DETROIT (Feb. 5)
Gen. Josef Haller, “good-will ambassador” from the Polish Government-in-exile, admitted here today that there were “some excesses” during the early days of the Polish Republic but pledged a square deal for all minorities in the new Poland. He made his statement to Philip Adler, foreign correspondent who represented the Detroit News in Poland, Russia, Japan and Germany.
According to Adler, Gen. Haller blamed the last Polish Government for failure to meet with Jews in conference to iron out differences and said that the presence of 600,000 non-Polish Jews described as “Litvaks” was responsible for the trouble.
Asked what guarantees there were that the discrimination against minorities would not be repeated in the new Poland, Gen. Haller said: “Our best guarantee is the fact that the moment Hitler invaded Poland, Ukrainians, Jews, White Russians and other minority groups forgot their past differences with the Polish Government and fought side by side against the foreign invader. They died side by side on the battle field and are today dying side by side before the Nazi firing squads and in the inquisition chambers of the Gestapo.”
When the interviewer reminded him of the charges against him by Jews that he was responsible for pogroms and that the term “Hallerscszyk” (a Haller soldier) at one time was a synonym for a Jew-baiter, Gen. Haller explained his attitude as follow.
“I must admit there were some excesses in Poland during the early phases of post-war reconstruction. The reasons were many. They were different for different nationalities. Ukrainians, Lithuanians and White Russians were separatists. They wanted to break up the Polish State when we tried to create it. We had to use force After all, the interests of the whole are greater than those of any of its parts. We had to save the Polish union first and make adjustments with nationality groups afterward.
“The Jewish problem then was quite different. We never accused Jews of trying to break away from Poland. On the contrary, Poland’s historical tradition in dealing with the Jews was liberal. Jews, remembering this, began to flock to Poland from neighboring states. Some 600,000 non-Polish Jews settled in Poland in those days. They created an antagonism not only among the Poles, but among the Polish Jews themselves, who derogatively referred to them as ‘Litvaks.’ Many of those Jews brought with them the Russian revolutionary ideas. On the other hand, many of my Polish troops had been raised on the anti-Semitic traditions of the Czar. A clash was inevitable. It came. There were excesses. I do not condone them.”
Referring to the “wave of national minority disturbances which preceded the German invasion,” Gen. Haller said:
“The so-called Jewish question again was different than the other minority problems. Again there was no Jewish separatism. Controversies with Jews arose over questions of kosher meat, of Jewish passion for education which resulted in a Jewish invasion of our universities far out of proportion with the size of population, etc. All these were questions which could have been settled amicably at a conference table. But the last Government of Poland, to which I was not an adherer, did not believe in conference tables. It shut down all parties. The opposition was not permitted to raise its voice. Jews felt they were being discriminated against and, naturally resented it. The fact is that my own Polish party was not given a voice in Parliament. I may add that my military advice was not heeded. In fact, there was nobody to whom I could present it.
“Much as it hurts me to do so, I must admit that life in Poland preceding the German invasion was somewhat chaotic. National minorities, like Polish opposition groups, suffered considerably from this chaos. The was made us all forget our petty little differences, and take a common stand against our common foe. I am confident that those of us who will survive this holocaust will come out of it better men. Poles have learned much from our national calamity about the patriotism and loyalty of our minority groups.”