Transcript: Piotr Wrobel on Numbers and Historical Memory. | Apr 22, 2006

Piotr Wrobel stands in front of a class. He’s in his mid-fifties, with short receding gray hair and a beard. He wears glasses, gray trousers, a black velvet blazer, a gray shirt and a patterned gray tie.

He says TONIGHT I WOULD
LIKE TO TALK ABOUT HISTORY,
NUMBERS, AND COLLECTIVE MEMORY.
EVERY NATION HAS A SET OF
HISTORICAL LEGENDS AND POLITICAL
MYTHS.
THESE SIMPLIFY - SIMPLIFIED
BELIEFS ABOUT HISTORY SHARED BY
MOST MEMBERS OF A GIVEN NATION
CONSTITUTE AN IMPORTANT PART OF
EVERY NATIONAL IDENTITY.
THEY HELP FELLOW COUNTRYMEN TO
COMMUNICATE AND TO ACT TOGETHER.
THEY MOBILIZE THE PEOPLE,
INTEGRATE THEM, GIVE THEM THE
PURPOSES AND ILLUSIONS OF
UNDERSTANDING.
SCHOLARS CALLED THOSE COMMON
MEMORY, BELIEFS, COLLECTIVE
CONSCIOUSNESS, TRADITIONAL -
TRADITIONALIZED MEMORY,
MYTHECIZED MEMORY, OR MORE
FREQUENTLY, COLLECTIVE MEMORY.
ALL OF THEM CONSIST OF FABLES,
FOLKTALES, CUSTOMS, [Unclear] ,
FEELINGS, CONVENTIONS, JOKES,
AND PROVERBS, AND EXIST IN A
POSITION TO RATIONALIZE MEMORY
OR INFORMATION IN CATALOGUES,
ARCHIVES, HISTORICAL RECORDS,
AND SCHOLARLY WORKS.
BUT THERE IS ONE ELEMENT OF
COLLECTIVE MEMORIES WHICH
PRETENDS THAT IT IS RATIONAL AS
WELL, AND THESE ARE NUMBERS.
AND TALKING
ABOUT NUMBERS IN HISTORY IS A
VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION BECAUSE
HERE, REPRESENTATIVES OF
PARTICULAR NATIONS, PARTICULAR
GROUPS, ARE VERY SENSITIVE.
IN 1999 AN INTERNATIONAL GROUP
OF SCHOLARS PUBLISHED
THE
BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM.

A caption reads "Piotr Wrobel. Historian, University of Toronto."

The caption changes to "Numbers and Historical Memory. University of Toronto. March 22, 2006."

Piotr says THIS IS A HUGE
BOOK OF ABOUT 800 PAGES, ABOUT
ALL THE COMMUNIST PARTIES AND
ABOUT THE ENTIRE COMMUNIST
MOVEMENT.
AND THE AUTHORS OF THIS BOOK -
AND THIS IS A REALLY SUPERB TEAM
OF BEST SCHOLARS - SO THE
AUTHORS OF THIS VOLUME CLAIM
THAT COMMUNISM KILLED ABOUT ONE
HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE.
YOU CAN IMAGINE RESPONSES TO
THIS NUMBER.
ONE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE.
AND THE SCHOLARS, JOURNALISTS,
PRIVATE PERSONS WHO DISAGREED
WITH THIS NUMBER ASKED INSTANTLY
"HOW DO YOU KNOW?
WHY ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND - ONE
HUNDRED MILLION, AND NOT TWENTY
MILLION OR SO?"
IN ADDITION, THERE WAS A CERTAIN
IDEOLOGICAL VALUE OF THIS, OR
IDEOLOGICAL SIDE BECAUSE
ALLEGEDLY, THE NAZIS KILLED
ABOUT 25 MILLION PEOPLE, SO IF
YOU COMPARE NAZIS AND THEN
COMMUNISM YOU WOULD SAY, AND
SOME PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY FROM THE
RIGHT, DO SAY THAT ACTUALLY
COMMUNISM, PARTICULARLY IN ITS
STALINIST VERSION, WAS MUCH
WORSE THAN NAZIS BECAUSE IT
KILLED ONLY 25 MILLION PEOPLE.
AMONG THOSE ONE HUNDRED MILLION
VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM, THERE
WERE, OF COURSE, PEOPLE FROM
CHINA, FROM THE SOVIET UNION,
FROM NORTH KOREA, VIETNAM,
AFRICA, AFGHANISTAN, BUT ALSO
EAST CENTRAL EUROPE.
