Poles seek remains of long-lost Nazi German troops AFP 11/14/2008
HEL, Poland: The time-darkened skulls, tibias and other human bones emerged slowly as the diggers worked knee-deep in the white sand of a pine forest on this narrow spit jutting from Poland's Baltic Sea coast.
"It's time for these soldiers to rest in peace, with dignity. And for their relatives to have a place to pray," said Jerzy Romel, a Pole who has put aside the deep-rooted hatred stemming from Nazi Germany's World War II occupation.
Along with fellow volunteers who have answered the call of the Pamiec (Memory) foundation, he is trying to locate, identify and rebury some of the hundreds of thousands of German troops who fell in this country. At the site, the diggers were carefully lifting the bones by hand, placing them on stretchers and then wrapping them in blue plastic bags.
Poles have never forgotten the brutality of World War II. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and carved up Poland in 1939. On the German side of the line, around six million people were killed, half of them Polish Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
In 1941, Germany turned on its erstwhile ally, and fought its way deep into the Soviet Union.
But by the summer of 1944, Soviet forces were rolling back the Nazis in Poland and driving towards Berlin, whose defenders surrendered in May 1945. Sixty-three years after the end of the war, at least 1.2 million German soldiers and civilians are still unaccounted for.
Efforts to resolve their fate were hampered by the tense post-war relations between West Germany and the Soviet-led communist bloc, of which Poland was a part. But the fall of the region's regimes in 1989- 1991 brought a thaw, opening the way for the restoration of official German cemeteries and a renewed drive to locate long-lost battlefield burials.
Three million German soldiers died in eastern Europe, 500,000 of them in Poland, and many lay forgotten for decades.
"Since 1990, Pamiec has exhumed and reburied the remains of more than 160,000 German soldiers from World War II," said the foundation's head Iza Gruszka.
Excavation director Maciej Milak said his team had expected to find just 270 bodies at Hel, but that the total was closer to 1,000, making it one of the largest burial grounds discovered in recent years.
"Lots of the soldiers had fractured or even amputated legs. They were probably mutilated by Soviet shelling," he said. "We think there's another mass grave at Hel, somewhere under the dunes," he added.
Tomasz Loz, a history student from nearby Gdynia, was carefully combing the site with a metal detector. "It's crucial to find dog- tags with the soldier's identification number," he said.
Suddenly his detector began to beep, and he carefully dug into the sand, producing a dog-tag from among the bones. "Number 2000. A round number!" Loz exclaimed, before decoding the details struck in the metal. "He served in the 34th infantry company. Blood group A," he said.
"This man must have died at the hospital around 200 metres (yards) from here, because he was buried in just his socks," he added.
Scientists say Copernicus' remains, grave found By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA 11/20/08
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus by comparing DNA from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th-century astronomer's books.
The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe.
Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski told a news conference that forensic facial reconstruction of the skull that his team found in 2005 buried in a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Frombork, Poland, bears striking resemblance to existing portraits of Copernicus.
The reconstruction shows a broken nose and other features that resemble a self-portrait of Copernicus, and the skull bears a cut mark above the left eye that corresponds with a scar shown in the painting.
Moreover, the skull belonged to a man aged around 70 — Copernicus's age when he died in 1543.
In addition, Swedish genetics expert Marie Allen found that DNA from a tooth and femur bone matched that taken from two hairs retrieved from a book that the 16th-century Polish astronomer owned, which is kept at a library of Sweden's Uppsala University where Allen works.
Gassowski is head of the Archaeology and Anthropology Institute in Pultusk, in central Poland, and Allen works at the Rudbeck Laboratory of the Genetics and Pathology Department of Uppsala University.
Copernicus was known to have been buried in the 14th-century Frombork Cathedral where he served as a canon, but his grave was not marked. The bones found by Gassowski were located under floor tiles near one of the altars.
Gassowski's team started his search in 2004, on request from regional Catholic bishop, Jacek Jezierski.
