The Forgotten History of Celtic Poland [VIDEO]

The Forgotten History of Celtic Poland [VIDEO]

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The ancient history of Poland is more connected with Goths and other local tribes than with the Celts. However, during many excavations archaeologists have discovered links between the modern territory of Poland and old Celtic tribes.

For example, archaeological excavations show that the Celts arrived and created a settlement in Poland. They probably came via the area of Morawy in the Czech Republic circa 400 BC. The first group arrived to Lower Silesia, south from the city Wroclaw. Another group of Celts created settlements in the area near Cracow (Kraków), and all the area of Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

By studying the discovered sites, Polish researchers started to realize that the culture of the territory of Poland in the late Iron Age was highly influenced by the Celtic culture. Poland has never been a part of the Roman Empire, so the influence of mixed aspects of different pre-Roman tribes, including the Goths, Scythians, etc., created the earliest history of the country in Central Europe.

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Archaeologists uncover Celtic smelting furnace in Poland that pre-dates Jesus

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Archaeologists in Poland made a delightful and exciting find near the city of Warkocz by excavating a Celtic iron smelting furnace that pre-dates Jesus, a find that further confirms how much the Celts influenced continental Europe and how much power they had in the region.

While we think of the Celts as being based in Scottish, Irish, British and Welsh history, they actually originated from central Eastern Europe, where Poland is located today. They began as the Hallstatt culture of the Iron Age, and their metallurgical skills soon helped them spread across Europe and into the British Isles, where their languages are still relevant today, including Gaelic, Welsh, and Irish.

Celtic shield found in London in the 1800s. Image via Wikimedia.

These metallurgy skills would not have been possible without iron smelting furnaces, which were dug into the Earth and lined with clay. These facilities gave the Celts a superior ability to produce the armor, helmets, and weaponry that would make them a dominant force throughout the land until the Romans defeated them and integrated them into their own society when Julius Caesar conquered Celtic Gaul in campaigns from 58 BC to 51 BC.

An intricately crafted ceremonial Celtic helmet. Image via Wikimedia.

But for centuries prior to that, the Celts were a powerful culture, in no small part thanks to their smelting skills.

Celtic bronze mirror. Image via Wikimedia.

And now, archaeologists led by Dr. Przemysław Dulęba from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław have uncovered one of their furnaces, complete with remnants of iron and slag inside along with other artifacts such as ceramic pieces, garment clasps and clothing items, as well as metal ornaments that all made it clear the furnace belonged to the Celts as far back as the 3rd century BC.

The remains of a Celtic smelting furnace found in Poland. Image via YouTube.

“The iron smelting furnaces that we discovered in Warkocz most probably come from this earliest phase of their stay in the lands of modern-day Poland,” Dulęba said in a statement. “The time of their arrival is a still poorly researched and mysterious period in the prehistory of southern and central Poland.”

Celtic smelting furnace demonstration via YouTube (see below)

Indeed, southern Poland is on the outer edge of the where the Hallstatt culture originated. But it should not have taken the Celts long to arrive there as it would have been a short journey north by horse. And the Celts were expert horsemen, even going on to serve as elite cavalry in the Roman military. The Romans would also go on to adopt the Celtic sword.

Celtic cavalry warrior as depicted on a Bronze plaque made around 400 BC. Image via Wikimedia.

While Celtic furnaces were more multi-purpose installations that served a wide variety of societal needs, later Roman furnaces were not.

”Interestingly, bloomeries (metallurgical furnaces) from the Roman period, i.e. a few hundred years later, were single-use installations,” Dulęba said.

These smelting furnaces were made to last, and the reason why this one was even found is that the team of archaeologists used a piece of special modern technology that can detect sites that were once exposed to high heat, which is necessary for metallurgy.

The furnaces were dug deep into the ground, and their interior lined with pugging (an insulating layer containing clay). Only a very small part protruded from the surface of the earth.

For now, researchers have opened only one small archaeological excavation but Dr. Dulęba says he believes there could be more furnaces in the area.

The archaeologists chose the excavation site after using a magnetic method that registers traces of old buildings and structures that were once strongly exposed to high temperatures.

One of several Celtic swords that have been found, demonstrating the artistry of their metallurgy skills. Image via Wikimedia. Another Celtic sword, albeit in worse shape. But you can still see the craftsmanship. Image via Wikimedia. A Roman spatha influenced by Celtic design. Image via Wikimedia.

The Celtic culture flourished for years and their smelting skills crafted many works that are currently on display today in museums around the world. By the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem around 4 BC, the Celts had already been largely conquered by the Romans, but their culture had existed for centuries and continues to persist today in small pockets where they once lived.

Stained glass depicting Jesus. Image via Wikimedia.

But the analysis and dating of the site are only just beginning as scientists prepare to employ radiocarbon dating to establish a more exact age.

”If expert research in the form of analyses and radiocarbon dating of burnt wood residues from furnaces confirms our assumption, we will be able to state with certainty that this is the first well documented Celt metallurgical workshop in modern-day Poland,” Dulęba said.

And that would truly be something to add to Polish history books, which is already influenced by the Celts, who introduced many tools and weapons to the region, forms which were still being used up to the 1800s.

The Celts introduced knowledge of the potter’s wheel and advanced iron metallurgy, with shears, axes, cutters, files and hammers in a similar form being used in Poland until the end of the pre-industrial era at the turn of the 19th century.

Poland should be proud of their Celtic heritage, for it shaped their nation just as much throughout history as other peoples and events. Perhaps more Celtic sites will be found near the smelting furnace and will shed more light on a culture that is still somewhat mysterious to us.

The Polabian Slavs

Once a large confederation of independent tribes, Polabian Slavs were gradually assimilated into France, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, and other neighboring countries. Today, all that remains of this vast nation are the Sorbs of Lusatia. Their territory is divided between Germany and Poland.

