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Open letter to Newstalk Editor

We are publishing an open letter which has been prepared in conjuction with Forum Polonia which also has been sent to Head Editor Mr Garret Harte in relation to recent comments on Poland made by  Mr George Hook in his audition transmitted on the 26th January 2015 available here: http://www.newstalk.com/player/shows/The_Right_Hook/9/16001/26th_January_2015_-_The_Right_Hook_Part_3).

 

Mr Garrett Harte
Newstalk Station Editor
 
Newstalk HQ
Marconi House
Digges Lane
Dublin 2
 
We are writing in relation to recent comments on Poland made by Mr. George Hook in his audition transmitted on the 26th of January (available at http://www.newstalk.com/player/shows/The_Right_Hook/9/16001/26th_January_2015_-_The_Right_Hook_Part_3).
On that occasion Mr. Hook expressed an opinion that for petty chauvinistic reasons the Polish government did not invite Mr. Putin for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp ran by Nazis Germany in Poland in order to insult the President of Russia Federation. 
We would like to point out that the Polish government has not sent a full diplomatic invitation to Mr. Putin or any other world leader, for the simple reason that the Polish government is not the organiser of the event in question. Instead, the International Auschwitz Council, the event organiser, sent invitations to all countries that support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and this included Russia. States invited were asked to inform the organisers about the representatives they intend to send. Russia officially informed that it would be represented by Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Siergiej Iwanow. 
We want to express our disappointment on the poor quality of information provided by Mr. Hook during the show, who – to our knowledge – made no effort to contact either any Polish official or any representatives of Polish diaspora, who would have been more than happy to clarify the matter. We also found it regrettable that no Polish official was invited to join the discussion about an event that had taken place in Poland. In addition, the expert invited had very limited knowledge about the Central Eastern Europe and was not able to present a balanced view on the matter discussed. During the audition Mr. Hook and his invited expert made a number of statements that not only portrayed Poland and Poles in a negative light but were simply incorrect.
Mr. Hook not only concluded that ‘the population of Warsaw walked by that ghetto every single day of the week while people were treated appallingly behind the walls’ but that ‘many Poles has conveniently airbrushed its part in Holocaust’ as well. While no one can deny that terrible atrocities were inflicted on Polish Jews during the war by the occupying German army, as well as by a tiny minority of non-Jewish Poles, to compare the  actions of several governments collaborating with Germans (e.g. in Croatia or Slovakia) with individual atrocities made by some Polish citizens during this terrible time indicates the extent of Mr Hook’s lack of understanding of the situation in the country at that time. Let us remind that Poles belong to the biggest cohort among non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust and thus called Righteous Among the Nations. The contribution of Poland – let it not be forgotten, the very first Allied state – to the defeat of Nazi Germany was immense – whether that be counted in the heroic actions of air force pilots in the battle of Britain, the actions of her armed servicemen in numerous theatres of the war – to mention but two the heroic struggle for Monte Casino and the attempt to liberate the Dutch people via the landings at Arnhem, and the raw, superhuman courage of the people of Warsaw – who Mr Hook so casually condemns – in their two month long struggle against the Wehrmacht during the course of the Warsaw Uprising.
To say, as Mr Hook did, that Auschwitz was as much a negative for Poland as it was a positive, simply indicates the extent of his ignorance of this vital element of world history. When the camps were set up and operated by Germans, Poland was an occupied country with no government in place collaborating with the invader. Poland has lost more than 6 million of its citizens during the WWII, half of which were Jewish. To insinuate that Poles could do anything about stopping Germans from conducting their crimes against the humanity, when non-Jewish Poles were being massacred in their hundreds of thousands, is an appalling statement by Mr. Hook.
Finally, we were also sadly bemused by Mr. Hook deliberations on Polish history. To say that ‘Poland is sort of being German as being Russian, as being Polish…” with no long history and to provide Ireland as opposite example of a country with long historic tradition, conveniently avoids the fact of Poland being a sovereign kingdom between XI and XVIII centuries and being able to regain its independence in the beginning of XX century after almost 200 years of being ruled by three bordering imperia. We can only imagine what would be the feelings of Irish people for anybody stating that "Ireland is sort of being England".
This gross misrepresentation of the facts has the potential to greatly damage the reputation of the Polish community in Ireland. We feel that those in positions of responsibility, such as journalists and editors of radio stations like the Newstalk, need to take great care when researching the facts of any story before discussing it on air. 
We hope that, in future, the editorial board of the Newstalk and Mr. Hook will be careful in what is said on air, particularly in cases where the material has the dangerous potential to hurt feelings of any groups of people, in this case many Poles comprising currently the biggest minority in Ireland. 
Yours sincerely,
On behalf of Together -Razem Centre Ltd in cojuction with Forum Polonia
_________________________
Wojciech Bialek 
 
Together-Razem Centre:  We support, we advise and we promote integration.
The first mission of our Centre is to assist Polish people living in Cork County who experience difficulties in their vocational, personal or family lives.. Our second mission is to foster understanding and integration among all ethnic and linguistic groups of County Cork.