Copernicus is believed to have come up with his main idea of the Sun at the center of the universe between 1508 and 1514, and during those years wrote a manuscript commonly known as Commentariolus (Little Commentary).
His final thesis was only published, however, in the year of his death. His ideas challenged the Bible, the church and past theories, and they had important consequences for future thinkers, including Galileo, Descartes and Newton.
Polish tests 'confirm Copernicus' By Adam Easton BBC News, Warsaw
Computer technology helps reconstruct image of Copernicus
Researchers in Poland say they have solved a centuries-old mystery and identified the remains of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
A comparison of DNA from a skeleton in Poland and strands of the astronomer's hair found in a book in Sweden almost certainly confirm it is his skeleton.
Archaeologists found the skeleton in north-eastern Poland three years ago in a cathedral where Copernicus lived.
He worked in Frombork Cathedral on the Baltic Sea coast in the 16th Century.
Copernicus was one of the key proponents of the idea that the Earth orbits the Sun.
For many years he was a canon and only carried out his astronomical studies in his spare time. People had speculated about his final resting place for centuries.
Three years ago, archaeologists dug up a skull and partial remains of a man aged about 70, Copernicus' age when he died, near an altar at the cathedral.
Jerzy Gassowski, the leader of the archaeologists' team, said forensic facial reconstruction of the skull found that it bore a striking resemblance to existing portraits of the father of modern astronomy.
Scientists then matched the DNA from one of the skull's teeth and a femur bone with two strands of Copernicus' hair.
The hair was found in a book once owned by the astronomer now kept in Sweden's Uppsala University.
Studying in Poland easy, but useless? thenews.pl 19.11.2008
Even though in Poland you can be admitted to university without much difficulty, a Polish degree does not guarantee you a career, according to research by the EU think-tank Lisbon Council.
According to the study conducted in 14 EU countries plus the United States, Switzerland and Australia, the best educational systems are in Australia, Great Britain, Denmark and worst in Germany, Austria and Spain.
Of all surveyed countries, in Poland it is easiest to start university education, but the country's weakness is a lack of adjusting the curriculum to the demands of the job market. Hence, in the ranking of countries where studies guarantee a good job, Poland came last in 17th place.
Since a Polish university degree is not enough in Poland's competitive job market, more and more Polish people want to study abroad. Currently Poles are the 6th largest group of foreigners at British universities.
Data of the Higher Education Statistics Agency indicate that in the academic year 2006/2007, there were 6,770 Poles studying in the UK, while only a year earlier, the number of Polish students amounted to 4,325. Additionally, some 14,000 Poles are studying in Germany.
The President of Kraków, Poland's cultural and spiritual capital nestled in the south of the country, has overturned a somewhat anti-festive bylaw that banned people from dressing up as Santa in the run up to St. Nicholas' day on 6th December. After over a century, the rotund saint is welcome back on the streets of the city, along with his entourage of winged angels and little devils.
John Beauchamp reports
On the 22nd November 1894 the President of Kraków, a certain Józef Friedlein, banned Santas from roaming the streets and taverns of the city. 'How miserable', Cracovians may have claimed, yet the bylaw was passed as a worrying number of Saint Nicholas lookalikes back in those days would often abuse their festive powers by rolling around drunk with red noses that even Rudolf would have been jealous of. It got so bad that even local police reports showed a significant number of Santas being drunk and disorderly. The story goes that back at the end of the 19th century, many a bricklayer would have been out of work for the winter season, and would have decided to dress up as Santa to earn some extra cash. The good matrons of Kraków hired these rogue Santas to come to their homes for the benefit of their children, but rather than pay them with actual money, they sometimes paid in kind, meaning that the Santas often left rather sloshed on vodka.