Nowadays, a greater part of Lusatia lies on the territory of German countries of Saxony and Brandenburg. But their original territory once included almost one-third of modern German lands, including the cities of Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig. Germanization started already in the early middle ages. Today, only around 60,000 Sorbs of Lusatia live on a tiny fraction of the territory they once occupied.

The decline of Sorbian-speaking territories. Wikipedia commons

Besides Sorbs, there were several other Slavic tribes to the north. The map below shows the original Slavic lands before the 10th century, now almost completely Germanized. The yellow line follows the course of the river Elbe to the North and the Sorbian March (Limes Sorbicus) to the south.

Genetics confirms this Slavic assimilation. According to Eupedia, dominant Slavic haplogroup R1a is the second dominant haplogroup in the Eastern and Northern parts of Germany. For this reason, Eupedia inserts the word “Germanic” between Balto-Slavic and Iranian. But only the R1b is a real Germanic haplogroup. This is obvious from the samples of other Germanic countries.

On this chart we see that one out of four modern Germans of the east and north Germany have Slavic origin one out of ten in the other parts. The assimilation of Slavs started around the 10th century but ended only around the twelfth. History knows these events as the Wendish crusade.


Written studies of the Celts, their cultures, and their languages go back to classical Greek and Latin accounts, possibly beginning with Hecataeus in the 6th century BC [1] and best known through such authors as Polybius, Posidonius, Pausanias, Diodorus Siculus, Julius Caesar and Strabo. Modern Celtic studies originated in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many of these classical authors were rediscovered, published and translated. [1]

Academic interest in Celtic languages grew out of comparative and historical linguistics, which was itself established at the end of the 18th century. In the 16th century, George Buchanan studied the Goidelic languages. The first major breakthrough in Celtic linguistics came with the publication of Archaeologia Britannica (1707) by the Welsh scholar Edward Lhuyd, who was the first to recognise that Gaulish, British and Irish belong to the same language family. [1] He also published an English version of a study by Paul-Yves Pezron of Gaulish.

In 1767 James Parsons published his study The Remains of Japhet, being historical enquiries into the affinity and origins of the European languages. He compared a 1000-word lexicon of Irish and Welsh and concluded that they were originally the same, then comparing the numerals in many other languages.

The second big leap forwards was made when the Englishman Sir William Jones postulated that Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and many other languages including "the Celtic" derived from a common ancestral language. This hypothesis, published in The Sanscrit Language (1786), would later be hailed as the discovery of the Indo-European language family, from which grew the field of Indo-European studies. [1] The Celtic languages were definitively linked to the Indo-European family over the course of the 19th century.

Although Jones' trail-blazing hypothesis inspired numerous linguistic studies, of which Celtic languages were a part, it was not until Johann Kaspar Zeuss's monumental Grammatica Celtica (volume 1, 1851 volume 2, 1853) that any truly significant progress was made. [1] Written in Latin, the work draws on the earliest Old Irish, Middle Welsh and other Celtic primary sources to construct a comparative grammar, which was the first to lay out a firm basis for Celtic linguistics. [1] Among other achievements, Zeuss was able to crack [ clarification needed ] the Old Irish verb.

German Celtic studies (Keltologie) is seen by many as having been established by Johann Kaspar Zeuss (1806–1856) (see above). In 1847, he was appointed professor of linguistics at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Until the middle of the 19th century, Celtic studies progressed largely as a subfield of linguistics. Franz Bopp (1791–1867) carried out further studies in comparative linguistics to link the Celtic languages to the Proto-Indo-European language. He is credited with having finally proven Celtic to be a branch of the Indo-European language family. From 1821 to 1864, he served as a professor of oriental literature and general linguistics in Berlin.

In 1896, Kuno Meyer and Ludwig Christian Stern founded the Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (ZCP), the first academic journal solely devoted to aspects of Celtic languages and literature, and still in existence today. [2] In the second half of the century, significant contributions were made by the Orientalist Ernst Windisch (1844–1918). He held a chair in Sanskrit at the University of Leipzig but he is best remembered for his numerous publications in the field of Celtic studies. In 1901, the Orientalist and Celtologist Heinrich Zimmer (1851–1910) was made professor of Celtic languages at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, the first position of its kind in Germany. He was followed in 1911 by Kuno Meyer (1858–1919), who, in addition to numerous publications in the field, was active in the Irish independence movement.

Perhaps the most important German-speaking Celticist is the Swiss scholar Rudolf Thurneysen (1857–1940). A student of Windisch and Zimmer, Thurneysen was appointed to the chair of comparative linguistics at the University of Freiburg in 1887 he succeeded to the equivalent chair at the University of Bonn in 1913. His notability arises from his work on Old Irish. For his masterwork, Handbuch des Altirischen ("Handbook of Old Irish", 1909), translated into English as A Grammar of Old Irish, he located and analysed a multitude of Old Irish manuscripts. His work is considered as the basis for all succeeding studies of Old Irish.

In 1920, Julius Pokorny (1887–1970) was appointed to the chair of Celtic languages at Friedrich Wilhelm University, Berlin. Despite his support for German nationalism and Catholic faith, he was forced out of his position by the Nazis on account of his Jewish ancestry. He subsequently emigrated to Switzerland but returned to Germany in 1955 to teach at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. In Berlin, he was succeeded in 1937 by Ludwig Mühlhausen [de] , a devout Nazi.

After World War II, German Celtic studies took place predominantly in West Germany and Austria. Studies in the field continued at Freiburg, Bonn, Marburg, Hamburg as well as Innsbruck however an independent professorship in Celtic studies has not been instituted anywhere. In this period, Hans Hartmann, Heinrich Wagner and Wolfgang Meid made notable contributions to the scientific understanding of the boundaries of the Celtic language area and the location of the homeland of the Celtic peoples. The Berlin chair in Celtic languages has not been occupied since 1966.