TODAY, I WOULD LIKE TO TALK
ABOUT EAST CENTRAL EUROPEAN
REGION - THIS IS MY FIELD, THIS
IS WHAT I DO - AND I WOULD LIKE
TO DISCUSS SOME NUMBERS AND SOME
INTERPRETATIONS CONCERNING THE
HISTORY OF BERLIN AND THE
HISTORY OF EAST CENTRAL EUROPE.
EVERYTHING BETWEEN THE BLACK SEA
AND THE BALTIC SEA, GERMANY AND
RUSSIA PROPER.
AND PLEASE REMEMBER, OVER THERE
HISTORY IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT
THAN HERE IN NORTH AMERICA.
HERE, IN NORTH AMERICA, HISTORY
IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT.
THERE ARE MANY OTHER THINGS
WHICH ARE MORE IMPORTANT IN
TERMS OF IDENTITY, IN TERMS OF
BELIEFS.
IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE, HISTORY
IS A PART OF IDENTITY, PART OF
NATIONAL IDENTITIES.
WE CAN SAY THAT PARTICULAR
NATIONS OF EAST CENTRAL EUROPE
CREATED THEIR SECULAR RELIGIONS
BASED ON HISTORY.
SO IF WE TALK ABOUT HISTORY, WE
ARE NOT TALKING EXCLUSIVELY
ABOUT SOME KIND OF ACADEMIC
ISSUE, WHICH IS NOT IMPORTANT TO
RICH PEOPLE; WE ARE TALKING
ABOUT THEIR IDENTITY.
OF COURSE, THIS IS NOT QUITE
UNIQUE.
THERE ARE OTHER PARTS OF THE
WORLD WHERE HISTORY AND
HISTORICAL NUMBERS ARE VERY
IMPORTANT TOO.
FOR INSTANCE, CHINESE-JAPANESE
RELATIONS ARE VERY BAD
TRADITIONALLY BECAUSE JAPAN DOES
NOT WANT TO ADMIT THAT DURING
THE OCCUPATION OF CHINA DURING
WORLD WAR TWO AND BEFORE THE
JAPANESE OCCUPATIONAL FORCES
KILLED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE.
SAME STORY APPLIES TO KOREA, SO
THEY CARE ABOUT NUMBERS TOO.
IN THEIR CASE, NUMBERS ARE
IMPORTANT IN TERMS OF
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, IN
TERMS OF TODAY'S POLITICS.
BUT IN SPITE OF THIS, I WOULD
ARGUE THAT IN EAST CENTRAL
EUROPE THIS IS EVEN MORE
IMPORTANT, MORE CRUCIAL TO OUR
IDENTITY.
AND AGAIN, I THINK THAT THERE
ARE TWO NATIONS - AND I WORK ON
THE HISTORY - WHO ARE VERY
SPECIAL IN THIS RESPECT.
SO THE POLISH PEOPLE - AND THIS
IS A COURSE OF POLISH HISTORY,
SO I'M SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT
THEM - AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
AS YOU ALREADY KNOW, MOST NORTH
AMERICAN JEWS HAVE THEIR ROOTS
IN EASTERN OR EAST CENTRAL
EUROPE, SO WE ARE TALKING ABOUT
AN ISSUE WHICH IS IMPORTANT
ONTARIO HIS CONTINENT AS WELL.
AND TALKING ABOUT NUMBERS,
PROBABLY THE MOST INTERESTING
AND THE MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTER
OF EAST CENTRAL EUROPEAN
HISTORY IS, OF COURSE, WORLD
WAR TWO.
AS YOU ALREADY KNOW, WORLD WAR
TWO MEANT DISASTER FOR EAST
CENTRAL EUROPE.
THE WAR DESTROYED EAST CENTRAL
EUROPE, REMOVED SOME ETHNIC
GROUPS, AND KILLED MILLIONS OF
PEOPLE.
HOW WE UNDERSTAND WORLD WAR TWO
AND WHAT NUMBERS WE REMEMBER -
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ASK
TODAY.
SO LET ME CONCENTRATE FIRST ON
THE POLISH PEOPLE, THEN ON THE
JEWISH PEOPLE, AND THEN BY
COMPARISON, WE WILL TALK FOR A
MOMENT ABOUT OTHER NATIONS LIKE
THE RUSSIANS, UKRAINIANS, AND
THE BALTIC NATIONS.
