Monday, September 11, 2017


Jestem  Żydem a Polska jest moją Ojczyzną.... I am a Jew and Poland is my homeland - these words of Artur Szyk perfectly illustrate his mutually inclusive identities which infused his art for four decades.
As many of you know the Artur Szyk exhibit at the New York Historical Society will be opening on September 15, 2017 and will continue through January 21, 2018. Although this is not a large exhibit, it will give you a clear idea of some aspects of his work.  

Artur Szyk was extremely well known during his lifetime - not only for his illumination of the Statut of Kalisz or the Book of Esther - but also for his caricatures of Hitler and Mussolini.  He also prepared a number of illustrations which appeared in the Polish Pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1939.  

However, this artist, who had fought by using his art from 1919 through 1945 - is completely unknown (except for specialists or Jewish scholars) in contemporary Poland and barely known in the United States.  There are four reasons for this 
1- His service in the Polish Army during the Polish Bolshevik War of1919-1920 - vide his anti-Bolshevik poster

2- His service to Inter-war Poland - both creating illustrations of Piłsudski and the work for the Polish Pavilion (among others)

3-  The fact that in the period of 1939-1941, i.e. while the Soviet Union was allied with Germany - he depicted Stalin in that role vide the following depictions of Stalin and Hitler together

 Image result for artur szyk stalin
(There was a series of illustrations showing Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Petain.  The second illustration in this group is entitled Poland Greets Her Good Neighbors)
4- The fact that he allied himself with the Polish Government in Exile in London and was sent by them to the US to continue his anti-Hitler work in the US
5- The fact that he did not return to Poland after the war 
6- The fact that he supported the creation of the State of Israel
all led to knowledge about him being suppressed in Poland - to the extent that even the director of Muzeum Dworku Paderewskiego did not know that the Paderewski Illustration in the museum was by Szyk (this in 2015!!!)

An illustrated brochure - in both English and Polish, prepared by the Piłsudski Institute and Krystyna Piórkowska will be available at various Polish and Polonia organizations in the New York area  - including
  • the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland 
  • the Polish Cultural Institute
  • the Kosciuszko Foundation (both New York and Washington,DC locations)
  • at St. Stanislaus B&M Church (Manhattan)
  • as well as the Piłsudski Institute in America.
Feel free to stop by any of these locations after September 14th to pick up a copy.... or check at your local Polonia organization to see if they have a copy available.

Do visit the exhibit and to read the brochure which will serve to introduce Artur Szyk.

Congratulations to Irving Ungar, curator of the exhibit.

Consulate General of Poland - Madison Avenue and 37th Street (Jan Karski Corner)
Polish Cultural Institute - 60 East 42nd Street Suite 3000
Kosciuszko Foundation - 15 East 65th Street 
St. Stanislaus Church - 101 East 7th Street 

Piłsudski Institute of America - 138 Greenpoint Avenue Brooklyn 

Monday, July 31, 2017


Piotr Wandycz, a premier historian of contemporary Polish and Central European history and a true scholar and gentleman, died on Saturday, July 29 in Hamden, CT.

His funeral will take place at 10:00AM on Tuesday, August 1 at St. Rita’s Church in Hamden.

Born in Kraków and his early years were spent in Lwów, he completed his studies in post-war London and came to the United States.  Professor Wandycz taught at Indiana University and the transferred to Yale University.

He was mentor to a number of scholars, including Professor Anna Cienciała, who completed her doctoral thesis under his guidance.  He authored over a dozen books and some four hundred articles. 
Professor Wandycz was a member of many scholarly organizations, had received various awards, and a number of honorary doctorates from celebrated institutions – including the Sorbonne and the Uniwersytet Jagieloński. 

He also received the Krzyż Komandorski z Gwiazdą Orderu Odrodzenia Polski (Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta) – his achievements were such that even the Polonia Restituta does not fully recognize them.

Cześć jego pamięci.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Published on the six-month anniversary of Franciszek Herzog’s death.

