The Camp of the Sane and the Camp of the Saints; Poland and the Erosion of Western Sanity,
by Max Denken
Reviewed by Ursula Oleksyn
Once in a decade a book comes along that opens a window to something that was unseen before because there was no window. Such is Max Denken’s The Camp of the Sane and the Camp of the Saints; Poland and the Erosion of Western Sanity, 2015-2020, a samizdat work that no mainstream publisher would touch in the times of our Neo-Maoist Cultural Revolution.
Since the book is mainly about Poland’s struggle against a wide international front attacking it since the PiS government took power, it matters that Denken was born in communist Poland to survivors of what he calls “the twin Holocausts,” with his whole family gone other than parents and a few cousins. That half-Jewish/ half-Polish (Slav) background is common to other writers, e.g. Jan Gross and Adam Michnik, but they seem to identify with their Jewish half from the left while Denken identifies with his Polish half from the right His abbreviated CV is in the preface of the book and it alone could serve as a basis for a gripping book.(1)
As the title itself implies, the book’s account of the contemporary war-on-Poland is set in the larger context of what Oswald Spengler called already in 1918 “The Downfall of the West.” Denken posits that the downfall is so advanced now that it has become irreversible. It’s not just an opinion; the book is crammed with facts and most of its assertions are referenced in 1,000 end-notes. That downfall is driven by Denken’s “Camp of the Saints” which is an all-West extension of the title of Jean Raspail’s 1973 novel about the suicide of France through an invasion of “migrants.”
Denken dwells on the reasons for the West’s downfall in total disregard of political correctness and all the contemporary Orwellian newspeak. He describes America’s self-sabotage and Western Europe’s/ European Union’s even faster self-destruction. He examines with particular attention Germany’s suicide and the paradox of it being Poland’s main foe in Europe even now, after so many times it aggressed Poland in the past.
Smashing the pretenses of contemporary Germany in a way perhaps never before attempted in English, the author takes apart the European Union’s case against Poland as well as those of the international media, American and European politicians, prominent journalists and academics. The most controversy will arise out of his critique of the Jewish case.
Unlike other defenders of Poland, Denken does not deny that there was salient antisemitism (his preferred spelling) in pre-war Poland and that the antipathy continued during and after the war. But then he does something daring: he explains why.(2) Denken argues in unprecedented (in English) detail that “Zydokomuna” is not an “antisemitic slur” but was the reality of life in Poland before, during, and after the war, with particular attention to the Jewish nomenklatura of horror in Poland in the years 1945 -1955. While not denying that the German mass-murder of the Jews of Jedwabne may have entailed some Polish participation, unlikely though he underlines this to have been the case (3), he also sheds light on why there were strong anti-Jewish sentiments:
“During the 1939–1941 Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland, including infamous Jedwabne, Jews collaborated with the Soviets, snitched on patriotic Poles, and even became local functionaries of the brutal, occupying communist power—all activities properly recognized as treason.
Some percentage of humans are base creatures, and the horror of the German occupation of Poland was so unique that it didn’t take just the basest to succumb, but the weakest psychologically too. To keep harping about the base or weak Poles during the occupation without as much as a mention of the base or weak Jews and without putting it all in the context of Germany’s unprecedented evil and the fallen nature of men generally is rank intellectual fraud.”
In another context, writing about U.S. Senator Ben Cardin’s efforts in the cause of “restitution of Jewish property”:
“The ‘historical revisionism’ accusation [against Poland] was a Jewish battering ram for softening Poland to the claims of loot-seeking Jewish interests represented by Cardin. [snip] The [IPN] law was enacted not to revise history, or whitewash the actions of weak, corrupt or evil Poles who had acted ignobly under the German occupation, as some Jews did too, but to deter the historical revisionism of those who accuse the Polish state or people of complicity in the Holocaust.”
The author presents Poland as the key pillar of the “Camp of the Sane” he posits, with Hungary being the second and Czechia and Slovakia completing the Visegrad-4. He extends that further over the whole quarter of Europe that was under Soviet rule from 1945 to 1989. The Iron Curtain, he avers, fulfilled an inadvertent benign function: quarantining all those countries and therefore protecting them from what he calls the “progressive brain virus” that has destroyed the rest of Europe and the Anglosphere as well. Citing an essay by Milan Kundera for support, he sees in the Camp of the Sane the only currently visible possibility for the survival of the Western peoples and their Christian-European civilization. In the near term, the Three Seas crescent — the Intermarium – is the political structure that ought to be mobilized for that task.
While the book is a ringing defense of PiS-governed Poland, Denken does not shy from criticizing the PiS government. He slams their barring of the front door to EU’s “migrants” but opening the back door to “foreign workers” from some of the most backward countries of the Third World. He criticizes the post-Szydło PiS’s meekness toward the EU; timidity toward Soros; subservience to the U.S.; vulnerability to hostile pressures by Jewish organizations; unwise, constant aggravation of Putin’s Russia, especially in defense of the land of UPA where they worship Chmielnicki, Bandera, and Shukevych. Denken criticizes as well the tendency of the Polish Right to keep bashing Protestants as though the 30-Year-War didn’t teach us a lesson. He recommends that we realize instead that we are all facing the same multi-layered enemy.
Jews seeking to demonize Denken for his negative view of Jews in the Polish context, or antisemites thinking that they have found an ally, will be disappointed. He criticizes in the book the antisemitic tendencies of some segments of the Nationalist Right, his essay criticizing Kevin MacDonald’s “Jewish evolutionary strategy” theory is a classic, and he has waged word battles with obsessive antisemites in the comments pages of his many published articles and social media posts.
Denken’s eclectic background and erudition bring a special flavor to various topics in the book. His scathing review of the damage that feminism has done to the West is based on the Taoist concept of Yin–Yang. The author did not crib that from some book; he was married into a traditionalist upper-class Japanese family, lived in Japan for years, and made frequent visits to Korea and China. His critique of the 2019 Paris conference of Poland bashers camouflaged as “The New Polish School of Holocaust Scholarship” is informed by his knowledge of French and deconstruction of French deconstructionism. His chapter about the Jedwabne controversy starts with quotes from the Hebrew Bible. His takedown of the EU’s and its allies’ “rule of law” attacks on Poland rests on detailed knowledge of their hypocrisy and quotes Thomas Jefferson against them.
The scope of the book is so wide and so crammed with knowledgeable detail that it defies any attempts at a comprehensive review. You may not agree with every point Denken makes but his book will stimulate your thinking and reveal what you may not have known. Reading it will not be lighthearted fun, but it will be worth your time.
To obtain a printed copy, contact the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org. The e-book version may be purchased from Kobo.com.
(1) In addition to what’s in the book I included some details I learned in an interview with the author.
(2) Denken told me that he is unhappy with the too-brief way he treated the Polish–Jewish relationship in the 50 years before the war. However, because that would have entailed enlarging the field of analysis to include economics, demographics, imperial Russian and later the Polish Sanacja politics, the 1919-1920 Soviet invasion of Poland, religion, the perils of multiculturalism and more, he had no choice but to skirt that or else the book would have far exceeded his target of 500 pages. He had to drop similarly already-written chapters about the “progressive” world’s war on Hungary and on Trump, and other chapters too.
(3) Now, a new book has come out – Jedwabne, Historia Prawdziwa — that pretty much cancels out any possibility of Polish participation in the Jedwabne massacre. Written by three top-notch names in Polish journalism and academia, the book is based on exhaustive research.