INSTANTLY AFTER
THE WAR, THE POLISH BUREAU OF
WARTIME REPARATIONS SAID THAT
ABOUT SIX MILLION PEOPLE WERE
KILLED DURING THE WAR, SIX
MILLION POLISH CITIZENS.
IT'S DIFFICULT, REALLY, TO
ESTABLISH HOW DID THEY REACH
THIS NUMBER, SIX MILLION.
IN 1939 THE SO-CALLED SECOND
POLISH REPUBLIC HAD ABOUT 35
MILLION CITIZENS - 35 MILLION.
IN 1946 THE FIRST PERSONAL
CENSUS TOOK PLACE IN POLAND AND
THEY FOUND 23 MILLION PEOPLE
WITHIN THE BORDERS OF POLAND, SO
YOU HAVE 35 MILLION AND 23
MILLION.
I'M NOT SAYING THAT ALL THOSE
12 MILLIONS WERE KILLED, NO.
MOST OF THEM WERE STILL IN THE
SOVIET UNION - AS YOU REMEMBER,
THE BORDERS MOVED, OR WERE
MOVED, BY THE SOVIETS - BUT A
BIG PART OF THEM INDEED WERE
KILLED, BUT HOW MANY AND WHAT
KIND OF SOURCES DO WE HAVE?
THIS NUMBER, SIX MILLION, OR
SOMETIMES THEY EVEN USED MORE
PRECISE NUMBER, 6,018,000
PEOPLE, THIS NUMBER WAS USED
VERY FREQUENTLY IN COMMUNIST
POLAND.
WHEN I WAS A KID IN PRIMARY
SCHOOL, SECONDARY SCHOOL, THEN
STUDYING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
WARSAW, WE HAD TO REMEMBER, WE
HAD TO MEMORIZE THIS NUMBER,
6,018,000.
SO THIS WAS A NUMBER WE USED
UNDER THE COMMUNIST CENSORSHIP.
DOES IT MEAN THAT THERE WERE
PEOPLE WHO WERE UNACCOUNTED
BECAUSE THEY WERE, FOR INSTANCE,
KILLED BY THE SOVIETS?
MAYBE SO.
HOW ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE WHO WERE
DEPORTED TO THE SOVIET UNION OR
WHO WERE KILLED BY THE SOVIETS
AFTER WORLD WAR TWO?
SO MAYBE THERE WERE MORE THAN
SIX MILLION PEOPLE, OR MAYBE
LESS.
AS A MATTER OF FACT, THIS SOVIET
ELEMENT IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT.
THE GERMANS WERE VERY
METICULOUS.
THEY LIKED CREATING BUREAUCRATIC
DOCUMENTS.
AS A MATTER OF FACT, DURING THE
FIVE YEARS OF GERMAN OCCUPATION
OF POLAND, THEY PRODUCED MORE
PAPER THAN THE ENTIRE POLISH
ADMINISTRATION DURING THE
INTER-WAR PERIOD.
SO DURING 20 YEARS BETWEEN 1918
AND 1939 THE POLISH
ADMINISTRATION PRODUCED LESS
PAPER THAN THE GERMAN
ADMINISTRATION.
SO AS FAR AS THE GERMAN
OCCUPATION IS CONCERNED, WE KNOW
A LOT.
AS FAR AS THE SOVIET OCCUPATION
IS CONCERNED, HERE, THE
SITUATION IS MORE DIFFICULT.
AS YOU REMEMBER, IN 1939 POLAND
WAS PETITIONED AGAIN.
OVER 50 PERCENT - PRECISELY SPEAKING,
51.5 PERCENT - OF THE POLISH TERRITORY
WAS OCCUPIED BY THE SOVIET
UNION.
THESE PROVINCES WERE POPULATED
BY ABOUT 13 MILLION PEOPLE;
ABOUT 40 PERCENT OF THEM WERE ETHNIC
POLS; THE ENTIRE REST, THESE
WERE UKRAINIANS, BELARUSIANS,
JEWS, LITHUANIANS, CZECHS,
RUSSIANS, AND GERMANS.
IN 1939 THE SOVIET
ADMINISTRATION STARTED ARRESTS
AND DEPORTATIONS.
