Poland: Don’t call us complicit in the Holocaust
Israelis are outraged about a proposed new Polish law, and it’s “hard to understand why,” said Fakt (Poland) in an editorial. The lower house of Parliament has approved legislation that would punish anyone who blames the Polish nation for Nazi atrocities committed on Polish soil during World War II with a fine or up to three years in prison. Israel knows full well that our government “has been fighting for years” to stop people from using “the deceitful term ‘Polish death camps.’” Poland was occupied and brutalized by Nazi Germany during the war, but that phrase suggests Poland—not Germany—was responsible for Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps built on our territory. Remember when President Obama referred to a “Polish death camp” in 2012? The White House had to apologize. This bill should not be controversial. Yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is acting as if it “amounts to Holocaust denial!” He has called for the Polish Senate to block it.
Fact: Poles were complicit, said Lahav Harkov in The Jerusalem Post (Israel). More than 90 percent of Polish Jews—some 3 million people—were slaughtered in the Holocaust. “You don’t get to numbers like that without cooperation.” In the town of Jedwabne in 1941, Poles rounded up Jewish families and burned them alive in a barn. After the war, anti-Jewish violence erupted in towns and cities across Poland, often when Holocaust survivors tried to return to their homes. Yes, many brave Poles hid Jews from the Nazis, and no, Poles did not create the death camps. But when I posted about Polish complicity on Twitter, thousands of Poles responded, telling me I was an example of “that treacherous lying Jewish media” and “the reason Jews are killed and thrown out of every country they try to live in around the world.” Way to prove you’re not anti-Semitic, guys.
Sadly, anti-Semitism is thriving in Poland, particularly in the ruling Law and Justice party, said Dominika Wielowieyska in Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland). Not every member is a bigot, of course, but the party does “give a platform” to such people. Former Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz has blamed Jews for communism and referenced the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forged book that purports to outline a Jewish plot to take over the world. And Law and Justice politicians praised last November’s nationalist march through Warsaw, in which 60,000 demonstrators chanted “white Europe” and “pure blood.” It doesn’t help that the lower house passed the bill on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Yet the government can’t give in to Israeli bullying, said Jerzy Haszczynski in Rzeczpospolita (Poland). It is regrettable that the Polish Embassy in Israel got into an argument with Israeli opposition politician Yair Lapid, who tweeted his condemnation of the law, saying his grandmother was “murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles.” The embassy tweeted back that Lapid was “shameless.” Discussing this sensitive issue is difficult, but we have to stand up for “the historical truth—that there were no Polish camps.”