Ever since that moment, Santas by law were not allowed to solicit children (or their parents) to give them their presents in public places for over 110 years, until now. In anticipation of St. Nicholas' Day on 6th December, traditionally the date in Poland when presents are handed out by St. Nicholas, President Jacek Majchrowski overturned the age-old bylaw earlier this week, thus meaning the happy return of a (hopefully) sober Saint Nicholas to Kraków's Main Market Square, followed by his posse of an angel and a devil, as well as any other members he may chose to have in his entourage. So if you see a red nose this year in Kraków, hopefully it'll belong to the reindeer and not a sozzled Santa.
Poland won't sign cluster bomb ban The Warsaw Business Journal 3rd December 2008
A treaty banning the production, storage and use of cluster bombs is to be signed today in Oslo by some 100 countries, however Poland won't be one of them
Representatives from some 100 countries will gather in Oslo to sign a treaty banning the production, storage and use of cluster bombs, but Poland will not be one of them.
The treaty, agreed upon in Dublin in May, outlaws cluster bombs, which explode into hundreds of smaller charges, but many fail to explode at once and a vast number of civilians are killed months or years after the initial explosion. According to Handicap International, about 100,000 people have been maimed or killed by cluster bombs around the world since 1965, of which 98 percent were civilians.
Poland is among the cluster bomb makers and users, which include United States, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan. These countries have objected to the ban and refused to sign the treaty.
Poland has argued that it won't sign the treaty until the same is done by its neighbor Russia. Polish generals have also said that the country cannot afford to produce a different weapon that would be more precise. Among the supporters will include the majority of EU and NATO member states.
Meanwhile, President-elect Barack Obama has shown a willingness during his election campaign to limit harm to civilians caused by the weapons and human rights campaigners have urged Obama to sign the treaty for the US.
Shame on You, Poland, for Cluster Bombs Milada Jêdrysik Gazeta Wyborcza 2008-12-02
Tomorrow in Oslo over one hundred countries will sign a convention banning the production, storage, and use of cluster munitions. Among them will be a majority of EU and Nato member states. There will be the UK, France, Germany, and Italy.
Poland is a manufacturer of cluster bombs. Such bombs are one of the most perfidious types of weapons. The shell explodes into hundreds of smaller charges, many of which do not explode at once. That is why a vas majority of victims are civilians, killed many months or even years later.
Polish generals do not want the convention ratified until the same is done by our neighbours - meaning Russia. Poland also says it cannot afford to introduce a weapon instead that would be more precise and less dangerous for civilians.
These arguments could be considered rational, but we are talking about Poland here. A country proud of its peaceful transition from communism to democracy, a transition aided by Solidarity, a great non-violence movement, which many of this cabinet's ministers were members of. Starting with the prime minister. And now Poland shirks signing such an important peaceful treaty. A shame, after all.
In 2005 Russians went mad when Warsaw council named a roundabout crossroads after a famous Chechen leader, Dudayev. The brawl that started then was the direct cause of my engagement in forum life on the NEt. Today, it seems another country has a problem. China angry at Free Tibet roundabout, Warsaw thenews.pl 09.12.2008
The Chinese government has expressed its displeasure at plans by local councillors in Warsaw to name a roundabout in honour of Tibetan's struggle for autonomy from Beijing.
The planned roundabout in the Wola district, in the west of the Polish capital, would be a symbol of "solidarity" with Tibetans and the Dalai lama, who is currently on a week long trip to Poland.
Poland's foreign secretary, Radek Sikorski, has said that the Chinese have every right to express their opinion.
The Dalai Lama continued his tour today by visiting Wroclaw where he visited the Carmelites Convent and will receive honorary citizenship of the south western city tomorrow.
Embassy events 2008 Al Gore receives honorary doctorate title in Poland
12 December 2008
Al Gore receives the honorary doctorate degree from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Former US vice-president and Nobel Peace prize laureate Al Gore received an honorary doctorate title: Doctor Honoris Causa from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, announced James Wolfe, Press Attaché. The ceremony took place on Thursday, December 11th in Poznań where the COP14 Climate Conference was wrapping up. The Adam Mickiewicz University Senate awarded the honorary degree in recognition of Gore’s efforts to increase environmental awareness across the Globe. US Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe was among the honored guests.