A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE DEPORTED TO
SIBERIA.
WE DON'T KNOW HOW MANY.
THERE ARE VARIOUS ESTIMATES AND
ALL OF THEM ARE REALLY POLITICAL
AND VERY DIFFICULT TO QUESTION.
THE POLISH GOVERNMENT IN EXILE,
DURING WORLD WAR II, THE POLISH
GOVERNMENT EXILE CLAIMED THAT
THE SOVIETS DEPORTED ABOUT 1.5
MILLION PEOPLE TO SIBERIA.
THIS ESTIMATE WAS BASED ON THE
REPORTS OF THE POLISH
UNDERGROUND.
THE POLISH UNDERGROUND, LATER
KNOWN AS THE HOME ARMY, WAS
WATCHING THE SOVIET OPERATIONS
VERY CAREFULLY, AND POLISH
COURIERS, POLISH MESSENGERS SENT
TO THE WEST, OR MEETING THE
REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
GOVERNMENT, SOME WERE HALFWAY,
IN ROMANIA, IN ITALY, REPORTED
ABOUT MASSIVE DEPORTATIONS.
THE SOVIETS
CLAIMED, ALREADY AT THAT TIME,
THAT THEY DEPORTED ABOUT 300,
MAYBE 400 THOUSAND PEOPLE.
BUT THE POLISH GOVERNMENT
CLAIMED 1.5 MILLION.
AND THEN, IN THE 50's, 60's,
70's...
SOME SCHOLARS BELIEVED THAT THIS
WAS EVEN MORE.
AFTER 1989 NEW ARCHIVAL SOURCES
WERE DISCOVERED.
THERE WAS A MOMENT THAT SOVIET
ARCHIVES WERE PRACTICALLY
OPENED.
UNFORTUNATELY THIS WAS NOT A
LONG PERIOD OF TIME, AND AT THAT
TIME HISTORIANS COULD SEE SOME
ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS PRODUCED BY
NKVD, BY RAILWAY AUTHORITIES,
BY SOVIET SECRET POLICE, AND
ACCORDING TO THEIR SOURCES, YES,
THEY DEPORTED ABOUT
330,000-350,000 PEOPLE TO REMOTE
CORNERS OF THE SOVIET UNION.
YET, THERE ARE ADDITIONAL
QUESTIONS.
ONLY IN 1939, ABOUT 35,000
POLISH PEOPLE WERE ARRESTED WHEN
THEY TRIED TO ESCAPE FROM THE
SOVIET UNION.
ABOUT 250,000 POLISH MEN WERE
POW'S.
MOST OF THEM WERE SENT TO WORK,
SOME WERE FAR AWAY IN THE SOVIET
UNION.
ALTHOUGH 25,000 POLISH OFFICERS
WERE KILLED IN CUTTIN, AND TO
OTHER PLACES.
SO ARE WE TALKING ONLY ABOUT
DEPORTATIONS, OR ARE WE TALKING
ABOUT DEPORTATIONS AND ALL THOSE
PEOPLE WHO WERE ARRESTED PUT
INTO PRISONS AND THEN SENT
SOMEWHERE TO THE SOVIET UNION?
WE DON'T KNOW, AND PROBABLY, WE
WILL NEVER BE CERTAIN ABOUT THIS
NUMBER, HOW MANY.
IN ADDITION, AFTER THE WAR, OR
BY THE END OF THE WAR, WHEN THE
RED ARMY CROSSED THE POLISH
BORDER, ADDITIONAL PEOPLE WERE
ARRESTED AND DEPORTED, AND HERE
WE ARE COMPLETELY IN THE LIMBO.
WE DON'T KNOW WHETHER THESE WERE
DOZENS OF THOUSANDS, OR HUNDRED
OF THOUSANDS, POLISH CITIZENS
SENT TO SIBERIA AGAIN.
SO, WE HAVE THIS NUMBER, SIX
MILLION PEOPLE AND PROBABLY WE
WILL STAY WITH IT, BECAUSE
FIRST, WE HAVE NO REALLY
CREDIBLE SOURCES, NEW SOURCES,
AND FINALLY, THIS IS VERY
DANGEROUS TO QUESTION THIS
NUMBER, AND SOME SCHOLARS WHO
CLAIM THAT ACTUALLY THERE WAS
LESS THAN SIX MILLION POLISH
PEOPLE KILLED DURING THE WAR,
THEY HAVE SERIOUS PROBLEMS, AND
TO MANY PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY TO
VETERANS OF WORLD WAR TWO, THIS
IS AN INSULT TO SAY THAT ONLY
300 THOUSAND PEOPLE WERE
DEPORTED TO SIBERIA, OR LESS
THAN SIX MILLION WERE KILLED
DURING WORLD WAR TWO.
