Swank Filer, Where Are You?—Reprise

Santa Cruz, Calif.

I agree with Julie May [“Letters,” Dec. 3]. Frank Lewis’s puzzles were precise, clever and often funny. The current puzzles rely heavily on anagrams that often have little relationship to the clues. One might as well play number games.


Falls Church, Va.

Frank Lewis had a unique style that no other cryptic setter could possibly imitate, any more than another cartoonist could have drawn Gary Larson’s “The Far Side.” That said, Messrs. Kosman and Picciotto are producing the best American cryptic of the moment. Their clues are everything a cryptic clue should be: elegantly constructed, original and witty. The puzzles play fair and are eminently solvable with a bit of practice. Keep up the good work, guys!



Do not encourage Kosman and Picciotto to change their puzzles or clues in any way. I enjoy the additional solving required to figure out, after the grid is filled in, several of the clues in order to determine why the corresponding answers are correct.


Poland in Wartime

Madison, Wis.

John Connelly’s “The Noble and the Base” [Dec. 3], on Poland and the Jews in World War II, while careful in historical detail, lapses into the old rhetoric of the Cold War in the following areas: (1) blaming the Soviet forces for the Nazi slaughter of the Polish Home Army in Warsaw in August 1944. Read the memoirs of General Zhukov of the Red Army, in which he gives the Russian side of the story and refutes this claim; (2) claiming that the Soviets placed all Poles who wanted to fight the Nazis into camps; this is also refuted by General Zhukov—the First Army of the Wojsko Polskie fought shoulder to shoulder with the Red Army and entered Warsaw on January 17, 1945; (3) Polish scholars as well as Communist and left scholars overlooked or minimized Polish anti-Semitism for political gain: readers should consult Polish-Jewish historian Ber Mark’s Uprising in
the Warsaw Ghetto on the Home Army
and public anti-Semitism, and Yuri Suhl’s They Fought Back, which has many first-person accounts of the Jewish Resistance and anti-Semitism in Poland and elsewhere. It also credits the honest contributions of those on the left fighting fascism and anti-Semitism.

While we know the many crimes of 
Stalin and some of his supporters, we must not broadly include all of the left in that analysis. Careful parsing of the historical record is needed. Unfortunately, we are getting more tales of this period that are rehashing the old “red equals black” ideology while giving the West a benign patina.


East Hampton, N.Y.

For many years, my wife and I lived in lower-middle-class Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and near Riverhead, New York, both with large Polish populations. We found Poles to be the most tolerant of people, especially because, as an interracial white/African-American Puerto Rican couple fifty-five years ago, we were denied apartments in largely Jewish Flatbush and were told not to try to get an apartment in then largely Italian-American East New York or Howard Beach. It would be dangerous.

How, I remember asking, could people who were so generous to us have been so brutal to their own countrymen? The answer often given me was tinged in resentment: Poles suffered a Holocaust of 2 million dead and millions more enslaved, and the world ignored it. Unspoken, I believe, was that Jews, many of them Hasidim, lived as a separate society. According to one study, 75 percent of Jews living in Poland for hundreds of years did not speak Polish or consider it their first language. Interaction between Poles and Jews was not like a band of brothers, especially in the countryside. They were two nations, if you will, being destroyed by the same malevolent force. Was a segment of occupied Poland’s population rapacious and brutal? Unquestionably. Could the Poles have done more to save Jews? Yes. Everyone could have done more.


Connelly Replies

Berkeley, Calif.

Ronald Kent’s letter suffers from some inaccuracies. I don’t claim that all Poles who wanted to fight the Nazis were sent to camps, and indeed mention Polish soldiers fighting their way into Germany from the east (attached to Soviet armies). I’m thankful for the references to Mark and Suhl but am aware of no writings on anti-Semitism in the Polish anti-Nazi underground produced by historians in Communist Poland.

I do not share Kent’s understanding of  the word “left.” The left that I have felt part of from the early 1980s does not involve necessary sympathy for the system created by the CPSU. The left I feel allegiance to takes the memoirs of General Zhukov, printed under Soviet censorship, with a massive grain of salt. 

Zhukov may be right in stating that Soviet forces were exhausted when they reached the gates of Warsaw in the summer of 1944. Still, nothing compelled them to deny landing rights on Polish territories they controlled to US aircraft hoping to aid the Polish insurgents (the airplanes could not make it back to their bases in Italy or Britain without refueling).

By starving the Polish capital of assistance in 1944, Soviet leaders were continuing the policies of eliminating Polish elites that they had inaugurated in the 1930s (by, among other actions, killing off the leaders of the Polish Communist Party), and continued in 1940 at Katyn with the massacre of thousands of Polish reserve officers. It’s precisely in the post–Cold War period that we recognize the broader intent behind such crimes: it was genocidal.

Jan and Irena Gross make clear that Poles did not have a monopoly on baseness, and cite instances of plundering of Jewish property by other populations: Soviet soldiers, Lithuanians, Greeks, Germans and Austrians. Police units staffed by Germans and Austrians but also Ukrainians, Belorussians, French and Hungarians assisted in the Final Solution. Golden Harvest is a case study of one national context—the one that concerns the authors the most—but its questions and methods can be extended to other places.



Reno, Nev.

On Eric Alterman’s use of the word “bullshit” in his “Liberal Media” column [Dec. 3]: the great journalist Izzy Stone declared during the turbulent 1960s that shouting four-letter words is no argument, and calling cops pigs is incivility.


Alterman Replies

New York City

“Bullshit” has eight letters.