Today, Celtic studies is only taught at a handful of German universities, including those of Bonn, [3] Trier, [4] and Mannheim. [5] the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, [6] and the Philipps University of Marburg. [7] It is also taught at the University of Vienna. [8] Only Marburg, Vienna and Bonn maintain formal programs of study, but even then usually as a subsection of comparative or general linguistics. Only Marburg offers an M.A. course specifically in Celtic Studies. No Celtic studies research has taken place in the former centres of Freiburg, Hamburg or Berlin since the 1990s. The last remaining chair in Celtic studies, that at Humboldt University of Berlin, was abolished in 1997.

The only Chair of Celtic studies in Continental Europe is at Utrecht University (in the Netherlands). [9] [10] It was established in 1923, when Celtic studies were added to the Chair of Germanic studies on the special request of its new professor A. G. van Hamel. [11]

Celtic studies are taught in universities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. These studies cover language, history, archaeology and art. In addition, the Irish language is taught to a greater or lesser extent in schools across the island of Ireland.

The beginning of Celtic Studies as a university subject in Ireland might be dated to Eugene O'Curry's appointment as professor of Irish history and archaeology at the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854. Celtic Studies, either as full Celtic Studies programmes or as Irish language programmes, are now offered in the National University of Ireland, Galway, University College Cork, University College Dublin (the successor institution to the Catholic University), National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Dublin City University, Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University. The Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS), School of Celtic Studies, is a research institution but does not award degrees. DIAS and the Royal Irish Academy are leading publishers of Celtic Studies research, including the journals Celtica and Ériu.

Celtic studies are taught in universities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These studies cover language, history, archaeology and art. In addition, Celtic languages are taught to a greater or lesser extent in schools in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man.

The formal study of Celtic Studies at British universities in the late nineteenth century gave rise to the establishment of chairs for Sir John Rhys, first Jesus Professor of Celtic at the University of Oxford, in 1874 and for Donald MacKinnon, first Chair of Celtic at the University of Edinburgh, in 1882. Institutions in the United Kingdom that have Celtic Studies departments and courses are: the Universities of Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter (which houses the Institute of Cornish Studies), Glasgow, Oxford, Swansea, Trinity St David's, Queen's University Belfast, Ulster University, the University of the Highlands and Islands and the University of Wales, Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. The top five rated degree-awarding programmes/departments as of 2017 are (1) Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at University of Cambridge (2) Welsh and Celtic Studies at Bangor University (3) Welsh and Celtic Studies at Cardiff University (4) Celtic and Gaelic at University of Glasgow (5) Irish and Celtic Studies at Queen's University, Belfast.

A major funder of UK Celtic Studies doctoral studies is the AHRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in the Celtic Languages, which admitted PhD students in the period 2014–2019. The CDT in Celtic Languages is administered through Celtic and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow and its director is Prof. Katherine Forsyth.

While Celtic studies programs in Canada are not as widespread as they are in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England, several universities offer some Celtic studies courses, while only two universities offers a full B.A. as well as graduate courses. St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto and St. Francis Xavier University [12] offers the only B.A. of its kind in Canada with a dual focus on Celtic literature and history, while the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto [13] offers courses at a graduate level through their Centre for Medieval Studies, along with St. Francis Xavier University.

In the United States, Harvard University is notable for their Doctorate program in Celtic studies. [19] Celtic studies are also offered at the universities of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, [20] California–Berkeley, [21] California–Los Angeles, [22] Bard College, [23] and many others, [24] [25] including programs in which a student may minor, like at the College of Charleston. [26]

In 1804, the Académie Celtique was founded with the goal of unearthing the Gallic past of the French people. France also produced the first academic journal devoted to Celtic studies, Revue Celtique. Revue Celtique was first published in 1870 in Paris and continued until the death of its last editor, Joseph Loth, in 1934. After that point it was continued under the name Études Celtiques.

The University of Western Brittany (Brest) offers a two-year, an international European-Union certified master's degree course entitled “Celtic languages and Cultures in Contact”. It is part of the Centre for Breton and Celtic Research (CRBC). Closely linked to this MA programme, the University of Western Brittany organizes an intensive two-week Summer School in Breton Language and Cultural Heritage Studies every year in June. This Summer School is also sponsored by the CRBC and welcomes scholars from around the world with an interest in the Celtic (and minority) languages and cultures to study Breton, the least known of the living Celtic languages.

Celtic studies are also taught at other universities elsewhere in Europe, including the Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic), [27] University of Poznań (Poland), [28] The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland), Moscow State University (Russia), [29] Uppsala University (Sweden) [30]

Irish studies are taught at the University of Burgos (Spain) [31] and the University of A Coruña (Galicia). [32] Galicia also has its own Institute for Celtic Studies.

Celtic Studies are taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the University of Sydney (Australia), [33] which also hosts the triennial Australian Conference of Celtic Studies.

The International Congress of Celtic Studies is the foremost academic conference in the field of Celtic Studies and is held every four years. It was first held in Dublin in 1959. The XV International Congress of Celtic Studies was held at the University of Glasgow in 2015. In 2019, the XVI ICCS was held at Bangor University and the XVII ICCS will be held at Utrecht University in 2023.

