ghost of the polish rider

The end of WWII confronted many devastated cities in Europe and Asia with a problem: what to do about the relics of their past in rebuilding their future. The experience of these cities was not without lesson for those who lived elsewhere where the uncontrolled erosion of peacetime construction wreaked damage on the cities of the world much like the mindless violence of the war. To the citizens of these phoenix cities, the war made diamond clear one fact which is often befogged in peace, namely, that the past is, in many real ways, the only material out of which we can build the future. The protection of historic districts, buildings and works of art is thus not merely the task of museologists and antiquarians but the responsibility of every citizen who draws his sustenance, spiritual as well as economic, from the city.

(see link at end) After a speech by Prime Minister Donald Tusk in which he forcefully demanded that Obama apologize for having used the term “Polish death camps,” The New York Times wrote that the White House was caught by surprise. In the European Voice, well known commentator Edward Lucas wrote that one can share Poland’s rage without agreeing with the way in which it was expressed….

—Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669)
The Polish Rider
c. 1655
Oil on canvas
The Frick Collection
Rembrandt’s painting of a youthful long-haired rider in Polish dress, armed with two swords, a war hammer, and a quiver of arrows, remains one of his most haunting works. The serene, open expression of the rider contrasts with the barren, unforgiving nocturnal terrain through which he and the horse proceed at some speed. In the more thinly painted background, we can make out a domed citadel with fortified buildings atop a hill and at right a ridge of trees leading down to a tower that overlooks a pool at whose edge a fire burns faintly.—Read More:

After Obama sent his expression of regret, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski mocked the U.S. president’s advisors on Twitter, inviting them to Poland for “reeducation.” Sikorski, at the Wrocław Global Forum, during a panel with U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein, compared the alliance with the U.S. to taking a “mud bath with a hippopotamus.” At first it is nice and warm, since the hippo screens you from the wind, but when it turns over on its side, one has to squeal loudly so as not to be squashed.

The special character of Poland’s program for the reconstruction of her artistic and historic monuments derived from the special circumstances of her history, particularly the period of the Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945. Many of her greatest cities, including Warsaw and Gdansk, and many of her villages were all but destroyed, their art looted and their historic buildings burned. Of course, other countries in Europe, including Germany herself, also endured great destruction. But no European city saw such coldly calculated demolition as Warsaw.

—With time, the leaders of the Polish People’s Republic came to the conclusion that the reconstruction of Warsaw’s historical monuments had been their own idea, although their reluctance to do anything about it was to last some time. The public, on the other hand, gave its hearty approval to the reconstruction proposals – the people of Warsaw wanted to have at least a part of the city which they had lost in 1944. The remainder was to be transformed into a socialist city, with a new scale of building, new urban planning and architecture. Poland’s President at that time, Bolesław Bierut, took a lively interest in this aspect.
Within a few years, the walls of hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of burnt out buildings were demolished, even though some of them could have been reconstructed. As a result of this action, few examples of buildings dating from the turn of the 20th Century have been preserved to this day. —Read More:

She was the subject of four overwhelming attacks: first in September 1939, then in the Battle of the Ghetto in 1943; again, in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944; and finally, in the Battle of Liberation of 1945. The naval and aerial bombardments of Gdansk destroyed some 75 per cent of the medieval center of that great Hanseatic seaport, and laid waste one of the largest concentrations of late Gothic buildings in existence. Hence, the postwar problem in Poland was more often that of reconstruction than mere preservation or restoration.

(see link at end)…Barack Obama’s new team failed to take to heart the 2009 warning letter from leading Central and Eastern European intellectuals and politicians, which asked the president not to lose interest in this part of the world. And in an absolutely disrespectful manner, the U.S. cancelled arrangements for a missile defense shield….

…On September 17, 2009, Donald Tusk seems to have lost any illusions he may have had about the U.S., when in the middle of the night, President Obama tried calling to tell him that the original idea of the missile shield was being ditched – a fact that American newspapers had already been reporting for several hours.

