The statement of the FBI director that the ones responsible for the Holocaust were “the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary” caused a lot of comments in the American media. The biggest newspapers not only criticized James Comey’s ignorance, but also explained why he was wrong, because for the average American, European history is black magic.
Anne Applebaum wrote in The Washington Post that the initiative of the FBI’s director recommending that agents visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is highly commendable, “But first he should make sure he’s understood what he’s seen.” The New York Times quoted the U.S. ambassador to Poland in Warsaw, Stephen Mull, who declared that James Comey’s words were “wrong, harmful and offensive.” And The Wall Street Journal emphasized that the director of the FBI “made a rare diplomatic rift between Washington and one of its closest European allies.” These allies were always speaking with one voice and The Wall Street Journal recalls that “for 44 years Poland had little say in the shaping of public memory about the war” and recovered its voice only after the fall of communism.
However, even if we had not lost four decades to propaganda, it would not help much. According to research conducted some time ago by The New York Times and the CBS television network, 40 percent of the U.S. population does not know that during the Second World War, their ancestors fought against the Germans, and 47 percent, that they fought against the Japanese. Three-quarters would never have imagined that the friendly Italians would stand up against the U.S. Nearly one-fifth believes that in the 1940s the United States fought against Russia. One in seven are surprised at the news that Russia participated in the struggle at all. While one-third suspects that Germany fought against Japan.
Forty-six percent of high school graduates do not know who Stalin was and 44 percent — Eisenhower. Hitler does not mean anything for one in six. Jaroslaw Gowin, who wonders if the director of the FBI really did not know what he was saying, or rather consciously wanted to do us harm, should be intrigued by the information that one-third of Americans cannot locate the U.K. on a map of Europe, and 34 percent — France. Italy is saved by the fact that it looks like a shoe. Only 12 percent of students finishing high school cannot find this shoe among colored spots.
At the same time, Americans are firmly convinced of their own superiority over Europe, and it is reflected in colloquial and media language. The opinion that the French do not bathe is shared both by a provincial farmer as well as an educated New Yorker. The very word “French” evokes an ironic smile. At best, he is a “Frenchie,” at worst, but still censored, a “surrender monkey,” a “cheese eater,” a “fart.” A German is a “kraut” which means “sour cabbage,” an Italian — a “guido,” a person from England —a “Brit.” Other European nations are less known in the U.S., so they do not have nicknames, although, for example, the word “Hungarian” causes loads of laughter. What is funny is that there is such a small nation. Slovakia and Slovenia are also funny, because they have similar names and confuse every normal person. In general, the Europeans are “Euroweenies,” “Euros,” and above all, “Eurotrash.”
From the end of the 1940s, for political and propaganda reasons, U.S. authorities and the media have consistently defined the U.S. enemy in World War II as “Nazis” instead of “Germans,” and thus the next generations of Americans slowly ceased to associate the ethnic origin of these mysterious criminals. In case of a Soviet invasion, Germany was the first bastion of the free world; Poland was the enemy having one of the strongest armies of the Warsaw Pact. And just like that, German concentration camps became “Polish death camps” and several years had to go by before the American media were forced to change the wording. But the director of the FBI does not work in the media, so he did not get the broadside.