  • Archaeology and philology (historical linguistics)
  • History (toponomy)
  • Religious studies (see Celtic Christianity)
  • Political science
    (1873–1950) (1899–1989) (1915–2010) (1891–1972) (born 1943) (born 1943) (1930–2013) (1881–1946)
  • Sir Idris Foster (1911–1984) (1882–1945) (1924–2017) (1928–2015) (1886–1945) (1926–1977) (1909–1991) (1848–1934) (1929–2017) (born 1969) (1855–1907) (born 1963) (born 1968) (born 1950) (1915–2004) (1858–1919) (1864–1929) (1873–1959) (1932–2020) (born 1966) (1894–1980) (1883–1953) (1887–1970)
  • Sir John Rhys (1840–1915) (born 1963) (1954–2011) (born 1949) (1900–1940) (1830–1909) (1936–2019) (1858–1938) (1921–2012) (1857–1940) (1933–2013) (1920–2005)
  • Sir Ifor Williams (1881–1965) (1912–1999) (born 1942) (1844–1918) (1806–1856) (1851–1910) (born 1946)
  • Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (ZCP), est. 1896, Halle.
  • Revue Celtique (RC), est. 1870, Paris continued after 1934 by Études celtiques.
  • Ériu est. 1904, Dublin.
  • The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies (BBCS), est. 1921, Cardiff merged with Studia Celtica in 1993.
  • Études Celtiques (EC), est. 1936, Paris.
  • Celtica. Journal of the School of Celtic Studies, est. 1949, Dublin.
  • Studia Celtica, est. 1966, Cardiff.
  • Éigse. A Journal of Irish Studies, est. 1939, Dublin.
  • Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies (CMCS), est. 1993, Aberystwyth formerly Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies.
  • Peritia. Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland, Cork.

The Derek Allan Prize, awarded annually by the British Academy since 1977, rotates between Celtic Studies, Numismatics and Musicology. Recent winners in the field of Celtic Studies include: Prof. Máire Herbert (2018), Prof. Pierre-Yves Lambert (2015) and Prof. Fergus Kelly (2012). [34] Prof. Herbert is the first female Celticist to be awarded this prize.

Forgotten history: The expulsion of ethnic Germans

Over centuries, millions of Europeans have been expelled for ethnic and political reasons, including Germans after World War II. A plan is finally on the table that might just honor the victims - and not Nazi crimes.

The idea for a documentation center where the fate of displaced people is told first came up 13 years ago. It was the end of the 1990s when Erika Steinbach, a conservative politician and president of the League of Expellees - an advocate group for Germans and their descendents who were expelled from eastern Europe after World War II, proposed her plans for a Center Against Expulsions. And her plan met with firm resistance.

Voices both in Germany and neighboring countries quickly pointed out that such an institution could present a lopsided view of history. In Poland, Steinbach was accused of labeling Germans as the victims in the aftermath of World War II, without adequately emphasizing that the fate of the ethnic Germans living in eastern Europe after the war was a consequence of the heinous crimes the Nazis had committed in Europe.

For years, Poland has been a major opponent of the plan to build a Center Against Expulsions in Germany and the political elite in Poland has lobbied at the highest political level to prevent Steinbach from implementing her initiative.

Steinbach's plan was at a stand still until 2008, when the German government decided to found its own organization tasked with creating a permanent exhibition on expulsion. To smooth over ties to Poland, Steinbach was left out of the picture entirely.

Erika Steinbach has ruffled feathers, particularly in Poland

The protests ceased, in both Poland and Germany. Poland trusted the German government to present a balanced historical view, according to official statements from Warsaw.

A matter of interpretation

In 2010, the first plans for an exhibition was presented to the public - and harshly criticized.

"There are two different approaches to dealing with the history of expulsion," said Robert Zurek, a Polish historian in Berlin. "One takes the view that expulsions in the 20th century were mainly a consequence of the National Socialists' policies on European states. That suggests, however, that not just the Nazi crimes but nationalistic tendencies in general are responsible for the way of expulsions.

"The second approach views the war and the Germans' atrocities as the main cause of expulsions in the East," explained Zurek.

Critics of the 2010 proposal said the fate of the German expellees was not sufficiently contextualized in the war. Some historians found it unacceptable to put the expulsion of ethnic Germans on the same level as other expulsions in Europe. They said that the relationship between cause and effect - that is, between the Nazi crimes and the expulsions of the Germans from eastern Europe - was not clear enough.

A look at the Germans who fled or were forced out of their homes in eastern Europe after World War II was intended to be "just" one focus of the permanent exhibition, placed in the larger context of expulsion throughout Europe during the 20th century, emphasized Bernd Neumann, Germany's minister for culture and media.

Robert Traba Polnisches Zentrum für Historische Forschung

According to the proposal, which is now gaining traction, the exhibition would consider "the context of the nationalistic policies of expansion, elimination and living space and their consequences." The reconciliatory aim of the exhibition was captured in the slogan: "Remember expulsions - Respect expulsions - Deepen reconciliation and understanding."

The European perspective

Though the expulsion of Germans is to be the main focus, the concept intends to take into account many different perspectives on expulsion in Europe and include the fates of other groups as far back as the 19th century.

Ethnic cleansing in the Balkans is a major issue, according to the proposal. Millions of Muslims were forced from their homes as a result of the Serbian uprising against Ottoman rule in 1804, the Greek independence movement starting in 1821 and the Balkan Wars from 1912 to 1913. The Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915 and 1916 is also to be touched upon.

The millions of people affected by Stalin's policies in the 1930s are another focus of the exhibition. "Forced labor, deportation, gulags, starvation and mass murder were part of the Stalinist terror," the proposal said.

The effects of totalitarianism, genocide and concentration camps as well as expulsions by Germans at the beginning of World War II will be addressed by the project. Then start of World War II saw massive displacements of people as the Nazis invaded neighboring countries and sending those who were politically or ethnically "unacceptable" to camps.

The proposal was developed by a team of 15 international historians, including two from Poland, who aim to make history come alive with personal stories.

A group of Germans is pictured leaving their village in East Prussia in 1946

Acceptance on all sides

Reactions to the paper have been positive thus far. "I am far away from being enthusiastic, but the concept seems to be a good basis for further discussion," said Robert Traba from the Polish Center for Historical Research in Berlin. Traba was one of the most outspoken opponents of Steinbach's suggested Center Against Expulsions and accused her of having a penchant for mythology.