In his official acceptance speech, the former US politician and environmental campaigner voiced hope that the UN-sponsored conference will contribute to new ways of thinking about the environment, reported the Associated Press. "The delegates must free themselves of the old, outdated way of looking at the planet," he said. "Some changes will occur, but the worst of the consequences can be avoided if we act."
Gore made a reference to the Polish astronomer Mikołaj Kopernik (Copernicus) and said that just as man once thought the sun revolved around the Earth, misperceptions may mislead us to believe there is little urgency to fight climate change. Gore won the Nobel prize in 2007 for “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”
Polish children some of the most tech-savvy in Europe thenews.pl 18.12.2008
Children in Poland have been ranked among the most modern in Europe – as many as 72 percent of 10-year-olds use the Internet everyday and almost half of them possess a mobile phone.
According to the newest Eurobarometer survey, in recent years Poland has advanced to the group of ten countries with the largest proportion of children possessing a mobile, as well as using the Internet everyday.
Only three years ago the youngest Poles between six and 17 years of age were at the rear of the ranking: only 32 percent of children had their own cell phone, while the European average was 36 percent. Today as many as 75 percent of Polish kids possess their own mobile.
This result is better than among kids in Germany (63 percent), Great Britain (58 percent) or France (50 percent).
Almost 42 percent of Polish 6-10-year-olds have also their own camera. The European average is only 26.5 percent. In Germany 32 percent of kids possess a camera, in Great Britain 24 percent and in France only seven percent.
Young Poles are also among the most eager to use the Internet every day – as 72 percent children does so. For comparison in Italy its only 34 percent.
Three bombs, probably from the WW II period, have been found by construction workers in Gryfin, north-western Poland.
After people were evacuated from the neighbouring town council building and clinic, sappers started removing the missiles.
"Three unexploded missiles have been found, one has its fuse intact," said Michal Kubiak from the police in Gryfin, adding that missiles have been discovered by construction workers near the Town Council in Gryfin.
The site has been sealed off by police, who have removed cars standing in the neighbourhood and closed the road to the hospital.
All the services including firemen, ambulance, police and sappers have arrived on the spot.
A similar situation has been reported in Jaworzyna, Silesia, where an unexploded missile was found during construction works and the evacuation of the neighbouring houses is envisaged.
Guantanamo prisoners to be sent to Poland? thenews.pl 24.12.2008
Poland would be willing to take prisoners from Guantanamo detention camp, after the new Obama administration closes it down.
Some prisoners from Guantanamo are likely to be kept in European countries, including Poland.
According to the head of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, Krzysztof Lisek of the ruling Civic Platform, there are no political obstacles to put such a plan into practice.
"If our ally submitted a request like that, we wouldn't refuse," Lisek said. "But we do know the situation of the Polish penitentiary system, the cramped conditions in the jails and a notorious lack of places. So in practice this would be extremely hard," he adds.
Opposition MP and deputy head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Pawe³ Kowal is of a similar opinion: "We should act in accordance with the obligations we have towards our ally, but also in accordance with the law".
And it remains unclear whether keeping foreign prisoners in detention could be reconciled with the international conventions Poland observes.
According to the Rzeczpospolita daily, the US administration has asked the previous government to accept a few prisoners from Guantanamo. Warsaw however, turned the offer down, as they believed this would put Polish soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq in danger.
Spokesman for the Foreign Ministry Piotr Paszkowski said Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has not made a decision on the matter as yet.
The liquidation of Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba was promised by the US president-elect Barack Obama in an attempt improve the image of the US around the world.
Poles spend close to 200 million zlotys on Christmas trees thenews.pl 23.12.2008
This year Poles have bought 4 million Christmas trees on which they have spent just over 193 million zlotys.
