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Well.  It looks like Obama said during the Medal of Freedom ceremony mentioning a Polish war hero that there were "Polish death camps".  Yes, there were in Majdanek and Bygodosch and -Dachau-(error not in Poland, in Germany)  and Auschwitz.  They happened to be on Polish territory when Poles were or were not cooperating with the Nazis to set them up and supply them.  They weren't set up in Germany or in France or in Austria or in other counties where there were Nazi sympathizers.  They were set up in Poland.

Rather awful to have to mention it, really.  Poland had little choice in the matter. They could have resisted, some 3 million Poles were slated for extermination because they happened to be Jewish. There was also the 15,000 Whites officers and intelligentia of Poland's captured army, as opposed to Reds who were not trusted by Stalin and when he captured them as part of the 1940 Axis/USSR non aggression pact simply massacred them.      (More past the squiggly thingy)

That was the brutal calculus of removing an enemy before that enemy could fight back.

Poles had horrendous choices.  Some were of their own doing, but most came from being directly in the path of the German war machine, the first opportunity to flex Hitler's improved war machine the direct blitzkreig and regain Danzig, make the Western, Northern parts of Germany secure . Of course it was  also link up with admirers of the new Reich and install them as a puppet government (the "General Gouvernment" of 1939 to 1945) and get on with the Final Solution to cleanse Germany and Poland of the "imperfect and degenerate"  non Aryans, especially the Romany, the various undesireables but especially the Jews.

The Poles under Marshall Pilsudski, the dictator of Poland,  had taken steps before the war, such as forbidding Jews from going to University in 1938, and other forms of discrimination to prepare public opinion for dehumanizing the Jews. The ghettos were considered a good idea.  It simply isn't true that Poles were helpless or ignorant of all that befell them and their most significant non Catholic minority. Not true at all.  

Thus the "outrage", the protest by Donald Tusk, by Lech Kacyinski and others over the comments "Polish Death camps" is striking a nerve about a touchy and inconvenient part of Poland's history quite unintentionally but regardless of protests still it is there.

From yesterday's Daily Telegraph blog:  Pam Barone
Yesterday 11:39 PM
Considering the number of Jewish properties now in the hands of non-Jewish people in Poland, and how many non-Jewish Poles assisted in rounding up their Jewish neighbors, I am inclined to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt.

I will go further before some Polish hero or chauvinist protests indignantly about this: I also know a family, several actually, that themselves survived camps during the war and DIDN"T GO BACK BECAUSE THEY WERE HORRIFIED AT WHAT THEIR NEIGHBORS HAD DONE.  

38 million Poles are outraged according to Drudge. No, some millions are, but most are not because many younger Poles are not completely aware of the history, the sordid history.  Obama was speaking of a hero - a man who risked his life to report on the camps and the ghetto. He died. He was praised in the discussion. The foofara of the Murdoch press and the slimeball Drudge was to speak over a kerfuffle that the Poles in power today are nursing injured feelings because these were " Nazi "death camps, nothing to do with Poland.  OK, why did the Germans press on so confidently with massacring 3 million Poles if they didn't feel a certain amount of support for that right in Poland and tacit approval? Hmmmm?

It couldn't be related to things like: even in today's Poland, the idea of setting up a black site for torturing captives to help  US intelligence and even offering up a missile site and making their country a hot target in return for some economic favors down the road?  Some heroes the present gang of Polish leaders turned out to be.  Those Polish families that fought courageously in WW 2, and decided it was too risky to return to Poland had more than one reason not to trust the collaborationists then or now.  Disgusting.   Yes, you see, a disinterested person with nothing to hide or be ashamed of can see a mention of Polish death camps and understand the literal meaning of it. It is no more or no less then the dry awful facts.  Poles had chances  to oppose them. A few,  yes a  100,000 abroad and some thousands at home, more than a few did. But most went along either passively or willingly.  None of that came up in the Medal of Freedom ceremony.

