This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Polish Revisions of Inconvenient Holocaust History

"What kind of order will Uncle Sam’s army install, and what are the crimes attributed to us by ‘the older brothers in faith’ — the Jews?"
"It’s simple. It’s about the post-Jewish property worth billions of dollars left behind by the Holocaust victims, the Jews who left no heirs … The Poles have to give them billions for the heirless property left by Jews. Thus they need to be softened and accused of Nazism. Thus the talk of ‘Polish death camps’ and the tales about Polish crimes against Jews."
Janusz Sanocki, Polish parliamentarian

"The Jews welcomed them [the Soviet Red Army] with flowers."
"I’m asking, where were the Jews when 500,000 Poles were murdered in front of their eyes, and two million Poles were put on the trains of death to Siberia. I’m asking if there was even a single Pole saved by Jews in a situation like that."
"Perhaps we should only allow Poles to guide the tours in Auschwitz. There is little about the Polish people there."
Marek Jakubiak, Polish parliamentarian

"[Any discussion of Polish collusion with the Nazis amounted to a] moral, ethical Holocaust against the Poles.""My mother helped Jews in Warsaw, she told me about it. I have many Jewish friends. And I would not call the communist system ‘Jewish,’ despite the fact all the senior personnel in the security service, the NKVD, the judiciary were people with [Jewish] names like Szechter, Michnik, Morel, Swiatlo, Rozanski, Goldberg."
Pawel Kukiz —  2015 candidate, Polish presidency

Polish neo-fascists gathering for an Independence Day march, Nov. 12, 2017. 
Photo: Reuters / Agencja Gazeta / Adam Stepien.
"Of course Poles took part. Tens of thousands of 'szmalcowniks' — [Poles who informed on Jews or extorted their property]." 
"We are all obliged to remember these heroic people [Poles who helped save Jewish lives], but we must not allow their heroism to cover the crimes and wickedness of a much larger group of Poles. Antisemitism was and remains endemic in our country."
"Now (Polish PM Jarosław) Kaczyński has caused that phrase ['Polish death camps] to reach thousands of recipients. [The decision of President Andrzej Duda, to sign the IPN Act, as the Holocaust legislation is known, into law earlier this week proved to] everyone in the world, not only Israel [that the new law] is not a random manifestation of parliamentary madness."
Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, (former) Polish premier
"I know the Jewish people and acknowledge that there were Polish criminals who murdered Jews during the Holocaust. But they were not the majority, and Poland definitely isn’t responsible for the murder of millions of Jews. We are victims of the Holocaust too, and saying that death camps or concentration camps were ‘Polish’ is a crime."
"This may sound provocative, but I think you [Jews] couldn’t have survived on this land without the help of a Polish family. If 150,000 Jews survived World War II, most of them, if not all, survived thanks to the Polish population. My aunt lives in Herzliya, and she perfectly understands this narrative."
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
A Polish police officer checks a Jewish man's documents at the Kraków Ghetto, 1941. The Polish national archive, from 'Hunt for the Jews.'
Poland had the greatest number of European Jews living in the country pre-World War II, a figure put at three million Polish Jews who had lived in Poland for over a thousand years in the great dispersal of Jews (diaspora) all over the world. Jews lived in the capital Warsaw, as merchants and in the rural districts of the country, in small towns called shtetels (Yiddish). In many of those shtetels Jewish population numbers equalled their Polish neighbours or represented the majority. For the most part they lived amicably together.

Yet anti-Semitism was so deeply ingrained in Poland that ongoing pogroms terrorized Jews from time to time when Polish rage turned against the 'foreigners' in their midst to smash property and injure and murder their Jewish neighbours. The Orthodox Church often incited parishioners to wreak their frustration on the Jews, leaving Polish Jews in a constant state of vigilance and morbid anticipation of new pogroms being unleashed on them.

When the war was over, and the death camps liberated of whatever remained of their human cargo of slave labourers and those who survived the inhumane conditions leading to starvation, privation, disease and madness sought to return to their homes, they were reviled and attacked by their former neighbours most of whom were installed on properties formerly owned by Jews. Fully 90 percent of Poland's pre-war Jewish population of three million was exterminated after 1939, the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Tens of thousands of Polish Jews were betrayed by their fellow Poles to the Nazi Gestapo. On the other hand, six thousand Poles have been honoured as "Righteous Among the Nations" in recognition of their stalwart courage in helping to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust years.  Nazi Germany was well aware, however, when it blueprinted plans to establish camps for slave labour and death camps where in Europe it would be least likely for the population to react against the targeting of Jews among them.

In countries like Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Hungary and Lithuania, among many other nations that hosted concentration camps, locals were complicit with the rounding up of Jews, and eager to find work in the camps. Infamously, France too, occupied by the Third Reich, had no ethical problem in aiding their German overseers in rounding up French Jews and aiding the Germans in their transport to death camps. It was, however, in Poland where the most and the most deadly camps were established in the knowledge that where anti-Semitism flourished there would be little backlash.
Watch towers and barbed wire fence of the former Nazi death camp Majdanek, outside Lublin, Poland. AP

Poland has become very sensitive to the phrase "Polish death camp" when referring to dread places of incarceration and annihilation like Auschwitz, quick to correct the phrase as "Nazi death camps" established by an occupying power that also persecuted Poles. Now, Polish President Andrzej Duda has ratified a law to make it illegal in Poland to accuse Poland for their part in the Nazi institutionalized mass murder of millions of Jews throughout the Second World War. The bill was signed as Polish 'activists' chanted anti-Semitic slogans at a rally that took place in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw.

One of the banners read: "Take off your yarmulke and sign the bill". The ruling Law & Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski a few days earlier had urged the Polish president to sign the legislation, in the face of mounting criticism from the international community. Israel has repeatedly asked Poland to rethink the Holocaust bill for its curbing of free speech and impediment of history as it occurred. Relations between Israel and Poland which had been improving in the last decade, are now at a declining standstill.

The United States administration has urged Poland as well to reconsider passage of the legislation as a historical re-write unworthy of a nation that has still not come fully to grips with its complicity with the Nazi occupiers. A diary left behind, retrieved from the camp garbage heap where teacher Stanislaw Zeminski from the town of Lukow in eastern Poland was held until his death in the Majdanek death camp in 1943, documented the atrocities he witnessed.

The situation was tragic, Zeminski wrote, because the orgy of murders represented not only the work of the Germans, and their Ukrainian and Latvian helpers. "It was clear that our [i.e., Polish] policemen would take part in the slaughter (one knows that they are like animals), but it turned out that normal Poles, accidental volunteers, took part as well."
He provided testimony by Polish peasants who surrounded a nearby village and launched a hunt for Jews, as Zeminski puts it. They did it, he wrote, to obtain prizes offered by the German occupiers: vodka, sugar, potatoes, oil – along with personal items taken from the victims.
"Locals were actively involved in pulling Jews from the bunkers in the ghetto", Zeminski wrote in his diary. "They pulled Jews out of their houses; they caught them in the fields, in the meadows. The shots are still ringing, but our hyenas already set their sights on the Jewish riches. The [Jewish] bodies are still warm, but people already start to write letters, asking for Jewish houses, Jewish stores, workshops or parcels of land." People, he noted. volunteered for this hunt willingly, without any coercion.

Polish-born historian Jan Grabowski won a lawsuit against a Polish website last year. About 18 months earlier, the site had launched a savage attack on him under the headline, Sieg Heil, Mr. Grabowski, following the publication of a favorable report in a German newspaper, a review on his book Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland. The book describes the Polish populations involvement in turning in and murdering Jews who asked for their help during the Holocaust.

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