Professor Gella responds

Since I had not been given an opportunity to see before publication Professor Anna Cienciala's review of my book, Zaglada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej, 1945-1947 (SR, XX:1, January 2000), I request that my response to her vehement criticism be published without editing as a Letter to the Editor.

First of all, it is impossible for me to discuss issues with her using the style and method which she has used. Professor Cienciala began and ended many paragraphs with invectives against me. For example, "He. . . interprets history to suit his purpose. . . Gella continues to distort history. . . Gella favors a conspiratorial theory. . . To say that Gella's ideological views are strange is an understatement." In addition, her repeated use of terms such as "allegedly" in reference to my sources casts unwarranted doubts upon their veracity.

These invectives are not supported by serious arguments, but eventually by Prof. Ciencialas interpretation of history. Her views and entire criticism are almost identical to a review by her formed teacher, Prof. P. Wandycz, published in Zeszyty Historyczne, no. 129 (Paris, 1999). Exactly like Wandycz, she confused the criticism of my historical book on 1945-1947 with my Foreword and a 17-page-long remarks on the present situation in Poland (1989-1997) which have been added to the book as its "Closing."

Then she has chosen various fragments while omitting the central topic, the annihilation of the Second Polish Republic in the years 1945-1947. It should be obvious to any reader that her review is directed more ad personam than ad rem, and it is an aggressive ideological attack. Professor Cienciala's self-confidence undermines the academic character of her statements; she criticizes me for "intemperate statements and judgments" and for "misinterpretations of history," while in fact presenting her own personal views but not convincing arguments.

There are three basic faults in her review.

1. The book presents documented facts and only marginally my opinions and interpretations. Prof. Cienciala does not write about facts presented in the book, but rather deals with my grievances.

2. Cienciala's criticism is empty because it is deprived of some other verified documents which could undermine the truths of the presented documents, or at least deliver some critical analysis of them. However, as long as she attacks my interpretations of history, I allow her be happy with her political convictions.

3. In her frustrated angriness, she imputes to me (a) a term which I never used, "bandit capitalism"; (b) a statement that "if Poland had agreed to Hitler's demands, he would have succeeded at invading Britain in the fall of 1939." All too freely, she interprets my statements to suit her purpose.

From the first paragraph, where she stated that I misinterpret history, through the entire review, Cienciala did not turn attention to the main topic of the book, while her opinions of my supposedly "ideological" statements are left without any explanation, and are nothing but offenses.

Like her former professor Wandycz, she is scandalized by my statement that "without Polish armed effort, the fate of Europe would have been total catastrophe." This is my statement which, because it was well documented, was used in a preface written by Mrs. Zofia Korbonska, a well known hero of World War II who, although not an American scholar, has a deep knowledge of Polish merits and contributions to the Allied victory. For Cienciala, however, this statement "borders on megalomania."

Prof. Cienciala is astonished by my statement that "the traditional role of the Polish intelligentsia as leaders of society ended with the last resistance heroes of the Second Republic in 1947." There is no such statement in my book. But the fact is that as a social stratum, the old Polish intelligentsia ceased to exist with the communist takeover.

Cienciala defends Jozef Beck's policy, which is quite understandable as she edited Beck's papers of the years 1926-39. Therefore, she cannot see his policy more critically.

It is unfortunate that she has not read J. E. Hayes' and H. Klehr's Venona: Decoding the Soviet Espionage in America before she wrote that I favor "a conspiratorial theory of history" in relation to my views on F. D. Roosevelts foreign policy. The authors show that paid Soviet agents were operating at the top echelons of the American administration.

To criticize my data on the Polish Underground she uses data from a textbook by A. Paczkowski. But most sad and erroneous is her criticism of my chapter VI. She writes: "The author's speculation about British policy is not supported by any evidence whatever." The truth is that the entire chapter is based on British documents discovered by me in 1983-84 in the Public Record Office in London, and cited in the said chapter. Cienciala replaced the term "disposal" used in the secret documents of the British Cabinets Committee on the Polish Forces with the softer term, "dissolution." And she remarked that "There is an earlier study on PRC, based on Foreign Office documents. . ." published in 1989. However, she did not want to notice that my work, which was reprinted as chapter VI, was published in 1988.

Aleksander Gella, Professor Emeritus, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

A view of NATO from Massachusetts

I would like to comment on "Poland and the Future of NATO" by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz (SR, XIX:3, September 1999). As a third generation American, I carefully watched the entry of Poland into NATO. I think all Polish Americans believe that Poland's membership in NATO will be valuable to Poland's security.

However, as an American, I found the discussion of NATO's expansion incomplete. Although I found new points in Mr. Chodakiewicz's article, he omitted what I think are important facts about NATO expansion.

What is missing from his and other discussions of NATO is history and operational details. NATO was formed on April 4, 1949, as a military organization to thwart a westward attack by the Soviet Union and the Soviet-occupied nations. This mission was simple and clearly understood by everyone. A simple and clear mission is the basis for successful foreign policy or an efficient organization. NATO was successful in fulfilling this original mission.

Today there is no Soviet Union and nations are no longer Soviet-occupied. By its own account, Russia is feeble economically and it has an ineffective military.

During the Cold War, the mass media carried detailed information about the size of the military on NATO side, and on the side of the Soviet bloc nations. So far as I know, no such information has recently been publicized. My guess is that a report on these topics would show NATO has no worthwhile and aggressive foe anywhere, and none will appear for some years. So, NATO's original military mission is gone and the most important question that should have been asked and publicly answered before expansion was this: What military mission exists, or will exist for NATO or for a larger NATO?

Organizations that lose their special founding mission sometimes continue, and even occasionally grow. NATO's new mission (see (NATO Basic Fact Sheets at www.nato.int) is now broader but it has no clear military objective. In such circumstances, organizations often become inefficient and blunder. This is especially true when their policy and budget are not subject to vigorous public scrutiny.

We all hope that Poland will be secure in NATO, but in the future I believe that Poland, along with the United States, will likely incur unnecessary expenses and, hopefully, nothing worse then mediocre results from an enlarged organization that has an unclear and diffuse mission.

Fred Zimnoch, Northampton, Massachussetts

Back to the April 2000 issue
The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 7/20/00