Those are the facts. That is written in graveyards and battlefields and genealogical databases and first hand accounts of people who were there and involved. Properties? Such as homes and businesses and cultural items like paintings and art and even many children helpfully saved and assigned to childless or challenged couples even as the parents went on the trains to one way destinations.  That was a significant  part of the  legacy of the home front in Poland. Madeline Allbright was a participant, an unwilling participant in that process.

Now don't get upset here, it had nothing to do with Obama's mention.  He was simply speaking to the courage of a fighter who perished trying to reveal the truth of the existence of the camps and the heroism of the ghetto fighters. It was the US state department of that era  and its antisemetic bias at the time that was a co enabler of the world wide antisemitism elsewhere including in Poland.  Oswego New York and isolating from help and fellow Jews some 943 for the duration doesn't count as a win except as a token effort.

The attempt to make this a POTUS slip of the tongue has inadvertently led to a slip open of the curtain that Poles drew over the shame of that time.

There are Polish heroes, some men and women you have never heard of.  They risked everything, even in what may have seemed a quixotic and hopeless fight to do the right thing.  There are a few Poles who fought in Poland in September of 1939, for several weeks, got away before surrendering  what was left standing and fought in Dunquerque with the English last stand in France, and then went via GB to North Africa and the Sahara and then the invasion of Italy and Monte Cassino and then all the way round to DDay and onto Fortress Germany. 5 and a half years always in battle.

There are a few who didn't even know if there was to be a country left, a people, their families  left alive for them to return to.  Let them opine on BHO or that comment if they choose to, but laugh and snicker at Murdoch's scolding words repeated by hirelings like Drudge and the dreadful Daily Telegraph and the teaparty scribblers.

Thu May 31, 2012 at 6:59 AM PT: This  week's Monday  was  Memorial  Day and a chance to reflect on an earlier "Medal of Freedom" awarded to Polish heroes, survivors of the long battle to seize Monte Cassino in the Allies drive from the South to reach Axis Germany. President Obama got some guff from Right wingers in Poland and here about his accurate honoring of a Polish hero who publicized the death camps.  Even in Chicago the truth about who did what and why resonates. Mont Cassino was special.

Nearly six thousand Poles died in the hills there before May 18th and the fall of the monastery and surrender of the last few German defenders who were wounded and too weak to get away..  A special medal was created for the commemoration, the St Andrew's Cross and 4,655 were awarded to the survivors who left most of their number buried right there.  The medals exist in surplus, a number of them fell into the hands of those wanting some unearned cachet and collectors.

These medals had an interesting characteristic: they were serially numbered.  That meant that after the war, even in Chicago veteran's clubs and Polish bars there was often talk of the exploits of the new and old Polish emigrees and inhabitants of the city.  If a person claimed he was at Monte Cassino, the curious would ask to see his medal.  If he pulled it out or had waved it around in the first place, the real vets would seize it and flip it over. If the number was higher than 4655, that was a fake, not a real award and the holder would be tossed none too gently out the door and warned about claiming anything to do with defending freedom or saving America or Poland.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Pres Obama gave people too much credit (5+ / 0-)

    in that I guess he assumed that folks would know he was talking about the Nazi's when he mentioned the death camps in Poland.  

  •  Dachau is in Germany (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeeDeeS, wu ming, Clem Yeobright, Apost8

    Just outside of Munich.  It was the first camp opened in 1933 mostly for political prisoners.

  •  Everything you say here is well and good, (2+ / 0-)

    but since the Poles probably already know about it, and indeed as you say are probably still sensitive about it precisely because it is as you say, I think the important thing would have been to use a phrase in the speech that didn't lead to a lot of ill will and distraction. It turned what could have been a moment of good feelings all around into something else entirely.

    Doesn't the White House have a whole "corpse" of people on the job seeing to the details?

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:14:44 PM PDT

    •  There are those who want to make it an insult. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice

      but then their desire to make trouble, sink the economy hide the truth, call white black and vice versa are endless.

      We won't get a break until after the election.

      About a day and they will start up all over again.

      Obama didn't call out the Polish collaborators then and now, I did.