After a long public silence, Steinbach has also commented on the current proposal. In an interview with DW, she underlined how glad she was that plans were becoming more concrete and that expulsions "were to be dealt with in a broad historical context and not only in the context of World War II."

As president of the League of Expellees, Steinbach has taken credit for the recent developments: "Of course the federal foundation is responsible for the project, but it shouldn't be forgotten that without the work of our foundation, Center Against Expulsions, a concept for this kind of institution never would have been developed."

The expulsions documentation center will be housed in Berlin's Deutschlandhaus, in close proximity to other institutions like the Topography of Terror documentation center, which is located in the former Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse.

In addition to the permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions on the issues of ethnic cleansing and deportation will be part of the program. First, however, the Deutschlandhaus building has to undergo renovation. The federal government is covering the project's estimated budget of 30 million euros ($38.6 million) and the exhibition is slated to open in 2016.

DW recommends

The rich, forgotten history of Poland and the Jews

“The Pity of It All,” a book by the Israeli journalist and historian Amos Elon, is a fascinating account of the travails of German Jewry from the mid-18th century till World War II. The final chapters are particularly disturbing and sobering, especially those devoted to assimilated Jews, who had never believed they were in mortal danger in Nazi-ruled Germany. “Perhaps they will treat harshly the Jews from Eastern Europe, but certainly not us,” one of them says.

How could Germany betray them? Of course, German Jews, like their brethren in other European countries, never enjoyed equal rights, they faced discrimination, humiliation, and forced conversion. Thousands switched to Christianity voluntarily in order to enable or accelerate their professional careers, or just to live in peace. On the other hand, they were much better off than the aforementioned Jews living in the eastern part of the continent. When Heinrich Heine, the most prominent and celebrated German poet of Jewish descent (a convert to Christianity himself), traveled to Poland in 1821, he was literally disgusted by what he saw and experienced in remote shtetls. Boundless destitution and despair. The contrast could not be more striking between Berlin’s concert halls and impoverished villages east of the Vistula river.

“Perhaps they will treat harshly the Jews from Eastern Europe, but certainly not us.” Adolf Hitler did not make that distinction. For him, all Jews were the incarnation of evil. Regardless of their countries of origin, their wealth, level of religiosity, education or political affiliation. The ruthless tyrant sentenced them all to death.

Polish Jews were no exception. Again: no matter their social status. Scholars and bankers, writers and lawyers, doctors and architects, singers and rabbis. They became equal in the face of imminent death at the hands of the German oppressors and their collaborators. They became equal in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other extermination camps. Like Jews from Germany, Hungary, France or Greece. A long history of the European Jewry, so tumultuous, but also so rich and enthralling came to an abrupt and dismal end.

During my two and half year tenure as ambassador of Poland I have been traveling a lot around Israel, meeting mostly young Jews, in secondary schools, colleges, universities, trying to shed some light on our shared past. The very first obstacle I came across was the pervasive perception of a majority of Israelis that our common history, the history of our two nations is invariably associated solely with those six dreadful years of World War II.

I invested plenty of effort and time to remind them that Jews had lived on Polish soil for more than nine hundred years. They always dreamed of their eternal homeland but found their temporary safe haven in our country. Many of them were poor but enjoyed religious freedom, they were allowed to set up their own businesses, they established networks of Jewish schools, theaters performing in Yiddish, they published books, dozens of newspapers. A flourishing landscape of Jewish culture. Heinrich Heine apparently didn’t see the whole picture.

Coexistence was not always easy, like in pre-war Germany, due to religious, social and even linguistic differences. Oftentimes my fellow countrymen did not behave humanely towards their Jewish neighbors. Nevertheless, for some reason, millions of Jews who fled other countries settled down in Poland. Over centuries, Polish monarchs granted them rights and privileges not seen anywhere else in Europe.

On the eve of World War II and just before Nazi Germany embarked on its genocidal endeavor, there were approximately 3.3 million Jews living in Poland. The largest such community on the continent. Nearly all of them were annihilated.

The Holocaust claimed about 6 million Jewish lives, roughly half of the victims were Polish citizens. That’s why when I meet with those young Israelis, I stubbornly emphasize the recurrent feeling that with the loss of the three million Polish citizens of Jewish origin during the war we, as a state and as a society, also lost an essential part of our own identity and historical legacy.

Jewish culture has always been a meaningful part of European civilization. Unfortunately over the last few years, it’s been again under growing strain, facing a new wave of anti-Semitism in a number of countries. Many Jews now live in fear, not only because of some preposterous conspiracy theories spread on the Internet, or online hatred they are confronted with on a daily basis, but also because a simple act of wearing a kippah in a public space has become, quite absurdly, a demonstration of civil courage.

If we don’t want to lose European Jews again, if we don’t want to lose part of our European culture and identity, we must speak out in one voice against all expressions of antisemitism. In France, in Germany, in Italy, in Sweden, in Poland. Everywhere. This should be our joint contribution to the noble task of perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust.

Remember the Forgotten Heroes

By some estimates, 2,520 veterans of the D-Day operation, the largest amphibious invasion in history, remain alive in 2021. Less well known are the troops of the First Special Service Force (SSF)–an elite group of Canadian and American fighters every bit as crucial to the victory over National Socialist (Nazi) Germany.

The Canadians were drawn from regiments such as the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, while the American ranks included lumberjacks, miners, and former bodyguards for Hollywood stars. At Fort Harrison in Montana, they trained in parachuting, skiing, hand-to-hand combat, and mountain climbing—skills soon to be put into practice.