THEY DON'T WANT TO LISTEN TO
THIS AND THEY SUSPECT THAT THERE
IS SOME GENDER BEHIND THIS
QUESTION.
TALKING ABOUT SIX MILLION
PEOPLE, WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT
ANOTHER SIX MILLION PEOPLE
BECAUSE, AGAIN, WE BELIEVE THAT
ABOUT SIX MILLION JEWS WERE
KILLED DURING WORLD WAR TWO, SO
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE
HOLOCAUST.
THE HOLOCAUST MOSTLY HAPPENED
THERE IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE AND
THE LARGEST EXTERMINATION CAMPS
UNFORTUNATELY WERE LOCATED ON
THE POLISH SOIL.
SOME OF THOSE REGIONS, FOR
INSTANCE, THE REGION OF
[Foreign name] OR AUSCHWITZ HAD
BEEN INCORPORATED INTO THE RIFE
AND FORMALLY DURING THE WAR
BELONGED TO THE THIRD RIFE, BUT
ANYWAY, THIS WAS POLAND BEFORE
THE WAR, AFTER THE WAR, AND MOST
VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST DIED
IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE.
SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT HITLER
LOCATED THE EXTERMINATION CAMPS
THERE BECAUSE HE HOPED THE LOCAL
POPULATION WOULD HELP.
THIS IS NOT TRUE; THERE IS NO
EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS CLAIM.
THIS IS SOMETHING I CONSIDER
OFFENSIVE AND INSULTING THAT
HITLER LOCATED THE EXTERMINATION
CAMPS IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE
BECAUSE THE JEWS WERE THERE.
MOST JEWS WERE THERE.
BEFORE THE WAR, THE JEWS
CONSTITUTED ABOUT 10 PERCENT OF THE
ENTIRE POLISH POPULATION,
3.3 MILLION JEWS, AND THIS WAS
THE LARGEST JEWISH COMMUNITY IN
EUROPE, SO NAZI CRIMINALS
OPERATED OVER THERE.
SO, SIX
MILLION, BUT AGAIN, HOW DID WE
REACH THIS NUMBER?
SOME TIME A GO, SCHOLARS STARTED
REACHING THIS QUESTION,
AND IT SEEMS THAT THE FIRST
PERSON WHO USED THIS NUMBER WAS
RIGHT-HAND OF EICHMANN, A
CERTAIN DIETER WISLICENY WHO WAS
CAUGHT AND TRIED IN URBACH.
AND DURING THE URBACH PROCESS,
WISLICENY SAID THAT HE HAD HEARD
EICHMANN SAYING THAT OVER SIX
MILLION EUROPEAN JEWS HAD BEEN
KILLED INCLUDING THREE MILLION
POLISH JEWS, SO THIS IS SOMEHOW
TRICKY.
SIX MILLION POLISH CITIZENS WERE
KILLED INCLUDING THREE MILLION
CHRISTIAN POLS AND THREE MILLION
JEWISH POLS OR JEWISH CITIZENS
OF POLAND, BUT IN ADDITION,
ABOUT THREE MILLION NON-POLISH
JEWS WERE KILLED IN EUROPE.
ANOTHER PERSON WHO USED THIS
NUMBER FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
WAS SIMON WIESENTHAL WHO
ESTABLISHED AN IMPORTANT CENTRE
OF HOLOCAUST STUDIES AND, AS YOU
KNOW, HE WAS LOOKING FOR NAZI
CRIMINALS.
THIS CENTRE WORKED IN VIENNA,
AND THERE IN HIS CENTRE...
SIMON WIESENTHAL INSCRIBED THE
ENTRANCE TO THE CENTRE THE
FOLLOWING WORDS, THAT THE
CENTRE, THE MUSEUM OR THE
CENTRE WAS A TRIBUTE TO SIX
MILLION JEWS AND FIVE MILLION OF
OTHER FAITHS.
