(Photo: Palace of Culture – Warsaw, Poland)
The Jewish world is astir. Old wounds are re-opened.
The lower house of the Polish Parliament passed a bill criminalizing the mention of the “Polish nation” and especially the hated term “Polish death camp” when discussing crimes committed during the Holocaust. To add salt to the wound, the legislation passed on Friday – one day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day. If this bill is approved by the upper house of Parliament, it will be presented to the President for his signature. Violators, including non-Polish citizens, will be subject to a fine or imprisonment up to three years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the legislation and people throughout the world are aghast. I feel, however, that with this legislation, the world is beginning to wake up to the deep-seated feelings of Polish self-pity. There is no doubt that the Poles suffered terribly during the war, but their narrative of victimhood is sown deep into the soil of their culture. I believe that just as the Poles resented the Jew before and during the war, they continue to resent the Jew. But now the resentment stems from the sympathy and world attention that the murder of six million has wrought. The Poles don’t get such sympathy about what happened to them during the war. It isn’t fair.
This legislative attempt to whitewash the participation and collaboration of Poles during the war is absurd. There is not enough primer in the world to cover up the murderous and hateful acts of so many Polish people. Examples – just in Sam and Ether’s story, abound:
· Except for the Syts family and perhaps one other (Dobosh family), the Poles living in the area around Stoczek refused to help Sam and Esther, even to give them a bit of bread;
· There was a Polish Jew Catcher who scoured the woods outside of Stoczek, searching for hidden Jews to turn them in to the Nazis for a kilo of sugar;
· According to Janina, it was a Pole who murdered Moishe Kwiatek, Esther’s first husband, as he gathered food in the Toporski forest; and
· Even after the war, the Poles of Ostrow were preparing to murder Sam, Esther and baby Fay to take their property. As they sped out of town, rocks were thrown at the car to try to stop them.
These few recollections do not recount the hundreds of instances in which Poles pointed out the Jewish homes so that the Nazi’s could round up the Jewish vermin for extermination. Nor does it describe the glee with which Poles looted the vacated Jewish homes and businesses or how the Poles hiked over to Treblinka, after it closed, and dug through the human ash and bones searching for left over dental gold or coins.
If I was a Pole, the term “Polish Death Camps” would also make me angry. The Poles did not build or run the Nazi Death Camps. But to outlaw all mention of Poles’ involvement in the murder and robbery that took place on Polish soil from 1939 until 1947 is to ignore the truth. If this legislation is enacted, Shlomo’s speech made at the Yad Vashem ceremony may turn a gentle doctor into a criminal. After all, his speech mentions Polish collaborators.
If the Polish Holocaust police find this blog, you may all have to come visit both Shlomo and me in Polish prison. Please send food!