Monday, May 17, 2010

A "passionate interest in history" betrayed by lack of Historical Knowledge

A US coin collector, John Pennock “ACCG ANA PAN” claimed on a US Collectors’ forum not to be interested in a “middle road” to ethical collecting and preferred the extreme approach of the Ancient Coin Collectors’ Guild, an "Internationalist" organization. His opinion was
Being an ancient coin collector and not supporting the ACCG now, is akin to being Neville Chamberlin (sic) trying to appease Hitler by dividing Poland. That middle ground was an illusion then, as this is now”.

It seems to me that anyone saying they are collecting because of an interest in history might be expected to get that “history” right. In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, acquiesced to the beginning of the partition of Czechoslovakia, agreeing not to interfere with the annexation of the Sudetenland by Hitler. I wrote to Pennock off-list pointing out that this was not the “division of Poland” adding that “That happened at Yalta, and Roosevelt did that”. I actually made a point of signing the letter “Paul Barford, Warsaw Poland” just so he would know.

Unbelievably this is the reply I got:
You are wrong about Yalta and Roosevelt. That was a conference where the post-war fate of Poland was decided. Poland wasn't 'divided' there nor did appeasement take place there nor was Chamberlain there. Poland fell exclusively into the Soviet sphere and actually already was completely occupied by Russia. I'm not convinced you have firm grip on history or the lessons from it. But I'm pretty sure you won't write a blog about that.

Well, first of all, I said nothing about Chamberlain being at Yalta. It seems the coin collector is getting terribly confused. I really find it odd that if somebody sitting in Warsaw tells him that Poland was divided at Yalta, before writing that it was not, he might just check his facts before pressing the send button. Obviously he is too sure of himself to reach for the historical atlas. Before the Soviet invasion of September 17th 1939 (the one that led to the Polish officers who died at Katyn getting into Soviet hands) the eastern borders of the Second Republic extended far to the east of where they are now. The areas to the east of this line were "Poland" from the fourteenth century on, a huge area formed part of the Republic of the Two Nations until the eighteenth century partitions. Independent Poland after 1918/1919 again extended further to the east than Poland does today.

The eastern border of Poland, the one it has today was redrawn at Yalta. It cuts off the former eastern territories of the country and awarded them to the Soviet Union. Of course Pennock is also totally wrong writing that the area that is now Poland “actually already was completely occupied by Russia” at the time of the Yalta conference in February 1945.

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