      I would simply make it a FYI, a teaching moment if anyone wants to bring it up.

      remember Allbright  got a Freedom medal, that was a stick in the eye of the anti semites and those planning racial purification.  The Polish government would be wise to reckon with what an extended discussion of this topic would mean.  Listen less to Drudge and the rightwingers, more to the wise old heads, real historians on both sides of the Atlantic.

      This currently under construction..

      by BeeDeeS on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:52:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  this is not about poland (8+ / 0-)

      this is predominantly DC-centric right wing concern trolling. polish foreign minister sikorski, who started the wave of faux outrage on twitter, wrote for the national review in the 80s, was a fellow in the american enterprise institute from 2000-2005, and was an investment advisor for rupert murdoch. his wife, anne applebaum, is also tied to AEI think tanks, in addition to being a reporter. this is about the american election, not polish domestic response to a line in a medal of freedom speech honoring a polish hero

      this is a cooked up fake controversy, and is not a gaffe in any meaningful sense. just because a right wing AEI-connected hack feigns outrage and demands apologies for a pretty normal way of saying it in english (national adjective + place is pretty standard, e.g. bataan death march, nanjing massacre, armenian genocide, etc.) does not make it a gaffe on obama's part.

      •  Thanks for getting the heart of the "contraversy" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wu ming, nuclear winter solstice

        out of the right wing's zombie politics in just two paragraphs what took me a bombastic dozen!

        You nailed those suckers.  I am saying they are linked in an unbroken line from the antisemites and militarists in Poland back prior to WW 2 right up to now.

        This currently under construction..

        by BeeDeeS on Wed May 30, 2012 at 09:35:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  i will admit to cribbing much of this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nuclear winter solstice

          from balloon juice and wikipedia. it's amazing how predictable the wingnut welfare think tank ties are whenever a fluffed-up outrage du jour emerges in the media.

          agreed on the straight line, and not just in poland. the 20th century is not so far beneath the surface, if it's underneath at all.

    •  Upon further reflection, this reaction was an (0+ / 0-)

      orchestrated "slight" and pumped up by a Heritage Right winger now serving as a Polish official.  Politics as usual to diss the POTUS.  If it wasn't that phrase, the  scribblers would have found something else to manufacture a complaint.  PressSec Carney took it off the table by agreeing words could have been better.

      See wu ming's excellent comment that follows  after my next comment.

      This currently under construction..

      by BeeDeeS on Thu May 31, 2012 at 01:16:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This diary accords exactly with what I've read (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeeDeeS, wintergreen8694, DianeNYS

    in Holocaust literature.  The death camps were situated in Poland precisely because the Nazis knew there would be fewer protests from the Polish population than from people in other countries.

    No wonder the Poles are sensitive about it.  That said, there were Poles who risked their lives to save their Jewish friends.  One such account is In My Hands, by a young woman who hid 12 Jews in a house where she was housekeeper to a German!  And there are numerous other instances as well.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Thu May 31, 2012 at 04:45:07 AM PDT

    •  Holocaust Industry Anti-Polish Propaganda (0+ / 0-)

      Only the Anti-Polish Holocaust Industry would push this BIG LIE:

      "in Holocaust literature.  The death camps were situated in Poland precisely because the Nazis knew there would be fewer protests from the Polish population than from people in other countries."

      How absurd!

      You should read the book "Holocaust Industry" by Norman Finkelstein to see that this is one of the big LIES the Holocaust Industry is pushing to slander Poland.

      Are you insane enough to think the Poles actually had a chance to speak out and protest the Nazi Germans putting up death camps or doing anything else in their country?  Especially when there were millions of Nazi German troops and collaborating Soviet troops blanketing Poland who would murder on the spot any Pole who resisted them?

      Do you know the FIRST people put into the death camps were POLISH CHRISTIANS???

      •   "Holocaust Industry" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lost and Found

        Actually there was resistance, quite a bit of it.  It was ruthlessly suppressed.  There was combat, not just speaking out which was useless at that point.

        BTW  claiming your opponent is " slandering "Poland is a known right wing meme, which basically puts you right where you want to be.

        Wasted a year holding your tongue, you certainly are leaving a nasty trail.

