythical Nazis, but on the Germans themselves.

Meanwhile, German politicians are using ritual incantations. They are pursuing a historical policy by which they systematically shift responsibility for WWII onto other nations. They know that this cannot be done quickly. But the generations that remember the war are dying out. German politicians are therefore trying to introduce terminology into the language to shrug off some of the responsibility. Hence the accusations against Poles of complicity in the Holocaust or terms like “Polish death camps”. This is not a coincidence, but a deliberate policy that we cannot accept.

This is why we held our protest event. Perhaps we will organise another one, for example in a different form? In general, you don't step into the same river twice…

Aren't you worried that next time the case will go to court?

I am not afraid of any trial. For me it would be one more forum where I could talk openly about these issues.

– Interview by Łukasz Lubański

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Roberto Galea

During the communist era, Adam Borowski was a participant in the anti-communist opposition. He was an active member of Solidarity. In 1980-81 he was a member of Intervention and Mediation Committee of its Mazovia Region, and then during martial law he co-founded the Interfactory Workers' Solidarity Committee. In July 1982 he was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison. In 1985, he joined Solidarność Walcząca and organised underground publications. After 1989, he joined the Republican League, founded the Volumen Publishing Office, and sits on the Honorary Committee of the "Łączka" Foundation, which takes care of the Łączka Cemetery in the Warsaw Military Powązki Cemetery. He is a member of the Free Word Association, which continues the activities of independent outlets from the 1980s. In 1997, he received the Bronze Medal "For Services to National Defence", and in 2000 the badge "Meritorious Cultural Activist". In 2006, he was also awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta for his "outstanding contribution to the democratic changes in Poland, for his achievements in professional and social work", and in 2017 the Medal of the Commission of National Education for his participation in defending the teaching of history in schools in 2012. In 2011 he received the Custodian of National Remembrance award. In 2021 he was awarded the Cross of Freedom and Solidarity.
Main photo: The word "Nazis" was changed to "Germans" on monuments in Warsaw. Photo: Włodzimierz Wasyluk / Forum
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