Best columns: Europe
Poles were complicit in the Holocaust
Poland is using the ugly history of the Holocaust to justify turning away desperate migrants, said Arno Widmann. It should be easy to spot the similarities between European Jews persecuted during World War II, many of whom were denied asylum in country after country, and the persecuted African and Syrian migrants of today, who have been turned away by Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. But no. In the telling of Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, the Poles are to be likened to the Jews. At a Holocaust remembrance ceremony last week, she said the great lesson of that time was that “everything must be done to defend the safety and the lives of citizens,” meaning that Poland is right to protect its people by shutting its doors to refugees. As appalling as it is to cast the Poles of today as the victims, even more appalling is the whitewashing of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. According to Szydlo, the Poles “had nothing to do with the genocide”—in her imaginings they didn’t turn Jews over to the Nazis and didn’t participate in pogroms. Polish collaboration with the Germans, a historical fact, is conveniently forgotten because it “doesn’t fit in with Poland’s new, nationalist glorification of its past.” Well, we remember—and we won’t let them forget.
Losers always look for scapegoats
Italy’s anti-establishment Five-Star Movement is in a huff, said Sebastiano Messina. Founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, the party did well in the 2013 parliamentary elections, and achieved its greatest success last year when it won mayoral races in Rome and Turin. But it flopped in the first round of municipal elections last week, failing even to make the runoff stage in Italy’s 25 largest cities. So, “like a football hooligan who, angered by his team’s loss, goes home and beats up his neighbor,” Five-Star has now started picking on immigrants. Grillo ordered Roman Mayor Virginia Raggi to demand a moratorium on new migrant arrivals in the capital and to clear out the tent camps of the Roma minority. In a blog post, Grillo sounded like a typically reactionary, right-wing populist, railing, “Anyone begging on the subway, particularly minors, should be tossed out.” When it was coasting on humor and popularity, Five-Star was able to “wrap itself in a comfortable ambiguity, winking at the Right without alienating the Left.” But after one taste of electoral defeat, it has lurched toward demagoguery. The movement that was supposed to be for the people, above politics, has revealed itself to be a rival of Italy’s far-right Northern League. Like all populist movements, it has culminated in the demonization “of the wretched.”