        Holocaust denial.  You should write a diary.

        This currently under construction..

        by BeeDeeS on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 10:04:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  As an American of Polish Heritage (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeeDeeS, wintergreen8694, DianeNYS

    My dad was born there, my mom's parents, too...I grew up with more Polish culture than many.  I visited Poland a couple times in my youth, and found the people there industrious and proud (this was the mid to late 1970's).

    But the anti-semitism was something I really was not aware of until as a young adult I married a woman who was from a Jewish heritage.  She was never really accepted by my family, and I was accepted even less by hers.

    I do think that the Poles protest too much.  These camps were on Polish soil, so calling them "Polish" is geographically correct.  I would ascertain any confusion as to who actually ran them to a at least a mild sort of Holocaust Denial.

  •  Article is anti-Polish (0+ / 0-)

    So since Drudge reported on this article and you don't like Drudge, you have to keep repeating the tire canards of Poland is anti-semitic this and anti-semitic that!

    As you keep parroting the talking points of how "terribly anti-semitic Poland was".......well then WHY did Jews CHOOSE to live in "anti-semitic" Poland for ONE THOUSAND YEARS??

    Are Jews masochists?  Are Jews insane?

    This next phrase just proves your'e a vicious Polish-Hater

    "OK, why did the Germans press on so confidently with massacring 3 million Poles if they didn't feel a certain amount of support for that right in Poland and tacit approval? Hmmmm?"

    The  Germans pressed on so confidently because the Soviet Union was going out of its way to HELP Hitler by giving Nazi Germany 2 years of oil and war supplies when Hitler was invading Poland.    As per the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.....Nazi Germany with 72 million people agreed to invade Poland with the Soviet Union (population 139 million people).    So when you are a giant country having another giant country help you invade a mid-size can you not feel confident??

    Speaking about confidence, why were so many Jews in Poland so confident in helping the Soviet invaders persecute Poles?

    •  You gave away your rotten stinking anti Semitism (0+ / 0-)

      right here:

      Speaking about confidence, why were so many Jews in Poland so confident in helping the Soviet invaders persecute Poles?  

      You bastard! That shows your underlying resentment and setup of the reason YOU think Polish Jews got what they deserved!  You make up a vicious lie as if it was Polish Jews responsible for the Katyn Forest massacre and other crimes, and thus were gladly handed over!

      That has to be the most outrageous and poisonous piece of slime I have ever read on this site.

      You like Drudge?  another point dishonor of for you.

      If you don't like the way Poland's leadership and a certain segment of the population is portrayed, why don't you ask the wave after wave of Polish Jews who fled to America in the 19th Century, in the early 20th after various progroms and conditions forcing them out?  That was before Germany even invaded.

      Finally how  many Jews live in Poland, a paradise for Jews outside of Israel: a million, a hundred thousand , twenty five thousand, how many?  How many returned to Poland? It is less than 10,000.  quite a bit less.  There have been reports in the last dozen years or so of the few remaining Jews as wanting to go somewhere else  where they feel more comfortable.

      You are a joke of a historian or a defender of Poland.

      Poland has been split and disgraced by those who have the chauvinism and arrogance to betray their fellow Poles and lie about it years later.  You sound like a charter member of the club.

      For what it is worth Evelyn Fogleman wrote a brilliant book on who helped the victims, the rescuers. She also did a good PBS special some years back.  She studied case histories of what makes a rescuer, what made ordinary Poles take huge risks to help Jews when being outed as a sympathizer or rescuer would get you hanged or shipped off to a death camp as well.

      You can take your fake injured Polish Pride and stuff it in the same oubliette your patrons created in Poland to pleasure Bush and the current NSA holdovers and permanent staff.

      Thanks for chiming in with your first comment on Kos as a slam against outing the treachery and  revealing a crime many Poles took part in.  

      This currently under construction..

      by BeeDeeS on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 06:06:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  WHY did Jews CHOOSE to live in Poland? (0+ / 0-)

        BeeDeeS  Its not necessary for you to attack me and call me a "bastard" just because I'm giving you another side of history that your Jewish Supremacist Polish-Hating "Jews are 100% angels and Poles are 100% devils" hate newspapers won't give you.

