William J. Murray reports from Huckabee tour of key Polish town
Shortly after the November 2014 general election, Gov. Mike Huckabee led a journey of 100 pastors and other evangelical leaders to some of the bright spots of history, but also to some of the darkest places on earth, including the Nazi death camps in Poland. While most of the civilized world (I do not include Saudi Arabia in the category of civilized world) is aware of the death camps known as Auschwitz and Birkenau, there are other places of repression the names of which are relatively unknown. One of those is Nowa Huta in Poland. There Gov. Huckabee delivered some powerful remarks about the failure of utopianism and a godless society operated on a relative value system.
Nowa Huta was conceived and designed as a city with no churches by the communists who controlled Poland after the defeat of Nazi Germany. It continued church-free during the struggle of the Solidarity Movement, right up until the fall of communism in a free election in 1989. Sadly, Poland had plenty of Communists who were ready to take power as the Soviet Union overran Poland when Nazi troops withdrew. It would be easier for Poles to think of those years Poland suffered as being completely under “Soviet occupation,” but the reality is different. Polish Communists and their secret police were the enforcers of this centrally planned, godless “workers’ paradise.”
Nowa Huta, which translates to “New Steelworks,” was to be the shining example of a communist utopian city, a city that would need no churches, because government would be at the center of the lives of the new citizens who would inhabit it. Government, in the minds of the Communists, would supply all needs – material, social and familial. There was no room for the spiritual in their plans, because they saw no need for God.
Ironically, Nowa Huta was to become the heart of the anti-Communist movement of the 1980s.
The location was chosen close to natural mining resources, because this workers’ paradise would be an industrial center, primarily producing steel. Land, much of it prime agricultural land, was confiscated from farmers in 1949, and the grand plan featuring all the needs of mankind – other than churches – was executed. The core residential area was laid out in a fan shape for easy access between buildings; however, each neighborhood in the city was independently walled for defense in a ground attack. While livable, the city was basically designed as a Cold War fortress. There was, of course, no place for construction outside the original plan, and no churches, which were seen as just a waste of construction materials.
From the beginning of Nowa Huta, the people themselves longed for a church, and many would travel to nearby villages to worship at small churches, often exceeding the capacity by two or three times. In 1958 the people of Nowa Huta gained a powerful ally with the appointment of Karol Wojtyła as bishop of nearby Krakow. Bishop Wojtyla, who would one day become Pope John Paul II, was an enemy of godless communism and stood with the people of Nowa Huta in their struggle.
It is with this understanding of the city’s history that Gov. Huckabee led the group of evangelical pastors and others to three locations in Nova Huta, including the site where a deadly riot broke out in 1960, when Communists attempted to remove a cross that had been erected in 1957 at the location of a proposed church. At first women tried to stop the heavy equipment from taking the large cross early in the morning, but as word spread men left their work to come and defend the cross. Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak and then Bishop Karol Woityla led the protesters on April 27, 1960, and hundreds were arrested, but the cross stood. Because of later decay of the wooden cross, a replacement stands today next to a church that was eventually built after the fall of communism. It was at that memorial cross that Mike Huckabee had brought the group to understand the spiritual strength exhibited that could stop the brute force of even the most evil of godless societies.
Before praying at the cross, the Huckabee group had visited the main Lenin Steel Works where a near constant Solidarity Union revolt was conducted throughout the decade of the 1980s. The extent of the unrest in the city is underlined by the fact that, according to a guide, the Solidarity Underground had a hand grenade factory in the basement of an electronics repair shop just one block from and within view of the Communist Party headquarters.
Strikes for legalized independent unions not controlled by the government were constant, and troops had to be sent continuously into the city the Communists had believed would be their showcase. At the steel plant, a current vice president of the Solidarity Union, who was in the underground at the time of the conflict, described the struggle for freedom to the pastors Huckabee had escorted.
As he spoke, he made it clear that it was the support of the church and spiritual leadership of the bishop of Krakow, before and after he became pope, that gave the people the hope and the strength to fight the Communists for their freedom. Without the freedom that comes at the foot of the cross, there would have been no reason for the struggle to continue.
In the heart of the residential area designed by the Communist overlords is a large area originally named Lenin Square. In honor of his help during the times of struggle with the Communists in the 1980s, it has been renamed Ronald Reagan Square. Just recently, letters have been released showing the very close direct relationship between President Reagan and Pope John Paul II during the continuing crisis in Poland that eventually led to the end of communism in Europe. In Poland today people are aware, and the young are taught in school, that this was not a mere struggle for economic freedom, but a struggle for the soul of Poland and the spiritual freedom of the people.
The Huckabee journey to Nowa Huta ended at the Church of the Ark in a newer section that is now a part of the Krakow municipality. There Gov. Huckabee introduced Father Wladyslaw Palmowski, who was a chaplain for the Solidarity movement in the 1980s and at one point No. 4 on the hit list of the Communist government. Evangelical pastors sat in silence as he spoke of his close friend, also a chaplain to the Solidarity Union, who was beaten to death by the secret police. The example of the courage of the clergy in Poland in the face of brutal godless government encouraged the pastors in their own struggles against the growing political correctness in the United States.
Father Palmowski clearly stated that the Communists could beat, kidnap and murder to achieve their end, just as had the Nazis who occupied Poland before them, because neither had a single moral reference. He clearly laid out the reality that a relative value system had allowed them to use any means, even murder, to achieve their ends.
The goals of Huckabee’s mission to take the group of influential pastors and some leaders of organizations on such a journey became clear. The group was able to examine firsthand the deadly results when an absolute value system based on the Bible is replaced with a relative value system that approves any means to achieve an end. America is slipping further into a culture that accepts a relative value system such as was used by the Nazis and the Communists to justify exterminating millions. Pastors must be aware of the dangers ahead and be given the tools they need to meet the challenges. That is the essence of Gov. Huckabee’s program and the reason for this journey.
Read more about the Huckabee tour to the Nazi death camps here.