After a campaign in the Aleutians, the SSF was off to Italy, where from Dec. 3 to 6, 1943, they engaged the Nazis at Monte la Difensa. The heavily laden SSF troops climbed the 3,120-foot peak through dense fog and snow. After this ordeal, easily the equivalent of a triathlon, the Canadians and Americans engaged the well-equipped Germans and after a fierce battle prevailed.

The SSF, also known as the “Devil’s Brigade,” repeated the feat at Monte la Rementanea and a month later took Monte Majo, which opened the Via Caslina, the main road to Rome. The SSF also fought at Monte Vishchataro, Anzio, Monte Arrestino, and Rocca Massima.

Despite their heroism, crucial to the Allied victory, the men of SSF have never received the recognition they deserve. Neither has Canada’s Eighth Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment, which included this writer’s uncle, James Richard Billingsley. Wounded twice in battle, once by a Nazi sniper, he returned to the front and fought on.

The motto of the Eighth Reconnaissance was “first in, last out.” True to form, on April 12, 1945, the regiment’s “B” squadron liberated Camp Westerbork in Holland, a Nazi transit station for Jews shipped to extermination camps at Auschwitz and Sobibor. The Canadians liberated 876 inmates and their actions surely saved many other lives.

The men of the Eight Reconnaissance, the SSF, and the D-Day forces would be surprised to hear that they fought to uphold something called “white privilege.” In reality, the privileged types were those who, though of age and able-bodied, declined to fight in World War II. They were known as “zombies” and the most notable Canadian zombie was future Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

In 1944, if anyone dared to call an SSF man a fascist or Nazi, that person would have needed immediate medical attention. In 2021, Allied veterans would be surprised to hear people of a conservative bent called Nazis, fascists, extremists, and so forth. That used to happen when people ran out of arguments, but for people on the left, name-calling is now their first resort.

The Canadians and Americans who scaled Monte la Difensa, stormed the beaches on D-Day, and saved Jews from death camps would also be surprised at the vast ignorance of the conflict in which they fought. For example, in a debate last October, President Trump said, “Having a good relationship with leaders of other countries is a good thing.” Joe Biden shot back, “That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he in fact invaded Europe.”

As Conrad Black noted, U.S. relations with Hitler were frosty from the start in 1933, and President Roosevelt withdrew the American ambassador after the infamous “Kristallnacht” pogroms in November of 1938. Biden’s claim that Hitler “in fact invaded Europe” is also a problem.

On Aug. 23, 1939, Hitler’s Nazi regime signed a pact with Communist dictator Joseph Stalin of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The pact provided cooperation on trade, military technology, cultural exchange, and contained secret protocols that divided up swaths of Europe.

On Sept. 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, effectively starting World War II. On Sept. 17, Stalin invaded Poland, and on Sept. 29, Hitler and Stalin divided up Poland, and the pact handed the Baltic States to Stalin.

On Nov. 30, 1939, Stalin invaded Finland. And on Dec. 14, the League of Nations expelled the USSR. The outgunned Finns duly turned back the Red Army, but Stalin continued to support his Nazi ally. On April 9, 1940, Hitler invaded Denmark and Norway.

On May 10, 1940, Hitler invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with full approval of the USSR. Then on June 22, 1941, Hitler turned the tables and invaded his Communist ally. One would think that a U.S. Senator running for president of the United States would be familiar with those facts.

The United States did not enter the war until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. That gave hope to those suffering under Nazi tyranny, but victory was not a done deal. The heroes of Canadian-American Special Services Force helped turn the tide and preserve freedom for generations to come. The people in power today are not worthy to carry their shoes.

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of “Yes I Con: United Fakes of America,” “Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation,” “Hollywood Party,” and other books. His articles have appeared in many publications, including Frontpage Magazine, City Journal, The Wall Street Journal, and American Greatness. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Most Americans, unaware of the killings in Elaine, continued to go about their lives.

The heroism of black soldiers in the war enhanced the struggle for black freedom, causing industrialists and plantation owners to brace themselves for the return of black veterans. As racialized violence spread in both Northern and Southern cities during the Red Summer of 1919, Delta planters were paying close attention. The violence occurred not only in the more familiar urban centers of Chicago and Washington, but also in the hinterlands of Omaha Charleston, S.C. Longview, Tex. and in the plantation region of the Arkansas Delta.


Late in the evening of Sept. 30, black sharecropper families gathered in the Hoop Spur church near Elaine. They came to discuss membership in an organization called the Progressive Farmers and Household Union, which would help them secure a fair price for the cotton they picked and to buy land. They aimed to hire a lawyer to represent them with the landlords. The 1919 cotton crop was the most profitable in history and they stood to make a good amount of money.

At 11 p.m., a band of white men shot into the church. Black guards returned the fire, killing a white agent of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. News of the shooting quickly reached the county seat of Helena. Soon, word spread that blacks were attacking whites in Elaine. By early morning Oct. 1, the sheriff sent white veterans from the American Legion post to suppress what he deemed an insurrection.

Calls went out to the governor for federal troops. Telephone lines to Elaine were cut. Throughout the day at least 1,000 white vigilantes came from all over the state and from Mississippi to join plantation owners, their managers, sheriffs, deputies and the veterans to put down what they called an uprising. It was effectively an invasion. By day’s end, countless black women, men and children had been slaughtered.

The following morning, Gov. Charles H. Brough of Arkansas and a World War I veteran, Col. Issac Jencks, personally escorted 583 soldiers, including a machine gun battalion, from Camp Pike in Little Rock, the state capital, to Elaine. Colonel Jencks sent all of the white women and children to Helena by train, ordered the immediate disarming of everyone and authorized the killing of black insurgents who failed to disarm. Then the real massacre began: For the next five days, Colonel Jencks and his troops, assisted by vigilantes, hunted black people over a 200-mile radius. They scorched and burned homes with families inside, slaughtered and tortured others. The troops were aided by seven machine guns.