        You do realize that with every group of people there are good and bad?  Oh excuse me you're Jewish so you believe all of your Jewish supremacist nonsense how Jews are all eternal victims and 100% angels.  Sorry that's just not so.   They are human so they are capable of doing good and bad like anybody else.

        Far from it for me to try to convince you that Poland, despite its flaws couldn't be as bad as you claim because if this was the case, Jews would not have been so insane to want to live and STAY in Poland for HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF YEARS.

        So how many Jews left Poland right before WWII?  I'm sure some did but the lion share of Jews were still in Poland.   If I'm not correct, please correct me with some data links.

        Have any of your anti-Polish news sources ever told you about what the great rabbi Moses Isserles said about Poland?   Isserles said"  If it were not for Poland, the existence of the tribe of Israel would have been unbearable"

        He said this after Jews were in Poland for over 700 years.

        •  There are good and bad Jews (0+ / 0-)

          As with all groups of people, Jews have their good and bad.

          Some of the greatest people who helped mankind are of Jewish ancestry.   These Jews have contributed to the sciences, medicine and other fields that have helped humanity.   There are many Jewish Nobel Peace prize winners.   There have been many Jews throughout history who tried to help others and be good decent human beings.
          The world should always show gratitude to these good Jews.

          Having said that, some of the worst things done in history were also done by Jews.   Like the founding of Communism by Karl Marx and like the disproportional collaboration Jews in Poland and other Central/Eastern European countries had with the Soviets.   Many JEWISH Historians and people have documented this.

          Many Polish Jews welcome Soviet Invaders on Sept. 17 & 18, 1939 according to Jews:

          Hugo Steinhaus, a renowned mathematician of Jewish origin, recalled with shame the servility of "an enormous mass" of Jews from Lwow, who
          ... had turned out to greet the Bolsheviks adorned in red bows and stars, so much so that it aroused laughter among the Russian officers. Others disarmed Polish officers in the streets, kissed Russian tanks and stroked their artillery.

          Most Jews, who lived through those times, such as Michel (Mendel) Mielnicki, have a different recollection of conditions in their small towns, in his case Wasilkow, just outside Bialystok. Furthermore, they know who was present when the Soviets arrived, why they were there and what they were cheering for. The following is his recollection of that "love affair":

          ... But, as The Wasilkower Memorial Book records, everyone in the Jewish community was in such a holiday mood on the evening of 18 September [1939] as they awaited the arrival of the Red Army that they didn't want to go to bed lest they miss any part of this historic occasion. Certainly, this is the way I remember things.
          I also can confirm that everyone cheered when our neighbour from across the street, Mordechai Yurowietski, the tinsmith's son, raised a red flag on top of the fire station tower. And cheered again when a Soviet aircraft buzzed the crowd ... to drop leaflets welcoming us as "Brothers and Sisters of West Byelo-Russia".

          And when the Soviet soldiers finally did march in the next morning, ... they did so singing "Katiusha", with all the little Jewish and White Russian kids parading along beside them, joining in their song. This was a scene worthy of a Sigmund Romberg operetta. ...

          And contrary to Western propaganda, being part of the Soviet Union gave the overwhelming majority of those in our community the security of belonging to a civil society, or at least one that was a hell of a lot more civil than anything we'd experienced before. ... Even my rebbe was a relatively happy man under the atheistic communists. ... When a plebiscite was held in October and November 1939 on whether we actually wanted to be part of West Byelorussia, the majority of people ... (my mother and father included) voted "Yes".

          •  There are good and bad Jews (0+ / 0-)

            This is from the Israeli newspaper Ynet:

            By Israeli journalist Sever Plocker

            Stalin's Jews
            We mustn't forget that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish
            Published:     12.21.06, 23:35 / Israel Opinion

            Here's a particularly forlorn historical date: Almost 90 years ago, between the 19th and 20th of December 1917, in the midst of the Bolshevik revolution and civil war, Lenin signed a decree calling for the establishment of The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, also known as Cheka.
            Within a short period of time, Cheka became the largest and cruelest state security organization. Its organizational structure was changed every few years, as were its names: From Cheka to GPU, later to NKVD, and later to KGB.