In 2012, shortly after my discovery in the US National Archives, of the coded letters sent from Oflag 64, I spoke with an Associated Press reporter working on the story of the declassified files.  He wanted to see a copy of these materials, and so I went to the AP offices near Hudson Yards in New York.  During the course of our meeting he mentioned that the AP was also speaking to the son of one of the Katyń victims.  Little did I know that this was Franciszek Herzog, who had for years been actively been involved in the Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego (ZHP - Polish Scouting) in the United States, and was one of its mainstays.

Many members of Polonia in the United States were aware of Franciszek Herzog’s engagement in Scouting, almost none, however, were aware of his link to Katyń or more specifically of his attempts to have the US government publicly confirm Soviet responsibility….

Franciszek Herzog, Jr. was the son of Captain Franciszek Herzog.  Upon the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union on September 17, 1939, the Soviets began accumulating information about these prisoners as well as their families.  Thus, the prisoners were allowed to write letters to their families, and received responses from them.  In this manner, the Soviets garnered the home addresses of the prisoner’s families…  As a result, on several days, in the early morning hours of late winter and early spring of 1940, NKVD officers arrived at the homes of these families and informed them that they had two hours to prepare for travel.  These families, consisting of women and children, as well as some elderly men and women, were loaded into boxcars and travelled into the depths of the USSR – to various of the Soviet ‘stans’ where they were offloaded, either in kolkhozes or in open fields.  They were then told they were to work as lumberjacks (one can just imagine these women wielding handsaws) or in the fields.  In most cases, they first shared a room with locals (if there were any) and then built peat sod huts, which were half submerged in the ground.

These were the conditions that faced Franciszek Herzog’s mother and her children.  His mother did not survive this period and young Franciszek, together with his older sibling, managed to join the group of orphans whom the Polish delegates had located at various orphanages throughout the Soviet Union, and others who had arrived at Jangi Jul on their own.  These children as well as mothers with children were then transported out of the Soviet Union across the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi, Iran and dispersed throughout the world (Kenya, Rhodesia, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Mexico were some of the nations were these refugee women and children were sent) and one small group of children was hosted by a Maharajah in India.  One of the members of this last group was Franciszek Herzog. 

His route then led to the Middle East and Great Britain, where he completed his studies and having immigrated to the United States, he settled in Connecticut.

As readers, you are now asking –  “why is Franciszek Herzog important enough to write about and why is he a singular Child of Katyń…”

By 1990 Gorbachev had delivered what was referred to as File No. 1, and which had lain in the safe of the Communist Party Secretary in Moscow since 1940.  That file contained the document signed by all the Party Presidium members and which condemned the Katyń, Ostashkov and Starobielsk prisoners to death.

The fact is, that the United States clearly knew that the Soviets had committed the crime. The Madden Committee had reached that conclusion based on its hearings in 1951 and 1952. 
As a naturalized citizen of the USA, Franciszek Herzog believed that he had the right to demand accountability from the President of the United States and the Department of State for the actions and statements of the Government of the United States.   Although there were any number of children and widows of Katyń victims residing in the US, none of them felt confident enough to demand such accountability.

Franciszek Herzog did demand accountability, and the letters he sent to the Department of State over a period of months remained unanswered, until he wrote a final letter in which he advised the Department that he was now including Senator Dodd of Connecticut in the correspondence.  At that point, the Department of State did proceed to prepare a flimsy response stating it had not been clear who had committed the Massacre.

These documents – both Franciszek Herzog’s letters demanding an apology from the Department of State to the Families of the Katyń Victims as well as the quasi-throttled response with its weak excuses were part of the material declassified (yes, his letters were classified) and the Associated Press included this as the lead to its story on this declassification and posting.

The main photograph in the story was a closeup of Franciszek Herzog holding a photo of his father next to his face appeared in thousands of newspapers throughout the world.

Although Franciszek Herzog’s efforts to have the US confirm Soviet guilt were never acknowledged by the Polish government – during his lifetime, they were acknowledged after his death.  He was awarded the Officers Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his efforts in propagating the truth about Katyn and for his work with Polish Scouting in the US.

Franciszek Herzog died on February 3, 2017.