On Oct. 7, Colonel Jencks declared the insurrection over and withdrew his troops. He brought the men and women deemed insurrectionists to the Phillips County jail in Helena. On Oct. 31, a grand jury indicted 122 black men and women for offenses ranging from murder to night riding. A jury convicted 12 black men in the murders of three white men, even though two of the deaths had occurred from white people accidentally shooting each other in a frenzy. The “confessions” of the black men had been secured through torture. Black people were thus blamed, sentenced and jailed for their own massacre.

Local officials and businessmen conducted their own investigation of what had transpired in the Elaine area. They produced a predictable narrative that resembled those dating back to slavery. In their view “a deliberately planned insurrection” had occurred, where black sharecroppers had intended to murder the plantation owners to seize the land. The findings blamed outside agitators for stirring up ignorant sharecroppers. The committee’s narrative appeared in newspapers all over the country. Colonel Jencks’s report of his mission supported this view, claiming only two black people and one of his corporals had died. He praised his troops for their restraint in suppressing the rebellion.

The official narrative presented a picture at odds with reality. According to several accounts from white witnesses, both vigilantes and the troops committed acts of barbarism. A local schoolteacher saw “28 black people killed, their bodies thrown into a pit and burned,” and “16 African Americans killed, their bodies hanging from a bridge outside of Helena.”

A Memphis reporter described events on Oct. 2 after the troops had arrived. Troops and vigilantes, he noted, went into the canebrakes in search of “negro desperadoes,” leaving dead bodies “lying in the road a few miles outside of the city. Enraged citizens fired at the bodies of the dead negroes as they rode out of Helena toward Elaine.”

Still others described the barbarism of “cutting off the ears or toes of dead negroes for souvenirs and the dragging of their bodies through the streets of Elaine.” Gerald B. Lambert, the founder of Listerine, who owned 21,000 acres near Elaine, saw white men spread throughout the woods, firing at any suspicious person. “A steel gondola car was hauled back and forth on the railroad track,” he said, adding, “the men inside firing from the shelter of the steel walls of the car,” shooting black people. He also told how soldiers brought a suspected union leader to his company store for interrogation, poured kerosene over his body and tossed a match.

The account that best captured the perspective of the sharecroppers came from Ida Wells Barnett, the legendary anti-lynching crusader and journalist. She had been driven from her home in Memphis to Chicago because of her activism. One of the convicted 12 wrote to her from prison, requesting help. Courageously, she dressed up as a sharecropper and went to Arkansas. There she interviewed the 12 prisoners accused of murder, their wives, and many others, publishing her findings in a 1920 pamphlet.

History and lore of Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival of May Day

Traditionally, Beltane honours life, and represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer.
This spring celebration is all about new life, fire, passion, and rebirth, in a time when the earth is lush and green, as new grass and trees return to life after a winter of dormancy, and flowers are abundant everywhere.
The Beltane holiday is the time when, in some traditions, the male energy of the god is at its most potent. He is often portrayed with a large and erect phallus, and other symbols of his fertility include antlers, sticks, acorns and seeds but, in addition to the lusty attributes of the god, the fertile womb of the goddess is honored at Beltane as well. She is the earth, warm and inviting, waiting for seeds to grow within her.

In some cultures, Beltane, that is basically the Gaelic May Day festival, is sacred to the Fairies.
Most commonly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice.
Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.
It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Samhain (1 November), Imbolc (1 February), and Lughnasadh (1 August), and is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and mythology.
Like Samhain, the holiday of Beltane is a time when the veil between the worlds is thin. Some traditions believe that this is a good time to contact the spirits, or to interact with the Fae. But be careful: if you visit the Faerie Realm, don’t eat the food, our you’ll be trapped there!
Also known as Cétshamhain (literally “first of summer”), it marked the beginning of summer and it was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were held at that time to protect cattle, crops and people from harm, both natural and supernatural, but also to to encourage growth, and this mainly involved the symbolic use of fire.

Not by chance, the word “Beltane” originates from the Celtic God “Bel”, meaning “the bright one” and the Gaelic word “teine” meaning fire. Together they make something like “Bright Fire”, or “Goodly Fire”, and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest, but also because their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers.
Bel had to be won over through human effort: traditionally, all household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire, which would have been used to relight people’s hearths in their own homes. In this way the community was connected to each other by the sacred fire which was central to all.
This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire.
People jumped the fire to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility, while couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other, and cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility.
These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí, often referred to as spirits or fairies, who were especially active on this day.
Doors, windows, byres and livestock would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire while, in parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush, typically a thorn bush or branch decorated with flowers, ribbons, bright shells and rushlights.
Holy wells were also visited, because Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness.
These celebrations had largely died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event.

In many cultures, there are different legends and lore surrounding the Beltane season. Let’s look at some of the magical stories about this spring celebration….

Some Irish dairy farmers hang a garland of green boughs over their door at Beltane. This will bring them great milk production from their cows during the coming summer. Also, driving your cattle between two Beltane bonfires helps protect your livestock from disease.
Eating a special oatcake called a bannock or a Beltane cake ensured Scottish farmers abundance of their crops for the year: the cakes were baked the night before, and roasted in embers on a stone.

A Beltane ritual usually involves lots of fertility symbols, including the obviously-phallic Maypole dance. The Maypole is a tall pole decorated with flowers and hanging ribbons, which are woven into intricate pattern by a group of dancers. Weaving in and out, the ribbons are eventually knotted together by the time the dancers reach the end.
However, the pious Puritans were outraged by the debauchery of Beltane celebrations, and they made Maypoles illegal in the mid 1600s. They also tried to put a halt to the “greenwood marriages” that frequently took place on May Eve. One pastor wrote that if “tenne maiden went to set (celebrate) May, nine of them came home gotten with childe.”