But this is merely one percent of all Christmas expenses in Poland.
For the same amount of money as spent on Christmas trees Poles would be able to fund a much needed new plane for transporting top officials or finance the construction of the National Stadium for EURO 2012 finals.
Traditionally Christmas tree prices depend on the type of conifer and on its size. The most popular Christmas tree is made of spruce, which is more associated with Christmas and is cheaper than fir. On average the tree costs some 50 zlotys, but it is possible to find one for as little as 20 zlotys. Ordering via the Internet including the delivery and a stand one can expect to pay more than 200 zlotys.
The prices are likely to drop shortly before the Holidays, in last hours before the Christmas Eve, when the sellers are trying to get rid of the trees before it's too late.
A cover montage published by Poland's Wprost shows Erika Steinbach, the president of Germany's Federation of Expellees in a Nazi dominatrix uniform straddling former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Steinbach is hated in Poland because of her efforts to build a Center Against Expulsion that would document the Germans who were forcibly expelled from Poland after World War II.
The Court of Appeal in Cologne , Germany , has ruled that Poles distributing leaflets depicting Erika Steinbach with a figure from the Nazi SS libeled the head of the German Federation of Expellees.
The Court of Appeal has agreed with a lower court which previously forbade members of Polish Trusteeship (Powiernictwo Polskie) to distribute the leaflet. It also ordered them to pay Erika Steinbach 50,000 euro in damages, as well as to cover the costs of trial.
The offending leaflet, which shows the German Federation of Expellees head Erika Steinbach - who represents the interests of Germans who were either expelled after World War II or fled their homes in Central and Eastern Europe – with an SS man and a medieval knight who appear on the leaflet is accompanied by a a phrase of a speech by Adolf Hitler.
Erika Steinach, offended when she learnt about the leaflet, sued the Polish Trusteeship for deformation of character. The trustee members in turn, claim that they had a right to demonstrate against the dangerous activity of the Federation of Expellees.
"I didn't expect any other verdict," said Senator Dorota Arcieszewska – Mieleczyk of the Polish Trusteeship, adding that it will not hinder her association' s battle with Steinbach.
Erika Steinbach's Federation of Expellees came in for strong criticism in Poland , after the newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported in 2003 that at a meeting of her federation, materials glorifying the 1939 invasion of Poland were available for sale.
US airport security harasses elderly Poles?thenews.pl 22.12.2008
More and more Poles complain about the US airport immigration services: even the elderly pare being harassed.
Dziennik reports of one 73-years-old Polish woman, who was delayed from visiting her son and grandson in New York after she was taken from the airport to a cell in handcuffs.
According to the officers, the woman had violated US immigration law – a few years earlier she illegally prolonged her stay in the US.
In November another Polish woman aged 81 was also transported to custody in handcuffs.
Poland's foreign ministry has already complained to US consul-general to Poland, Philip Mine.
"We respect the right of US law to refuse Polish citizens on their territory. But we decided to point to the humanitarian aspect of the case," explains foreign ministry's spokesman Piotr Paszkowski. Paszkowski.
To avoid such cases in the future the US is considering launching an information campaign in Poland on its immigration law.
Only this year the US Citizenship and Immigration Services have sent back home several dozen Poles who landed on the US soil. The number of rejected Poles increased with every month – in November as many as 13 were forced to return to Poland, more than any other month this year.
US airport security harasses elderly Poles?thenews.pl 22.12.2008 More and more Poles complain about the US airport immigration services: even the elderly pare being harassed. Dziennik reports of one 73-years-old Polish woman, who was delayed from visiting her son and grandson in New York after she was taken from the airport to a cell in handcuffs. According to the officers, the woman had violated US immigration law – a few years earlier she illegally prolonged her stay in the US.
Americans are strict on law - they handcuf everybody who law breaking. Even a old woman. Strach siê baæ.