If you want to wind up a Pole of a certain age, there is no more reliable means than quoting the old myth about Polish lancers charging at German panzer divisions in the second world war.
The story feeds a stereotype about Polish men being hopelessly romantic, hopelessly moustachioed idiots who would actually gallop their horses at big steel tanks.
Even this newspaper fell into the trap less than two years ago, when a columnist described the mythical charge as "the most romantic and idiotic act of suicide of modern war". We had to append a speedy correction admitting that we had "repeated a myth of the second world war, fostered by Nazi propagandists".
The most likely origin of the legend is a skirmish at the Pomeranian village of Krojanty on the first day of the German invasion, 1 September 1939. Polish lancers, whose units had still not been motorised, did indeed charge a Wehrmacht infantry battalion but were forced to retreat under heavy machine gun fire. By the time German and Italian war correspondents got there, some tanks had arrived and they joined the dots themselves.
The story was used first by the Nazi propaganda machine and then by its Soviet counterpart, to portray Polish officers (who were killed by Stalin en masse the next year) as absurdly careless about the lives of their troops.
What is most irritating to Poles about this particular fable is that it trivialises the Polish contribution to the allied war effort, reducing it to a single moment of whimsy.
In fact, as the war historian and Times columnist Ben Macintyre recently wrote: "The Polish contribution to allied victory in the Second World War was extraordinary, perhaps even decisive, but for many years it was disgracefully played down, obscured by the politics of the Cold War."
Macintyre points out that one in 12 Battle of Britain pilots was a Pole, and some 250,000 Polish troops served with British forces, while a huge, largely forgotten role was also played by the Polish resistance.
The Home Army, as it was called, is thought to have been about 400,000-strong, and inflicted serious damage on German occupying forces throughout the war. The French resistance only grew to that size after D-Day, when the tide had already turned. But while the French were able to lead the liberation parade into Paris, the Polish Home Army and its memory were crushed by the country's new Soviet occupiers, with western acquiescence.
To appease Stalin, the Poles were not even invited to Britain's 1946 victory parade. No wonder our stories of futile cavalry charges drive them crazy. Julian Borger
British Guardian newspaper exposes Nazi German propaganda MYTH about "Polish Calvary Charging German Tanks".
For many years this MYTH about "Polish Calvary charging German tanks" was perpetuated by Nazi Germany and even after WWII by Nazi German sympathizers in Germany and America and even Soviet sympathizers in Hollywood who at one time felt an alliance with Nazi Germany during the Nazi Germany-Soviet Russia friendship years of the Nazi German-Russian Molotov-Ribbentrop friendship pact of 1939-1941.
Despite Hollywood's assertion that it hated Nazi Germany........Hollywood saw that Soviet Union agents after WWII, continued to perpetuate this old Nazi Germany-Soviet Russia myth of "Polish Calvalry attacking Nazi German tanks" to degrade Poland so that the West.....especially the American public would have LIMITED SYMPATHY of the MASSIVE SUFFERING of the Polish people under both the Nazi Germans and then the Soviet Russians. Some say......this MYTH which was part of the Nazi German "subhuman intelligence jokes" propaganda about Polish people........was a useful BIG LIE to be continued by Hollywood Pro-Soviet anti-Polish Bigots as a basis for their Nazi German/Soviet Union subhuman intelligence jokes against Polish people that they then RENAMED as "Polish jokes" in the 1960's, when they injected them into the minds of the American public via their Hollywood/TV Network shows and movies.