SO, FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
AFTER WORLD WAR TWO THERE WAS
THIS GENERAL NUMBER OF SIX
MILLION, BUT THIS WAS VERY
DIFFICULT SITUATION FROM A
HISTORICAL POINT OF VIEW IN
TERMS OF PRIMARY SOURCES, AND
THERE WERE SEVERAL
MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND SEVERAL
CONFLICTS.
FOR INSTANCE, GERALD REITLINGER
IN HIS 1953 BOOK
THE FINAL
SOLUTION
GAVE ANOTHER
NUMBER, 4.85.
4.85, QUITE SHOCKING NUMBER
COMPARING WITH SIX MILLION.
AND THEN RAOUL HILBERG IN HIS
"DESTRUCTION OF EUROPEAN JEWS,"
ANOTHER EARLY HOLOCAUST STUDY
PUBLISHED IN 1961, AND ONE OF
THE MOST IMPORTANT HOLOCAUST
BOOKS, RAOUL HILBERG IS
CONSIDERED A FOUNDER OF
HOLOCAUST STUDIES, AND THE BOOK
IS CLASSIC RIGHT NOW.
HILBERG CLAIMED THAT 5.1 MILLION
JEWS HAD BEEN KILLED DURING THE
WAR.
ALREADY AT THAT TIME, THIS WAS A
VERY DANGEROUS DEBATE.
MANY PEOPLE WERE ANTAGONIZED,
SEVERAL JEWISH HISTORICAL
INSTITUTIONS DIDN'T WANT TO WORK
WITH RAOUL HILBERG.
FOR SOME TIME HE WAS FORBIDDEN
TO ENTER YAD VASHEM IN JERUSALEM
BECAUSE THE YAD VASHEM PEOPLE
BELIEVED THAT THIS WAS SOMETHING
OUTRAGEOUS TO SAY THAT, AS A
MATTER OF FACT, ABOUT ONE
MILLION PEOPLE LESS DIED DURING
THE HOLOCAUST.
AND WE ARE TALKING HERE, NOT
ONLY THIS GENERAL NUMBER OF SIX
MILLION, BUT ALSO ABOUT SOME
PARTICULAR SMALLER PHENOMENA
EVENTS AND OBJECTS.
YOU WOULD AGREE WITH ME PROBABLY
THAT THE BEST-KNOWN SYMBOL OF
THE HOLOCAUST IS THE
EXTERMINATION CAMP OF AUSCHWITZ.
THIS IS WHERE, REALLY, NUMEROUS
JEWS WERE KILLED, AND WE TALK -
WHEN WE THINK ABOUT THE
HOLOCAUST, WE THINK ABOUT
AUSCHWITZ.
AND HERE, NUMBERS CHANGED AS
WELL AND ARE STILL QUITE
CONTROVERSIAL.
WHEN THE SOVIETS ENTERED THE
CAMP IN JANUARY 1945 THEY FOUND
DOCUMENTS WHICH SAID THAT
PROBABLY ABOUT ONE HUNDRED
THOUSAND PEOPLE WERE KILLED IN
AUSCHWITZ.
OF COURSE, ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND
IS, IN THIS CONTEXT, NOT A BIG
NUMBER.
THE SOVIETS ESTABLISHED A
SPECIAL COMMITTEE WHICH WAS
SUPPOSED TO INVESTIGATE THE
AUSCHWITZ CRIME, AND THE
COMMITTEE CLAIMED THAT FOUR
MILLION JEWS WERE KILLED IN
AUSCHWITZ, SO THEY STARTED WITH
A SMALL NUMBER INSTANTLY AFTER
THE LIBERATION OF THE CAMP, AND
THEN THEY MOVED TO FOUR MILLION.
OF COURSE, THIS WAS REALLY HIGH.
THIS WAS A LOT AND THE
ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA PUBLISHED
IN JERUSALEM IN 1971 CLAIMS 2.5
MILLION PEOPLE KILLED IN
AUSCHWITZ.
AND THIS IS A VERY, VERY
DELICATE MATTER BECAUSE, AS YOU
CAN IMAGINE, HOLOCAUST DENIERS
AND ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE
THEIR DOUBTS, OR ARE UNFRIENDLY
TOWARDS THE JEWS, WATCH THIS
DEBATE VERY CAREFULLY.
AS YOU KNOW,
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CLAIM THAT
GAS CHAMBERS DID NOT EXIST IN
AUSCHWITZ.