According to a legend in parts of Wales and England, women who are trying to conceive should go out on May Eve, the last night of April, and find a “birthing stone,” basically a large rock formation with a hole in the center. Walk through the hole, and you will conceive a child that night but, If there is nothing like this near you, find a small stone with a hole in the center, and drive a branch of oak or other wood through the hole. Place this charm under your bed to make you fertile.
In any case, babies conceived at Beltane are considered a gift from the gods, and they were sometimes referred to as “merry-begots” because the mothers were impregnated during Beltane’s merrymaking.

Was this Polish shtetl’s pre-Holocaust Jewish history forgotten, or erased?

When Jerusalem-based photographer and filmmaker David Blumenfeld decided to follow efforts to restore the Jewish cemetery in Ivansk, the Polish town where his grandfather was born, he didn’t realize he would become entangled in a project that would awaken dark memories of collaboration with the Nazis and spark a national furor in Poland.

Blumenfeld’s journey into Poland’s guilty past is captured in his new documentary “Scandal in Ivansk,” being shown to English-speaking audiences in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa on April 10-13.

I’ll speak to David after the screenings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv about the film and how it came to be made.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with David for many years. His photography accompanied my reporting on news in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip as he became a sought-after lens man for Time, Newsweek and other major international media. But the somber theme of “Scandal in Ivansk” is a far cry from the documentary film we made together, “Circumcise Me,” about the comedy of Jerusalem-based stand-up comedian Yisrael Campbell.

Descendants of Ivansk’s Jews, who in 1939 made up most of the town’s population before they were almost all deported and murdered by the Nazis, discovered that the ancient Jewish cemetery had almost been erased. The tombstones had disappeared. The memorial in the town square doesn’t mention Jews at all, and all the land and property once owned by the Jews was taken by their Polish neighbors.

“It was strange to think that before the war most of Ivansk was Jewish, yet today there was no trace of the Jewish shtetl that once existed here,” says Blumenfeld.

As the film unfolds and the ancient cemetery emerges from its neglected overlay of trees and scrub, a question haunts the town: Were the Jews forgotten, or was their presence here consciously suppressed?

The Jewish group begins restoring the cemetery and collecting the tombstones, stirring memories of the once-forgotten neighbors whose stores once lined the main square. Some residents want to forget. Others want to remember – and even apologize. There are whispers of theft, ghosts of betrayal, and dark mutterings of the ultimate sin: collaboration with the Nazis.

When the town mayor unveils a new memorial, the decades-old scandal of mass murder is supplanted by a new uproar. The inscription refers to “collaborators,” triggering a national debate about the role of Poles in the crimes of the Nazis.

Blumenfeld is on hand to witness and document these developments, accompanying the descendants of the town’s Jews as they seek to preserve the memory of their families, some of whom had lived in Ivansk for centuries.

“At first, I was cynical about going back to Poland. When I came across a dramatic testimony by the sole survivor from the town describing the day before the Nazis arrived, I knew I had to make this film,” says Blumenfeld.

“Aware of their impending fate, the rabbi gathered the Jews to bury their holy Torah scrolls in the Jewish cemetery. He made those assembled swear to one day ‘tell the world what the Nazis and their collaborators did to us here,’” Blumenfeld says.

“Little did I know that these words etched onto a stone monument 70 years later would cause a front-page, nationwide scandal across Poland, and set me onto an odyssey exploring the subject of memory through the lens of the often contentious relationship of Poles and Jews,” he says.

Blumenfeld’s timely film provides an intimate portrait of a community struggling with the politics of memory and history that helped forge Poland’s new legislation that banned any mention of “Polish” collaboration with the Nazis or “Polish” death camps.

The Polish educational system is “in a tragic situation,” the town’s baker tells Blumenfeld. “Once they used to say that history is lying. Today it doesn’t lie. It simply doesn’t exist. So it’s not that the Jews are harmed because we aren’t studying Jewish history in Poland. The Poles are also harmed because we aren’t studying Polish history.”

An academic recalls a poll by the Polish Academy of Sciences that found 61% of Poles believed that Poles suffered as much as or more than the Jews under the Nazis.

“Between Poles and Jews here is a struggle about victimhood and who is the ultimate victim,” says Prof. Havi Dreifuss of Tel Aviv University.

“During World War II the Poles were under a cruel Nazi occupation. This feeling of victimhood increased under the Soviet occupation. They were the ultimate victims. They couldn’t even imagine that there was someone in a worse situation,” says Dreifuss.

As Blumenfeld gets the elderly residents to open up about their memories of their Jewish neighbors, the hidden secrets of the town’s guilty past tumble out. They recall how the Nazis chased the Jews through the streets, shooting the elderly and sick who couldn’t keep up. One day, the Jews were marched into the town square and forced to dump all their belongings before being marched off to the train station.

A resident reveals what happened to those items – and to the homes and land the Jews left behind. “Many of the Poles became rich from this,” he says.

And what happened to the precious Torah scrolls?

The rabbi thought they would be safe buried in the cemetery, but did he really understand the neighbors who had shared their little town?

‘Scandal in Ivansk’ screenings with English subtitles:

Tuesday, April 10, Jerusalem Cinematheque, 6:30 p.m. DETAILS HERE
Thursday, April 12, Tel Aviv Cinematheque, 5:30 p.m. DETAILS HERE
Friday, April 13, Haifa Cinematheque, 5:30 p.m. DETAILS HERE

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Watch the video: Στο πλευρό της Μυρτούς η Πολιτεία. Παρέμβαση Πλεύρη για την μετάβασή της σε κέντρο αποκατάστασης (July 2022).


  1. Akikree

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  2. Kasim

    I thought and deleted my thought

  3. Vogami

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  4. Leaman

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