When Poland needs to blame its Jews for something, inevitably we hear about the case of Shlomo Morel, who the Polish people call Salomon Morel. Mr. Morel has been accused of war crimes by Poland. This brief article will attempt to refute the claims and outline the facts of the case. As far as I know, it is the only such document to do so in the English language. I doubt anything positive about Morel has been written in the Polish language.
Mr. Morel was born in Garbow, northwest of Lublin, in 1919 and studied Torah and Talmud as a youngster. His father baked bread and the family lived in Garbow's one brick house. Shlomo grew up a happy-go-lucky, playful boy who still put on his tefillin and said his 'Baruch ata's.
He was 20 when the Germans invaded Garbow. Local Polish thugs picked up his father, mother, and one brother in Christmas week, 1942, as Shlomo watched from the top of a haystack. "Where are your other sons?" said the Poles, but Shlomo's mother wouldn't say, and local Polish people punished her by shooting the father, then the brother, and finally her.
That night Shlomo and another brother, Yitzchak Morel, hid in a mausoleum. In March of 1943, they joined the Jewish partisans. Young Yitzchak Morel was on a partisan tank -- a horse-drawn sleigh -- when some Poles jumped on and killed him. Despite these tragic losses, Shlomo Morel went through the war loving laughter and telling the Yiddish jokes he had heard growing up in Garbow. He always had his mandolin with him, strapped on his shoulder when he walked, its fingerboard in his fist overhead. In his other fist was his Mauser shotgun, without which any Jew in the forests of Poland would be susceptible to death from the enemy Nazis or anti-Jewish Polish locales.
In March of 1944, his partisan unit, which was led by Shmuel Jegier and, after Jegier was murdered, Frank Blaichman and Samuel Gruber, waded across the Wieprz River in March, 1944 to join the Grynszpan partisan unit. These units, of which Morel was an important part, were among the most successful in all of Europe. A remarkable number of Jewish partisans survived in the forests near Parczew, Poland, among them the young Morel. More than just survive, they were involved in cutting phone poles between Lublin and Wlodawa, attacking police headquarters and government posts in Kaplonosy and Parczew, blowing up troop and ammunition trains, hijacking German supply trucks, and killing Germans and collaborators whenever possible.
Morel had lost his entire family, but survived the war. On his liberation, he was assigned to the Office of State Security and the camp commandant's post at Schwientochlowice near Katowice. During the war, the location had been the site of the Zgoda Labor Camp. After the war it became a detention camp for Germans complicit in murdering Jews. Suddenly the tables were turned, and a Jew was in charge of the Germans.
What facts can be established about the camp at Schwientochlowice? There were three categories of people sent to this detention center: a - The majority of the internees at the Schwientochlowice camp were placed there under the terms of the decree of the Polish National Liberation Committee (PKWN) of Nov. 4, 1944 "on security measures vis-a-vis traitors to the Nation" of Poland; b - The remaining prisoners were interned in the camp on the basis of the "August decree" of Aug. 31, 1944 on "Fascist-Nazi criminals and traitors to the Polish Nation" and c - the law of May 6, 1945 on the exclusion of hostile elements from Polish society (1). In February of 1945, Aleksy Krut was put in charge of the camp, and Morel was appointed head of the camp in May of 1945. At this time Morel was just 26 years old and says by his own admission he had neither training nor experience in administering a prison (2).
Out of the several thousands of prisoners, only a handful were subsequently brought to justice. Documents were found indicating that several former prisoners at Schwientochlowice were convicted of crimes connected with the German occupation. One of them, a resident of Bielsko from group II on the Volksliste, received four years in prison for tormenting the Polish population during the war. Other prisoners included members of the Nazi party, including dozens from Prudnik and Glubczyce who attained the rank of Ortsgruppenleiter, or Local Group Leader (3).
The prisoners of the Schwientochlowitz camp worked in nearby factories. On August 1, 1945, there were 5,048 prisoners in the camp. Typhus spread in the prison like a wildfire. Thirty percent of the prison was wiped out by the typhus epidemic, or roughly 1,500 persons, between late July and September of 1945 (4).
Morel is accused of outrageous crimes against humanity for these 1,500 deaths. According to the book "Genocides by the Oppressed" by Nicholas A. Robins and Adam Jones, Morel "presided over a murderous regime founded on assaults and atrocities against German captives". They continue: "They got Germans to beat each other, they raped German women, and trained their dogs to bite off men's genitals at the command of 'Sic'." Authors Robins and Jones never mention the typhus epidemic at the Schwientochlowice detention camp. Nor do they note the fact that the Germans being detained in the camp were themselves mostly murderers and tyrants themselves.
Much of the criticism of Morel comes from the book "Eye for an Eye", written by a Jewish man, John Sack. The main theme of the book is that Jews ran internment camps for Germans in postwar Poland. Sack's book has largely remained off of book shelves because it is slanderous and has little truth to it. In 1995, Germany outlawed the book, calling it "anti-Semitic fodder".
In truth, most Holocaust survivors went directly to Displaced Persons Camps throughout Europe, and sought emigration out of Europe. The idea that Jews were murderers either during or after the Holocaust in Europe is preposterous.
John Sack makes specific assertions about Shlomo Morel that simply cannot be proven. The testimonies against Morel were never enough to bring him back to Poland for trial, and given Poland's historical anti-Semitism, it's difficult to say whether those who were imprisoned could be reliable and unbiased witnesses. Having studied Poland during the Holocaust period and since, my best answer is: No, these witnesses could not be either reliable or unbiased.