ONE OF THEM IS RIGHT NOW
FORTUNATELY OFF IN A AUSTRIAN
PRISON.
I'M TALKING ABOUT DAVID IRVING,
OF COURSE.
SO THIS
SCHOLARLY DEBATE HAD TO BE VERY
CAUTIOUS BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE
DAVID IRVING.
NOWADAYS, WE BELIEVE THAT ABOUT
1.1 MILLION PEOPLE WERE KILLED
IN AUSCHWITZ.
SO A TREMENDOUS DIFFERENCE IF WE
COMPARE THIS WITH FOUR MILLION
OR EVEN TWO AND A HALF MILLION.
1.1 MILLION PEOPLE WERE KILLED
IN AUSCHWITZ.
MOST OF THEM, LIKE 90 PERCENT OF THEM,
WERE JEWISH, BECAUSE IN
ADDITION, THERE WERE POLISH
PEOPLE KILLED THERE.
INITIALLY DURING THE FIRST TWO
YEARS OF ITS EXISTENCE,
AUSCHWITZ WAS BASICALLY CAMP FOR
POLISH POLITICAL PRISONERS, MASS
EXTERMINATION OF THE JEWISH
PEOPLE STARTED IN 1942, AND THEN
MOST JEWS WERE KILLED OVER
THERE, BUT 1.1 MILLION IS, OF
COURSE, DIFFERENT STORY THAN
FOUR MILLION.
NOW, ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO
THINGS LIKE THIS?
IS IT WORTH RESEARCHING AND
CHECKING?
HOW ABOUT HOLOCAUST DENIERS?
HOW ABOUT PEOPLE WHO DON'T TRUST
SCHOLARS?
AUSCHWITZ IS NOT THE ONLY CASE.
RECENTLY THERE AS A SCHOLARLY
DEBATE ABOUT THE EXTERMINATION
CAMP OF MIDONIC NEAR LUBLIN, A
VERY IMPORTANT PLACE AS WELL.
FOR A LONG TIME, SCHOLARS
BELIEVED THAT ABOUT 360,000
PEOPLE WERE KILLED IN MIDONIC.
MIDONIC WAS SMALLER THAN
AUSCHWITZ, NO DOUBT, THEY KILLED
LESS PEOPLE OVER THERE, BUT
360,000 PEOPLE IS A LOT AGAIN.
RECENTLY, SCHOLARS WORKING AT
THE MUSEUM OF THIS CAMP CAME TO
THE CONCLUSION THAT THERE WERE
ONLY 70,000 PEOPLE KILLED.
AGAIN, MANY READERS, MANY
SCHOLARS, PRIVATE PEOPLE WERE
QUITE UNHAPPY ABOUT THIS
DISCUSSION ABOUT THIS DEBATE, SO
ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO THIS OR
NOT?
SOMETIMES THESE ISSUES ARE VERY
POLITICAL.
IN 1978, PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER
ORGANIZED A CELEBRATION OF
ISRAEL'S 30tH BIRTHDAY, AND
DURING THIS CELEBRATION, OVER
THERE IN FRONT OF THE
WHITEHOUSE, JIMMY CARTER STATED
THAT THE AMERICAN ADMINISTRATION
WOULD ESTABLISH A HOLOCAUST
MUSEUM.
A HUGE COMMITTEE WAS FORMED AND
THIS WAS THE FIRST STEP LEADING
TOWARDS THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM.
BUT A QUESTION APPEARED, HOW
THIS MUSEUM IS SUPPOSED TO BE
ARRANGED?
JUST
THE JEWS, OR VICTIMS
FROM OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS?
ARE WE TALKING ABOUT SIX MILLION
OR ARE WE TALKING ABOUT 11
MILLION, BECAUSE SOME SCHOLARS
CLAIM THAT ACTUALLY IN ADDITION
TO SIX MILLION JEWS, ABOUT FIVE
MILLION NON-JEWISH PEOPLE WERE
KILLED BY THE NAZIS.
WELL, THIS IS NOT REALLY A
SATISFACTORY NUMBER; IT SEEMS
THAT THERE WERE MORE THAN FIVE
MILLION NON-JEWISH PEOPLE KILLED
IN EUROPE.
BUT FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF
THE ORGANIZING COMMITTEE, THIS
WAS NOT ONLY ABOUT NUMBERS.
SHOULD WE SHARE THE TERM
"HOLOCAUST" WITH OTHERS...