[Translator’s Note: There is another reason Obama’s timing was such a blunder: he told the Prime Minister Tusk the news on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of east Poland. This added insult to injury, as the shield was regarded by Poles as the ultimate guarantee that America would stand with Poland against Russian aggression]…

—A Polish Nobleman by Rembrandt van Rijn presents Andrzej Rej (1584-1641), a grandson of Mikołaj Rej, a starost of Libusza, a Calvinist activist, and a diplomat. In 1637 he was with a diplomatic mission at the courts of Denmark, Holland and England.
The picture is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.—Read More:

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The shield is meant to defend the United States against a hypothetical ballistic rocket attack from Iran and Korea. At the same time, Poland is the only NATO nation within range of the very real Russian Iskander missiles stationed in Kaliningrad.

Few in Warsaw are likely to be seriously upset if – in accordance with his overheard exchange with Dmitry Medvedev – Barack Obama proves “more flexible” on the issue after the election.

The question of how these cities were to be rebuilt was the subject of long and intensive discussion among Polish architects and town planners. Warsaw presented an especially complicated problem, psychologically as well as physically. As the historic capital of Poland and the center of Polish resistance, Hitler had ordered, in a famous telegram, that it be leveled to the ground like Carthage and replaced by a small garrison town. The Poles felt that this barbarous act left them no possible choice but to reconstruct at least the Stare Miasto, the medieval walled center of the city, as it had been before the war. One cannot help feeling that they acted correctly: certainly, even then members of the Polish architectural avant-garde who opposed the reconstruction at the time, eventually agreed that the decision was correct…

Read More and Image:


( see link at end)…Recently President Barack Obama caused a firestorm by referring in a speech to “Polish death camps” while awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom medal to a Polish freedom fighter. The Polish government was very angry with this, demanding an apology for the insult ; the death camps in Poland belonged to the German Nazis, not the Poles. Most pundits have chalked this up to ignorance, or poor word choice. But is that the case?

Mr. Obama has repeatedly insulted Poland. He pulled out of an agreement to place a U.S. missile defense system there, in 2010 he skipped the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 94 other Polish officials who died in the Smolensk air disaster to play golf, and now he has horribly insulted the Polish nation by referencing “Polish death camps” as if it were the Poles and not the Germans who were mass murdering innocent people.

But if this was not just a slip of the tongue, why would Mr. Obama do this?

On April 16, 2012 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in the case of Janowiec and Others v. Russia that the old Soviet Union was guilty of war crimes for the massacre of Polish officers at the Katyn Forest, and that subsequently the Russian government was guilty of violating the victim’s survivor’s rights by engaging in a cover-up, classifying documents and generally impeding any investigation into the actions of the Soviet Union. The murders in Katyn occurred between April and May of 1940 — this is the 72nd anniversary of this particular war crime. Almost 21,000 Polish officers lost their lives during their stay at the prison camp at Katyn.

The Polish government has been demanding an accounting for Katyn for a long time. In 2009 the Polish Parliament adopted a resolution calling the Soviet actions at Katyn an act of genocide, for instance.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has vowed a “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations. How does one go about that? Stonewalling the Strategic Defense Initiative is a big help to kowtowing to Moscow, Remember, Mr. Obama promised “more flexibility” in killing missile defense to then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who courteously promised to pass the word along to Vladimir aka Vladimir Putin,.

At any rate, Mr. Obama has followed a policy course than can best be characterized as appeasement towards the Russians. One must ask if Mr. Obama is running interference for the Russians, attacking Poland in the interest of creating “parity” between Poland and the U.S.S.R.? Is this a part of the “reset” whereby Mr. Obama attacks an ally in an effort to take some of the heat off of Russia?

…And indeed the April 17 2010 death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and most of his government occurred in Russian airspace near Smolensk as they were traveling to a memorial of Katyn. Coincidence? Given the decidedly unhealthy nature of opposition to Putin or his government, one must question this event.

Remember, Mr. Obama did not attend the funeral, preferring to spend the afternoon golfing. And now Mr. Obama speaks of “polish Death Camps”. It is a bit strange….

… Is this part of the price for some other strategic favor, perhaps to get Russia to stand down in the event of military action against Iran? We can’t know that, but strange coincidences make one wonder.Read more:




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