            We cannot know with certainty the number of deaths Cheka was responsible for in its various manifestations, but the number is surely at least 20 million, including victims of the forced collectivization, the hunger, large purges, expulsions, banishments, executions, and mass death at Gulags.

            Whole population strata were eliminated: Independent farmers, ethnic minorities, members of the bourgeoisie, senior officers, intellectuals, artists, labor movement activists, "opposition members" who were defined completely randomly, and countless members of the Communist party itself.

            In his new, highly praised book "The War of the World, "Historian Niall Ferguson writes that no revolution in the history of mankind devoured its children with the same unrestrained appetite as did the Soviet revolution. In his book on the Stalinist purges, Tel Aviv University's Dr. Igal Halfin writes that Stalinist violence was unique in that it was directed internally.

            Lenin, Stalin, and their successors could not have carried out their deeds without wide-scale cooperation of disciplined "terror officials," cruel interrogators, snitches, executioners, guards, judges, perverts, and many bleeding hearts who were members of the progressive Western Left and were deceived by the Soviet regime of horror and even provided it with a kosher certificate.
            All these things are well-known to some extent or another, even though the former Soviet Union's archives have not yet been fully opened

            to the public. But who knows about this? Within Russia itself, very few people have been brought to justice for their crimes in the NKVD's and KGB's service. The Russian public discourse today completely ignores the question of "How could it have happened to us?" As opposed to Eastern European nations, the Russians did not settle the score with their Stalinist past.

            And us, the Jews? An Israeli student finishes high school without ever hearing the name "Genrikh Yagoda," the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century, the GPU's deputy commander and the founder and commander of the NKVD. Yagoda diligently implemented Stalin's collectivization orders and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. His Jewish deputies established and managed the Gulag system. After Stalin no longer viewed him favorably, Yagoda was demoted and executed, and was replaced as chief hangman in 1936 by Yezhov, the "bloodthirsty dwarf."

            Yezhov was not Jewish but was blessed with an active Jewish wife. In his Book "Stalin: Court of the Red Star", Jewish historian Sebag Montefiore writes that during the darkest period of terror, when the Communist killing machine worked in full force, Stalin was surrounded by beautiful, young Jewish women.

            Stalin's close associates and loyalists included member of the Central Committee and Politburo Lazar Kaganovich. Montefiore characterizes him as the "first Stalinist" and adds that those starving to death in Ukraine, an unparalleled tragedy in the history of human kind aside from the Nazi horrors and Mao's terror in China, did not move Kaganovich.

            Many Jews sold their soul to the devil of the Communist revolution and have blood on their hands for eternity. We'll mention just one more: Leonid Reichman, head of the NKVD's special department and the organization's chief interrogator, who was a particularly cruel sadist.

            In 1934, according to published statistics, 38.5 percent of those holding the most senior posts in the Soviet security apparatuses were of Jewish origin. They too, of course, were gradually eliminated in the next purges. In a fascinating lecture at a Tel Aviv University convention this week, Dr. Halfin described the waves of soviet terror as a "carnival of mass murder," "fantasy of purges", and "essianism of evil." Turns out that Jews too, when they become captivated by messianic ideology, can become great murderers, among the greatest known by modern history.

            The Jews active in official communist terror apparatuses (In the Soviet Union and abroad) and who at times led them, did not do this, obviously, as Jews, but rather, as Stalinists, communists, and "Soviet people." Therefore, we find it easy to ignore their origin and "play dumb": What do we have to do with them? But let's not forget them. My own view is different. I find it unacceptable that a person will be considered a member of the Jewish people when he does great things, but not considered part of our people when he does amazingly despicable things.
            Even if we deny it, we cannot escape the Jewishness of "our hangmen," who served the Red Terror with loyalty and dedication from its establishment. After all, others will always remind us of their origin.

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