Coincidentally, Sack's book also contains a transcript of evidence that Morel was himself not guilty of any crimes whatsoever. In 1989, Morel was interviewed by a prosecutor in Poland, Piotr Brys, about his role in the Schwientochlowitz camp.
"Good day," Brys began. "I'm going to interrogate you in the case concerning the camp at Swietochlowice. You can be prosecuted for perjury on the basis of Article 172 of the Penal Code, but you have the right not to answer me on the basis of Article 166, Paragraph 1."
"All right," said Shlomo calmly.
"Did you work at Swietochlowice?" said Brys.
"Yes. I was the commandant there."
"You were the commandant starting when?"
"The first days of February, 1945."
"As commandant what did you do?"
"I commanded that camp.
"Some people died at Swietochlowice. What of?"
"Typhus," said Shlomo.
"And where were they buried?"
"At the cemetery in Swietochlowice."
Was there a torture cell at Swietochlowice?"
"No, not that I know of," Shlomo said.
A few weeks later Brys again met with Morel, and brought a supposed "victim" of the camp, a woman named Dorota Boreczek, who was Polish and age 15 in 1945. The camp was supposed to be for Germans.
She accused Shlomo of war crimes and was brought to identify him. When asked if she recognized the man in front of her, Mr. Morel, she replied to Brys that she did not recognize the man in front of her. When told who he was, she said to him, "You did the same thing the Fascists did!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Shlomo.
"Well, that's what the Fascists say," Dorota continued. "They don't know what we're talking about, about Auschwitz. You murdered people," Dorota explained, getting louder. "Why did you do it? Why?"
"You're lying," said Shlomo.
Near him was Brys, who was listening carefully, and Shlomo stayed as serene as a Buddha, "The prisoners at Swietochlowice loved me. A guard even married me." Shlomo married a Catholic Polish woman (5).
A few days later Mr. Morel came back with a four-page answer. He said that the prisoners at Swietochlowice were always treated well. He said that the guards didn't shoot except on May 7, 1945, to celebrate the Allies' victory over the Germans. He said "I recall with pity" that prisoners had died of typhus, but it said that these prisoners had brought the typhus to Swietochlowice.
The author John Sack, who was obsessed with this story prior to his death, even met with Morel. At his kitchen table, Sack accused Morel of committing crimes against humanity. Morel firmly denied the accusations.
So, there you have it. It is one person's word against another person's word. An old Jewish man whose family was murdered was being harassed by the Polish government -- the only government in Europe where Jews have never received any restitution for crimes against them or confiscated property during the Holocaust.
Thus, Morel made a decision many people would have made: He left Poland and emigrated to Israel in January, 1992. At age 72 Mr. Morel was unemployed and his pension from Poland couldn't be transferred to him in Israel. He was forced to do what many Jews have been forced to do for centuries: Start from scratch in a new country.
One of the Polish prosectors, Marek Grodzki, as well as the head of the German community in Katowice, Dietmar Brehmer, concluded that there was no evidence against Mr. Morel.
Despite this, a different prosecutor, Jerzy Rucinski, blamed Morel for the deaths of 1,583 people and Mr. Morel was indicted in May, 1995 for crimes against the Polish nation.
There is a tremendous lack of evidence that Morel was ever involved in such crimes, and the fact that there was a widespread typhus epidemic has been established, and is even verified by anti-Morel crusader John Sack himself.
In short, the case against Morel is very weak. It amounts to one person's word against another person's word, and would certainly fail in any court of law in the United States.
Mr. Morel was in Israel at the time, and stayed there until he passed away on February 14, 2007. He was never was extradited to Poland because Israel said the statute of limitations had expired on the war crimes.
Now, however, when a Polish person wants to highlight how evil we Jews are, they inevitably turn to the case of Mr. Morel, despite the fact that there is no substantive evidence that Morel did anything wrong.
Polish anti-Semites need an excuse to blame Jews for crimes against Poland. In Morel's case they found an old and defenseless Jewish man who was easy to brand as a symbol of how evil Jews are to some people in Poland. A sad case indeed.
(1) Article 1 of this decree stated that "A Polish citizen who, during the German occupation, declared his allegiance to German nationality on the territory of the so-called General Government and voivodship of Białystok ... shall be subject to ... detention for an unspecified period in a detention centre (camp) and compulsory work", Dz.U [Official Journal] no. 11/44, item 54.
(2) Letter from Salomon Morel to the Regional Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish People in Katowice dated 7 XI 1992, IPN Ka, Case files..., pp 78-81, see also Oboz Pracy w Swietochlowicach w 1945 roku. Dokumenty, zeznania, relacje, listy [Labour Camp in Swietochlowice in 1945. Documents, testimonies, reports, letters], selected and edited by and with an introduction by A. Dziurok, Warsaw 2002, pp. 89-92.
(3) H. Piecuch, Akcje specjalne: od Bieruta do Ochaba [Special operations: from Bierut to Ochab],Warsaw 1996, pp. 27-28.
(4) G. Gruschka, Zgoda-miejsce zgrozy. Oboz koncentracyjny w Swietochlowicach [Zgoda, a place of doom. The concentration camp at Swietochlowice], Gliwice 1998, p. 51.
(5) J. Sack, Eye for An Eye, page 107.
(6) J. Sack, Eye for An Eye, page 113.