UH, CLAIMED -- ASKED MEMBERS OF
THE ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITTEE.
IF WE GIVE THIS NUMBER, 11
MILLION, SOMEWHERE THERE, IN THE
HOLOCAUST MUSEUM, WOULD IT
DILUTE THE REALITY?
WOULD IT PUT THE JEWISH
SUFFERING SOMEWHERE ON...
IN THE BACK?
THESE WERE VERY DIFFICULT AND
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS.
ESPECIALLY THAT, NOT ONLY POLS
AND JEWS TALK ABOUT NUMBERS AND
RETURN TO WORLD WAR II AND WORLD
WAR TWO MARTYROLOGY.
OF COURSE, ALL THE NATIONS OF
EAST CENTRAL EUROPE, OR ALL THE
NATIONS OCCUPIED BY THE GERMANS
AND THE SOVIETS CLAIMED THAT
THERE WERE MANY VICTIMS AMONG
THEM.
AS A MATTER OF FACT, YOU
UKRAINIANS CALL AS BELIEVED,
THAT ABOUT TEN MILLION
UKRAINIANS DIED DURING WORLD WAR
II AS A RESULT OF MILITARY
OPERATIONS.
UKRAINIANS BELIEVED THAT THEY
ARE THE SECOND GROUP AFTER THE
JEWS IN TERMS OF WORLD WAR TWO
HOLOCAUST.
THEY TRY TO USE THIS TERM AS
WELL.
THEN, OF
COURSE, BELARUSIANS.
BELARUSIANS CLAIM ABOUT 1.5
MILLION, AT LEAST 1.5 MILLION
BELARUSIANS WERE KILLED DURING
WORLD WAR TWO.
AND IF YOU TALK TO THE
LITHUANIANS, LATVIANS,
ESTONIANS, ALL OF THEM CONSIDER
THEMSELVES VICTIMS, AND ALL OF
THEM GIVE THOSE NUMBERS.
SO, WHAT'S THE
CONCLUSION OF THIS?
WELL, THERE ARE MANY
CONCLUSIONS.
FIRST OF ALL, THIS IS THIS SAD
CONCLUSION ABOUT SECULAR
RELIGIONS, THAT PEOPLE CREATED
SECULAR RELIGIONS BASED ON
HISTORY.
THESE SECULAR RELIGIONS, THESE
SPECIAL INTERPRETATIONS OF
HISTORY ARE SUPPOSED TO SHOW
PARTICULAR NATIONS AS SPECIAL
MARTYRS.
THEY ASK FOR RECOGNITION, THEY
AS FOR REPARATION SOMETIMES,
BECAUSE THEY SUFFERED MORE THAN
THE OTHERS ACCORDING TO THEM.
THIS CLAIMS OF SUFFERING DIVIDE
THEM, OF COURSE, AND IT'S
DIFFICULT TO TALK.
VERY FREQUENTLY, THEY DON'T KNOW
TOO MUCH ABOUT EACH OTHER AND
STICK TO THEIR NUMBERS AND
EMPHASIZE THAT THEY SUFFERED THE
MOST, THAT THEIR VICTIMS WERE
THE MOST NUMEROUS.
BUT THERE IS ANOTHER CONCLUSION,
I BELIEVE.
I HOPE THAT THE UNIVERSITIES OR
ACADEMIA PLAYS VERY SPECIAL ROLE
HERE.
I HOPE THAT ACADEMIA IS THE
PLACE WHERE INDEPENDENT SCHOLARS
WHO ARE NOT INVOLVED IN
POLITICAL STRUGGLE CAN PURSUE
THEIR RESEARCH AND TALK ABOUT
THIS.
I DON'T BELIEVE IN PERFECT...
SITUATION WHERE NOBODY TRIES TO
SELL HIS OR HER INTERPRETATION.
I DON'T BELIEVE IN PERFECT
OBJECTIVITY, BUT I BELIEVE THAT
SCHOLARS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE
OBJECTIVE, SHOULD TRY TO BE
OBJECTIVE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE,
AND I HOPE THAT DUE TO SOLID
ACADEMIC RESEARCH ONE DAY WE
WILL OVERCOME THIS TORN ISSUE OF
VICTIMS, NUMBERS, AND NATIONAL
MYTHOLOGIES.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Watch: Piotr Wrobel on Numbers and Historical Memory.